This book is a supplement for the World of Darkness, and covers shapechangers of various kinds, as you might guess from the title. The WoD contains a whole game about werewolves, so this book is about other shapechangers. The first chapter is about humans who steal the shapes of animals, generally by killing animals and wearing their skins, or something similar. The second is about people possessed by spirits who make the change shape. The third is a grab-bag, ideas that do not really fit into the categories of the WoD setting. The last category is quite important, because in a horror game, it matters that you have the unknown.
The second chapter has a pet peeve. It takes up the Kitsune, shapeshifting foxes from Japanese mythology, and makes the head fox Inari. Inari is not a fox. Foxes are the messengers of Inari, in Shinto. Grrr. (This is standard RPG fan annoyance when the authors get something wrong in a field I happen to know better than they do. It’s something that, wearing my author’s hat, I have to learn to live with.)
Apart from that, it’s a good book. Several bits inspired me with ideas for stories and characters, which is the main point. The Kitsune, in fact, were good apart from that Inari thing. The Serpent Guardians, snake-spirits who hoard knowledge, also had a lot of story potential. The whole first chapter suggested lots of ideas, for various sorts of skinthieves. I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to use these ideas, but they’ll probably help if and when I have to write other books for the line.
It also confirmed my strongest impression of the new World of Darkness; I want to run a mortals campaign in it. I might segue it into a Mage chronicle at some point, but this version of the WoD is set up to work really well as a horror game for ordinary human characters. There are the layers and layers of secrets needed to make such a game work, as well as powers that humans cannot hope to confront head on. This is something that I never felt that the old World of Darkness really managed, so I think this is a significant improvement in the overall setting. It’s more flexible than the old one.
Overall, then, this is a good, solid book for the World of Darkness, with interesting twists to add to any chronicle.
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