This article originally appeared in Pyramid #5

Into the Moonlit Night

Designer's Notes for GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse

by Robert M. Schroeck

I first read Werewolf: The Apocalypse shortly after it was published. A friend had purchased it and raved about it, so I grabbed his copy and read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. I found it dark, disturbing and engrossing. The setting was unique, to say the least. Briefly, each player takes the part of a werewolf, one of the mysterious Garou. These are not the typical werewolves from myth or fantasy -- these are modern-day beasties, violent, tragic, passionate and, as it turns out, possessing a vicious drive to save the planet from the human corporations that threaten to destroy it. It was, I decided, a setting that I'd gladly play in. But my friend who owned the book never offered. Oh, well...

When SJ Games offered me the chance to write the GURPS adaptation of Werewolf, half a year later, I thought back to the excitement the game had engendered in me, the pull to play one of the Earth-conscious beast-men, and gladly accepted.

Like Jeff Koke with Vampire: The Masquerade, I thought that most of the hard work had already been done. Unlike Jeff, though, I'd been the one who'd done the work, when I codified the were-creature construction rules found in GURPS Bestiary, Second Edition. I was, of course, mistaken.

There was much, much more to Werewolf than I remembered.

First off, the world background is extremely well-detailed. The werewolves are divided into 12 tribes, each with its own distinct customs and tribal personality... and magical powers. The powers themselves -- Gifts, as they are called by the Garou -- are more varied, and less structured than those found in Vampire. Then there is a collection of rituals, some magical and some mundane, of which each tribe uses a subset. Finally, there is the Umbra, a spirit world parallel to our own, through which the powerful werewolves can travel. Reworking this detailed background into GURPS was going to be a considerable undertaking.

I did have one major advantage -- I had Jeff's work to build on. The vital step of creating conversion rules was already done for me (although I would later have to expand them), so I could leap right into designing the Garou under GURPS. From the start I knew that they would be impressive characters. Neonate Vampires were built on 200 to 300 points, and a newly-initiated Werewolf was -- according to both the original source, and to the Werewolf players I spoke to -- clearly their superior. But how superior?

Engineering The Wolf

It took me a while to work out the details. As I've already described, the Garou are complicated creatures, and their abilities and weaknesses are scattered throughout the original book. But from the beginning, I had a ballpark idea of where they would be: certainly over 300 points. But how far over? Garou strength, claws, shapechanging ability with five separate forms, everything else, all pointed to monumental point totals.

The trick is that werewolves have five forms to choose from. There is the Homid form, which is human, allowing the Garou to pass unnoticed among the masses that populate the Gothic-Punk world. Between man and werewolf is Glabro. Crinos is the terrifying beast-man who is so frightening that humans refuse to see him, or block the memory from their minds if they do see one. Between Crinos and true wolf form is Hispo, the near-wolf. And finally, there is Lupus, the true wolf, who can travel freely in the animal world. Each form has special advantages, and certain powers.

For a while I got bogged down in duplicating the original game's wealth of detail about the individual forms; I treated each of the shapes as a separate character, with its own point total, and ended up with 800-point monsters. Actually building a Garou character was a gnarled and complex job that looped back on itself several times. It was just too much.

It took pointed commentary from the playtesters, plus the opportunity to think at leisure about the issue between drafts, to help me solve this. The main problem was that many advantages were duplicated between forms, and each form paid full or near-full price for them. By moving most of the individual forms' advantages into the "shared points" part of the character, and discounting them by how many forms could actually use the advantage, I managed to turn a 700-point racial base cost into 176 points. To make things even simpler, I slightly bent my own rules on handling the Were Form advantage and incorporated it directly into the racial package, making a final total of 228 points (226 for metis -- the sterile mules who are born of two mated Garou).

One immediate result of this was that character creation suddenly became a linear process once again -- no more need to run back and forth between human and non-human forms, comparing and balancing points. Being a Garou became a flat advantage, and, unexpectedly, the definitions of the non-human forms fell right into the White Wolf model of describing only the changes to the human form. It was a pleasant paradox -- by taking the GURPS paradigm to the proper degree, I had brought back the flavor and style of the Storyteller version.

Another benefit was that the point value of the Garou fell dramatically as a result of the re-engineering. For a while, it looked like we would have 350-point Garou "puppies." However, careful examination of characters, both created from scratch in GURPS and converted from Storyteller, made it clear that this was insufficient. Many of the advantages that represented common Garou backgrounds were simply unavailable to 350-point starting Werewolves, after their breed, auspice and tribal requirements were met. Converted characters, even adjusted to possess a full complement of disadvantages and quirks, tended to float between 450 and 550 points. 450 points seemed to be the ideal compromise between the two.

Powers and Abilities

The other point where the most thought and engineering went into the design of the Garou was their Gifts. One of the things about the Garou that sets them off, and makes them unique and dangerous, is the wide variety of powers that they may possess.

Unlike vampiric Disciplines, these gifts are essentially random; while each breed, auspice and tribe has its own special set, the sets have no special theme or links. Thus they do not lend themselves at all to the Power-Skill structure used for the Disciplines. My initial proposals sought to express the wide variety of gifts with as many existing GURPS abilities as I could; I incorporated spells, magical knacks, super-advantages and super-powers, sometimes all within the same gift! The resulting hodgepodge duplicated the effects -- mostly -- of the Werewolf gifts, but much of the flavor of the original game was lost in the welter of cross-references and detailed breakdowns.

In the end, though, it was this unwieldiness that doomed the approach. I threw out almost all of my conversions, and used the original gift descriptions instead. Their effects were handled as simply as possible, with classic GURPS mechanics such as Quick Contests, and without recourse to extensive descriptions of the underlying design. In the end, the result was smoother in both presentation and play, and preserved the feel of the original text. Similarly, the Garou rites, their ceremonial magic, were revised to follow the model of the Vampire Rituals, both for stylistic consistency and again to eliminate unnecessary cross-references.


On a lighter note, there was one thing that Jeff Koke and I agreed upon from the start of this project: that Taylor, inadvertent discoverer of the Kindred in the prologue to GURPS Vampire: The Masquerade, should survive to have further adventures. In GURPS Werewolf, Taylor has sent another packet of documents from the Twilight Zone to his old friend Dr. Mautzenberg, and drops hints about his future. This much I will say now: Taylor will be seen again in GURPS Mage: The Ascension, where he may be ready to stop running and start fighting.

Last Words

Writing GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse was by turns exhilarating and infuriating, but I am excited and gratified to have added my share to the unique collaboration between Steve Jackson Games and White Wolf. If I had it to do over again, I would do so; in fact, I have, in a way -- I've been offered (and have accepted) the opportunity to write GURPS Mage: The Ascension. To my surprise, I find that I am looking forward to another expedition to the heart of the Gothic-Punk world of darkness, and I hope that the result will be as satisfying as this project has been.

Sample Werewolf:
Emmanuel Dubrinsky

Metis Ragabash of the Glass Walkers
     Age 24, 5'10", 160 lbs, black hair, blue eyes.

ST 13 (30 points)IQ 13 (30 points)Speed: 6.00
DX 14 (45 points)HT 11 (10 points)Move: 7
Dodge 7Parry 10 (Brawling)
Rage: 6Will: 13Gnosis: 16

Damage: Thrust 1d-2; Swing 1d

Point Total: 450 points.

Appearance: Attractive (5 points)
Contacts, Business: 2 with Effective skill 18, available on 9 or less (30 points)
Extra Gnosis +6 (48 points)
Garou Package (Metis, 226 points)
Reputation +2 for Glory among local sept (5 points)
Status 1, Garou (5 points)
Status 2, Human (10 points)
Wealth: Comfortable (10 points)

Intolerance: Stargazers (-5 points)
Lame: Crippled Leg (-15 points)
Reduced Rage -4 (-16 points)
Reputation -1 ("Traitor to Gaia" from other Garou; -5 points)
Social Stigma: Metis (-20 points)

Accounting-12 (2 points); Administration-12 (1 point); Brawling-15 (2 points); Climbing-14 (2 points); Computer Operations/TL7-14 (2 points); English-13 (0, native tongue); Fast-Talk-14 (4 points); Guns (Pistol)/TL7-18 (4 points); Hebrew-14 (4 points); Knife-16 (4 points); Merchant-15 (6 points); Politics-13 (2 points); Running-11 (4 points); Savoir-Faire (Garou)-15 (0, default from Status); Savoir-Faire (Human)-15 (0, default from Status); Stealth-14 (4 points); Streetwise-15 (6 points).

Control Simple Machine (5 points)
Create Element (5 points)
Open Seal (5 points)

Habitual jogger.
Fond of obscure, subtle practical jokes.
Hates drug dealers.
Dislikes entering the Umbra.
Tends to keep separate from Glass Walker society.

Emmanuel Dubrinsky was born downtown, and that's where he has stayed for most of his life. He was placed in a foster home by the orphanage where he was raised, and it came as a great shock when Emmanuel was kidnapped for his rite of passage. For the most part, he adapted well, but seeing the true workings of the world has led him to abandon his adopted family's Orthodox Jewish faith.

Because he was the sole child of his widowed father, he returned to his home after his rite of passage was completed, and maintained a rather aloof and detached membership in a pack based near his neighborhood. Shortly after his 18th birthday, Emmanuel's father died and left him the small corner grocery store which was the family's lifeblood. He took it over, and has not only kept it alive, but made it more profitable than it ever had been. In the process, he has developed connections among local businessmen.

Despite his relative seclusion from other Garou, he has not avoided clashes with the rare Stargazer; these have left a very bad taste in his mouth. He is not unbloodied, either; he is adept at hand-to-hand and knife fighting, and is a remarkably good shot with his trusty .38 special, which he normally keeps in the drawer of his cash register. It is normally loaded with lead slugs, but he has a cache of 18 hand-made silver bullets in case he ever needs them. Emmanuel dislikes drug dealers intensely, and kills any who venture into his neighborhood, making sure that their bodies are never found.

He is extremely protective of the humans around him. Most recently, he destroyed a pair of vampires who had attempted to move into his turf. However, this may be his undoing, financially, as he was forced to assume Crinos form in front of his store to battle the leeches, and the Veil has begun to take its toll on his customer base.

Article publication date: February 1, 1994

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