About this project
You are a Bounty Hunter, sworn to hunt the wicked, keep the peace, and prevent the ire and retribution of your people's master.
Three sentient species live under the terrifying rule of the Archon - an incomprehensibly powerful organism capable of consuming stars. All civilizations that have expanded beyond their system must face the Great Filter's crucible and be judged. Only three have been deemed fit to avoid extinction.
As a Hunter, you've been entrusted with meting retribution upon the corrupt and the vile. Keep your guns loaded, your blades sharp, and your insight keen, or else risk the Archon's calamitous judgment upon us all.
Hunt the Wicked is a tabletop roleplaying game focusing on Bounty Hunters: peacekeepers, gunslingers, saviors, and assassins, the heroes and mercenaries that go after the bad guys. They're here to save the galaxy, and make a profit while doing it.
Inspired by Blade Runner, Saga, Cowboy Bebop, Star Wars, Mass Effect, Guardians of the Galaxy, Steve Perry's Matador series, and a whole heap of Westerns.
Why play Hunt the Wicked? The game has been specifically designed to play hardcore bounty hunters driven by personal motivation. You get to save the galaxy (with swords and guns), take out bad guys, ride FTL space-trains, and earn a fat paycheck. I've never had more fun writing - or playing - an RPG.
Primary Design Focus: Playing manhunters whose motivation matters in an expansive, fun, space opera setting.
Setting Highlights: Humanity and two other species (bizarre amphibians and digital sentients) have to work together to keep society under control, or risk sudden and complete annihilation from the ire of their God Machine incarnate. Bounty Hunters are the cheap, low-impact tool to keep the Archon dormant.
System Focus: The characters' competence is bolstered by interacting with their Motivations and pursuing dangerous quarries. The gameplay integrates with the narrative, guides character action, and forces the players to make difficult decisions.
Game Format: The game will be released as a PDF and print-on-demand book (soft and hardcover) from bendutter.com and DriveThru RPG. It'll be around 50,000 words, professionally edited, laid out, and illustrated in full color.
Characters are driven by Motivations
Hunt the Wicked's system is focused on the characters' personal Motivations, and how their actions coincide with those desires. Characters are empowered by adhering to what Motivates them, which often interferes with their duties as a Bounty Hunter.
Space opera incorporating Fermi's Paradox and space-trains
The Vassal Territories, Hunt the Wicked's setting, focuses on how three sentient species (including humanity) have managed to survive and serve beneath the omnipotent rule of a horribly alien, sentient-machine-planet.
Dozens of worlds in the sprawling Territories are connected by the Superlume Bridge network, massive FTL subways in space. Each known colony, station, or planet is unique, and provides ample opportunity for wanted criminals and dissidents to hide from Bounty Hunters.
Bounty Hunters: peacekeepers, trackers, assassins
You'll play as a highly feared, fervently hated, ardently beloved, and universally respected Bounty Hunter. You hunt down the galaxy's most wanted criminals and terrorists, and trade up their corpses for cold hard cash.
Your character's Motivation is an integral part of the game's system and setting. Why did you become a Bounty Hunter? How does the reality of the job - often gritty and horrible - conflict with your dreams and aspirations? Your morals and instincts?
You'll be met with equal measures of brutal violence, cold suspicion, and grateful praise as you fight to keep the peace - all while trying not to lose heart (or die, or enrage the Archon, or go insane, or...)
Bounty Hunters select two of the five Motivations:
- Community: the desire to belong
- Esteem: the desire to be respected
- Justice: the desire to right the Territories' wrongs
- Liberty: the desire for personal and societal freedom
- Power: the desire to maintain and exert control
Bounty Hunters face dangerous and difficult situations, many of which have no clear solution. Characters gain Motivation Dice (MD) if they pursue their Motivation, track criminals, and collect bounties. MD are used to perform Maneuvers and add dice to rolls.
After seeing yet another dead innocent, losing a quarry's trail, or causing too much collateral damage, a Bounty Hunter becomes Haunted. Characters can't improve once they're Haunted, and must reconcile with their mistakes if they ever want to be at peace.
Bounty Hunters can become compulsively focused on a single, elusive target to the point of Obsession. What once motivated them and put them at ease now drives them forward with an insane zeal, hurtling forward until they've followed their Obsession through to its conclusion - one way or another.
The Vassal Territories are embodied by rugged mercenaries tracking down bloodthirsty murderers, conniving thieves, and dissident terrorist cells across a panoply of different systems. Think retro sci fi meets Western with some zany twists.
- Three distinct, well-defined species
- Dozens of unique planets and stations to explore
- Long range, faster-than-light travel along Superlume Bridges, essentially subway trains in space
- A loosely connected alliance of governments (the UVA) working together to prevent mass, Archon-induced extinction
- The Bounty Hunters - the hardest, toughest, meanest investigators hunting the wicked and protecting the galaxy
Read more in the Setting Details section below.
Hunt the Wicked's Ethos Engine system seamlessly handles combat, social encounters, mental puzzles, and physical obstacles:
- D6 dice pools represent your Hunter's aptitude in the eight Skills, covering everything from Might to Logic
- Actions that Trigger or Resolve your Motivation give you extra dice to add to your rolls
- Thorough GM guidelines to create exciting investigations, chases, and difficult decisions
- Rules for how Hunters can become Haunted by their immoral choices, or Obsessed with an elusive quarry
- Players define their characters' unique Talents
- Use Maneuvers granted by your Motivations, and deploy Techniques learned as a Bounty Hunter
View the character sheet or read more in the System Details section. Hunt the Wicked's system uses the Ethos Engine - originally seen in Vow of Honor - with plenty of modifications and additions to tailor it specifically to the game's concept and tone. Here're the Quickstart Rules.
Bounty Hunters are a necessity on the galactic frontier - military might and system-spanning police forces are deemed too dangerous to employ for fear of the Archon's reaction. It is a time when sentient society walks on a knife's edge, carefully and quietly advancing forward, hoping that nobody does anything stupid enough to engender the Archon's wrath.
Some see the Hunters as saviors, some as lawmen, some as little better than assassins or mercenaries. Yet everybody knows and respects the Bounty Hunters - or at least recognizes their widespread authority.
The Vassal species have spread out across the galaxy, building massive transport systems like the Superlume Bridge Network, artificial colonies like the dizzyingly beautiful Orbital Platforms over Earth, and inhabiting and terraforming dozens of alien worlds - all watched by the omnipotent Archon, silently judging.
Criminals, thugs, murderers, dissidents, rebels, and those insane enough to try to directly challenge the UVA's or Archon's authority must be dealt with in order to maintain this era of peace. Failure is not an option - as it can spell the extermination of the Vassal species on the whims of the Archon.
You will run these perpetrators down, maintain order in the galaxy, and hunt the wicked.
Action and Motivation
The system focuses on competent people driven by their motivations. It highlights the dynamic between the characters' personal desires and the demands of their dirty, dangerous job.
D6 Dice Pool
Hunt the Wicked uses a pool of d6 to resolve Tasks. Successes are counted based on the face value of each die (1-6), with the number determining success based on a character's Skill. Poorly skilled characters succeed on a 6, while the most competent succeed on 3s or better.
Skill Based Competence
Characters' abilities are defined by eight Skills (Awareness, Coordination, Influence, Knowledge, Logic, Might, Resistance, and Stealth). The better at a particular Skill, the more likely an action within that Skill will succeed.
Universal Task Resolution
Players roll a relevant Skill to overcome a Task, and can add Motivation Dice (MD) to their base roll. When characters fail to overcome Tasks, they suffer Consequences. Combat, mental challenges, physical obstacles, and social interactions are all handled in the same Task system.
Characters select two Motivations that compel them to action, earning MD when pursuing them, and granting correlated Maneuvers. A character Motivated by Justice gains a bonus when serving up retribution, while one Motivated by Esteem can automatically make someone trust them. Most Maneuvers are triggered by spending Motivation Dice.
Self Defined Talents
Each character has player-defined Talents, freeform abilities that provide bonuses when relevant. A character could be especially Tech Savvy, gaining a bonus to Knowledge when trying to disassemble a piece of technology, or a Master Marksman, and get an advantage when shooting a gun.
Three Unique Species
There are three different playable Species:
- Earthlings are highly adaptable, tenacious, and creative
- Ixtabuyek are amphibious, stealthy, and utterly alien
- Yantiram are digital constructs that can swap out their chassis and hardware as they wish
Each Species grants a few extra Talents, as well as a special Trait that is unique to their own kind.
Bounty Hunter Techniques
Each Bounty Hunter has learned a specific, effective Technique during their career. These Techniques can get them out of a bind, and cost MD to activate.
Techniques can grant the character the option of always acting first in a fight, getting useful information out of an interrogation, easily slipping free of restraints, or other similar benefits.
Factions, the Archon, and Planets
The book is full of useful rules and resources for the GM to populate their version of the Territories with Factions, unique planets and colonies, and even repercussions of the Archon's bizarre, esoteric Ire.
Hey, this sounds kind of familiar...
Hunt the Wicked uses the same core mechanic as Vow of Honor. If you've played or read VoH, a lot of the terms and concepts will be familiar to you. However, Hunt the Wicked has been designed with the game's theme and tone in mind, focusing on high flying space opera action and tough sci fi bounty hunters.
Want to read the full game?
Here's the full draft of the text. Bear in mind this is a rough draft, working document - it's ugly and poorly organized and probably rife with grammatical errors. However, if you can stomach it, I'd love for you to read it, play it, and let me know what you think.
- About 50,000 words (260 6x9" pages)
- Discusses the Setting, System, and how Motivation works in great detail
- Edited by Joshua Yearsley
- Laid out by Phillip Gessert
- Illustrated by Winston Lew and Marius Janusonis
Hunt the Wicked will be professionally edited, laid out, and illustrated in full color. This is the second project that I've worked on with this team - we know the process, and we work well together. These folks are the best in the business, and I couldn't be more confident in the quality of work we'll deliver.
The game will be released in PDF, and print-on-demand format through DriveThru RPG. If you back at any of the reward levels, you'll get a code for an at-cost printing of the book.
Where the funds are going
- Artwork: $750
- Layout: $550
- Editing: $700
- Fees: $500
- Total: $2,500
As with all of my game projects, I run a very lean operation on my end, but I've hired some truly talented experts to put the game together. They're not cheap, but boy if they aren't worth every penny. I want this book to look as beautiful and be as useful as possible.
- $3,000: A high-detail cover illustration
- $3,500: All pledges now receive an .epub and .mobi version
- $4,000 and beyond: Starting at $4,000 and every $1,000 threshold beyond, we'll add another complement of artwork. The higher we fund, the prettier the game gets.
Ben Dutter is the lead designer of Hunt the Wicked, which is his third published game (after Vow of Honor and Forge of Valor). Ben's been playing RPGs for twenty years and serious about game design for the last eight.
Joshua Yearsley is a seasoned editor specializing in roleplaying games. He's worked on Venture City Stories, The Secrets of Cats, and Nova Praxis, as well as completed the editing for Vow of Honor. His extensive experience and profound understanding of RPGs is invaluable to this project.
Phillip Gessert is a talented graphic designer and layout editor. He's completed hundreds of manuscripts, books, and magazines, in a wide array of styles and mediums, including our last RPG: Vow of Honor. His focus on high legibility will ensure Hunt the Wicked is beautiful and easy to read.
Winston Lew is the game's primary artist, specializing in clean linework and dynamic characters. His creativity and precise detail is a huge boon in realizing the beauty of the Vassal Territories and its species.
Hunt the Wicked is written. The system is complete, thoroughly playtested, and based on the same core mechanic as Vow of Honor. As soon as the campaign's success is clear, editing and artwork production will accelerate. Optimistically, the book should be finished by early 2016, possibly pushing into Spring 2016.
Risks and challenges
This will be my third Kickstarter. The first one, Forge of Valor, failed to fund due to unrealistic aspirations and my own inexperience. It was a major learning opportunity for me, and I took those hard-won lessons and launched Vow of Honor, delivering 100% of my pledges in a little under five months - an entire month early.
For Hunt the Wicked, the game's been written and playtested. I'm working off of a modified version of the Ethos Engine, and am very comfortable in its soundness. I have largely the same team as I did for Vow of Honor, and they're all esteemed professionals.
Since I'm not a fan of stretch goals beyond making the game prettier, and I'm not directly handling printing or shipping hard copies (as the folks over at DriveThru are much much better at it than I am), there's very little risk in delaying the project.
Once I get the funds, an accelerated creation of artwork from multiple artists (with several more waiting in the wings should the funds become available or backups necessary) will begin. The document will be sent over to Joshua Yearsley for editing and then each chapter'll be relayed to Phillip Gessert as it's completed.
I'm physically and mentally healthy, have a successful day job (and blossoming publishing business), and a very capable partner in the form of my wife who will take over if I meet some calamity.
You don't have to pledge to read the full document as it stands, and I will continue to update everybody as quickly and transparently as possible throughout the process. If worse comes to worst, I'll be sure that refunds are issued if there's absolutely no chance of the game being produced after a successful run - guaranteed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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