Werewolf: The Apocalypse, 2nd Edition

WW 3600 $28.00 13-May-94
Written by Mark ReinĚHagen, Robert Hatch and Bill Bridges
Cover Art: Tony DiTerlizzi and others

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The forces of creation and destruction clash in this Storytelling game of savage horror. Gaia, the Earth Mother, is wounded. The minions of the Wyrm eat away at Her, digging up the earth and rending Her form. Gaia cries for aid, and Her children - the Garou, the werewolves of legend - answer the call. The Garou must use all their shapeshifting power and Rage to fight back against the onslaught of corruption and evil.

The end is nigh, for the Wyrm is winning. The 13 Tribes of the Garou must learn to put aside their own rivalries for the greater good. Only courage and valiant action can save the world from Apocalypse. Hardcover.


Presentation by Sam Chupp (19 Apr 94)

The official in-the-store date is May 13th. I've seen it however and it's awesome.

Book One Changes:

New information: The complete 'Legacy Rite' comic from start to finish, in color. A new Sacred Ways with 'Book of Nod' style poetry to help convey the distant past of the Garou. A revised Setting chapter including updated information (such as info on the Other Weres, Pentex, etc.)

Book Two Changes:

Book Two has been completely cleaned up and re-edited. Character creation is in an all-in-one-place chart format, including your starting gifts, willpower, rage, gnosis, etc. A new 'pack' section has been added, including discussion of Pack purpose. All of the traits chapter has been revised for better clarity. The Pack Totem background goes into more depth and explains what a Pack Totem actually does for you and what having the background does. Note that page references exist throughout the book for sections on other sections...for example, in the reference for Rites in the Rites background, it says "Note: Two Minor Rites can be purchased in place of one Level One rite; see Minor Rites, pp. 152-153". This is a frequent occurance where rules are needed for other sections, and yet don't fit that section. Learning gifts are now done through spirits that your elder summons for you or that you get through your caern totem's allowing you. You can learn from other Garou, but it takes a long long time. (about a month or so)

All of the Gifts have been revised and re-edited and cleaned up. Just for example, let's go over the Homid gifts:

Persuasion:
no longer is it a reduction of 1 per success as some people may have thought by the unclear writing in W1: it is now just 1 Difficulty period.
Smell of Man:
same.
Jam Technology:
Same
Staredown:
Addition - it can be used on other Garou, but the Garou will freeze in place rather than flee. (they can't attack, but they can defend)
Disquiet:
doesn't cost Gnosis anymore.
Reshape Object:
Addition - spending a Gnosis point allows a created weapon to inflict aggravated damage.
Cocoon:
Addition - Time limit: Cocoon lasts for one scene, with more time buyable through the expenditure of Gnosis. How long a Garou can ultimately spend in a cocoon is up to the storyteller.
Spirit Ward:
The garou draws an invisible pictorgram into the air...and it lasts for one scene.
Assimiliation:
New info: It allows you to mimic native culture's behavior and even know their language (although you won't be able to speak it once the Gift is over). Roll Man + Emp, difficulty depends on how alien the culture is to you. The Gift lasts for one scene plus one day per Willpower point spent when activating it. Note: this doesn't cost 3 Gnosis points anymore.
Part the Veil (used to be Reduce Delirium):
This temporarily immunizes someone from the Delirium, for a scene. Later Deliriums can get humans to forget what they learned from this temporary protection, however.

---that was just a sample of the changes/revisions/clarifications of Gifts.

Rites: all revised and redited. They are all classified in this manner: Rites of ACcord, Caern, Death, Mystic, Punishment, Renown, Seasonal, and Minor Rites.

New Rites: Rite of Renunciation: the rite one does to change Auspices. Rite of Accomplishment: This rite is the game mechanic which allows characters who have built 10 temporary Renown to gain 1 permanent Renown in that category.

The Seasonal rites are all new: Rite of the Winter Winds: a winter solstice rite around a bonfire. Rite of Reawakening: vernal equinox rite in the Umbra The Great Hunt: summer solstice rite: guess what it is Rite of Keres: autumnal equinox rite to purge grief and rage

Minor Rite are cool. Heheh heh heh. Basically they are small things that you do which give you at most a -1 or +1 modifier on some rolls. Here's the names: Bone Rhythms, Breath of Gaia, Greet the Moon, Greet the Sun, Hunting Prayer, Prayer for the Prey

Renown is brand-new. Basically, you have two 1-10 Renown tracks for each Renown: permanent and temporary. Temporary fluxes alot and Permanent doesn't. When you get to 10 Temporary in a Renown, you have to get someone to do the Rite of Achievement so you can gain a new Permanent Renown. The rank requirements for each Auspice are different and listed in a chart. There's a huge Renown chart that goes on for 4 pages. Here's some sample Renown awards/penalties: (these are all Temporary Renown adjustments) Falsely accusing a Kinfolk of being 'of the Wyrm': -2 Honor, -3 Wisdom

Binding "inappropriate" objects to oneself with the Rite of Talisman Dedication (like chainsaws, Nintendo Gameboys, or even wristwatches) This doesn't apply to Bone Gnawers or Glass Walkers: -2 Wisdom

Giggling/joking/being disrespectful during a Rite: -1 to -5 Wisdom (depending on the severity of the infraction)

For a homid Garou surviving to age 75: +8 Honor, +10 Wisdom For a homid, ignoring one's wolf nature for too long: -3 Wisdom For a lupus, using too many Human tools, weaver things: -1/use Wisdom, For a metis, attempting to hide one's deformity: -3 Wisdom

Keeping one's promises: +2 Honor Protecting a helpless human: +2 Honor Protecting a helpless wolf: +5 Honor

Choosing a mate and breeding: +3 Wisdom Honorably mated: +2 Honor/year

Rules for Gnosis, Rage, and Willpower are included....including how to regain them.

Book Three

The Umbra section is totally updated. For those of you who don't own the Umbra sourcebooK: info on the Near Realms is included here.

Caern info is included.

A whole bunch of new Spirit Charms are included.

In the Systems chapter: you can get 1-5 new experience points per Chapter (game session). Plus 3 more per story.

(see REnown chart, above..it's actually in this part of the book)

On Advancing in Rank: Theurges now need Honor and Glory as well as Wisdom in order to advance: they need more Wisdom than anything else, but they start needing Glory around Rank 2 and Honor around Rank 3. Same thing goes for the other Auspices: you can't escape needing all three eventually. This is more realistic.

The combat/physical death/wounds/etc. section has been completely revised and redited. Included are rules for silver, including stuff on how much Gnosis loss you get out of a Silver bullet (1 point each). Gnosis loss is temporary in effect, but your Pack can start getting affected if you carry too much silver.

Frenzy has been clarified.

The Combat section still has the flip book o' doom, but it's been layed out rather well and doesn't hinder the text overmuch. The Maneuvers are now understandable and are equipped with all the info you need to use them.

This is the V2 combat system, by the way, folks, not the W1. It is the one in the Player's Guide for Werewolf.

Appendix: The Appendix has been expanded and clarified to include info found only previously in Werewolf supplements, including BSD gifts and Fomor powers. Also included is a section on how to play all the games together, and very clear rules on Pack Totems.

Each spirit is very carefully defined and given rules for dealing with them, especially vague powers like the Nexus Crawler's Alter Reality.

The Central Park setting has been totally re-written and expanded, with personalities further defined and re-written, and a lovely two-page map.

Index This index is flawless, and lists everything you can possibly want or need. For example, here's a section under Damage:

Damage g.v. Injury, Tables and Charts Brawling 238 Firearms 228 Melee 227 Umbra 239

Finally: There is 1 'page XX' in the book. It's in the Index. It says 'Page XX: See Clanbook Malkavian.' :)

Suffice it to say, Werewolf 2nd edition will be worth the $25.00 cover price. It includes 332 pages of information, including the 32-page comic by Tony DiTerlizzi.


The only possibility for change is the Werewolf Player's Guide: it might be re-issued as a hardback, with some info to replace the Combat chapter data that is now firmly esnconced in 2nd edition, but that won't be for some time in the future.

Werewolf 2nd Storyteller's Screen will be out the same month, possibly at the same time. That and the PG are the only two '2nd edition' products we'll do.

Hope this helps you all make up your minds about the game.

...Sam

Snap Reactions by Steve Gilham (14 May 94)

diTerlizzi's art in the graphic sections is beautiful, but cloys in such quantity and is too static for something as violent as is being protrayed. The SCAR studio art is just deformed - heck, I even prefer the stuff J.Cobb did in the 1st edition. The text story that follows the 1st half of the comic is merely a vague re-iteration of the same plot (Black Spirals kill Mom & Dad, but other Garou came to the rescue of the lost cub).

I would have much rather seen diTerlizzi's art being used for a set of double-page spreads for each of the tribes (like the ones that we have of the Vampire clans and Mage traditions), even at the cost of reprinting the "what we think of the others" bits from the player's guide.

The tribe weaknesses that are appearing in the tribebooks are not given against the tribed here, which makes integrating them into a chronicle is not yet feasible.

I miss the Timbrook art from the 1st edition; and the sylvan scene behind the clawmarks; and I'd've liked to have seen maybe 1/2 page spent on

But it's a whole lot better organised than the 1st ed - which would be hard not to do. 3 stars out of 5, I think.


Mini-Review by John Gavigan (24 May 94)

I've just picked up the Werewolf 2nd Ed. Hardback, and I'm wondering if I like the new feel White Wolf seem to have given the game. I would much prefer if they had kept the original design that they had for the first edition, with the greenish logo, and the forest scene behind the claw slashes... Also, the feel that is projected by the comic-book style Legacy of the Rite doesn't appeal to me at all, I'm afraid...

The only way I can describe what doesn't actually appeal to me is as "the feel" of the world, and the feel of the game.

My own perception of the World of Darkness has always been one based on our own world, just slightly darker, the cities just slightly darker and gothic, and the countryside slightly more wilderness-like and dangerous.

Upon seeing the film Highlander, I was amazed at how perfectly it match my perception of the World of Darkness - One of my favourite Storytelling characters is an immortal, designed using the net.rules for Highlander in the World of Darkness.

Looking at the comic in W:tA2, it seems to me that the World of Darkness is sloping off towards the world of Batman, and Gotham city... just a little over the top, in my opinion. When writing anything for the Werewolf game, I have always made sure that the places described are real life...

Anyone who decides to go and visit the Fianna caern from 'Caerns: Places of Power' will find the area, and, unless they make a point of trying to find things that directly contradict what I wrote in the description of the caern, could be easily fooled into thinking that they are, indeed standing on the site of a Garou caern, in the World of Darkness.

I don't know... What do other Werewolf players think? Do you think that White Wolf are tending towards the comic-book aspect of the World of Darkness?

Would you prefer it that way? Or would you prefer it like I do, that you can walk out of the house after a gaming session, and be able to really imagine that that guy with the long, black coat could really be a leech, off to feed on some humans?

Diarmuid Mac Aonghusa

Sept of the Tri Spiral.


Review by John Gavigan (29 May 94)

From the 'Book of Whassisnameagain':

"In the beginning, there was Vampire. And Vampire looked sexy. Then there was Vampire Second Edition, and Vampire Second Edition looked kinda shit with the horrible lettering saying "The Masquerade" on the cover.

"After Vampire, came Werewolf. And, the multitude said that Werewolf, was even sexier than Vampire, with those slash marks, an' all... Then there came unto the net Werewolf Second Edition, and the multitude wept, for it were not sexy, really, at all... In fact, it looked pretty crap, if you wanna be told the truth. ;) "

- Whassisnameagain?

Games develop and grow. Releasing new, revised, improved and better designed versions of games is something that is well accpeted in the gaming world. Games like RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu and Traveller have all benefited greatly from their numerous re-issues. Of course, there is AD&D Second Edition, which has lasted (and probably will last) for an eternity on it's second revision. But we don't talk about that here... ;)

There were some disgruntled voices when Vampire v2 came out, mainly due to the apparent abscence of changes, and the short length of time between the release of the first and second editions. However, with time, those voices seem to have subsided.

White Wolf released Vampire in softback first, and then did the Second Edition in hardback, with a slightly different cover - ie. they used a disguting font for "The Masquerade". There were some disgruntled voices when Vampire v2 came out, mainly due to the apparent abscence of changes, and the short length of time between the release of the first and second editions. However, with time, those voices seem to have subsided.

I think everyone will agree that the cover of Werewolf: The Apocalypse was P.D.C. (Pretty Damned Cool). The ugly, "toxic waste" look of the cover with the ugly green writing, and the Celtic script for "The Apocalypse", and the clincher - The slash marks in the cover allowing a glimpse of the peaceful, sylvan scene on the first page of the book. Werewolf was a serious game, a "Savage Game of Horror", to quote the tag-line... I could also quote further, and mention the following - "By this, we mean horror of an obvious and gut-wrenching nature. There is no subtlety to toxic waste." (from the Werewolf writers guidelines). The entire feel of the book was geared towards this - from the cover, to the fourth and fifth pages, with that FABULOUS piccie of da wolfie in front of the September installation, facing the totally black page with the Werewolf poem sitting in the middle of it, to the back page, with the long version of the poem. Ok, so the layout could have been slightly better, but it was a brilliant game, offering massively good roleplaying opportunities, along with seriously disgusting horror, and what I describe as "Total Violence". The artwork, while not the best art I've ever seen was perfect for the feel of the game. Altogether, I plunged into Werewolf with both arms open wide, and haven't surfaced since, except a brief moment to drag Highlander in along with me.

I awaited the publication of Werewolf Second Edition without much curiosity, as I knew a fair bit about it already. The first thing I noticed when I opened the package was that the cover was different! Orange/black lettering for the title, reminiscent of flames (the mundane kind! ;), and where was the beautiful forest scene!!?!?!?!?!!!?!! PANIC!!!!! Insted, you can see a wolfy's muzzle and an eye with a monocle! I opened the cover to find out what the... the first seven pages of the book are a graphic story, comic-book style, as are the last seven pages, with the game proper sandwiched between the two sections. My opinion? BAD IDEA!!!!! I'm seriously debating ripping the comic out and sticking a copy of the original sylvan scene in it's place.

Another thing you notice when you pick the book up is that it is BIG. It's a good solid book, the sort you thwap your little brother with when he's pissing pissing you off. The extra thickness comes from a really robust cover (normally, my books have developed bent corners after a week. This one's still looking brand new), an extra thirty pages in the book itself, plus the sixteen pages of the comic, which, being full color graphics, are high quality papaer. Overall, of a higher quality production-wise than Vampire Second Edition.

Another thing that struck me is the difference in size between W:tA2 and V:tM2 - 272 pages in Vampire, as opposed to 300-odd in Werewolf.

Saying that there are only thirty extra pages is kind of misleading, because I got the impression that there is more text on the pages, than in the first ed. They've gotten rid of the black lines that marked the end of a section, and appeared above every heading, something which I disapprove of immensely.

Basically, all this means that I don't actually like the look and feel of Werewolf Second Edition. I feel that it would have been much better had they kept the original cover, only converted it to hardback. Plus, they should have kept the old layout system, with thick black lines marking the end of each section. Get rid of da comic, and bring back the forest scene, with the piccie which ended up on the cover of Rites of Passage, and the other pages at the start of the First Edition.

The lovely Table Of Contents, with the "Wherein the Rules of this Game are explained"-type subheadings has gone, replaced by a sterile, no-nonsense page listing the books and the Chapters, and nothing else.

The light-hearted "Special Thanks to: " section with things like "John "What time is it there?" Gavigan for being totally inept at working out timezones." is missing, as it was in the first Edition, unfortunately, reflecting WW's serious attitude to this game, perhaps.

The index has regressed in revision. Larger text, and an abscence of markers seperating the A's from the B's and the Y's from the Z's make reading the index rather trying, and added to this is the fact that there are long sub-listings of things like Gifts, making you think that you are looking at S, when you are, infact, looking at G.

One characteristic of White Wolf that has always attracted me is the excellent artwork. Werewolf Second Ed. is no different, with some terrific artwork, and _lot_ more greyscale stuff, as opposed to the stark black-and-white from the first ed. The full-page artwork facing the start of each chapter is really good. Nice work, LeBlanc! I especially like the one on page 64, but then again, if there ever was a Fianna, I am he. Other's to watch out for are the comic sequence on page 91 (I gotta admit, even though I flamed the comic feel to the game, I liked this piece of artwork), and the cyber-garou on page 130.

A major criticism of Werewolf: The Apocalypse was it's layout. There seems to have been an effort to remedy this oversight in the second edition. Below is a summary of the layout:

Overall, I like the layout. I think it's an improvement on the First Edition. One thing that you notice when flicking through the book for the first time is that it's clearer and more straightforward - There are more summarised tables, for instance,there's a two page master chart for character creation, and others for stuff like Brawling, Caerns and Renown Awards. So, I'm pretty happy with the layout of the book - the way it's organised,

You all know Werewolf, I presume. If you don't then you should buy it pretty quick! :) Nothing major changes, really. I haven't really looked at Combat but it looks like V:tM Second Ed. combat system in there. Personally, I use bits from both the W:tA v1 system (stuff like Initiative, etc.) and the system in the Players Guide.

Renown has been replaced with a system of dots, which is, in my opinion, much better - I never did like having to pull out a calculator when doing Renown stuff... Renown is also pinpointed as an important aspect of the game, unlike before. All in all, the roleplaying aspects of the Garou's background is expanded. I was disappointed, however, to see that the list of Abilities is the exact same as in W:tA v1. as is the list of Gifts. I expected to see the extra stuff from the Players Guide incorporated into the Second Edition, and a revised Players Guide done some time soon. However, as it stands, although W:tA v2 does show distinct influence from the Players Guide, the Guide is still an essential supplement for Storytellers.

Apart from that, there are no major changes. However, don't be fooled into thinking that the Second Edition is simply the First Edition with a new logo, and a few things added in... It has been genuinely re-written, and it makes for a better game. the rules might be practically the same, but did you really expect the Storyteller system to be totally revamped?

Ok, to summarise - I must admit I am disappointed by the Second Edition, as far as it's look and feel goes. I'll never stop bitchin' about the cover, you know...

However, having said that, I do feel it was worth the money I paid for it, although I'll be hanging onto my copy of first edition, for various reasons, including the fact that it is sexier... :)

Even if you have W:tA v1, I think that v2 isn't a bad buy... It's a better book layout-wise, even if you cring when you look at the cover. ;)

Well, there's my two pennies worth. Reactions?


Review by Darren MacLennan for rpg.net (22 May 2000)

Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)

Werewolf stands as one of White Wolf's more successful games, and it did a lot to set the spiritual tone of the World of Darkness - much more so than Vampire, whose focus was much more insular, and focused on vampiric society. Werewolf actually went ahead and looked at the World of Darkness - what was making it such a lousy place to live in. The Garou - werewolves - are supernatural defenders of the Earth, fighting against the corruption of the Wyrm and the sterile order of the Weaver. However, the Garou have been making mistakes for the last few millenia, and now, as the Apocalypse approaches, the Garou's numbers are low and they're fighting a losing battle. The only hope is that the Tribes of the Garou can mend the ties that they've broken and unite against the Wyrm. Otherwise, the Apocalypse will destroy the Garou, and most of the earth along with them.

Werewolf is also one of those games that made me initially grit my teeth and shake my head, alternately. While it is an interesting game, it suffers from a number of problems, some of which will hopefully be fixed in the Revised edition of the game coming out soon. Besides suffering from the perception of being an all-combat game, rabid stereotyping, and a somewhat crippling sense of hopelessness, Werewolf also springs from the early Nineties, when tree-hugging hippie crap ruled the field. At points, Werewolf gave me the impression that it was the insufferable Captain Planet in role-playing form. It isn't, to be sure, but the game can lapse into straw-man villains and self-importance.

In any case: Going by the main book, the PCs are Garou, from the Thirteen Tribes, who have existed since prehistoric times. Their society is stratified into different levels of ranking and birth. The phase of the moon under which you're born actually determines what role you'll take, whether it's a judge, or a bard, or a warrior. And your point of origin - human, wolf, or the product of a Garou/Garou mating - also determines what you're like. And then therre's your tribe, which encompasses a rough stereotype to play to, or against. So, once you've finished, you'll have something like the below. Play with the drop lists below; generate your own Garou.

Homid
Metis
Lupus
Silver Fang
Black Fury
Silent Strider
Glass Walker
Bone Gnawer
Shadow Lord
Child of Gaia
Fianna
Uktena
Wendigo
Get of Fenris
Red Talons
Stargazer
Ragabash
Theurge
Philodox
Galliard
Ahroun

What I'm trying to point out here is that Werewolf is one of White Wolf's most segmented games. Rather than relying on role-playing to determine what your character is roughly like, the game uses a number of factors to determine your general personality.

Is this a good thing? It can be. It provides an immediate hook for those who aren't familiar with role-playing; if you want a character who likes telling stories, then you can have a Galliard, and if you want to boot in some head, you can play an Ahroun. If you're looking for a more subtle role-playing experience, then take a Ragabash, or a Theurge, or a Philodox - trickster, shaman and judge, respectively. While the Ahroun - warriors - tend to shade towards the combat game, the other Auspices can be played as more than just the stereotypical grab-something-and-kill-it school of role-playing.

But it also takes away from possibilities, too. If you're an Ahroun, you're expected to fight; if you're a Philodox, you're supposed to be a judge. There's a fair amount of possibility within the different Auspices, but if you have a character concept that doesn't fit, you'll either have to ignore the Auspice system or figure out how to shoehorn what you do into a particular mold. One of the themes mentioned in the original Werewolf Player's Guide is that Garou culture is repressive - that's one of the challenges of being a Garou, to balance out the demands of being a shapeshifter with being a normal human, or a normal wolf. It's a role-playing challenge, but it's not necessarily one that I'm overwhelmingly fond of.

There's also the addition of breed forms - what you were before you Changed for the first time. Humans and wolves have it relatively easy, although wolf characters can't take certain skills. The ones who really have it bad are the Metis, who are the product of a forbidden Garou/Garou coupling; every Metis character has a deformity of some kind, marking them in Garou society and turning them into quasi-outcasts within their own society. On the other hand, they're able to detect the Wyrm, and they're naturally in the Garou war form. They're a nice addition to the game.

The game starts sliding into being almost silly when you hit the Thirteen Tribes, though; it's here where the bulk of the stereotypes live. The Bone Gnawers are street bums, the Shadow Lords are mustache-twirling villains, the Get of Fenris are Schwarzenegger-esque German/Norse butt-kickers, the Fianna are hard-drinking, jolly Irish stereotypes - there's even the word "laddie" in their tribal quote. Some might like that; me, I thought that it was about a step away from just having the Fianna tribe eternally trying to get their Lucky Charms away from the Wyrm.

At the same time, some of the tribes have more potential. The Uktena and the Wendigo are left over from the European colonization of the Americas; one continues to tend the sleeping monsters of the new continent, while the other tends to its wounds and tries to drive out the European settlers. The Silent Striders, exiled from their homeland, wander the earth and the Shadowlands, bringing news of the Wyrm to different Garou caerns. The Stargazers are mystics and martial artists, the philosophers of the Garou. The Glass Walkers have adapted to the world of Man, as cyber-wolves, street thugs, and even Mafia dons. (Yeah, it's stereotypical, but there's more to the Glass Walkers than just the Mafia Don / cyberpunk stereotype.) The Silver Fangs, while nominally the heroes and leaders of the Garou nation, have been interbreeding for so long that the average Silver Fang has a mental instability or two. The Red Talons, an all-wolf tribe, are slowly dying, and advocate for a return to the Impergium - when the Garou culled the ranks of humans in order to keep them under control. There are interesting concepts to be found here, or stereotypes that can be fleshed out into something more.

Besides the ability to regenerate astonishing amounts of damage every turn, boost their physical attribtues by changing into a Crinos war-form, act more than once in a turn with Rage, and inflict aggravated damage with teeth and claws, the Garou also have assorted mystic abilities that are given to them by assorted spirits. At early levels, they aren't much; towards the higher levels, you're doing stuff like causing localized earthquakes, creating a shadow pack of other Garou, turning your fur into silver, and the like. A lot of these powers seem explicitly comic-bookish, like a Black Fury power that lets you shoot your claws, something like darts, or a paralyzing stare, or the ability to turn invisible, or having the trees in a local area come alive to fight on your side. Others seem to draw their inspiration from mythic folklore, like being able to run for three days straight, or summon a fire spirit for a single task, or keep an eye on the Umbra - the spirit world - at all times. In a sense, that's one of the major impressions that I get from Werewolf - it can't decide whether it wants to be about comic book werewolves fighting evil, or a primitive tribe of shapeshifters who are stranded in a world that's passed them by.

There's also rituals for the Garou, and this is meant to convey some of the atmosphere of Garou culture. I was going to complain that the Rites are wasted space, but they really aren't - although there 's one Rite of Punishment too many, there are a lot of good rites here, and they suggest a lot about Garou culture that isn't explicitly spelled out.

What is spelled out, in great detail, is the Umbra - the "spirit world" that rests right next to our own. There's actually several different layers to the whole thing, much like Planes in AD&D; there's the Penumbra, which mirrors our own, as well as a dozen or so different Umbral realms which have their own physical laws. There's a lot of stuff that can be explored beyond the real world, including visits to Pangaea - where dinosaurs still exist - and the Scar, an industrial hell. Nothing is described in any tremendous detail, but there's enough to give a GM enough of an idea to wing it. The ranks of spirits, their kind and power, are described; and, most importantly, it's here that the Triat is described for the first. If you're wondering what the Wyrm is, here's the short form: The Wyld spits stuff out at random, the Weaver shapes it into something, and the Wyrm destroys anything that's outlived its usefulness; but the Weaver became sentient, and then went mad, and the Wyrm was caught and corrupted itself. Now, the Weaver tries to industrialize the entire world while the Wyrm does what it can to corrupt and destroy everything in its path. Therefore, it's up to the Wyld, the Garou and their allies, to fight the Wyrm to a standstill, and, someday, restore it to its proper place of balance. (How the Weaver got out of control when 70% of the Earth is covered with water, most cities are small, and where every city worthy of the name has areas of forest isn't explained; this was written back when concern for the environment trumped common sense. And don't give me that "It's the World of Darkness" schtick, either.)

There's also rules for spirits. I found these confusing, mostly because Spirits seem to have one of the weirdest combat mechanics in the World of Darkness. Besides having points for Rage, Willpower, Gnosis and Power, they've got access to special Charms - abilities which let them throw fire, or ice, or sense a forest, or possess a being, or what have you. However, in order to use these powers, they burn up a set amount of Power - one point of Power for two dice worth of fire, or something along those lines. And damaging them also reduces the amount of Power that they've got in reserve. So, in short, spirits can kick the hell out of themselves by using Charms, as well as being hit by various enemies. I have absolutely no idea how to run a combat between a Garou and a spirit, 'cause the book doesn't explain how often a spirit will use its Charms vs. its Rage, or simple materialization. If anything needs fixing in the rules - or a convenient explanation somewhere else - this is it.

Werewolf also introduced a rough form of experience system - as well as gaining experience for playing, Garou PCs gain points in Honor, Glory and Wisdom; once you top all three out, by performing various actions. Whack a Black Spiral Dancer? Five Glory. Learn the Silver Record completely? Seven Honor and eight Wisdom. Serve a sept loyally for a year? Gain a few points in each of them. You can also lose Renown just as quickly by screwing up, so there's consequences for actions that don't aid the Garou Nation. It's an interesting concept, and it fits in well with the game, but I'd rather stick with White Wolf's system; it's nice to have a second system involved for determining who did just what in terms of glory, but that seems like the kind of thing that'd best be done with role-playing.

The system itself is pretty decent. Although it isn't always played as such, combat is a big part of Werewolf; the system keeps up quite nicely.The basic system consists of rolling a set number of ten-sided dice and looking for results of seven or over. Every dice above that number counts as a success, and the number of successes determines how successful you were. The combat system is pretty nice too, although I've found that it slows down to a crawl in an online game. I've also been told that combats in Werewolf tend towards solid hits, with instant death, or a glancing hit that's swiftly regenerated in no time flat. I've had difficulty with spiritual combat, as mentioned above, but the average gaming group probably won't have the same kind of trouble.

The final chapter details antagonists, ranging from the relatively harmless - vampires and the Inqusition - to the ubiquitous fomori, humans who have been twisted into monstrous forms by Bane spirits. There's also the Black Spiral Dancers, an entire tribe of werewolves who have been warped by the Wyrm into hideous mockeries of the Garou form. If that isn't enough, there's also a host of spirits in the Umbra who need beatings, for one reason or another. Rounding out the book is a sample caern in Central Park, which has its own secrets to explore. It'll be a lot more helpful if you actually live in New York, since some of the things here sound downright fanciful - Belvedere Castle? I'm sure that it exists, but it doesn't really have the same kind of local kick that it would to somebody who actually has been to, or lives in, New York.

So, in the final anaylsis, what is Werewolf? It's two games. One of them is a comic-book style game about fighting the evil minions of the Wyrm and saving the world; the other is about a dying race, and its struggles to survive, and a tribal culture that's slowly dying as the world leaves it behind. You can do one or the other; the book is written for both. But as it's written, it's confusing, unsure of what it really wants to be, and that hurts it.

The art is pretty decent; some of it is utterly wretched (cough cough cough SCAR cough cough), while the rest of it gets the job done. There's a lot of finely shaded artwork by the inestimable Ron Spenser, whose vision looks like it came from a richly gray Hell, and a fight between two of the game's signature characters running through the entire combat section, the characters splashed across the entire page. It doesn't exactly catch the atmosphere of Werewolf, but it does the trick.

Apropos to nothing, I'll give negative points for the conversion rules for Renown from first to second edition Werewolf. The old version of Renown, in the first edition, had Glory scores listed in thousands of points, or something along those lines; you got 2,000 Glory and 5,000 Honor for an action, rather than 1 Glory and 2 Honor. However, the suggestion given in Werewolf 2nd ed is that you check the Renown charts in the first edition of Werewolf and then figure out how close the old, 1st edition amount gets you to a new rank of Glory. In other words, figure out what 5,000 Glory in the old system equates to in the new system.

Which is easy.

IF YOU OWN WEREWOLF: 1st EDITION.

Otherwise, you'd be better off just translating the Renown in the old supplements by checking the charts provided in Werewolf: 2nd Ed.

Anyways, would I recommend it? Yes, especially to beginning role-players; it's got the stratification, easy motives, mechanized advancement sytem and heavy combat that younger and/or beginning players like; and, if there are older gamers in the group, they can take advantage of the more subtle issues behind Werewolf. The books on the other Changing Breeds, ranging from weresnakes to werespiders to wereravens, offer a lot more, and there's more stuff coming out every day. Obviously, I'd wait until the Revised edition is out, but if you can't wait, then I can recommend this product.