Table of Contents

Spend any time looking at other articles on this site, and you’ll see that we repeatedly recommend trying out tabletop RPGs. If you’re not familiar with what those are, you can read our post explaining what tabletop RPGs are for a quick introduction.

At the time of writing this, the blog is still young, so we haven’t yet touched on every tabletop RPG I’d like to. However, one that I have covered briefly is Werewolf: the Apocalypse. If it’s a game that has interested you and you’ve never played it before, you might be wondering where to start.

That’s a great question! I’ve written this post to discuss where you should start with Werewolf: the Apocalypse if you want to give it a try. However, I think the concepts I’m going to discuss here apply to many other tabletop RPGs, too.

What is Werewolf: the Apocalypse?

Factory Releasing Pollution into Air

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First, I’ll start with a quick description of what Werewolf: the Apocalypse is. If you’re read any of my articles about it, you already know, but I’ll assume you’re coming into this completely unfamiliar with it.

Werewolf: the Apocalypse (WtA) is a tabletop RPG in which players become werewolves (aka Garou). It’s possible for them to play as other shapeshifting creatures, such as werebears, but werewolves are more common.

The game is set in the World of Darkness. If the world sounds alien or completely foreign, it really isn’t – it’s just our world, except all the things that go bump in the night are real.

In the World of Darkness, different paranormal creatures have their own roles to fill. Werewolves, for example, are nature’s warriors. They strive to fight the corrupting influence of corporations that pollute the environment.

Most will describe the game as being centered on combat. Werewolves are built to deal hefty damage, so campaigns tend to throw them into as many fights as possible.

But werewolves also have a deeply spiritual side, and they’re loyal to their own – much like the wolves they’re modeled after. They’re connected to the Umbra, a spirit world that mirrors the “real” world, and can sidestep into it at a moment’s notice.

Additionally, although all werewolves can throw down if they need to, they’re not necessarily all chest-beating soldiers eager for a taste of blood. They have various meaningful roles in their own society, including judges, bards, warriors, mages, and cunning jester-like members.

See Also: Top 5 Best Werewolf: the Apocalypse Tribes

Where to Start

Finally, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this post: how to get started playing. I’ve divided the process into several steps, which you can apply to any other tabletop RPG:

  • Getting a core rulebook
  • Reading introductory sections
  • Looking at rules and character-building sections
  • Building your first character
  • Searching for players and a Storyteller
  • Coordinating with your group to set up sessions

Get one of the core rulebooks.

Your first step is to get a grasp on the system and its rules. To do that, you’ll need to get your hands on at least one of the books.

My personal suggestion for Werewolf: the Apocalypse is the 20th anniversary edition rulebook. For one thing, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’d show you pictures of some of the pages, but I’m honestly not 100% sure on the legality of doing that, so you may need to take my word on its beauty here.

Second, it condenses all the basic rules you’ll need to play the game into one convenient location. You can easily share it with other players, too, so everyone can page through it and get a feel for the game.

Third, it reads like a novel. I read it from cover to cover, and it was an entertaining experience. You won’t feel like you’re reading a college textbook as you leaf through it, which I think is a weakness for many other gaming systems.

You can take the same step for any other tabletop RPG. Whatever you’re interested in, decide on an edition and find the corresponding core rulebook for that edition.

Read introductory sections.

Person Reading Tablet

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Once you get the core rulebook, it isn’t just going to sit on your shelf (or on your phone or PC). You need to crack it open and start learning.

Assuming you have the 20th anniversary edition of the Werewolf: the Apocalypse rulebook like I mentioned, I suggest starting with all of Book One. That includes pages 26-106. These pages will give you an overview of the World of Darkness, and what werewolves are like in general.

I know it sounds like a lot of reading, but it’s not as exhausting as you’d think. Again, the book is well-written, so it won’t be boring in the slightest.

For other gaming systems, you’ll generally find introductory sections in the beginning of the book. These tend to be more like flavor text, which just gives you a feel for the world, but I still think they’re important. This is even truer if you’re going to be the one running the campaign – you need to have a thorough understanding of the world.

Look through rules and character-building sections.

Once you’ve finished reading introductory sections, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty details. You’ll want to read the system rules and learn how to build characters.

In the 20th anniversary edition of WtA, this is all in Book Two, which starts on page 106. It’s hard to tell you which pages are more important, because I think they’re all important, but some particularly vital information starts on page 112, which details the character creation process.

White Wolf goes into thorough detail on how to build a character, even providing examples of how to do everything from start to finish. It’s been very lovingly outlined so your hand is essentially held through the entire process.

You’ll also want to visit a summary of the rules. In the 20th Anniversary edition, the rules section starts at page 230. It gives you a run-through of basic rules and gameplay, enough that you can understand how to jump into your first session.

In other systems, you’ll need to check the index to find where character creation and rules sections are. These are generally towards the front of the book.

Build your first character.

Pencil and Shavings on an Open Notebook

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With a better understanding of the rules and character creation, it’s time to build your first character! Keep in mind that this doesn’t need to be a character you’re actually going to play. There’s no pressure on you at this stage to have a fully fleshed-out concept.

Instead, think of this as your trial run. Whether you’re going to be the Storyteller or a player, knowing how to quickly and efficiently build characters will be a huge asset. Not only will you be able to do this yourself if you end up needing to whip up backup characters, but you’ll be able to help other players who may struggle to make characters of their own.

Remember, in the 20th anniversary WtA edition, this means going back to page 112. Follow the steps from there on to build your character. You’ll need a character sheet to make note of your attributes and skills, but you can easily find them online, like with this character sheet.

Search for players and a Storyteller.

Pack of Wolves Playing

Image by Vincent Boulanger from Pixabay

Now to take the first steps towards starting a real campaign: finding players and a Storyteller. The Storyteller is the person who runs the sessions. In my experience, it’s extremely difficult to find a Storyteller unless you happen to know someone who’s already familiar with the system.

If you don’t feel comfortable running the campaign yourself, you’ll need to either see if one of your friends would be interested in doing so or you’ll need to search for someone. There are plenty of places you can try checking online, such as on Reddit or Roll20. These methods work much better if you’re planning on running the campaign virtually using voice chat systems like Discord.

Finding a Storyteller in person will be a bit harder, depending on where you’re located. Assuming none of your friends are interested, you can try checking with local game stores.

If you’re willing to volunteer to be Storyteller, though, it will be much easier to put together a group of players. You’ll find that more of your friends will want to join in the pack when they don’t have the pressure of running the entire campaign on their shoulders.

Being the Storyteller is a challenging role. I’ve personally never enjoyed being the DM, GM, or Storyteller because it feels like it’s a lot of work, but some people love it. If that sounds like you, or you know someone who happily runs games, then congratulations – you’re that much closer to getting the campaign started.

See Also: Tips for How to Run Werewolf: the Apocalypse

Work with your group to coordinate sessions.

With the Storyteller and players set out, you’re finally past the hardest parts of the process. Now, you’ve just got to actually plan when sessions are going to be.

If the Storyteller and all players are friends, this is a bit easier. You can simply work together to see when your schedules are open and plan accordingly.

With strangers that you found online or through local stores, it can be a bit more awkward. Coordinating will be uncomfortable at first, but as time goes on, this discomfort will fade.

My personal suggestion is to have a pre-session where you all build your characters together. This will give everyone time to talk and ask questions if there’s any confusion. It’s also potentially a bonding experience if you’re playing with new people.

If the characters are built quickly enough in this session, the Storyteller can run you through a quick prologue to your story, such as how all your Garou become a pack.

Wrap Up

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again now, and I’ll likely say it many more times in the future: I wish Werewolf: the Apocalypse was played more often. It’s a beautiful game with an amazing setting and theme. Not only do I hope to see other players give it a try, but I hope to play it again myself in the future.

With any luck, you’re able to put together your own campaign with the guide here. If you are, feel free to leave a comment below letting me know how it went.

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