“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Wyrm Taint is a spiritual affliction triggered by an exposure to emanations of the Wyrm. Once afflicted, the taint metastasizes into a degradation of the soul and sundering of the spirit connection that links shapeshifters to Gaia. Galliards sometimes refer to Wyrm Taint by the euphemism, “the siren call of the Wyrm,” for it is a temptation, as well as a corruption.
The Wyrm was once a force of balance within the Triat, but now its essence is anathema to those affiliated with the Wyld or the Weaver. Bound tightly within the webs of the Weaver, the spiritual venom of the Wyrm leaks through the Gauntlet and into the Material Realm, infecting all it contacts. The strength of the Wyrm is such that its presence is imbued in everything that corrupts and festers in the world. The very nature of the Wyrm is to seduce, corrupt, and consume. Those who serve the Wyrm think of this spiritual affliction as the beginning of enlightenment, a sign that the Wyrm is showing those who serve it another way of seeing the universe.
Due to the insidious nature of Wyrm Taint, shapeshifters must constantly be on guard against its lurking corruption, quietly seeking a chance to infect the unwary. Every Garou must watch their packmates’ backs, as it is all too easy to put off the circle of cleansing for just a little longer, or justify the possible waste of time. Such procrastinations have often resulted in a once-strong pack’s quick descent into madness.
Gaining Wyrm Taint
Mind’s Eye Theatre: Werewolf the Apocalypse is a game about fighting a hopeless battle against an enemy that takes everything strong and vital about you and twists it to serve its needs. Wyrm Taint is the mechanic by which the game measures and defines this corruption and seduction, providing context for stories about the fall and redemption of brave heroes struggling in the World of Darkness.
A werewolf enters the initial stages of Wyrm Taint when exposed to emanations of the Wyrm or by committing a consciously evil act that brings her closer to the mindset of the Wyrm. As spiritual infection takes hold of her body, her soul is corrupted and seduced until the shapeshifter submits to the Wyrm’s will. Wyrm emanations can come from a variety of sources, such as chemical barrels leaking supernatural bane-toxins in the groundwater or poisons refined and perfected in the labs of Magadon Pharmaceuticals. Knowingly or not, Wyrm Taint is an almost-omnipresent danger that wears you down with attentiveness before subtly infecting you.
Storytellers should avoid interrupting an ongoing scene to inform a player that her character has advanced to a new stage of Wyrm Taint. Instead, let players know that they have become infected with Wyrm Taint when the action comes to a close, and then allow them the opportunity to roleplay through the effects of this spiritual condition. If a Garou suffers from a point of Wyrm Taint for 30 days without treatment, she gains a second point, as the condition worsens.
It is recommended that Storytellers only award up to 2 points of Wyrm Taint per scenario, unless a character experiences a truly extreme and unusual moment of horror or corruption.
Common ways to gain Wyrm Taint via environmental factors:
• Entering a building, place, or Umbral Realm tainted with Wyrm Affinity
• Wielding a fetish or artifact with a corrupted bane spirit bound to it
• Consuming a bane spirit or corrupted spirit
• Battling a creature with Wyrm Affinity, such as a bane, Black Spiral Dancer, or fomori within brawl or melee range
• Exposure to damaging radiation
• Some toxins and poisons (see Gamma Slice: Core Systems: Toxins and Poisons)
• Drinking the blood of a vampire
Common ways to gain Wyrm Taint via conscious choice:
• Eating the flesh of a human or shapeshifter
• Profaning the land or spirits of the Wyld
• Willingly following the tenets of the Wyrm (Rules for Allies and Antagonists: The Wyrm are not included in this Delta Slice.)
Stages of Wyrm Taint
“Crazy. Going. Slowly am I. 6. 5. 4…”
— [Name stricken from the Silver Record]
There are five stages of Wyrm Taint, each representing a degradation of the soul, dissolution of the covenant with Gaia, and acceptance of the Wyrm. Each stage is cumulative, incorporating the penalties of the stages below it. For example, if you suffer from the third stage of Wyrm Taint, Dramatic Systems Page 128 you experience all of the symptoms and penalties from the first and second stages of Wyrm Taint, as well as the third stage.
• First Stage: You feel unclean, as though there is something wrong with your flesh, and your soul feels heavy and listless. You might find that your skin itches, as though you’re suffering from a rash, and you always feel on edge.
• Second Stage: The corruption of the Wyrm is now visible on your flesh as you appear pale, ill, and clearly uncomfortable in the presence of untainted servants of Gaia. This malefaction has begun to penetrate your soul. You now take twice as long to recover Gnosis as you would normally (see Gnosis, page 109).
• Third Stage: The siren call of the Wyrm is now almost subliminal in your mind. Your perception is now altered, and you see the world in a continual state of decay. You believe it is your purpose to help it along. You gain the permanent Derangement: Destruction: Call of the Wyrm. This derangement is permanent, but with your Storyteller’s permission, you may remove this derangement once you’ve been cleansed of Wyrm Taint. Wyrm Affiliated creatures, such a bane spirits, Black Spiral Dancers, and fomori, sense your potential and will naturally be friendly to you. They may even attempt to aid you, as long as you aren’t acting against their interests. After all, you are just a step away from where they are now.
• Fourth Stage: Your spiritual orientation has shifted away from Gaia to the Wyrm. You can no longer recover or gain Gnosis in the usual fashion, but rather you must be located in a Wyrm Affiliated zone or in the presence of a creature affiliated with the Wyrm to regain Gnosis. In addition, werewolves without Wyrm Taint gain a point of Wyrm Taint if they are in your presence for longer than five minutes. Following the Wyrm is not without its own temptations. You may choose two formori taint powers (Rules for Allies and Antagonists: Formori are not included in this Delta Slice) to add to your character sheet, without XP expenditure, so long as you remain at the fourth or fifth stage of Wyrm Taint. Using these tainted blessings will quickly drag you to Wyrm Affinity. Dramatic Systems Page 129
• Fifth Stage: Your spirit has almost completely surrendered to the Wyrm, and now your flesh reflects this state. Your body has begun to mutate, featuring putrid pustules, weeping sores, and other deformities associated with the Black Spiral Dancers. You may exchange any tribal merits or gifts with any Black Spiral Dancer merit or gift of the same cost or rank while you remain at the fifth stage of Wyrm Taint.
<u>Beyond Hope: Wyrm Affinity</u>
Degradation beyond the fifth stage of Wyrm Taint washes away any spiritual tether the character possessed with the Wyld and Gaia, and she gains the attribute Wyrm Affinity. Characters with Wyrm Affinity become NPCs under direct control of the Storyteller. For more information on Wyrm Affinity, (Rules for Allies and Antagonists: The Wyrm are not included in this Delta Slice).
Fighting Wyrm Taint: Treatment and Recovery
A sometimes-necessary evil, Garou consider it a badge of honor to withstand and endure Wyrm Taint in order to defeat their enemies. The Theurges of the Garou Nation have developed and mastered a number of defenses and tactics for cleansing Wyrm Taint. Although Wyrm-tainted characters are not allowed at moots or at caerns, Masters of the Rite take care to ensure that there is a place outside of the boundaries of the bawn for such a cleansing to take place, to prevent fragile caern seeds from contamination from the mere presence of the concentrated essence of the Wyrm. If a tainted shapeshifter violates this taboo, she is severely punished…if caught. (Rules for Caerns are not included in this Delta Slice.)
A character may eliminate stages of Wyrm Taint with the gift Circle of Gaia’s Cleansing (see Gamma Slice: Gifts). This is a painful process, requiring a tainted shapeshifter to force herself to remain in the circle while the impurities are burned out of her. Shapeshifters in the fourth and fifth stages of Wyrm Taint must expend a Willpower to remain in the circle and allow themselves to be dragged back into Gaia’s embrace.
Characters may also undergo an Umbral quest to attempt to cleanse their bodies of the lesser stages of Wyrm Taint. A quest can only cleanse Wyrm Taint between stages one and three, and the difficulty of the quest be commensurate to the highest stage of taint to be cleansed. For example, if you are in the third stage of Wyrm Taint, you must perform a Complex Quest with a Difficulty Rating of 5.
Some of the possibilities include:
• Find and petition a powerful unicorn spirit to cleanse you of the first stage of Wyrm Taint. (Simple Quest, Difficulty Rating 5)
• Locate and convince a Glade Child spirit to purify the taint from you, including the first and second stages of Wyrm Taint. (Complex Quest, Difficulty Rating 3)
• Journey to an Umbral Pocket Realm devoted to healing or purification to cleanse you of the first three stages of Wyrm Taint. (Complex Quest, Difficulty Rating 5)