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The Grimoire #12
The Grimoire #12
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Supernatural Role Playing Game
 

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Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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Supernatural Role Playing Game
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Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/31/2012 16:57:58
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19817.

Using the Cortex System at its foundation, the Supernatural RPG allows a group of die-hard fans the opportunity to play the Winchester brothers, or other hunters, and one other to be the screenwriter/producer/director they’ve always dreamt of within the surreal world of darkness created by the popular TV show. For me, it’s my first full experience with these mechanics and Margaret Weis Productions’ continuing line of licensed games. I’ve seen the show a few times, but never caught it on a regular basis, because I’m a slave to watching everything in order and have yet to find a channel airing it in syndication or a local store selling the first season on DVD.

All that adds up to an eager anticipation on my part to see what all the fuss is about: game mechanics and the setting material alike. The latter is very effective and highly evocative, written as if it were spoken by Dean himself, and sets a clear tone for both those familiar and inexperienced with the show. The former was an acceptable system capable of embracing player participation and character interaction, but seemed rather ho-hum on resolution and combat.

OVERALL

After reading through the book, I felt as if the Supernatural RPG‘s mechanics were heavily influenced by White Wolf’s World of Darkness games and while I’ve never read Hunter: The Gathering, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to adapt that game into a homebrew of this show. While the book is well-written and mechanically solid, I have to admit disappointment at what I was expecting. It feels typical to nearly every other RPG out there and while Plot Points are a nice touch, it’s only a fresh coat of paint on a street where all the houses are built the same. If you’ve been waiting for a RPG to come out supporting your favorite show after spending weeks working on a hack from another system, I’d be hard pressed to insist on ditching that work.

This doesn’t mean the game itself is poor, just standard. If you’re new to role-playing, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to enter or continue into the genre. But if you’re experienced and looking for something new and exciting, you might not find it here. I’m in the second category, which is why this game doesn’t quite do it for me in light of what I came to expect.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Every page looks as if it came from one of Winchester’s journals and helps propel the mood of the game and its relation to the show. Very effective in print, a bit of a bother in PDF (my copy came in at 42Mb and was a bit slow to load on the tablet).

Mechanics: 7 out of 10
Functional, yes. Effective, yes. Evocative? No. While Plot Points and Traits were a nice touch, they didn’t make a massive difference to differentiate this game from any other out there.

Desire to Play: 5 out of 10
I’m more psyched about watching the show more than ever and would pull this out if my players squealed when they found out I had a copy. Otherwise, it’s another book to add to the shelf.

Overall: 7 out of 10
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good RPG and demonstrates Margaret Weis Productions as a worthy publisher. Jamie Chambers and the team’s handling of the material is excellent and perhaps if I was already a nut for the show, I’d be more enthusiastic. Yet my personal feeling on the been-there, done-that mechanics is not my cup of tea. Some of my discontent also stems from my expectations of the Cortex System – I don’t think this game lives up to the potential I’ve come to expect from this system. If you’re a fan of the TV show, the rating may be more like 8 out of 10.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2010 23:36:12
The Supernatural RPG is out and it looks nice! If the printed version is half as nice as the PDF then this will be a damn attractive book. It looks like a "hunters notebook", loved the scribbled notes and pictures "taped" in. In fact it is an order of magnitude greater than their previous best works. Yes BSG and Serenity are nice looking books. This one blows them away.

Nice introduction. I know exactly what this book is supposed to be about and what I am going to do with it. It lays out the antagonists and the "theatre" very, very nicely.

As deep and as profound as my love is for the Cine Unisystem modern horror games, Supernatural reminds us that there is more the US than the west coast. But to be fair, this is more to do with the respective source materials rather than the games themselves.

"Supernatural" fills the hole in my RPG life that was once filled with "Chill". Normal (mostly) people going up against the … well supernatural. This isn't Buffy or Angel where it is difficult to tell who the bad guys are, or even Charmed where both sides had the same firepower. This is closer to Call of Cthulhu. I'll say it now. Supernatural is a better "Hunter" RPG than either "Hunter: The Reckoning" or "Hunter: The Vigil".

I like Cortex. Unisystem and Savage Worlds got freaky one night and nine months later Cortex was born. Now keep in mind this is a good thing for me. I REALLY wanted to like Savage Worlds and just couldn't. I LOVE Unisystem, but (and this might sound a bit heretical) a Unisystem based Supernatural game would not have given us much in the way of new. But here the systems tweaks fight the tone of the game. These are normal humans. The Cortex system work great for that. Plus converting to Savage Worlds or Unisystem is really, really simple. There are more skills here than in Cine Unisystem, less than Classic Unisystem.

The Character sheets look really cool. Again, like something you would see in say John Winchester's journal.
Good equipment lists. A fair number of monsters. I am not worried about there not being enough. I have 1000s of books on monsters and Cortex is simple enough to move things around.

"Music to Hunt By" is the best addition to any RPG! ;) There should be room on the character sheet to list important thing like what the hunter's personal play list is.

The only thing it is really missing to make it a perfect modern supernatural horror hunting game is a magic system. BUT, given this is "Supernatural" and more about normal humans, it's fine that it is not there and more of a reflection of my play style than the show.

I am not sure how it compares to other Cortex books in terms of mechanics. It's looks most similar to Demon Hunters and the Cortext Core, but there are changes to reflect the world a bit better (no super science, no flashy magic, lot more gear). Though while Demon Hunters is very tongue and cheek and the Core is very dry, this book is neither.

Who Should Buy This Game?
- Anyone that is a fan of the show
- Anyone that is a fan of Cortext
- Anyone that likes supernatural/modern horror games, but is not interested in playing a vampire, fae, ghost, demon (half or otherwise) or a "chosen one" human. This is a game of normal people doing what they can to stop evil.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2010 09:38:56
A Flames Rising Review:

If you are already a fan of the Supernatural TV show and want to play out the kind of adventures that happen to its protagonists, this book will come as a real treat. If you don’t know the show, or are just looking for a game in which present-day heroes deal with supernatural menaces, this probably is not the game for you.

Written throughout in a casual style (almost as if written by Dean Winchester) and laid out in full color with lots of (uncaptioned, alas, and rather dark) shots from the show as well as evocative collections of items that might rest on a hunter’s desk, the work begins with an Introduction by Sara Gamble, one of the show’s writers. Clearly, she’d quite like to join in, and it ought to get you into the right mood for this game from the outset.

If you enjoy the TV show and want a game specifically tailored to its nuances, this is for you. It is presented beautifully and atmospherically, and should empower you to recreate the show in your game. It could even spread to wider, but similar, themes – say you wanted an X-Files or Warehouse 13 themed-game.

Read the full review at FlamesRising.com:

http://www.flamesrising.com/supernatural-rpg-review/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2010 09:44:30
If you are already a fan of the Supernatural TV show and want to play out the kind of adventures that happen to its protagonists, this book will come as a real treat. If you don't know the show, or are just looking for a game in which present-day heroes deal with supernatural menaces, this probably is not the game for you.

Written throughout in a casual style (almost as if written by Dean Winchester) and laid out in full colour with lots of (uncaptioned, alas, and rather dark) shots from the show as well as evocative collections of items that might rest on a hunter's desk, the work begins with an Introduction by Sara Gamble, one of the show's writers. Clearly, she'd quite like to join in, and it ought to get you into the right mood for this game from the outset.

Then the book jumps right in with Chapter 1: Be Afraid of the Dark. This is a wide-ranging chapter that covers the underlying concept of the game, the mood of the show which you'll be trying to recreate, and setting the scene of an elite group of 'hunters' who deal with menaces that most ordinary folk do not even believe exist outside of legends and stories. There's an overview of the sorts of nasty things these hunters will face - as well as other hassles such as local law enforcement, lack of a reliable income (if full time hunters) and the effect of their lifestyle on family and friends. Assuming you want to run your game in Continental America, there's an overview of some of the likely places supernatural menaces are to be found... this covers virtually every bit of the United States so whatever locale you fancy there ought to be something for you.

Next, Chapter 2: The Basics covers just that - the basics of the Cortex rule system - certainly in enough detail to play the game. Aspiring referees (and players wanting to use the rules to their full effect) will find a lot more detail in Chapter 6: The Rules. And that's another good thing about this book, you are constantly directed to what it will be useful to read next, depending on your needs at the time. Starting with a brief explanation of what role-playing is and the role of player and game master, it moves on to introduce the dice used in the Cortex System and the way in which the capabilities of a character (or monster) are described and used from a game mechanics point of view - and all with reference to where you put it on the character sheet. There is even sufficient detail for you to understand what is going on during a combat or other mechanics-heavy moment in the game.

The basics explained, on to Chapter 3: The Hunters, which gets down to the detail of actually creating your character ready to play. Everything is based around your concept for a character, with a point-build system to allow you to set him up just as you please. And if you prefer to play one of the Winchester boys or one or two other major characters from the show, they are presented in full detail. An interesting feature is Traits - which come as Assets or Complications. They confer modifiers in appropriate situations, but Complications can (if well role-played) also gain the player Plot Points - freely usable bonuses to die rolls at a time of your choosing. The chapter rounds out with the advancement system.

Chapter 4 looks at Traits and Skills - basically explaining what is available and how to use them in game mechanic terms, then character creation is completed with a trip to the store, or at least Chapter 5: The Gear. This is quite abstracted, both in terms of detail (if you want to describe your weapons in loving terms, fine, but here you get generic statistics for each type!) and cost as a 'lifestyle' system is used to abstract the sort of thing that you can afford based on background and status - while you can get prices from a store and work out wages, cash in hand, etc.; accountancy is not what this game is about so you don't need to track every last cent unless you really want to do so!

Characters done, Chapter 6: Rules provides all the detail that the game master - or most avid rules-lawyer - could need to enable the game to run smoothly, logically and fairly. Suitably given the subject matter, there is a cinematic feel and GMs are advised that excessive die-rolling can spoil the flow of the game, and to require rolls only when there is a definite need to allow for an element of chance. However, when the need arises for rules mechanics, these are explained clearly with plenty of options to enable you to tailor them to the precise circumstances in your game. The theme of Plot Points is expanded with suggestions as to how players can use them not just to enhance a roll but to create favourable circumstances, like finding precisely the right weapon to deal with a given monster just lurking forgotten at the bottom of your bag. Plenty of detail is given to the mechanics of combat and chases as well, also all-important information on getting injured and recovering from the damage. Considering the nature of adversaries, attention is also paid to the characters' mental state with rules for getting scared or even losing your grip in the face of Things That Should Not Exist...

Chapter 7 is entitled - and aimed at - The Game Master. There's nothing game-destroying should a mere player read here, more just things that are more appropriate for a GMs use. Things like actually running games, pacing, levels of control to exert, even how to deal with rules lawyers (a gem: "This is one of the few times after pre-school when 'because I said so' is still a valid response!") Creating the right atmosphere and tone is also covered, as well as preparing adventures, realising that different GMs work best with differing balances between pre-planning and scripting everything and running the entire adventure freeform off the top of your head. The overall setting - horror in contemporary America - is already chosen for you, but there are lot of options within the broad theme as to how you wish to address it in your game. For example, are the characters footloose wanderers seeking out monsters to hunt, or have the monsters chosen to come visit them in their home town and they have to step up to defend all that they hold dear? However much you prepare, there are some useful thoughts about how an individual adventure should be organised to best effect (quite useful general advice, and certainly apposite to the sort of adventures you'd run for this game).

Chapter 9: The Supernatural is an overview of some of the commoner types of adversaries that the characters might encounter in their hunt. As the authors admit, you'd need a whole library to cover the myths around even a few of the most well-known monsters; and so the emphasis here is on how to use monsters within your game rather than bare facts (except of course example game statistics) about them - both Game Master and players will do well to undertake their own research into what the legends say. Information sources, especially those available in-game to the characters, are well explored. There's a good section on how the characters can apply various skills to their search for information. The details given about the monsters themselves are vague enough that players can safely read most them, although perhaps unless they can justify their characters having a pre-existing interest before the game begins, even this may be more than 'ordinary' people, the ones who don't credit the existance of such beasts, would know. There are some examples given that are best left to the GM.

Finally, Chapter 9: The Mundane looks at everything else the characters will encounter, in main a series of locations and the sort of people likely to be found there. There are also some of the more likely wild animals - such as bears and cougars - that might cause confusion to a hunter who sees the supernatural behind every attack. The overriding feel is 'small-town America' and even to one who has never been there it's beginning to come to life in my mind as backdrop to the adventures. An Appendix gives some 'Hunter Jargon' - and the recipe for a drink called a Purple Nurple! There's also some suggest background music, then the Index and a character sheet rounds the whole thing off.

If you enjoy the TV show and want a game specifically tailored to its nuances, this is for you. It is presented beautifully and atmospherically, and should empower you to recreate the show in your game. It could even spread to wider, but similar, themes - say you wanted an X-Files or Warehouse 13 themed-game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Berin K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2009 08:40:09
Having never seen the show, I was expecting something that would give me an introduction to the setting. I don't really know much more than I did before I read it. So to me, it's just a monster hunters game akin to Hunter: the Vigil or even Call of Cthulhu. If you like the Cortex system and want to play monster hunters, WIN. If you like the show, there are lots of photos. Otherwise, there was nothing here to make it stand out from other, similar games. Read a full review here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-7705-Phoenix-RPG-Examiner-
~y2009m11d23-Review-Supernatural-RPG

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2009 12:44:51
Supernatural is one of the best fantasy horror shows to come along since the Whedonverse brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Through its five seasons, it has developed an intriguing mythos revolving hunters and the things that hide in the dark. More than any other television series, Supernatural is perfect for a Role Playing game, having already established that there are dozens of hunters, maybe even hundreds, all over the world.

Margaret Weis Productions, following up its successful Serenity and Battlestar Galactica RPGs with Supernatural the RPG, by far the best presentation of the publisher’s Cortex system, despite lacking some of the resources of the previous mentioned RPGs.

At its heart, Supernatural is an action horror RPG. Players create a group of individuals who, for some reason or another, are together chasing evils throughout the country. In previous “television RPGs” group interaction feels forced, as shows like Battlestar and Serenity rarely focus on the entire group doing anything in cohesion. Often times, those RPGs have you splitting up 3 or 4 different ways to best utilize the characteristics of an individual player. Supernatural has frequently introduced the idea of teams of hunters on the show, so players feel right at home working together within the spirit of the show. A researcher could be right next to an gun toting hunter and still have something to contribute to a situation.

The PDF is 186 pages, well laid out and book marked and covers every aspect of the RPG. There is material for game masters and players. The Cortex system is suitable system for role-playing heavy RPGs. Because players are not dealing with static statistics that need to be added with specific dice, it is easier to teach someone new to RPGs. The six basic stats in the game are given a specific die, as are skills, perks and compilations. You simply roll that die when a relevant check comes up and you match the results against a standard chart that ranges from easy to impossible. As with other Cortex games, players receive plot points, which allow them to altar the die used and effect the story aspects of the game.

The material comes together well, but lacks enough pregenerated characters, something that made Serenity far easier to set up a campaign. The only characters included are the four main characters from the show.

For the Game Master
There are stats for all level of supernatural as well as animals and ordinary people. The Game Master section does a comprehensive job of describing how a game is run. It really made running the first game very easy.

For the Player
The beauty of the Cortex system is its ease of use. Making a Rookie character takes 15 minutes. It also is a horror RPG system above being a “Supernatural” property. I had a player tell me she hated the show Supernatural, but had a ball playing the RPG.

The Iron Word
Supernatural plays to the strengths of the Cortex system. The action horror RPG’s simple explanations and attention to flavor put players in the world of Supernatural. Regardless on if you are familiar with the show, you will appreciate the nuances the system brings to a game where you are a hero hunting down the evils of a modern world.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Nathan! We hear you on the pregenerated character front. Perhaps a standalone web enhancement with more characters would be helpful?
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jason C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/15/2009 20:15:16
This is a very nice product. I bought it, thinking I was going to convert the TV show info to Savage Worlds. After reading it, I'm thinking about switching all of my Savage Worlds games over to the Cortex system.

The game itself is written in a very casual style - like it's being spoken by one of the character's from the show. While some may not appreciate the style; I, for one, really enjoyed it and found it to be a welcomed substitute for the typically dry RPG rulebook. The author clearly knows his subject matter and can 'teach' game rules without putting someone to sleep. Margaret Weiss would be wise to hold onto this guy - he's damn good.

The rules are vintage Cortex (can something only a few years old be vintage?), which means they're very similar to Savage Worlds with a few differences. For example, instead of a static number for success in SW, Supernatural uses a Difficulty number. Players roll their Attributes and Skills to equal or exceed that number. Where Savage Worlds uses Bennies, Supernatural uses Plot Points. I always thought that Bennies were a great part of SW and that every game should use 'em. Having seen and used Plot Points - they're better. They make more sense and make the Player make tough choices. If you use them before a roll, you can get 'em pretty cheap. If you need to use one to save your bacon after the roll, they're more expensive. I think it's brilliant stuff.

The game covers a lot of territory in regards to running a good Supernatural game. It has a pretty good selection of weapons, gear, and all the stuff needed to run a good Hunter. My only real complaint is that there isn't as many monsters as I would've liked. I understand that there is likely a Monster book coming out soon, so that choice makes sense. Another complaint would be that there really isn't a lot of magic, but that wouldn't be true to the show. It's not a high-fantasy D&D style program. For those that want to diverge from the main canon, adding your own magic is mostly going to be up to you. I've found that on the Cortex fan-site (http://cortexsystemrpg.org/index.php?action=forum) there's plenty of options to add to the game, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

The quality of this PDF is right up there with the Eden Buffy/Angel books. Lots of color pictures, nice graphs and tables and a real pleasant look to it. That being said, if you're going to print at home, there wasn't a print-friendly option that I was aware of. Not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but I'd recommend taking it somewhere to print. It's sure to use up a lot of ink as there's very little unused space.

I really like the Cortex system. It's a kissing-cousin to Savage Worlds, but in many respects it's better. It isn't designed with minis and maps intended as the focus (they can be used, but measurements are real-world distances, not inches on the map-board). I really like the Plot Points better than Bennies, and the dice mechanic, while similar, lacks much of the Savage Worlds goofiness. Really the game stands on its own merit, and I'm not sure why I compared it to Savage Worlds other than that is a system I'm familiar with, and I was pleasantly surprised that this system is immediately 'familiar' - but different enough that I can appreciate that, for me, it's better.

I look forward to the certain follow-on resource books with anticipation. I'm very happy with this purchase and as I mentioned at the outset, if I can convert all of my other games without much hub-bub, I'll be running a lot more Cortex than just this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Jason! We at MWP are big fans of the folks behind Savage Worlds, so it's high praise to be compared favorably to them. Glad you like the game, and if you ever have any questions please don't hesitate to drop us a line over at www.margaretweis.com.
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