Supernatural: A Review
Supernatural is a new roleplaying game published by Margaret Weis Productions. It is a reflection of the popular television show by the same name. If you are familiar with the show the book/core game material will read like a dream. Otherwise the language is a little colloquial with plenty of colorful metaphors thrown in for flavor.
Amid the beautiful casual style is plenty of interesting ‘collector’ bits that any good hunter might have lying about concerning cases they are investigating. The ties to the show are unmistakable as there are even frames of the cast in action. If nothing else the book is a fascinating read just for fun.
The book is nine chapters and 186 pages total. The chapters are well laid out and the colors are vivid and the print-type is legible. I only noticed two editing errors and they were minor spellings. The chapters were intuitive and they ended where they should and moved on to the next smoothly. The book is meant to be used piecemeal – not all in a row, but even a straight read works out fine.
Chapter one is entitled “Be Afraid of the Dark” and lays the groundwork for the springboard of the game, campaign and hero creation. This chapter demonstrates how to create a mood for the game and explain how the ‘hunters’ came to be. One limitation with this product seems to be containment within Continental America. I believe a good Game Master (GM) can draw outside of this area, but it is not ready made.
Chapter two is entitled “The Basics” and is exactly that. As I mentioned there is built in direction within the text of where to go to find tidbits of information. The book is meant to be used piecemeal and this chapter definitely gives some direction on how to do this. This chapter puts the base rules in easy to understand concepts and allows a character to be done in moments – or to take an entire session. The one thing this game system allows is customization. This chapter also introduces how dice are used in the Cortex System and how the game mechanics flow.
Chapter three is entitled “The Hunters” which is what the player personas are called in the game. This chapter brings forth possible character concepts based on point-building. It also provides the stats and details for several characters from the show. Points are not the only way to customize your Hunter; there are also traits which are two halves of a whole consisting of assets and complications. Both can earn plot points which are used to modify die roles at the players whim.
Chapter four is entitled “Traits and Skills” and yes, that is what it includes. This chapter is the details on the traits and the skills your Hunter has interests in from Chapter three. Here they are explained in detail, but also in game mechanics terms.
Chapter five is “The Gear” and what game would not be complete without that endearing term “shopping”! This game lays out just the basics for generic weapons and gear. It leaves customization and details to the players to further enhance their Hunter. Also, instead of tracking single expenditures – your Hunter lives according to a lifestyle. The lifestyle helps to categorize the type of gear the Hunters will typically have or focus on obtaining.
Chapter six is entitled “Rules” and is filled with enough crunchy bits to satisfy most hounds. But, each rule is left somewhat vague to take each particular action into consideration as to the application. One warning, this game is not a strict die rolling hard core numbers game. What makes this game unique is the flow and feel of what is happening. Too many die rolls can spoil the atmosphere.
Chapter seven is entitled “The Game Master” and while is intended to guide the game master through development of the campaign it doe s not give anything away should a stray player delve into the depths. This chapter understands the arrays of Game Masters are as varied as the players and the Hunters they create. This is a chapter on useful advice and plot-planning whether you try to be a little more restrictive or free-form.
Chapter eight “The Supernatural” is not an all-inclusive diary of what is out there. It sketchily details the more common adversaries a Hunter may discover in their pursuit. This chapter encourages both players and Game Masters to do their own research on legends and myths and find something worthy of their time. It also helps the Game Master to categorize and rate/rank abilities and stats of the myths and legends that may be found. Again there is nothing game breaking in this chapter that would cause consternation if a player were to glance through the pages – but let’s not make it a habit.
Chapter nine is the final chapter and entitled “The Mundane”. This chapter covers a broad base of every day creatures and people that could be encountered in the Hunter’s pursuit. To a Hunter there truly are no mundane things and they are always jumpy, but sometimes that lady at the playground really is just a mom to the three year old on the kiddie swing.
Following chapter nine are the Appendix, an Index and a Character Sheet. The appendix gives a great deal of flavor – as if the language of the text has not been enough, some Hunter jargon is inserted, a recipe and even suggestions for background music are included. The index is a very basic thing but the book is very intuitive in its presentation to begin with and this really is all it needs. The character sheet is blissfully simple and easy to use.
There are shortcomings to this game – you may not understand the concept if you have not watched the actual show. To more worldly gamers this product will not be as horrific as Cthulu or Hunter – it will seem like a generic spooky legend being pursued by obsessive, emotionally damaged Hunters.
I find the system to be simple and the game to have a definite charm and wit. I enjoy the freedom allowed for the Game Master and the players to really dig in and create something together. I rate it an eight out of ten stars.
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