Werewolf: The Apocalypse, 2nd Edition

“A Storytelling Game of Savage Horror”

Copyright 1994, White Wolf

Design by: Mark Rein·Hagen with Robert Hatch and Bill Bridges
Written by: Bill Bridges, Phil Brucato, Brian Campbell, Sam Chupp, Andrew Greenberg, Daniel Greenberg, Mark Rein·Hagen, Robert Hatch, Harry Heckel, Teeuwynn Woodruff

Werewolf

Hardcover rulebook, 8 1/2 by 11 inches, 303 pages.

Additional Materials in the collection:

The Werewolf Players Guide. White Wolf, 1993
Axis Mundi: The Book of Spirits, White Wolf, 1996. (Also a sourcebook for Mage: the Ascention)
Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Free Introductory Kit. White Wolf, 2001.

Donated to the museum by Lisa Padol.

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The Apocalypse is here; it is in slow motion all around us. The Wyrm, personification of corruption, is poisoning the earth and its agents are everywhere. The werewolves, protectors of Gaia, have grown weak and estranged from each other, and they fight for their own survival as much as they fight for Gaia's continued existence.

This is the setting for Werewolf: the Apocalypse (WtA), the second of the World of Darkness games. WtA shows us the world from the perspective of the werewolves, known as the Garou. Where the vampires of Vampire: The Masquerade haunt gothic cities, the Garou prowl the natural world, trying to protect it from the depradations of the Wyrm. Where the vampires are urbane manipulators, garou are brutal warriors, summoning their bestial fury to boost their combat abilities. Thematically, both games are set at the edge of the apocalypse: Vampires speak of the coming Gehenna where their hidden elders will rise to slaughter the newer generations, while the Garou speak of the decay of their people, the destruction of the natural world, and the rise of the Wyrm.

Both games show vampires and Garou at odds with each other, but the Garou's true foe are the various manifestations of the Wyrm, with vampires as only one of those. (Not that the vampires would agree with this.) The Wyrm grows wherever there is corruption and decay. It feeds off human thoughts and actions, and spreads its tentacles through human activity, whether deliberate or not. The Wyrm has infilitrated the global megacorporation Pentax, which uses its wealth to despoil the world and create monstrosities for the Wyrm's use. Besides Pentax and the spread of corruption that human industrialized society creates unwittingly, the Wyrm has supernatural servants, and there's even a corrupt tribe of Garou, the Black Spiral Dancers.

The Garou are attuned to magical forces in a way that vampires are not, which makes WtA more complex than VtM. The Garou are allied to a number of spirits who live in the spirit realm of the Umbra. The Garou can travel to the Umbra themselves, to escape enemies, to move great distances across the world, or to confront the Wyrm's minions directly, for they are here, too.

Who are the Garou? They are the favored of Gaia, the personification of the Earth, Life, and Nature. While the metaphysics presented are both vague and contradictory (and the Garou themselves do not know the truth), there is a "triat" of principles responsible for the creation of the material world that Gaia embodies. The Wyld is the force of chaos. The Weaver is the force of order, which fixes elements created by the Wyld into solid reality. The Wyrm originally served to balance the Wyld and the Weaver. But somehow the balance was broken: the Weaver became too powerful and began solidifying too much of the universe, and the Wyrm went mad, becoming the force of destruction, corruption, and entropy. Gaia created the Garou to fight the Wyrm, combining the cleverness of humans with the ferocious effiectiveness of the wolves.

Garou could take five standard forms. Their human form was called Homid. The Glabro ("hairless") form was manlike, but larger, with more body hair. The Crinos ("hairy") was the intermediary wolf-man form, half again as large as the homid form, with fangs and talons. The Hispo (derivation unknown) was a monstrous wolf, the most dangerous of all of the forms. Finally, there was the Lupus form, the true wolf shape.

Born warriors, the Garou had little concern for subtlety. In prehistory, they put most of their energies into keeping humans in check, culling them regularly to keep their numbers down. This practice was called "The Impergium." They warred with Gaia's other were-creatures, nearly exterminating most of them. The Garou even fight among themselves. Their tribes often have poor relations with one another, and inside each tribe, there are frequent challenges and fights.

They are also poor reproducers. They can breed with wolves or humans (rarely sustaining long-term relationships with them), but Garou must not breed with each other: those offspring are deformed and sterile. The Garou genes are recessive, so even offspring bred from wolves or humans do not always become Garou themselves, although the gene may resurface in a later generation.

Thus, the Garou keep watch over particular human families or wolf packs. Typically, a true garou cub knows nothing of their ancestry, but is different enough from their siblings that they become isolated loners. At some point, generally around adolescence, the cub will go through their Change. At this point, the watching Garou will spirit them away to become trained and join a pack. While some werewolves are loners, the best course of action is to work with your pack.

Packs may center around a Caern, a place of power. The caerns are sacred to Gaia, and are used by the garou to rest and recover their power as well as perform magic. The Wyrm seeks to destroy them, of course.

Magic

Magic in WtA was shamanic in nature, provided by the spirits. There are several different kinds of magic in the game.

Most Garou possess Gifts, magical powers. These are classified by level, and characters obtained higher level Gifts through experience and roleplay. Characters had to be of high enough Rank to take higher level Gifts, and roleplay through a procedure involving an encounter with the proper spirit teacher.

Rites are pack rituals. These must be performed on a regular basis. The book lists many different rites, listed in seven different categories. While some of these have useful game effects, some are just for atmosphere and role playing, and all are occasions for role play. Rites of Accord purify, including one rite that apologizes to spirits the character has angered. Caern rites are used to open meetings or access the caern's power. Death rites are used to memorialize fallen garou. Mystic rites summon and bind spirits, create talismans, and perform magic. Punishment rites are used to punish errant garou, while rites of renown are used to praise a garou's accomplishments. Seasonal rites celebrate the year, while the minor rites were a catch-all for other religious practices.

Garou may manufacture fetishes and talismans, articles with spirits bound into them for magical effects. The main difference is that fetishes are single use items, while talismans are permanent.

Gnosis

Gnosis was the character trait used for magic. Characters might roll against Gnosis to use a Gift, or they might spend points from a Gnosis pool. The pool went up and down during the game, but could not go above the Gnosis rating. These points were recovered by rest, but they might also be recovered by persuading a spirit to give you some.

 

Characters in Werewolf: The Apocalypse

As with other World of Darkness games, the first step was to conceptualize the character. Much of the character's personality and basic abilities could be set by making three different choices: the character's breed, auspice, and tribe. The breed refers to the character's parentage. If born of humans, the character was a Homid, at ease around humans. If born of wolves, the character was a Lupus, powerful at magic. If both parents were Garou, the character was a Metis, deformed but already fitting into Garou society.

Auspice referred to the phase of the moon that the character was born under, which influenced the character's personality and helped fix their position in the pack. Characters born under the new moon were trickster Ragabash. Theurges were born under the crescent moon, and they were seers. Philodox were born under the half moon, and they were judges and lore keepers. Gaillard were born under the gibbous moon and were bards, and the warrior Ahroun were born under the full moon.

Players chose one tribe out of thirteen, and again, each tribe had basic personality traits, likes and dislikes, allies and foes. The Black Furies were nearly all female, and were linked to the Greek myths about the Furies. Bone Gnawers were low status Garou who lived as street people in the cities. The Children of Gaia were peacekeepers. The Fianna were the Celts, partiers, bards and warriors. The Get of Fenris were Norse, valuing only fighting ability. The Glass Walkers adapated to human culture and learned the ways of technology. The Red Talons were Lupus, human-haters. The Shadow Lords were ambitious climbers after power. The Silver Fangs were the nobility, possibly decaying. The Silent Striders were wanderers and loners. The Stargazers were prophets. The Uktena were mysterious and secretive Native Americans, and the Wendigo were hostile and warlike Native Americans. The combination of breed, auspice, and tribe provided enough personality that W:tA did not use Nature and Demeanor.

The Advantages in WtA were Background, Gifts, and Renown. Background advantages included social connections to both humans and garou, magical items, and connections to spirits. Gifts referred to magical powers the characters all started with. Players selected one gift from the list provided with their breed, a second gift from the list provided with their auspice, and a third gift from the list provided with their tribe. Finally, Renown referred to the character's position in Garou society.

Extra characteristics for garou characters were Rage, Gnosis, Willpower, and Rank. Gnosis was described above, in the magic section. Willpower worked like Gnosis, in that it had a permanent rating that might be rolled for challenges, and a separate pool of willpower points that could be spent. Willpower could be spent to buy an extra success on a die roll, to prevent the character from acting on an otherwise uncontrollable urge. Willpower points were recovered at the end of a Story (not single sessions), or might be awarded by the storyteller for a particularly impressive success, or possibly by fulfilling conditions appropriate to the character's auspice.

Rage was one of the essential features of W:tA. Garou lost control of themselves, and went berserk. When used in a controlled fashion, a garou character could overcome overwhelming odds. But an uncontrolled frenzy could cause all kinds of trouble. Rage worked like willpower. Rage points could be spent to take an extra action in a combat turn, to change form immediately, or to temporarily recover from injury and fight on. Obviously, the more Rage a character had, the more powerful they could be in combat. But Rage also had a dark side. First of all, if Rage was higher than Willpower, the character had a harder time in social interactions (minus one die). Worse, in stressful situations, the character might go into a frenzy. If the player rolled too well on a Rage roll (four or more successes), the character entered a berserk frenzy, transforming immediately into Crinos or Hispo form, and either attacking other figures full tilt or fleeing the encounter as quickly as possible. The difficulty of the Rage roll was based on the phase of the moon rather than the intensity of the stress. Thus, Rage represented both a great opportunity and a threat to all garou characters.

 

Renown and Rank

Like many warrior cultures, the garou valued personal honor and reputation above all else. There were three attributes that tracked this (Glory, Honor, and Wisdom), collectively known as Renown. These were earned by the character's responses to events in the game, and could only be earned by roleplaying. In practice, these worked like an additional experience system. The storyteller awarded points of Glory, Honor, or Wisdom based on how the characters responded to challenges. These were recorded as temporary points. To make them permanent, the character needed more roleplaying, either to persuade a higher ranked garou to perform a Rite of Accomplishment, or to challenge an elder for recognition. Success in either of these meant discarding all temporary points in that scale and increasing the permanent score by one. Characters might also lose Renown for improper behavior.

Rank was a character level mechanism. With enough of the right kinds of Renown (the specific amounts varied by the character's auspice and the level being attained), the character had to challenge and defeat an elder of that rank. Rank (which had level titles: Cliath, Fostern, Adren, Athro, and Elder) determined the magic the character had access to. Higher ranks were needed to learn more powerful rites or gifts. Rank also provided role playing benefits, in that lower-ranked garou had to defer to higher ranked ones.

 

Combat

Werewolves were incredibly tough. Besides using Rage to ignore wound penalties, they also healed one health level every combat turn unless in their natural forms (wolf for lupus, human for homid). Some injuries might be counted as Aggravated, meaning they couldn't be healed except by rest (one health level per day). For the garou, Aggravated wounds were caused by silver, fire, radiation, and the natural weapons of supernatural beings, such as vampires or other garou. Silver is sufficiently poisonous to garou that even touching it causes one wound, unless they are in their Homid form.

Given their tremendous regenerative abilities, Garou are very hard to kill: all wounds must be aggravated. But if a character is brought below Incapacitation by any means, they roll on the Battle Scars table. The garou honor battle scars, but severe ones can impair a character (broken jaws lead to slurring speech, maimed limbs may reduce Dexterity or movement, etc).

 

Summary

We were very pleased with this game as a book. (We haven't played it.) We found it an excellent extension to Vampire: the Masquerade, set in the same world and using essentially the same rules, but almost completely different. In our opinion, W:tA owes a lot more to D&D, where V:tM is a descendent of Call of Cthulhu. In W:tA, a garou's Frenzy would lead to future obstacles for the character, whereas in V:tM, the equivalent loss of control meant a likely degradation of the character and another step toward removing it from play. The story of W:tA characters is that of starting out weak and of poor reputation and gradually achieving power and glory in noble battle.

Although based in D&D, W:tA should have been a completely different experience. The shamanistic (or should we say, Native American?) flavor of the game provides considerable meat for role players to sink their teeth into, and the background of the impossible fight against the Wyrm provides a much different feel than any D&D campaign we've played. Designer Mark Rein·Hagen, in an essay in the Werewolf Players Guide said that the game was about spirituality. The Garou live in a world of religion and magic, and thus must interact with the spirits and fulfill necessary rituals to survive and prosper as characters.

W:tA provides for many different kinds of scenarios, from simple monster hunts to grand political schemes (at which the garou should be woefully unsuited). It is a heady brew of a game.

—RAD
July 22, 2011

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