Monster hunters are defined by the villains they face. Van Helsing would be nothing without Dracula. Buffy has faced everything from a master vampire to the First Evil. The Winchesters are best known for facing The Devil himself. In iHunt, the new role playing game from Machine Age Productions, budding monster slayers must not only deal with classic creatures like vampires and werewolves but the biggest beast of them all; the gig economy.
Designers Olivia Hill and Filamena Young wrote the RPG with the intent to illustrate the struggle of millennial through the familiar fiction of modern-day monster hunters. The game shares its name with the fictional app used by the characters in the game. Monster hunting is a side gig not much different than driving for Uber, posting crafts up on Etsy or renting out a bedroom on AirBnB. Ads for the app are scattered throughout the book and they seem all too real. Why drive for Lyft and scrape together a car payment when hunting a vampire preying on a local hospital would net a cool $5,000 for the night?
BOSTON, MA – NOVEMBER 14: Uber and Lyft stickers are pictured inside a ride share vehicle outside … [+]
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The game features a deft blend of action horror and dark satire. The mechanics are based on the very flexible Fate Core system published by Evil Hat Productions. (You don’t need Fate Core to play, though it can be a great resource to answer questions about iHunt’s system.) Characters in Fate are defined by their aspects which are short phrases that players can use to make things easier or cause trouble for narrative rewards. If the characters have a Day Job aspect like Burger Flipper they might be able to wrangle a bonus to their roll for stuffing a werewolf in a trash compactor…or they could get called into work when the rest of the team needs their skills to bust up a black mass.
Hill has also included a couple of interesting tweaks to the Fate system to get the themes of the game across quickly. Monsters start out with an Edge dice which gives them a much higher chance of success that can only be negated by careful investigation and planning. It puts hunters in a risk vs. reward situation: do they methodically research the midnight attacks at the dog park in the hopes of figuring out what the monster is and defeat it easily? Or do they rush in blind to make sure they get in first without worrying about another team on the app getting the bounty?
The game also uses imperiling aspects to remind players that sometimes the folks working these sorts of jobs have no good options. Unlike normal compels, where the player can refuse the trouble caused by an aspect by paying a Fate point, imperiling aspects give a fate point but make the player choose between two bad options. Imagine the Burger Flipper discovers one of the participants of the Black Mass is the manager they like. Let them escape into the night knowing they are still sacrificing living creatures of ancient power? Or take them down and lose health benefits because the new manager doesn’t take kindly to last minute shift cancellations?
The most interesting synthesis of these ideas is the transformation of milestones into selfies. These photos are often a punchline about how vain and self-absorbed millennials are but the designers make a strong argument that since they don’t have the material wealth to buy things, they have to create memories and seek experiences instead. Instead of simply marking down experience points, Hill encourages players to sketch out a selfie the character would have taking that related back to the mission, whether a cheeky pose over the headless corpse of the creature or a somber snap honoring a fallen comrade. She even goes so far as to encourage players to set up a fake Instagram account to help in the storytelling of the game.
Fans of monster hunters and games with a lot to say will find a lot to love in iHunt, currently available at DriveThruRPG.