Enjoying Some Pandemonium with Tim Obermueller

Traditional RPGs tend to fall in to one of two camps – you have your simulations, and you have your wish fulfillment. Simulation RPGs are little like Euro games: you’re going to need a separate sheet to track everything that you have to take care of. Wish fulfillment, on the other hand, is akin to Ameritrash. Remembering exactly how many pieces of copper you have doesn’t matter, because you are smashing faces and telling a story. The Hunted is a game that tries to bridge those styles, with aspects of detailed bookkeeping as well as story-trumping mechanics.

While it seemingly has a typical Medieval setting, The Hunted isn’t gearing your group up for dungeon crawling adventures. Instead, mysterious figures grant people magical powers in exchange for sewing the seeds of chaos among an already fear-filled and superstitious populace. Tim Obermueller, the game’s developer, took some time to answer a few questions about his system and this setting.


Trouble With Authority

Cardboard Republic: There are a lot of unique aspects of this project, so I’m going to take them one-by-one. Let’s start with the overall feel of the game. You have these “authority figures” ruling your town, and you’ve been chosen by the “Dark Benefactor” to cause chaos and uproot the establishment. Do you consider either of these sides to be just/good, with the other being unjust/evil? Or is the game less morally black-and-white?

I would say the latter. In the traditional sense, the players are the “bad guys.” However, I am shooting more of a grey area for all involved in the campaign. The Authority Figures are, in some capacity, not fulfilling, or abusing their power, which in a societal context is not okay. The players, having received their new powers, are in a position to tip the scales in their favor. All involved will do some morally reprehensible things to keep their power.


CR: I’ve found that many RPGs that focus on causing destruction tend to fall apart after a few sessions. It can be difficult to keep players together and cohesive as a group when their ultimate goal is disruption. I know that The Hunted incorporates a mechanic wherein the character to cause the most chaos in a given week is rewarded. Are there any rewards in the system for players working together?

What we imagine the Dark Benefactors to be like.

What we imagine the Dark Benefactors to be like.

Teamwork can make any task easier in The Hunted, but the more people you have involved, the riskier things are if you get caught. If players complete a task to gain Chaos together, they split the relevant Chaos points, so each week there must be some amount of individual action that must take place to earn the most Chaos points.

In addition, as the town’s paranoia gets higher players will have to band together to avoid losing the game all together. While taking down the Authority Figures is the primary objective, there are alternative objectives that can be used for a campaign, such as establishing the worship of the Dark Benefactor in the community or working together to reach a certain number of Chaos points.


CR: It seems like The Hunted is trying to bridge the chasm between simulation roleplaying, in which everything is very realistic, and narrative roleplaying, in which the story trumps the rules of the game. Was this a conscious choice?

Yes. I wanted to incorporate some of the elements of collaborative storytelling games as well as creating a realistic environment for the story to take place in. I want players to have the limits of humanity while having magical powers, which I think is a good balance.


Building Up A Setting To Break It Down

CR: Can you describe your system? People new to RPGs might not know what a d20 roll-under system is.

With Authority Figures like this, who needs enemies?

With Authority Figures like this, who needs enemies?

Players have five attributes: Strength, Coordination, Intelligence, Social, and Sorcery. Each of these attributes have a number of skills you can have; skills are what you use to do things within the game. Each will these skills will a number under 20, with a 20-sided die you attempt to roll under the number that your character’s skill is. For instance, Wes is trying to make a sword. He makes a Blacksmith roll, and his Blacksmith skill is 13. He rolls an 11, so he is successful at making the sword.


CR: You also use d4s and coins to decide some aspects of the game. Where do those come in?

D4s are used for determining income. If players succeed at a check when they are working, professional skills (blacksmith, carpentry, etc.) have the potential to grant more income. Coins are pretty much just for the GM when determining random encounters.


CR: You don’t often see a game incorporate taxes. What was the reasoning behind including a tax mechanic?

I wanted to stress that players had to maintain the facade of living a normal life and that there are consequences to not contributing to the community. This also works well with the Hunger and Fatigue mechanics, so that players must balance working with causing chaos.


CR: Did you draw on any historic precedents or stories when crafting your world?

Don't worry: we outgrew it by 1700.

Don’t worry: we outgrew it by 1700.

Yes, I’m a bit of a history buff, and the historical background of the witch hunts in Medieval times to be very interesting, and honestly, kind of terrifying. So I thought, what if one of these incidents was real? From that spawned The Hunted.


Learning From History

CR: You mention in the Kickstarter that though this is your first project, you’ve learned lessons from other campaigns. Could you elaborate on that?

I modeled my rewards system after other projects that I’ve funded. I’ve also learned that I should not wait until after my project is funded to at least start lining things up, such as with my publisher, or their will be delays, which is disappointing as a backer. I have also learned that I need to do everything that I can to promote my project, which I am.

CR: Have you worked with any professional editors or artists to help create the book?

I am an advertising major, so I have work with some designers who I went to school with. I have had a number of fellow copywriters do some editing on my book as well.

CR: Finally (and most importantly), when do you hope to have the book in backers’ hands? And will it be available retail for anyone who’s interested but can’t buy in right now?

I am shooting for May 2014 to have the books in my backer’s hands. And yes, the books will at very least be available on Amazon for those who would like to buy it later.


The Hunted cover

The Hunted puts players in the unique position of having to decide for themselves how best to undermine a society that is primed for a shake-up. How much chaos you sew is directly proportional to your success, but you must be careful not to draw too much attention to yourself in the process. What lengths will you go to upset the apple cart and unseat the existing power structure of your town?

Actually, it may be safer if we don’t know.

Still, the opportunity to exercise these thoughts are within your grasp. All you have to do is look into The Hunted over on their Kickstarter.


Photo Credits: The Hunted cover by Tim Obermueller; Archfiends by Giant In the Playground; Frollo by Walt Disney Studios.