i finally got sick of waiting for diamond to will-she-or-won't-she send me this guy, so i ordered it from our vendors. i've read through it before, on loan, & knew i was going to have to pick it up sooner or later. so, in total, here is the quick review: this has a lot of great ideas, a lot of poor choices, & mediocre art. i still like it, though; in total, it ends up being a good book, or source book, if you are like me, & you only care about skinning it for utility.
first thing first. me. i am running a fantasy game using world of darkness rules, so i don't much care about the actual content. i'm not going to crib it in it's entirety. really, it is the nuts & bolts that i like, & this book is pretty darn nut & bolt heavy. i'm particularly enchanted with totems, both the execution & the idea. don't expect to see them as they stand showing up in my game, but you can darn well brace yourself for some permutation. fetishes are no brainers-- werewolf is the only game (well, changeling, too) with magic items? that seems like a mistake to me. still, happy to have them. to be honest, i haven't perused the gifts so much, but i will at some point. oh, & as i think i've mentioned, i'm using some of the stuff on essence & loci for mike. so yeah, as far as a portable skeleton goes, hooray for me.
okay now. the story. this is the grab bag thing. like-- all the "wolf speak" jibber jabber. sorry, guys. i liked watership down a whole lot as well. but the "lets make up funny sounding words" thing just isn't working for me. nouns is one thing! anyhow, most of it doesn't seem very "wolf-capable" to me, though i guess it is meant to be spirit-tongue or...anyhow, i don't like it. the art...eh. some of the works are nice, but most of them are stuck in an attempt to be "kewl" or tough, & just end up seeming lame (i use the invention the was created to explain why the low charisma cleric of the god of death isn't scary: he thinks he is, but he is the fat guy in the crow make-up at the goth bar). like..."ooooohhh....tribal...." you know? & i don't think the font choices are doing anyone any favors.
as to the story, i like it. i like werewolves as caretakers of the spirit world, especially as it has so much real world precedent (thanks carlo ginzburg!). it does sort of bug me that the spirit world isn't entwined in the other games so much-- i think that would go a long way towards game integration across the product lines. neither here nor there. the pure...i don't "get." maybe there is something there, but i haven't grokked it yet. i like the hosts an awful lot (of course-- spiders) & think they make a good "dodge" around the whole "changing breeds" of the old werewolf: the apocalypse game. so. there is what i have to say. oh, the tribes are...weak. they care about keeping the old tribes alive, without trying to find any archetypes.
here is what i would do. first of: the five different forms is a statistical nightmare. fuck all that. the tribes are based on what kind of werewolf you change into. so one tribe is the wolf-men; you turn into hairy lon chaney, jr. another is the lycanthropes or whatever; they turn into giant half-wolf, half-men monsters. another is the fenrir; they turn into enormous dire wolves. then you have your skin-shifters, who turn into regular wolves & are shamans or whatever. you could have wolf-born who are wolves that turn into people. whatever. that way, you keep your "grab bag of forms" to a minimum, & you make your tribes mean something. yeah? then, i don't know, i'd make the "bad guys" the infected, or infectous. the werewolves that bite & change you. spooky! you see what i mean? i'm just thinking about how i'd do it.