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Nests [Hunter: The Vigil]

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Mortekai

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A preview of Hunter 2e from Monica:

HunterTheVigil-Corebook-327px-229x300.pnHunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition has been in development for a while and there’s a few reasons for that. The game is designed to stand alone as its own corebook, and this approach is something I have to be conscious of with respect to rules and referenced material. It also, however, has a lot of callbacks to what the first edition of Hunter is all about: fighting monsters in your own backyard. To that end, once I finish tidying up the rules, I’ll be applying a lot of my own research to spruce up the Slasher Chronicle, make sure the compacts/conspiracies are well-covered, and then jam-pack the chapters with flavorful story seeds by replacing some generic terms like “monster” with actual threats so the game is fun to read and to play. I’m also working on a new preview for you, and I think you’re really going to dig it.

Remember that the setting conceit for HTV 2E is: “There are more monsters than ever before.” To hunt them, you’ll need more tools — and it’s my job as developer to provide them for you. While it’s true that hunters fight monsters, they also spend a lot of time investigating, identifying, and tracking them, too. To that end, my team and I thought about the “where” in monster hunting. This preview is a sneak peek from our Mysterious Places chapter. This sample reflects my first pass at development, and may be spruced up further following my second pass and a round with our glorious (and talented) editors. It will be tied to the Storyteller chapter and the list of Tilts and Conditions in the Appendices. And, you’ll also be getting samples of each mysterious place in the chapter that offers you ready-to-play locations for your chronicle, too.

Classifying Places

Hunters track down monsters in rat-infested sewers, creepy attics, gnarled oak trees. Sometimes, they get a lead. A neighbor points to the oldest house on the block or the local rickety bridge just beyond the cemetery. Sometimes, however, hunters can’t catch a break. Maybe their nervous informant is missing. Maybe that slimy trail of footprints they were following disappeared. Or worse: they’ve discovered there’s more than one monster on the loose.

When hunters reach a dead end (or don’t know where to begin), the cell should be reminded that the hunt isn’t always about shooting or trapping monsters. It’s also about tracking monsters down to find out where they devour victims, lick their wounds, and sleep — in a monster’s own backyard.

Nests are homes and lairs a monster claims. They are usually secluded, defensible places — a dank cave, an abandoned factory, a crashed train — where a monster feels safe. No matter how you look at it, Nests are very, very dangerous and hunters should be wary of rushing in to fight a monster on their own turf.

Places that are Tainted are just…wrong. Whether they’re twisted, cursed, or corrupted, simply being present in a Tainted place is a health hazard. Sometimes, a hunter might experience strange, supernatural-like effects. A trapped hunter is convinced the exit is right in front of them — only they’ve been locked up in a room with no doors or windows for several hours. A victim believes the hunter is the true monster, and rushes to attack them instead of the beast lurking in the corner. If Nests are dangerous, Tainted places can be downright terrifying because an invisible, accursed force permeates each one. Entering a Tainted place is always risky; being trapped in one can invite additional trouble on top of dealing with the monster that haunts it.

Perhaps the strangest areas of all are Sentient. Unlike Nests or Tainted places, areas that are Sentient can be classified as monsters themselves. In game terms, a monster is an antagonist that possesses Dread Powers — and Sentient places definitely do. A Sentient place can think and reason, feel and hate, plan and attack. Some can communicate, move or alter their dimensions, ooze blood, or even ignite fires. Though they are supernatural, not every Sentient place specifically targets mortals. A Sentient house, for example, could trap monsters and hunters alike. Unfortunately, since a Sentient place can simply seem like it’s Tainted, many hunters do not know what — or who — they are dealing with until they’re trapped inside.

For these reasons and more, whether a hunter is investigating a Nest, Tainted place, or an area that’s Sentient, they should learn their surroundings are just as crucial to a successful hunt as dealing with a threat.

[[sidebar]]

For the Stortyeller: What’s in a Term?

The terms in this chapter are defined for the Storyteller’s use. Hunters will use their own definitions to describe what they “think” they know, either through the lens of their experience or by relying upon a common lexicon used by their cell, Compact, or Conspiracy. If a player gets a term “wrong” during the course of the chronicle, that usage has no bearing on whether or not their instincts are correct. As such, the Storyteller is encouraged to give players the reins to investigate locations without getting caught up in terminology. Don’t be afraid to use a cell’s lack of knowledge to facilitate the needs of the story, either, by leveraging misdirection and the occasional red herring.

[[end sidebar]]

Nests

Even monsters need familiar places they can call “home”. A pack of dog-sized creatures covered with rusting metal plates hides between piles of crushed cars in a junkyard. The old woman’s house, abandoned since she died, is a Nest for a group of things that only look like the cats she used to care for. Some Nests might even be called a “haunt” or a “resting place” by the ghosts who lurk there Whatever you call it, whatever form it takes, a Nest is the lair or refugee of a monster.

Nests are suited to the creatures living in them and hostile to any hunters who dare to enter. Investigating a Nest can be as dangerous as tracking down a feral animal, because the monster’s home is their turf and they chose it for a reason. Hunter approaching a Nest should proceed with the utmost caution and come prepared.

Using Nests

Nests exist to facilitate a confrontation with a monster. Storytellers might use a Nest to narrate the satisfying climax of a chronicle or highlight how a cell is in over their heads and needs to regroup. In either case, dealing with a monster on its home turf should reflect a dramatic scene filled with heightened tension.

Depending upon how the Nest is physically structured, it can also be used for chilling investigation scenes. A labyrinthine network of caves or sewers is a great backdrop for a slow and steady pursuit of a monster’s trail. In this case, the Nest itself can be a source of clues to not only track down the monster, but identify it. Sprawling Nests are also, however, a terrible gamble: what do hunters stand to gain by investigating a Nest? What happens if and when the monster returns unexpectedly?

The kind of lair a monster chooses should reflect its personality and nature. A Nest might reveal a monster’s weakness; if it’s light-sensitive, the area might be pitch black. If it can be weaked by fire, it might choose a swamp as its home. Savvy hunters will also notice Nests can provide hints about a monster’s capabilities. A cell might assume a monster acts solely on instinct, but then discovers a collection of stolen photographs hung carefully inside its cellar. Some monsters might even lead hunters to a false or fake Nest to protect their true home which, in turn, delays a cell’s ability to rescue victims.

No matter how a Nest is introduced, a monster’s lair is more than just a place; it’s a characterization of an antagonist the hunters are forced to deal with.

Neutralizing a Nest

The easiest way to neutralize a Nest is to ensure the monster never returns to it. Some hunters might bulldoze a dilapidated mansion to the ground or call in a favor from the chief of police. Others might pursue a monster back to its Nest, trap it inside, and then start a fire. Keep in mind that, unlike other types of mysterious places, Nests are not usually supernatural in nature. Once the monster is destroyed or dealt with, technically the Nest is no longer a hunter’s problem. Sometimes, however, driving a monster out of its lair can cause unforeseen complications. A monster survived the attack and targets the cell’s homes. A collapsed cave forces monsters to the surface where they attack joggers more frequently. Or, perhaps, the hunters missed the obvious: more than one monster called that Nest “home”, and now they are pouring out of a burning skyscraper, howling for blood.

Neutralized, damaged, or destroyed Nests may still be unsafe after the monster has left. A cave on the verge of collapse or a dump site full of toxic chemicals are both extremely hazardous. And, if an emptied Nest is in great condition, it could attract other, new monsters to move right in. Hunters might solve the problem by using fire, explosives, or demolition equipment, but that kind of outright destruction has its own set of complications. Abandoned places are usually owned by someone who can be bribed, cajoled, or convinced to look the other way. These details might seem tedious, but dealing with “real world consequences” are part of what keeps a hunter grounded.

Systems

A Nest’s physical structure and layout aren’t always apparent at first glance. Exploring an unknown, mysterious place can be difficult because monsters use their surroundings to their advantage. Tilts and Conditions, defined on page XX, offer Storytellers tools to customize their scenes by tying the Nest to the players.

Most of the time, a Nest possesses Environmental Tilts to reflect its hazardous or dangerous attributes. Say the hunters have tracked a living doll back to the 13th floor of a condemned apartment building; the floor’s narrow hallways are cluttered with ripped sofas, rusted bedframes, and broken chairs. In this Nest, the doll can move freely and intuitively to stab victims between holes in the furniture. The hunters, unfortunately, caught in the doll’s trap have trouble maneuvering. In this example, a Storyteller might choose the Detritus and Tight Tilts to reflect the terrain.

Conditions are also a great tool for Storytellers to leverage provided they fit the scene. Picture a looming figure in a gas mask that takes up residence in a chemical factory. In this Nest, the Storyteller decides fumes inflict the Nauseated Condition on anyone who breathes the factory’s toxic air. Then, after intruders have been weakened (e.g. suffering from the Nauseated Condition), the monster lunges to attack.

Creating a Nest

Creating a Nest is a two-step process that can either occur before a chronicle begins or between sessions.

Step One: Develop a Concept

Who lives here? When creating a Nest, Storytellers should have a clear idea which monster will be occupying it. The Nest should either suit that monster in some way, or be intentionally devised to thwart the hunters and force them to rethink what they know. In many ways, the Nest is representative of the monster in your chronicle. Think about the tone and mood you’re trying to exude in your chronicle and, when appropriate, how the Nest offers hunters clues about their prey. Example: A man-eating crocodile slithers in a subway station that has been closed for maintenance. It has punctured sewage pipes with its sharp claws; the murky water covers the tunnel walls, masking the scent of blood, making clean-up crews nauseous.

What are the Nest’s physical traits? After deciding where the Nest will be, focus on the “what”. Flesh out details that offer hunters clues and warnings. Example: A shambling figure hides in a city park, where the thick trees and overgrown brush hides its every step. Broken twigs and branches reveal signs that something is hiding in the park, but it isn’t until a group of hunters discovers a set of muddy human-sized paw prints they realize they’ve got their hands full.

What is the site’s history? Nests represent physical locations in the real world and, as such, many of them possess a history. Details hunters uncover in the present can shed light into the past. Developing the Nest’s backstory is another way for hunters to investigate an area and lead them to a more successful confrontation with the monster. Example: A ghost haunts a convenience store. The land that store was built on, however, used to belong to a murdered family the ghost was sworn to protect in life.

Step Two: Assign Tilts and/or Conditions

Storytellers may, at their discretion, assign Tilts and Conditions to the Nest. It is strongly recommended that these rules are attached to the Nest before gameplay, and not during a tense scene. The Storyteller should consider:

Physical Attributes: What are the Nest’s physical, identifiable features? What effects might those have on hunters?

Circumstances Used: When using Tilts or Conditions, sketch a scene where they might be used. Is the entire Nest full of slime and rotting garbage? Or, have they hunters discovered a bloody pit filled with the bones of a monster’s victims?

Example: Megan is creating a Nest for a horror in her game, a slimy, amphibious humanoid creature. Its Nest is located in the water-logged tunnels of a storm sewer. She decides to give the Nest the Tight and Viscous Tilts, to represent the narrow passages and the thick, slippery muck filling most of the tunnels. She briefly considers also using the Filthy Tilt, but decides that keeping track of the potential for open wounds will slow down the scene too much when combined with the other Tilts.

There is no set number of Tilts or Conditions that should be applied to a Nest. Less, however, is usually more. To avoid overwhelming players, select one or two Conditions or Tilts to add some narrative heft to a scene. Often, a Nest’s terrain is best reflected by Tilts. The determination and usage of the rules in a session, however, are at the discretion of the Storyteller.


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