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


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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
I didn't misunderstand anything, I replied sarcastically to a specific post, and you replied as if I was the person who wrote the article you were mad about.
That's right. The issue is that some people are misreading the book pretty obviously and propagating very misleading ideas.
Okay.
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).
The idea that playing a roleplaying game with progressive politics is performative and somehow means that the people playing it aren't also doing anything useful is laughable.

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.
Cool, now explain what that has to do with my sarcastic reply to gibster about their silly notion that anti-corpo pro-environmentalist sentiment has somehow been dominant at any point in our lifetimes, in spite of the apocalyptic evidence otherwise.

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.
THat's a bit unfair to Generation "Chain Myself To This Tree" X, but whatever.
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.
Most people don't actually understand that big industry defining companies are nearly always bad for society in the long run, don't get that the companies that run today's economy are literally choking our society to death along with the planet, and certainly don't understand just how much of the pollution and waste that is responsible for the situation we are in is industrial or industrial adjacent.

Any climate or enviromental activism that isn't serious about fighting the modern day robber baron oligarchs is ineffective activism.

Also seriously take two seconds to consider that you just said that thinking stops people from doing. Thats' got to be the most ludicrous thing I've ever seen someone say online, and I have a twitter account, used to frequent tumblr's political community, and have been online since at last 1998.
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.
WHich is an absurd rewrite of history, unless you completely pretend the old game doesn't exist. I get that that's the goal, but...yeah, they knew they were going to get pushback from people who are going to feel invalidated by the decision.

Those fans should chill out and go touch grass while grass still exists to be touched, but that's a different conversation.

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.
Eh, I get the appeal of what you propose, but I also get that they wanted you to rely on your community in this game, which is right and good as a goal, at least. More media should present efficacy with any scale at all as requiring the help of community.
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.
Speaking of that era, this reads like a script from a show or movie from that era with that one character that rants self-righteously at other characters all the time, without actually saying 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 every generation since the dawn of civilization, at least, but sure. It's also a very specific point of view that centers the people with the most privilege as the representatives of each generation.
That's very much woven into the fabric of W5 and it's pretty clearly sparking a lot of understandable ire.
I didn't see any ire in this thread until certain posters started get feisty because someone made a sideways comment about the game they're excited about.

Re-using the name makes such comparisons inevitable.
Re-using the name makes such comparison necessary, as well. It would be completely ridiculous to not compare them.
 

Scribe

Legend
Maybe its me, but I just dont think Werewolf can even be discussed considering its subject matter, and the rules of this board. Its inherently political, and the current smoke choked skies around me after I look at the cover on this book chef kiss

Hmm those may even be maple leaves? THAT stings.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe its me, but I just dont think Werewolf can even be discussed considering its subject matter, and the rules of this board. Its inherently political, and the current smoke choked skies around me after I look at the cover on this book chef kiss

Hmm those may even be maple leaves? THAT stings.
As a Californian, I feel ya. Stay safe.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
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.

Mod Note:
This has come across as drifting away from discussion of the game, and more into personal socio-political commentary.

Can we bring this back around to the game, please and thanks?
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
I cannot believe someone would write the following text (or send it back to be re-written after reviewing everything else mentioned about Patron Spirits in the other chapters):

Chapter 3 - Tribes and Auspices (page 55):
Treat none of what follows here as truth. Or, rather, treat all of it as true, even in its contradictions. Does a Patron Spirit truly grant the Garou special prowess? Or does the Garou simply think it does, thus granting the werewolf a confidence they didn’t know they had? As with so many things Garou, one’s own position informs all perspectives.
I guess it's unsurprising with the rest of the "we know nothing, everything is mysterious" text within the book. It also adds a "what we believe is what is real" vibe.
 
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Zevier

Villager
I do wish the book was more positive. I get that they don't want us to like the protagonists and delve on what their history was. But God damn it, it tells me about a dozen times that they will never ever change anything, and that no amount of fixing what came before will lead to anything but a tiny light in the dark and just for the players so they aren't totally depressed.
 

nevin

Hero
(and romantic notions like inquisition are insulting to government agencies worldwide).
????? Governments keeping dangerous things secret and sending agents out after people they think are dangerous is insulting? Even the"good Democratic" governments have been caught repeatedly doing stuff like that. It's more a fact of life than an insult.
 

ruemere

Adventurer
????? Governments keeping dangerous things secret and sending agents out after people they think are dangerous is insulting? Even the"good Democratic" governments have been caught repeatedly doing stuff like that. It's more a fact of life than an insult.
You've lost me. That's not what I meant. At all.

Have a look at Society of the Leopold and the Inquisition in WoD (Society of Leopold and Inquisition (WOD) ).

And then do consider that we are living in the age of information.

Keeping secrets nowadays is pretty hard. And so Inquisition becomes a romantic notion. Nice but underwhelmingly and ultimately lazy treatment of a fascinating subject of conspiracy.

Pelgrane Press' Night's Black Agent spoiled me in this regard.
 

MGibster

Legend
The hard truth is that almost any urban fantasy setting predicated on a supernatural world existing under the noses of mortal society is going to require some suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience.
 

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