Recently, I reviewed Mind Eye’s Theatre: Vampire the Masquerade. Now, I was made aware that By Night Studio are writing a second Mind Eye’s Theatre rule set: Werewolf The Apocalypse. I was curious how the rules evolved compared to Vampire and, because the playtest version is freely available, I decided to download and review it.
The tribes are a mixed bag: Some are much more interesting than the clans in Vampire, others are even more boring. Whereas the clans were based on occupations, the tribes are based on political stances. On the one hand, that is more interesting, on the other, it is always a bit dangerous to connect a population with a single political stance.
Both the Black Furies and the Gets of Fenris are truly monstrous, but they recently had to choose between adaptation and extinction. Even though they chose adaptation, not all members agreed and tensions remain high between traditionalists and modernizers. I find them thrilling and horribly disturbing at the same time.
On the other hand, you have the Bone Gnawers and the Children of Gaia, flawless Goody Two-Shoes. They definitely need some flaws and plenty internal strife to become interesting, just as the Black Furies and the Gets of Fenris needed some humanity to become playable.
The Red Talons are their evil twin, trying to wipe out humanity, and as uniformly infernal as the other two are divine. I see no way to make them an interesting tribe, they would work much better as a group that draws fanatics from all tribes (similar to the Sabbat in Vampire: the Masquerade).
The Fianna seem rather superfluous, they only stand out due to their connection with the fae and that tie was severed. What remains are basically Silver Fangs: a tragic formerly noble group. Just that the Silver Fangs caused their own demise while the Fianna suffer an external curse.
All in all, the werewolf tribes could greatly profit from stronger ties with each other. I would encourage to add a small side box with a short phrase stating the tribe’s standing with other tribes. (The vampire clans suffer from a similar problem.)
Werewolves are created almost exactly like vampires, most differences are purely cosmetic: Rank replaces generation, tribe replaces clan, and so on. In addition, werewolves must choose an Auspice (class) and a Breed (human, wolf or mongrel). Also, werewolves can form packs which offer them additional totem bonuses.
Strangely, despite the additional choices, I feel more shoehorned than I felt when reading the Vampire rules.
Just as vampires have supernatural disciplines, werewolves have supernatural gifts. The descriptions suffer from the same weaknesses as those from Vampire: the Masquerade, lack of an overview in technical language and rules hidden in prose. In most cases, they are mechanical identical to vampire disciplines, just with a new air.
Merits & Flaws
Those are mostly rewritten merits and flaws from Vampire: the Masquerade. I fail to see how Spirit Magnet is a merit, as it seems to do as much harm as it does good. Also, why is Amnesia a flaw? Just like Fallen Hero and Haunted, it offers free XP without mechanical repercussions (and even forces the storyteller to pay you attention).
Weaver Ineptitude is completely open to storyteller interpretation, leaving you at the mercy of the storyteller’s whim. Can you even pass automated platform doors for public transports with this flaw? I would greatly prefer if that was more quantified, like “whenever you tie a test in [list of technical skills], you are considered to have lost the test instead. You can spend willpower to retest as usual.” Having to face dramatic consequences is usually much more fun than simply being banned from doing something.
Except for the mentioned merits and flaws, they seem well-balanced though.
They are identical to those from Vampire: the Masquerade, including the Pierce the Heart combat manoeuvre. They did not even add werewolf specific conflict rules.
Rage and Gnosis
Rage has two effects: First of all, it controls how much in control the werewolf is. In this regard, it is similar to a vampire’s Humanity. On the other hand, it also increases a werewolf’s prowess. That is actually quite nifty, as that turns rage into a mixed blessing: Player will want rage, but have to careful that it does not spiral out of control. This addresses my main complaint with the Humanity concept.
Gnosis equates to blood points from Vampire: the Masquerade. It is used to power merits and gifts and can be lost and gained under specific circumstances.
Those are side-adventures in the Umbra (the spirit realm), which shift some of the responsibility for preparing and running a scenario from the storyteller to players. Any interaction with the Umbra is resolved with quests.
Equipment and Fetishes
A building kit for mundane and magical enhanced gear. One can add qualities to any tool required to create, from a beautiful brooch to a lighting throwing trident.
By and large, the Werewolf: the Apocalypse rules built upon the rules of Vampire: the Masquerade and improve them. I can imagine using the Quest rules for quickly preparing a side-adventure in my pen-and-paper campaigns.