Hey guys, let’s talk about werewolves, politics and the Apocalypse! If you’re confused don’t worry, I’ll explain as we go. With everything going on this week(past couple weeks now it took me a bit to finish), one bright spot has been the announcement that the new White Wolf Publishing has announced their paring up with video game developers to create a game based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse for PC and consoles. This is fantastic news, because I firmly believe the world needs more werewolves. Bear with me!
The other week I wrote about Vampire: The Masquerade, and clearly I’m still in that mode. Werewolf was the second gaming line to come out of White Wolf in the early to mid-90s. It is also the game that made me a roleplayer. Not Vampire, not D&D, or Shadowrun—any of which really would have been perfectly suited for a kid who grew up on a diet of Interview with a Vampire, Reboot, and Tolkien novels. No, it was Werewolf: The Apocalypse that crept into my life in middle school through the RAGE collectible card game, and when I received the 2nd edition core rulebook for the rpg itself for Christmas in 1998 opened me up to a whole new world of imagination and savage horror. I would later go on to fall in love with Vampire, Mage, the Aeon/Trinity game line, and Exalted, but like your first love, I cannot help but reminisce and revisit Werewolf. Now it has been over twenty years since I discovered the World of Darkness through my favorite furry eco-terrorists, and they seem more relevant than ever before.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse was created out of the nineties when people at least appeared to give a shit about the world around them. If you were too young to remember, this was the heyday of Greenpeace, Save the Whales, protests at the WTO in Seattle, outrage over the Exxon-Valdez tanker spill, outrage over poaching in Africa and clear-cutting of the Amazon. Oh, and Captain Planet, that was a thing too. While I don’t think that righteous anger has gone away, it certainly seems to have been drowned out amid the flood of reality TV, 24 hour news cycle, and Twitter. What Werewolf did, at least for me, was serve up all of that outrage and concern for what was happening in our world on a wooden trencher. It also gave me a way of dealing with it, even that was through a blatantly fictional lens.
Without delaying it any longer, here is Werewolf: the Apocalypse in a broadly painted nutshell. Werewolves are a separate, supernatural race of shape shifters. They were created by the literal spirit of the world- Gaia (hey remember Captain Planet?) to be her greatest warriors and protectors. Called the Garou, this race could be born of wolf or of man, or by union between Garou, although this is expressly forbidden as those offspring are born physically or mentally twisted. Garou divide themselves into various tribes, often reflecting or connected to various human cultures, and are given roles in Garou society based upon the phase of the moon when they were born. At some point they go through a first change and discover they are werewolves, and get inducted into Garou society and their Tribe, if they are lucky enough to make it that long. Garou society is ultimately organized around one thing- protecting Gaia, the mother of all things, from a spiritual force of corruption and entropy called the Wyrm.
The Wyrm is at once a possible discreet being and multi-headed allegorical beast. It is part of a Triat of manifest concepts, the Wyld (chaos-creation), the Weaver (order-structure and pattern), and the Wyrm itself is the destructive returner, where creation then begins anew. Or, rather it used to be. Accounts differ, but basically the in-game setting-story states the Wyrm goes off the deep end and now lusts for the destruction of all things. Being a universal force it has no end of minions it can create or turn to its cause of destroying the prison of existence. It has corrupted spirits called Banes, corrupted humans called Fomori, it even has its own corrupted werewolves, a tribe called the Black Spiral Dancers. Yet for all that, its greatest and most inexhaustible resource is US, the human race. The Fomori the Wyrm can corrupt are evil on a metaphysical level, but humans don’t need any spiritual fuckery to commit horrors. They just need the promise of a little money and comfort. This is something the game lore makes very clear—that evil cannot be completely attributed to the efforts of the Wyrm, but it certainly feeds off of it. To further drive home that point the game designers created an Uber-corporation, called Pentex. Pentex is a conglomerate of multiple companies that all sound familiar, such as King Breweries, Endron Energy Company, RED News Network and O’Tolley’s Restaurants. Each is headed by an executive team that is undoubtably in the employ of the Wyrm to use capitalism and resources to rape the Earth and spread misery among the people who live there. But for every Fomori middle manager cackling as he dumps chemicals into the water supply, the true insidiuous nature of Pentex corporations is that they’re made up by people willing to ignore environmental regulations, screw each other over for a promotion, and power trip on their “lesser” when they climb up a rung on the corporate ladder.
The Garou, the “heroes” of the game aren’t beyond this either. Make no bones about it, the Garou are monsters. They jockey among each other for dominance, be it elder versus pup, Tribe versus Tribe. They can become addicted to human flesh, they have the mindset of religious extremists when it comes to the taint of the Wyrm, and in the distant past have even commited wholesale genocide against the human race and other races of shapeshifters in the name of Gaia and their pride. The first is why human instinctively fear werewolves, to the point of going catanoic in the face of a fully shifted Garou. The second genocide of all the other were-races, is why the Garou have basically failed at their mission. They thought they could go against the enemy alone, and systematically destroyed or alienated every single one of their allies each of which played a vital role in Gaia’s survival. Replace this with “terrible and antagonistic phone calls” and it’s a stretch, I know, but worth considering.
One of the Garou’s distinguishing characteristics, Rage, is so palpable and all-consuming that even the least angry Garou is a Friday afternoon commuter in Los Angeles who has just received a tax audit from the IRS, who’s on and endless office text chain they can never leave. It is also notable that Rage is a mark of the Wyrm itself, something that makes the Garou powerful and vulnerable to further corruption all at the same time. This is illustrated ad nauseum by the White Howlers tribe (ironically the subject of the never released first W:TA PC game), who charged into the heart of the Wyrm’s realm, over confident in their Rage and emereged as servents of the Corruptor itself.
At this you may be wondering what my point is, or why it is I believe the world needs what are, by all accounts, a warrior race of genocidal fuckwads. The Garou are supposed to be a safe guard against universal destrution and ultimately they have failed, and they pretty much know it. I think the very same thing occurred with Americans these past few months. Secure in our superiority, strength and system, we charged in blind and allowed the Wyrm to creep in and corrupt us. Only instead of slavering bat-eared mangy Black Spiral Dancers, we have Steve Bannon, although I’m hard pressed to see any difference.
The Garou may at times be consumed by Rage, but their other defining characteristic is Gnosis, which equates to knowledge or understanding on a holy level. They are in tune with the natural and spiritual worlds in a way that most humans take a lifetime to attain. The mission of the Garou is not something they choose, it defines them utterly and completely. They do the job because it is their birthright duty, and part of that is because they completely and utterly fucked themselves and the world up to put them in this unvenviable position. That sounds a lot like Americans right now. That’s why I say we have to be Garou. We need to be werewolves. We need to turn into insatiable flesh-rending murderbots, hell-bent on protecting the world from an evil that is, while not our creation, certainly our own-fucking-responsibilty. Each of us has our own claws, fangs, and its already been proven we can summon up a hell of a bark. So, aim for the moon and fucking howl. Physical and spiritual healing can only begin after we hunt down and rip the still beating heart out of this nuclear charged hate-filled Wyrm.
When will you Rage?