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Damned and Deceived
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:05:29

There just isn't much content to this book. It was passably written, but as a game supplement, lacking in meat, similar to Saviors and Destroyers. It was several chapters of three ongoing stories (which were largely fine as fiction) followed by some very basic mechanics. A very small fraction was anything other than fiction about specific characters.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Damned and Deceived
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Demon Players Guide
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:05:10

This is far and away the best Demon book I've read so far (and I only have a couple more remaining). It contains lots of information adding depth to the game. From the detailed advice for creating a Demon PC, through detailing the creation of, impact of, use of, and examples of relics. Reading through, I had no serious objections to the content, both flavor and mechanics. It all was well-written and balanced.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Players Guide
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Demon Storytellers Companion
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:04:48

More than bad, this book is nearly useless. It is divided into five chapters. The first one "Dark Gods" focuses on the Earthbound and makes the Christian basis of the book all the more painfully evident by first claiming that most ancient religions were engineered by Demons (though it only mentions old world ones, primarily middle eastern and european, in fact), and that Christianity was a "special" religion that was particularly bad for the Earthbound.

Chapter 2 was far and away the best chapter, which information about the factions and how to use them in a game, along with some signature characters for each one

Chapter 3 was about the bigger demons left behind and how to bring them into the world and what happens then. It was ok, but nothing special. Chapter 4 was about the Underworld (call the Spirit Realm throughout Demon, which makes me wonder to what extent Demons realize that there Middle and High Umbrae even exist) and it introduces a nice source of confusion: a Slayer named Charon.

Chapter 5 discusses demon interactions with other supernaturals (Vampires, Mages, Werewolves and Hunters) as well as some random animals have stats. It didn't really add anything new for handling interactions, my recommendation is to actually just use the core books of the other games and ignore this chapter.

Chapter 2 is the main saving grace, and if you can pick it up cheaply, that might be worth something (It's also far and away the longest chapter, filling out about 1/2 the book) but the rest of it is best left on the shelf.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Storytellers Companion
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City of Angels (Demon)
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:04:26

Of the demon books I've read so far, this is far and away the worst. And it doesn't even spend much time on history compared to the others! So far, it's had some really shitty editing (identical sentences appearing in several places, some minor grammatical issues) but, as always with demon, the number on issue is cultural insensitivity. Though in this case, it's not even something related to demons! It's just referring to a group of black people as "blacks" (specifically a "gang of blacks" which is actually SO MUCH WORSE)

The rest of the book is mostly just piles of characters and a bit of structure for the local Fallen. There are really only two things of significance in the book: metaplot involving Lucifer (though some of that falls to some of the published fiction) and the structure of the Infernal Court. The latter is the only real saving grace of the book, putting in the political structure that the Fallen would generally fall into in print and in detail. This piece is near essential for Demon players and STs, though the rest of the book can safely be ignored if you aren't running your game in Los Angeles, and even then, may not be of great value.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
City of Angels (Demon)
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Houses of the Fallen
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:03:51

This is far and away the best supplement in the Demon line. Very detailed descriptions of each House (a full chapter for each) mixed nicely with mechanics in the form of relics and rituals. Overall, it's a very strong book, and one of only three that I would actually recommend that a player or ST for Demon pick up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Houses of the Fallen
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Demon: The Fallen
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:03:29

I have a soft spot for this book, but it has not held up so well over the years. Perhaps the issue is more that society and the hobby have moved on. There's still a lot to like, and this game would benefit greatly from a 20th anniversary edition to clean up the warts.

Honestly, the largest problem is the general disrespect it has for the source material it draws from. While I would never go after it for imperfectly fitting any particular angelology, but basically ignoring all of them and naming the seven Houses of the Fallen after gods and sacred/mythic animals from various ancient traditions is not great. Plus, the Hebrew was horrific, to the point of being mildly offensive, calling the angels "elohim" as though that was a plural term and not in active use in a real world minority religion (especially given that "malakim" is a perfectly good word for them, and is used in a specific angelic name in the book, most of which are also terrible). Oh, and of course, it does include an offhand remark that "severely autistic people" are less fully human. That...needs to be excised.

However, when viewing it as a Milton-esque exercise it succeeds quite well when you get past those trappings. The Factions are all logical responses to the trauma of the rebellion and time in hell, and it combines themes from Vampire, Mage and Changeling in generally creative ways. The mechanics are solid and will need minimal updating for compatibility with 20th anniversary rules.

But the cultural insensitivity issues and the lack of research into the mythology that they're building on are sticking points. If the book were being written today, more research, more care with languages, better choice of proper nouns (even just using names for demons from different traditions instead of just gods, like calling one House Sheydim would not bother me, as an example) and of course, not putting "severely autistic" people into the same category as people who are comatose, braindead, and who've had their souls snuffed out.

So, a good game, but running it in a way that avoids these problems would take significant work.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Demon: The Fallen
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Earthbound
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:02:21

Like every other Demon book, it's hard to give this one a rating. The stuff talking about modern nights is fine, the mechanics are mostly solid. However, when it goes into the history, it's awful to the point of being offensive.

First, the good: the book explains who the Earthbound are, WHAT they are, and gives solid mechanics for using them, even if it hints in the direction of Earthbound PCs, which...that's not a good idea. But the powers make sense thematically, the change from Virtues to Urges is interesting, and the details about the Apocalyptic Form of an Earthbound are particularly useful for running a game.

The bad, though, consists of a continued insistence that basically all human religions (with small exceptions that I will get to) are lies created by the Earthbound for them to gather Faith. The exceptions are the Abrahamic religions, which are handled ridiculously poorly, to the point of talking about Lucifer taking a special interest in the ancient Israelites and...we've been murdered for being the "Synagogue of Satan" as Revelation calls us. So I'm not happy about that bit. And otherwise, Christianity and Islam apparently, with a little bit from Buddhism, are what took the Earthbound off the board for hundreds of years. The game continues to be unable to make up its mind if it likes Christianity or hates it, and also continues to handle Judaism extremely poorly (in addition to the above, it acts like Judaism is a large-scale influential religion rather than an oppressed minority constantly on the brink of being destroyed, as well as some weirdness involving Solomon). I can't say much about its portrayal of Islam because it barely does it at all.

Overall, it's a very "meh" book, as are many Demon books, because though the good parts are quite good, the bad parts counterbalance that thoroughly.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Earthbound
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Fear to Tread
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:01:50

This is a perfectly serviceable book. Because it is so focused on the three stories that make up the chronicle it contains, there's not much room for the issues that have plagued the rest of the demon line.

I personally found the stories a bit lackluster, but they are perfectly functional for an ST running a game in Los Angeles using the City of Angels sourcebook. It attempts to make the book helpful but not required and doesn't entirely succeed.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fear to Tread
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Saviors and Destroyers
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2019 03:01:20

Off to a bad start with a narrative from the point of view of a religious Jew that just feels off (including definitions of terms that a religious Jew would never feel the need to define to another religious Jew, but probably it is just an artifact of writing for a non-Jewish audience, though none of the authors appear to be Jewish). I focus on this narrative because I can see the "did not do the research" signs in it, though the other two seem to focus less on minorities. This insensitivity and lack of research have plagued the Demon line, and is often the cause of books coming off as racist, ableist, etc, when they are not intended that way.

Aside from this, though, there is the issue of a lack of content. For a book about demon hunters, there's very little general material about demon hunters and even less mechanics. The vast majority of the book is taken up by the fiction, leaving very little room for the promised content. And worse, what's there is lackluster, and I would recommend Arcanum or Hunters Hunted instead, by a large amount.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Saviors and Destroyers
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World of Darkness: Sorcerer
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2019 16:12:30

This book is...fine. The bulk of it, the part focused on the numina and mechanics is good, though it is, of course, old and has been updated in later books to fit more recent mechanics. The organizations are interesting, but there's not much information on how Sorcerers fit in with Mage (except for a nice discussion of the mechanics of having a sorcerer Awaken or be Embraced) and particularly little mention of scientific sorcerers except for one UFO cult, certainly no mention of their use with the Technocracy. The book is good for what it is, but a lot of it has been superseded by more recent books that have done it better.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness: Sorcerer
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Werewolf The Wild West
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/21/2019 16:00:30

Overall, Werewolf: the Wild West has a lot of missed opportunities and a few strange choices made, but is generally a solid book, despite these flaws.

First, the good: the opening fiction is excellent. It has a very strong Canterbury Tales vibe to it, and I was a bit disappointed that after the opening the characters in it were never mentioned again, when they would have been great running examples. Another nice thing was that it actually mentioned the Native Tribes working with Dreamspeaker Kinfolk! This actually tries (though doesn't super-well) to address one of my running criticisms of Werewolf. The other truly excellent thing is Storm-Eater/The Storm Umbra, creating a unique environment for gameplay.

Now, the bad: there's a LOT of Noble Savage in this book. A painful amount. The claim that the Weaver and Wyrm were basically absent from pre-Colombian America is bad. For one, Cahokia, the Incas and Aztecs, the Iroquois Confederation (not pre-Colombian, but more-or-less pre-contact), the Dine, and others all existed and were complex societies, indicating the Weaver (hell, Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities on the planet) and as for the Wyrm, you have all sorts of awful things going on. They even mention a "web of power" that bound Storm-Eater, which screams Weaver (and could tie into the cosmology). Another bad point on this is that there was no direct mention of the Trail of Tears, somehow!

Other than that, my complaints are mostly minor: grammatical and layout errors exist, some aspects of Werewolf cosmology make no sense, etc.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Werewolf The Wild West
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Ascension's Right Hand
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/01/2019 04:40:27

This book fits into the frame of the Vampire supplement Ghouls and the Werewolf supplement Kinfolk. Somehow, in the minds of most, it hasn't become as iconic, and people out in the wild need to constantly be reminded that it exists. I recommend it regularly, and it's a solid book, though largely superseded in ways that the others haven't been.

The sections covering mundane allies and companions for mages has been largely subsumed into Gods and Monsters, as have the sections on Familiars, though it has valuable discussions of how the various factions handle these things differently. The discussion of more aware allies sits in the Sorcerer books, which present many more varieties of Numina.

Honestly, the main problem is that the book is dated. An update to it would be essential reading for running a Mage game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ascension's Right Hand
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Technocracy: Iteration X
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/29/2019 12:12:13

This is a difficult book to review for me. On the one hand, I hate it. On the either, it is a well written book that is just part of first edition where the Technocracy is an irredeemable villain rather than a potentially valid antagonist.

It is told from the point of view of a recent recruit, who was given advanced prosthetics that were necessary due to thalidomide. He breaks conditioning for long enough to describe how terrible Iteration X is, and it's bad down to explicit comparisons with Nazis. The book gives a general overview including introducing the Artificers who are prominent when Sorcerer 's crusade is written. They effects and wonders are some of the most interesting parts of the book, along with the running theme that the Dreamspeakers are the biggest rival of the Convention, due to being the two oldest groups focusing on the spirit world and on tool use. It also introduced the Computer explicitly as a spirit that has some goal in Reality and is using Iteration X to achieve it.

Overall a solid book, but not great in many places if you prefer a sympathetic Technocracy.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Technocracy: Iteration X
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Razors and Thunderbolts: The Ksirafai
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2019 03:22:31

This product consists of a brief introduction on who the Ksirafai are (were, rather) and how to use them in a Sorcerer's Crusade game, followed by 9 sample characters. It was a bit light on background material and didn't really extend the Ksirafai in any way, and functioned mostly as a pregen character pack rather than anything else. It's solid, but unfortunately not exceptional, and something more along the lines of a Convention Book: Ksirafai (Guild book?) from this author could be something special.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Razors and Thunderbolts: The Ksirafai
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Apocalypse
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2019 03:16:48

SPOILERS BELOW (for a 15 year old game supplement)

Warning: I am not an expert at Werewolf, and so I will likely miss many, many things relating to metaplot and fine setting details. That said, those things are unlikely to improve this review, and I don't believe I can give it a worse one.

This book is bad. It is fractally bad. However closely you look at it, you find new levels of failure. It is quite clear that it was written in a hurry, barely edited at all, and that the creators heart just wasn't in it. I would have loved a good, well put together end of the world book for Werewolf. I learn systems by trying to break them, by seeing what happens in extreme situations, and what could be more extreme than the Apocalypse?

I'll start with an overall impression. The book has many spelling and grammatical errors, several layout errors (text that should be italicized isn't, for instance) and a huge number of more specific issues in each section, described below:

The initial fiction and the ending fiction are actually solidly written, if unimpressive to an outsider. I don't know if these are signature characters that we're supposed to know or the like, but they were uninspiring and failed to make me care about them, though the final moments of the ending fiction did manage a small amount of power, with the Striders abandoning hope of re-entering Egypt in order to fight in the Apocalypse.

The introduction is passable, and makes an attempt to explain why White Wolf was ending the World of Darkness. Given the 20th anniversary games and the 5th edition of Vampire, this seems kind of quaint in retrospect. But in any case, the reasons didn't come across as particularly strong ("We don't want to write The Book of Nature and Demeanor and devolve into crap!" well then maybe you should have put more effort into this book, because you did.)

Chapter One: The End Times In this chapter, the general run-up to the Apocalypse is discussed. This is actually the strongest chapter in the book. It covers the prophecies leading to the Apocalypse, the various strange events such as Anthelios in the sky, the Perfect Metis, and the prophecies of the Desperate One and of Zhyzhak. It also covers a few things that seem a bit out of place, especially given how they're handled in the remainder of the book, like "The Machine Awakens" about an AI being created at Rice University. More coherently, it talks about the attitudes and potential roles of the Fera, and then has the discussion of "The Other Games" is not a good start for the book. I understand wanting to avoid crossover in the final Werewolf book, to avoid diluting themes, but the later scenarios read as though the authors have forgotten that Mage is a part of the World of Darkness but have a soft spot for Vampire, bringing it up regularly. This is particularly egregious when they come up with scenarios that often can be solved by a single determined cabal of Mages, or else which morally should have a major role for a large group of them (and they don't hesitate to do things like give the Striders a final showdown with the Settites).

Chapter Two: The Last Battleground This is the first of four Apocalypse scenarios, and the best thought out (or perhaps least poorly thought out). It starts by describing three sacrifices needed to bring the Wyrm into the world, and the first one was the Vampire from the Week of Nightmares (Ravnos, to be specific, though they aren't), which plays up the lack of a coherent rule for them with respect to crossover. Now, this is where the bad editing is first evident, as they say the Week of Nightmares was in 1997, when it was 1999, there was a whole thing, company wide about it (the Reckoning!) and this has implications on the age of the perfect metis. In this, along with all the other scenarios, much is made of Zhyzhak's prophecy of grinding the last Gaian King under her heel. This is an easy prophecy to disrupt: get some snipers, give them silver bullets, go to town (also, if you have a high rank PC Silver Fang with a lot of True Breed, what stops them from picking up the crown and saying "Well I'm the king now." just to stop the prophecy?). No one Garou is immune to proper weapons. So either this is ludonarrative dissonance causing the whole scenario to fall apart in the hands of players, or else there needs to be some reason not to do this. As I said above, I'm not super-familiar with Werewolf, but given the setting, it's kind of ridiculous that the vast majority of Kinfolk don't go through paramilitary training and have stashes of weapons they can use to kill Black Spiral Dancers should the need arise. I'm putting this complaint here because I don't want to repeat it, but it goes for every single scenario in the book, and from what I can tell, is a significant issue with Werewolf. Kinfolk should be like the militia people out in Montana and the like, but the books want to paint them as helpless while still giving Werewolves weaknesses that humans can exploit to be threats.

Moving on, at least THIS scenario says something about mages, but...it doesn't say anything that makes sense. If magic is becoming more powerful and backlashes becoming rarer, mages can't help but become important elements of the story. If mages become more powerful, banes would have more trouble possessing them! Mages are high willpower, and many have significant spirit magics, and those without usually have allies that do. Even if the Garou wouldn't accept the help of mages, they would be unlikely to get a choice as mages would, despite the sidebar on them, notice what's going on and that leaves several world-spanning organizations of people who can remake reality itself looking to stop the Wyrm, seeing it as the source of the Nephandi, one of the few things that can cause the mystics and the technomages to set aside their differences.

The rest of the chapter is mostly OK. But the problems above are significant.

Chapter Three: A Tribe Falls This was the chapter I was really looking forward to. It should really reveal the true nature of the tribes, showing what happens if each of them falls to the Wyrm (or the Weaver!). This chapter can best be described as "lazy." Many of the Tribal Fall scenarios depend on them just being overwhelmed from outside and forced to fall rather than making it a consequence of their fundamental flaws and inner nature. The Weaver falls are particularly lazy, only getting one and a half pages for all the tribes together, and several of them being cop outs with "Oh, well, this is unlikely, so work hard to make it plausible" when I feel like making up a plausible way for it to happen is the job of the writers of this book. The discussion around how to handle the fall, other than talking about it being due to a "wave of corruption" or other such deus ex machina (diabolus ex machina?), it then proceeds to discuss what a fall to the Wyrm looks like for each Tribe. Most of them are tolerable. Not inspired but not horrible. Most of them that fall from their own actions just do so due to Hubris, rather than anything else, and not spectacularly Tribe-based hubris, either. Some of them fall from sheer stupidity, especially given that much of this assumes the Apocalypse is happening as they fall.

For example, the Furies fall to the Wyrm because they are panicking and absolutely will never ever ask the Weaver for help, even when the issue is that they are becoming fundamentally unstable. The Bone Gnawer fall is mostly OK, but it is followed by the Children of Gaia who fall from...hubris. One of them attempts to revive the lost Bunyip tribe, and this triggers the tribe to try to restore the Wyrm's sanity directly themselves. This is clearly stupid, and the writers kind of joke about how ridiculous it is by saying "someone botched a roll!" in describing why the ritual didn't work, suggesting this may have been RANDOM. The Fianna fall isn't terrible from an outside perspective, but depends on characters I don't know. The Get of Fenris fall is particularly stupid. No, the Wyrm doesn't get them through their eugenics, their racism problem, nothing of the sort. No, they chase the Spirals trying to kill them (non-specific hubris!) and then just...fall to the Wyrm because they are driven insane by the Wyrm because they went too deep. The Glass Walker fall is one of the better ones, with the tribal totem, Cockroach, joining the Wyrm as a method of survival, and the Tribe, influenced by that, starts to see the Wyrm as a path to living through the Apocalypse. The Red Talons (and the Wendigo for that matter) take no effort to convince me that they've fallen to the Wyrm, so we'll move on. The Shadow Lords have a decent fall, where they fail a significant quest to become the leaders (with their tribal totem) of Gaia's armies for the Apocalypse, and they lash out, letting their rage and despair get the better of them. The Striders fall is basically "Found a thing from Wraith, it's bad, maybe worse than the Wyrm" and it's not clear they're WRONG, so that's OK. The Silver Fang fall is another Hubris fall, but for the Silver Fangs, that MAKES SENSE. I like the general outline of this one, including them wiping out the Black Spiral Dancers because they are unworthy of serving the Wyrm. It is, however, still handled somewhat lazily. And finally, the Uktena basically succumb to the whispers of the banes they've been tending, the end of a long slow process. Not spectacular, but at least it focuses on something specific to the tribe.

Chapter Four: Weaver Ascendant I'm going to start this one by saying that the forces of stasis win, a tech company dominates the world, and the Technocratic Union isn't mentioned once, and if that's not damning enough, I'll continue. Because a more aggressive aspect of the Weaver shows up, one that's been gaining power since the Industrial Revolution: the Machine. And YET, NO MENTION OF ITERATION X OR THE TECHNOCRACY AS A WHOLE. This should be a great crossover scenario, where the Garou have to figure out if the Traditions can be trusted and fight the Technocracy. Instead, we get a lackluster "end of magic in the world" story where the most interesting action is happening in the board rooms where Shinzui conquers Pentex. (including the Special Projects Division, where Pentex and the Syndicate crossover, seriously, this scenario NEEDS Mage to function, but excludes it, though other Weaver-Wins scenarios could avoid it.) The most interesting point in this is the potential alliance between Gaian Tribes and the Black Spiral Dancers, as the Wyrm isn't the biggest threat anymore. The Ananasi play a major role, and that is also interesting, but the scenario as a whole doesn't seem (pun intended) woven together very tightly. Though that problem only gets worse in the final scenario.

Chapter Five: Ragnarok This scenario makes no sense and only vaguely attempts to actually use all the things it introduces. Plot threads (such as the AI in Texas) get mentioned and then dropped, sections transition in incoherent ways that SHOULD indicate that they flow logically into each other but they really, really don't, and despite trying to bring physics into things, there's a startling lack of correct physics. This is a kitchen-sink scenario where they just throw everything they can think of in and hope for the best. For instance, there's a box on one page that takes up about 2/3 of the page about the Singularity and the AI in Texas, and then...nothing else happens with it at all. The scenario involves Rorg, planetary incarna of the asteroid belt, chucking an asteroid at the Earth and (hopefully, because it's game over otherwise) Luna taking the hit...and apparently breaking into pieces so that not only do the pieces of the asteroid hit Earth but ALSO pieces of Luna. And the way they describe the aftermath, it's still more-or-less a planet killer, which is not how a broken up asteroid would affect the world on impact. (It does not escape me that there are similarities with The Earth Will Shake from Ascension, and this aspect of Apocalypse could dovetail in nicely with that, making Werewolves and Mages have to work together to negotiate with the planetary courts)

The story just keeps throwing stuff out, so that before one thing can be absorbed, it's on to the next. Periodically picked up and dropped but never actually started is a subplot about a bunch of werewolves and kinfolk hiding in the Umbra until the dust thrown up by the impacts settles down, there's a little bit about an ark (though not named as such) that comes right out of left field, there's earthquakes and the ground splitting open in Wyrm runes, there's great dragons waking up to destroy everything, Zhyzhak and Albrecht fight (shoot her!), a lot of discussion of where to have the final battle and then suddenly talking about things like if the PCs missed it to cower in the Umbra (which is possible, but any ST whose players do that should tell them how disappointing they are). It then presents four endings: Wyld, Weaver, Wyrm and...Exalted. Though the "Exalted" ending as described looks literally nothing like Exalted, instead it looks like...Werewolf but with depressing low technology instead of depressing high technology. That's it.

Chapter Six: The Last Tales This final chapter is advice on how to run the end game. It's not all bad, but there's two things that really stuck out. One of them is the suggestion of surprising your players with the Apocalypse. The book is FOR this. I repeat, FOR it. This is a BAD IDEA and will likely create bad blood with players who aren't ready to finish off the game, by forcing it on them. I'm going to close this review with a quote from the book, and I invite everyone to, before they pick it up, ask them if they agree with it, because it strongly applies here:

"Even a badly thought out conclusion works better than no conclusion."



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Apocalypse
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