Hello again from the world of Werewolf: the Savage Age! I recently interviewed some of the creators behind Savage Age and they mentioned an upcoming product that could be an “epic jumpstart” to a chronicle set in the prehistory of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. They were kind enough to send me a complementary copy of the jumpstart to take a look and so today I bring you my thoughts on The Broken-Brother.
What’s a Jumpstart?
Let’s start with what this product is and isn’t. When you get The Broken-Brother you’re not getting a prewritten scenario. There’s no plot, there’s no maps, there is no sequence of scenes. This is different from an SAS, which is White-Wolf-and-Onyx-Path-speak for an “adventure.” You could buy an SAS this afternoon, read it through, and run it this evening. Like adventures in other systems, an SAS pdf can fill a game session or two… maybe three if you have a thorough or unfocused group.
This jumpstart, on the other hand, is like a packet of seeds. It’s full of plot hooks, NPCs, situations, roleplaying tips, and frameworks for a half-dozen story ideas. If you get it this afternoon it’s likely going to be a few days of planning and writing before you can put into action (unless you’re even more seat-of-your-pants than me) but once you get it up and running then The Broken-Brother could fill up many sessions of play. Any one of the frameworks is probably 5-10 sessions at least, plus you could run through all of them if you wanted to switch up characters. If you don’t want to switch characters then those 5-10 sessions will likely contain enough plot-setting and loose threads to start a campaign that will run as long as you care to stick with it, especially if you also have other Savage Age products. This isn’t a pre-assembled story but it’s a thorough kit that contains enough tools and raw material to build many different projects.
The Broken-Brother Himself
The central character of this jumpstart is a Gurahl war-leader once named He-Who-Sleeps-By-Water. While various werewolf packs were forging an alliance which will eventually become the Garou Nation, and slaughtering any Changing Breeds who didn’t acquiesce, He-Who-Sleeps-By-Water was leading the fight in his corner of the world (wherever you want to put that). He was offered an olive branch by the Garou and went to talk to them, then they murdered him in cold blood and kept up their hegemonic fight. That’s all the past for both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and the setting of this jumpstart.
What happened next sets up every other possible story in this product. The leadership vacuum left by He-Who-Sleeps-By-Water was taken up by his friend, the Gurahl seer named Restless-Sloth, but very obviously he was not a great replacement. So he did what any of us would have done in this situation: he descended into the realm of the dead and cut a Faustian deal with a death-spirit to release his friend. As always happens, he came back wrong.
The Broken-Brother is definitely the antagonist of the story, a Wyrm-warped monstrosity that stays in his 16-foot hybrid form and attracts banes and cultists to him like corpse-flies. On the other hand, he’s only this way because of cold-blooded betrayal and the hubris of a friend so he’s more than your typical horrific monster. Along with stats for the Broken-Brother, there are stats for his lieutenant (the same Restless-Sloth), notes on a neanderthal tribe that has started to worship him out of desperation, and reprinted information of all the Gifts that the Broken-Brother and Restless-Sloth have (a mixture of tweaked mechanics from W20 and Revised Edition books). It’s a full set but requires you to have ready access to other WtA Twentieth Edition books for all the antagonists and challenges you’ll need for making stories.
The Sample Pack
Included in The Broken-Brother epic jumpstart is a sample pack for you to use in a chronicle. While the chronicle frameworks cover a number of different set-ups (including playing desperate humans in a Grendel-like hunt for the werebear and an all-Fera story making deals with the proto-Garou) the sample pack works for nearly all of them. They are a mixed group, a “war pack” of different Changing Breeds brought together for a single purpose, and as such they include both Fera and werewolves.
Bones-of-the-Mountain is a Gurahl warrior, one of the Sansom Aknami cave-bears introduced in Savage Age. Since this is also the Tribe that the Broken-Brother belonged to back when he was He-Who-Sleeps-By-Water, she’s the most likely to have a personal stake in this. Little-Watcher-of-Apes would probably from the Glass Walkers in a modern chronicle since she’s so fascinated by humans. She’s part of the Atzu Telal Nahau from Savage Age, a Tribe that breeds with canis anthus and canis mosbachensis. Hunts-The-Tainted is a no-nonsense warrior who lives to tear apart servants of the Wyrm. He’s part of the Kucha-Ekundu Tribe with lycaon kinfolk and lots of Red Talons vibes. Sings-Of-Wars-To-Come is a Philodox and storyteller from the Bilai, a Tribe that breeds with the canis lupus or “default wolf” to use a technical term (haha). Swallows-Death is a wereboar from the Grondr who does what his name suggests and lives for killing Wyrm-tainted things. He’s also the only neanderthal-born member of the pack if you’re into that. There’s also a pack totem, Death Bear, which is tied up in the Broken-Brother legend as well.
One thing that’s definitely not a major part of this sample pack is broader context. You’ve got all the stats and Gift information as well as detailed character backstories and roleplaying notes, but there’s not a lot on the setting-specific information. To orient you to the Paleolithic there’s a two-page primer that’s very useful but not as much on the mythic side of things. The nature of the different near-wolf Tribes, the role of the various breeds in Gaia’s vision, and the character options beyond what’s shown here are not part of this epic jumpstart. Heck, even terms like Gurahl, Grondr, and the various auspices, breeds, and forms are not here so you’ll need to make up your own stuff or check out the rest of Savage Age and W20 Changing Breeds to untangle all of this setting mythology. Believe me when I say it’s worth it but for newcomers who feel confused then you’re not crazy.
Should I Get This or Savage Age?
The various Savage Age products are collectively a setting and campaign guide, The Broken-Brother is a short introduction to the setting to get you going. So which is the chicken and which is the egg? Honestly, it depends. If you want to check out what Savage Age is and understand the vision of the team at Weaponized Ink, then either Accounting for the Dead or Rise of the Garou are the ones to start with (depending on if you favor the Fera or the werewolves, respectively). However, you might read through those volumes and wonder how to even start a story in this blood-soaked, stone punk setting and that’s where The Broken-Brother can help.
On the other hand, you might want to just dip your toe in and see what’s up with the Savage Age in which case The Broken-Brother is only $3 and gives you all the tools to get a chronicle started. If you like it, get one or both of the other volumes to build out the setting more and Tools of Extinction to add the depth you might want. As discussed above, reading just The Broken-Brother might make you feel like you’re missing big chunks of what’s going on (because you are) and if that’s going to be too rough for you then get the setting books before this one. On the other hand, getting this book gives you discount links to both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Savage Age line so that’s another strong endorsement for getting The Broken-Brother.
Personally, I love this set-up and it fulfilled it’s job for me: I’ve liked the Savage Age for quite a while but reading this jumpstart really crystallized for me what the setting and characters are like. With this as a starting off point, I could see launching a chronicle this weekend. With the wonderful W20 and W20 Changing Breeds books, as well as the masterfully-written Savage Age line and (for me personally) the fantastic Würm RPG, then this could be a truly amazing option for my next World of Darkness foray.