Actual Play – Werewolf: The Apocalypse (10/5/2008)

System: Werewolf: The Apocalypse

Last night was our first “real” session of Werewolf (see previous session here). Six of the Eight players were there, which was something of a small mercy as many of us were still either getting reacquainted with the old system or (in one case) learning it for the first time.

The plot: The questing pack is sent by the Sept leader to investigate the murder of Glass Walker kinfolk.
The premise: Find who is killing our people and kill them.
The twist: The first clue we got was the Ratkin, but when we confronted them, they said they had been attacked by Werewolves
The conflict: We found some Formori (basically people possessed by evil spirits) that were probably behind it. We killed them but there are undoubtedly more to find.

The good:

The group of players gelled together pretty well. While my character did a number of offensive things (like pee on the carpet, offer to mount one of the other werewolves to help a hearth spirit grow, and generally just being really dirty all the time) the other players rolled with it and didn’t give me a hard time. The player who played the alpha was the least experienced of the group and I felt like the players did a good job of supporting him in his role. A lot of laughs at the table as the lupis (werewolves born as wolves) couldn’t figure out human conventions or technology, though one did manage to crash a car! Basically good player chemistry all around.

Buffaloraven (the storyteller) made good use of the flags on our character sheets. My character had a rat kin contact, so he brought the rats in. Another character was of the Silver Fang tribe so he brought some tribal politics in. Two of the characters were of the Glasswalker tribe, so he has Glasswalker kinfolk (basically people with some werewolf blood but who are still just normal Joes) be the target. I felt that most of us had something about our character that invested us into the story beyond just “this big wig guy tells you to go find these guys.”

The renown gains and loss at the end of the session were really significant. There is definitely the feeling that Werewolf society judges you for your actions, good or ill, and I think this offers a cool creative constraint. If you want to rebel, that is a choice, but it comes with a cost.

What could have been improved:

The game was essentially a three step investigation.
1. Go to the scene of the crime, get some clues.
2. Investigate the clues and find out they were misleading.
3. Go back to the scene of the crime and get in a fight.

The issue here was that we had nothing indicating we should go back to the scene (step #3) except the Storyteller telling us “well now that you know you were misled the first time you could go back and look again.” To me, basically anytime the GM/Storyteller/Producer/Whatever has to give you an out of character hint, I think the game has fallen down. There are three potential solutions to this that I can see. 1) The players could have run around and tried things until something clicked (either because the characters got it “right” or because the Storyteller decided that whatever they were doing was interesting enough that it should advance the story. 2) Have some kind of player resource tokens (plot points, drama points, destiny tokens, whatever) that allow players to exert narrative controls and add a plot twits they could go off of. For example, one of the Wendigo (basically Native American spirit shaman werewolves) could have spent a plot point to say “The spirits smell foul in these parts, I think the corruption is over THAT way!” 3) The Storyteller could have given us more explicit clues, or just more clues in general.

I’d have liked more room to explore my character’s personal goals. One of the grounds for gain experience in the game is achieving short term goals and/or perusing long term goals. I had three short scenes in my head that I was trying to play out during the game and didn’t get a chance to do any of them. Essentially it was all plot all the time. I realize there are two reasons to do this. 1) Its the first game, it needs some cohesion to make sure everyone is busy. 2) We have 6 damn players. If everyone does their thing (especially if alone) it will mean a lot of time where other players are sitting on their hands.

I know buffaloraven is going to cringe seeing this (basically because I’ve been harping on it for so long) but combat was ungodly slow. The old Werewolf mechanics are really clunky. To many rolls at too many different difficulties. Add that to the ability to take lots of extra actions (either by splitting dice pools and/or spending rage) and you had some people taking turns that involved at least 6 rolls of the dice, while other people tried something like “I hit him with a potted plant” rolled once, failed and then had to wait. I know there is a feel that the old system captures that is lost in the nWoD rules (the new system is heavily abstracted in my opinion) but I’d happily trade a bit of ambiguity for speed. As an alternative we could scrap the system all together and go for something really light like Wushu, or even, holy crud this would be cool… Don’t Rest you Head. Instead we just call it Don’t loose your Rage, where exhaustion dice turn into Rage dice (the madder you get the harder it is for you to calm down) and madness dice turn into Gifts (basically werewolf magic). Oh, oh, this is cool. Hmm, I doubt the group would go for it, but the more I think about it, DrYH has a very similar feel of urgency and impending doom as W:tA. Hmmm. .