That was Then, This is Now
Comparing Werewolf: the Forsaken and Werewolf: the Apocalypse
Here we are again. Six months later (well, seven) and we have a new World of Darkness
"fatsplat" to look at. Back in October 2004, we looked at
Requiem and the New World of Darkness , which had been released in August 2004.
This month, we'll look at the changes that
White Wolf made to it's Werewolf Game with the
release of Werewolf:
the Forsaken in March 2005. And I expect to be
finishing the trilogy of comparative reviews with the September 2005 issue as Mage:
the Awakening is scheduled to be released at Gen-Con 2005 this August.|
But for now, let's look at Werewolf.
BooksThe old World of Darkness (oWOD) that began in Vampire: the Masquerade was continued in the second release, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, a ruddy brown soft cover with the image of trees visible through four parallel slash marks. While a cool effect, the tree image was in fact the internal cover page, and the slash marks went through the cover, making it the most easily damaged portion of the book. The pages were framed, and the fonts consistently readable throughout. Werewolf: the Forsaken adds a third book to the new World of Darkness(nWOD), this one a coppery brown with silver title. Following the design layout established in the previous two books, the chapter splash pages are dark with white text, and not necessarily in clearly readable fonts, but otherwise the layout is clean and quite readable.
I like the layout and consistency of Werewolf: the Forsaken better, though the differences between the two books aren't as great as they were with Vampire. And really, once compared to the Second Edition of Werewolf, I can only say I like Forsaken better because of personal aesthetics. The consistency with the established books is a plus, and continues the theme of having all of the games of the nWOD compatible, even in the visuals.
SystemAs I played Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and didn't play Vampire: the Masquerade, I naturally gave the system differences between Apocalypse and Forsaken more attention than I did between Masquerade and Requiem. This attention also extended more to the differences in the worlds, but I'll talk more about that later.
The core system differences between the Storyteller and Storytelling systems were touched on in my previous article, so I'll be looking mostly at the changes that are unique to Werewolf. And while there aren't a huge number, there are certainly more changes between the two Werewolf games than there were between the Vampire games.
First and foremost, is the consistency of the number and nature of the traits between Werewolf and Vampire/Mortals. In the oWOD, the only things you could count on to be consistent between the various core games were the attributes and Willpower, and maybe a handful of the skills. Now, because of the template technique where you start by making a mortal and then applying the supernatural template of your choice, the number of dissimilar traits is limited to the "Powerstat," the morality scale, and the unique powers. While this compatibility was talked about in Requiem, it wasn't until I got my hands on Forsaken that the promise was visibly carried through.
In both Forsaken and Apocalypse, Werewolves call their special powers "gifts", which are rated from one to five. In the oWOD, these gifts were in meandering lists for each Auspice, Tribe and Breed, and repeats between the gift lists were, while not common, certainly not uncommon either. It was also possible, though expensive and sometimes story-breaking, for any werewolf to have any Gift so long as he had the Renown required to have the Gift. In the nWOD, these gift lists are more thematic, and shorter. Each Auspice (phase of the moon determining what your role is in Werewolf society) and Tribe has access to three lists. One list per Auspice is unique to that auspice alone, but otherwise, all Gifts are still accessible to all werewolves.
I find the Gifts are much better organized now, and most of my favorites from the old game made a return in some way or another, including the Wyrm-ometer (formerly Sense Wyrm, now split into Sense Malice and Scent of Taint). Having some Gifts now unique to a given auspice is both nice and a bit irritating at times, but understandable. The one thing I truly did miss however, was not so much a change to the Gift System, as something that was done in Requiem that I wish had been done in Forsaken. In both games, they encourage the Storyteller to create their own powers (Disciplines and Gift lists, respectably), but in Requiem, they also provided some guidelines and advice on how to create a new Discipline. There was no such entry for Gifts in Forsaken. However, with all the rest of the information included, I can understand why. It's still something I missed, if not something truly needed by an experienced gamemaster.
Renown, the system for judging the werewolf's rank, has gone through many changes since the first edition of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and I think they've finally gotten it right. In Apocalypse, it was on the storyteller to judge how much Renown was won and how it was recognized. In Forsaken, Renown now costs XP, and the storyteller simply has veto rights on the XP expenditure, as with everything else. Which way is better is probably a matter of personal preference, but there's no longer a huge checklist which can lead to characters running away with a certain category (I'm thinking of Glory in Apocalypse) and giving a substantial edge to certain Auspices progressing faster than others simply due to the combat nature of the game.
Speaking of combat, we now come to the heart of playing a Werewolf: the forms. Forsaken keeps the five forms of Apocalypse, but changes their importance and style. The War form, that of a nine plus feet tall wolf man, is no longer a form in which everything can be done. It is now truly a form for war which can only be held for so long. Raging and Frenzy are also much more dangerous, in my opinion, in Forsaken than they were in Apocalypse. Something which I think better suits the horror aspect of the World of Darkness.
WorldAnd here, as with Requiem, is where the changes between the old and the new are the boldest, starting with the very language. The Garou of Apocalypse used a language that was a mish-mash of words presumably intended to give the appearance that the language of the Garou was another Indo-European language. In Forsaken the first tongue of the Uratha actually feels like its own language. A constructed language, true, but its own language none the less. Garou were a union between Wolf and Man, and could be one of three breeds (Born of Man, Born of Wolf, or Born of Garou). If they were not born of Garou (which was something that was supposed to be a lot rarer than they seemed), then the Garou would discover the truth of their heritage somewhere around puberty. Uratha, on the other hand, are a merger of Spirit and Flesh. Born of humans, their true nature can come out at any time after puberty, though usually somewhere in their twenties or thirties. Considering that one of my biggest gripes with the setting of Apocalypse was that there was no sense of the Garou Culture for those raised among them, either as kinfolk or as Metis, I see this as a significant improvement. I do miss the Wolf-born, but not enough to consider their absence in Forsaken a flaw.
The purpose of the Garou and the purpose of the Uratha are also rather different. For the Garou, discovering the truth about their heritage meant being drafted into an army fighting for the survival of the earth, a losing battle in the old World of Darkness. For the Uratha, their duty is not quite so clear. According to the legend provided in the book, they are to take up the duty of their father and patrol the borders between the world of the Spirit and the world of the Flesh, and maintain the balance between the two. However, it's not an automatic duty, though there are system penalties for not undertaking that task. I really appreciate the flexibility of the new "duty" of the werewolves. Eco-terrorists playing furry Captain Planet are still viable, as are characters who really don't care about Earth more than "I keep my stuff there."
One of my favorite changes between the two has much less to do with Werewolves and a lot to do with Vampires and the afore mentioned Wyrm-ometer. In Apocalypse, if it was evil, odds were good it had Wyrm-taint. There were very few evils that weren't some form of corruption, and corruption was the essence of the Wyrm-taint. Which meant that Vampires, even ones that were relatively "good" were automatically considered evil, and therefore the enemy. As written originally, the Sense Wyrm gift came across as somewhat Boolean, which made things difficult as I was trying to run a crossover campaign. So instead we created the Wyrm-ometer, which measured the level of "evil", and therefore made it possible for the Werewolf characters to interact with most of the protagonist Vampire characters. While there are Gifts that similarly detect taint and malicious intent, there is no longer the "sense the bad-guy" ability. Vampires are no longer inherently the enemy of the Werewolves. Heck, major corporations and city folk are no longer suspect, allowing a Storyteller even more customization about the source of the enemy.
However, I'd have to say my favorite change is the addition of a morality trait. I discuss it here under World rather than under System for one very important reason. Two and a half pages are dedicated to explaining what the different levels of Uratha Morality, called Harmony, mean. From those two and a half pages, I got a clearer picture of Urathan society than I ever got for Garou society, even after thirty plus books. While I may not fully like the moral choices available to the Uratha, I understand why they are in place, and it makes the Uratha seem equally alien and human, which is, in my mind, just exactly how something half spirit and half flesh should be.
One thing that's missing, however, are other shape-changers. In the new World of Darkness, there are no were-tigers, or were-coyotes, or were-sharks, or were-anything else. At least, not in the same sense as the Uratha, that is, creatures born of spirit and flesh. There are certainly ways to create your own were-whatever, if you look more carefully at the legends and think about what would truly be the best way to recreate that creature. I liked the Fera (other were's) in the old World of Darkness, but I understand why they are not part of the new Werewolf game. They haven't been eliminated, they are just relegated to another creation method, one that I can certainly do on my own if White Wolf doesn't get around to making their own.
So, do I like the new Werewolf? Yes. I find it continues the promise of a more unified World of Darkness, with no Metaplot to run away from me if I choose not to buy a book or two. I like the lack of drafting into a futile battle to save the world, and I like the human upbringing of all Uratha, giving them a more unified origin, and removing the need to get inside a truly alien mindset (wolf) to play the character. The system better supports this new world, something I'm always in favor of, and what I see here gives me great hopes for Mage: the Awakening, which is said to be the most different from its predecessor, and also the game I most enjoyed of the three that they are creating. I continue to recommend the New World of Darkness. For some people the changes may be too much, for others not enough. While I actually have no opinion on if there are enough changes, I do feel that the ones they made are the right ones.
Copyright 2004-2005 The Lady Gamer. All rights reserved.