|Rick Kunz Webstore Coordinator|
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting re top-notch on a formal and rules-language level, with the one exploit noted above as the one instance where I do object to a design decision, big time. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and the interior artwork ranges from solid stock pieces to phenomenal original ones. All in all, this is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf. The pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version and the pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Anthony S. Altovilla and Patrick C. Miller provide one impressive “Play a Lycanthrope” booklet here. The one true complaint you can field against the pdf would be its scope – due to the length, there are e.g. no hunting rules included, and a discussion of the hunger-aspect would have been nice to see as well. As written, the werewolves herein are somewhat bereft of the drawbacks we usually associate with the condition, hearkening a bit closer to the Wolrd of Darkness’ relatively controlled lycanthropes, as opposed to the original theme of the cursed. Not complaining, mind you – just observing!
The pdf is pretty much unrepentant in its use of lycanthropy as a straight power-upgrade, which means that, as a whole, there is no real reason apart from in-game social stigma to get rid of the condition. So yeah, if you’re looking for a gothic horror toolkit, then this may perhaps be not 100% what you’d been wanting. HOWEVER, if you already subscribed to e.g. “Lords of the Night”’s increased power-level or are looking for a means to allow for PC lycanthropes without burdening the player unduly with drawbacks or loss of control, then this delivers. As an aside: For me as a person, these pretty much constitute the very essence of lycanthropy, so yeah…to me, the lack of drawbacks and hunger makes these guys feel more like a savage form of wolf-anthro than a werewolf. Suffice to say, for settings like Ravenloft, grittier games or those that like delving into the darker shades of gaming over the course of a whole campaign, who want to roleplay the torment and anxieties that monsters like werewolves exemplify, this may not necessarily be what you’re looking for.
That being said, if you accept this interpretation of a drawback-less werewolf for the sake of playability, then this pdf delivers a more than solid offering in its execution. In fact, the archetypes alone and the shifting feat engine may well warrant checking out the pdf, even if you’re not interested in this particular vision of the werewolf. Frankly, to me the wild huntsmaster archetype warrants the fair asking price all on its lonesome; the moonlight meditant, with just a minor tweak of the exploitable ability, can similarly make for an OMG-how-cool-is-that archetype. The first two PrCs feel slightly weaker, though the varsärk, in spite of being conceptually pretty simple, works really well for its niche as well.
So, when would I recommend this pdf? If you’re playing in a high-fantasy campaign, and a PC has been infected/you have a major lycanthropy angle coming, and don’t like the whole angst/psychological angle of werewolf-related issues (waking up in peasant blood, going berserk on allies, etc.pp.), then this is your go-to-pdf. It allows you to introduce temporary afflictions of lycanthropy in the game without interrupting the tone and plotline. Similarly, if you don’t want to go the template route and just want werewolf-themed character options, then this does offer some really cool tricks. The pack rituals can make PC-groups and NPCs alike truly formidable foes…
For a painless werewolf one-shot, or a Halloween-themed sojourn into the realms of the lycanthropes, this works really well.
In short, there is a lot to love herein.
While for me, as a person, this interpretation fails to account for pretty much what, to me, constitutes the very core of what lycanthropy means, there are a ton of cool rules and concepts to scavenge, and even if I’d take this into account and treat the base werewolf engine and the content building on it as a total loss (which it isn’t!), there is still enough content within to build upon and enjoy to warrant this a worthwhile pdf.
How to rate this, then? Well, the craftsmanship is very tight and well-executed, and the pdf includes one of the coolest archetypes I have seen-period. The wild huntsmaster is frickin’ A+-plus gold, and as such, as a whole, I found that I enjoyed this much more than I, by any rights, should have. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. The huntsmaster single-handedly nets this my seal of approval, though I’d like to note that, if you share my preferences for lycanthropes as beings defined by their curse, that you may want to subtract a star from this final verdict.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.