Werewolf: The Apocalypse Reboots The Moonlight

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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

Zevier

Villager
The greatest irony, above all, is that a primary theme of the game is that the older garou generations were more interested in performative posturing and infighting and as a result they didn't stop the apocalypse.

Which begs the awkward question whether things might be different today if the people complaining had gone outside and actually done something in the 90s rather than play out their frustrations around the game table....

You have just spent a dozen posts disregarding anyone's opinion other than your own on account of them not doing enough, complaining too much, being too old, being the wrong audience. You've also challenged the person that came out with a critique of the way production was handled without engaging with what they objected to. That's a very unfair and bad faith approach to the topic at hand.

If you feel W5 has great qualities discuss them, don't attack the evil faceless masses that are trying to put it down.
 

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Scribe

Legend
I don't think it sets out to answer that rather than ask it, but that would probably be the closest response I think.

It's a game that's more 'hopeless' than previous editions and I think that's rubbing a lot of people the wrong way - understandable, but not the grounds for some of the treatment it's receiving.
Ah, well that's right up my alley lol!
 

datreus

Villager
You have just spent a dozen posts disregarding anyone's opinion other than your own on account of them not doing enough, complaining too much, being too old, being the wrong audience. You've also challenged the person that came out with a critique of the way production was handled without engaging with what they objected to. That's a very unfair and bad faith approach to the topic at hand.

If you feel W5 has great qualities discuss them, don't attack the evil faceless masses that are trying to put it down.

These aren't faceless masses, but specific people putting it down for what are often very clearly reasons far beyond anything contained within the text. I'm not disregarding opinions when I point out statements are flat out untruths.

I've repeatedly discussed the good qualities and it's bad faith to suggest I didn't, given it's in the posts right above.

You've also challenged the person that came out with a critique of the way production was handled without engaging with what they objected to. That's a very unfair and bad faith approach to the topic at hand.

Not accepting a contex-free point of view from an obviously aggrieved person as being unquestionable gospel is not 'challenging' it. That's not unfair, nor bad faith. Bad faith is taking one person's point of view without any corroboration and promoting it as the whole story - especially when that denies agency to multiple Indigenous writers who were pulled in without their consent and placed in untenable positions.

I'm not challenging the assertions being made. I have no idea whatsoever what actually happened based on the extremely curated and limited information provided, and neither does anyone else outside the people involved - many of whom do not have the freedom to present their own point of view for personal and professional reasons.

I'm not going to 'engage' with that because I don't know if it's true or not. Watching dozens of people assume it's 100% what happened and sounding off about it has been quite the experience.

What is as important is understanding that true or not, that post does the same thing it's accusing others of. It denies agency to the other Indigenous writers involved in the project. Since they weren't consulted for their consent, their capacity to respond is bound by a range of difficulties. They may have professional relationships that could be jeopardised either way, or put in the position where if they did disagree with the author, they get slammed by the backwash and their own 'Indigineity' put to the question.

That's why I am not 'engaging' with it.
 

datreus

Villager
Ah, well that's right up my alley lol!

yeah, I was very cautious about this game initially but it - and the pretty unjustified treatment it is receiving - has made me reflect on some of the more troubling views from earlier editions that I had internalised and that's a good thing.
 

Scribe

Legend
yeah, I was very cautious about this game initially but it - and the pretty unjustified treatment it is receiving - has made me reflect on some of the more troubling views from earlier editions that I had internalised and that's a good thing.
My level of expectation and tolerance likely doesn't match yours. I was mostly looking at it from a perspective of if the Apocalypse has started, the tone must be bleak?

EDIT: I looked up the site with it for sale, looked over the previews. I dont understand what folks would be up in arms over, it sure looks like 'Werewolf' to me.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think you misunderstand what this game is about. Earlier editions were written for the Gen X 90s zeitgeist

'If you turn into furry captain planet, smash through the window of the big evil corporation, kill that wyrm infested CEO and hoowwwwll then you can save the world!'

It was a superhero game, straight up and obvious.

This edition is not that. You can't stop the apocalypse because it has already begun. So this is about asking the question of what do you do when the planet is on fire?

And that's the point. The people complaining about this game are mostly older gamers. And quite frankly, I don't think their opinion matters to the volume they are outputting.

This is a game made for younger people who have inherited a planet on fire and I hope this game reaches them, instead of being poisoned by the performative whingeing of people it's not meant to connect with in that way.
THis kind of dismissing crap might be relevant to other people you've argued with about this or whatever, I don't care, but it's got nothing to do with me. All of your reply to me reads like it's directed at completely different people who I am not in any way connected to.

Maybe don't do that.
Burn it down? Retreat from civilization and try and cut out your own corner to live in for you and yours? Not that that isolationist approach would work anymore considering my part of the world is quite literally burning all around me.
Absolutely. Like, if it's too late, sure you protect what you can protect for as long as you can, but yeah it's absolutely valid to just go out and eat every industrialist that willfully burned the planet for profit and their biggest enablers.
If the Apocalypse has already started, and its already burning, unless you can reverse it (maybe you can) the answer is not 'buddy up with the corpos and make the best of it' because that kind of thinking is exactly how the 'Wyrm' already won.
Exactly. And if my initial question about the implied narrative of the game is basically "no it's still very much anti-big corpo, just differently from before", great!

And this is the problem. Nowhere, not once, in the book is it suggested to 'buddy up with the corpos'. Quite the opposite, repeatedly, loudly and violently.

But thanks to 'people on the internet', this notion is now circling the bowl.

That's the real problem right now. The game is fine - and if you wanted a more nuanced Werewolf, probably great.

However, the amount of hatred from performative progressives who just wanted more of the same superhero fantasy is waaaaay out of order.
Statements like this about "performative progressives" usually tell me that someone isn't serious, and probably isn't actually even listening to what the person they're mad at is saying.
It's a different game. This was never hidden, and it's a pretty clear exploration of themes more relevant to current generations than the 90s zeitgeist would be.
Yeah for sure getting up and confronting the actual people causing the world to burn is definitely not relevant to Gen Z...somehow.
The greatest irony, above all, is that a primary theme of the game is that the older garou generations were more interested in performative posturing and infighting and as a result they didn't stop the apocalypse.

Which begs the awkward question whether things might be different today if the people complaining had gone outside and actually done something in the 90s rather than play out their frustrations around the game table....
Oh get off your high horse.

I don't think it sets out to answer that rather than ask it, but that would probably be the closest response I think.

It's a game that's more 'hopeless' than previous editions and I think that's rubbing a lot of people the wrong way - understandable, but not the grounds for some of the treatment it's receiving.
I think you maybe didn't read the post I replied to in the post of mine that you chose to reply to with your rant?

Because it was a reply to the notion that "captain planet anti-corporation" thinking is so widespread that a break from it is refreshing or new, which is patently absurd. We live in a world defined by the apocolyptic consequences of the opposite mindset being the dominant mindset.
 
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Scribe

Legend
Exactly. And if my initial question about the implied narrative of the game is basically "no it's still very much anti-big corpo, just differently from before", great!

Sure looks like it to me. Its a game of environmental and spiritual horror. All the basic Werewolf tropes look like they are safe and sound.

I feel like there has been some miscommunication going on somewhere because it still looks to me like 'those protesters in the 80's and 90's? Yeah now they turn into killing machines instead of just chaining themselves to trees'.

I guess I dont see the issue, since thats pretty much what Werewolf has always been to me.
 

datreus

Villager
THis kind of dismissing crap might be relevant to other people you've argued with about this or whatever, I don't care, but it's got nothing to do with me. All of your reply to me reads like it's directed at completely different people who I am not in any way connected to.

The issue here is that I think you misunderstood what that part of the conversation was about and I didn't understand that you didn't understand, so apologies for that.

Absolutely. Like, if it's too late, sure you protect what you can protect for as long as you can, but yeah it's absolutely valid to just go out and eat every industrialist that willfully burned the planet for profit and their biggest enablers.

Exactly. And if my initial question about the implied narrative of the game is basically "no it's still very much anti-big corpo, just differently from before", great!
That's right. The issue is that some people are misreading the book pretty obviously and propagating very misleading ideas.

Statements like this about "performative progressives" usually tell me that someone isn't serious, and probably isn't actually even listening to what the person they're mad at is saying.
It's a very valid statement - there is a HUGE element of performativity with earlier editions of werewolf, and that's an important argument. It's a good question to consider that if people in that generation had done more - rather than 'performed' through things like RPGS - would we be in the current state? If people had actually hit the streets and done the things their characters were doing (with a little less shapeshifting and ultraviolence).

Yeah for sure getting up and confronting the actual people causing the world to burn is definitely not relevant to Gen Z...somehow.
That's the point being made. This edition of werewolf asks more questions about human agency in the apocalypse rather than the ITS ALL THE EVILLLL WYRRRRMMM DOING IT. Most Gen X and boomer players wanted it to be an abstract conflict because, ultimately, they benefited from the status quo at that point in time and it was easier to distance by making it about boogeymen. This isn't something restricted to RPGs or Werewolf - the last three decades have seen this shift in all areas of our media.

Oh get off your high horse.

Look outside your window. This didn't happen by accident. It's because those generations didn't stop it. How do I know? I was there, and still am. If we had, this wouldn't have happened. I am to blame - for my inaction - for the world my descendants inherit, not the other way round.

I think you maybe didn't read the post I replied to in the post of mine that you chose to reply to with your rant?

Because it was a reply to the notion that "captain planet anti-corporation" thinking is so widespread that a break from it is refreshing or new, which is patently absurd. We live in a world defined by the apocolyptic consequences of the opposite mindset being the dominant mindset.

This is based on a misunderstanding I think. First off, simplistic notions of "Corporations bad! Nature lovers good!" in general society are indeed unhelpful. It is incredibly widespread - most people do think that corporations are bad, nature good. The point being made is that thinking doesn't - as you point out - translate to doing. In fact, that's actually what stops people doing.

More importantly, in terms of werewolf - which is what we are talking about - that simplistic performatism is what the game directly addresses. The older generations of garou were more invested in making it look like they were doing the right thing than actually doing it in a meaningful way and as a result - apocalypse.

I'd say this is the biggest area of concern with W5. It points out - rightly - that the Renown system is dodgy AF and lends itself to self aggrandisement over actual meaningful outcomes. The problem is, it still uses Renown to 'grade' character access to powers. IMHO that's a major failing and probably the biggest one. A much better take would have let people advance their gifts through merit or effort rather than relying on social approbation.

This edition of Werewolf raises an uncomfortable truth - that the 90s/00s/10s didn't stop the apocalypse happening. It only would have been stopped if nice middle class people had got out of their nice middle class homes and taken to the streets en masse to fight corporate greed. And they didn't because at the end of the day, they enjoyed their privilege too much.

That's why younger generations have been left a derelict planet. This isn't debatable - but privileged people don't want to talk about it because of cognitive dissonance. They want to see themselves as heroes who did their best, rather than people who essentially encouraged it, tacitly or not.

That's very much woven into the fabric of W5 and it's pretty clearly sparking a lot of understandable ire.
 
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