Revisiting The Code [Hunter: The Vigil]

Open Development

Hello Hunter fans!

The team and I are doing everything we can to move the needle to second drafts, and I cannot wait for this game to come out. We’re working through my developer’s feedback, so we can clearly proceed with vigor. Plus, we’ve got some great collaboration going on and I personally think you’re going to LOVE Mysterious Places. As you know, I am keen on tapping into why you fell in love with Hunter in the first place while ensuring second edition rules enhance your experience at the table. One of H:TV2E’s setting conceits is the idea that there are more monsters than ever before, and this has affected hunters in many ways. Is there one tried-and-true methodology to fighting monsters? Will they ever be destroyed? What happens when you’re forced to deal with the devil-you-know to fight the devil-you-don’t?

As it turns out, these questions are a wonderful source of conflict that can be resolved thematically and by rolling dice. Today, I’d like to share with you one of the ways we can facilitate gut-wrenching personal conflict via our first draft of The Code. I’m posting how The Code works utilizing Integrity, Conditions, and Breaking Points; I did not include them here, but Touchstones for hunters also play into this as well and will immediately follow in the text. This first piece is crucial to helping you see the direction we’re taking, and anyone who’s familiar with second edition rules should have a clear idea on how The Code will work in game.

The Code will be part of regular gameplay. The draft I posted below will continue to evolve, and we’ll make surgical edits for clarity. One of the ways we’ll define The Code further, will be to highlight how you, the player, can shape your hunter’s experience by crafting a one sentence statement to define your views. This will further accommodate your personal take on the Code, but also draw in powerful, thematic moments over the course of your chronicles.

I hope you enjoy this preview!

The Code

Hunters have an Integrity trait that represents the health of their souls, just like ordinary people do. Psychological stress can destabilize a hunter’s self-image, and in fact this self-image is the crux of the Code. It’s just a question of what constitutes “psychological stress” for people who kill monsters for a living.

For the average person, excessive violence and exposure to the dark supernatural underbelly of the world cause trauma — she questions her sanity or the truth of everything she’s ever known. Brutality shocks her, numbs her. This is true of hunters when they start out, too, but at some point they make the choice to stop being victims. They draw a line in the sand and say, not me. Not my people. Never again. They may not realize it at first, but they have dedicated themselves to the Code, trading away their safe worldview for the unforgiving mentality it takes to fight the impossible.

The Code is sometimes an unspoken understanding, and sometimes a tangible set of principles that hunters vow to each other to uphold. It could be a mission statement for a conspiracy that every member signs. It could be an oath a cell swears over a freshly dug grave. Some just wax philosophical about it over beers late at night. Whatever the form it takes, when two hunters’ interpretations of the Code come into conflict, they’re willing to shed tears and blood over it.

The Vigil

When a hunter takes up the Vigil, she vows — whether out loud or just to herself — to abide by certain precepts, ones that separate her from common murderers and unnatural predators. She justifies her life of violence, crime, and paranoia with strict rules which, if followed, keep her from being like them: the monsters that prey on the innocent, kill for fun, leech off society, and care about nothing but themselves. The hunter tells herself she’s different, that she’s doing it all for the greater good. If she can cling to her Integrity, she might even be right. The more she violates the Code, the hollower her insistence rings. She builds a wall of scars around her heart so she can live with herself. Do the job, slay the fiend, save the day. But the more Integrity she loses, the less she knows herself anymore. The further she falls, the harder it is to see the difference between herself and any other killer.

A hunter’s greatest saving grace is her companions. A lone hunter doesn’t make it far before she spirals into self-loathing or forgets what she’s fighting for, living from one bloody thrill to the next. She needs people — not just any people, but people she can trust. People she can open up to and be vulnerable with, even if it’s just for a night here and there. Without the occasional reprieve from living on a hair trigger, paranoia consumes her. Confidants, called Touchstones, help remind her why she took up the Vigil to begin with and who she is behind the flamethrower.

Integrity

A hunter has an Integrity trait that ranges from 10 to 0 and represents his psyche’s stability. Characters start out with seven dots of Integrity. Whenever a hunter character violates the Code or experiences something that drastically shakes his confidence, his player rolls a breaking point (see below) and risks degeneration, or losing a dot of Integrity. A player can buy Integrity dots with Experiences (p. XX), but to purchase a dot of Integrity, a character must first spend a scene opening up to someone in a frank and honest manner, trusting that person with his rawest feelings and deepest secrets, or with his life or the lives of those he cares about. It could be anyone — a fellow hunter, a Touchstone, even an enemy, as long as he’s genuine. This trust must not be betrayed before the player purchases the Integrity dot.
Characters with high Integrity (7-10) see themselves in more or less the same way they always did. The Vigil is a major part of their lives, but they can see beyond it to pursue other things — relationships, hobbies, even careers. They can draw a clear line between themselves and the monsters they despise.

Characters with middling Integrity (4-6) fully internalize the hunt, reacting more instinctively to perceived threats. They tend toward the paranoid, and are more prone to violence and/or Machiavellian behaviors. They wonder whether their actions are justified while the Code pushes them to keep hunting anyway, or they double down on their lifestyles and become cynical. Characters at this level of Integrity gain the Vigilant Persistent Condition (p. XX).

Characters with low Integrity (1-3) allow the hunt to consume them utterly. They lash out at the slightest hint of a threat, throw themselves gleefully into bloodshed at every opportunity, or scheme like a spider to take out the enemy before it makes a move. They can’t remember or imagine being anything but a hunter. Some hate themselves for what they’ve become. Others steadfastly refuse to admit they’ve fallen from grace, thoroughly fixated on the job. Still others survive more than they live, jaded to the point of single-mindedness. Characters at this level of Integrity gain the Merciless Persistent Condition (p. XX).

A hunter who falls to Integrity 0 is barely recognizable as human anymore, a relentless engine of violence and obsession. Characters who drop this far usually become Storyteller characters, and are prone to becoming slashers (see p. XX).

Breaking Points

Characters in Hunter suffer two types of breaking points. Innate breaking points are those a character carries with her from before she took up the hunt, and those that remind her of just how unsettling her life has become. Most innate breaking points involve doing or encountering something traumatic for the first time; even the most seasoned hunter hasn’t seen everything that’s out there, and surprises in her line of work are never pleasant. A character also reaches a breaking point when she violates the Code, the set of tenets that every hunter instinctively recognizes as sacred duties of the Vigil.

The Code may be universal, but no two hunters interpret it exactly the same way. They argue over what constitutes a “monster” or a “person” all the time, although the Code draws a few indelible lines that, deep down, no hunter can deny. In system terms, the Code considers any creature that wields Dread Powers a monster, including slashers. It never counts ordinary humans or other hunters as monsters, no matter what kind of terrible deeds they perform. For anyone who falls between the cracks, individual characters must decide for themselves where they draw the line.

Whenever a character suffers a breaking point, her player takes a Beat and rolls Resolve + Composure, with a modifier based on the level of the breaking point (see the list below). Only breaking points at or below a character’s current Integrity score apply to her.
Other modifiers may apply to the roll as well, at the Storyteller’s discretion; modifiers can’t exceed +/-5.

The following are some examples:
[begin table]
Situation Modifier
Deliberate act of significant personal sacrifice +3
You have more than one Touchstone attached +3
Acting in defense of another person or on behalf of cell/compact/conspiracy +2
Interacted meaningfully and positively with someone you trust within the last full scene +2
You have one Touchstone attached +2
Acting in accordance with your Virtue +1
Acting in self-defense +1
Acting in accordance with your Vice -1
Acting under duress or coercion -1
You have no Touchstones attached -2
With no control over your actions -2
Betrayed by someone you trust within the last full scene -2
Actively and willingly helping a monster -3
[end table]

Roll Results

Dramatic Failure: The character loses a dot of Integrity and experiences a moment of awful clarity, as the full weight of what she must do to keep the Vigil descends upon her like an avalanche. She gains the Demoralized or Violent Condition. Take an additional Beat for the dramatic failure as normal.

Failure: The character loses a dot of Integrity and questions herself. She gains the Guilty, Shaken, or Spooked Condition (or a custom one with Storyteller approval).

Success: The character keeps her Integrity, forging scar tissue around her soul thick enough to take the strain. She gains the Obsession (temporary), Stoic, or Vendetta Condition.

Exceptional Success: The character not only keeps her Integrity, but pushes a wedge between herself and the rest of humanity, justifying it all in the name of the Vigil. She gains the Addicted Persistent Condition with regard to some visceral or unsettling aspect of the hunt, such as earning a monster’s flattering attentions, killing one, or causing one pain; or the Obsession Persistent Condition with regard to a particular monster. In addition, gain a Willpower point.

List of Breaking Points

The following list includes the tenets of the Code, as well as baseline innate breaking points. The Code allows for indirect actions in the spirit of its edicts, such as collecting or sharing information about a monster so that someone else can trap it. Storytellers and players should work together to decide whether a given action or experience in play constitutes an innate breaking point for a character, depending on his circumstances and his past. Estimate the level of such breaking points using the list below as a guideline.

If a single action or event would fit multiple breaking points at once, use the one lowest on the Integrity scale.

High Integrity (7-10; -0 modifier)
• First time personally encountering a particular type of supernatural trait or power (Innate)
• Causing significant harm to a person (Code)
• Allowing harm to come to a person in pursuit of your Vigil (Code)
• Causing a person to suffer a breaking point from exposure to the supernatural (Code)
• Refusing aid to a fellow hunter in need (Code)

Middling Integrity (4-6; -1 modifier)
• First time killing a particular type of monster (Innate)
• First time enduring physical torture (Innate)
• First time enduring psychological torture or a mental/emotional supernatural attack (Innate)
• Killing a person (Code)
• Learning that a monster harmed a person when you could have done something to stop it but didn’t (Code)
• Putting the well-being or autonomy of a monster over that of a person (Code)

Low Integrity (1-3; -2 modifier)
• First time torturing a particular type of monster (Innate)
• Torturing a person (Innate)
• Suffering a significant loss (e.g. a loved one, a home) at the hands of the supernatural or because of the Vigil (Innate)
• Gaining or bestowing power from an obviously monstrous source (Code)
• Betraying a fellow hunter (Code)

  11 comments for “Revisiting The Code [Hunter: The Vigil]

  1. Robert D
    August 9, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Fantastic stuff! really excited for Hunters the Vigil 2E.

  2. Atavist
    August 9, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Neato! I’m really liking this iteration of Hunter.

  3. reseru
    August 9, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    This actually makes me a little excited for Hunter, which isn’t a game I haven’t been interested in for a long time.

    I really like how the Code can manifest formally (signing a Conspiracy’s contract) or informally (rambling over a couple of beers). It really gives variety to the types of people who are Hunters, and breathes life into them and makes them feel like a person.

  4. Full Time GM
    August 9, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    This makes me even more excited for 2nd Edition hunter. Good rules for degeneration in game are one of the big draws for my players.

  5. Jonathan Lang
    August 9, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I like how so many of the normal Breaking Points have been recast as “first time encountering…”. That really helps with Hunter longevity.

  6. Noneofyourbusiness
    August 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t think “Putting the well-being or autonomy of a monster over that of a person” should be there. Even a Hunter should put the well-being or autonomy of a benevolent supernatural over that of a human criminal.

    • Treelior
      August 11, 2017 at 3:39 am

      @Noneofyourbusiness It depends on the Hunter’s definitions of ‘Monster’ and ‘Person’, I guess

      • SunlessNick
        August 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

        It’s a Code breaking point, so “person=human monster=supernatural” is a safe assumption as to what it means.

        While it seems like it ought to be a breaking point, it doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing that would tend to make a hunter more obsessive about the Vigil to the detriment of all else.

  7. shkspr1048
    August 10, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    I’ve noticed that rather than a dice bonus for High Integrity as with the Core rules, Hunter now just has progressively increased penalties for lower levels. Is this a change in the general rules, or is this only for Hunter characters?

  8. August 11, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Characters with low Integrity (1-3) allow the hunt to consume them utterly. […] They can’t remember or imagine being anything but a hunter. […] Others steadfastly refuse to admit they’ve fallen from grace, thoroughly fixated on the job. Still others survive more than they live, jaded to the point of single-mindedness.

    hurm. sounds familiar.

  9. Deadscribe
    August 13, 2017 at 7:25 am

    This looks amazing. Can’t wait! Very jazzed in seeing the Hunter centric conditions.

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