Roleplaying as a Werewolf
Roleplaying as a Werewolf
Imagine your First Change. You have just realized, undeniably, that you are a werewolf. You’ve heard rumors about your kind, and may have been told you were meant for something more, but you never imagined it would be like this. You’re flooded by new sensations—you can see, feel, and smell things you couldn’t before. Your new form has awakened a deep connection in your very soul, allowing you to hear the very spirits speaking to you. Rage, your first gift from Luna, strengthens you, ready to be called upon. You are empowered by your spiritual ties, by your connections to your ancestors, and by a legacy to protect and serve Gaia.
Werewolves are featured prominently in myths and popular culture. Films, books, and mythology portray them as raging beasts under the light of the full moon, ravenously devouring helpless humans and leaving a string of monsters in their wake. Other legends tell of them as savage shamans, wolves in the woods ready to devour anyone who trespasses into their sacred spaces.
The Garou of the World of Darkness can be all of these things and more. They are similar to the werewolves of myth and cinema, but they’ve hidden much of what they are from the human world in order to protect themselves and those they hold as family from would-be hunters. The Garou have an instinctive and spiritual calling to serve Gaia, the spirit of Mother Earth.
Here are some popular myths and suppositions about the Garou and the Fera—as well as factual information inherent to the World of Darkness:
• Werewolves are mindless monsters. False. While the Garou constantly struggle with the Rage they carry within, they are far from monsters. Artisans, warriors, priests, and storytellers, the Garou navigate complicated tribal and political structures — as well as contending with dangerous threats to their friends, family, and Gaia — as part of their daily lives. They are part human and part wolf, and function in both worlds with varying amounts of success.
• Werewolves only change during a full moon. It’s untrue that Garou can only change during a full moon, but they have an intrinsic tie to Luna, the spirit of the moon, as is shown in each Garou’s auspice, the moon she was born under. They are able to change at any time, slipping into different forms, including the horrifying and madness-causing form known as Crinos. The Garou are not beholden to a full moon’s light in order to show their power.
• Werewolves are susceptible to silver. True. The Garou feel the sting of silver more acutely than that from other materials, and silver causes aggravated damage when it strikes them. While they are able to regenerate damage quickly in a fight, they can also be killed with by traditional methods.
• Werewolves are the only shapeshifters. Completely untrue. The Garou are one of many changing breeds, including everything from the Rokea (weresharks) to the Corax (wereravens). These other breeds, called Fera, have their own goals and alliances.
• New werewolves are created by wearing a wolf-skin belt, drinking water from the footsteps of another werewolf, or being bitten by a werewolf. Mostly incorrect. Garou are tied to spirits, so every werewolf must have a spark of that spirit at their core. Garou come into existence through one of two methods: they are born or they are bitten. Those who are born have their spirit intact, while the Bitten have been infused with a small portion of their creator’s spirit.
“If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf.” — Nikita Khrushchev
When a werewolf or Fera undergoes her First Change, her body undergoes a series of significant alterations:
• Werewolves and other shapeshifters are living creatures that require food and drink to survive. While in Homid form, they appear as ordinary humans, perhaps a tad more fit than the average person. They have greater endurance than normal humans and tend to run slightly hot, generating slightly more body heat than a normal human, making it easier to detect them with thermal technology.
• A werewolf is able to shift into five different forms: Homid, Glabro, Crinos, Hispo, and Lupus. These forms may have different names and abilities for other shapeshifters. Each of these forms gives a Garou a different skillset and are useful in different situations. (see Forms, page 106.) Fera have access to different forms, which may be found in Gamma Slice: Tribes and Fera.
• Emotions are intensified for shapeshifters, especially fear and anger. They are more likely to give into their passions and deal with the consequences later. A werewolf has access to Rage (see Rage, page 111.), and by taking certain actions or damage in combat, are able to gain different abilities using their Rage.
• Shapeshifters have a long history with humanity, and as a consequence humans do not respond well to being in the presence of werewolves and Fera. (See The Curse, page 124.) In addition, humans will sometimes go mad when witnessing the Crinos form, due to racial memories of being hunted (see Delirium, page 122).
• While in combat, werewolves are able to sustain massive damage and regenerate wounds, their bodies knitting together even after catastrophic blows. Werewolves and most Fera are physically vulnerable to fire. All damage from fire causes aggravated damage to shapeshifters.
• Shapeshifters also have access to Gnosis, a spiritual connection to Gaia, and can use it to power their gifts or to contact spirits. They can only regain gnosis in specific ways (see Gnosis, page 109).
Werewolves and most Fera are physically and spiritually vulnerable to silver. Touching silver causes aggravated damage to shapeshifters. If a shapeshifter comes into close contact with this substance or carries it on her person, she loses 1 point of Gnosis for every 10 minutes of contact. If the silver is actually touching her skin, she loses 1 point of Gnosis for each full turn of contact. (Touching silver for less than a full turn is uncomfortable, but not mechanically problematic). Affected characters lose Gnosis at the same rate, no matter how much silver they carry/touch.
Silver Ammunition and Regeneration
When a werewolf is shot by a silver bullet, her regeneration ability normally expels the silver from her body before it can start to cause negative effects beyond that inflicted by the initial shot. If, for some reason, a werewolf is unable to regenerate, she will begin losing Gnosis every turn until the silver bullet is removed, which requires the successful use of the Medicine skill.
The First Change
The First Change is the moment when a Garou or Fera first goes through the transformation that makes her fully a shapeshifter, giving her access to her ancestral legacy. Most Garou are not created, but born with the potential to become shapeshifters written into their souls. Even before they change, they dream of places they’ve never seen but to which they feel an inexplicable attraction. Those with known potential to become werewolves are closely guarded within their communities and educated, so they may understand what their future responsibilities will be.
As humans and wolves approach maturity, or later for those who go through a late change, their dreams become more vivid, as the places and people that compose the dreamscape seem almost familiar. The spirits themselves seem to speak them, their whispers a constant chant urging the young human or wolf to slough off their skin, to pay no heed to the boundaries of flesh, and to become something more. Their temperament becomes more unpredictable as their mood swings become uncontrollable, often forcing them into conflict with their families or packs.
These behaviors culminate in the First Change. This metamorphosis does not wait for a full moon, occurring instead when the spirits decide the young human or wolf is ready. The human or wolf suddenly and violently changes, her flesh ripping away and bones bending as she shifts for the first time, her Crinos form rendering her old body into shreds of muscle and tissue. She is unable to control her Rage, instead taking out her terrible pain and fury out on the nearest target.
If the new Garou was known to have the potential to become a werewolf, the community will be certain to be present for her First Change, being there to walk her away from her destructive desires, quelling her anger until she once again takes her breed form. Afterwards, she finds herself a part of a larger Nation, willing to educate her and prepare her to take her place as a warrior of Gaia. If the Garou was not identified as a shapeshifter, she rampages through the night. When she awakes in the morning, she’s in her breed form, covered with filth and blood, with little memory of the previous night. She’s still likely to be found by other Garou, who will cover up her transgressions, but she still must face the consequences of the forgotten night in her nightmares.
Mechanics of the First Change
If a human (not a Bitten kinfolk or Lost Cub) goes through the First Change during play, you should convert your character to a werewolf using the following steps. This process also applies to kinfolk or Lost Cubs who are characters past maturity and undergo a late change:
1. If you are a member of an uncommon or rare tribe, you must immediately purchase the merits associated with your tribe. If you don’t have enough experience points (XP) to purchase these merits, you will go into XP debt. All experience you earn will go towards these merits until they are fully paid for with XP.
2. You must begin play as a Cub (see Kinfolk, Cubs, and Lost Cubs, page 90).
3. A new werewolf starts with 3 dots of Level 1 Gifts, which must be of an affinity for her tribe, her auspice, or her breed (player’s choice).
Kinfolk, Cubs, and Lost Cubs
The Garou do not stand alone in their duties to protect Gaia. Others — tied by blood, potential, or destiny — act alongside the Garou and Fera and help them fulfill their responsibilities. Shapeshifters may be blessed with great power, but they are not alone holding the line against those who inflict harm on Gaia.
Kinfolk are human family to Garou, existing as valued kin or subjugated relatives. Some Garou consider them little more than breeding stock, necessary for restoring the numbers needed to continue the fight against the Wyrm and its minions. Others view kinfolk as a gateway to the future, able to delve into human and animal society without inciting the Curse, acting on behalf of the Garou in those places where they cannot directly intervene. Whatever their beliefs, most werewolves, even those that once abused their kinfolk, now understand their mortal family members are valuable, and they must be treated with care.
All kinfolk are related to the Garou. They are aunts and uncles, grandparents, parents, or distant relatives — bound by their familial ties to the plight of the Garou. Their roles are numerous within society, as they choose to birth and foster the next generation of werewolves, act as human allies within society, and serve as ambassadors between different kinds of supernatural creatures.
The Litany forbids breeding among the Garou, as infertile and deformed Metis result from these forbidden matings. While Garou can mate with humans and wolves, unions with complete mortals are far less likely to produce werewolf offspring than those with kinfolk. Even in a time when Garou births have slowed to a trickle, kinfolk are considered valuable. The traditions and bloodlines of the Garou cannot continue without them.
Kinfolk are also able to interact with humans more easily than their Garou family members. As they are immune to the Delirium that affects other mortals and do not inflict the effects of the Curse, kinfolk frequently find themselves in roles where they act as intermediaries between the werewolf and mortal worlds. In boardrooms and nests where many Garou cannot tread, kinfolk speak on their behalf, paving the way for Garou concerns, managing human allies and contacts with ease.
Wyrm-taint is also less of a concern for kinfolk. While the Wyrm cajoles and twists the spirits of Garou, kinfolk gain less Wyrm-taint than Garou, and they do not automatically gain more if they do not cleanse themselves. This increased resistance makes kinfolk ideal candidates to handle affairs that deal with other supernatural creatures, such as vampires, while allowing their Garou family to remain uncorrupted.
With these responsibilities comes danger. As treasured family, kinfolk require protection. The risk of being poached by other tribes — through the Bite or other methods — has become all-too-prevalent in the modern age, and most Garou are acutely aware of how necessary their kinfolk are to survival. In the past kinfolk may have played lesser roles, but the present requires the Garou to stand vigilant over their families.
The following qualities are attributes of a kinfolk:
• A kinfolk harbors no innate ability to become a Garou. They are only human family. They can be Bitten, and this is the only way they may become a Garou. If they are Bitten, they lose all access to their benefits and must pay any additional XP required by their Rank for any powers purchased while a kinfolk.
• Kinfolk cannot purchase the Rank background and cannot spend Renown. However, Renown can be used by Garou to affect a kinfolk.
• A kinfolk may purchase the backgrounds of Allies, Contacts, Resources, and Influences at a cost of x 1 XP per new level of background.
• A kinfolk have a maximum Gnosis pool of 5. They regain Gnosis like Garou (see Recovering Gnosis, page 110.)
• A kinfolk may participate in Rites.
• A kinfolk is limited to purchasing a maximum of 4 total levels of gifts with XP. No single gift may exceed level 2. Kinfolk may choose gifts with affinity from their associated tribe, or gifts from any auspice or breed affinity. Once this limit has been reached, Kinfolk cannot ever purchase additional gifts.
• Kinfolk are not vulnerable to silver and do not suffer the effects of the Delirium. They are not affected by the Curse when interacting with Garou.
• Kinfolk are less vulnerable to Wyrm Taint than Garou. In situations in which Wyrm Taint is gained, they gain 1 less point of Wyrm Taint than would a Garou character. In addition, they do not gain an additional point of Wyrm Taint by failing to cleanse themselves within 30 days; they only gain Wyrm Taint when actively participating in activities that would normally taint them.
Cubs are newly changed or Bitten werewolves. The new werewolves vary widely in type — they can be a young teenager fresh from her First Change, an aging punker Bitten by a furious werewolf, or a grizzled man under the light of a full moon, answering to his inheritance of Rage for the first time.
Not considered contributing members of Garou society in the traditional sense, Cubs comprise the lowest rung of werewolf hierarchy: infant shapeshifters without the experience to be left to their own devices. Their existence is necessary as they represent the next generation of Garou; they are heavily guarded and protected, so they may learn and grow in an environment where they are safe from outside influences. Many chafe under these restrictions, seeking early freedom, and they find themselves easy targets for enemies of the Garou, such as the Black Spiral Dancers or Pentex, too untried to resist their attacks or see through their false promises.
The following qualities are the attributes of a Cub:
• A Cub has no Rank. She is considered little more than a child by the Garou society she is now a part of.
• Cubs can earn Renown. The process is usually slow, but the Den Parents responsible for training Cubs run games, challenges, and exercises in which they can show their ability to take care of themselves and others while staying true to the tenets of the Litany. Cubs are also expected to help those of higher Rank with tasks in order to learn more about their future responsibilities. Once they are ready, they can challenge to go through the Rite of Passage and become Cliath, even less than six months have passed, which is the typical limit for Rank challenges.
• A Cub can participate in Rites.
• Cubs can only purchase level 1 Auspice affinity gifts. They must pay the additional Gnosis cost to activate these gifts, as required when using gifts of a higher level than one’s Rank background, as Cubs have 0 dots of the Rank background.
• Cubs are vulnerable to silver and Wyrm Taint as normal for all Garou.
The cataclysm of the Age of Apocalypse brought about the diaspora of the septs and destruction of the Great Caerns. In its wake, the Garou were forced to reexamine the antiquated methodologies that nearly lead to their demise, hoping to find new paths to rejuvenate the Garou Nation and prove that their war was not already lost. Tribes grew by shifting their traditions, and some deviations in once fervently held beliefs fragmented the nation into the
Concordat of Stars and Sanctum of Gaia.
As the tribes clashed over the best course of action, yet another issue caused the Nation to wither from within. Garou births decreased in frequency, becoming rare occurrences. Numerous children believed destined to become Garou never changed. The Nation despaired; within a handful of generations, their numbers would be too low to continue the fight. The elders of the Nation, although determined to continue, were forced to face the inevitability of extinction when the war was lost due to attrition of numbers. They questioned the spirits, asking what else they could change or return to, so they might continue their fight.
The answer came to them first in rumors that spread through the Nation—an inordinate number of newly changed Garou, far older than typical, were appearing in the cities and areas surrounding septs. Further investigation of these nearly feral cubs resulted learning that they were attacked shortly before the change overtook them. Otherwise innocent bystanders in the apocalyptic urban warzone found themselves unceremoniously inducted into a world they never imagined. Rather than immediately killing these feral cubs, many Theurges worked to bring them from their frenzy, discovering that beneath their rage, each was someone much like any other Garou cub.
The discovery of these creatures, termed Lost Cubs by the Theurges studying them, was met with a great deal of trepidation in the Nation. Many questioned the timing of the phenomenon. Was this just another trick devised by the Wyrm, another way to destroy the Nation from within? Or had Gaia truly given her children one last means of bolstering their numbers in anticipation of the looming final battle of the war?
Lost Cub Characters
The plight of Lost Cubs weighs heavily on the Garou Nation. Once rare phenomena, they have recently become all-too-frequent, as the slow corruption of Gaia manifests itself in the Garou population. The absence of these potential warriors is keenly felt — for they are needed in the Age of Apocalypse now more than ever.
Lost Cubs are different than kinfolk; they are not merely family members. Each Lost Cub holds within herself the soul of a Garou who never came to be—the potential of a werewolf never fully realized. Although they find similar purposes as kinfolk — they can sire children with Garou and interact with human and supernatural societies with a greater ease than their werewolf counterparts —they also are distinct from kinfolk, because they possess the spiritual capacity to become more than they are. Some Lost Cubs seek to reach their full potential either through obscure rites or seeking the Bite.
The following qualities are attributes of a Lost Cub:
• A Lost Cub is an innate Garou that, for a myriad of reasons, never went through the First Change. She may be pushed into this change through various magic, rites, or gifts, resulting in a late change, or she can be Bitten. If she is Bitten or goes through a late change, she loses all access to her benefits, and she must pay any additional XP required by her Rank for any powers purchased while a Lost Cub. If she has gifts that go above her current dots of Rank, the XP cost of those gifts are refunded, and the gifts are removed from her character sheet.
• A Lost Cub cannot purchase the Rank background and cannot earn Renown. Renown can be used by the Garou to affect the Lost Cub.
• Lost Cubs can participate in Rites.
• A Lost Cub has a maximum Gnosis pool of 7. As many Lost Cubs naturally learned how to control the flow of Gnosis, scavenging it when necessary, they also regain Gnosis naturally at a rate of 1 point per hour, regardless of whether they are in a caern.
• A Lost Cub is limited to purchasing a maximum of 7 total levels of gifts with XP. No single gift may exceed level 3. Lost Cubs may choose gifts with affinity from their associated tribe, or gifts from any auspice or breed affinity. Once this limit has been reached, Lost Cubs cannot ever purchase additional gifts.
• Lost Cubs are immune to Delirium effects. They do not suffer from the Curse when interacting with Garou.
• Lost Cubs suffer the same penalties from interacting with silver as full Garou, due to Lost Cubs’ spiritual nature.
• Lost Cubs are less vulnerable to Wyrm Taint than standard Garou. In situations in which Wyrm Taint is gained, they gain 1 less point of Wyrm Taint than would a Garou character. However, unlike kinfolk, Lost Cubs receive additional Wyrm Taint if they do not take the time to cleanse themselves, as though they are standard Garou.