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Werewolf Player's Guide, 2nd edition
for Werewolf: The Apocalypse RPG

edited by Ed Hall and Allison Sturms
White Wolf, 224 pages

Werewolf Player's Guide
Ed Hall
Ed Hall, a game studio editor for White Wolf, is a native of Mobile, Alabama and an Atlanta resident since 1983. He worked as a researcher for Newsweek magazine's southeastern bureau for more than a decade, reviewed movies for WRFG-FM, and edited/co-founded the first literary magazine on audiotape, Verb. He has written portions of several White Wolf gaming books, including Werewolf: The Wild West.

White Wolf Games

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

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Howl at the Moon, to mourn all that has been lost. Swell with Rage, to fight for what little remains. Slip into the Umbra, beyond the world of matter into the world of spirit. This is the life of the Werewolf.

Some releases from White Wolf suffer from too much white space and graphic design, at the expense of text. Even where they have text, sometimes a reader will find page after page of stream-of-conscious rambling. The Werewolf Player's Guide avoids these flaws; it mainly contains pertinent information and specific rule guidelines, written in an unusually clear and economical manner. There is a lot of material here on historical and legendary background, and to show how characters should respond to certain situations or people, but even this is mainly written succinctly; the text makes its point and moves on.

After a quick two-and-a-half page preamble, the book dives right into character generation. Personality archetypes range from cub to curmudgeon, from jester to judge; these include both the character's apparent Demeanor and true Nature. A long list of new merits and flaws includes psychological, mental, awareness, aptitude, supernatural, social (human and Garou), and physical qualities. New talents, skills, and knowledge include such mundane abilities as demolitions and disguise, and such esoterica as Kailindo and Klaive duelling. Gifts of Gaia are listed for each breed form, auspice, and tribe, including such Gifts as Alter Scent, Trash Magnet, and Ignore Death Blow. New rites include the Rite of Weeping for a Vision, the Rite of Lasting Glory, and the Rite of the Stolen Wolf. The second chapter gives a two-page outline of each of the thirteen tribes of werewolves: the haughty Silver Fangs, the ruthless Red Talons, the urbane Glass Walkers, and so on. For each tribe, a short list of camps is described, which are informal groupings of werewolves based on common interests. There are shorter descriptions of the three lost tribes: the Bunyip, the White Howlers, and the Croatan, as well as subtribes and Ronin. All of this gives players a very broad range of choices to craft a unique character with a lot of story hooks.

The third chapter describes the life of the Garou: the structure and formation of the pack, the offices and rituals of the sept which defends the caern, the swift nature of Garou justice and the forms of ritual challenge. There is a long section about the layout of a caern, the different types of caerns, how caerns are constructed or corrupted, and the way caerns restore the energies of a werewolf sept. This leads into a chapter on matters of spirit, the way werewolves interact with the animate forces all around them. There are pages on new totems for tribe, pack, sept, and even personal totems, though the latter are rare as werewolves are not normally as focused on individuality as humans. The chapter closes with a section on fetishes, the spirit-bound tools which are potent weapons, physical or spiritual, in the hands of a werewolf.

One of the best sections in the book is the chapter on the Changing Breeds. Nearly a third of the book is devoted to the other shape-shifters who act as intermediaries between humanity and the animal kingdom. The were-spider Anasazi can morph into gigantic arachnid forms, but they can also split into thousands of ordinary spiders and spread their consciousness across square miles of territory. The were-raven Corax are the "eyes of Gaia", gathering everyone's secrets and spreading gossip. The strange reptilian Mokolé are the "memory of Gaia", maintaining Gifts and lore from the age of the dinosaurs. The sly were-coyote Nuwisha live in close quarters with the werewolves, but the Garou are rarely aware of them until after the Nuwisha have finished their games and moved on. The were-shark Rokea fight an obscure battle amongst themselves between land- and sea-dwellers of their kind; outsiders are strongly recommended to stay out of their way. Several other Changing Breeds are also described. Each one has half a dozen or so pages of description, listing the tribes, Gifts, shape-shifter forms, history, culture, and internal divisions, and relationships with the other Changing Breeds. So there is enough material to effectively play one or more of any of these characters in a group. None of these look kindly on the Garou because of the War of Rage, though occasional instances of temporary cooperation are possible.

The last chapter gathers together miscellaneous bits of rules and systems which are relevant to characterization and character generation. A couple of pages describe the tragic existence of Abominations, werewolves who have been Embraced to become vampires whose existence is the antithesis of the Garou; the text goes on to show that a cross-breed of two Changing Breeds will be one or the other, not some sort of were-chimera. Several pages cover werewolves in combat, in particular the use of weapons, the ways of the challenge and the duel; it also details the practise of Klaiviskar, the use of the fetish-blade, and Kailindo, unarmed combat which involves shape-shifting in the middle of a manoeuvre. Short sections describe natural aging of a werewolf, in the rare instances where they survive long enough, and the derangements which a Garou may become afflicted with in their struggle against the Wyrm, in particular the torment of Harano, the apathetic gloom which is the antithesis of Rage; Harano is winter unending, the certain knowledge that the Wyrm has already conquered and one's actions have no meaning. After the sixth chapter there is an appendix which talks about the way to role-play in the milieu of Werewolf: the Apocalypse. The appendix does contain a bit of the pretentious rambling that all White Wolf gaming books suffer from, but it is mercifully short, only about four pages.

If this book has a single flaw, it would have been nice to have a couple of pages describing the five Auspices which define the role of a werewolf in Garou society. I suspect the reason this was omitted is that almost everything in this book is new material, with little overlap with the core rule book. The font is compact but readable, putting a lot of material on a page. One thing important to gamers is the very solid construction; the glossy cover survived a couple of weeks of carrying around, including a bit of rain and a minor drink spill, while still looking brand new.

Overall, the Werewolf Player's Guide is an excellent comprehensive reference for people who will just be playing the game; almost all the necessary material is here, without the clutter of other matters important only to gamemasters. It is also a good broad expansion set for gamemasters, who want to have all different kinds of player and non-player characters without having to acquire a stack of tribe and breed books. It's a must-buy for anybody interested in the Werewolf: the Apocalypse game.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the Toronto in 2003 Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.


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