Retro Recall: Werewolf The Apocalypse

March 12, 2019 by brennon

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As with most things in geekdom, it comes in waves. For me, as the early 2000s rolled through and I got further into my teenage years  The Matrix happened and whilst I still loved Elves and Dwarves I was totally won over by leather, guns and altogether darker fantasy elements. That's where Werewolf: The Apocalypse came in.

Retro Recall: Werewolf The Apocalypse

Whilst many people who got embroiled with the World Of Darkness started out with Vampire: The Masquerade my friends and I cut out teeth on Werewolf. One of my pals came back from the local gaming store with this awesome book that had a huge claw mark across the front of it and was packed with amazing illustrations of people turning into badass Werewolves.

My friends and I were instantly hooked and Werewolf became THE game we stuck around to play through on a weekend. It was packed with furious action, brutal and bloodthirsty combat, wild and evocative characters and enemies that weren't Orcs and Goblins but something altogether more insidious.

What Is Werewolf: The Apocalypse?

Werewolf stuck you in the furry shoes of The Garou (even the name sends chills down my spine even now), defenders of Gaia looking to protect the world before it falls to the titular Apocalypse of the game's title. It dealt with grown-up themes surrounding the sometimes painful and harrowing First Change and how you, as a Werewolf, now have to live amongst human society. Not only did many still have to deal with the situations that face everyday folk but the shadowy world now exposed to them.

Werewolf Tribes - Werewolf The Apocalypse

As well as dealing with the dangerous Pentex organisation (man I hate those guys) you were also having to deal with other supernatural beings like Vampires, Changelings, Mages and humans bestowed with powers called Hunters. There was also the agents of the Wyrm and the Weaver in the background, pulling the strings and threatening not only our material plane but also the Umbra (a shadowy sideways realm) too.

If that wasn't bad enough there was also a corrupted and twisted tribe of Werewolves known as the Black Spiral Dancers who were out for your blood!

This came together to create a role-playing game all about tough decisions, backstabbing, shadowy organisations, betrayal and lots of furious and bloody fighting. We freckin' loved it.

Fond, Funny (And Brutal) Memories

I have played newer versions of Werewolf but none of them hit the same note as Apocalypse did. Forsaken is great, and I like the twists they made in the way Werewolves were developed but I can still remember all of the different tribes, the Auspices and the forms that you could shapeshift into from memory from Apocalypse.

Werewolf Forms Alt - Werewolf The Apocalypse

Every one of the tribes had something fascinating and distinct about them and whilst in later years I would play Get Of Fenris (yay for Germanic/Viking Werewolves) I actually started out playing as a Silent Strider. I loved their Egyptian background, being driven out of their homeland by Vampires, now travelling the world as wanderers. I played as a character of the Philodox auspice, effectively the judges and mediators and man...he was a freckin' awesome dude.

Art #1 - Werewolf The Apocalypse

Being teenagers (and having watched The Matrix) we were obsessed with cool movie-style combat so most of our early games focused on getting stuck in and ripping the Wyrm a new one with hunts and ambushes at their places of power. My character had a spirit-infused weapon known as the Fang Scimitar and he was absurdly good with it. One of the nice things about the narrative system that drives Werewolf is that it encourages you to be descriptive with your actions. I was a bouncing furball of death, able to leap high and bring down bisecting blows on my foes with ruthless efficiency.

I don't just remember my own character either. We had a friend playing a Stargazer Theurge who was effectively our spiritual centre, offering up words of wisdom whenever we were about to throw ourselves into reckless assaults. My brother played a Red Talon Ahroun called Le'Jon who was an insane murder machine whilst another friend took on the role of a surly Get Of Fenris who had a love of sniper rifles and all things explosive.

Red Talons - Werewolf The Apocalypse

One particular memory stands out concerning my brother's character. We had just cornered and butchered some agents of the Wyrm when the cops showed up outside. We knew we'd get locked up if we stuck around so Le'Jon turned round to us and said...

"I'll keep them busy..." 

We thought he was as good as dead but all clambered up out of the back of the building we were in and slipped away through alleyways. Meanwhile, Le'Jon let out a howl and let the police open fire on him. He lept up into the ceiling in his Crinos (full-blooded werewolf) form as the bullets blasted through the brickwork. Our Storyteller described the scene, dust and more drifting down around him, the moonlight beaming through the holes in the ruined building and showing off his brutal, bloodstained form...the police's ammo spent.

Le'Jon then crashed through the front of the building, spending all of his Rage, smashed two police cars into twisted metal, tore the heads off two cops and vanished into the shadows like a shadowy nightmare. We thought it was the coolest thing we'd ever seen.

Silent Striders - Werewolf The Apocalypse

Another moment that stood out in my memory was when we had to actually stand up and do a bloody ritual in order to infuse a spirit into an appliance in our apartment. We actually (no word of a lie) stood up and danced around in a circle howling like lunatics until our Storyteller gave us a bonus for acting like fools. Still, it felt so cool...in a very nerdy way.

Ah man...then there was the time where we put our pack mate back together when he got riddled by a Gatling gun and the other time where (playing as a Lupus, a wolf-born werewolf) I thought that 'hacking' the computer meant cutting it in two. And then there wa...ahem, you get the picture.

A Hobby Of Its Own

Like with any good game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse drew us in so much that we ended up getting a lot of the supplementary books. We picked up many of the different sourcebooks for the various tribes, each snapping up one we were particularly interested in, and also a few that told alternative stories, even the Apocalypse itself.

Art #2 - Werewolf The Apocalypse

Werewolf: The Apocalypse invaded our geek lives and took over. We were obsessed with it and I still look back on it with immense fondness. Even writing this now brings a smile to my face. The system was a bit janky sure, and it was very easy to become a runaway killing machine, but it was so very different than everything we'd played before and encouraged us to become better role-players thanks to its systems and mechanics.

Maybe we missed a lot of the nuances of the world which we picked up later when playing Forsaken but for a bunch of not especially sporty geeky lads who were obsessed with martial arts movies, black leather trench coats and sunglasses in the dark...it was an excellent excuse to become wrecking balls of muscley fur and fury.

If you get a chance to pick up Werewolf: The Apocalypse, either the older editions of the 2013 20th Anniversary Edition, do so. It's an amazing world primed for intense adventures.

What was your first exposure to the World Of Darkness?

""I'll keep them busy..." "

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"...it was an excellent excuse to become wrecking balls of fur and fury"

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