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Demon Hunter X
Sourcebook for Vampire: The Masquerade

Jim Moore
White Wolf, 112 pages

Art: Duncan Fregredo
Demon Hunter X
Additional Information
Demon Hunter X is a sourcebook that describes the "demon hunters" of the Middle Kingdom -- a brand-new character type. These are the mendicant and grim Shih, loners following an ancient tradition of vengeance against the supernatural. This book also describes their high-tech counterparts, the cutting-edge teams of the Strike Force Zero agency. Features include:
-- Two new types of mortal hunters unique to the East;
-- New powers and mystic talismans for humans to use against the supernatural;
-- An introductory comic book that graphically depicts the demon hunters' arts;
-- A sourcebook applicable to all World of Darkness game lines.

White Wolf Games

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

What was it I said I liked so much about so many of the White Wolf's Year of the Lotus products? Oh yeah -- details. Gobs of lush, gorgeous details about setting and history and character. Details that you could dive right into.

Guess what? Demon Hunter X doesn't do that kind of detail -- and I still love it! Think of the book as a haiku or a piece of calligraphy: the best expression in the fewest number of words or strokes. This is a clean, spare book and fabulous because of it.

Demon Hunter X is -- you guessed it -- a guide to the mortal demon-hunters of the Middle Kingdom. In a way, it dovetails very nicely with the old The Hunters Hunted sourcebook. I found it even more impressive though, again possibly because of its clean nature.

Only two types of demon hunter are covered here. There aren't a handful of hunter factions competing for attention. The hunters that are covered (see below) are very distinct from each other, with different modes of operation, different philosophies, and different weapons of choice. As a Year of the Lotus book, of course, it also hooks up with the various other Middle Kingdom sourcebooks White Wolf put out in 1998. Again, its clean nature sets it apart: no Kuei-jin Dharmas to detail, no hengeyokai breeds, no Shinma kwannon-jin, no city politics and conflicts. In fact, Demon Hunter X frequently lumps all of the supernaturals of the Middle Kingdom into the broad category of Shen, a category referred to in the other Year of the Lotus books but that never really meant anything to me until now. Maybe a little confusing, but remember that demon hunting is the name of the game and Shinma can be just as demonic as Kuei-jin.

Also contributing to keeping the lines of Demon Hunter X straight and clean: no long history of the Middle Kingdom. After reading through all of the Year of the Lotus books, seeing almost the same history and description of the Middle Kingdom again and again did start to drag. Although the histories of the demon hunters are covered, they are focussed and to the point. No drag.

So who are these intrepid demon hunters? The first and oldest of the two demon hunting organizations of the Middle Kingdom are the Shih. Think of warrior monks and you won't be far off at all. Shih are tough bastards and utterly devoted to their cause. How devoted? Most Shih seem to live off what they steal from the monsters they kill or what grateful people provide them. Demon hunting is their job -- their only job.

These hunters are descended in tradition from a warrior who fought the Shen in the mists of mythology. The Shih have existed for millennia, waging a quiet war against Shen who abuse their place in the universe. Abuse? Ah, yes -- this is where the Shih get interesting.

As is alluded to throughout the Year of the Lotus products, one of the primary differences between the Middle Kingdom and the West is that in the philosophy of the Middle Kingdom, even supernaturals have a place in the natural order of the world and that place must be respected. Shih don't have a problem with Shen who understand that and keep to their appointed position. When Shen begin abusing their position, however...

Shih are the product of years of martial training and a great deal of the power that lets them stand up against Shen comes from their ability to tap into and focus their Chi. The system presented in the book for this is nice: simple yet flexible. The standard one to five point system applies, but with nine mystic skills to chose from, it means that every Shih will be unique. Which is certainly as it should be -- Shih are loners, very seldom gathering in groups. As the storyteller hints in the back of the book point out, this could be a problem for on-going chronicles, but it also provides a unique opportunity for one-on-one role-playing.

In sharp contrast to the monastic Shih are the high-tech secret agents of Japan's Strike Force Zero. Demon hunting is their only job as well, but they draw a nice salary from it. Good benefits, too -- very cool cyberware and wetware. Strong team structure, corporate and government support. Technology and cash are their weapons against the Shen. They need them, too. Where the Shih know that not every Shen is their enemy (and conversely the Shen know that as long as they keep their noses clean, the Shih will leave them alone), the members of SF0 (great abbreviation!) are on a mission to eradicate the Shen from the face of the earth.

The founder of SF0 narrowly survived an encounter with Shen in his youth and had a second close encounter as a young man. His view -- and hence that of SF0 -- is far more Western than that of the Shih. Unfortunately (or fortunately from the storyteller's point of view) this means that SF0, really active only for the last decade or so, has very little idea what they're up against. They don't know what the hengeyokai really are, they don't know how far the influence of the Kuei-jin and Kin-jin extends, and they have no idea that the Zaibatsu, the Japanese branch of the Technocracy, is... no, wait. I can't tell you that. It would spoil the surprise.

I really, really like Strike Force Zero. I think it's one of the best story hooks to come out of White Wolf in quite some time, particularly for hunters. Jim Moore has created a fascinating setting for a chronicle: misguided demon hunters in the hands of a ruthless, sadistic (there are some chilling sidebar "accounts" of SF0 research and if you don't know what "vivisection" means, go look it up in a dictionary before you read the book) corporation that may or may not realize what it's doing. In fact, I think it goes a long way to recapturing some of the dark mystery of the World of Darkness -- there are secrets out there and when you find them your life will be changed.

If you want to use Demon Hunter X, you will definitely need to buy the other key Year of the Lotus books -- this book is tied to them too tightly for a storyteller to get along without them. It's a sound investment, however. Material from Demon Hunter X will work into any Middle Kingdom chronicle or even into a Western chronicle. This is a strong, versatile book and I'm torn between crying for more or begging that it be left alone in its wonderful simplicity.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).

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