Posted on June 3, 2009 by GRIM
White Wolf persist in being one of the few big companies to get their PDF and web policy right. I know I mention this every time, but it continues to be worth pointing out. While they’re still a little overpriced for what you get – in many cases – White Wolf are pretty much bang on and seem to understand the medium and the PDF market better than the other large companies. This is especially poignant in the wake of Wizards of the Coast getting it so utterly wrong quite recently and of Palladium finally catching on to this newfangled technology stuff and moving on from carving editions of RIFTS into stone with a bison shin bone.
Still, given that White Wolf’s been consistent in this, I can no longer simply give them kudos and a higher score just for approaching e-publishing better than anyone else.
Wolfsheim is a mini-adventure for Scion, stand alone, suitable for an evening’s play or as a pick-up or convention game, though it will need experienced characters to be pre-generated in such an instance. It’s fairly straightforward, if a little rail-roady (as most of these adventures from White Wolf have been) and it could easily be shifted in space and time from its modern, Germanic setting to just about anywhere or anywhen.
The basic storyline is that of Yojimbo, the famous Japanese samurai story, a town caught between two predatory groups and the wanderers coming in, upsetting the balance between the people and their antagonists and, hopefully, causing a new peace to come about (through a great deal of bloodshed in the middle).
Wolfsheim is 44 pages, landscape – so suitable for laptop oriented gaming – of adventure with a short introduction and quite a few pages of organisational material, cuecards and NPC stat cards in the back. The meat of the adventure runs to about 22 pages all told with the rest taken up with the introductory material, background information, NPC motivations and the aforementioned play aids. The adventure is tight and focussed and, as well as falling within the overall Yojimbo scenario, also draws on dark fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretal and the myths and stories that circulate about the Black Forest.
The layout in unremarkable but workmanlike, I still can’t abide the layout or stylistic choices made in much of the modern White Wolf material but this is personal taste. While is biases my review it may not impact so much on your appreciation of the book. The book is presented in landscape, which many consider better for electronic products as it makes better use of the space on laptop or desktop screens. The artwork itself is a very mixed bag from a fistful of artists and the end result is that the presentation of the piece lacks a sense of cohesion, the different pieces not necessarily meshing with each other or the adventure as written.
Overall the writing is workmanlike and gets the job done but it isn’t particularly inspiring or engaging, it doesn’t excite you about the adventure or what is going on. The whole scenario doesn’t particularly feel suited to Scion either, it feels more like it should have been written and selected for the nWoD (or even the oWoD) and it would particularly fit Forsaken or Lost. For my money it feels out of place in the Scion world and is disjointed from my expectations and appreciations of that game, which are more heroic and grandiose than this scenario encourages.
The Goblin King, head of one of the two antagonist factions in the adventure (the other being werewolves) also seemed to jarr with the overall scenario to me. Goblins always tend to feel like comic relief, no matter how nastily they’re written (the Goblin in the film Catseye being one exception) and the Goblin King was no exception, every interaction with him, every quote, made me read the character like the cartoon Cobra Commander or Starscream, a screaming, egotistical incompetent that felt, as I said, like the comic relief and not something to be taken seriously.
The NPCs appear to be balanced and, while strong, there are circumstances and alliances that the players can take advantage of in order to even their odds. Taken as a straightforward fight players may find the scenario challenging – and it is combat heavy – but if they have even a modicum of cunning, or are combat oriented, they should survive the scenario fine.
A deeply average and slightly overpriced adventure, not 100% suited to the Scion idiom but good for a pick-up game or convention session.
* Well presented, lots of useful help for the Storyteller.
* Extremely versatile scenario that could be used in any time period of geographic location with a little tweaking.
* Slightly too expensive (by $1-2).