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.
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.
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.
[4 of 5 Stars!]