iHunt is a Fate powered pen and paper roleplaying game by Olivia Hill and Filamena Young. It’s based on iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy by Olivia Hill, a series of novels available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.
Read the second page of the book, if you get a chance, and if it pisses you off, then put the game down and walk away. It’s not for you.
I’m going to quote bits from this introduction, walk through the details and reveal while why I’m only a tourist.
#iHunt is a game by and for the LGBTQ+ community. This is a game by and for poor people. This is a game for all the people society leaves behind and lets fall through the cracks.
I’m a straight white man, a middle-aged guy with a good job. Yeah, I’ve a chronic and painful illness, but the protective arms of Britain’s national health service have caught me. I’ve not fallen through the cracks.
It’s weird to open up an RPG and not be encouraged to make it your own, to shape and change it to your needs and to have fun. iHunt’s intro isn’t finished, though. It continues;
We wrote this game to see ourselves kicking ass in a world when the game industry at large is still hostile to diversity despite all claims to the contrary. This isn’t a game with some milquetoast sidebar about how “you’re allowed to play gender nonbinary characters.” This is a game about marginalized people.
Geek Native’s Facebook page lost followers when the blog published and praised the news that DriveThruRPG had added an LGBTQ+ category. I know full well that there’s still hostility in the hobby. People fear change. Others are overt racists.
But, as I said before, I’m not in a disparaged group. Should I put iHunt down and dismiss myself as being over-privileged? No.
Are you allowed to play it if you’re not from a marginalized group? Of course. But understand that this is a game written with our concerns unapologetically first and foremost, front and motherfucking center. This is our world. You’re a tourist. Welcome to the show.
If you dislike a game’s author swearing at you while painting their motivations and beliefs in 20-foot neon pink letters on the side of the building, then you’ll struggle here.
I’ve no problems at all with iHunt’s tone of voice. It reads in the same way as people I hang around with talk.
But iHunt isn’t done, Chapter 1.5 is called “Playing Nice” (Playing Like a Non-Asshole), I’m going to quote a few lines from that and then stop because I think iHunt’s philosophy should be crystal clear by now.
And don’t pull any of that gamer garbage like, “this is a roleplaying game so we’re encouraged to make up our own house rules.” That’s for how hard it is for a character to jump a fence, not the rule that says don’t fucking hurt your players. If you’re ignoring the basic fundamental essence of #iHunt to be a fucking asshole, you’re so far beyond asshole that you’ve come out the other end and now your mouth is spewing shit. Go play another game.
If you’re a fascist, you’re not welcome to play this game. It’s against the rules. If you’re reading this and thinking, “You just call everyone you disagree with a fascist,” then you’re probably a fascist, or incapable of drawing inferences from context and acknowledging a dangerous political climate that causes the oppressed to be hyperbolic. Don’t play this game.
Olivia Hill and Filamena Young’s defiance creates atmosphere. There’s anger here. There’s a sense of Us versus Them. The real monster here is the harsh cruelty of latter stage capitalism, and in some ways, the vampires, werewolves and demons are as much the victims of it as anyone else.
Good RPGs, I think, are those that ooze atmosphere. iHunt swims in it.
It’s not hard to imagine a messed up world. One where your Deliveroo driver is so hard up that she has the iHunt app on her phone and when rent is due, she accepts a job, a mercenary like everyone else in the gig economy and finds herself with only a few days in which to research a vampire and plan his assassination.
The default setting for iHunt is the fictional city of San Jenaro California. San Jenaro isn’t hugely detailed in the RPG, but the novels bring it to life. The keywords are modern gothic, decaying opulence and hyperrealism. In my head that translates to harsh personal consequences against a backdrop where other people are suffering, except for those benefiting from it. The pretence is fading. There’s unpleasantness wherever you look except in those parts of the city off-limits to you.
I’m okay with the light touch on San Jenaro. I don’t imagine iHunt would work in many settings outside the United States of America. You need a country with people rich enough to be able to put bounties on monsters. You also need a country with people poor and desperate enough to accept those bounties.
I don’t think the city matters terribly in iHunt. It’s the social security (or lack of it) of the setting and the people that make it real.
There’s diversity within the iHunter groups as well, different methods and philosophies on how to hunt. iHunt calls these Kinks, but I think they’re more like styles or vibes.
There are Evileenas who fight with knowledge and contain sub-cultures/kinks like Watcher, Arcanist and Alchemist.
There are Knights who fight … by fighting and contain sub-groups like Operative, Hitter and Player.
There are Phooeys who fight with technology and have groups like Hackers, Drivers and Anarchists.
There are The 66 who fight with charisma and have factions like Face, Cutouts and Agitators.
What all this means is it is effortless to get a rough idea of a character. Pick an American city, imagine someone who needs help with some bills, give them a Kink, and you’ve the primary draft of your iHunt character.
iHunt is based on Fate Core, but you don’t need a copy of the standalone rules to start playing iHunt. If you want to adapt the mechanics then perhaps a copy of Fate Core, though, would be useful.
Fate uses Fate Dice. These are typical six-sided die with atypical marketings; two blanks, two plusses and two negatives. Rolling a plus adds one to your result, and a negative removes one. You don’t need Fate Dice, though. You can look at a traditional d6 and call a result of 1 or 2 a minus, 3 or 4 as a blank and 5 or 6 a plus.
Typically, you roll 4 of these dice (or, if things are going well, 3 of them and a bonus 1 to 6 dice) add in your skill and look to get as high as possible.
How high? Well, that’s somewhat arbitrary and a reminder that both Fate and iHunt are about stories and not wargaming. However, ‘The Ladder’ table suggests +1 is an Average result, +3 a Good result and -2 Terrible.
What makes Fate noteworthy is the use of Aspects. These are phrases which describe your character or their motivations. They can be channelled for bonuses or used against you by the Gamemaster.
If they’re used against you, you’re in a rock and a hard place, but the choice is yours. It’s an even playing field too, as players can try and invoke Aspects to imperil rivals as well.
Some sample Aspects go a long way to explain how they might work in a game. You might have the straightforward character Aspect “Vegan” or “Insomniac”, but you might have the more interesting motif Aspects like “Not As Advertised” and perhaps you use that in scenes when you’ve been sneakily misleading or want to do something surprising. Another suggested Aspect is “Never Stop Running”, which might be used against you if you’re trying to settle down or perhaps hide, rather than flee, danger, but might also be useful when you’re looking for a bonus about being fleet of foot or already prepared for risk.
With the right Aspect and skill, you’re in a good place to roll well in Fate. In iHunt, though, that’s not enough. A fair fight is one you’ll lose against the supernatural. It’s a tough game, you always need to be looking for an advantage.
iHunt is as cosmopolitan in visual style as it is diverse in characters. It’s rare to see so much colour in a roleplaying game. There’s barely such a thing as a page template, with formatting and decoration changing dramatically every few pages.
It works for me. It gives iHunt a fresh and high-tech vibe. I’m not normally a fan of photographs in RPGs, I think sometimes they hinder the escapism, but those that appear in iHunt act as reminders that this is a game inspired by harsh reality, rather than fantasy myths.
There is a lot of geek chic in iHunt. The models featured are aspirational while many wouldn’t look out of place on stage at a gaming convention (eSports, probably).
I imagine the myriad of visual styles may be as disconcerting as iHunt’s “my way or the high way” defence of its philosophy for some gamers, just less of a talking point. If you think you lean to the conservative side of RPG layouts, then there are many pages in iHunt which might bewilder you.
I’m glad I splashed the cash and bought the game. iHunt is a talking point. I foresee geek cred earned when you can say you own a copy.
I wasn’t put off by the worldview exposed by the creators, or their repeated assertations that you can like it or lump it.
However, I was reminded of anecdotal stories of authors not being keen of fanfics based on their characters and worlds. The truth is that people might play iHunt in ways Olivia Hill and Filamena Young don’t approve of. I think it would be wrong to reduce all the emotion in the game’s writing to posturing, though, it’s not. It very firmly connects the world of iHunt to you, if you are indeed in the (many) groups of people it seeks to represent.
Fate Core is already proven and a perfect choice for iHunt. As is Evil Hat.
iHunt is a game I’ll recommend. To the right people. And to the wrong people, to wind the gammon up.
You can download iHunt from DTRPG. Have you played the game? Let us know what you make of iHunt and its original approach to culture.