Review: Armory for the World of Darkness
Gaming attracts people with eclectic backgrounds and interests, which occasionally puts Gamemasters in situations where their players
know more than they do. I know I personally have run for gun-bunnies, ex-military, re-enactors, Nippon-philes and even one ex-CIA
(I think). As someone whose understanding of weapons was, and still is, generally limited to "Swords are Pretty" and "Guns are Loud,"
I am more than occasionally in this situation in the games I run. So sourcebooks about weapons and combat are useful to me if only
because they provide mechanics for weapons that I do not have the knowledge to create stats for myself.
Unfortunately, lists of statistics and brief descriptions (if that) tend to be about all these equipment guides provide, meaning that I don't
actually learn anything from them except the stats and descriptions.
So when I purchased Armory for White Wolf's new World of Darkness, I was expecting more of the same. I was in for a very pleasant surprise.
Armory is a 215 page hardcover, using the fonts and colors of the World of Darkness Corebook, making it a decent sized, clear to read tome. After the prologue and introduction, the book has six chapters; five of which cover different types of equipment, the last covering acquiring and legalities in the World of Darkness; and an appendix with new merits relating to weapons and combat. The structure of those equipment chapters sets Armory apart from other modern equipment books. Each equipment chapter contains essays on the basics of constructing and normal usage of the equipment within the chapter, and then how those uses apply mechanically to the World of Darkness. The Cult Leader is using a bone dagger to kill the sacrifice, so how much does Bone modify the dice pool anyway? The answer is on page 18. You're facing a werewolf, so what sort of modifier is silver? Page 19. How much damage will you dish out if you grab the belt-sander in the basement and apply it to the Werewolf's face? Page 39. How soon will the cops get there if a neighbor calls them just before the initiative roll? Well, it may take a little math, but the sidebar on police vehicles starts on page 133, and the speed (in yards per turn) can be found on page 135. About the only thing I didn't find was my favorite Redcap creation: an aluminum baseball bat with circular saw blades embedded in the end.
One area that some people doubtless will find, and have found, disappointing is the lack of subtle differences between many weapons. The reasons for this lack, however, are simple. First, the Storytelling system combines a weapon's Accuracy and Damage into a single modifier, and second, the Storytelling System is a dramatic system that paints it's mechanics in broad strokes rather than subtle nuances. These two elements combine to make the difference between one modifier and the next broader than the differences between many weapons.
Chapter six is the slimmest chapter, but also the most useful for a Storyteller, as it covers the way real world laws interact with using the equipment discussed in the book. Not only does it cover accurate, real world federal law in the United States, but it also briefly covers law in many other major nations as well. The coverage might seem sparse, but Law and Order in the World of Darkness will be further covered in the upcoming Tales from the 13th Precinct. The sparse coverage can be forgiven, and it's certainly enough for a Storyteller to work with - unless one of her players is a police officer; in that case she should be making use of the information that player has. But that is a subject for another article.
For someone who really doesn't care about the subtle differences between weapons, Armory is an excellent resource. The sidebars and general instructions on the use and construction of the weapons are useful and informative, and the broad scope of weapons and equipment covered should cover the needs of most storytellers. For players and Storytellers looking for more subtle variances more accurately representing the differences between weapons, Armory may be fairly disappointing, but it's usefulness should not be discounted, as the information in the sidebars is still valuable. I find Armory to be one of my best purchases for the new World of Darkness.