Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Werewolf: The Apocalypse

This post is going to be a little longer, because I've got a lot to say; in fact, I don't know that I'll even get to creating a character. I've got a long history with Werewolf, so sit tight.

I discovered Werewolf not long after it was originally published, in 1994 - the year the 2nd edition was published (1st was published in 1992). I was in my freshman year of high school, in a Jesuit prep school, and all of 15. I was looking to branch out from D&D, and I wasn't a big fan of White Wolf's (because that was Werewolf's publisher, White Wolf Publishing) flagship game, Vampire: the Masquerade. In Vampire, the characters play, obviously vampires, tortured beings who live like nocturnal parasite, slowly sucking the life out of humanity as they wait for the world to end. That was too angsty for me; nerdy teenager though I was, I was a much bigger fan of anger than angst.

In Werewolf, you play (wait for it) werewolves - 10-foot-tall furry combat machines, even the weakest of which can flip cars and tear enemies in half. And man, are you angry. The world you live in - the World of Darkness - is a dark reflection of our own. Vampires stalk the nights; evil lurks in the darkness. Where we may call some corporation in our world evil, there is a truly evil corporation in the World of Darkness, called Pentex - the size of Microsoft, McDonald's, and Wal-Mart combined - and it serves the forces of evil wholeheartedly. Werewolves were set as the guardians of the world and the natural order, and through hubris, poor planning, and internecine warfare, they - the Garou - have become outnumbered and outgunned.

But still, they fight. To the last breath, to the last man, they fight. Even though they are outnumbered and overwhelmed, and their backs are to the wall, they refuse to lay down and give up. Here, let me quote the text from the back cover of the book:

These are the final days-
The signs are clear:
Even our pups know
That this is the age of the Apocalypse!

The Humans have Corrupted the Earth
Destroyed the Trees
Slaughtered the Beasts
Choked the Air
Poisoned the Soil
Clogged the Waters
Unleashed the Eternal Fire

Now, the Wyrm rises
To Eclipse the Moon
Devouring all within its grasp,
Hunting the hunters.

There is no garden to which we can flee.
There is nowhere to hide.
The end is upon us.
-When will you rage?

The Garou would not go gently into the night, and that appealed to teenage me. I was angry, and it gave me a channel for my anger. I liked the idea of great warriors, outnumbered and fighting an almost certainly hopeless battle, throwing themselves into the face evil, daring it to choke on their bodies. They divide themselves into tribes - mostly along relatively ethnic levels, oddly - and into something approximating classes in other games, determined by the sign of the moon. They came in three varieties, even- homid, descended from humans; lupus, descended from wolves; and metis, the bastard children of two werewolves.

Throughout high school, I ran a multi-year Werewolf campaign; Jacob Greyfang, Demeter Fastfang, Hans Bloodfang (yes, the fang theme was overused, but we were high-schoolers), Kills-with-Claws, Melissa Stevens the kinfolk mage, and Alyjah the necromancer fought the forces of the Wyrm across the globe - from New York to Los Angeles, from the Amazon to the Russian steppes. They warred against the insidious evils of corporate greed and against monsters who could eat tanks for breakfast. It was a great time in my life, and one I remember fondly; my main e-mail address is still based on my character's name.

Now it is 20 years later, and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Werewolf: the Apocalypse has just come out. updated for a more modern world. It's a little less punk, but it's still the game I loved. Now Garou can arrange attacks via social networking, but so can the forces of the Wyrm. The green movement has been a blow against evil, but evil has gotten some good punches in - global terrorism, banks too big to fail, and the Deepwater Horizon spill, to name a few. The Garou still fight their fight, and there is a glimmer of hope for them. PErhaps the Prophecy of the Phoenix won't come to pass after all. Oh, what's that? Here it is:

Prophecy of the Phoenix

Phoenix took me.
Carried me in his claws.
High above the world.
So that I could see beyond tomorrow.
and I looked.
I beheld the future.
I saw the decimation of our kin. Hunted beyond hunting, death beyond death, to the last one. There were no more children, or grandchildren, or fathers, or mothers. This was the first Sign Phoenix game to to me, that the Children of the Weaver, the Humans, would give to us, The Garou.
And I looked.
And I beheld the future.
I saw the Children of the Weaver birthing. A great tide of Humans, rising. I saw more and more, until Gaia groaned at having to carry them all. Their houses overrunning, their rakes raping, their hands clawing at the parched earth, trying to feed from Her. This was the second Sign of the last days, that the Phoenix Showed me, that the Humans would do.
I looked again.
I beheld the third Sign.
So many. So many children. So many Humans. And they Fell against each other, one to one, and the Wyrm brought forth corruption and gave each a measure. And the strange Fire I saw. out of control, the great Plume Rising over the wilderness, spreading death where ever it shone, in the dark and cold land. And I heard the agony of the Seas as She keened, for some drunken fool had poured a lake of black death out upon her.
I turned my head away in disgust, but I could not help but look again.
And I beheld, then, the fourth Sign.
The Wyrm grew powerful; its wings fanned the breezes of decay. It spread its diseases and they were horrible: the Herd became afflicted with diseases of the head and the blood. Children were born twisted. Animals fell sick and no one could cure them. In these final days, even the Warriors of Gaia could not escape the palsied talons of the sickness-bringing deathbird.
A tear in my eye, I looked again, and the Phoenix showed me the fifth Sign.
I saw other Plumes rising like death-spears towards the beautiful sky. piercing it, letting Father Sun burn and parch Gaia. The air grew hot; even in the darkness of Winter it was warm. The plants withered in the sun. A cry of pain and disease arose from the dying forests; as one the relations cried tears of mourning.
Then, as though a veil were torn, the sixth Sign showed itself to me.
In these last days, Gaia shakes in rage. Fire boils from the depths. Ash shrouds the sky. The Wyrm skulks in the shadows made by these...and rears to strike. The old ones are gone; the Guardians of the pathways and the Crossroads are finished. In these final days, the sixth Sign will make itself known in the Packs that form. Each Pack will have unto itself a Quest, a Sacred Journey it must perform. Such is the will of Gaia.
And I saw the Sky turn black, and the moon was as blood.
And the seventh Sign I glimpsed, though I could not look on it in full. But its heat I could feel.
The Apocalypse. The final days of the world. The Moon was swallowed by the Sun, and it burned in his belly. Unholy fires fell to the ground, burning us all, twisting us and making us vomit blood. The Wyrm had made itself manifest in the towers and the rivers and the air and the Land, and everywhere its children ran rampant, devouring, destroying, calling down curses of every kind. And the Herd ran in fear. And the Dark Ones, Children of the Wyrm, crawled from their caves and walked the streets in daylight.
I turned my head from the sight. Phoenix told me: "This is as it shall be, but not as it should."
Phoenix left me then.

Now, I cannot dream. I can only remember the Signs, each one in perfect detail. These are the last days. May Gaia have mercy on us.
This is the Prophecy of the Phoenix, the anthem of hopelessness that awaits the Garou. five signs have come to pass, with a sixth imminent - and the seventh means the end of all life, or at least all life worth living. Doesn't that make you angry? Doesn't that make you want to rip the minions of evil apart?

Well, now's your chance.

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