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     " Guardians of the Caerns has found its way onto my list of favorite White Wolf supplements, no doubt. "

      Title: Guardians of the Caerns sourcebook by White Wolf

      Format: Werewolf, the Apocalypse roleplaying supplement

      Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong

      The Hype: A detailed look at the inner workings of Caerns and Septs, including sept offices and their responsibilities, Caern logistics, defensive tactics, and an in-depth look at the metis-the inbred, deformed children of Garou who break the Litany and breed with other Garou. Is it as valuable as the jacket copy claims? Take a look and see…

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Story and Drama: Guardians of the Caerns focuses on Sept life-how concentrated populations of Garou centered around a Caern (a holy site of spiritual energy) organize themselves and protect what's theirs from their enemies. As an informational supplement, Guardians of the Caerns is on the shallow end of the spectrum as far as story goes-it is less about a story and more about how Sept life really is and what is done to keep a Caern safe. The opening fiction to the book is passable if not particularly memorable, featuring the passing of a fetish from an Elder to a younger Garou and the jealousy this engenders with one of the Sept's warriors. Anecdotes are liberally splashed around the book (especially in the first chapter, where every specific type of Caern defense is preceded by a few paragraphs of story), and most of the lessons taught are done in parable or through the narrator (generally a specific person) relating a tale he's heard or witnessed. For drama, there is most definitely a prevailing mood and theme (most noticeable in the fourth chapter, "Not of Garou and Kin Born," which focuses entirely on the subculture and lifestyle of the metis, Gaia's special little bastards), and the entire book carries itself with a distinct mood from chapter to chapter. It isn't the streaming narrative of other White Wolf supplements, but you definitely get your fair share of tales spun to make a point. 4 out of 5.

      Layout and Presentation: The book is laid out sensibly, with four chapters denoted in the table of contents and a prologue. The first portion of the book is the aforementioned short fiction. The book then flows into Chapter One, which focuses on Caern defenses and how Garou protect their most holy sites from the forces of the Wyrm, their greatest enemy. Chapter Two deals primarily with how different Tribes of Garou sept up their Caerns and where they are generally located, then goes on to discuss what the other Changing Breeds do for Caerns (or instead of Caerns), which is a particularly nice touch. Chapter Three is all about Sept positions, from the minor roles of Wyrmfoe and Truthcatcher to the more central positions of Master of the Rite and Caern Warder, detailing the benefits and responsibilities of each. Chapter Four focuses on the metis and their treatment and place in Garou society, including how each tribe views their metis. From beginning to end, the book's setup makes sense. The artwork runs the gamut from pleasing to painful, with Ron Spencer and Mitch Byrd drawing some of their trademarked soft-toned, smooth-lined pieces (some of which are memorably good) to the unshaded, eye-rending scrawls of Joe Corroney, which look like they've leapt from a bad 1980's comic book. Brian LeBlanc's work is always welcome, and adds a sinister and wince-eliciting edge to the book in his depiction of many different metis deformities. 4 out of 5.

      Playability: Guardians of the Caerns most definitely has the players' needs in mind, presenting all subject matter with an eye toward how one can use the information in-game. Caern defenses are described with an eye toward roleplay opportunities. Sept positions always mention whether or not it is wise for a player to hold that task and why. The metis rules alone are enough to inspire a purchase, actually making the shunned breed of Garou more interesting and attractive as a player's choice and giving the requisite information to fully flesh out these rather alien beings. It is most definitely a book which would find use in your average chronicle. 5 out of 5.

      Desired Content: The back of the book promises many goodies, and once you open it up you discover those promises delivered tenfold. There are easily three times the number of Caern defense possibilities present than this monkey was expecting, each one insightful and clever in its own way. The information given caused me to hatch my own plots for repelling Black Spiral Dancer assaults. The Sept positions shown were described in-depth to an extent never previously viewed, giving no doubt as to what it means to be the Master of the Challenge or the Keeper of the Land. It likewise spends five pages describing how to create a Caern, listing the process and the Rites involved as well as the likely obstacles and trapdoors, giving many grand ideas for a series of adventures involving the founding of a new Caern. The metis section of the book is what truly shines, however, and likely served as the catalyst for many a monkey choosing to take metis as their next character's Breed. New metis deformities (the horror of Conjoined Twin shall never leave me, I fear), an in-depth look at how bad the metis truly have it, common beliefs and misconceptions about the charach-spawn-I tell you, monkeys, if this doesn't make you want to play a metis by the time you're through, nothing ever will. 5 out of 5.

      The Verdict:

       Destined for greatness in the library of any Werewolf fan, Guardians of the Caerns has found its way onto my list of favorite White Wolf supplements, no doubt. Whether you need to design a Sept or Caern for game play, create a believable back-story and personality for a metis character, or understand how different Tribes use and present their Caerns, Guardians of the Caerns has invaluable information to spare.

      The Good: Everything you could possibly want to know about Sept society, plus a detailed look at the metis breed.

      The Bad: Umm… it didn't cook me breakfast or do my taxes? Seriously, I got nuthin'.

      The Overall Ugly: Joe Corroney's artwork. Honestly, man… learn to shade!

      What it's Worth: Whatever they ask for it, you will pay gladly.

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