Supernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and markeSupernatural is a role playing game based on the monster-hunting world of the television series by the same name. It is clearly targeted for and marketed at people who like the show, which follows a pair of hunters, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they travel around the country fighting with vampires, demons, zombies, ghosts and more.
Things I liked:
Supernatural more than adequately captures the show's sense of adventure and danger. It is well-written, clear, and easy to understand, and is organized in an intelligent, structured fashion. Hooray for the glossary, index, and little paragraphs at the end of each chapter telling you what the next step is. This would be a great starter RPG for folks new to the concept.
I'm not deeply versed in the Cortex System, but the rules seem relatively well thought-out and balanced. They are also clearly aimed at cinematic role playing -- that is, rules that try to evoke the feeling that you're in a movie or television show. I applaud this; I'm a little tired of games that requires graphs, charts and calculators to resolve combat.
The system for encouraging player creativity with Plot Points is also well done, with built-in controls to prevent hoarding and encourage participation. I also like the use of different dice to allow greater and greater chance for success while still keeping your luck with the dice important. (Frankly, seeing a system that uses more than just d20s pleases my little dice-hoarding gamer heart.)
In many ways, Supernatural feels like Hunter: The Vigil if the World of Darkness had a little more hope in it, more of a scary adventure game with monsters than a game of true supernatural horror. And you know what? That's okay. Sometimes I don't always want my RPGs to be full of doom, existential ennui and soul-crushing despair. This setting seems fun, and that appeals to me. It also seems easy enough to ramp up the action and drama to actual horror if that's more your cup of tea.
Things I didn't like:
* I didn't like the cozy way it talked to everyone as if they were True Fans of the show. If I wasn't familiar with the Supernatural TV series, it might well have felt a little alienating. As a fan of the show, it felt a little condescending. However, it was probably written with younger readers in mind, and as such, this is a relatively minor quibble.
* I actively hated the art director's decision to include still shots from the series. It ends up looking more like Teen Beat than an RPG, and threatens to evoke the feeling that you are expected to just pretend to be the show's main characters rather than playing out your hunters in that world. Which is a shame, because it's not true; the book gives you lots of options for making unique individual concepts. Ultimately, the photos are distracting and annoying; inked illustrations of the same scenes would have been much more effective.
(I found the photos so annoying I contemplated buying a PDF version of the book so that I could use Acrobat to manually remove them. Please, publishers, if you go for a second edition, get an artist to recreate the scenes. It will make this book's appeal broaden significantly. Mind you, the photos are still 100 times better than Cyberpunk 2020's disastrous choice of doll illustrations, but that's not saying a whole lot.)
* I didn't like some of the grammatical mistakes I found, some of which were intentional but others of which probably weren't. The tone of the writing clearly was meant to emulate the loose, informal tone of one of the show's two main characters, Dean. Ultimately, however, I found myself wishing they'd chosen the slightly better spoken tone of the other main character. Still, this is a relatively minor complaint.
Things I would like more of:
* Actual monster stats that aren't based on the TV show's monsters. The most likely audience for this game is people who have already watched the whole TV show. Given that, I'd like to see things to spring on them that they haven't encountered before. However, there's a supplement out now about monsters, so I expect that's where I'll find these....more