The Imbued (also called Hunters) are the protagonists of Hunter: The Reckoning. They are ordinary humans who are awakened to the presence of supernatural monsters through contact with the Messengers at a time of crisis. During this moment of imbuing, an individual sees the true nature of a supernatural creature or event, and either takes action or resolves to do so, confirming their status as a Hunter. Those who hesitate or recoil do not become Imbued, but are forever aware of their glimpse of the supernatural; these "failed" Hunters are generally known as bystanders.
For most Imbued, the Hunt begins during an otherwise normal (if sometimes stressful) experience: another day at the office, watching a parade, a backstreet mugging. But the potential Hunter's life changes when he or she hears the voice of the Messengers, uttering a single short phrase that focussed their attention as the true world was revealed to them. An office worker may be revealed as a zombie, with dry flaking skin and gaping wounds; the mugger may be glimpsed with a hideously distended jaw containing huge canines, marking him as a vampire; perhaps ghostly, nightmarish figures are glimpsed controlling participants in the parade. The glimpse of "true reality" given during an imbuing is often exaggerated, and most Imbued do not see things quite the same way afterwards, even when piercing illusions by calling on their Conviction (see below).
Hunters debate among themselves the reasons why they are chosen by the Messengers; it often seems to be random. Most Imbued feel compelled to act against the monsters which secretly control the world, and some consider this criteria enough for their selection, but they are still entirely human in mind and body, and many do not feel up to the task. Normal social interaction becomes difficult; many Hunters hear the voices of the Messengers, but even without this schizophrenic whispering, their knowledge of the truth can make them seem insanely paranoid in a world which denies the supernatural, and very few Hunters have the power to reveal the truth to others. Once Imbued, however, there is no turning back; a Hunter can never forget the hidden evils of the world, and her Conviction - and ordinary conscience - will drive her to combat it.
The nature of the Messengers is also hotly debated among the Imbued; no-one truly knows what or who they are, where they come from, or why they oppose the monsters of the world. The messages they whisper into the minds of the Imbued - often as a "voice in the head", but sometimes as visions or "writing on the wall" - are similarly poorly understood. They are personalised, unique to each Hunter, and nearly always cryptic - especially the messages received during the imbuing. Sometimes they describe a supernatural being or problem: "It Does Not Breathe", "Their Will Is Gone". Sometimes they give a directive: "Inherit the Earth", "Burn It Down". Some Hunters receive many more messages from the Messengers than others, while some are reluctant to share their own messages. As with so much of Imbued existence, uncertainty is the only constant.
Hunters are specifically not turned into supernatural creatures when they are Imbued; they still need everything a normal human does and can't take Aggravated damage. All they are really given are abilities which allow them to resist, in various ways, the powers of truly supernatural enemies. Only two types of supernatural blessing are bestowed on Hunters by the Messengers: Conviction and Edges.
Conviction is a reserve of strength and faith Hunters may draw upon to resist the control of supernatural entities and pierce their illusions. Depending on the success of their activities, Hunters' Conviction may rise or fall from night to night. Conviction is "risked" when used to fuel powers granted by the Messengers; if they fail in their task, Hunters' Conviction is lowered, while if they succeed, it may be increased. When Conviction is at to a sufficiently high level, a Hunter may permanently bolster one of their virtues, gaining a more concrete faith in an aspect of the hunt; doing so lowers their ordinary Conviction until such time as their newfound virtue can be tested.
Edges are (usually minor) supernatural powers granted by the Messengers. In general, Edges allow Hunters only to resist the effects and defenses of the supernatural, though some certainly have more dramatic effects. Each creed has its own set of Edges, though a Hunter will only ever be granted a limited number during their career. More powerful Edges are only granted to Hunters who reinforce their commitment to the Hunt by bolstering their virtues, becoming more zealous, merciful or visionary. The most powerful Edges are thus only granted to Hunters who become virtually insane, obsessed with their aspect of the Hunt above all else in life; such Hunters are exceedingly rare, since the Imbued rarely survive long enough to become so devoted.
Virtues and Creeds
Most humans' virtue is defined by their self-control, compassion and courage. While Hunters certainly can display these traits, their devotion to the Hunt takes greater importance. Their virtues define how they view the Hunt, and their own role in it.
More specific than virtues are the Creeds. The nine creeds are broad categories for different approaches to the Hunt, and a Hunter's creed is determined by the way in which they react during their imbuing. How strong a Hunter's Conviction is, and which Edges they may be granted, are determined in part by an Imbued's creed. There are three creeds for each of the three virtues, which represent the nature of a Hunter's Conviction.
- Mercy is the virtue of forgiveness. Merciful Hunters seek to redeem or protect those monsters worth saving, or to take the suffering of others onto themselves. They primarily focus on what they can save via the Hunt. The Innocent, Martyr and Redeemer creeds all focus on Mercy; their Edges rarely inflict physical harm, but are either defensive or attempts to reach what humanity is left within their foes. The Merciful Hunter, in the moment of his Imbuing, might have taken an action along the lines of pulling a fire alarm to empty a building, or attempting first to reason with the beast before engaging in it combat, or to distract the creature, "holding it off" while the prey makes an escape.
- Vision is the least-understood virtue by those who do not possess it. It represents a hope for the future, a plan for a new world, and a belief that the Hunt will have an end. Visionaries are the rarest of the common creeds, looking beyond the night's Hunt to the consequences of their actions and the big picture, and usually seek to make changes with wide-ranging effect. Their Edges help them see the path that other Hunters must follow. The two other creeds based on Vision are the Hermits and Waywards, both of whom are dysfunctional; those rare few in the Hunter community aware of their existence tend to consider them 'lost', failed experiments by the Messengers who have been broken by their imbuing.
- Zeal is like righteous anger, a fierce desire to see justice done. Zealous Hunters focus on the destruction or punishment of evil, and are the most obvious group of Imbued, though it is a mistake to assume they are all violent warriors. The zealous creeds are Avengers, Defenders, and Judges; their Edges generally affect supernatural creatures directly, though not always by inflicting physical harm. There are other ways to punish evil, after all. The Zealous Hunter, in the moment of Imbuing, might have taken an action like grabbing the nearest heavy or sharp object and attacking, or placing him or herself firmly between the creature and its target.