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Apocalypse
 
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Apocalypse
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Apocalypse
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2019 03:16:48

SPOILERS BELOW (for a 15 year old game supplement)

Warning: I am not an expert at Werewolf, and so I will likely miss many, many things relating to metaplot and fine setting details. That said, those things are unlikely to improve this review, and I don't believe I can give it a worse one.

This book is bad. It is fractally bad. However closely you look at it, you find new levels of failure. It is quite clear that it was written in a hurry, barely edited at all, and that the creators heart just wasn't in it. I would have loved a good, well put together end of the world book for Werewolf. I learn systems by trying to break them, by seeing what happens in extreme situations, and what could be more extreme than the Apocalypse?

I'll start with an overall impression. The book has many spelling and grammatical errors, several layout errors (text that should be italicized isn't, for instance) and a huge number of more specific issues in each section, described below:

The initial fiction and the ending fiction are actually solidly written, if unimpressive to an outsider. I don't know if these are signature characters that we're supposed to know or the like, but they were uninspiring and failed to make me care about them, though the final moments of the ending fiction did manage a small amount of power, with the Striders abandoning hope of re-entering Egypt in order to fight in the Apocalypse.

The introduction is passable, and makes an attempt to explain why White Wolf was ending the World of Darkness. Given the 20th anniversary games and the 5th edition of Vampire, this seems kind of quaint in retrospect. But in any case, the reasons didn't come across as particularly strong ("We don't want to write The Book of Nature and Demeanor and devolve into crap!" well then maybe you should have put more effort into this book, because you did.)

Chapter One: The End Times In this chapter, the general run-up to the Apocalypse is discussed. This is actually the strongest chapter in the book. It covers the prophecies leading to the Apocalypse, the various strange events such as Anthelios in the sky, the Perfect Metis, and the prophecies of the Desperate One and of Zhyzhak. It also covers a few things that seem a bit out of place, especially given how they're handled in the remainder of the book, like "The Machine Awakens" about an AI being created at Rice University. More coherently, it talks about the attitudes and potential roles of the Fera, and then has the discussion of "The Other Games" is not a good start for the book. I understand wanting to avoid crossover in the final Werewolf book, to avoid diluting themes, but the later scenarios read as though the authors have forgotten that Mage is a part of the World of Darkness but have a soft spot for Vampire, bringing it up regularly. This is particularly egregious when they come up with scenarios that often can be solved by a single determined cabal of Mages, or else which morally should have a major role for a large group of them (and they don't hesitate to do things like give the Striders a final showdown with the Settites).

Chapter Two: The Last Battleground This is the first of four Apocalypse scenarios, and the best thought out (or perhaps least poorly thought out). It starts by describing three sacrifices needed to bring the Wyrm into the world, and the first one was the Vampire from the Week of Nightmares (Ravnos, to be specific, though they aren't), which plays up the lack of a coherent rule for them with respect to crossover. Now, this is where the bad editing is first evident, as they say the Week of Nightmares was in 1997, when it was 1999, there was a whole thing, company wide about it (the Reckoning!) and this has implications on the age of the perfect metis. In this, along with all the other scenarios, much is made of Zhyzhak's prophecy of grinding the last Gaian King under her heel. This is an easy prophecy to disrupt: get some snipers, give them silver bullets, go to town (also, if you have a high rank PC Silver Fang with a lot of True Breed, what stops them from picking up the crown and saying "Well I'm the king now." just to stop the prophecy?). No one Garou is immune to proper weapons. So either this is ludonarrative dissonance causing the whole scenario to fall apart in the hands of players, or else there needs to be some reason not to do this. As I said above, I'm not super-familiar with Werewolf, but given the setting, it's kind of ridiculous that the vast majority of Kinfolk don't go through paramilitary training and have stashes of weapons they can use to kill Black Spiral Dancers should the need arise. I'm putting this complaint here because I don't want to repeat it, but it goes for every single scenario in the book, and from what I can tell, is a significant issue with Werewolf. Kinfolk should be like the militia people out in Montana and the like, but the books want to paint them as helpless while still giving Werewolves weaknesses that humans can exploit to be threats.

Moving on, at least THIS scenario says something about mages, but...it doesn't say anything that makes sense. If magic is becoming more powerful and backlashes becoming rarer, mages can't help but become important elements of the story. If mages become more powerful, banes would have more trouble possessing them! Mages are high willpower, and many have significant spirit magics, and those without usually have allies that do. Even if the Garou wouldn't accept the help of mages, they would be unlikely to get a choice as mages would, despite the sidebar on them, notice what's going on and that leaves several world-spanning organizations of people who can remake reality itself looking to stop the Wyrm, seeing it as the source of the Nephandi, one of the few things that can cause the mystics and the technomages to set aside their differences.

The rest of the chapter is mostly OK. But the problems above are significant.

Chapter Three: A Tribe Falls This was the chapter I was really looking forward to. It should really reveal the true nature of the tribes, showing what happens if each of them falls to the Wyrm (or the Weaver!). This chapter can best be described as "lazy." Many of the Tribal Fall scenarios depend on them just being overwhelmed from outside and forced to fall rather than making it a consequence of their fundamental flaws and inner nature. The Weaver falls are particularly lazy, only getting one and a half pages for all the tribes together, and several of them being cop outs with "Oh, well, this is unlikely, so work hard to make it plausible" when I feel like making up a plausible way for it to happen is the job of the writers of this book. The discussion around how to handle the fall, other than talking about it being due to a "wave of corruption" or other such deus ex machina (diabolus ex machina?), it then proceeds to discuss what a fall to the Wyrm looks like for each Tribe. Most of them are tolerable. Not inspired but not horrible. Most of them that fall from their own actions just do so due to Hubris, rather than anything else, and not spectacularly Tribe-based hubris, either. Some of them fall from sheer stupidity, especially given that much of this assumes the Apocalypse is happening as they fall.

For example, the Furies fall to the Wyrm because they are panicking and absolutely will never ever ask the Weaver for help, even when the issue is that they are becoming fundamentally unstable. The Bone Gnawer fall is mostly OK, but it is followed by the Children of Gaia who fall from...hubris. One of them attempts to revive the lost Bunyip tribe, and this triggers the tribe to try to restore the Wyrm's sanity directly themselves. This is clearly stupid, and the writers kind of joke about how ridiculous it is by saying "someone botched a roll!" in describing why the ritual didn't work, suggesting this may have been RANDOM. The Fianna fall isn't terrible from an outside perspective, but depends on characters I don't know. The Get of Fenris fall is particularly stupid. No, the Wyrm doesn't get them through their eugenics, their racism problem, nothing of the sort. No, they chase the Spirals trying to kill them (non-specific hubris!) and then just...fall to the Wyrm because they are driven insane by the Wyrm because they went too deep. The Glass Walker fall is one of the better ones, with the tribal totem, Cockroach, joining the Wyrm as a method of survival, and the Tribe, influenced by that, starts to see the Wyrm as a path to living through the Apocalypse. The Red Talons (and the Wendigo for that matter) take no effort to convince me that they've fallen to the Wyrm, so we'll move on. The Shadow Lords have a decent fall, where they fail a significant quest to become the leaders (with their tribal totem) of Gaia's armies for the Apocalypse, and they lash out, letting their rage and despair get the better of them. The Striders fall is basically "Found a thing from Wraith, it's bad, maybe worse than the Wyrm" and it's not clear they're WRONG, so that's OK. The Silver Fang fall is another Hubris fall, but for the Silver Fangs, that MAKES SENSE. I like the general outline of this one, including them wiping out the Black Spiral Dancers because they are unworthy of serving the Wyrm. It is, however, still handled somewhat lazily. And finally, the Uktena basically succumb to the whispers of the banes they've been tending, the end of a long slow process. Not spectacular, but at least it focuses on something specific to the tribe.

Chapter Four: Weaver Ascendant I'm going to start this one by saying that the forces of stasis win, a tech company dominates the world, and the Technocratic Union isn't mentioned once, and if that's not damning enough, I'll continue. Because a more aggressive aspect of the Weaver shows up, one that's been gaining power since the Industrial Revolution: the Machine. And YET, NO MENTION OF ITERATION X OR THE TECHNOCRACY AS A WHOLE. This should be a great crossover scenario, where the Garou have to figure out if the Traditions can be trusted and fight the Technocracy. Instead, we get a lackluster "end of magic in the world" story where the most interesting action is happening in the board rooms where Shinzui conquers Pentex. (including the Special Projects Division, where Pentex and the Syndicate crossover, seriously, this scenario NEEDS Mage to function, but excludes it, though other Weaver-Wins scenarios could avoid it.) The most interesting point in this is the potential alliance between Gaian Tribes and the Black Spiral Dancers, as the Wyrm isn't the biggest threat anymore. The Ananasi play a major role, and that is also interesting, but the scenario as a whole doesn't seem (pun intended) woven together very tightly. Though that problem only gets worse in the final scenario.

Chapter Five: Ragnarok This scenario makes no sense and only vaguely attempts to actually use all the things it introduces. Plot threads (such as the AI in Texas) get mentioned and then dropped, sections transition in incoherent ways that SHOULD indicate that they flow logically into each other but they really, really don't, and despite trying to bring physics into things, there's a startling lack of correct physics. This is a kitchen-sink scenario where they just throw everything they can think of in and hope for the best. For instance, there's a box on one page that takes up about 2/3 of the page about the Singularity and the AI in Texas, and then...nothing else happens with it at all. The scenario involves Rorg, planetary incarna of the asteroid belt, chucking an asteroid at the Earth and (hopefully, because it's game over otherwise) Luna taking the hit...and apparently breaking into pieces so that not only do the pieces of the asteroid hit Earth but ALSO pieces of Luna. And the way they describe the aftermath, it's still more-or-less a planet killer, which is not how a broken up asteroid would affect the world on impact. (It does not escape me that there are similarities with The Earth Will Shake from Ascension, and this aspect of Apocalypse could dovetail in nicely with that, making Werewolves and Mages have to work together to negotiate with the planetary courts)

The story just keeps throwing stuff out, so that before one thing can be absorbed, it's on to the next. Periodically picked up and dropped but never actually started is a subplot about a bunch of werewolves and kinfolk hiding in the Umbra until the dust thrown up by the impacts settles down, there's a little bit about an ark (though not named as such) that comes right out of left field, there's earthquakes and the ground splitting open in Wyrm runes, there's great dragons waking up to destroy everything, Zhyzhak and Albrecht fight (shoot her!), a lot of discussion of where to have the final battle and then suddenly talking about things like if the PCs missed it to cower in the Umbra (which is possible, but any ST whose players do that should tell them how disappointing they are). It then presents four endings: Wyld, Weaver, Wyrm and...Exalted. Though the "Exalted" ending as described looks literally nothing like Exalted, instead it looks like...Werewolf but with depressing low technology instead of depressing high technology. That's it.

Chapter Six: The Last Tales This final chapter is advice on how to run the end game. It's not all bad, but there's two things that really stuck out. One of them is the suggestion of surprising your players with the Apocalypse. The book is FOR this. I repeat, FOR it. This is a BAD IDEA and will likely create bad blood with players who aren't ready to finish off the game, by forcing it on them. I'm going to close this review with a quote from the book, and I invite everyone to, before they pick it up, ask them if they agree with it, because it strongly applies here:

"Even a badly thought out conclusion works better than no conclusion."



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