RPG Review: The Obsessive Hunter

Cover Image from Taylor Lane's
Twitch Page
The Obsessive Hunter 

I was provided with a PDF copy of this product for review purposes. 

The Obsessive Hunter is an OSR-style class "template" (for lack of a better word) by Taylor Lane. Taylor is an active member of the tabletop role-playing game community on Twitter, and stands out among many new designers and players as having gravitated toward the so-called "old school" community as opposed to the current 5E edition of the world's most popular role-playing game. It's encouraging to see the number of new content creators who are gravitating toward older versions of the game, bringing a fresh perspective and new ideas to a sub-category of role-playing games some have portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as full of stodgy old men who aren't open to change. 

Before getting into the review itself, I want to talk a bit about my review criteria and why I picked these specific areas as being important.  As I continue to review RPG products in the future, I'll be adopting a format reminiscent of the one I use when I judge the One Page Dungeon Contest each year. In looking back on some of my past reviews, I noticed I that I don't always judge products on the same criteria, resulting in some uneven reviews that I'd like to avoid in the future. For the foreseeable future, I'll be reviewing the following components of each RPG product, in the same order, to make it easier for you to find what you're looking for so you'll be able to tell if the product is for you: 

  • Product Category. 
    • This isn't one that I use for the One Page Dungeon Contest, but it makes sense considering I've reviewed products ranging from adventure scenarios to campaign settings to design guides. 
  • Premise. 
    • For the One Page Dungeon Contest, this is mainly used for me to judge whether the adventure has an instant and easily identifiable hook that a referee can use to help get a group of adventurers involved quickly. For standard RPG reviews, I'll be using this broad category as a way to describe whether the product is filling a particular niche or if it's easy to see how one would use this in a game, and also the basic mechanics of what is being reviewed. This will most likely be the longest section of each review. 
  • Layout and Design (including Art).
    • This is pretty self-explanatory, but more and more as I judge products, I'll be looking about how the material is presented and if it's done in a way that makes it easy to use at the table as well a fun to read and refer to. 
  • Characters.
    • For products that include NPCs, I'll be looking at how they are described, their motivations, and whether the designers gives tips on how to role-play those characters so that a referee can drop them into an encounter with minimal prep-work. This category won't apply to every product I review, of course. 
  • Map.
    • Again, this won't apply to every product, but for ones that include a map, I'll review whether the map is actually useful for running the game or whether it's mainly decorative or (even worse) an after-thought. 
  • Grammar/Spelling.
    • Those who have read my reviews of the One Page Dungeon Contest every year know this is something I pay a lot of attention to, and I have graded down otherwise good entries because the designer constantly misspelled words or used improper grammar. While some may think this is me just being nitpicky, poor spelling and grammar interferes with comprehension and makes it difficult to run things quickly at the table when one is stumbling over improperly spelled words or poorly constructed sentence structure. 
  • Usefulness.
    • This category is somewhat related to the Premise, but it's mainly for discussing how useful a product is, both in terms of the mechanics and design, but also if it's something that serves a purpose and can easily be used at the table. 
  • Other.
    • This is a broad category that I use to judge the creativity and other unexpected things that a designer puts into a product to go above-and-beyond. It's difficult to define, and it's really more about how well the product appeals to me, so I'll be sure to point this out specifically as things that appeal to me as a gamer may not work for you. 
And with that, let's dive into The Obsessive Hunter and see how it stacks up. 

Product Category.
This is a short 4-page class guide, described as being an "OSR class." It's less of a stand-alone class and more of a template that can be applied to either the fighter or thief class to create something that's akin to a paladin-ranger multi-class. 

The idea of this class template is to use the ambiguity of "what is a monster?" versus "what is a person?" to create unique role-playing situations that explore a character's morality. 

This could have been set-up a little better at the beginning in the description of the class, as it's not until the end of the class description that this is discussed in detail. The set-up does talk about how there are monsters that look like people, and people that look like monsters, and that the obsessive hunter is called to destroy them to save the world, but it wasn't until the end of the class description that I really understood what the creator was attempting to do with this class.

The mechanics of the class mention using either standard fighter or thief attack tables and skills, depending on system you're using. On top of that, the obsessive hunter then lists a number of "values" which are things that the character believes only monsters do, and that the character would never do. 

These values then become a mechanical modifier to certain die rolls during play, but can also cease being values and instead become "justifications." The justifications also modify certain rolls. 

It is through the combination of the values and the justifications that this guide offers what is probably its most innovative mechanic, and that is the experience progression for the class. Rather than advancing in level based on a standard XP progression table, the class instead advances by comparing Values to Justifications, including the HD of the monster defeated in combat, adding in the lowest and highest level of the rest of the party members, and a die-roll mechanic for a randomizer. 

The obsessive hunter also gains some level-based abilities, including a mount and animal companion, monster lore (providing modifiers to interacting with that particular monster), being able to tell whether someone has betrayed your values, keeping trophies from your kills (which add other mechanical benefits), and some role-playing abilities involving convincing monsters to flee or to attack, among a few others. 

What really would help immensely with the product are examples of different values and justifications, and how a value might end up being a justification and its effect on how the character operates in that circumstance. 

Layout and Design.
This is a four-page product with no cover or art, and the layout utilizes a clean format and a very easy-to-read font that's a perfect size for reading on screen, and it uses bullet points to help organize information rather than big walls-of-text. Interestingly, the product uses a landscape format rather than portrait, which I actually like quite a bit. Given that most screens (other than mobile phones) are landscape, I've often wondered why more PDF-only products don't utilize a landscape layout. 

The layout does not utilize any headers for different sections, and overall the effect is detrimental to the comprehension of the class. While the document is short, at four-pages, using a combination of headers and section breaks to organize the class abilities into different sections would make finding key information much easier. In addition, the formatting begins as a three-column format on the first introductory page, then moves to two columns for pages two and three, and ends with a one-column format. It would have been preferable to utilize the same column layout throughout the document. 

Lastly, in one instance, a line that was intended to be at the top of the following page accidentally appears at the bottom of the previous page, and combined with the change in the number of columns, was a bit confusing to read. [Edit: I've just learned that this line-return had already been caught and fixed between the time I received a copy for review purposes.]

Fortunately all of these issues could be easily fixed with just a small amount of effort on the part of the creator. 

Characters & Map.
I'll skip these two sections for this product, as they aren't relevant. 

[Edit: I spoke with Taylor and these have been fixed already, but I'm going to leave these comments here so other designers and creators can benefit from the analysis].

Overall, the grammar and spelling are good. There's a persistent issue with mistakenly using "it's" instead of "its," and again, long-time readers will know this is something that I mention during the One Page Dungeon Contest every year. Here's my quick tip: Unless you are saying "it is," then you want to use "its." 
"It's raining" is correct ("it is raining").


"...feel free to take a trophy from it's possessions..." is not correct (you are not saying "it is" possessions). 

That's really the main issue in terms of spelling and grammar, although I did notice what I think is another error toward the end of the document - it appears (and I could be wrong and not understanding the difference between these two terms as they relate to the mechanics of the class) that the term "values" is switched as the end of the document to "virtues." I suspect that the author had originally used one terms and wanted to change it, but forgot to search-and-replace for all instances of the previous term. Again, this is something that can easily be fixed in a subsequent revised version. 

This is an interesting class that does offer a lot of unique and compelling role-playing opportunities, but a lot of it does depend on the referee ensuring that the player is following the rules outlined in the class and not abusing the bonuses offered by taking a lot of values without converting some of them later to justifications. The class relies on the idea that a character might think someone or something is a monster, but later violate that value by encountering a creature that blurs the line between monster and person (e.g., the document uses "cannibal" as one example). The class description specifically notes that it is highly expected that obsessive hunters will betray their virtues (values?) and be required to take new ones that better reflect their current world view. 

While this could be fun to explore in a game, it's something that the entire group of players should agree to beforehand. Exploring these kinds of issues is often part of old-school games, such as whether the paladin should kill the infant werewolves, knowing that they will one day grow up into evil adults that feed off the locals. Those types of moral questions have existed almost since the hobby began, and while it can be interesting to contemplate those issues occasionally, if everyone involved isn't looking to frequently have those types of discussions, it could create tension in the group. 

The experience point leveling is quite interesting, but without having play-tested the class or done a few example class builds, I can't say what kind of impact it would have compared to the standard XP level progression tables and whether it would be too fast or too slow. A quick look and some back-of-the-envelope calculations would seem to indicate that in order to increase level, the obsessive hunter would need to have quite a few values and only a few justifications. Having a higher count of values can give the character 5E-style "advantage" on die rolls related to fighting monsters that have violated your values, so it would seem to be doubly advantageous to have as many values as possible. The text does address this, noting that the referee can create situations where having too many values is less advantageous, but there is no guidance or examples given for how to do this. 

I really liked that this class wasn't just another standard array of typical paladin and ranger abilities (tracking, healing, spellcasting) tacked onto an existing class, which is honestly what I was expecting, based on the name of the class. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few new and innovative ideas presented. I'm also a big fan of creating situations and hooks for players to role-play their characters more. 

I do have to say that given the layout/presentation, I did get a little confused on how some of the different class abilities worked, and I really think that given how different this class operates versus the standard OSR type class, some examples of different values and justifications would be extremely helpful. Also, I think this is a type of product that is absolutely calling for some type of "Designer's Notes" side-bars discussing where the ideas came from and the inspiration for making the class. There's some of this in The Obsessive Hunter, but it's sprinkled throughout the mechanical write-up of the class, whereas I think it would be better in a boxed section at the end or off to the side. 

Given the very low price-point (the class is only $1.00), there's little downside to checking out this class for some new and different class-based mechanics that are not normally found in OSR style fantasy games. Even if you don't use the class exactly as presented, it may spark ideas for how to incorporate ideas like a character's morality into a game as an alternative to alignment. 

  • Format: 4-page PDF (all text)
  • Where to Buy: Taylor Lane's Twitch page
  • Price: $1.00
  • System: This is deliberately written to be used with a wide-variety of different old-school ("OSR") fantasy RPG products such as clones of OD&D, B/X, and 1E as well as related clones that use classes and levels
  • More Information: You can follow Taylor Lane on Twitter to see some interesting and engaging discussions about tabletop role-playing games. Taylor also has a Patreon here

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Fernet Branca (neat)
Listening: "Golden Nectar" by J Boogie's Dubtronic Science from the album "J Boogie's Dubtronic Science"