The Supernatural role playing game came out in 2009. It didn’t last long, but it had a few worthy supplements to enhance the game. Now, it’s a collectible for Supernatural fans. Get our review after the jump.
Supernatural RPG Background
Margaret Weis Productions landed the game license in 2007 and it launched in 2009. The game used the Cortex system. By 2010, there were 2 supplements released to expand on the game. Unfortunately, they didn’t hold a license to use the robust fiction written by authors like Tim Waggoner. That limited the source material to the show.
In 2011, Margaret Weis Productions lost its license and the game ceased.
As Supernatural readies its final season, the Supernatural RPG could be a great bit of nostalgia for fans, even if it only covers the first 5 seasons.
The lead-off chapter gives a decent, albeit generic, overview of the Supernatural universe. You get some geography, what it’s like to be a hunter, a touch of monsters and ghosts … and that’s about it.
To me, it seems like the production studio knew the game was for the fans, so they gave the setting 9 pages. If you know the show, this is probably all you need. However, the setting described can’t compete with Hunter: The Vigil, Hunter: The Reckoning and other monster- or ghost-hunting games.
You have to wait until Chapter 7: The Story for more. This chapter is for the game masters, who run the campaigns. It clocks in at a lean 24 pages. You’ve read it all before, but it was likely more developed in other games. I was a bit shocked at how minimal it is.
If the game had survived, they’d have to produce a player’s guide and game master’s guide to fill in the missing details.
The game used the Cortex system for action, using skills and killing beasties. Luckily, The Basics section gives a decent overview before you try it (at only 6 pages). I always thought the Cortex system was clunky. The math and roleplay weren’t very intuitive. Nowadays, not many games use it. At the time, Margaret Weis Productions used it for Serenity and Battlestar Galactica.
Anyway, the rules do a good job showing you when you need to role, how to calculate scores, how damage works, when to use plot points to change a role, a touch of advancing. The bulk of the mechanics get developed under Chapter 6: The Rules.
This is a short read. Only 22 pages detail the system of play, from Actions to Plot Points (which adds dice to a roll), to Defense, and car chases.
The system uses a point pool to ‘fund’ attributes, traits and skills. It scales the points based on the character’s experience level. So, a rookie will have fewer points than a veteran, and a veteran has fewer than a seasoned hunter. The third chapter, The Hunters, has all the character details and what to do with points.
With these points you fund Attributes like Agility, Strength, Vitality, Alertness, Intelligence and Willpower. You’ve seen them all before in other games.
In Chapter 4, you get to pick Traits and Skills as wells as drawbacks for your character. Assets are beneficial and can add a bonus, while Complications take away a few points. It makes the game interesting.
Chapter 5: The Gear has all the weapons and costs for your hunter’s lifestyle. It’s minimal to say it clearly. A lot of weapons and explosives. Yep, just stuff that goes ‘Bang!‘ or ‘Boom!‘
Antagonists (Ghosts & Monsters)
Chapter 8: The Supernatural covered ghosts and monsters, but it focused more on ghosts and demons than other beasties. I found the demon section to be the best part.
The games does tell you how to incorporate vampires and shapeshifters into your game. This section is only 24 pages. You’d think the first supplement would be the monster guide, but it came out a year later.
Overall, this section needed to go big. There were already 4 years of monsters from the show to work with. And the RPG creatives blew it.
Margaret Weis Productions planned 3 supplements, but only 2 got published. Those are The Guide To The Hunted and Supernatural Adventures. The third, The Supernatural Road Atlas, got shelved when the company lost its license.
The Guide To The Hunted
The Guide To The Hunted expanded on the monsters and ghosts from the core rulebook. In addition, it had sections on:
- Restless Spirits (with Ghostfacers!)
- Angels & Demons (including Castiel and Ruby)
- Gods & Monsters (with skinwalkers)
- Curses & Hexes
- Creating Threats
At the end of each section, there were tips for running campaigns around the monster, a nice touch. It came out in 2010, after Season 5.
This supplement launched in 2009, right after Season 4. It has 5 adventures that work like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The 5 adventures focus on:
- Red Ghost, a ghost story
- Transmutations, a black-magic, demon-monster story
- Hell Hound On My Trail, a demon story
- His Lesser Half, a tale about necromancy (sorta)
- Synchronicity, which involves demonic possession
In all, I liked Synchronicity the most. Each adventure has twists-and-turns to keep players on their toes.
Not Necessarily Supplements, But Close Enough
There’s other books out there that you can convert. Supernatural really likes to keep the fans satiated. So, you can order these books to inspire more adventures:
- Bobby Singer’s Guide To Hunting
- John Winchester’s Journal
- The Mythology Of Supernatural
- The Supernatural Book Of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls
- The Men Of Letters Bestiary
- The Essential Guide To Supernatural
Additionally, there’s a series of original fiction you can check out. Supernatural has a robust universe outside the show for fans.
Ghostly Activities’ Take
For gamers who want an action-adventure, paranormal fix, this is a pass. There are many games like Supernatural on the market. White Wolf has Hunter. There’s Monster Hunters International, Chill, Monster Of The Week, Pulp Cthulhu, and more. No need to find this one on secondary sales market. The mechanics are a bit clunky and it might be too centered on the TV show.
But if you’re a fan, I think it’s a great addition to your Supernatural collectibles. The show ends after its 15th season (15!!!), so this will help your nostalgic feelings. It never got updated after season 5, but you can add elements from the novels, comic books and creature books to extend.
Just remember that you’ll have to assign your own attributes to the beasties and ghosts.