Minds Eye Theatre is the LARP version of the various rules for White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting. As I have little knowledge about LARP and do not particularly like it, I will mostly voice my opinion on how useful this book is for traditional pen-and-paper games instead.
I should mention that this book was a gift from Teylen, an avid World of Darkness fan and good friend. Otherwise, I have little connection to the WoD and rather play OSR games. Thus, I will not review the game in regard to WoD canon, but rather how well it stands on its own, and how it compares to the Vampire rules and the Gamma Slice I reviewed some time ago.
Design and Organization
Generally, not much changed compared to Vampire: the Masquerade. There are 800 pages with dense writing and a couple full page pictures of werewolves that are probably meant to symbolize the different tribes (at least the symbols align with the symbols shown in the tribe chapter). The layout is not fanciful, but mostly well done. I would welcome markings on the outer margins to quickly find the beginnings of chapters, generally reading the book is easy, but finding something is difficult. Also, in some cases the book refers to terms that are only explained later without linking to them.
The short stories between the chapters are less coherent than the ones in Vampire. Where Vampire offers one character that leads you through the different steps of playing a Vampire, Werewolf constantly changes characters and mainly concentrates on beating stuff up. They do not help me at all in playing a werewolf, unless this is meant to be a tabletop skirmish game.
Whereas Vampire played simply in a slightly more gothic version of our own world, the world of Werewolf is a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of our world. Just a couple years ago, the werwolves fought a host of invading Wyrm forces (the Wyrm is the main antagonist in Werwolf) to a standstill, hardly keeping any of their Caerns (sacred wolf’s den) intact.
Recently, they defeated several of their enemies though and even managed to find a way to create new Caerns. If they manage to keep them intact for a couple years, the damage will be healed. Of course, the Wyrm sends his forces to destroy them, and several other supernatural creatures are keen on using them for their own purpose as well.
The metaphysical background for the Werewolf worlds are three spirits: The Wyrm (destroyer), the Weaver (keeper), and Gaia (creator). Originally, all three of them kept each other in balance, but the Wyrm got caught in the Weaver’s net, and now everything is going down the drain because the balance shattered. Also, humanity used the chance to break free from the weaver, which somehow results in the world becoming more and more attuned to the weaver. That, again, prevents the werewolves from keeping humans developing technology (as Gaia commanded them), which in turn means that the werewolves cannot do their job anymore.
Except for the Red Talons (one of the werewolf tribes), nobody seems to mind though, and I absolutely do not understand why. Werewolfs were created to keep humanity in check, but mostly ignore them (and occassionally defend them against the Wyrm). Some werewolves even manage to live and work in cities, even though that should (by the rules) drive any human in their vicinity insane within less than two hours. In Vampire, I had a reason why my character tried to remain humane (and how he did so), but there is no such reason for Werewolves whatsoever. This makes Werewolves a much more monstrous game than Vampire in my opinion: In vampire you mourn for your lost humanity, whereas in Werewolf you simply do what needs to be done, in this case commiting as much genocide as you can with your limited ressources.
Even though the game is called Werewolf, there are plenty other Fera (animals that can change into human form) around. They mostly get along, and are mechanically similar to werewolves. The biggest exception are the were-spiders, which are working for the Weaver instead of Gaia.
The organization of shaperchangers is much more convulated than that of Vampires. For Vampire, you decide for one of two sects and a clan. For Werewolves, you have the Garou nation (a confederacy of all werewolfs and some Fera), and a couple unaffiliated Fera. Within the Garou nation, there are two parties: The Confederacy of Stars (Progressive Shapechanger Party) and the Gaia Nation (Conservative Shapechanger Party). All tribes (and some Fera) belong to one of the two parties. Then you have tribes, a bunch of wolves who consider themselves related by blood and share certain characteristics. Within each tribe (and most Fera), you also find three camps (usually sages, rogues and fighters). On the last political level, werewolves belong to septs (villages) and packs. On a mythical level, they also have to choose an Auspice, which influences their abilities.
Even though there seems to be way more options compared to Vampire (which only had clans and sects), I feel much more shoehorned in creating my character. The games uses many of those units, but they seem incoherent and convuluted.
Werwolf brings a whole bunch of new rules along, but keeps the basis rules from Vampire with just a few cosmetic changes (supernatural beings are now allowed to use smartphones to call people and to send text messages, for example). You still play rock-paper-scissors to figure out who won, with skills acting as tie-breakers.
The rather simply Humanity and Blood mechanic of Vampire has been increased to a combination of Gnosis, Rage, Seethe, Harano and Wyrm Taint. All of those are gained and lost differently, and used for different purposes. Where in Vampire you may fall to the Beast that lurks within, in Werewolf you can fall victim to the Curse, into Frenzy or into Despair.
As additional social rules, there are Challenges, which regulate strife between werewolfs, and Moots, which solve political problems. This all on top of the system for Renown and Favours that were already introduced with Vampire.
Now, the news rules are not necessarily bad. Often, they are used for excellent effect, for example the combination of totem, sept and auspices is just great. It is just the sheer amount of different stats that are overwhelming.
After reading VtM, I had an idea how to play Vampire – after reading Werewolf, I was completely at a loss. After reading Vampire, I understood why the Vampires do what they do and why they are organized the way they are organized. With Werewolf, everything seems to be slightly out of touch, as if somehow artifically imprinted an external frame onto the setting. Vampire: the Masquerade could get away with medicore rules because of its immense flavour and evocative setting. With Werewolf, the setting seems just as mediocre as the rules.
I do not like Werewolf: the Apocalypse, it lacks everything that I liked about Vampire. I can only imagine using Werewolf as an inspiration for a setting of my own, but could not imagine playing it as written.