Game: The Hunt: Rise of Evil
Publisher: Mystic Eye Games
Series: The Hunt: Rise of Evil d20
Review Dated: 29th, June 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 21
Average Score: 7.00
Okay. It’s been out for a little while now and it’s amassing something of a fan base. Mystic Eye’s World Book The Hunt: Rise of Evil gets the best of two worlds by providing a high fantasy world which provides the level of spell casting and multitude of character races that players are familiar and comfortable with and successfully combining that with a dark, gritty and somewhat gothic setting which manages to inject something new and enticing.
It was a gamble. If you’d asked me whether the RPG consumers of the American market would do anything other than ignore a gothic campaign world before The Hunt: Rise of Evil hit the shelves then I would have expressed my doubt that the world book would sell. Mystic Eye played their cards right (or if you’d rather, they’ve scored a critical threat on their d20 RPG publisher role) and have kept their costs down by staying away from gloss, colour and hardbacks but they’ve kept their quality high. The Hunt world book is no different from the Mystic Eye standard; it’s not a hardback book and it’s the only d20 world book that isn’t hardback that springs to mind. Of course, all of this strategy would be for naught if The Hunt were a pile of poo. Thankfully, The Hunt: Rise of Evil is rather good.
Gothos is a world which is connected to Earth and it is connected in a darkly surreal way; through the dreams of a sleeping creature; a demon; a god; or something else entirely and this connection waxes and wanes through the astronomical style rotations of the planet Earth and Gothos.
It’s only slightly naff to have Gothos connected to Earth but there are plenty of advantages, especially with the dreams and nightmares association. GMs are able to use myths and legends from our culture and plant them into Gothos in an intellectual way rather than a cheesy yet-another-rip-off way. For example, one would be forgiven for rolling their eyes if a GM ran a plot about a serial killer who the locals have called Jack and who seems prone to cutting prostitutes to pieces in their fantasy game; whereas in Gothos such a plot is no longer such a terrible cliché and could actually be presented as something of an academic debate on the various theories of the actual Jack the Ripper case. An even more powerful plot device than the ability of the GM to effect events in Gothos through the dreams of Earth is the ability of players to effect the Gothos reality. In a typical The Hunt: Rise of Evil game the player characters will be one of the Children of the Waking Dream. These people have strong connections with a given dreamer in Earth. This connection with the dreamer is represented in a rather nice Dream Point game mechanic that governs how many Dream Points are required at any given time to effect Gothos in some way. When the connection between Earth and Gothos is strong then it takes less Dream Points for a significant change in Gothos reality. Examples of Dream Point use include the likes of “I’m not dead” which can be used right after a PC has died in order to bring him back, or rather, for him “not to have died”. In typical The Hunt style there are a group of NPCs with similar abilities but with an entirely different agenda. This gives The Hunt a built in set of villains, therefore something of a built in focus, but one that can be used often or ignored entirely by the GM.
The Hunt: Rise of Evil introduces more than just the new Dream Point mechanic. The book presents two new types of magic; Blood and Blight magic. The premise for both is similar; the power of blight (land) or blood (body) sacrifices can be used to enhance magic. Mystic Eye does have a Blight Magic book on its shelves as an independent entity but you don’t require it to use Blight Magic for The Hunt: Rise of Evil nor do you require The Hunt in order to use the Blight Magic book.
Most of the space in The Hunt: Rise of Evil is given over to a large list of gods and places in Gothos; this is how it should be for a world book. The two are tied nicely together; different parts of the world have differing strengths of faith for the different gods. The Church plays a strong role in Gothos culture, especially the inherently scary Inquisition. I think special praise must be given to some of the stereotype busting gods. There is a god of Husbandy, a chaotic-good god half-orcs, a neutral-good god of wild places and two different gods of the sea. The pantheon of gods brings a few new cleric domains too: Clockwork (for the Tick-Tockck King, the Gnome God), Pestilence, Corruption, Smithing and Decay.
The Hunt: Rise of Evil runs through the established character classes of the core rules and looks at where they might be found in the world, in what sort of circumstance and in what sort of role. It’s a tricky one this; if a world doesn’t have travelling Bards, the Paladin concept, fighting Monks or wilderness men who develop magic for some strange reason and who call themselves Rangers then the standard character classes don’t fit at all well. Gothos, with its unique world setting, deals with the problem better than most – but I still would have liked to have read more and had more advise. Gothos also introduces its own character classes as well as the traditional scope of new Prestige classes. These new entries are a little bit naughty in that some of them slide stray of the concept of never balancing game mechanics with roleplaying peculiarities. Mind you, not every gamer in the world agrees with that particular mantra and you might not even notice when you read the book. Each of the new classes are entirely correct in that they make sense in The Hunt’s world setting, are easy for the reader to understand and are put together in a sensible way. The character classes added to the game are particularly enticing ones too; shamans, white witches, centurions and even the merchant which is perhaps less enticing but surely worthy of having a character class of its own.
In terms of character generation and world building my favourite offering from The Hunt is the cultural modifications. The Nords, for example, receive a bonus to their save against cold damage but as a culture they’re widely illiterate, and most of the various cultures have a range of feats which are unique to them. How often do you hear phrases like “The men from the north are known for their great strength” but find all humans treated universally? Too often. The Hunt: Rise of Evil‘s cultural system provides a quick, clean and entirely satisfactory answer to this problem.
I think most gamers will find something they like in The Hunt: Rise of Evil and I think many of them will be keen to play in Gothos. The book doesn’t suffer from being a softback that’s careful with its use of colour; in fact, I think it benefits from it. You just have to pick it up and flick through the pages, watch as the various maps (ideal for all those RPG cartographers out there) flick by and read snippets of juicy flavour text in order to find the inspiration for a character or a plot. I like the world, its fresh but familiar both at the same time – that’s an impressive trick. I think there is more than enough in the 144 paged world book to keep campaigns alive for a long time. In addition, Mystic Eye does well with its use of the OGL; at the back of the book you’ll find more than just references for other good d20 supplements to use with The Hunt but you’ll actually find pages of rules from these books. There is, for example, nearly two pages of rules from Seas of Blood and so GMs have at their fingertips an easy way to manage travelling around between the various islands in Gothos and to ensure that such a journey is an exciting adventure too. The Hunt was a gamble but I think it has been a success.