Getting Down to Business
Original SA post
Introduction: Getting Down to Business
What is Supernatural?
Supernatural is a long-running and popular urban fantasy action/drama/comedy/god-knows-what-else series from the mind of Eric Kripke that airs on The CW network (formerly The WB). It is a story of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, and their monster-hunting escapades across the US of A. The first five seasons of the show followed a building story arc of misery, death, sibling angst, and lots of monster blood, leading up to a grandiose apocalyptic tango between the armies of Heaven and Hell themselves. The show is currently on its eighth season, but nothing from season 6 onward is important for the purposes of this somewhat behind-the-times roleplaying game.
What is the Supernatural RPG?
The Supernatural Roleplaying Game was a product created by Margaret Weis Production, the company that has also put out D&D's Dragonlance setting and roleplaying games for Smallville, Serenity, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Leverage, to name some of their scooped up properties. As with pretty much any of their media properties, the Supernatural RPG runs on what is known as the Cortex system. You may recall that one of the members of this very thread recently started reviewing the Leverage RPG, actually. This means I'll probably just be covering the alterations to the Cortex system as opposed to every little rule when we reach that stage.
The Supernatural RPG had only three books created for it (four if you count the free online adventure focused around the
Beast of Bray Road
). Since the books in question came out around the time of seasons 4 and 5, a lot of the focus is on angels and demons over any other creatures. Fear not, however, as we will be covering a lot of ground as we go. Fans of the show will be delighted to find that even Racist Truck gets statted out, as well as monsters that never even appeared in the television series such as chupacabras, mothmen, the Jersey Devil, and Cthulhu. I'd imagine there would have been further supplements eventually, but the reason we are here is for a funeral, after all: MWP's license for the Supernatural and Smallville properties ran out at the end of last month. Of course, being created partway through a still ongoing series means there will be inconsistencies, but I will try to avoid any
moments if I can...as I leave that to you guys instead.
With all of that said, there's nothing more to do than start the review of the core rulebook in the next post.
Be Afraid of the Dark
Original SA post
Chapter 1: Be Afraid of the Dark
This is more or less the introductory chapter of the book, and there's nothing worth spending too much time on inside it. Hunters have shitty lives, Hunters hunt monsters, Hunters break the law, and Hunters die young. There are also similarly swift and stereotypical answers given as to what you'll find in specific parts of the country: New Englanders are shifty people with ghosts in their cemeteries, southerners are assholes with ghosts in their houses, midwesterners are superstitious types with ghosts in their summoning circles, west coasters are kooky new age-types with ghosts in their everywhere, etc.
Chapter 2: The Basics
Rules time! As stated before, the Supernatural Roleplaying Game utilizes the Cortex system.
In classic Cortex fashion, we have six attributes of Agility (dexterity), Alertness (situational awareness), Intelligence (no guesses for this), Strength (ditto), Vitality (how much of a physical hit you can take), and Willpower (the same, but for mental). They are based on dice size, ranging from d2 (absolute shit) to d12 (nearly superhuman) for most player characters.
The attributes based on the combination of other attributes. These are Endurance (Vitality plus Willpower, and is used for things such as brushing off near-death experiences), Initiative (Agility plus Alertness, and is the same as it tends to be in d20 games), Life Points (Vitality plus Willpower, reflecting how much damage you can take before you start dying), and Resistance (double Vitality...okay then. Basically saving throws against things like poison and disease).
Things such as firearms training and computer skills. They are also based on the percentage dice system like attributes, rather than skill points, and are covered in detail in chapter 4.
Basically character quirks that aren't covered by attributes or skills. They come in the flavors of Asset (positive) and Complication (negative).
A pool of points similar to what the d20 system does with action points. Plot points let you game the system, spending them to get a better roll on a task than you would normally be able to.
The way things happen. These can either be simple (you roll the dice and try to beat the difficulty number set for you), complex (you roll the dice over multiple turns and try to beat the difficulty number), or opposed (you roll the dice against the opponent rolling the dice to see who wins). If you are particularly lucky or unlucky, you fail extremely badly with a roll of 1 (called a botch) or get an "extraordinary success" and Game Master kudos if you exceed the difficulty number by 7 or more. This chapter states that there are more rules on specific things, such as complex rolls, in chapter 6. Yay.
The way fights happen. Initiative determines who goes when in the combat turn, then you can move around and attack stuff with combat-related skills. If you get hurt, damage comes in three types: stun (you go unconscious if you are beaten by this), wound (you die if you get too much of this), and basic (half and half damage of both stun and wound types).
You get stronger, you get more points to put into stuff. It's that simple, though there are more details in chapter 3.
This chapter is basically just a quick guide to things, as it keeps pointing in the direction of chapters 3 and 6 for more detailed rules. Thankfully, Chapter 3: The Hunters, is coming up next.
Original SA post
One more post for today, as I'll admit the first two chapters of the book were brief and underwhelming.
Chapter 3: The Hunters
If you couldn’t guess, the game automatically assumes that the player will be a Hunter. The Game Master is meant to place all of the players at one of three levels: rookie (an in-universe example would be the Ghostfacers group), veteran (early season Winchester brothers), and seasoned (late season Winchester brothers or Bobby Singer). The level of experience you have dictates how much points you get to put into attributes, skills, and traits, as well as the highest size die you can have in one of the six main attributes. After the explanation of the three experience levels, the chapter goes back over the introductory rules that were in chapter 2, just with an increased amount of "Dean Winchester voice" snark this time.
The main feature that is actually new to chapter 3 is explaining how character advancement works. You get advancement points for various tasks during each adventure: one for simply surviving, one or two for roleplaying particularly well, one for being particularly creative in interacting with the GM's plot, one for helping move the story forward well, and three to six for managing to make it through what is effectively the game equivalent of a season finale. In other words, everything is completely arbitrary and depends on how generous the GM is. Advancing a skill by one die size costs 6 advancement points, the same for a trait costs 14, and the same for an attribute costs 16, so tweaking out your pa rticular skill set is far easier than pushing your ability scores to their limit.
Chapter 4: Traits and Skills
Here’s where the actual meat of the character system starts appearing, starting with traits. Traits have a set amount of die sizes they can be, as well as specific tasks they can help accomplish as assets or detract from as complications.
Assets are your positive character traits that help you in specific situations. There are 49 in total, ranging from simplistic things like some basic Hunter contacts or Allure (you are so totally sexy that you get an extra d2, d4, or d6 to Influence skill rolls against people who are attracted to you) to more grand ones such as having powers of clairvoyance or your very own magic-proofed bunker hideaway. I’ve written down some notes on some of the more interesting assets below.
Carries a Badge:
You are part of law enforcement, ranging from a lowly beat cop at d2 all the way up to a bigwig national official or well-respected sheriff at d8. I find this one interesting as I’d definitely love seeing a character who balances being a law enforcement official with being a grave-vandalizing, murdering, and generally crazy-ass monster hunter.
You kill one thing particularly well. While this is kind of a standard for roleplaying games, it gets elevated into the status of “interesting” simply because there are actually very few non-generalist Hunters seen in the actual television series.
You’re a hardcore drinker like Dean, and you get to add this trait’s die total (d2, d4, or d6) to saves against alcohol, drugs, poisons, and the like. Booze all around!
Technically more “BSing your way to the right answer”. A d4 of this allows you to ask the GM a specific yes or no question about the adventure once per game session, while a d8 allows you to do it twice. Since it’s technically merely a yes or no question, rather than a specific answer, I can imagine that the wrong circumstances could transform this asset into a hindrance.
You have your very own ghost, totem, tulpa, or whatever acting as a guardian and companion for you. This is another one that I find interesting from a purely roleplaying standpoint, as it is only as of the latest season that the show has really gotten around to actually catering to the idea that there are paranormal forces that shouldn’t be met with “shoot now, ask questions never”.
Yet a third one I find interesting from a roleplaying perspective. “Filthy rich” and “Hunter” pretty much don’t go together in the cases you see in the program, so the idea of a rich individual going around with high dollar tools and custom engraved rifles amuses me.
Next up are complications. The dark side of the traits coin, these are your notable flaws and vices. Like assets, the 60 complications on display run the gamut from simplistic things such as being rude or overweight up to serious problems like being blind/deaf/mute/etc. or having a vengeful spirit that only has its hateful undead eyes set on you. There aren’t really any that scream “exceedingly interesting” to me personally, though I will say that a good two thirds of the list have applied to one of the Winchesters at some point or another.
Finally, there are skills. Skills come in ranks based on the die size: untrained at 0 hit die, incompetent at d2, novice at d4, average/competent at d6, professional at d8, expert at d10, and master at d12. Once you hit d6 in a skill, you can start taking dice in specialties. What are specialties, you ask? Well, they are basically subsets of an overarching skill, and are sometimes actually shared between skills. Since there are far less skills than there are of either type of trait, we’ll look at all of them.
Skills related to non-supernatural critters. The specialties for the skill are Animal Care, Animal Training, Riding, Veterinary Medicine, and Zoology.
You are a regular bohemian...or not, depending on your level of skill. Specialties are Appraisal, Cuisine, Composition, Forgery, Painting, Photography, Poetry, Sculpture, and Writing.
Strength or agility in some way or another. Specialties are Climbing, Contortion, Dodge, Juggling, Jumping, Gymnastics, Parachuting, Riding, Running, Sports (specific one), Swimming, and Weight Lifting.
The sneaky stuff. Specialties are Camouflage, Disguise, Forgery, Pickpocketing, Sabotage, Safecracking, Stealth, and Streetwise.
The making-stuff type of stuff. Specialties are Architecture, Brewing, Carpentry, Cooking, Leatherworking, Metalworking, Pottery, and Sewing.
The mental sort, not the bondage sort. Specialties are Concentration, Interrogation, Intimidation, Leadership, Morale, and Resistance.
You can do stuff with land vehicles. Specialties are Bus, Car, Forklift, Motorcycle, Tractor, and Truck.
Your pew-pew levels. Specialties are Assault Rifles, Flamethrowers, Grenade Launchers, Machine Guns, Pistols, Repair, Rifles, Shotguns, and Sniper Rifles.
Stuff that goes boom and how to fix stuff after it goes boom. Specialties are Bombards, Demolition, Forward Observation, Mortars, Repair, Rocket Launchers, and Siege Engines.
Your charismatic sway. Specialties are Administration, Barter, Bureaucracy, Conversation, Haggling, Interrogation, Intimidation, Leadership, Persuasion, Politics, and Seduction.
General non-paranormal knowledge. Specialties are Appraisal, Business, Culture, History, Law, Linguistics, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, and Sports.
Paranormal knowledge. Specialties are Cryptozoology, Cults, Demons, Ghosts, Mythology, Shapeshifters, Superstitions, Symbols, and Vampires.
Things involving metal or plastic. Specialties are Automobile Repairs, Construction, Customization, Jury Rigging, Mechanical Repairs, and Plumbing.
Healing and knowledge of healing. Specialties are Dentistry, First Aid, Forensics, General Practice, Genetics, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Pharmaceuticals, Physiology, Psychiatry, Rehabilitation, Surgery, Toxicology, and Veterinary Medicine.
All the skill you need for assault and battery. Specialties are Chains, Clubs, Intimidation, Knives, Polearms, Repair, Shields, Swords, and Whips
Your ability to perceive, obviously. Specialties are Deduction, Empathy, Gambling, Hearing, Intuition, Investigation, Read Lips, Search, Sight, Smell/Taste, Tactics, Tracking, and Video Games.
More of the arts, just in a more direct form. Specialties are Acting, Dancing, Costuming, Impersonation, Instrument (specific one), Oratory, Singing, Sleight of Hand, and Stage Magic.
Pilot: You can fly. Specialties are Commercial Airliner, Gunship, Gyrocopter, Helicopter, Hovercraft, Jet Fighter, Single-Prop Airplane, and Zeppelin.
Skill for non-firearm ranged combat. Specialties are Blowguns, Bolos/Bolas, Bows, Crossbows, Darts, Grenades, Javelin, Repair, Slings, and Throwing Knives.
What you get blinded with. Specialties are Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, Space Sciences, Life Sciences, Math, and Physical Sciences.
Arguably the most important skill for Hunters. Specialties are Camouflage, Find Shelter, First Aid, Foraging, Outdoor Life, Specific Environment, Tracking, Trapping, and Woodcraft.
Working with high technology. Specialties are Communications Systems, Computer Programming, Create Technical Devices, Electronics, Hacking, Jury-Rigging, and Repair Electrical Systems.
Fighting with your bare hands, feet, and other extremities. Specialties are Boxing, Brawling, Clawing, Judo, Tae Kwan Do, and Wrestling.
The big problem with these skills is that the specialties are undefined, and only a few vague examples of average uses of each skill are given. This means that you’re pretty much on your own if you want to know when you should use a Brawling or Clawing roll instead of just a standard Unarmed Combat one, or when the hell you are ever supposed to need to make a Video Games roll.
The final segment of chapter 4, oddly enough, is a set of four character sheets for Sam and Dean, their father John, and the ever-reliable Bobby Singer. I can only presume they are present at the end of this chapter as an example of combining what you have learned in it and chapter 3.
Original SA post
We interrupt your regularly scheduled samurai-fighting game talk with blatant Amerocentric roleplaying.
Before we get on with the next chapters, I figured I'd put in a quote from last chapter that I had forgotten.
Supernatural Roleplaying Game, chapter 4 posted:
We're guessing your hunters are driving around the US of A, so everybody's assumed to speak English. Bringing different languages into the game can be interesting, especially if there's a story hook involved or it helps the hunter solve the mystery of the week. But it can also be a pain in the ass to deal with if it isn't an issue on a hunt. This game don't concern itself with detailed rules for language.
Yes, America, that glorious homogenized and totally not-multicultural land, unless you happen to want to use another language just to stump your players in a puzzle. Also, it actually does state "don't" in the original text. I'd never modify the text to mock it if the text does so already.
Chapter 5: Gear
Like every other statistic in this game, it's based on a die size - d2 is Hurting (poor and homeless), d4 is Working Stiff (classic Winchester brothers-style life where money goes directly to car gas, motel bills, and fast food), d6 is Middle Class (average American homeowner), d8 is Well-Off (the affluent planned community American), and d10 is Filthy Rich (the 1%). What does Lifestyle do, though, exactly? To be quite frank, it's another tool for the GM to monitor you. The Supernatural RPG has no purchase system, so instead you get to look through the equipment in this chapter, see what the suggested Lifestyle level for each item is, pick whatever you like, and then see if your GM okays it. If the GM feels like you would need to work for the item in question, or is simply a vindictive ass, he can call for a Lifestyle roll to see if you can actually afford the item in question. To let the book speak for itself, here's what the chapter has to say on the matter:
Supernatural Roleplaying Game, chapter 5 posted:
Again, Supernatural's not about making a shopping list each session and spending all your dimes. If you've got the Lifestyle for it, and the Game Master doesn't think it's outside the realms of possibility, then it's all good. If not, better start thinking creatively.
Surely this trust system method cannot be toyed with in any way.
The Gear List
As for the gear itself, there's not much to say, so I'll be brief.
Chapter 6: The Rules
Basic gear is pretty much standard junk like flashlights and backpacks. The only particularly odd one is the electromagnetic field (EMF) reader, which is the favorite tool of every ghost hunter.
Almost all weapons are a single die and a damage type, as well as a range and ammo capacity for firearms (axes are d8 wounding, baseball bats are d6 basic, hunting rifles are long-ranged d8 wounding, shotguns are d10 wounding but short range, etc.) The exception to the rule are some heavy weapons, which get - gasp - multiple dice, such as 3d12 for C4 and 5d8 for mortar rounds.
Armor shrugs off some Wound damage taken. Amusingly enough, while there are six types of armor described (ballistic helmet, riot helmet, riot shield, ballistic vest, tactical vest, and undercover vest), the tactical vest is left off of the armor table given.
Vehicles use most of the same abilities and stats that characters do, save for the fact that they lack Intellect and Alertness. They do get to keep Willpower, though, to reflect a vehicle's ability to go past its factory limits. In addition to a collection of generic vehicles such as ambulances, minivans, RVs, and speed boats, there are also specific statistics for the 1967 Chevy Impala. Even if you aren't the Winchester brothers, getting an Impala means you have superior vehicle stats over the generic sports car statistics every other model has.
Are you ready to learn about complex actions, plot points, and other rules that have not been covered by the previous chapters? If the answer is no, too bad, we're going through it anyway. These are pretty much the same rules that are in the rules chapter of the Cortex System solo book, merely "Deanized" in how they are written, which does make me wonder why Margeret Weis Productions never thought about getting more sales for Cortex by having specific properties be sourcebooks rather than entirely reprinting the rules each time.
"Supernatural Roleplaying Game, chapter 6 posted:
Complex actions involve more than one step, like open heart surgery, rebuilding a car's engine, or Googling the lore under "werewolf" or "Lindsay Lohan".
I'm...not sure that Googling is really a complex action, but okay.
Still, as the game states, complex actions are simply any action that takes more than a single round of rolling to get through. You have a time limit and a certain number you have to beat, as well as a set time for each time you roll the dice - the timing varies, of course, depending on how long the GM feels a task should get for each roll. If you don't finish in the time limit or get botched rolls, you have to start over again if you can. Similarly arbitrary are change of circumstances, wherein a roll has a higher or lower difficulty than normal if the GM feels specific circumstances require it.
If you're looking for less arbitrary rules, there are the rules for assisting another player. Unfortunately, while they are straightforward, they are also somewhat foolish. An assistance attempt isn't the same as something like the d20 system's Aid Another system - rather than giving your ally a bonus to their attempt, you both roll dice, and the higher result is the one that gets used. Thus, really, it's less assistance and more hoping your ally has better rolls than you do.
Plot points are bonus points given in a number of 1 to 5 if the character meets a certain goal or in a number of 1 to 3 by the GM when he feels the player has done particularly well roleplaying beating the odds his complications give him. If you couldn't guess, they happen to affect the plot, allowing the players to alter the system a bit. The points can be spent on adding an extra die to a roll, getting damage reduction, summoning a one-shot character that happens to have what the players need, or generally alter the fuzzy areas of the story at hand.
While the basics gave the simplistic look at combat rounds - that is, movement + hit thing = round - chapter 6 is glad to give us even more information on it. Pretty much everything is an ability score roll plus a specific skill roll, as you'd expect, and I don't think I really need to explain concepts such as called shots and cover. What should be explained, though, are some of the damage conditions that are given. While the game earlier explained that damage to your hit points (technically called life points, but they're hit points, nobody's fooled) can be in the form of stun, basic, or wound damage, what actually happens from wound damage is explained in further detail here. If you have at least half of your HP depleted by wound damage, you start to hurt so much that you get a -2 penalty on rolls. This definitely complicates things. After all, what happens if you are about to go unconscious (take more than your HP in either type of damage) or start dying (take more wound damage than your HP)? You make rolls with your Endurance attribute die, of course. For either avoiding death or staying conscious, your Endurance roll has to pass a difficulty number that ramps up by 4 each time you have to make it, with the inevitable happening unless you get medical attention before you fail a roll. The exception is if you take a total of double your HP in wound damage. That? That kills you right then and there, no save.
Speaking of getting medical attention, those rules are helpfully right after the ones on getting hurt. Stun damage heals naturally over time if you rest, while wound damage requires you to make an Endurance roll if you want to try to heal naturally - get a 1 on that roll, though, and you end up hurting yourself worse. This means that the a complex action utilizing rolls of First Aid specialty from the Medical skill is the main way you are likely to actually heal wound damage.
Getting Scared, Freaking Out, and Losing It
I recall someone having been looking forward to seeing how the Supernatural RPG handled fear and madnss-style mechanics. They're pretty simplistic, actually. Standard fear is a Willpower + Discipline roll to avoid having a -1 penalty to Willpower until you get away from the thing that's got you spooked, "freaking out" (panic) is an Alertness + Discipline roll to avoid having a -1 penalty to Alertness until you can calm down, and "losing it" (madness) is an Intelligence + Discipline roll to avoid having a -1 penalty to Intelligence until you've either come to grips with the thing at hand or rationalized it away. Basically, all different shades of the same color. There is a statement that the difficulty of the rolls is lowered if the characters are used to the events in question, but since there is no real statement on how much that should be, it's once again the GM's specific call.
Vehicles work harder in the rain and don't work well if they crash. Chase scenes happen. Blah.
Next time: The Game Mastering chapter.
The Game Master
Original SA post
Yeah, after reading Gerund's posts on it... definitely Alternity. Core mechanics aren't too hard (beyond the slightly mindbaking dice system), so that's gonna be my next project.
Excellent! Having a collection of Alternity books such as Star*Drive and Dark*Matter means I'm really excited to hear an opinion on them from this thread. If you end up doing just Alternity and not Alternity Dark*Matter, I may do D*M myself, and also compare it to its subpar copy-paste hackjob d20 system remake that Wizards of the Coast sort of shat out at the end of d20 Modern's life span.
That's the future, though. In the present, there is only
Chapter 7: The Game Master
I was almost tempted to just skip this chapter, as it's mostly the same as every other game-mastering chapter in the history of RPGs, but I figured that would be rather unfair.
Role of Game Master
You are the game master. You set the atmosphere, run the pacing, and keep the story moving, but I'm sure you already know this. I will have to make at least one quote from it, though.
Supernatural Roleplaying Game, chapter 7 posted:
"First off, match the show's setting. Hunters never go to bright, cheerful places - don't set your game in a spotless theme park or a nice friendly suburban neighborhood."
I'd have to disagree with this one. The show's color palette is indeed somewhat washed out, but there have been episodes where the Winchesters have gone to just these kinds of places, and I think the contrast sometimes just helps bring out the worst in the monsters you encounter. A non-series example of this would be the X-Files episode Arcadia, which had a great plot about a seemingly shiny and prim gated community holding a very dark occult secret.
Hunters hunt, of course, and it's up to the GM to run the monsters. The interesting thing here is that the book actively recommends trolling your players. "No plan survives contact with the enemy," you see, and the writer of this book actively advocates flipping things around every time to never let the players reach that state of having the upper hand. Even if they correctly ID'd the monster, investigated properly, and came to confront it, you are told that you should throw curves such as the monster being out hunting, there are multiple monsters rather than just one, some local yokels get tangled up in the situation, or something similar. On the other hand, there is also some pretty good advice about moral ambiguity that actually surpasses what the show itself had been doing at the time.
Supernatural Roleplaying Game, chapter 7 posted:
Is it a bear's fault that it savages campers stupid enough to get in its way? Is it a pack of wild dogs' fault when they tear apart a wayward cyclist? The same question applies to some supernatural threats. Sometimes the creature lived in its area long before humans arrived. It has a right to defend itself against invaders, doesn't it? And if the creature is in the right, doesn't that mean the hunters are in the wrong?
While this may seem like an obvious thing to say, Supernatural doesn't really delve into it that often.
There are three campaign concepts given in the Game Master chapter. While the first, Hittin' the Road, is pretty much just the show's plot given to other characters, the other two are certainly interesting in their own ways. The second concept is entitled The Evil at Home, and it is just what it says. This campaign type is set specifically around the place where the Hunters happen to live, with all of the paranormal threats coming to them rather than vice versa. This means that both the victims and the monsters are likely to be people close to the Hunters, which means lots of drama riding in. By contrast, the third campaign is pretty divorced from drama, but also one of the most interesting. This is the Professionals campaign concept, the idea of Hunters that actually get paid to go out and gank the things that go bump in the night. These kinds of Hunters have a base of operations, good resources, and a collective of contacts. The current season of Supernatural almost fits this mold, with the exception of the whole "making money off of Hunting" part.
Basic adventure designing 101, skip it.
Events, Adventures, and Campaigns
The three time tiers of gameplay as defined by the Supernatural RPG - that is, comparing them to television. An event is a scene and one part of the adventure, an adventure is an episode and one part of the campaign, and the campaign is a season.
This section covers ideas for events that don't follow the linear nature of the campaign. These could mean having a part of the adventure that is in a flashback, one that is played in the dream realm, one that is a vision of the future that may come, or a hallucinatory wild ride. This is actually a pretty neat idea, all things considered, and it's one of the few things that this gamemastering chapter does that I haven't really seen in other RPG books. The hallucination one is actually very integral to one of the monsters that is given information in the core book, in fact. If you've seen the TV series, you know which one I'm talking about.
Playing the Parts and Keeping it Real
Some generic advice on GMing bit part NPCs, major NPCs, and antagonist NPCs, as well as the whole "evil isn't just evil to be evil, evil has motivations" speech. Nothing too special.
Supernatural is set in the modern world, and the Technology segment is here to keep you from somehow forgetting that. There are repeated mentions of focusing on the comparing and contrasting of the archaic occult versus modern technology. The section also flat-out tells you that you should not allow Witches in your campaign, even if you want to, as the game is meant to focus on Hunters who can do ritual magic at best.
Game Mastering Tips
Another segment of superficial shit like "develop your own style" and "learn from your players, but remember that you are still in charge".
Yet another going over of things such as the combat mechanics, as well as another reiteration of "you are the GM and you should remember that your decisions are final". Yeah, I'm really glad we're done with this chapter.
Next time, we get into something that is really important in Supernatural: the supernatural!
Original SA post
Pre-emptive note: I could have sworn that the djinn were in the core rulebook of the Supernatural RPG, but they aren't, so my statement earlier about using hallucination rules right out of the box was an unintentional red herring. Sorry!
Chapter 8: The Supernatural
Woo, it's bestiary chapter time!
Here's where we get into the meat of Supernatural, in the form of the supernatural itself. Sadly, there's no art or anything for the monsters, just photos from the TV show and old public domain woodcuts...like the rest of the book has had, admittedly.
One of the oldest staples of Supernatural. The assholes from downstairs, Demons manifest topside as black smoke until they can find someone to possess. At that point, they are basically wearing a human like a suit, but their eyes can be a dead giveaway - most demons have purely black eyes, though some more powerful ones can have other colors such as cloudy gray or red. How exactly do you get rid of a demon? Well, salt and holy water will slow them down, but the only way you'll win unless you're the Winchesters is by performing an exorcism ritual to send the demon back down to Hell. If you've watched the show, don't expect to be getting a Kurdish slaying knife, as the game doesn't expect you to have those kind of Winchester toys:
Again, I swear I don't edit these quotes posted:
Most agree these tales, specially the ones about weapon, are just stories. Best stick with the stuff that more readily available and that works. Don't obsess over finding D&D-style magic weapons or items to bail your ass out of demon trouble.
As for game statistics, they're vague enough to allow for a number of different individual demons: take stats for some sort of human character being possessed, bump up their attribute dice by 1 to 3 die sizes, and add some supernatural powers (the ones given are low, medium, and high-rank uses of electrokinesis, mind control, and telekinesis). Two premade demons are statted up. While the first is the demon Meg from the television series, the other is an entirely new fellow named Achashverosh. He's from Jewish religious folklore, and is either one of the kings of Persia or the Wandering Jew depending on who you ask. The demon version presented here is stated to possess Jewish jurors and get the jury to falsely sentence other Jews for crimes they didn't commit. Why does he do this, exactly? The writers haven't deigned to tell us. Fighting Achashverosh means the players have to break out the Talmud instead of Catholic exorcism rites, as the demon is resistant to the latter but weak to the former.
Another Supernatural staple from early on, and one just as varied as demons. Ghosts are undead and intangible, but that's pretty much the only thing linking them together. The goals that keep them tethered to the world of the living vary, their motives can range from harmless to downright murderous, and some happen to have powers such as telekinesis or possession. Their weaknesses are many, from salt to iron to hoodoo, but the manner of sending them off is always either putting them at peace or burning up their conduit to the mortal realm. The book also says that ghosts stepping on holy ground may actually immediately go to Hell, but I'm fairly sure that is never said at all in the show. The rules to create ghosts are very simple - take human stats, then add a specific trait, "Spirit", in a die size from d2 up to d12 to reflect the strength of the ghost in question. Pre-made statistics are provided for two ghosts from the show - the d10 spirit of the murderer H.H. Holmes and the mournful hitchhiking d6 spirit Constance Welch - and a new ghost named Timothy Timberlake. Timothy is a piddly d2 spirit, a stereotypical nerd, and keeps reliving his murder by jocks with baseball bats.
Another varied creature, shapeshifters all have mild ESP and their namesake ability, as well as a weakness to silver. Other than that, though, they can basically have any number of human stats. Oddly enough, there are only statistics for a single specimen, an RPG-original one with the moniker "The Hollywood Shapeshifter". It stalks Hollywood celebrities, kills them, galavants around in their form for a while to get the attention it craves, then abandons that persona to repeat the cycle once more.
The shtriga is a vampire-like old crone from Albanian mythology. While real life lore has this monster drinking blood, the Supernatural version chugs down the life force of children to attain a semblance of eternal life. Shtriga have damn good stats, with above-average attribute dice in everything but Agility and d12 Strength to boot, and reduce all wound damage to mere stun damage unless the attack is done with an iron weapon as the shtriga is feeding.
Speaking of vampires, here are the real deal. Vampires are basically humans with their three physical attribute dice bumped up by 3 sizes, a wounding bite attack, fast life point regeneration, a need for blood to stay strong and conscious, and the ability to make new vampires by having a human drink their blood. On the downside, direct sunlight causes stun damage and dampens the regeneration and attribute scores of the vampire, a dead human's blood injected into one acts as a Vitality score-damaging poison, and fire is a type of damage that a vamp's generation can't bypass. Statistics are given for Kate "the Hot Chick Vampire", a generic seductress vampire for you to use in your own campaigns.
Wendigos are heinous creatures that resemble a human that has been stretched thin, dried into jerky, and given a wicked set of teeth and claws. They were once everyday people, but became addicted to human flesh and warped into the evil spirits they are now. They are insanely powerful, with d12 or higher in every attribute except for their average Intelligence and Willpower scores, turn most wound damage into mere stun damage, have increased speed compared to a human, and are insanely good at stealth-related skills. Where does that leave the players? Well, some Native American warding symbols seem to work on wendigos, and a lucky called shot that managed to get an iron or silver weapon into the beast's shriveled heart instakills it. Other than that, you are pretty much relegated to hoping you have a weapon that can set it on fire, as fire both bypasses the wound-to-stun buff
deals more damage than on other creatures.
Undead, have the same scores as they were when they were human but with a +3 increase to Strength die size, they have to take double their life point total in wounds to be subdued, blah blah blah. They're zombies, everybody knows zombies. Stats are provided for Angela Mason, a zombie professor from season 2 of the show. Like pretty much every other show-specific individual that is statted up, there's the obvious question of how you can fight and kill them when Sam and Dean already have, but whatever.
Some notes on specific creepy manifestations in the land itself. These include areas where plants wither and die, "entropic fields" that cause bad luck and depression all around, and places that seem to attract murders or suicides by their very nature.
Next time: chapter 9, "the Mundane". I'm sure that chapter title fills you with excitement.
Original SA post
Chapter 9: The Mundane
Here it is, folks, the final chapter of the core book. Just in time for the end times of this thread.
Regular, everyday animals are used for several situations in the Supernatural RPG: shapeshifter alternate stats, intentional misdirection where you have a mundane animal in what seems to be a paranormal case, or minions/familiars for the paranormal baddies. Stats are provided for alligators, birds of prey, boars, brown bears, bulls, dogs, great cats, goats, horses, insect swarms, and sharks.
The generic NPCs for paranormal "templates" such as vampires or ghosts, as well as when you need a witness, normal person encounter, or the like. They are all pretty stereotypical, and are ordered by either location or function.
As the modern equivalent of a tavern, bars have sort of integrated themselves pretty stiffly into modern-set roleplaying games. On the part of the Supernatural RPG, statistics are provided for the Barfly (an average Joe alcoholic), Evening Hook-Up (one night stander), Mean Drunk (an excuse to have a combat scene with a human), and Bartender (the all-knowing NPC guy).
High School Students:
Pretty much the bog standard stereotypes straight up, nothing special. Stats are provided for the Freak (AKA Goth), Geek, Jock, and Miss Popularity (stereotypical "slut").
Here to Help:
The group of NPCs you are actually most likely to use in a Supernatural RPG, as everyone knows Hunters are either pretending to work with the law or running from it. Stats are provided for the archetypes of Cop, Doctor, Federal Agent, Firefighter, Nurse, Security Officer, Sheriff's Deputy, and Soldier.
Statistics are provided for Mom, Dad, and Kid, with their roles and statistics being the most 1950s shit outside an old movie being mocked on MST3K.
The collection of riff-raff that doesn't really fit any other category. The ones given are Butler, Creepy Old Lady, Game Hunter (of the mundane type), Local Hunter (of the supernatural type), Preacher, Small-Time Criminal, Small-Town Psychic, and "Workin' Joe".
The location listings are more or less a quick way to form up a set piece, as each entry has a look at the location during the day, the location at night, skills that are likely to be useful at the location, and a pre-made history you could use if you don't want your location to have a unique one of your own craft. The locations provided are the Abandoned Coal Mine, Art Gallery, Baseball Field, Biker Bar, Cabin in the Woods, Crossroads, Discount Super-Mart, Decrepit Farm House, Dilapidated Amusement Park, Gas Station and Mechanic, Graveyard, Junkyard, Mid-Town Bank, Old Church, Playground, Roadside Motel, Railway Station, Rural Schoolhouse, Seedy Diner, Small Town Sheriff's Office, and Suburban Two-Level House. Sadly, there's not really anything specifically stated about how to integrate the supernatural into the natural in these locations. Some you can pretty much guess on your own - after all, what else would you find in a graveyard but the dead? - but it would have been nice to have some pre-crafted ideas on just what kind of paranormal shenanigans you could do with a supermarket or bank.
That's it for the Supernatural Roleplaying Game core book. It's certainly...something. It's very much rooted in the show itself, to the point that it almost feels a bit strangled. If you want to play a Hunter outside of the United States, you're SOL. If you want to play a heroic Witch like the one from season 8, you're both SOL and implicitly told by the game that you should just go and play your Dungeons and Dragons. If you want to play an atypical Hunter, you have some groundwork, but it is ill-advised. Even the sample supernatural enemies are almost entirely those the Winchesters have already fought and killed, save for a few exceptions, when a fair amount of new iconic enemies could have been forged. While it is good to stick to the canon of what you are trying to produce a roleplaying game for, I feel that at the same time the book might have been better served if it didn't literally try to write a roleplaying game book like they thought Dean Winchester would write one.
Come next thread, I think I am going to be taking a break from Supernatural to do that review of Mutants and Masterminds: Golden Age I had promised. We'll get back to Supernatural with the Guide to the Hunted after that.
Introducing the Bestiary
Original SA post
The fact that Fields is one of the only people still publishing to-purchase d20 Modern supplements on a large scale depresses me far more than it should.
Somewhat less depressing is that I am going to be finishing up the Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game series with this next readthrough. There was technically a third book published, but it's an adventure book that I don't own and I'll freely admit I kind of hate reviewing adventures anyway.
Introducing the Bestiary
The Guide to the Hunted acts as the bestiary for Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game. In this book, the brief archetypes from the core rulebook and some of the monsters that just weren't covered at all, even a handful that never actually appeared in the show. It also happens to be an "in-voice" book like the core rulebook. Rather than trying to sound like Dean Winchester, however, The Guide to the Hunted is meant to be written by...the Ghostfacers. If you have ever watched the show, you know why this can get really grating at points. For those who haven't watched the show, let's sum it up as "don't let bit part comic relief characters write a sourcebook". I'll be giving a brief note on the folklore (if any) behind the creature, its in-game statistics, and what episode of the show (if any) it appeared in, just as a bit of added flavor beyond minor entries.
Chapter 1: Restless Spirits
Given just how much Supernatural uses the undead, it's pretty unsurprising that the very first chapter of the RPG's bestiary, filling out entries beyond the Spirit and Zombie stats that appeared in the core rulebook.
A creature from Inuit mythology, the angiak is a vampiric revenant "born" when an unnamed and unwanted child dies in the cold. The Guide to the Hunted goes farther and states that all mythology of undead children are the angiak, from the Serbian drekavac and Scandinavian myling to undead dumpster babies and the creepy ghost kids in Japanese pop culture.
The poor angiak has pretty shit stats across the board. To be fair, though, it's just a kid, albeit a creepy undead one, so it's not too harsh to give it a low score. The only ace in the hole the angiak has is its Vitality drain attack, which it likes to do when its victims - always either the mother that abandoned it or women that look close enough for its murderous tastes - are asleep.
The angiak was mentioned in season 1, episode 14: Nightmare, but never actually appeared.
Perhaps one of the most famous death omens in history, the banshee is a classic Irish myth. Just what the banshee does varies from tale to tale, though she always causes death either through being an omen or just outright murdering.
The banshee is a tough customer. She has two forms - that of a beautiful woman, and that of a spectral hag. In the former, she has the Allure character trait and uses her wiles to lure men in with her beautiful song. In the latter, she has the Fugly character trait and can use her keening wail to attempt to scare the man into committing suicide. If scare tactics don't work, she can go straight for spectral claw attacks that do a pretty good chunk of damage.
Like the angiak, the banshee only got a passing mention in season 1 of the television program. She did, however, get a bit more than the angiak in that she appeared in the Supernatural novel Nevermore.
The Bloody Mary tale is a pretty damn famous urban legend. Even growing up in a hugely fundamentalist household in the deep south, I heard of her. In the Supernatural universe, the legend is added to by the in-show lore that anyone named Mary who dies under the right circumstances while near a mirror can transform into a Bloody Mary.
Mary's not quite as statistically powerful as a banshee, but she does have her special attack of eye liquefaction. If you are keeping a secret about an unsolved death, Mary can will your eyes to start gushing blood, dealing d6 Wound damage each time she succeeds. If you aren't keeping such a secret, the best she can do is use her creepiness to scare you off. All in or all out.
Bloody Mary was the star of season 1, episode 5: Bloody Mary. She also appeared in an episode of the subpar anime adaptation of the show, where she got an extreme power boost and the ability to teleport through any reflective surface, including Sam's corneas.
In Japanese mythology, the buru buru (an onomatopoeia for shivering) is the ghost of a creepy old man that follows you in graveyards and can chill you or cause you to die from fright. In Supernatural, it's pretty similar, being the ghost of a person who died in extreme terror and capable of spreading a disease that causes death by fear.
Buru buru aren't so much a threat themselves as a means to an end. That end is ghost sickness, a paranormal disease that transmits to any person who is similar in personality to the individual that killed the buru buru in question. An infected individual gets increasingly more and more frightened and paranoid, and after 48 hours gets to start those always popular save-or-die rolls. Sending off the buru buru is the only way to dispel the ghost sickness.
A buru buru appeared in season 4, episode 6: Yellow Fever.
Ghostly vehicles are something that crops up in various folklore around the world. From ghostly taxis in New Orleans to ghost ships in all of the oceans of the world, it seems that metal is just as prone to undeath as flesh.
If you couldn't guess, the mental stats of a person get combined with the physical attributes of a vehicle. This means that you've got the vengeful mental fuel of a spirit behind the large and tough-to-down frame of a vehicle. They also tend not to respond to the normal anti-ghost measures of burning their human body or striking them with iron.
The infamous season 1, episode 13: Route 666 gave us Cyrus Dorian, better known as Racist Truck. It's basically become the biggest butt of a joke for the show, with the episode even being referred to in-universe as "Racist Truck".
The Hook Man is an urban legend up there with Bloody Mary in its popularity and influence.
With decent stats and a very damaging metal hook for a hand, the Hook Man is a tough brawler who uses his Willpower and Unarmed Combat buffs to toss people around like rag dolls.
Jacob Karns, the "original Hook Man" appeared in season 1, episode 7: Hookman. Indeed, Karns is the model for the stats given in this book. Since the Winchesters killed him, though, I guess the assumption is that other Hook Men copycat ghosts happen to exist as well.
The poltergeist - "noisy ghost" - is the bog standard ghost. They are prone to having telekinetic temper tantrums, throwing items around.
A poltergeist has average stats and not much to go on besides weak spectral claws and telekinesis.
The Studio 9 ghosts, which The Guide to the Hunted touts as the best example poltergeists, appeared in season 2, episode 18: Hollywood Babylon. One could probably point out an number of non-uniqu ghosts that appear in Spernatural as being poltergeists, though, so it's hard to really give an episode count.
Also known as Bloody Bones, Rawhead and Bloody Bones, or Tommy Rawhead, rawheads are unpleasant creatures with raw skin and a taste for children. They live in wet areas such as damp cellars or marl pits.
The rawhead is very much an introductory spirit. With low to average attribute scores, bite and claw damage that is mild at best, and a weakness to electricity, it's safe to say that rawheads aren't the top dogs of the undead.
A rawhead briefly appears at the start of season 1, episode 12: Faith, where it is swiftly executed by Dean so the Winchester brothers can get on to the actual plot.
Tulpas are though-forms from Tibetan lore, basically an idea made manifest. They become independent from their creator and can range from jovial to murderous depending on just what ideas were implemented in their creation.
A tulpa is another lower-key spirit at first glance, as it has mostly average attributes besides a slightly above-average Alertness attribute. The real danger comes in the fact that the tulpa gets a pretty strong Spirit trait and whatever skills the believers that created it feel it should, which means it can actually be a bit more dangerous than you'd think.
The brutal tulpa Mordechai Murdoch was the focus of season 1, episode 17: Hell House.
If it's cold, deep, and dangerous, bodies of water tend to build up a reputation for unsavory spirits that drown peope. The Guide to the Hunted classifies water wraiths as anything from the Russian rusalka to the Japanese kappa, taking many shapes and forms.
While not exactly strong in attributes, water wraiths are capable of powerful grapples boosted even further by being in water that allow them to attempt to drown opponents. Since this Grapple skill is meant to be directly opposed by an Athletics (Swimming) skill, one can
A water wraith appeared in season 1, episode 3: Dead in the Water.
No connection to real life folklore, as these guys are entirely from the Supernatural-verse. They are ashen ghosts of people you killed that rise at the End of Days, when one of the seals keeping Lucifer held back is broken. I can only assume this means that the game designers figured you might be playing a game set at the exact moment when the seal is broken.
Fighting witnesses sucks. They have average to above-average attributes, powerful spirit traits, strong fists, stealth, and intimidation out the wazoo. And to make things worse, the only way you can kill them is by performing a ritual that requires very specific rare ingredients and Formidable rank roll of the Intelligence attribute and Knowledge (Religion) skill.
The rise of the witnesses was the subject of season 4, episode 2: "Are you there, God? It's me, Dean Winchester".
Stats for the Ghostfacers themselves. For some reason the book decides to switch back to Dean-o-speech to mock the Ghostfacers group, presumably to avoid having the Ghostfacers taut themselves as being really cool instead. Their stats don't really matter at all, though it is probably the only example of seeing a stat block in this game that actually has the Video Games skill.
The Ghost-Centric Campaign
The final portion of chapter 1 is a vignette on running a campaign entirely centered around restless spirits. Long story short: lots of history, lots of research, be a very clue-focused campaign runner.
Next time: chapter 2, Angels and Demons.
Original SA post
... Ghoul paladins?
I'm hoping they literally are ghoul Paladins, and not like Antipaladins or Blackguards or something. That would just be the icing on the cake.
EDIT: Well, damn, just Antipaladins.
Chapter 2, part 1: Demons
The denizens of two of the three other dimensions that exist in Supernatural, angels and demons are two sides of an eternal struggle: Heaven versus Hell, creation by God versus corruption of humanity, and cold logic versus twisted passion. Of course, if you're human, neither side is really a good option in the end. Sure, demons like to do horribly twisted things, but angels have a tendency to put on the jackboots with little justification. We'll be covering demons first, as they had a cursory glance given to them in the core rulebook while angels are entirely new to the Guide to the Hunted. A lot of this section consists of "these are demons that the Winchesters killed, but here are their stats anyway just in case you want them to return somehow or feature them in a campaign set in the early seasons" until it gets to the non-unique demon species rather than individuals.
In Judaism, Azazel is basically the spiritual garbage man, a demon of the wastes that takes the scapegoat of Passover. In Supernatural, however, his role is much more prominent. He is presented as "the Yellowed-Eyed Demon", a mastermind who managed to kickstart the prelude to the Apocalypse before being felled by the Winchesters.
Azazel has it all - amazing attribute scores, a powerful Pyrokinesis skill, the highest Telekinesis skill die possible in the game, and high levels of intimidation. Exorcism is the only way to temporarily put him out of commission, and the only way to end him for sure is with one of the major plot weapons of the show.
Azazel was the primary villain in the myth arc that covered the first two seasons of Supernatural.
Alastair is not a real world demon, but presumably draws his name from the real world occultist Aleister Crowley.
Just like Azazel, Alastair has top percentile attribute scores and the highest Telekinesis possible. He also has an insanely high Interrogation skill, which he combines with his telekinesis for torture sessions. His arrogance and short temper are pretty much his only weaknesses.
Alastair appeared in four episodes of season 4 as the top torturer and servant of Lilith. He was killed by psychic godmode powers.
According to old Hebrew lore, Lilith was the first woman. She was replaced by Eve when she had the
desire to be equals with Adam, and became a demon of the winds.
Lilith is the demon for those who think that Azazel just wasn't tough enough. Not only does she have exemplary attributes and highest possible Telekinesis, she also has the highest possible Pyrokinesis. So uniquely high, in fact, that it gives her a special explosive AoE called Pyrokinetic Blast.
Lilith replaced Azazel as the big myth arc threat for season 3 and 4. Like her lackey Alastair, she was axed by psychic godmode powers as the last step in getting Lucifer walking the earth.
Ruby is a demon that is obviously entirely unique to Supernatural. Her job was as the agent and instigator of the plot to raise Lucifer.
While her attributes are 'merely' above-average, Ruby makes up for it in having high skill with knife combat and acting. She is meant to be more of a subterfuge-oriented challenge than a physical combat one.
Ruby was a common sight through seasons 3 and 4 of the show before being killed with her own demon-killing knife after her true nature was revealed.
Samhain is the name of the great Celtic festival of the final pre-winter harvest, as well as the origin of Halloween. As in many forms of media, Supernatural personified Samhain as a specific entity rather than a holiday: namely, a powerful demon.
Samhain has low Alertness to mar his otherwise high attribute scores, but he makes up for it by being bloodthirsty and having the highest-tier Telekinesis and decent Unarmed Combat skills one comes to expect from greater demons in this game. He also has the ability to summon other supernatural creatures, which is in and of itself a definite danger sign. On the other hand, wearing even the most simple of masks keeps Samhain from seeing you, which kind of lessens his impact.
Samhain appeared in season 4, episode 7: "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester". Unlike most of the other demons presented, Samhain could actually be used legally in your campaign, as he was exorcised back to Hell in his one appearance rather than being outright killed.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Greed, Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Gluttony, Envy, Pride. Surely you've heard of these guys a few times.
While somewhat average on most fronts, the Seven Deadly Sins have a whopping d12 Mind Control skill that allows them to force their sinful ways onto humans.
The Seven Deadly Sins appeared in season 3, episode 1: The Magnificent Seven. Envy, Lust, Sloth, and Wrath were exorcised back to Hell, while the others were killed by Ruby in her first appearance as a way of showing off her fancy demon-killing knife. Given the nature of sin, however, one could presume even killing one of the Seven won't keep them gone forever.
Tammi is another Supernatural-original demon. She is a collector of souls lured in by dark sorcery, taking normal people and training them in the ways of demon-fueled black magic.
Tammi is mostly an average demon, save for high impersonation skills and powerful magic. She also happens to be weak to magic, dark or otherwise, which means the best way to fight her is with a dose of her own medicine.
Tammi appeared in season 3, episode 9: Malleus Maleficarum. She was killed by Ruby's knife.
Yet another demon original to Supernatural, Tom is the son of Azazel.
Tom is a mostly average demon, but pushes his brawling skills to the top with both skills and traits focused on making things suffer when he gets into a melee fight.
Tom was featured in the final two episodes of the very first season of the show. He was killed by the magic kills-anything Colt revolver, back when that was actually a thing the show used.
The spirit known as the acheri is a bringer of sickness in Indian mythology, said to come down from the Himalayas to spread disease in the lowlands.
Acheri aren't particularly bright, having the lowest possible Intelligence score and a low Willpower to boot. They make up for this by being very fast, very strong, and capable of doing a lot of damage with their wickedly sharp claws before spreading disease.
An acheri was summoned during the battle royale of season 2, episode 21: Hell Breaks Loose Part One.
Crossroads and bargains with beings from them are common across multiple cultures.
A crossroads demon has high overall attributes, but has low Telekinesis and no real combat skills to speak of. Instead, all of its skills are high-die social ones, allowing words to do the deed for the demon.
After being introduced in season 2, episode 8: Crossroad Blues, crossroads demons have appeared in every season since.
Daevas are hostile demons from the Zoroastrian religion, not to be confused with the benevolent devas of Hinduism.
A daeva has amazing physical attributes, which helps them to deal insane amounts of damage with their claws. In addition, they are swift and made of shadows, making them decidedly stealthy. On the other hand, daevas have two obvious weaknesses: light and breaking the altar used to summon them.
A summoned daeva was the foe of season 1, episode 16: Shadow.
Hellhounds are demonic dogs, often with associations to fire or darkness, from British folklore.
A hellhound has the lowest possible Intelligence die score, obviously, but has average Willpower and high physical attributes. It also has insanely high stealth and combat skills that allow it to sneak up to you and tear you apart with its jaws. It's pretty hard to fight something that's invisible, after all.
While hellhounds in the show are dispatched by crossroads demons to collect the souls of those damned by crossroads deals, they are surprisingly less prevalent overall. Hellhounds have appeared in nine episodes scattered over seasons 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8.
Next time: the lowdown from those on high with the introduction of angels.
Angels and Other Higher Powers
Original SA post
Chapter 2, Part 2: Angels and Other Higher Powers
With season 4 of Supernatural, the angels were revealed in opposition to the demons, and it was with this mostly season 4-oriented sourcebook that the angels were given stats for the Supernatural RPG. On an overall level, angels are rather similar to demons. They possess a human vessel, boosting their physical attributes (Strength and Vitality in particular, Agility less so) and replacing their mental attributes with the angel's own. Rather than dying like mortals or leaving their vessel like demons do, an angel that takes too much wound damage auto-poofs away unless they are hit by a celestial blade, the one weapon that can truly kill them. They also gain their own unique traits that human or other supernatural characters don't have in addition to more standard ones such as Telekinesis:
Not wings in the literal sense so much as a special type of teleportation skill. The trait can be ranked from d4 to d12, each rank having higher and higher abilities such as transporting into dreams or teleporting others along with the angel.
Armor of Faith:
Rating from d2 to d12, Armor of Faith effectively gives damage reduction of its die size to the angel. It's bypassed by attacks powered by will or celestial blades.
The angel gets the Clairvoyance, ESP, and Medium traits all for the cost of one trait, but with the penalty of the proper Enochian symbols warding mortals from all three forms of sight.
The angel can do magic angel things. Just what the extent of this is varies by die size, from mere "handy coincidences" at d2 to basically being able to do anything possible within the constraints of reality (this being a reality where magic and monsters are real, of course) at d12.
A unique attack against demons and spirits. The trait at d4 is "laying on of hands" to expel such creatures or destroy them on an extraordinary success of a skill check, d6 allows for it to be used as a ranged attack, and d8, d10, and d12 each allows another secondary target to be struck by the attack in addition to the primary one.
As for actual angel stats, they're all of named angels from the show: Anna Milton, Castiel, Uriel, and Zachariah. Suffice to say, three of them are dead, one of them is the Winchesters' best buddy most of the time, and they all have rather similar traits, so I'd say it's not really worth going over their statistics.
For some reason, reapers are included in this chapter as a brief note before one more special angel gets discussed. Long story short, they have the Spirit trait and lack physical attribute scores just like ghosts, and don't really fight so much as wait and take people's souls to the afterlife.
The big fallen archangel himself, Lucifer was the main villain of season 5 of Supernatural before the Winchesters put him back in the Pit. Like the other archangels (for the most part), Luci doesn't get any stats, being more of a frightful force of nature than a presence the players could fight if he somehow managed to get back out of the Pit.
The Heaven vs. Hell Campaign
Like the ghost-centric campaign, the angels and demons-centric campaign is more about learning your enemy than fighting. Sure, some demons might be taken out in action scenes, but it's meant to be played as humans being toys in the middle of a war between two paranormal powerhouses from other planes of existence.
Next time: chapter 3, Gods and Monsters, where things start to get far off the beaten path of established Supernatural foes.
Gods & Monsters
Original SA post
Chapter 3: Gods and Monsters
This chapter is dedicated to basically everything that isn't a spirit or from the Big Upstairs/Downstairs and has the most non-show creatures of any of the chapters as well. The title calls them "cryptids", even though that term has a more specific use than just "monster", but whatever. The chapter also has the gods, which the author explains the reasoning for:
The Guide to the Hunted posted:
Now, you might think that your average pagan forest deity belongs in the same crowd as demons and angels, and you might be right. But in our experience, one man’s god is another man’s immortal cryptid with a narcissistic personality and too much spare time. If it ain’t from Heaven or Hell, some hunters say, then it’s just another bogeyman
Take that, non-Abrahamic theistailures
In seriousness, though, this does admittedly fit in with the spirit of the show. Supernatural has proved time and time again that if somebody has worshipped it and it's not the Abrahamic god, the Winchesters (or, in the case of the infamous episode Hammer of the Gods, Lucifer) can and will kill it.
Before getting into actual monsters, there are a few new monster-unique traits given, just as the angels got new tricks.
Attuned to Nature:
The creature in question is insanely good at surviving in the wilderness. A d2 in the trait or higher gives them a bonus to scavenging food and water, d6 or higher adds a bonus to Plot Points spent before making Trait-related rolls, and d12 or higher further ups the creature by making it unable to be lost in the wilderness, always capable of finding any food or water that is around, and the ability to calm hostile wildlife.
Various non-human movements, such as brachiation, fish-like swimming, gliding, or flight.
Non-human levels of sense, including scent tracking, darkvision, echolocation, or the ability to "feel" the presence of others nearby.
You multiply human lifespan by the die size of this trait to determine the creature's long lifespan. Having d12 or higher means the creature is more or less an ageless being.
Animals get nervous or aggressive around this creature for some reason. The trait can be taken in d2, d4, or d6 die, an the size of the Trait die is a penalty to any rolls made to calm or handle animals.
Like Animal Enmity, but with humans.
If you didn't know, fairies in old folklore are complete assholes. One of the many dick moves in their arsenal is replacing a human baby with a changeling, a fairy that looked like the stolen child but had the intellect and often creepy nature of the fairies. In Supernatural, however, they're weird lamprey-faced monsters who abduct children and replace them so they can suck on their parents' precious essences.
While they have average Strength (or above-average in the case of adult changelings) combined with high Vitality and Alertness, their Agility and Willpower attribute scores are low and their Intelligence attribute is at the abysmal bottom of the barrel. They don't really need to be smart, though, as they have a hefty dose of skill dice put into Covert-Disguise and Influence-Persuasion. They are also incapable of being killed by any type of damage other than fire, even forming into two new changelings if you attempt to bisect one. The only saving grace is that their true forms are revealed in reflective surfaces and killing the adult of a changeling nest gets rid of all of the slimy suckers at once.
A nest of changelings appeared as the main monsters o season 3, episode 2: The Kids are Alright.
El chupacabras, "the sucker of goats" - pretty much always Anglicized as "chupacabra" with no S - is a vampiric monster from Latin folklore since at least 1995, though some have claimed that reports existed even earlier than that. The original reports are of a Gray alien-like figure with spikes running down its back that may or may not have patagia for gliding, while in the good old US of A the legend has mutated to instead have hairless coyote-like canines as the chupa's true form. Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game goes with the former but adds its own twist, stating that all chupacabras are from the de Luyandos, a Puerto Rican family that have been cursed with the chupacabra form after an occultist in their family tried to skimp out on a crossroads demon deal.
In their cursed form, chupacabras have high Agility, above-average Vitality, Strength, and Alertness, but have lower-than-average Intelligence. Their armored hides and extreme speed and athleticisim make them hard to hit, but they typically try to go right in for the kill anyway. A chupacabra that doesn't feed on blood regularly suffers damage from a rare virulent form of lymphoma that plagues the de Luyando family.
Chupacabras are mentioned twice in the series - season 2, episode 3: Bloodlust and season 4, episode 6: Yellow Fever - but never actually seen or fought by the Winchesters. This allowed for the RPG creators to go insane with their creative side, at least.
The crocotta is a creature from Roman legend, described by everybody's favorite crazy naturalist Pliny as a wolf-dog with teeth that can break through anything and the ability to mimic human voices, and was most likely inspired by hyenas. Supernatural decided to add the ability to take human form just to make them a bit more dangerous.
In addition to shapeshifting and voice mimicry, the crocotta has the ability of "Psychotelephony", allowing it to speak through telephones and computers, even if they are not plugged in, not on a network, or actually just toys that look like a phon or computer. Its attributes are nothing to write home about, being either average or just above average, but its social skills and aforementioned supernatural powers make it a dangerous foe to those who can't Willpower roll their way out of danger.
A crocotta was the main villain of season 3, episode 14: Long-Distance Call.
Genies, the beings of smokeless fire, who you have probably heard of in at least some capacity. They are somewhat nerfed in Supernatural, going from beings of cosmic power on a level similar to angels and demons to instead being blood-suckin monsters that have a hallucinogenic poison that puts the sufferer into a dream state of their greatest desire.
Djinn have average Intelligence and above-average...well, everything else. They're also ageless, knowledgeable, and have a decent skill with the old fisticuffs. They pretty much always attempt to get into a grapple to release their poison. Most damage is reduced from Wound to Stun, with the exception of a silver blade dipped in the blood of a lamb.
Djinn have appeared in four episodes of the show, the first and most memorable appearance being in season 2, episode 20: What Is and What Should Never Be.
In Arabic folklore, the ghoul is a vile shapeshifting genie that feasts on the corpses of the dead and the unwary living alike, being capable of taking many forms from hyena to human. The versions in Supernatural have no direct connection to genies and have a very specific form of shapeshifting in the form of taking the guise of the last person they have eaten.
Ghouls have the attribute scores of the person they impersonate, with the exception of having a supremely high Agility score thanks to their flexible bones and swift reflexes. They also have ESP, a good amount of stealth and personal skills, and fast healing. The only way to put them down for good is to destroy their brain one way or another, which is still easier than most of the rather convoluted ways you have to kill monsters in the Supernatural RPG.
Ghouls were the main villains of season 4, episode 19: Jump the Shark, and made a brief later appearance in season 6, episode 10: Caged Heat.
The Jersey Devil is one of those popular pieces of old American folklore, a horrendous demon-like creature that supposedly dwells in the New Jersey pine barrens. Supernatural: the RPG decided to actually tie it to another legend entirely. In this book, the Jersey Devil is deemed to be a manitou, Algonquin spirits of many forms of creation.
The Jersey devil is kind of dense, having low Intelligence, but makes up for it by having very high physical attributes, traits that let it move fast and take a lot of damage, amazing stealth and survival skills, and brutal claw attacks. It is also pretty much immortal - you can get enough Stun points on it to down it for a while and a member of the Lenape (Delaware) tribe can use an ancient Native American ritual to banish the manitou, but the only way to kill it is by cutting down its Life Points with a special and very hard to make consecrated Lenape weapon.
The Jersey Devil has never appeared in Supernatural, but was used as a red herring for the actual (and far more stupid) monster of season 7, episode 9: How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.
Mothman was a freakish winged humanoid entity that terrified the residents of Point Pleasant in 1966 and 1967. As with the Jersey Devil, Supernatural: the RPG decided to fuse it with another monster. To be more accurate, with monster
- it declares Mothman to be part of an entire species of interdimensionl winged humanoids that also include the garuda of Hinduism and Buddhism, the harpies of Greece, and the tengu of Japan.
Mothman and others of its kind have entirely above-average attribute scores, induce fear in animals and humans, have multiple forms of precognitive abilities, can tirelessly fly at nearly 100 miles per hour, and possess rather sharp claws. On the plus side, it doesn't really want to fight so much as get back to its home in the space-between-spaces, but its disorientation from crossing dimensions unwillingly has made it a bit ornery.
Mothman has never been seen or mentioned in the show, nor have the garuda, harpy, or tengu.
Rakshasas are a supernatural warrior race from Hinduism, having man various forms and usually being both magically adept and rather evil.
Rakshasas have above-average Agility, Vitality, and Willpower combined with a supremely high Intelligence attribute score, making it a swift and clever foe. It also has limited invisibility - that is, it suffers a point of Stun damage every turn it stays invisible, meaning that it must eventually go visible or pass out - as well as claws with a poison that deals 1 point of Stun damage each time it hits a foe. Furthermore, like so many monsters in Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game, the rakshasa does not take Wound damage unless you use a very specific weapon, in this case one made out of brass.
A rakshasa was the villain of season 2, episode 2: Everybody Loves a Clown.
The rugaru, or rougarou, is a Louisiana folktale of a cursed werewolf-like creature with vampiric tendencies and a fear of frogs and church bells. The version from Supernatural is instead a genetic mutation that leads to tremendous hunger for raw meat and a transformation into a raw-skinned cannibal if the rugaru eats human flesh.
The rugaru has human stats with a +1 die size increase to all attributes except for Intelligence, which instead gets decreased by 3 die sizes. They also have keen senses of smell and strong punches, as well as fast healing that is bypassed by fire. Not the toughest monster in the game by far, but still at least a bit of a challenge for weaker hunters.
Rugaru appear or are mentioned in five episodes, with their very first appearance and full-on starring role being in season 4, episode 4: Metamorphosis.
Good old Bigfoot. Well, sort of. The name of this entry is a red herring, as it's actually about draugr, a form of undead from Norse mythology. Again, sort of. Basically, this entry is about an elemental force animating the fused body of an animal and a human that the book decides to call both draugr and sasquatch for some reason.
The draugr-sasquatch-elemental-thing is not particularly bright, but makes up for it by having Strength and Vitality attribute scores into superhumanly high die sizes. It's also swift, intimidating, and tough, and fire or ripping it apart is pretty much the only way to destroy the body for good. And even when you destroy the body, the elemental spirit that animated it will just hang around for a few decades until it finds a new suitable corpse combo.
Sasquatch has been mentioned in the show a few times, but always as an example of one of the very few paranormal entities that doesn't exist in Supernatural's lore. I guess that's why the RPG's creators decided to find a very weird way around that.
In Greek mythology, sirens were bird-women that lured sailors to their doom with their melodic songs. In the Supernatural universe, they are instead corpse-like creatures with a glamor effect and euphoric mind control saliva.
The only high attribute score sirens have is Intelligence, the rest being either average or (in the case of Strength) below average. They do, however, have very high social skills and the whole saliva thing. Like many monsters we've seen before, they can convert damage from Wound to Stun unless it's a specific type of damage, the specific type in this case being a bronze dagger that has been coated in the blood of the siren's current love slave.
A siren was the main antagonist of season 4, episode 14: Sex and Violence.
Skinwalkers are from various Native American mythologies, individuals that can take on the form of an animal by wearing its pelt. This is what Supernatural: the RPG treats them as, while when they eventually appeared in the television show they were more or less just werewolves capable of shifting at will and maintaining their reasoning.
The skinwalker is a human with psychic powers, knowledge of using a paralytic heart-affecting poison called corpse powder, and being able to take on an animal's physical attributes combined with their mental attributes by shapeshifting. They don't have resistance or "Wound to Stun" immunity when it comes to damage, but do have a specific weapon that hurts them even mroe tahn other weapons - anything doused in white ash.
Skinwalkers appeared in season 6, episode 8: All Dogs go to Heaven. Since this book was written during season 4, though, that was far in the future and doesn't match up. Whoopsie.
Spring-heeled Jack is one of several strange springing figures in relatively recent folklore, beings that seem to have a trickster-like nature and the ability to spew fire and leap great distances. In Supernatural: the RPG, it is stated that Spring-Heeled Jack is an item rather than a monster, being a demon-crafted suit that grants its abilities to the wearer at the cost of making them lustful and crazy.
Wearing the Spring-Heeled Jack suit grants the wearer some damage reduction, amazing leaping powers, silver claws to use in combat, nocturnal vision, and the ability to spew out a six foot trail of blue fire. While the suit itself is indestructible, the person inside isn't, so you can certainly kill the current Jack to get rid of the problem for a while.
Spring-heeled Jack never appeared in Supernatural.
You know what a werewolf is.
When the full moon brings out the werewolf changes, the human character suffers a -1 die size penalty to Intelligence but gets a buff of +1 to the size of all physical attribute dice and +3 to the size of the die for Alertness. They also have claws and teeth to do a fair amount of damage and spread their lycanthropy and the ever popular "Wound damage becomes Stun damage, so you can't kill it without a specific weapon" trait. As you could probably guess, the way to wound the were is with the tried and true silver weapon.
Werewolves have been seen twice in the show and mentioned three other times.
The Old Gods
Superntural: the RPG classifies gods in three varieties - lesser, greater, and elder. Lesser gods are minor deities from various mythologies, greater gods are pantheonic deities, and elder gods are Cthulhu and other incomprehensible star things from the beginning of time.
Oddly enough, in spite of mentioning these three types of deities, none of them are s tatted out. Instead, the only stat block in this section is for Trickster spirits. While having stats - pretty high ones at that, with superhuman-size multiple Intelligence dice - Tricksters are more or less nigh omnipotent forces of nature that or meant to be plot points rather than actual foes.
Lesser and greater gods have appeared in various episodes of Supernatural, all but one of them having been killed. Elder gods have never shown up unless you count the Leviathans from season 6, which I don't. As for Tricksters...yeah, only one of those appeared in the show, and he just turned out to be an archangel playing dressup as an old god, so I'm not sure I'd count it either.
The Cryptid Campaign
It's basically a normal campaign type re-described. Woo, glad they took time to write these paragraphs.
Next time: we have the second to last chapter, dealing with magic and cursed items.
Curses & Magic
Original SA post
Chapter 4: Curses and Magic
Here we are at the last chapter of this book - I thought it was the second-to-last due to the appendices and misremembering, but it is what it is. It's on curses, magical items, and magic itself, as well as a lot of GM plot talk.
The segment on cursed objects can be summed up as "this is plot-related, not dice rolling". The entire purposes of the cursed object is to have it drive the plot of that particular adventure, have the heroes deal with the problems it causes, and then either destroy it or seal it away in a magic-dampening curse box. Oh, and if wishes are involved, you have free reign to be a dick:
The Guide to the Hunted posted:
The granter of the wish doesn’t care about the spirit of the desire so much as it does the letter of it. It has no warm and fuzzy feelings for you—you are its entertainment. If you wish to fly, you could get turned into a mosquito. If you wish someone back from the dead, you might get a zombie. Wish up a tasty-delicious sandwich and you’ll find yourself supplicating to the porcelain god for the rest of the night. No matter how much you might attempt to lawyer-up a wish, it will always come back at you. In fact, the more you try and play the game, the worse it usually comes back at you.
Missing since season 5 of the show, the Colt was the Winchester brothers' ace in the hole early on in the series. It can kill all but five beings (just what those are is unknown beyond that Lucifer is one of them) in the universe. In game terms, it's a d6 damage pistol that bypasses "Wound to Stun" immunities and has its own 13 special Plot Points used specifically for acts involved in firing it.
Sometimes people get omens or precognitions of death. It's mentioned pretty much purely as a potential plot hook.
Referred to in-universe as "Croatoan" in the several episodes it has appeared in, the demonic virus more or less makes rage zombies. In game terms, the virus simply adds a spare d4 to physical attribute-related rolls, with the mental effects and hive mentality of the rage
Croatoans being purely decided by the GM.
Seen twice in the show's history, the African dream root is a plant (a real plant, but sadly one that doesn't have magical powers in real life, just drug powers) that can be made into a potion that allows someone to enter another person's dreams. While meant to be a special plot point, it also has a few specific game rules attached to it. When in the dreamscape, the players get a unique pool of Plot Points they can't use outside of the dreamscape, as well as a unique use of the Discipline skill called Dreamscaping that focuses on manipulating the dream world. Particularly seasoned dream travelers, such as the villain of season 3, episode 10: Dream a Little Dream of Me, get a unique trait called Dreamwalker that further boosts their ability to manipulate dreamscapes. It's established canon that the fantasy world that djinn poison creatures is the same thing as the dreamscape, so GMs could feel free to have fun connecting the dream root and the djinn in the same plot if they so desired.
This was detailed back in chapter 1 with the ghost that causes it, so I have no idea why there are five paragraphs of reiteration about it here.
Sometimes, nature happens to get really pissed and unleashes its wrath. That or someone lets out a nature-related curse, but who's judging? Either way, nature curses are meant to be the focus of a single localized adventure in the greater story, typically involving swarms. Stats are provided for a swarm of bees, murder of crows, and swarms of animated plants, though the game states that other animals from the Supernatural RPG core rulebook or foul weather could be just as involved in one of these hubbubs.
Cults, Covens, and Corporations
A group of stats of witches, warlocks, evil lawyers, cultists, and others that have sold their souls to the dark powers of Hell to gain power. Non-demonic magicians need not apply.
Grimoires, Tomes, and PDFs
Here's where some actual rituals are presented. If you were expecting rules for full-on magic like some of the particularly powerful witches in Supernatural manage to conjure, sorry, you're still as out of luck as you were with the core rulebook. Instead, we get rules for a handful of specific rituals taken from the show as follows.
Alchemy and Mad Science
Generic Summoning Ritual:
A generic ritual to summon a demon. Surprising, that.
A special pentagram sigil that binds demons within its confines. Of course, it's not perfect, as you need to use deception and trickery to actually get a demon into one - after all, they're not going to step on a trap laid out in plain sight.
A ritual that binds and forcefully manifests a ghost.
A little bag of mojo that ups the die size of a Lore skill check to perform a ritual by one step.
Anasazi Ward Against Evil:
A ward that keeps monsters away. If you screw it up, you instead create a summoning circle that poofs in a wendigo. Whoops.
You sacrifice blood into a demonic chalice and then say the magic words to have a special telephone line through the blood directly to the demon.
Curse of Honest:
This curse forces someone to be completely, brutally honest until the next full moon.
Curse of Ill Luck:
The cursed target gets the Rotten Luck complication for four days.
Curse of Illiteracy:
The cursed target is unable to read words as anything but gibberish until the next sunset.
Cursed Object Cleansing Ritual:
With the power of a cemetery fire and the spice of cayenne pepper, you destroy a cursed object and thus lift its curse.
The classic Latin chant.
Holy Water Blessing Ritual:
More Latin chanting, this time to transform water into holy water.
Home Cleansing Ritual:
This ritual startles spirits and draws them to attack, but if you complete it you banish them from a home completely.
Sigil from Possession:
Whether a tattoo, a temporary drawing, or a special silver pendant, this ritual has created something that allows you to no longer have to worry about being possessed.
This is transmuting metals, creating homunculi, forging golems, and the like. There are no actual examples, though, just the stats of the immortal alchemist Thomas "Doc" Benton. He is a piece of New Hampshire folklore and a classic college scare-dare subject. He appeared in Supernatural for season 3, episode 15: Time is on my Side, where he ended up being buried alive by Sam and Dean since he couldn't be killed by mortal means. Doc Benton has pretty high stats and is definitely a dangerous figure, but he also happens to need fresh organs to function at 100% so he wouldn't be at full steam if someone happened to dig him up.
The Relic Hunters Campaign
Long story short: Indiana Jones, but with more active magic forces. The summary on running such a campaign also includes the statistics for Bela Talbot, an occult item hunter from season 3 of the show.
Next time: The appendices and final thoughts on Supernatural: the RPG.
Original SA post
Okay, it's time for that "and the rest" post.
Appendix I: Creating Monsters
Just in case you wanted the creation rules from the core rulebook restated again. You also get multiple reiterations of "you can file off serial numbers to make one stat block work as something else
Appendix II: Sympathy With the Devil
This right here is, hands down, one of the best chapters in Guide to the Hunted. And it's not even a full-fledged chapter, just ana appendix! For all of its moral black and white moments concerning humanity vs. "monsters", Supernatural the show does sometimes dip into the idea that, shock-horror, supernatural beings are not always bad. While it doesn't really provide any new rules and is often pretty obvious, the allowance of actually playing a werewolf, vampire, or other changed human allows for another layer of Hunting. Besides, the Winchesters have been more than willing to allow paranormal entities into their team if it benefits them, so why shouldn't you?
As I said before, I don't own nor would I want to review the book of sample adventures for Supernatural: The Roleplaying Game, which means we're at the end of this road. This brings us back to the question I posed when I started going over these books: is Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game one that died before its time?
Not really, no.
Supernatural: the Roleplaying Game covered only the first four seasons of the show, with some elements of the fifth being hinted at, and that's probably a good place for them to have stopped. Season 5 was a huge turning point for Supernatural that seemed like it could have been the series finale, and seasons 6 and 7 are hard to view as not being lurching zombies in a way, even if season 8 has started to get back into form. That and Supernatural isn't a series that really lends itself to a ton of sourcebooks, especially in a somewhat abstract light rules system like Cortex. This doesn't explain why Margaret Weis Productions let the Supernatural and Marvel Comics licenses wane but is remaking their Firefly/Serenity RPG of all things, admittedly, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Next time: It's time for a new review series. Be prepared for war. A world war, in fact. A world war involving Dungeons and Dragons rules and the occult.