Categorized | Game Designers, Interviews

Recording the Apocalypse with Onyx Path Publishing

Posted on October 8, 2021 by Flames

In The Apocalyptic Record, young and old Garou alike deliver tales of great, humble, disastrous, and glorious deeds. They run the gamut from tales of war and the Wyrm, to stories of the Umbra, Kinfolk, and tribes long lost.

Onyx Path Publishing has launched a Kickstarter for a deluxe edition of The Apocalyptic Record. A setting supplement and sourcebook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition. We’ve had a chance to discuss this project with the co-developers Matthew Dawkins and Leath Sheales.

Apocalyptic Record

    What were some of your favorite inspirations for Apocalyptic Record?

      MD: Beckett’s Jyhad Diary is one of mine, in terms of style and intention. From a Werewolf standpoint, I’ve always enjoyed the impressive nature of the forthcoming Apocalypse, how at times it feels hopeless to fight it, at other times all you have in Werewolf is the fight to slow or prevent it. The entire Werewolf metaplot, spread across its many, many books, inspired me to co-develop this one.

      LS: The Prophecy of the Phoenix is a big one for me, running all the way back to Werewolf: The Apocalypse 2nd edition. Here’s this overarching prophecy that all Garou know, with signs of the end times, and like all good mythic prophecies it seems clear and specific but is really quite vague and open to interpretation. Various signs were more or less true depending on the person considering them. And that got me thinking about the idea of cyclical apocalypses, and the number of times the signs rose and fall, and how the Garou could never be sure if the signs they saw this time were *the* Apocalypse, or just another prelude to an apocalypse. Think about the first sign of the Apocalypse, the decimation of kin, and think about how this must have appeared to the various indigenous tribes of North America and Australia over the centuries. Similarly, the fourth sign is the children of humans falling against each other. Unfortunately, wars between human nations aren’t exactly rare in our history, are they?

      What was the research and pitch process like for this book?

        MD: I recall discussing with Rich Thomas the possibility of making a Werewolf book akin to Beckett’s Jyhad Diary, where we could round off the metaplot built up over the last 30 years, ahead of the release of a new edition. I sold it as a massive “thank you” to the long-time fans of Werewolf, who would recognise in this book characters, events, and powers they may have played, interacted with, or used in their chronicles over the last three decades. In terms of research, our amazing team of writers were each assigned sections to write on their respective Auspice chapters, and a Storyteller’s metaplot chapter, too, and given advice on the books they’d need to refer to to make their chapter pop. As an example, the Ahroun writers were referring to books such as Rage Across the Amazon, while the Ragabash writers had books like Book of the Wyrm and the Pentex Employee Indoctrination Handbook to refer to.

        LS: This takes me back. In mid-2018 Matthew asked if I’d be interested in developing a book like Beckett’s Jyhad Diary for WtA. From that initial conversation we quickly sketched out some of the core structures for Apocalyptic Record. We agreed that having a single chronicler didn’t suit the Garou Nation like it did vampire society, that Garou were an oral tradition with many viewpoints and voices. It was in this discussion that we settled on a guiding point for the writers – “No objective truths”. That is to say, characters have their views and opinions, all of which are subjective, and all of which have degrees of value, are all of which are their truths. Gaia isn’t going to appear and tell a character that they’re wrong.

        We both knew that the Auspices were key to how we’d divide the book into chapters. The Garou have so many different tribes, septs, and ideas, but it keeps coming back to Auspices defining roles – or defining what roles an individual rebels against. From there, we figured out the subjects that made sense for each Auspice and what we wanted to writers to cover, without telling them who or what had to tell the stories covering those topics.

        Which Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition books had the most impact on the development of this book?

          MD: That’s an excellent question, because all of them did, in some way or another. I think Book of the Wyrm stands out for me, not only because I contributed to it, but because it does such a fantastic job of revealing the Apocalypse, Gaia, and the Wyrm from the perspective of the enemy. It’s an incredibly captivating, motivating book.

          LS: No one book stands out as directly more important to the Apocalyptic Record‘s story than any other. However, personally, I’m going to say that two books had the most impact on the Apocalyptic Records – Changing Breeds and Book of the Wyrm – both of which are key because they’re the books where me (CB20th) and Matthew (BotW20th) started working on the Werewolf line!

          What were some of the biggest challenges during the research phase of this book?

            MD: Without doubt, the biggest challenge was knowing what not to include. Werewolf’s metaplot is a little more discreet than Vampire’s, oddly, and therefore we had to dig deep to find the parts we wanted to shine a new light on, and think carefully about elements that haven’t aged well, or are best left resolved (or unresolved, as they case may be), by time. Our writers were all incredibly enthusiastic to present this plot, or that characters, but occasionally it’s the job of the developers to say “let’s bench that idea from 1994 and go with this one from 1997 instead”. As an example, you couldn’t pay us to revive the Swords of Heimdall. Times have changed, and some things weren’t a great idea when they were first presented.

            LS: The biggest challenge for our writers was the sheer depth of re-familiarising themselves with what came before. Although the 20th anniversary editions of the WtA books were the first place we directed them, I don’t think any of our great team of writers limited themselves to those books. They all dug deeper into the lore, finding the voices for the characters they wrote, talking with each other about ideas and who would write what to avoid doubling up on the same topics, or to ensure they came at those topics from different directions.

            W20 Apocalyptic Art

              How useful is the Apocalyptic Record for previous editions of Werewolf: The Apocalypse?

                MD: Very much so, I would hope. This book expands existing metaplot seeds laid down in previous editions, revisits old places and names from way back when, and gives real depth to plots we may not have looked at in up to 30 years. There are elements from books like Rage Across Appalachia and Rage Across New York here, as well as characters from the Tribebooks for Werewolf. There’s a lot to find and use in this book, for Storytellers and players alike.

                LS: The Apocalyptic Record is full of story hooks and campaign ideas. It gives so many start points for games, or events and characters to drop into ongoing campaigns regardless of edition. Chapter Six also looks over nearly 30 years of books and plot – that is, across all editions – and pulls out key elements from each one for players and Storytellers to dig their claws into. I’ve been a fan of Werewolf the Apocalypse since the corebook of 1st edition and I find that chapter to be an invaluable resource. There’s been so much written about the Garou that I admit I hadn’t remembered all the nuances that the writer pulled together for that chapter!

                What kind of content is there for fans of the Changing Breeds?

                  MD: We include several spokespersons for the various Fera throughout this book, sometimes as allies, sometimes as victims, other times as enemies. While the game’s name is Werewolf, a lot of people love those Corax, Kitsune, and Bastet, among others, and it wouldn’t be right to cut them out. They have a voice here, hopefully leading to their inclusion in more Werewolf games.

                  LS: Garou are the focus of the Apocalyptic Record, but we know they don’t occupy the Earth alone. (Much as they’ve tried at various times in their history!) Various Fera appear within chapters – sometimes commenting on the Garou, other times interacting with them, and occasionally critiquing them and their actions. One of the themes running through the book is that the Garou can’t do it all alone. A common analogy with the Garou is that they’re hammers and they see every problem as a nail. This has a lot of truth to it, but in this age, with the new generations and the pace of technological and societal change, they’re coming to actually understand that they can’t do it alone. They need other tools to get the job done, and they need to look to mend the bridges they burned with the Changing Breeds.

                  What piece of Werewolf lore was your favorite to expand or add to this book?

                    MD: I love anything that takes us into the Umbra and explores spirit, totem, or even lune interaction with the Garou. It’s something a lot of Storytellers struggle with, because by their ephemeral nature, Umbral entities are alien and bizarre to the average werewolf (and Werewolf players). I think we did a fantastic job making these types of creature relatable, and hopefully explain their place in the world a little better. Plus, I enjoyed that we killed one of the many up and coming Pentex director candidates from Book of the Wyrm in this book.

                    LS: I’ve already mentioned the Prophecy of the Phoenix, which I wanted to revisit and weave through the book. It’s there in several ways, some of which only become apparent as you read more of the book. The second thing I wanted emphasised, which you may or may not think of as lore, was the way the lupus breed Garou view the world. These wolf-born Garou can easily be dismissed as simple because they lack human upbringing and schooling, but that overlooks the richness of their senses, the information that scent and hearing convey from the world beyond human concepts and speech, and the value they bring to werewolf society. Our writers did a wonderful job in showing these aspects of lupus existence.

                    What can you tell us about the creative team on this book?

                      MD: Our writers on this one were a fantastic mixture of established hands and new voices, from Bill Bridges and Ethan Skemp, who have both led the Werewolf line at various points, through to Alison Cybe, Cat Evans, Erica Mahoney, Michele Masala, Nik May, James Sambrano, and of course, my co-developer Leath Sheales. The range of experience was an incredible boon, because it allowed some in-character voices to have the authority of their experienced authors, while new pups and tales of the first change could be written up by people first approaching this material. I’m very proud of all their work.

                      LS: They were amazing and wrote so much good material directly into their first drafts. So much so that Matthew and I only had to give drafts a light touch for redlines and 2nd drafts. What the writers produced was clear and evocative, and most of what you read in the Apocalyptic Record came straight from first drafts with just enough developer tweaks and polish to bring all the stories together and make it shine.

                      Now that the Kickstarter has been funded, what kinds of stretch goals are you hoping for?

                        MD: Icons of Rage has been announced, and this is one I’m really looking forward to. I’ve no doubt we’ll fund it, and in my view, a book of characters – supporting cast and antagonists alike – for insertion into your chronicles is something any Werewolf Storyteller can make use of. It also gives us the chance to expand on characters created for Apocalyptic Record and revisit old favourites from historic editions.

                        LS: As the Apocalyptic Record is the capstone of the WtA 20th anniversary line, my wish list would be for any books that add to the playing experience and open up options that haven’t had as much attention across the different editions. Exploring more around the Bunyip, looking into the lost Croatan, and probably many more threads that I’m not recalling right now would be on my list.

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