Hunter Planet, First Edition-1985
Front and Back Covers
That may have something to do with some of the background color in the game itself (more about that below), but moreover it's because, upon completely going over it, I remember why I love(d) this game, and why I think we felt it necessary to make changes to it way back when to make it work for us.
Some of the reason for this is us, that is, my friend who ran this at a local game convention, and I. We loved to tinker, especially with simpler, more rules-lite games. I still do. I find it a lot more enjoyable to add bits to a low crunch game than to need to cut whole chunks out of complex, heavy crunch game.
Another reason for the changes we made may have to do with Australian versus American sensibilities. I can't say for sure. I've only known one or two Australian nationals well as friends, and they were so American I didn't get a feel for any differences, or specifics of culture.
By contrast, as a bit of an Anglophile, I can easily identify the differences between British and American humor. I am an avid fan of British TV shows such as Red Dwarf, Are You Being Served, and Black Adder, as well as the brilliant work of the Monty Python comedy troupe. I get a good deal of the idiosyncrasies of British living.
Likewise, years of watching Anime, reading Manga, and spending time among Japanese people (friends, girlfriends, and co-workers) around my age have given me a fairly good idea of the particulars of their pop culture.
I think I might need to watch some Australian made TV shows, or movies. Are there any anyone would recommend? I concede to being woefully ignorant on the subject.
I suppose what I am saying is that my buddy, and I took Hunter Planet, and made it more American. Not with that particular idea in mind (I don't think), but I think we just trimmed here, and added there, and ended up with the 'U.S. Adaption of Hunter Planet' more so than actual Hunter Planet.
One of the interesting things I discovered reading Hunter Planet is that it shares an attitude (as well as some other features) with another game I love from roughly the same era, Teenagers from Outer Space. Not only do both games have rules-lite systems, great senses of humor, and the 'Aliens-Humans-Culture-Clash' vibe, but they both strongly advocate making up your own stuff.
Although 'these-rules-are-only-guidelines' has been part of RPG gaming since the very beginning (or close to it), Hunter Planet takes the time to point this fact out very clearer, and more than once. Considering the relatively short page count of the book (approximately 30 pages not counting the front, and back covers) it is interesting to note how much attention is paid to using your imagination, ad libbing, not adhering too strictly to the rules, and of course, downright cheating (highly recommended).
Without further adieu, lets get right to an actual review (or what passes for it on Barking Alien):
The core concept of this game is just plain fantastic. There is nothing else I can really say about it.
'Aliens on a Hunting Safari Vacation try to shoot the primitive, indigenous life forms of a world called 'Dirt'. The natives are stupid, savage, and dangerous. They think cell phones are cool, and watch golf. Seriously. Barbarians.'
What's not to love?
The game mechanics, while crunchier than I remember (only barely), are still incredibly simple.
The writing style is simultaneously humorous, personable, and a bit authoritative. Rules are referred to as 'Principles', such as The Principle of Landing, the Principle of Getting Beamed Up, and The Principle of Firing (How to shoot something). The author's voice is a commanding one, even when just telling you to have fun.
The game was made on a Macintosh Computer in 1985. It's on pale yellow paper. The fonts are wonky. These are features I tell you, features!
Lastly, there is a funny bit where David Bruggeman, creator of the game, is insinuated to be a time traveler from the distant future. He is first introduced in the games' background as a Cadet in the future, remarking how the game of Hunter Planet was found as an ancient relic, or some such, and written by a man with his very same name. While pondering this he experiences some sort of accident, and disappears.
What is bad in the book, isn't really bad per se. It's more a question of, hmmm, how to put this...
Hunter Planet, at least this first edition book, is a book that was made by a guy with a great idea, in Victoria, Australia, on a Macintosh, in 1985.
It's clever, funny, and best of all, inspires all kinds of crazy ideas.
It is also oddly, if not poorly, organized, and lacks the slick, professional look of other games (even ones of the time).
But there is beauty in its rawness. There is a charm to its imperfections. It is great, and odd, and a little broken, and wonderful.
OK, so there is one bit about the game I find fault with. This is purely my opinion, and not a testament to anything truly ugly, or badwrong about Hunter Planet. This is simply my preference, and the reason, in retrospect, we made the changes we did oh those many years ago.
The game comes with a background to explain the universe the alien PCs are from. It has an interstellar government called the Federation of Planets, and has the people on Earth/Dirt, at some point, aware of the Federation's existence.
Furthermore, it describes a war at some point in the future in which the Earth is fully invaded by the FOPs (Humans refer to Federation of Planets citizens and military as FOPs). At some point following this, the universe is ruled by The Empire of Man, although I can not tell if that means the Humans won. It seems like they didn't, and yet 'Empire of MAN', so...
I found this background very confusing, and completely distracting to the main idea of the game.
I get that there needs to be some kind of government out there, some organization that sponsors and/or authorizes the Hunts, but I wish it had been much more vague. I don't think so much emphasis, or at least text, should have been devoted to it, and it's future history.
I would also prefer if the people of Dirt had very little idea of what was going on. Sure, there may be some secret Men-In-Black type group that has picked up some data over time, but it shouldn't be a commonly known thing. To put it another way, I'd prefer a Men-In-Black, X-Files, possibly even Close Encounters approach. The game's 'canon' (if you can call it that) implies it started that way, then gives you the diary of a Human freedom fighter fighting against the aliens.
Why? Aren't the PCs the aliens? Aren't they the 'good guys'? So much focus in the text regarding Humans holding out against the aliens really threw me off. I started to wonder who I am supposed to be routing for. When you create a game like this, it's best to have Terra Incognita, portray Whoomuns in a satirical light as bumbling Neanderthals to your 'far superior' advanced society, then show that the aliens have all the same flaws, and quirks.
That's my two credits.
In conclusion, I love that I have this, I can't wait to run it, and yes, I am going to modify the crap out of it when I finally do so. I want to add alien species abilities, more weird technology, a bit more info on the Hunting Tour company (not a lot though), and find a way to make the locals (us) dangerous because they don't know what's going on, not because they do.
Thank you once again David for sending me this.
The Hunt is on...