I’d consider Werewolf 2e to be one of the most improved lines from its 1e version ever since I picked up its core book. After having played the game itself, I can confirm that the systems (crunch-heavy as they are) mesh together very well and really help carry the concept of powerful hunters working together to bring down their prey. I was curious to see how this supplement might build on that basis, and it gives some very interesting options for a play group and greater detail on how groups of werewolves work together-- whether it be in packs, protectorates (groups of many packs allied together to protect a single region,) and Lodges (cult-like organizations headed by powerful Totems that focus on one very specific type of prey and cause.)
The most interesting subsystem to be introduced is probably the Pack Experience system. Expanded well beyond the group beats system presented in the core, you’re asked to come up a number of story hooks which give mechanical effects. The first is Pack Touchstones. These are important parts of their territory which they gain a +1 bonus on rolls to defend, and which can be drawn on once per session to give a +2 bonus to a roll relevant to the Touchstone. In addition, the pack itself gets Aspirations like a character, which generate pack beats whenever they are advanced. These typically relate into the reasons the pack was brought together in the first place. Finally, the pack has Complications, which are environmental aspects, people, or groups that make the pack’s job difficult. When Complications...well, complicate things, you get a pack beat.
But what can you do with all these pack beats? Well, there’s several options to choose from. There are new merits called, appropriately enough, Pack Merits which can only be bought with pack beats. These reflect a greater understanding of pack dynamics and pack territory. For example, your werewolf pack might learn over time how to use the features of their territory against their prey, imposing a Condition on them appropriate to the area, like inflicting Shadow Paranoia in a dark, creepy forest. You also may boost the stats of your Totem beyond the limits of the Totem Merit dots. But the final option is something I was surprised was not within the core-- the choice to learn Pack Tactics.
Pack Tactics are specialized teamwork actions which can have a variety of potent effects on prey. There are specific frameworks given for what a Pack Tactic can do. Like Merits, they have a dot rating based on how powerful they are, though they are more expensive at two XP a dot. Pack Tactics are sometimes but not always focused on combat, with options including imposing Conditions, reducing an enemy’s Defense, and so on and so forth. However, they may just as easily give a werewolf a better first impression with a target they need something from, or lower the exceptional success threshold for any skill. If your pack prefers their prey to be more abstract things like “a zoning permit for that building we want to make a Locus” then there’s still plenty here for you. I really appreciate how flexible this system is, I wish it had been a core system but I understand the pains of wordcount.
The next subsystem added are Hunting Natures. These help emphasize the dual natures of werewolves, as they represent whether the pack tends to hunt and think more like a wolf, human, or that desirable middle ground of a true werewolf. Hunting Nature is rolled for during the start of a “lunar cycle” (read: a month, with the anniversary date likely being the formation of the pack) with a dice pool based on the actions of the pack over the course of the past month. Each one comes with its own benefits, so don’t fret if you tip too far over onto one side. They allow you to draw on an extra source of Willpower and affect what kind of Pack Tactics you may learn and use. In addition, Hunting Natures are beat generators. Based on your type of Hunting Nature, actions of one type may be penalized, and if you choose to take that penalty and fail the roll, you gain a beat.
The final bits of crunch come in the form of Lodges. While this had been the thing I was most looking forward to, I was a bit let down by the lack of elaboration on the Tribal Pillars, Lodges which claim a wide membership among one Tribe of the Moon. We only see a full writeup on one, the Lodge of Garm. To be fair to the writers, their names and Lodge Prey are provided, but not much beyond this. However, this is made up for by the Eaters of the Dead being among the five presented Lodges. I loved them so much I made them a full Tribe in my home campaign, though I hope we will see an official update to them as a full Tribe since I am not sure if my attempt at a signature Tribal Gift is especially good.
Lodges have had their stat requirements for joining removed, and what an initiation might consist of is largely left up to the individual GM. They now provide a Lodge Benefit, a small supernatural power related to the nature of the Lodge provided by its Totem, a different Sacred Hunt bonus which is focused on the specific Lodge Prey, a Lodge Aspiration the werewolf adds to her own list of Aspirations, and a Ban, which is the same as the Lodge Totem. Additionally, they open up new Merits which the werewolf may buy. These can represent anything from a cache of arcane knowledge no other werewolves have access to, or an armory of powerful weapons, even up to allowing the adherent access to one of the Totem’s Influences.
I focused on the crunch for this, but the fluff is quite good and gives a better idea of how mixed packs with both humans, werewolves, Wolfbloods, and even spirits or stranger yet supernatural creatures, might function, how they relate to their territory and other packs, and so on and so forth. There’s also some rather good story seeds and new hunting grounds provided that may jog your imagination.
If you plan on running a long-term Werewolf campaign, I strongly recommend this book. The presented material is not likely to come up in a single story-arc campaign and might be more difficult than its bookkeeping is worth if you dislike that sort of thing (I am a bad judge because I love it.) Still, joining a Lodge, forming protectorates, and coming up with Pack Tactics are all good long-term goals to set oneself on, and these are things which will make your game world feel much deeper.