First off, I would like to state from the outset that the concept behind this book is absolutely solid. While vampires are creatures of stasis, werewolves are creatures of dynamism. As the world changes around them, so too should the Garou change, and so too should the Gifts that the Spirits reveal to them change.
A book like the Werewolf Gift Compilation is something that has been a long time coming, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure why it has never been addressed by OPP or WWGS on an annual time-table to keep the interest in the game – not to mention the game’s pulse - hammering along.
But that’s exactly why the Storytellers Vault exists, and author Zachary Ball has taken the bull by the horns with this endeavor.
When I first saw the book listed on the Storytellers Vault, to be completely honest, I was hoping for a Werewolf: the Apocalypse’s answer to The Enlightened Grimoire for Mage: the Ascension; a collection of all of the Garou Gifts that have been presented across 20 years and four editions of the game’s existence. However, it is important to note for anyone who is thinking this that the Werewolf Gift Compilation is not that book.
The Werewolf Gift Compilation is a labor of love collection of 80+ never-before-published Gifts for Gaian Garou to use at their Storyteller’s discretion. Some are interesting, albeit not all that well thought out and, on their surface, somewhat practical. Smolder, a Level One Wendigo Gift, is right up there in utility with the Level One Bone Gnawer Gift The Hungry Hound. The bonus being that Kinfolk can employ the Gift as well, making it even more valuable. Shadow Leap, a Level Four Shadow Lord Gift as an example, is one hell of an idea. I think it would have worked out better mechanically as a Level Two or Three Gift given what it achieves for the Garou employing it… and unfortunately, that seems to be the primary complaint that I found with the book as a collected work.
Most of the Gifts that are presented in The Werewolf Gift Compilation are grossly overpowered. A Level Six Gift called Silvered Rage that turns the Garou’s flesh into what is, effectively, a coat of armor made of silver (with no immediate Gnosis loss, and instead, an absolutely hideous botch consequence), Blood to Dust, while presenting as a Level Five Theurge Gift, allows a Garou to turn the Blood Pool of a vampire into dust on a Gnosis Roll at difficulty of 9… and while it’s a cool idea, it isn’t very practical at all in that you have literally a 20% chance per Gnosis point to turn a single Blood Point into dust and MAY be soaked by supernatural means, including Thaumaturgy Rituals or Paths… maybe.
The ideas behind most of the Gifts seem somewhat thought out, but not entirely, and the mechanics that govern the usability of the Gifts seem - for lack of a better word - clunky.
The Level Two Glass Walker Gift All Things Equal Glass is a nifty take on a concept that seems to be inspired by the “Gun Kata” used by the Tetragrammaton Clerics in the movie Equilibrium.
I will say that if you’re running a game with Kinfolk PCs that have the Gnosis Merit, then there are a few really interesting Level One Gifts that the Werewolf Gift Compilation can arm them with.
The organization of the book could have used a bit more work. I can appreciate the thought that went into organizing the Gifts in the manner with which they are presented, however, a functional Appendix which includes page numbers for each Gift would have been fantastic to have and would have only added to the overall usability and functionality of the book. Ease of use is a big deal… but I also understand from first-hand experience how difficult navigating InDesign Templates can be.
So, in closing, there are a few interesting ideas in the book. The Bunyip and Croatan Gifts are a nice touch, and while there are a handful of Gifts that I could see modifying for use by players or NPCs, many of the Gifts, as presented, need a nice bit of alteration before they're ready for table-top play. From both a writing - as well as a mechanical - perspective.
I think the most impressive aspect of Werewolf Gift Compilation is that it sets a previously non-existent bar for other books to follow, and to improve upon.