Moldwarps is a breedbook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and as such you need the core book to make use of them. It is developed with the 20th Anniversary ruleset, and tries to fit into the W20 era of books.
The book (and authors) is aware of of the possibly comical nature of moles as a Changing Breed, but as I said to Ben whilst he and Sam were writing and editing the book: “If it ain’t werehorses based on My Little Pony, it ain’t stupid.” With that said, I should disclose that I got to see the book long before release, and had discussions about it with the authors, and I was also given a free copy upon release and I am mentioned in the Special Thanks section of the book. And with that in mind, what I’m writing in this review is all my own honest opinions, and despite having become good friends with the authors, I will not pull any punches in this review.
The book is well-written and uses proper grammar and punctuation as far as I could tell. There are some funky formatting from time to time, such as using a more grey typeface colour in front of glyphs. Though it makes the glyph clearer, it comes at the cost of making the text a little harder to read. The typeface also changes in the sections about Stereotypes, kind of taking you out of the reading moment. Bit of an error at face value, but negligible in the long run.
There is a ton of original art in this book created by Naomi Cornock, Luis Miguez, and Ben Allsop himself, though there is also official Storyteller Vault art used. I think Cornock and Miguez’s art was really good, and I could not have distinguished between their art and official 1st and 2nd Edition artwork for Werewolf. But, to a slight detriment as well, I have some difficulty telling their art apart. The most stark contrast to me is with the illustration of the five Moldwarp forms, which is in a very slightly different style.
And, can I just say; the Talpid in the illustration of the five forms is goddamn cute. It is adorable as hell. I cannot get over it, and now I’ve come to think moles are really cute.
But I know for certain that Ben made the Moldwarp glyphs himself, and I have to say that they are not only damn cool, but the man went all-out with them. Well over forty original glyphs litter this book, and I have to say that they are quite nice. Ben makes good use of setting a base meaning for a simple glyph, and then makes small variations to change it so that Breed glyphs look similar, Warren glyphs look similar, and so on, but they look different from each other.
The book begins with a piece of introductory fiction showing the trial of a Get of Fenris Garou who failed to kill a fomor because Moldwarps took both it to cleanse, and two of his packmates because they got in the way. It is well-written and interesting in providing a touchstone as to how Garou don’t know about them, with a small insight into the Moldwarps’ look at Garou as well. It is a good start to the book as a whole.
The rest of the book is divided up into four chapters and two appendices, each following the structure of an official sourcebook. At 138 pages, this book is a bit of a beast to get through, but I know that I quite enjoyed it myself.
Chapter One describes the history and legends of the Changing Breed in the same style as any other tribebook and breedbook (first-person perspective from Paints-the-Ages, a lorekeeper for one of the Orders described in the book). It goes into remarkable detail and does a good job of maneuvering around the Garou and other Fera, whilst still relating to them in small ways. This lends to how no one knows that they still exist, and gives you as perfect an understanding of the Changing Breed as you would ever need to play them.
Chapter Two goes into detail on working, practical knowledge that you need to play the game as a weremole. It details the Breeds (Homid, Metis, and Talpid), their Warrens (equivalent to Auspice, but determined by the outcome of a vision quest during your First Change), and Tunnels (Tribes), all with starting Gnosis, Rage and Gifts.
This chapter also goes into the social structure of the Moldwarps and the way they connect with the Overland (above ground), Underland (within the earth) and the Otherland (the Umbra). There is mention of their views on the Triat and Totems, and ends with an explanation of Sceatha, everything that has an imbalance of Wyld, Weaver, and Wyrm energies such as vampires, fomori, drones, tainted werewolves, etc.
Chapter Three is, as is common for core books, the chapter on character creation, and is basically a bunch of resumes about the Breeds, Warrens, and Tunnels to provide numbers and Gifts for quick reference. It also describes the various Forms weremoles take, from human to mole being Homid, Moleman, Crinos, Eulipotyphla, and Talpid. It also lists the relationship weremoles have with Rage, Gnosis, and Renown, and provides the rules for Digging, a small list of possible Totems, and other new Traits (a new Background, new Merits and Flaws, and a Moldwarp look at Pure-Breed).
Chapter Four gives you a TON of new Gifts for Breeds, Warrens, Tunnels, etc., as well as a lot of new Rites specifically for Moldwarps, and a number of Tools (their word for Talens and Fetishes)
Appendix One has five sample Moldwarp characters, a Labour (Pack-ish group-formation) of Note, some Moldwarps of Note, and finally some Burrows (Septs) of Note.
Appendix Two, at the very end, gives you some Moldwarp-specific plot hooks, tells you how they interact with other inhabitants of the World of Darkness, and gives you some new spirits and a new antagonist group to go up against, related specifically to the Moldwarps because of large-scale fracking operations.
Moldwarps brings an entirely new, very intriguing Changing Breed to the already-long roster of Breeds, and so can be used well in any mixed-Breed game. It uses the W20 system and drops seamlessly into the lore of the Werewolf World of Darkness, so a weremole suddenly appearing in a group with no one knowing what it is makes some sense.
Full transparency; I have not played with this in a game, and so I cannot speak to balance of rules, Gifts, etc., but from just reading them and looking them over, I see it as quite comparable to werewolves. I do fully intend on putting this book to good use in future games, however, and look forward to trying out being a weremole.
The book is long, and that is a bit daunting for a Vault product. I myself had to drag myself through the first chapter, as it can get a little… dry, at times. It is in the style of official splatbooks having a narrator telling the reader the stories and history, which I think is nice, and I also think that it is nice to have; you can skip it the first read through and take a look later for some background info. On its own merits, though, the first chapter makes me a little more tired than I was before.
Moving on to the chapters you need to play a Moldwarp, fluff becomes shorter and more concise, more to-the-point, and we get into the crunch, which is clear and easy to understand.
Some of the layout can get funky at times, and it draws your attention from what you’re reading for a little while. As you read on, it becomes a little less intrusive, but you will always be aware when the formatting shifts.
Is it worth a buy? Yes. For the price listed compared to the page count and quality of content, I will say that this book is very much worth it. Should you buy it? I think that, if you want to add something interesting to your chronicles, even only as a new, strange NPC type that your players can meet, interact with and learn about, then you should buy it. If you simply want to play as a new Changing Breed, it’s really cool as well. However, I think that it should be noted that this isn’t for everyone. The very nature of Moldwarp society means that they are far more restrictive in what they can do compared to other Changing Breeds, and so you would need a good reason to make a mixed-Breed game if you want to stay consistent to lore presented in the book.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with an asterisk that Chapter One kind of lost my interest several times and that the formatting can get a little wonky at times.
4/5, would recommend it to all avid Werewolf STs and Players.