Product- Witch Hunter: The Invisible World
Producer- Paradigm Concepts
Price- ~$30 (via Kickstarter Prerelease)
TL;DR- Not perfect, but it combines all the things I love. 85%
Basics- Enter a world just behind the one you know. In this RPG, players take the role of Witch Hunters, a shadowy group of people collected from all walks of life called by higher powers to battle the forces of the Adversary. The Adversary is the games main antagonist. He is Satan and all other evils combined. Players walk a thin line fighting the cracks in the invisible world, the monsters the seep through, and the humans who join the cause of evil, all while trying to keep their vary souls.
Mechanics- While you can roll play with any set of mechanics (look at Fiasco and Dread), the basics of what you roll and when are big to most gamers. In general, I would call this game a mix between 4e DnD, Shadowrun, and Arcanis. Let’s do a run down to focus on a few things in particular.
Dice Pools- This game use a dice pool mechanic much like Shadowrun except game uses d10’s. To assemble the dice you roll for a check, you use a statistic and add the dice from skill ranks. Some situations may give you advantage/disadvantage so you add/subtract dice. Successful dice are dice that roll a seven or above. If you are using a skill and have focused in a particular sub-skill, then you succeed on a six or better. If you roll a 10, then you count a success and reroll the die as it “explodes.” Dice can explode as many times as you roll tens leading to situations where a player will have one die, but roll over 4 successes! I LOVE exploding dice. Don’t worry evil GMs out there, monster dice explode too…. You then compare to a target number to determine if the attempt succeeded. This is the base mechanic for attacks, skills, or anything else the GM deems that players need to roll.
Combat-Combat starts with initiative just like vary other game. Initiative is handed with agility + reflexes roll. Most successes determine the order of play. During combat each character gets to perform two quick actions or one complex, again harkening to Shadowrun. Quick actions are basic movement, or basic attacks. Complex actions are longer spells, running across the battle field, or complex attacks. When someone attacks they roll a dice poll as above, and compare to one of three defenses that are basically physical, mental, or agility. When you hit, you count the number of successes over the target number, subtract the targets armor, and finally add the weapons damage number. The target of the attack my give up quick actions of their next turn to reduce the damage via Agility + reflexes roll. Successes in this roll reduce the dice total of the damage dice pool. Agility + reflexes tend to be a very powerful combination of skill/ability, demonstrating some balance issues that crop up in this game. After determining the final damage dice pool, the pool is rolled and sevens or better are damage to the target. Again, 10s explode and can do significant damage even when with a small pool. The overall feel is Shadowrun with a dice pool, 4e/Arcanis for a target number of an attack, Arcanis armor for damage reduction, and fluid damage pools reminiscent of Shadowrun. I like this combination. While the above is a bit of a mouth full, since this a mostly a tutorial, the speed of which this goes is amazing! You can have a character launch into a crazy, spinning whirlwind of knives that will hit several character, but the game handles this quickly and efficiently. Turns that would take forever in 4e are done in under a minute.
Magic-This game has character from all faiths and magical backgrounds ranging from Native American Shamans to Hermetic Alchemist. Each tradition has its own statistics it uses for magic. Also, each tradition has its own focus. These focuses are different types of spells ranging from a Shaman’s discussion with spirits, Hermetic wizards circles, and priests prayers. Some of these are much more combat effective. This mechanics is the same above with dice pool formation, but much like Arcanis, each spell called a rite can be augmented by increasing the mastery and strain of the spell. Mastery is the minimum dice pool you need to cast the spell, while strain is the amount of turns my must wait to cast a spell again. You can cast a spell under strain, but you will take the amount of strain in damage. Again, I love this. I like cast till you pass out magic systems. I also love any magic system that allows you to augment your spells quickly to make new types of magic.
Health-This game is brutal! Each character has a number of hit boxes like Shadowrun with a few important differences. When you fill up your first group of hit boxes you move to nicked. While nicked you take a penalty to all dice pools. When you lose your nicked hit boxes, you then moved to wounded. You gain MORE penalties and you must make checks to stay awake! Lose your wounded hit points and then you’re dying! More penalties and you must spend hero points or gain DAMNATION to stay awake! To heal you must make a heal check each day. Others can help you as you receive care. If you succeed, you get a little better with more successes over a target number mean more hit points. If you fail….you get worse! Honestly, this is VERY brutal….but I like it. The game takes place in 1600’s. Medical care isn’t great and a scratch could kill you if it gets infected. Healing magic is little to none. This ISN’T DnD! And that’s ok!
The balance of vice and virtue-All characters have a virtue and a sin. Theses are built in role-playing hooks for your character. When you act your virtue, you might get hero points. Hero points are chips to indicate rerolls, extra dice, skill training/specialization, or other rule breaking effects. OR when you get one, you can bank it. When you bank 10 hero points, you increase your True Faith. True Faith is used for some spells, AND it’s the number of hero points you start each day with. When you want to break the rules you can also get DAMNATION! Damnation is you giving into temptation and using dark powers to get the job done. Your True Faith and Damnation together can never be more then 10. When you earn hero points, instead of banking them, you can roll your true faith score and if you succeed with a target equal to your damnation, you remove one damnation. If your damnation gets to 10…..you turn to the dark side. DON’T DO THAT! This is a fun mechanic to represent faith, give an in game benefit benefit, and a indicator of how morally grey a character is. Are you willing to get a little damnation to get the job done? GMs can also trigger your sins to give you hear points to complicate the story by offering your hero points. If you want more, you can give into your sin wholesale, earn damnation, and get more hero points. Again, this is awesome. I love giving my players all the rope they need to hang themselves…and they almost always do…..MHWAAAHHAAA ( cue evil laugh).
Movement-Like all the recent RPGs I’ve been playing, less is more. This game is designed to be played without a map. The theater of the mind style needs to continue in RPG design going forward. That makes me happy.
Mechanics Summary- I like what I see here. I love Arcanis, Shadowrun, and 4e DnD. This takes a lot of the things that makes me happy and puts them together well. Think of this like blue cheese, chicken, and deep fried mushrooms and not like sushi, ice cream, and Ritz Crackers crumbs. It’s easy to take several good things that don’t go together and make a mess, but Paradigm really made an excellent mechanic product here with only a few things that stick out as slightly broken. 4.5/5
Theme- Witch Hunter takes place in the world of the 1600’s right after the great London Fire. It’s close to our world, but not quite. One major difference is the Spanish lost America to Mayans who unknowingly worship the Adversary. Combining this world of enlightenment with an undercurrent of suspicions not only between religions but the different Witch Hunters, the Witch Hunters are fractured and while they work together, they often do not agree on how to get the job done. This lead to an undercurrent of suspicion not only between the world, but also the people who have to fix it. This game has to walk a VERY tight line. 1600’s was a very racist, sexist, religiously intolerant time. It makes it amazingly fun to play in if you can separate yourself from yourself. The game has themes of horror, hope, and damnation. It’s fun, but it might not be for the group that wants to kick open the door, kill the dragon, and go to the inn with little consequences or thoughts about the various intolerances of the people serving them beer. But, I like what I see. It will be a fun place to play. 5/5
Art- You need some good art to make any game pop. This one is no exception. I like the art in this book, but it might not be for some people. It’s style similar to the art style in Arcanis, but Arcanis also has many of the same themes. 5/5
Execution- Here the book suffers a bit. The book as a few errors spread throughout. Some are minor such as terms being misused with the obviously right term known not slowing down the game. These are easy errors that crop up from editing edition to edition. Other errors are major problems that I do not know how to properly run some aspects of the game. These are errors like do you need some talents for others? I’ve talked with some people who have played the game, and they also had these problems. It doesn’t render the game unplayable, but it does diminish the experience. The layout itself is nice and the flow makes the book fun to read. This book also doesn’t suffer from the common sin of jumping too much into numbers before explaining what the heck is going on. 3.5/5
Summary- This system is an interesting combination of many of my favorite things. I love the mechanics, and they way the theme interactions with it. The theme itself is controversial, but fun. There is nothing like playing a Catholic Priest and being spit on in London as you a player are a Catholic. The execution of the book does hurt it slightly, but it doesn’t make the game any less fun or playable. This might not be the game of the year, but I liked what I saw. More importantly, this game was planned to début with a living game. And that makes me even more excited by this game. I’ve played the first four living games from this system and will start running these games as them come out for my friends in Jackson. 85%