White Wolf’s Hunter: the Vigil has always offered a twist on the usual World of Darkness dynamic — you’re a human fighting against the supernatural instead of being a supernatural being yourself. Compacts & Conspiracies twists the formula yet again, creating new levels of intrigue and mystery for hunters to unravel (or ravel further).
You might expect a book called Compacts & Conspiracies for a game with Hunter’s X-Files-like premise to offer a host of corrupt worldwide organizations for the players to penetrate and uncloak. This book does offer that. I mean, technically, you could use it as a sort of “monster manual” of shadowy groups. But the twist is that the intended function of these groups in a Hunter game is to provide a home base, a social and professional community for your hunters to exist within. From the outset, you’re part of the conspiracy.
Even with that surprise (which may not be entirely unexpected if you’re familiar with Hunter), things aren’t that simple. Being part of a Hunter compact isn’t like joining the Justice League of America. Everyone in your group isn’t going to be a convivial teammate fighting by your side to right the wrongs of the world. It’s far more likely that there are conspiracies within conspiracies, that even as an initiate you don’t know the true motivations of your compact, and that your fellow Hunters might be a wee bit more fanatical than you’re prepared to deal with. And you can’t just quit, you know. They’ll find you.
This means that each of the dozen compacts described in this book can play several different roles within a Hunter campaign. They could be NPC allies, straightforward bad guys with intentions deleterious to your own, something in between with goals sometimes coinciding with the players’, or a complicated group that the players have joined, becoming deeply intertwined with every plot thread the campaign produces. In other words, a Storyteller can get a lot of mileage from this one.
Each compact/conspiracy gets a broad overview, different ways to join or encounter them, various sub-groups and cliques within the conspiracy itself, and some tasty conspiratorial plot hooks that add layers of mystery and adventure for the players to interact with. There’s a nice helping of crunchy new rules material with each group as well (although no new talents) — new endowments and other systems give players who join a given group a unique flavor.
Highlights include Ashwood Abby, a monster-hunting group for the bored and rich, which includes what might be the second ever RPG rules set devoted to running an orgy (I’m being a bit sensationalist here, as it’s actually quite abstract, but on some level that is the intended purpose). I’m a big fan of Task Force: Valkyrie, a U.S. military group made up of government officials who have had contact with the unknown. I love the idea of playing it up with guns blazing, as players get wasted or go insane and new recruits are sent in to replace them, contrasted with more sedate investigational passages. As a gamer who has wondered what it would be like to have a atheist D&D character living in a world regularly visited by deities (my 3.5 character eventually became agnostic), I’m also quite enthralled with Null Mysteriis, a group of rational scientists and researchers who are certain all this supernatural vampiric demoney nonsense can be explained if you just do enough experiments and carefully controlled studies. Of course it never really fits together for them, so their sanity erodes the whole time.
There’s plenty more to satisfy your cravings for dark secrets and forbidden mysteries, and the lengths human go to to keep them covered up. This is an excellent book to flesh out any Hunter (or other humans vs. the supernatural) campaign.