Werewolf: The Apocalypse Reboots The Moonlight

An intriguing new take on World of Darkness' werewolves!

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The new, new World of Darkness, which began with Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition, seems to be taking cues from an unexpected source: Disney. More specifically the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their decision to move the Star Wars Expanded Universe to Legends continuity. It makes sense from their perspective of the company; they don’t want new fans to feel like they have to read a bunch of books from thirty years ago to understand the products they are selling now. It also gives a chance for the new owners to clean house. They keep the stuff that works, ignore the stuff that doesn’t and change things they feel needs to be changed. Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition massively changed the status quo but still offered some threads to continuity. Werewolf: The Apocalypse Fifth Edition, from designers Justin Achilli, Basheer Ghouse, Christopher Gunning, Dylan Jennings, Sasanehsaeh Jennings, Khaldoun Khelil, Karim Muammar, Juhana Pettersson, Pam Punzalan, and Bianca Savazz calls out the fact that this game is a reboot and older fans shouldn’t expect to see their old favorites. Renegade Game Studios sent along a review copy in advance of its Gen Con release. Can an old werewolf learn new tricks? Let’s play to find out.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse is a game of apocalyptic horror. Werewolves are beings split between multiple worlds; of wolf and man, of spirit and flesh. Their legends say they are in service to the earth itself, maintaining a balance between the spirits of the Triat: the order of the Weaver, the chaos of the Wyld and the decay of the Wyrm. Unfortunately, the Wyrm has become corrupted and rather than driving death to drive rebirth, it wants to destroy the whole universe. This corruption manifests as what they believe makes the World of Darkness dark; humans doing awful things, the planet dying, spirits violating the real world and so on. Maybe they could save things but political and ideological divides make long-term cooperation impossible, not to mention the fact that their most potent weapon is their rage which often has unintended consequences.

The original game shows the highs and lows of early White Wolf world-building. It reaches out to try and incorporate other cultures to give the struggle against the Wyrm a worldwide feel. But many of these efforts are heavy-handed at best and stereotypical at worst. The original game came of age during a time in the 90s when Native Americans were embraced as mystical beings that understood the planet in inscrutable ways rather than regular people with mortgages. Much of this has been removed in this edition, including changing some of the names of the tribes away from ones used by real world cultures and getting rid of bloodlines and breeding, but there’s only so much that can be done when these elements are built into the core of the game.

Characters are built via tribes (the werewolves you choose to join) and the auspice (the phase of the moon they were born under). This two part process gives characters a more modular aspect that allows packs to have characters who share one of these aspects. Rage fuels powers but also can get out of control. Garou must also be careful of losing all hope or not caring about who their rage hurts, lest they become NPC bad guys. These Garou are balanced on a precarious high wire that makes for good drama in between the heavy metal combat sequences.

Rage offers an interesting mechanic to reflect this balance. It’s similar to Hunger Dice but it’s something the werewolf wants to always have at least a little off. Not enough rage and the character loses the wolf, and is without the basic powers all Garou have like shapeshifting or healing for a while. Too much rage and the character risks frenzy where they become an unstoppable killing machine that can be useful when in the bowels of a secret PenteX facility, less so when you are on a date. Rage also mirrors the messy criticals of Vampire by offering brutal failures which bring to mind the botch mechanics of old.

While much of the grand feel of the old storyline has been reshrouded in mystery, a lot of the changes make more interesting choices. Gone is the easy Wyrm Sense that short circuited investigations. Vampires are no longer automatic enemies of werewolves allowing for more intrigue and politics to enter into the game. The game focuses on the pack and the actions they can take locally to try and stop the world from ending. These wolves have Touchstones that represent why they are fighting against the Wyrm even as those characters present themselves as tasty targets for corruption. They also get a caern and a territory to protect right out of the gate created during session zero to build the community they are protecting.

As a fan of White Wolf from very early on, Werewolf was always my least favorite of their settings.It seemed like the game the kids who still wanted to constantly fight things picked over my beloved Vampire and Mage. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the world, maybe it’s both, but I understood this version of Werewolf far better. I get why you might want to spend some time raging against the machine now. The elements of action horror, body horror of spirit possession, the intrigues of revolutionary politics and examining the loss of a normal life in exchange for pursuing your calling combine for an intriguing mix. Leaping at a tentacled Wyrm beast the size of a 747 didn’t appeal to me. Racing another pack to kill the thing in the mine that’s on the borders between your territories does appeal.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse Fifth Edition offers an intriguing new take on werewolves that opens up the World of Darkness even if it can’t completely outrun its past.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

datreus

Villager
Indigineity is in the dictionary and there many peer-reviewed papers on it. But I would say trying to destroy a native tribe in the narrative just because there are "too many Native American Tribes", stripping the Native American character of two tribes, trying to make all Nordic/Germanic Werewolves Nazis, refusing to give Native Americans their proper grammatical respect, and not dealing seriously with the appropriation of Native Sacred Items, gods, and context all pretty much smack of racism to me.

Mods: Yes, I know this skirts too close or over the "No Politics" line, but far too often that rule is used as a club to prevent discourse over issues that affect minority, LGBT, and women gamers. So I'll stop here.

And this whole “the Angry side is always wrong while the rational side is always right” is just another way to establish hierarchy and privilege.
You seem to be purposefully misunderstanding what was said. 'Indigineity' is a different experience for each person from a given Indigenous background, much less people from different backgrounds.

That post comes VERY close to the 'I speak for all Indigenous peoples due to having some Indigenous heritage' and that is so troubling on so many levels. This is something that regularly causes vast issues within indigenous communities, and between different cultural groups. The fact there are other Indigenous writers on this project who seemingly don't have any issues, and this person drags them in without permission and casts vague aspersions in their direction is incredibly problematic and something that needs to be examined.

There's a real problem with some 'progressive' people that they instantly leap to defend alleged minorities simply due to that marker. That's a behaviour that's not actually progressive, but is a performative action by that person to make themselves feel validated - and having looked at conversations around this issue, that's happening quite a lot here indeed.

'But I would say trying to destroy a native tribe in the narrative just because there are "too many Native American Tribes", stripping the Native American character of two tribes, trying to make all Nordic/Germanic Werewolves Nazis, refusing to give Native Americans their proper grammatical respect, and not dealing seriously with the appropriation of Native Sacred Items, gods, and context all pretty much smack of racism to me.'

You do get that is just an ex-employee claiming that is what happened, right? That they have provided incredibly limited screenshots of conversations that most definitely have been removed from context (for good or ill)? That there's clearly dozens or scores or conversations beyond those one or two lines held not only between these two people but many others? That this is a clearly aggrieved person making a direct attack on a person/organisation that they know doesn't have an equal right of reply due to both the framing of the post and the need for a company to remain above getting mired in online squabbles?

And this whole “the Angry side is always wrong while the rational side is always right” is just another way to establish hierarchy and privilege.

When the angry side is clearly presenting a curated and tailored argument precisely aimed at eliciting a certain kind of response and actively removing context and agency from other people involved to advance their own position then yes, it becomes questionable.

That's not to say these allegations are not true, at least in part. But seeing a fraction of the picture and being told that's the whole thing is a very different consideration, especially when there are potential personal motives involved.
 

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datreus

Villager
I see the tradition of Werewolf playing with topics that simply will blow up, continues.
That's kind of the problem with a game that co-opts such a variety of emotive issues into its baseline.

It's even more of a problem when its majority audience - and creators - are middle class white folks.

These are generally issues it's near impossible to handle well under those circumstances. The question becomes 'how badly' and that's why the linked post needs to be examined for what it is, rather than kneejerked to.

It's essentially a good thing that these things blow up - that's how we get forward movement. Anyone arguing that W5 is anywhere near as troublesome as previous editions is clearly just illustrating their own connections with troublesome attitudes.

There's definitely a conversation to be had about how W5 handles these sensitive issues but as someone reading the book right now, I'm seeing considerably more confected outrage online by people who are simply grumpy it reinvents their beloved but troublesome earlier setting but are latching onto things like the linked post as a dubious means of justifying that.
 

Scribe

Legend
Yeah, knowing the broad strokes of where Werewolf normally goes, my own upbringing, and a very fast scan of the linked post. I'm just going to nope out of this one. Zero chance for this thread to remain inside the lines of the forum imo and its a whole STACK of topics that well, I'll leave you all to.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Look if it’s “be a monster whose purpose is to stop the world ending”, in 2023, and I don’t get any “guillotine earrings” vibes, or “jokes” about how a werewolf can literally eat the rich rather than figuratively doing so, complete with billionaires who serve the Wyrm because hoarding wealth wasn’t a good enough high anymore at some point…why am I even here?
 

MGibster

Legend
I didn't play a whole lot of Werewolf back in the day, so I don't really have a lot of emotional attachment to the original version of the game. And you might as well put away those parachute pants because it's not 1992 anymore and we've all changed over the last thirty years. It's laudable that White Wolf made a genuine effort to have a little diversity in their games back in the day, but they made some serious blunders and I think we all agree it's a good thing we're moving away from depicting real people as "magical."
 

datreus

Villager
I didn't play a whole lot of Werewolf back in the day, so I don't really have a lot of emotional attachment to the original version of the game. And you might as well put away those parachute pants because it's not 1992 anymore and we've all changed over the last thirty years. It's laudable that White Wolf made a genuine effort to have a little diversity in their games back in the day, but they made some serious blunders and I think we all agree it's a good thing we're moving away from depicting real people as "magical."

That's kind of the sad thing about some of the commentary I'm seeing around at the moment.

From reading W5, it's clear they took a 'hands off' approach to a lot of sensitive cultural issues - with the recognition that these are not universal experiences, and that individual voices do not speak collectively. However, that 'ambiguity' is being approached negatively by a lot of folks and that's something that's quite problematic.

It's never going to be done well, but going with 'ambiguous' is by far the healthiest approach - and the pretty awful stereotyping from earlier editions makes that very obvious.
 

datreus

Villager
Look if it’s “be a monster whose purpose is to stop the world ending”, in 2023, and I don’t get any “guillotine earrings” vibes, or “jokes” about how a werewolf can literally eat the rich rather than figuratively doing so, complete with billionaires who serve the Wyrm because hoarding wealth wasn’t a good enough high anymore at some point…why am I even here?

That's always the point of WW - but in earlier editions it was 'Hey you're a furry superhero, go magihack that pentex facility, kill dozens of goons, then give a soliloquy before killing the CEO who is OBVIOUSLY possessed by a spirit, yay!' while this version is more like 'Sure, you can probably sneak or even fight your way in but it's going to be a challenge and maybe there's a bit of thinking to be done about tearing living creatures into pieces'.

Two very different games and both have their own merits but I would very much not try and compare the two directly.
 

Zevier

Villager
Look if it’s “be a monster whose purpose is to stop the world ending”, in 2023, and I don’t get any “guillotine earrings” vibes, or “jokes” about how a werewolf can literally eat the rich rather than figuratively doing so, complete with billionaires who serve the Wyrm because hoarding wealth wasn’t a good enough high anymore at some point…why am I even here?
Well. This time around, you get a whole sidebar about how corporations are nuanced and can be quite helpful to the world. And that they are just one way of people gathering to affect change.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well. This time around, you get a whole sidebar about how corporations are nuanced and can be quite helpful to the world. And that they are just one way of people gathering to affect change.
Gross.

Like technically yes, but they know damn well no one means In n Out, we are talking about publicly traded companies, which are by far the biggest villains in the destruction of the planet.
 

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