I was a weird kid with tabletop roleplaying games (RPG’s) growing up. I played RPG’s with my friends, yes. The weird part was that I did not own a core book until high school (Changeling 2e was my first, but we’ll talk about that later this year). Every RPG I played was kind of cobbled together with no base rules system. I didn’t have enough money to buy a corebook, or rather I never saved up enough. The cheaper and shinier supplement books I did accumulate.
The most supplements I bought for a game line whose corebook I only owned last year was Werewolf the Apocalypse, which is a game about tribal werewolf superheroes fighting with spirit allies against Captain Planet-style enemies of the earth. Ridiculous, 90’s, and over-the-top fun for a game that’s way more fantasy than modern. “When will you Rage?” was the tagline. This system was near and dear to my heart, despite my weirdness, and I bought many supplements.
White Wolf recreated Werewolf in the new World of Darkness line as Werewolf the Forsaken (WtF). No longer did you play world roaming heroes. Now it was all about defending territory and surviving against all odds. The best description I heard for the game was you were playing a hated prison security guard trying to keep all the spirit and werewolf inmates in-line while the townies thought you were a destitute human. It was a good game, but it lacked the feeling of purpose. Entropy and erosion seemed like dominating themes instead of success.
The second edition is refined, and it is so good. Instead of playing a prison security guard, now you are more playing a vigilante. You have a system of support, the pack, instead of being merely fringe to society. The best part is that the game is all about the hunt. You can create a posse in the most brutal Western sense of the word and bring things to justice.
I remember reading in the first edition of WtF that spirits in the spirit world fled when packs of werewolves were on the hunt. Mechanically this never made sense. Now though, all the mechanics of WtF have been refined so it is about this hunt. For example, choosing a “race” (tribe) means in part you are choosing your favored prey.
Every hunt needs prey. Werewolves are killing machines, and their prey can take them one-on-one. They include powerful spirits, humans that have been claimed by spirits, weird spirit “hosts” such as spiders and rats, and other werewolves. Walking in to a white room to fight the prey is usually a bad idea for the werewolf player character. That’s why werewolves need to hunt.
The hunt starts almost every time with a ritual. The Siskur-dah (the Sacred Hunt) – many terms are based on this proto-Sumerian language the devs created by running Sumerian backwards through Grimm’s law – is key. This is the montage you get in action films where everybody is locking and loading. Each pack will have its own ritual for it. A mock hunt around a campfire with participants wearing masks could be one. Mechanically, this unlocks so many amazing powers like auto-adding to dice pools or creating more Conditions on the prey.
Conditions are with a capital “C” because they are modifiers that mechanically affect the game. A Condition could be “Drunk”, which provides mechanical modifiers to things, such as -2 to dexterity rolls and perhaps ignoring the first wound penalty. WtF takes this a step further and has Tilt Conditions, which are only used in combat. Being Hamstrung is a Tilt, and the goal of the system is throughout the hunt to apply many Tilts taking down the monstrous prey. By the time the werewolves go for the jugular the prey may be hamstrung, blinded, bleeding, and paranoid. You want the prey to feel like the victim of a horror movie.
That is awesome. I know I love in horror movies where the bad guy finally get what he deserves, and it’s not just a quick kill. It’s this prolonged make-it-hurt scene where karma comes around to slap the spit out of the bad guy. Finally, WtF in its second edition brings that feeling home. I’ve never seen an RPG where being able to look at your fellow players and say “it’s go time” has such resounding feeling. The only response is a sharp nod because something has to die.
Werewolf the Forsaken, 2nd edition, is available now in “beta” from DriveThruRPG.