Caerns: Places of Power
The blurb tells us this is a "World Sourcebook for Werewolf: The Apocalypse" -
The opening chapter discusses the sacred sites any Werewolf chronicle will be
based around, and the moon-bridges that connect them. A pretty map displays
the major moon-bridge routes throughout America and across the world.
The rest of the book is made of 14 sections, each detailing one "famous" caern,
describing the geography, the Umbra, internal politics and the totem-spirit.
NPC characteristics and story suggestions conclude. All worthy stuff.
Each section has a different author and the quality is consequently uneven.
Let's talk about what's good. Two fascinating sections deal with the Orient:
the Glass Walkers in Hong Kong and the Shadow Lords in Japan. These urban
werewolves differ from their Western counterparts. The Japanese Garou have
allies among the Kitsune (mystical Werefoxes); the Chinese Garou still believe
in the uncorrupted Wyrm of Balance, which they call the Dragon, and diplomats
will need to convince them of the danger the Wyrm poses.
The Stargazers are based out of a Buddhist monastery in Tibet and the Silver
Fangs control a mountain in the Urals, while the Black Spiral Dancers lair in
the gut of a gigantic thunderwyrm lurking under the New Mexico desert. The
centrepiece, however, is the Mosque of Anfa, otherwise known as the Wheel of
Ptah, a gigantic moon-bridge junction in Casablanca overseen by the Silent
Striders. This place is a Garou crossroads,. Indeed, since Ptah can open
moon-bridges and spirit-gates to anywhere, this place will be a springboard to
many adventures. All the tribes meet peaceably here, allowing for intrigues or
the formation of multi-tribal packs.
Interesting caerns are described for the Uktena and the Black Furies, but since
they're closed to outsiders it's hard to see what most Storytellers are going
to do with them. The Alaskan caern for the xenophobic Red Talons has a touch
of whimsy: nearby Lawson is straight out of Northern Exposure or Twin Peaks,
right down to Jim Morrison running the fast-food restaurant or the Black Spiral
Dancers visiting the comic shop to stock up on back-issues.
Otherwise, these remaining caerns are . . . well . . . rather ordinary. Any
storyteller could have designed them, without any particular insights or
research. A lot of space is given to NPCs but, in game-mechanic terms, one
werewolf is pretty much like any other. I would have preferred simple
The overall product is fragmentary. No information is given on the worldwide
organisation of the Garou tribes. The "Inner Calyx" of the Black Furies and
the "High King" of the Fianna are mentioned in passing - these are the things
we want to know about.
To be frank, you don't need to buy this book, but it makes interesting reading.
The Casablanca caern will find a place in all but the most insular chronicles
and some of the others may provide inspiration, at least.