In Cambria, werewolves have walked among the various races for as long as they have existed. They can blend into human civilization, but rarely for long. They’re predators at heart, and people can sense as much on an instinctive level. At their core, a werewolf is a creature of both human (or elf, or dwarf) and wolf nature, but is neither fully. They refer to themselves by a name from their own tongue – the Garou.
Werewolves cannot breed among themselves to preserve their lineage; their blood is too potent, and the result is too much like inbreeding. To continue their bloodlines, werewolves must mate with humans or wolves. However, the chance that any children or cubs that result from such a pairing will breed true is small. In most cases, the spirit half of the werewolf isn’t passed on.
Werewolves born to human or wolf families are indistinguishable from their mortal siblings. Newborn werewolves simply appear to be normal humans or wolves in almost every respect. Only a very few are even told by their parents that werewolves exist at all. However, young werewolves are prone to strange dreams and fits of temper that alienate them from their relatives or friends. Finally, some time after adolescence, a young werewolf undergoes their First Change. This event is often brought on by stress or trauma, leading the confused young werewolf to lash out at whatever is hurting them. It is then that the werewolf’s Garou relatives arrive to collect them. Once among their own kind, they are initiated into their Garou tribe and taught the purpose and traditions of their people. From that point forward, the young werewolf lives a life of constant danger. Should they persevere, though, they can become a legend among their Garou kin.
Garou society is older at its core than any human culture. Many of its traditions date back to a time before agriculture, before history as we know it. They have managed this amazing longevity while keeping their true nature a secret from humanity by two means: oral tradition and faith.
To the Garou, the past is a living thing. They keep tales of their ancestors alive, retelling them at gatherings to inspire the latest generation to strive for similarly heroic deeds. The laws laid down millennia ago are learned and recounted by each generation until every werewolf knows them by heart. By keeping all their lore alive in an oral tradition, the Garou have retained a sense of continuity that binds each generation to the next.
Garou adhere to the Litany, a code which depicts the laws of the Garou Nation. The place of each individual Garou is dictated by the moon phase under which he or she is born. There are five Auspices that mandate a Garou’s function within werewolf society.
Secondly, werewolves believe that Gaia – the living spirit of the world itself – created them to defend her and make war against her enemies. They’re aided in this belief by several points that seem to support their claim: their obviously supernatural nature, their allies among the spirit world, and the fact that they are definitely at war with the forces of spiritual corruption. Their war has been going on for millennia – not even the wisest Talesinger among the werewolves can recall a story of their race at peace. According to their traditions, Gaia brought werewolves into being as a response to the rise of their enemy – the Wyrm. The Garou maintain that their true purpose is to fight, kill, and die in the service of the Earth Mother.
The Garou’s claim to be a race designed for battle is certainly well founded. Werewolves are deadly creatures, perhaps the most lethal overall of any living being in the world – save dragons. They possess great strength when they shapeshift, allowing them to tear apart metal and stone with their bare claws. They heal remarkably quickly, making them nearly impossible to kill with mundane weaponry such as knives or small firearms. They possess mystical powers that allow them to travel to the spirit world, strike with stealth or monstrous force and even call on the forces of the earth itself. They have all the intelligence and tool-using capability of any human, making some werewolves masters of both technology and occult power. Most importantly, werewolves are pack creatures, which makes them a hundred times stronger. A pack of werewolves is worth more than 10 times its weight in enemies.
If they were more numerous, it’s possible that the werewolves would have already won the war. But they are too few in number; since the Fall, they are a dying race. Their enemies are virtually uncountable, and they range from humans who fight with raw intelligence, cunning and resources to monsters from deep in the earth, and even forces from beyond the material plane. Worst of all, Garou fight amongst themselves. Rivalries that started centuries ago continue even today as blood feuds that prevent the Garou from achieving the unity that would make them unstoppable. Just as their pack mentality brings them together, their Rage drives them apart. Such is the tragedy of the Werewolf.
As you can see, the lot of a werewolf is far from an easy one. But therein lies the appeal of trying on a wolf’s skin for a while.
Your werewolf character has an assortment of inborn abilities.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Age. Since werewolves are the product of cross-species copulation, the rate of maturation and life expectency depends upon the indivudual werewolf’s genetic makeup. A werewolf of human descent will mature at the rate of a human, while a werewolf of elven descent will mature at the rate of an elf. Werewolves are not immortal, but it is the rare, rare werewolf who has the luxury of dying from old age.
Alignment. While werewolves are unquestionably monsters, they tend to represent lawful neutrality.
Size. In Hominid (Human), Glabro, and Lupus forms, your size is Medium. In Crinos and Hispo forms, your size is Large.
Speed. In Hominid (Human) form, your speed is 30 feet. In Glabro and Crinos forms, your speed is 40 feet. In Hispo, your speed is 50 feet. In Lupus, your speed is 60 feet.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Oerid and one extra language of your choice. You also speak the Garou tongue and may converse with wolves in Crinos, Hispo, and Lupus forms.
Darkvision. As a nocturnal predator, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern colour in darkness, only shades of gray.
Keen Senses. You have proficiency in the Perception skill.
Werewolf Resilience. You are resistant to damage from nonmagical attacks not made with silvered weapons.
Luna’s Metal, Nature’s Fire You are vulnerable to damage from attacks made with silvered weapons and/or fire. In addition, taking damage from a silvered weapon or fire cancels your next Rapid Regeneration.
Rapid Regeneration. You regenerate 1d6 hit points at the start of your turn. You heal non-critical wounds in moments, and critical wounds in half of the usual time. You must have at least 1 hit point in order to regenerate.
Shapechanger. As an action, the werewolf can polymorph into one of five forms: Hominid (Human), Glabro, Crinos, Hispo, or Lupus. Each form has different strengths and weaknesses (see Forms, below).
Gifts of Gaia. Throughout a werewolf’s life, they learn certain special abilities known as Gifts. These are described in further detail below.
Rage. Not to be confused with the Barbarian class mechanic, werewolves utilize a unique resource known as Rage. Rage is explained in further detail below.
Making a Werewolf
Being a special racial choice, werewolf character creation involves some extra steps. These are as follows:
1. Develop a character concept. The character concept acts as an outline, a general idea of what your character is like. Make it something unique and interesting that you will enjoy playing for the long haul. The character concept is something like a thesis sentence for your character.
2. Determine ability scores as outlined in the Campaign Guide. Werewolves receive an Ability Score Increase much like any other race, which is listed to the left.
3. Choose your breed. There are three beeds of werewolf: hominid, metis and lupus. These are explained in the Breed chapter of this race guide. You must select one, and it makes a large impact on how your werewolf character will look, feel and play.
4. Choose your auspice. Your auspice determines a lot about your werewolf character, such as your initial permanent Rage as well as important elements of your personality and temperament. The Foundry has a calendar which tracks the phases of both Luna and Celune, Cambria’s two moons, to assist you in determining your auspice.
5. Choose your Gifts. Werewolves have numerous special abilities that are available to them, aside from the traits shown on this page. You begin with two (2) Gifts, chosen from lists provided by your breed and auspice, and you gain an additional Gift each time your character levels up.
6. Choose your Class. This is where the normal process for character creation picks up.
7. Choose equipment, spells, etc.
A werewolf always feels most comfortable in the form she grew up in, which is known as her breed form. For instance, hominid werewolves prefer to wear a human (or elf, dwarf, etc.) skin, largely because they are the most adept at dealing with mankind. When a werewolf shapeshifts into a human being, he is said to be in Hominid form. By contrast, lupus-breed werewolves prefer having sharpened teeth and claws, warm fur and the heightened senses that come from being a wolf. When a werewolf shapeshifts into a wolf, he has taken the Lupus form. When in this form, he is quite obviously a wolf.
Hominid form and Lupus are the two extremes of shapeshifting – shifting completely from a man into a wolf for the first time is a brutal and painful ordeal. Eventually it becomes easy, and werewolves learn to make more subtle changes. For instance, they make take a shape halfway between Homid and Crinos, one halfway between Crinos and Lupus, or even (with great effort) temporarily shift a small part of the body. Regardless of breed, any werewolf can shift freely between these forms, but he will always be most familiar with his breed form. These three skins – Hominid, Lupus and Crinos form – are the most commonly worn, and they reflect three very different aspects of Garou society.
This is a werewolf’s “human” form (or elven, or dwarven, etc.), and for Hominid werewolves it is considered their true form. Your statistics and traits are unchanged in this form.
Glabro is a special form that is halfway between Hominid and Crinos, and represents a compromise between the two. You stand a head taller than you normally do, and your size is Medium. Your Speed increases to 40 feet and your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 damage instead of just 1. The amount of weight you can push, drag, and carry doubles.
This is referred to as the war form by most werewolves, and is the natural form of all metis-bred Garou. Standing between 7 and 9 feet tall, your size becomes Large. Your speed increases to 40 feet and you gain natural weapons: A bite attack, which deals 2d4 piercing damage; and a claw attack, which deals 2d6 slasing damage. The amount of weight you can push, drag, and carry increases three-fold. Due to your increased size and specialized physiology, you have disadvantage when attempting to use tools or items not speficially designed for your Crinos form.
In this form, you become a dire wolf. Like Glabro, this form represents a compromise: This time between Crinos, the hulking war-form, and Lupus, the pure wolf form. You stand roughly 5 feet high at the shoulders, and your size is Large. Your speed increases to 50 feet and you gain a bite attack that deals 2d6 damage. Paws lack opposable thumbs, so you are limited to carrying only one item at a time (in your mouth), and you cannot make a bite attack while carrying an object this way. Werewolves in Hispo form cannot speak.
The Lupus form is the natural form for all Lupus-bred werewolves. In this form you are virtially identical to a wild wolf, and your size is Medium. Your speed increases to 60 feet and you gain a bite attack that deals 2d4 damage. Like the Hispo form, you are unable to carry objects in your hands (since you have paws), and may only carry a single item in your mouth. Werewolves in Lupus form cannot speak, but have advantage while communicating with wolves. You have advantage on Perception checks.
Rage is the amount of that primal Beast that still exists in a Garou. It is not just an increased capacity for battle, but a force that could just as easily become mindless violence on a frightening scale. It is the instinctual cunning and hunting ability mixed with savage bloodlust and unpredictable horror.
Rage is a blessing and a curse to the Garou. It is the distilled raw force sent from Gaia that allows them to punish all who seek to destroy Her. This connection to both aspects of Rage makes the Garou frightening warriors. They can walk in the world of the human or that of the beast and be equally powerful in both.
Rage is tracked as a resource, which has two parts: Permanent Rage and current Rage. A werewolf’s Permanent Rage is determined by their Auspice (see Auspice, below) and their overall character level.
Rage is a powerful and versatile weapon for the Garou. The following are some of its uses and dangers:
Frenzy. Frenzy is the most frightening drawback of Rage. Frenzy is the violent outburst, the untamed savagery, the animal instinct for blood and brutality that lurks in the heart of every werewolf. Whenever a player scores a critical success on a Rage check (see Rage Checks, below), they enter a frenzy.
Extra Actions. A player can spend Rage to give their character extra actions in a single turn. However, a Garou cannot spend more Rage points in one turn than half of their permanent Rage rating.
Changing Forms. A player may spend a Rage point for their character to change instantly to any form they desire, without having to spend an action.
Recovering from Stun. If a werewolf gains the Stunned condition, they can spend a Rage point to remove the condition.
Remaining Active. If a character falls below 0 hit points, a player can use Rage to keep their character going. The player must make a Rage roll. On a success, the character regains 1 hit point. However, this last-ditch survival effort has its price. Like all Rage rolls, the character is still subject to frenzy. The wound will also remain on the Garou’s body as an appropriate Battle Scar.
Beast Within. Occasionally, a Garou is more of the wolf than of the world, and they must pay the price for it. For every point of Rage a character has above their Charisma score, they suffer a -1 penalty on all social interaction rolls. People, even other werewolves, can sense the killer hiding just under the skin, and they don’t want to be anywhere near it.
Losing the Wolf. If a character has lost or spent all their Rage, they have “lost the wolf,” and they cannot regain Rage until they complete a long rest. The Garou cannot shift to anything except their breed form until their Rage returns.
A Rage pool fluctuates, but replenishes in several ways:
- The Moon. The first time a werewolf sees the moon at night, the Beast inside stirs, and Rage floods back into them. Under a new moon, the character gets one point; under a waning moon, two points; under a half or waxing moon, three points; and under a full moon, four points. However, if the moon phase corresponds with the character’s auspice, they regain all of their Rage. This phenomenon occurs only at the first sighting of the moon each night.
- Botch. If the GM approves, a werewolf might receive a Rage point after a botched roll (rolling a natural 1). Rage comes from stressful situations, and seeing the action you were attempting blow up in your face, sometimes literally, can be a very stressful situation.
- Humiliation. Rage will also come rushing back if anything a Garou does proves particularly humiliating. The GM decides whether a situation is embarassing enough to warrant a Rage point.
- Confrontation. Again at the GM’s approval, a character could receive a Rage point at the beginning of a tense situation, in the moments right before combat starts. This gain accounts for the anticipation and hackle-raising that happens just as tempers start to flare.
A Rage check is a special Wisdom saving throw. The DC for a Rage check is equal to 10 plus your current Rage. The following conditions might call for a Rage check, at the Game Master’s discretion:
- Embarassment or humilation (botching an important roll)
- Any strong emotion (lust, rage, envy)
- Extreme hunger
- Confinement, helplessness
- Being taunted by an enemy
- Large quantities of silver in the area
- Being wounded or seeing a packmate wounded
Rage Check DC = 10 + current Rage
Scoring a critical success (rolling a natural 20) on a Rage check will trigger a frenzy (see Frenzy, below).
Any Rage roll can ignite a frenzy, even those made to activate specific Gifts. Any Rage rolls should be interpreted as an attempt – willing or otherwise – to awaken the primal Beast that drives the Garou. If a player rolls a critical success on a Rage roll, their character frenzies.
There are two types of frenzy, which are:
- Berzerk Frenzy. Garou see only red and moving shapes. They wish only to reduce these shapes to mangled carcasses, A berzerk Garou shifts immediately to Crinos or Hispo (player’s choice) and attacks. Exactly who they attack depends on the circumstances. A Garou whose permanent Rage is lower than their Wisdom score will not attack their packmates. She will attack anything else that moves, however, including allied Garou who are not members of her pack. Garou do not remember what happens to them during frenzy. Often, they collapse when the frenzy ends.
- Fox Frenzy. Entering a fox frenzy means that the character flees in terror for their life. They shift into Lupus form and run, atacking anything that gets in their way (although more with the intention of getting past than of killing). Once the character reaches a safe hiding place, they will remain there until the frenzy passes.
In either frenzy, the extent of the werewolf’s action capability is to bite, claw or run. The character may spend Rage for extra actions.
Coming out of frenzy requires that the situation that triggered it be over. When the trigger event is over, the player may roll a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to the Garou’s own Rage) to escape the frenzy. Even if this roll fails, they may try again each turn.
A werewolf’s true nature is shaped long before his First Change. If one of his parents is human, he will grow up in human society, learning the ways of a man. If one of his parents is a wolf, he will be raised by wolves, and human society will be a mystery to him. In almost every case, one of the parents is Garou. Whether the child’s mother’s natural form is that of a human or a wolf determines what his breed will be. There are three such breeds in Garou society: hominid, lupus and metis.
You were born to a two-legged mother, who may or may not have been a werewolf or Kinfolk. You grew up among their kind and learned how to live in their society. Yet something has always set you apart. Other kids found you weird, and your feisty temper brought on heaps of trouble more than once. As you inched toward puberty, haunting dreams pestered your nights. Maybe you’d wake up craving raw meat or drowning in a cold sweat. Chances are, someone, perhaps a distant relative, watched you from afar and took you away before your Change, which ended whatever life you may have led. Now you know the realities about yourself and your true people. Even if you really wanted to go back, it would be too hard. You couldn’t possibly explain to your human family what really happened.
Hominid characters have no limits on what Abilities they may have. They’re skilled with all kinds of modern machinery and they often have a knack for understanding both abstractions and concrete reasoning in subjects such as economics or algebra. In their breed form, hominids can also handle silver with no Gnosis penalty. But being born human has some downsides, though. Homid characters are generally less intuitive and perceptive than lupus or metis. They’re likely to rely on what they see and hear, rather than what they feel. Moreover, their innate connections to Gaia are weaker, as represented by their low starting Gnosis. Humanity has simply grown apart from the spirit world. Finally, the other breeds have some understandable concern that hominids outnumber all other werewolves. The lupus fear especially that hominids will prove dominant and desert their wolf cousins. This concern makes for some definite tension when the two groups tangle unexpectedly.
- Nicknames: Apes, Two-Legs, Monkeys
- Beginning Gifts: Master of Fire, Persuasion, Smell of Man
Metis rank in the lowest echelons of Garou society, for they are the offspring of lawbreakers who disobeyed the Litany and mated. It’s a hard, thankless life that’s made no better by the fact that all metis bear some kind of obvious deformity. Most werewolves point to this setback as a mark of Gaia’s displeasure; others call it evidence of corruption. A few argue that too much werewolf blood is a bad thing — no flesh can contain such pure blood without developing a flaw. Whatever the case, you’ve survived from a hard birth, through years of living only in your Crinos body ( the natural form of a metis), to finally undergo your First Change. Whether your parents raised you — as an outcast among the sept — or long-suffering but devoted Kinfolk did, you’re now ready to take your place in the sept. Unlike hominids, you have a lot of knowledge about werewolf society already —the good, the bad and the very> very ugly. Your birthright has toughened your body, your heart and your spirit. Only time will tell if you maintain your dignity and honor or let your dire Rage consume you utterly.
Metis characters have no restrictions on Abilities. Like hominids, they can understand various theoretical concepts that puzzle the lupus. But like their wolf relatives, the metis also have cunning instincts. While most lupus and homid werewolves would never admit it, the metis have many of the best parts of being wolf and human.
The downside, though, is the mark of deformity that all metis bear. While a few who can do so may try to hide their defect, others reject the sham as dishonorable. They have to bear it, and so should everyone who sees them.
Another flaw of this breed is that all metis are sterile; none can sire or bear children. In a race of beings that is dwindling, this flaw is ironic, especially since the number of metis has grown in recent years.
- Nicknames: Mules, Bastards, Obscenities
- Beginning Gifts: Create Element, Primal Anger, Sense Wyrm
Every metis character must have one deformity, chosen during character creation. And while some deformities may have minor benefits, the bad should always outweigh the good. Storytellers should encourage players to choose defects that complement their character concept. Some possibilities for metis deformities include:
- Albino. You have no melanin in your body, no matter what form you take. As a result, your skin is faintly pink, and it burns easily, so stay out of the sun if possible. Your hair is stark white (not silver) and your eyes are blood red, which makes you a real anomaly among the werewolves. Take a +2 difficulty penalty on all Perception rolls if you’re trying to operate in bright light without your protective clothing or sunglasses.
- Blind. Whether you have two eyes in the right place that don’t work, or no eyes at all, you are totally blind. You fail any rolls involving vision automatically. At the Storyteller’s discretion, though, you may take occasional bonuses with other sense groups.
- Fits of Madness. Mental illness plagues you on a periodic basis. Whatever your malaise, you tend to fall to pieces when you get stressed. Make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8) whenever situations get tough. Scoring any less than three successes makes you go quietly nuts for a while.
- Hairless. You have no hair or fur in any of your forms, making you a weird sight indeed. You have disadvantage on all social rolls. You might be able to avoid this penalty among humans when you’re in Homid form, although some people will be put off by your complete lack of hair even then (particularly if they note your lack of eyebrows).
- Horns. A pair of horns sprouts from your brow. They may be like those of a ram or goat, or perhaps you have a small pair of antelope-like antlers. You might even have a single short horn like a unicorn’s. Whatever the shape this disfigurement takes, you have disadvantage on all social rolls, and you are likely to be even more heavily scorned by your fellow Garou. (Horns are a mark of prey, not of a predator, after all.) If you actually try to attack with your horns (which do improvised weapon damage), you will likely lose some amount of Glory Renown for fighting like a prey animal instead of a Garou.
- Hunchback. You were born with a front-to-back or side-to-side curve of your spine that’s worsened as you’ve aged. Not only does it give you a negative social stigma (you have disadvantage on all social rolls), it also impedes your movement, giving you disadvantage on all activities involving Dexterity.
- No Sense of Smell. You have no olfactory nerves, so your sense of smell is nonexistent. This is an unfortunate thing for a creature who relies so much on her nose. You fail all Perception rolls involving smell automatically, and you have disadvantage when tracking prey using your Primal-Urge.
- No Tail. Not having a tail creates serious communication problems with others of your kind. You have disadvantage in all social situations while in Lupus, Hispo or Crinos forms. Likewise, your sense of balance suffers. You have disadvantage on all Dexterity rolls as well while wearing those forms.
- Seizures. When you’re under the gun, you lose control of your body. When you fail an important check, make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 15). On a failure you writhe uncontrollably until the GM tells you to make another roll. You can take no actions while experiencing a seizure.
- Tough Hide. Your hide’s as tough as old leather, and it’s wrinkled and dry with spotty patches of hair. Your Charisma score may never be higher than 10, plus unbearable itching and hot spots are constant aggravations. On the positive side, you have a permanent +2 AC bonus, but it’s only a small advantage to weigh against your smelly, scratchy hide.
- Wasting Disease. Your constitution is notably weak. You cough and wheeze, and you can’t keep up when your pack trots along for hours on end. You have disadvantage on Constitution saving throws.
- Weak Immune System. Unlike other Garou, you catch almost every germ that comes along. Sniffling constantly and often suffering from flu-like symptoms, you don’t have the same ability to resist damage that others have. Because of your condition, you have disadvantage when resisting the effects of disease and infection.
- Withered Limb. You have four limbs, but the muscles of one are atrophied, leaving it withered or paralyzed. Depending on your form, you can’t walk well, and you run more slowly than other werewolves. Your movement speed is decreased by 10 feet, and you have disadvantage on Dexterity rolls.
Gaia’s passion runs deep within your soul, for you were born in the wild as a wolf. You rose through the natural hierarchy of the pack instinctively, perhaps becoming the alpha, even though you sensed that you were somehow different from the others. Then you learned the truth: You weren’t an ordinary wolf. You were a shapechanger; a werewolf.
Now you run with a werewolf pack, and you try to see the world through new eyes. The human part of you is often difficult to understand; speech, for example, is layered with more nonsense than is necessary. And those strange manners! To you, every creature has a rank and place, and society is no more complicated than that. Those who rank highest eat first and expect greeting and respect from those who rank lower. Yet the hominids have complex rituals for everything, from greetings to meals, and they speak of strange concepts like equality. To you, they seem to ignore the wolf in them overmuch. That’s sad, because one thing you do understand is that the number of lupus werewolves lessens each passing year. And every pup is precious. While you have a number of advantages, including a strong body and keen senses, you also have some limitations in that you know little about technology. Likewise, you don’t follow human logic and reasoning. You rely instead on the powerful instincts Gaia has given you, which is reflected in your high Gnosis. However, beginning lupus characters have restrictions on purchasing certain Abilities, since they lack knowledge about human ways of life.
- Nicknames: Feral Ones, Four-Legs, Fleabiters
- Beginning Gifts: Hare’s Leap, Heightened Senses, Sense Prey
- Restricted Abilities: Lupus characters have disadvantage on checks made to interact with technology or hominid society.
Regardless of their beeed, all werewolves feel an inexorable pull toward Luna, sister of Gaia. Whether ths shines on them with her full face or hides from view, they take comfort from her company and guidance. Luna is the one who shows a werewolf what his path and roll will be in Garou society, and this path is called an auspice.
An auspice is many things: It reflects the werewolf’s general personality traits, attitudes and interests, as well as his duties in the pack. All auspices are important, for no werewolf can be all things to his people. As many different auspices are included in a pack, the unit grows stronger as a whole from the diversity of its individual members. Auspice also determines the inner Rage of the werewolf. Some Garou mothers try to use herbs or other methods to induce labour under a specific moon, which is one of the reasons that Ragabash and Ahroun are roughly as common as the other three auspices, even though the full moon and new moon appear only half as often as any other phase.
Each young werewolf studies under an elder of the same auspice, learning particular Gifts and the role Luna has decreed for him in werewolf society. Werewolves often introduce themselves by auspice when meeting others. Whether the werewolf was born under a waxing or waning moon has some bearing on his auspice and temperament. The waxing moon is a sign of rising Rage, while the waning moon hints at a cooler, more somber personality. Players should take this aspect of a character’s auspice into account when considering some of the character’s minor personality quirks.
Ragabash: The New Moon, The Trickster
Only a real fool ignores the wisdom hiding in the guise of the trickster. She brings mirth to still the anger between two hearts and humility to those who need a dose in full. Moreover, the New Moon often has clever insights that make her a worthy advisor (or conniver). The Ragabash occupies an odd place in werewolf society. Many distrust her unpredictable mannerisms and peculiar sense of humour, but she’s usually welcomed and given a free hand in the day-to-day life of the pack. The New Moon enjoys a rare flexibility within the normally rigid structures of werewolf society. When there’s tension in the air, the Ragabash is usually the one to lift it, even at the risk of a claw raking across her exposed, laughing throat. She shows a different kind of courage than the warrior, but one that clever elders don’t underestimate.
As the “questioner of ways,” the Ragabash has an obligation to play devil’s advocate. Being a New Moon is more than being given a license to play pranks or undercut authority – it is a real responsibility. The Ragabash must question traditions and decrees not reflexively, but rather from an informed point of view. It isn’t enough to cast doubt on an elder’s proclamation; the Ragabash must have a solid argument supporting her contrary views. It’s her task to make certain that her packmates see both sides to every issue, to be sure that they’re taking the right option, not just the most obvious one. Of course, the Ragabash’s penchant for cunning, sly tactics and subtle Gifts also tends to bestow a certain amount of responsibility as a scout, saboteur or even assassin. The new moon is the moon of stealth, and its children are the ones charged with using that stealth for the Garou’s benefit.
- Initial Rage: 1
- Beginning Gifts: Blue of the Milky Eye, Open Seal, Scent of Running Water
Theurge: The Crescent Moon, The Seer
As Luna’s most slender light shines on her sister Gaia, she reveals secrets of the spirits and their vast realms. The Theurge is the child of the crescent moon, and he is wisest in the was of the Umbra and its inhabitants. Some call these seers the daydreamers of the werewolves, and many do seem to be a bit detached from their brethren. They can see and hear things that others cannot, as if they live half in the world of the physical and half in the world of the spirit. For all his alien solitude, the Theurge holds an important place in the pack. Without him, the werewolves would forget the spiritual side of their nature. They might wander lost and blind if they did not have his visions and dreams to guide them.
The Theurge is usually his pack’s ritemaster, the one who knows the most rites and takes the responsibility of performing them for the pack’s benefit. He is also the one who typically negotates with encountered spirits, as the one most likely to speak their language and understand their unusual modes of thought. The Gifts of the crescent moon assist the Theurge in these endeavours, although it also takes a certain kind of mentality to learn to “think” as spirits do. The closer a Theurge grows to his spirit allies, the less familiar he becomes to people used to thinking more in physical terms.
- Initial Rage: 2
- Beginning Gifts: Mother’s Touch, Sense Wyrm, Spirit Speech
Philodox: The Half Moon, The Mediator
The half moon reflects the dualities of Garou natures: wolf and human, flesh and spirit, fury and wisdom, darkness and light. The Philodox is counselor, mediator and lawkeeper of the pack. Just as the Ragabash lives for laughter, the Philodox is born with the wisdom and desire to judge fairly the actions of her people, be those actions bright or ugly. She can’t help but try to solve every dispute that falls in her path; such is the role Luna has destined for her. In times of peace, the ranking Philodox is often the leader of the pack. In times of war, she may well give over this mantle to the ranking Galliard or Ahroun. A wise Half Moon bears no grudge and understands that stepping down in such situations is likely for the best. Among the ultra-competitive werewolves, this behaviour exemplifies her natural desire for balance and order more than any other.
The Philodox often takes the role of alpha in her pack, although it’s more common for Ahroun to lead in times of war. Whether she gains a leadership position or not, she’s expected to remain impartial where her packmates are concerned; it’s a poor Half Moon who favours one packmate over another. The Philodox also has the responsibility to keep the laws of the Garou in mind – if a packmate is straying dangerously close to violating the Litany, the Philodox should be the first one to notice and warn him against going any further. This responsibility extends even beyond the pack; a good Philodox is concerned with the honour of each and every werewolf she meets. Of course, it’s all too easy for such Half Moons to become quickly disillusioned in these desperate times.
- Initial Rage: 3
- Beginning Gifts: Resist Pain, Scent of the True Form, Truth of Gaia
Galliard: The Gibbous Moon, The Moon Dancer
The Galliard, beloved of the nigh-full moon, is joy incarnate in his songs, stories and poetry. The beauty of Luna’s gibbous face inspires him to great deeds on the battlefield as well as around the moot fires. He keeps the traditions of the werewolves perpetually alive through lore carried from generation to generation. A Galliard can rouse the pack from self-pity and suffering when their claws are needed for battle; he can cause even the stodgiest Philodox to weep her heart’s last tears just as easily, should the occasion call for it. The entertainment of the Galliard takes many forms. He might be a dancer, a storyteller, a musician or a bit of everything rolled into one. When peace turns to war, the Moon Dancer may well lead the pack. And when tranquility comes again, he’ll sing laments for the fallen and epic sagas for the brave survivors who still walk Gaia’s sacred places.
A Galliard’s role is a tricky one. He must be the lorekeeper of his pack, well-versed in Garou history and able to teach others to learn from past mistakes. He is also the one who recounts his packmates’ deeds of bravery, wisdom and honour at moonts, ensuring that they are properly honoured for their efforts. In many cases, the Galliard is also the one who negotiates with mortals and others, just as the Theurge bargains with spirits and the Philodox reasons with other Garou. The talented Galliard has a fine memory, a glib tongue and a brave spirit; his job isn’t easy by any measure, and he needs all the talent he can muster.
- Initial Rage: 4
- Beginning Gifts: Beast Speech, Call of the Wyld, Mindspeak
Ahroun: The Full Moon, The Warrior
The Warrior basks in the full glow of Luna, the silver light illuminating his all-consuming Rage. He doesn’t hesitate to strike fatal blows; rather, he often doesn’t know when to stop his killing. All werewolves are fighters, but the Ahroun is the most destructive and vicious of all Gaia’s children. Even the young among this auspice are fearsome to see. The old ones are few, perhaps the Ahroun don’t fear death in service to Gaia, and those elders who do live are liekly among the greastest werewolves of legend. The Full Moon knows no cowardice, only his thirst for battle. Like the Galliard, the Ahroun is an inspiration to his people, but for tactical acumen, physical prowess and might rather than pretty words. When peace falters, he takes the reins of command as is his due, being the first to lead his pack into the fray and the last to fall should they meet defeat.
The Ahroun’s role in the pack is simple – he must be the consummate warrior, able to physically defend his weaker packmates as well as provide the right tactic for any circumstance. As much general as berserker, the Ahroun is the very definition of Gaia’s champion.
- Initial Rage: 5
- Beginning Gifts: Falling Touch, Inspiration, Razor Claws
Becoming a Werewolf
Contrary to popular belief, werewolves are not made, they are actually born that way. Werewolf blood is inherited. If one of a child’s parents is a werewolf, there is a roughly 1 in 10 chance that he will be one as well. The blessing isn’t limited to human or even demi-human children. Many Garou prefer to breed with wolves, leaving their cubs to be raised by lupine mates in the wilderness.
For thousands of years, werewolves bred with both humans and wolves in relatively equal proportions. Unfortunately, the number of wolves has begun to decline in the world, as civilization expands and habitat erodes. One in three werewolves bred with wolves as recently as a thousand years ago, but now the ratio is closer to one in 15.
Most of a Garou’s cubs and children never become full-blooded werewolves. Instead, they are “carriers” for the blood of the Garou, which can survive in their families for generations. Half-blooded children are known as Kinfolk. Although werewolves don’t defend these relations as staunchly as they do their full-blooded kin, a wise Garou keeps an eye on them. Some do so by commanding spirits, commonly called Kin-Fetches, to watch over their children. While the spirits pledge to observe all of a werewolf’s children carefully, many of them lose their way over the span of years and abandon their charges.
Kinfolk “half-breeds” are markedly different from the rest of mankind. They may have strange and terrifying dreams, wander alone in hopeless reverie for hours at a time or have trouble relating to people around them. An inexplicable longing consumes them. The lucky ones learn about their werewolf relations, and even help them from time to time. Most just remain quietly unaware of the secret world around them.
A child of a werewolf has about a 10-percent chance that he himself will be born a “full-blooded” Garou — not good odds. Some werewolves manage to divine their children’s true nature at birth. Those without the proper resources to do so don’t discover which, if any, of their cubs are Garou until the young ones reach adolescence. Although the Garou mark their pure-blooded cubs at birth, werewolves all too commonly leave their offspring to be raised by their mates, sometimes in an effort to draw enemies away from their children. A cub’s true nature remains dormant throughout her childhood, manifesting only as dreams and visions. Between the ages of 10 and 16 (if human) or between one and two years (for a wolf), hazy memories and “unnatural” urges begin to surface. A troubled wolf may be driven from the pack for her unpredictable behaviour, or an adolescent may be ostracized or even institutionalized. In some way, others begin to notice that this lost soul is different.
As life becomes more difficult, the legacy remains formant until a great trauma forces the First Change. The First Change does not wait for a full moon or a curse. When the time is right, flesh and bone rapidly wrap the child into a hulking, bipedal, nine-foot monster. If the cub is fortunate, she is found by others of her own kind; if she isn’t, the experience is even more terrifying. Legends of monsters driven insane by the light of the full moon have basis in fact.
Most cubs are rescued — or kidnapped, depending on your point of view — and educated by other werewolves. By necessity, the first lesson is controlling shapeshifting voluntarily. Years of teaching follow. Elders offer tribal lore, although curiously enough, their oral histories differ remarkably from pack to pack. Regardless of age, the “cub” is treated like a child until she decides to accept her destiny and join the community of the Garou.
Coming of Age
Every pack has its own traditions for marking a cub’s passage into adulthood. The Garou denote a cub’s coming of age with a Rite of Passage, a deadly and dangerous quest that tests a werewolf’s strength and wisdom to its very limits. The rite is more than a transition into adulthood. It also shows elders that a cub is worthy of membership in the pack. Until this quest is complete, she does not truly belong to the pack, for she has not proven herself worthy.
Tribal elders usually send the cub to a place where many werewolves gather. There, the child must wait until several cubs are ready to embark on a quest together. This ritual is as much a test of individual prowess as it is a test of the cubs’ ability to work together and resolve their differences. The elders often send spirits to watch over the petitioners, if only to verify the greatness of their deeds. Once these cubs return, they become cliath, joining the pack formally as adults.
Garou Pack Hierarchy
Rank is a fundamental part of Garou society, and the fullest manifestation of the hierarchical nature of werewolves.
Rank measures a werewolf’s station among other Garou. All Garou begin at Rank 1 and may eventually climb to Rank 5 with time and effort.
A werewolf fresh from its First Change has no rank at all – it is merely a pup or cub, as explained above.
Advancing in Rank
To grow in rank, the werewolf must gain renown through actions that prove their wisdom, honour, and glory, and have these actions recognized before other Garou, usually at a moot.
Just as one faced a great challenge to gain that first rank and enter Garou society – merely having the requisite amount of renown is not enough. The werewolf must challenge a werewolf of a rank equal to or higher than the rank he is currently seeking. The nature of the challenge is dictated by the challenged one, and it can very greatly depending upon the Breed, Auspice, and tribe of both individuals. The difficulty of reaching the next rank increases dramatically with each one; challenges given to a werewolf seeking to become Elders are arduous tasks indeed, and often very life-threatening. Many a werewolf has earned their rank only posthumously, succeeding in their challenge but losing their life to do so.
Following the first rank of Cliath is the second rank, Fostern. The third rank is that of Adren, the fourth rank is that of Athro, and the fifth rank is that of Elder. On extremely rare occasions a werewolf can reach a sixth rank which is not technically possessed of a specific name, but often described either as Elder or Legend.
Benefits of Rank
The most obvious benefit of a higher rank is the social standing it accords. You are given respect for your achievements, and those of lower rank are expected to defer to you. An Adren or higher is generally well-known, achieving a level of fame for their acts.
The challenge is a vital part of Garou life, and generally highly ritualistic. Whenever two (or more) werewolves come into conflict, a challenge is often called to determine who is in the right, who will get their way, who will lead, and so on. However, lawfully a werewolf can only challenge a werewolf of their own rank or one higher, and certainly cannot challenge someone of lower rank than they – authority is assumed in that case. The exception is the previously described challenge for rank as that is not so much a true challenge to the higher-ranking individual’s beliefs or authority, but a demand for them to recognize his or her acts and worth. In this case, the werewolf hoping to ascend in rank will often entreat a werewolf of considerably higher rank to recognize their worth.
Another benefit is access to increasingly powerful Gifts. The Spirits can generally sense the rank of a werewolf, and will not teach them gifts they consider to be too powerful for one who has proven themself too little.
Determining Your Rank
Your Rank in Garou society is one part roleplay, one part mechanical. As a baseline, your Rank is tied to your proficiency bonus: Rank 1 is Proficiency Bonus 2, Rank 2 is Proficiency Bonus 3, and so on. Characters are able to advance in rank earlier than they would normally if they earn renown are are recognized by their peers.
Werewolf cubs are taught that Gaia created the world and all living things in it. When time began, she released three primal forces upon Cambria: the Weaver, the Wyld, and the Wyrm. These elements of creation are known collectively as the Triat. The spirit world is complex, but werewolves can reduce all of its workings to these three primal forces.
The Weaver created all structure in the world, from the highest mountains to the depths of the oceans. She gave birth to a host of spirits to preserve order, and Weaver-spirits have been known for their predictability, ruthlessness and determination since that primal time. Legions of them weave the fabric of reality with long legs and spinnerets, reinforcing the tapestry of creation. In the modern world, whenever law triumphs over anarchy, whenever technology kicks into overdrive, or when anyone rebuilds what has been torn down, werewolves claim that the spirts of the Weaver are scurrying nearby.
The Wyld was the breath of life in the world, allowing the Weaver’s creations to thrive. Wherever nature is alive, the Wyld is there. The spirits that serve it are capricious and effervescent, unpredictable and indefatigable. Just as the Weaver brought order, the Wyld brought chaos, surging with energy wherever it could not be contained. Rebellion, frustration and raw feral instinct all give it strength. Yet nature can also be gentle. Behind every serene glen and tranquil brook, the Wyld returns its energy.
Garou mystics say that Gaia created a third force to maintain the balance between order and chaos, between the Weaver and the Wyld. Like a great serpent wriggling through all creation, the primal Wyrm snipped at the threads of creation that could not otherwise be controlled. Once the Wyrm was the force of balance in the would (as the Garou say), but no longer. The mad Weaver grew too ambitious, trying to tip the balance by trapping the Wyrm within its lifeless web. Confined and denied, the Wyrm went slowly insane, and creation listed out of balance.
Many werewolves feel it is their sole purpose of existence to fight the Wyrm in an effort to bring balance to the forces of nature and, by extension, the world.
Truth & Allegory
As with many origin stories, the truth can prove to be elusive. No one is actually sure who, or what created Cambria, or what exactly these primal forces really are. The reality is that they are there, doing their thing, but they’re so intangible and impossible to directly observe that one is almost just as well off believing in campire myths as they are pursuing the actual truth.
The Wyrm and the corruption caused by it that the Garou feel and do battle with are real things, but perhaps not in the way that werewolves understand. The Wyrm is viewed, among supernatural scholars, as allegory for the Warp — which very much was a force of balance until its corruption and distortion due to unknown causes at some undetermined time in pre-history. So one can agree that the werewolves do fight the Wyrm’s corruption — which is great, and pervasive, and growing.
Werewolves possess a rather unique ability to interact with what they refer to as the Umbra, or the spirit world. This Umbra is separated into two connected yet distinct realms: the Dark Umbra and the Light Umbra. Planar scholars understand that the Garou refer to the Shadowfell and the Feywild, respectively. The “spirits” that the werewolves commune with are most often Fey, Elementals, or extra-planar beings of unknown power.
A werewolf’s primal instincts make him a monster, but the noble aspirations of his society make him Garou. Shapechangers live in a vicious, uncaring and brutal world, but they survive because they have learned to live together. Hidden from the rest of society, the preserve their own laws, their own faiths and their own politics. Life is harsh — elders must often choose who among them will live and who will die — but the intricacies of Garou societiy plaace them above the status of mere animals… or petty humans.
Werewolves are often depicted as solitary monsters, but by gathering in packs and protecting caerns, the Garou have developed a communal culture. Across the ages, they have codified a system of law, handing it down from one generation to the next. As one would expect, it is a largely oral tradition that is subjected to endless interpretation. To preserve the old ways, the Garou have created the Litany, a great song of ages containing the traditions, codes and laws of their people. In its full form, it is as much an epic poem as a legal code. Chanting it in its entirety can take hours.
The Litany can be summarized in 12 basic precepts. If a werewolf violates one of these laws, he’ll usually be aware of his transgression. Each pack, of course, has its own views on right and wrong. In fact, a disparity often exists between what Garou elders preach and waht werewolves actually do. Masters of Garou law can cite dozens of examples of precedent, but as fewer cubs learn to chant the details, more argue ways to bend the rules in their favour.
Garou Shall Not Mate With Garou
Werewolves should mate only with humans, demi-humans (elves, dwarves, etc.) or wolves. Because metis offspring are deformed, twisted or even insane, Garou are forbidden to made with their own kind. Of course, this law is enforced laegely because of age-old prejudices against metis. This stricture forms the basis for some of the greatest tragedies of Garou culture. Galliards have been known to move listeners to tears by telling the ballads of two werewolves who fall in love and can never express their passion… or who do so at the cost of their lives.
Combat the Wyrm Wherever it Dwells and Whenever it Breeds
The Wyrm is a source of evil in the world. Gaia created the werewolves to protect humanity, and destroying the Wyrm is the most direct way to do so. The fastest way for a Garou to become respected is to prove himself in battle against the servants of the Wyrm.
Respect the Territory of Another
Whenever a Garou approaches another werewolf’s territory, he must announce himself first and ask permission to enter. The traditional method involves the Howl of Introduction, reciting one’s name and pack.
Accept an Honourable Surrender
Duels between werewolves are common. While many hominids prefer to talk their way out of disputes, most packs emphasize martial prowess, stressing trial by ordeal and single combat. As a result, many werewolves die. This dictum is intended to limit the unnecessary death that results from these bouts. While no one can stop two werewolves from killing each other, a werewolf being attacked by another Garou can end a duel peacefully by exposing his throat. The loser shouldn’t suffer a loss of reputation or renown for doing so, but a victorious Garou should be praised for his mercy. Theoretically, any dueling Garou is honour-bound to accept a surrender.
Submit to Those of Higher Station
Like the wolves with whom they breed, werewolves maintain a strictly hierarchical society. Someone’s always alpha, and some poor fool always ends up skuling behind the rest of the pack. Therefore, the concepts of renown and rank are integral to Garou society. A werewolf must always honour reasonable requests from higher-ranking Garou.
The First Share of the Kill for the Greatest in Station
Elders are well known for invoking this custom repeatedly. While this “kill clause” originally applied to hunting, it has since been expanded to include spoils of war. In theory, the most renown Garou has a right to the most powerful fetishes found by their packmates.
Respect Those Beneath Ye – All are of Gaia
The werewolves of human legend are skulking solitary monsters, but Garou are communal creatures. Their legendary ancestors pledged to become the world’s protectors, so they must respect every creature’s place in the natural world. Every Garou is likewise worthy of respect. Chivalry is a classic Garou concept, and chivalrous behaviour is a respectable way to gain renown.
The Veil Shall Not Be Lifted
Werewolves must be discreet when acting among humans. The world is a dangerous place. Human hunters, religious fanatics, ancient vampires and far more sinister supernatural creatures stalk the night. And, of course, servants of the Wyrm are lurking everywhere, exploiting the weak. If werewolves choose to act like monsters, other creatures will hunt them like the beasts they are.
Garou have an obligation to protect humanity. When human see werewolves lumbering about in Crinos form, insanity grips them, and they concoct all sorts of outrageous rationales for what they’ve seen. Fear mounts, panic results, and the populace resorts to drastic measures of defense. In short, rampaging werewolves can cause almost as much damage as the Wyrm creatures they hunt.
Do Not Suffer Thy People to Tend Thy Sickness
Sadly, people at war do not always have the resources to care for their infirm. Long ago, an infirm, aged or mortally wounded Garou would be torn to pieces by his packmates. Such a pitiable hero should not suffer further. In the modern world, it is considered more dignified to let such an elder choose how to end his own life. In Garou legends, many of the greatest heroes simply set out on one last journey, never to return.
The Leader May be Challenged at Any Time During Peace
A werewolf’s pack mentality may be strong, but he should not tolerate a weak alpha. If no immediate threat is nearby, a Garou of sufficient rank may challenge the pack leader for his position. A contest results, usually a duel, a test of wits or a simple, snarling display of intimidation. This contest is usually resolved quickly and decisively, but in larger packs the assembled werewolves may enact the contest with great drama.
The Leader May Not be Challenged During Wartime
For werewolves, pack tactics are the best defense against the innumerable foes of the Garou. Therefore, obedience in a pack is essential. Once a fight begins, the pack alpha’s word is law. A packmate who disobeys may be punished or assaulted by his companions after the danger has passed.
Ye Shall Take No Action That Causes a Caern to be Violated
This law is obeyed as strictly as the need to preserve the Veil. Caerns surge with mystical energy, the lifeblood of the world. If one is destroyed or corrupted, part of the world dies, and so does the power of the Garou. A werewolf who leads a proven or potential enemy to a hidden caern is punished severely, even if the act was unintentional.
In Garou society, most simple crimes and mistakes are easy to redress. If a problem looms, an Elder can usually caution a younger werewolf of a potential error. Garou settle disputes by reprimand, a mediator or possibly a duel. If these measures are not enough, disapproval from a werewolf’s pack is typically enough to correct misbehaviour. Most ambitious cliath do not want to lose renown. However, a few crimes are so severe that they must be punished severely. Simply put, someone must pay when the Litany is violated.
Each pack has its own methods of conducting trials. Once sentence has been passed, a pack enacts a formal rite to punish the offender. If a criminal escapes, the Garou may offer a bounty for his capture… or his skin. The worst punishment is outright ostracism, an offense feared more than death itself. Most Garou believe that great heroes are reborn; some even have visions of past lives to prove it. An outcast, declared a “rogue” or Ronin, is shut out forever from his brothers and sisters. Unless he can commit some great deed to prove his valor, he remains mistrusted and alone.
Werewolves gather regularly in moots, events that serve a variety of social, political and religious functions. These gatherings are part of what makes them Garou, communal creatures dedicated to common causes and sacred responsibilities. Usually, moots are convened every full moon and involve werewolves from several packs in a region, although a pack may call smaller gatherings as circumstances warrant. For cliath, these gatherings are vital. When a pack returns from one of its adventures, one among them should tell the events that occurred at the next moot. The various werewolves in the pack can then earn renown. By contrast, Garou who avoid moots reguarly are viewed with supicion, often because of their unwillingness to aid their own kind.
Moots are always held at caerns, and powerful spirits are often summoned as part of the proceedings. Theurges perform great rites, Philodox attend to protocol and the “business” aspects of the gathering, Galliards organize the social and storytelling events, and Ahroun see to the defense of the assembly. Werewolves debate policies, discuss plans, send heroes off to perform great tasks, celebrate heroes who have returned triumphant and revile criminals who violate the Litany. Matters are handled with decorum and weighed by the gathered attendees as a whole. When matters become too grim, Ragabash satirize foolish decisions, jape at pretentious elders and taunt those who take themselves too seriously. Most importantly, the spiritual energy expended keeps the caern alive, for as the Garou prosper, so do the sacred sites they attend.
There are many types of moots, varying in size, purpose, grandeur, and attendance.
Hearings may be convened at any time, usually when a pack returns from a great adventure. Elders assemble to listen to what the young heroes have found, pressing plans are discussed immediately, and renown is awarded. The sept leader decides which elders are vital to the discussion. As a pack’s Galliard relates what just occurred, his packmates should watch the elders’ reactions carefully. Those reactions often reveal volumes about political struggles within the sept. Not everyone in the sept is required to attend a hearing, although many elders hate to receive information after their rivals have.
Sept Moots are the regular monthly meetings of a sept. Any Garou can attend, although those from outside the sept are often regarded with suspicion. This meeting is more than a simple voicing of complaints; it often resolves with a raucous celebration that no cliath would dare miss.
Grand Moots are convened to discuss the weightiest matters and are the largest of the moots. All werewolves nearby are required to attend, regardless of pack or sept. They are extremely rare and accordingly critical. The gathering is announced during a normal moot, and it always requires at least five elders of five different septs to support it. Once the decision has been made, messengers are sent out from cairn to cairn. The event is held exactly three months later at the exact same site. Legends speak of a few grand moots where messengers were dispatched to retrieve some of the greatest heroes in the world, but such an event has not occurred in decades.
The greatest moots typically end with a revel, in which Garou transform into Crinos form and run madly about the area to clear away anything that may pose a threat. This rampage is often so strenuous that some elders fall behind the cubs and cliath, or even die trying to keep up the pace. Packs do not always run together during a revel. Instead, most of the sept begins the run as one, then fragments into smaller groups as the night proceeds. Individual werewolves may work themselves into a frenzy, possibly becoming a danger to themselves and others – the revel is not performed without risk. Most run themselves to exhaustion. The staunchest and strongest Garou continue until dawn, immediately gaining renown for their great stamina and fervor.
The revel is not performed every time the sept gathers, but is instead reserved for special occasions. Urban cairns begin it with great trepidation, fearing that cliath swept up in the moment may destroy portions of the cairn others have pledged to protect. An urban sept may find other ways to unleash this chaos and frenzy at the end of their moots.
One of the greatest strengths a wolf has is his pack mentality. One wolf can be strong, but he can help bring down a creature 10 times his own weight by working with a pack. Werewolves are no different. Packs make up the foundation of Garou society.
Packs include from two to 10 werewolves, though sometimes more. Usually, each of the five auspices is represented, but this representation is not mandatory.
Each pack shares a common purpose. Cubs always gather together in a pack for a reason, even if it is no more than simple declaration. This declaration may begin as something quite simple (“Aid and defend the sept that brought us together.”), something ambitious and long-lasting (“Seek out the breeding places of the Wyrm and destroy them all.”) or even a mystical or cryptic agenda (“Travel to the West and share knowledge with other supernatural creatuees.”). The pack may, of course, decide to take on other types of tasks along the way, but its unity often comes from dedication to one purpose.
Each pack dedicates itself to a particular totem when it is first formed. Many of these totems are great animal spirits, such as Raven or Bear. Others, such as Grandfather Thunder are more personified. These great spirits each have their own special strengths, so the choice of a totem often relates to a pack’s goals or strengths. The choice is made during an intense and mystical rite. The pack then receives a totem spirit, a spiritual servitor of the totem that can act as their guardian, guide them through the spirit world, and even lend them mystical power.
On some occasions, the pack is gathered expressly to serve a specific totem, and all the cliath who serve it are first brought together to form a pack with this affinity in mind.
Larger groups of werewolves, comprised of many packs, gather around caerns, largely for the purpose of guarding a sacred site. Septs are the societies that form around these caerns. The primary task of a sept is guarding its caern. Through powerful mystic rites, a sept can help heroes travel great distances to aid them. Drawing upon Luna’s power, mystics form powerful moon bridges between the largest caerns. Because of this ability, septs are also gathering places for travelers. After a wandering pack is welcomed, the elders may extend an opportunity for the pack to stay a while and rest. This honour usually demands that the visitors pay some form of chiminage in return. This payment may be as simple as recidint a story from their journey, as esoteric as bringing back something valuable from the nearby spirit world or as onerous as performing a brief task for the sept’s benefit.
Older Garou eventually settle down into one sept that they particularly favour, usually assuming a political position there. An elder may dedicate many years to protecting one caern, and many eventually become laoth to leave it. For this reason, elders commonly offer younger Garou the chance to perform missions on behalf of their sept as an easy path to honour and glory.
Young cliath are wise to remember which elders in a sept are responsible for which tasks. Every sept has a sept leader, the sagacious ruler who organizes the sept and directs the local packs. The highest-ranking Theurge becomes the Master of the Rite, performing many of the day-to-day rituals that maintain the sept. She is also responsible for caring for the spirtual center of the caern, where werewolves meditate. The caern Warder protects the area surrounding the caern, known as the bawn, and keeps an eye out for trouble. Many young metis are enlisted to help him in this task. Septs often have a wealth of other positions, from the den mother or den father who watches over cubs to the Talesinger who chronicles its history. Every werewolf has a place in Garou society, and most are eager to speak to the young heroes in need of advice.
Garou who have completed their Rite of Passage can converse with each other in a variety of ways. Hominids, of course, know at least one of the languages of the human world, if not more. Lupus can communicate very simply when they are in wolf form, often by using a great deal of body language. Each breed can learn the other’s language, but conversations can be difficult. Lupus rarely communicate concepts that use more than a handful of verbs and nouns, while hominids find it frustrating to limit their speech while in a wolf’s skin. Even hominid Garou from distant lands have difficulty speaking with each other.
Fortunately, the Garou themselves have developed a separate language over thousands of years to bridge the gap. Galliards know this worldwide language as the “High Tongue” or “Garou Tongue.” All Garou are taught the High Tongue immediately following their Rite of Passage, although differences in regional accent and dialect do come up. Garou language depends as much on body language and tone as on actual words. Much of it is instinctive, accented by pheromones, growls and whines. A few spoken words cannot be reproduced by a human or wolf throat, as they require partial transformation to articulate. These words represent some of the loftiest concepts tied to Garou culture.
Of course, some lupus never really master this language. They prefer to speak as simply and plainly as wolves do. For the record, Garou in Lupus or Hispo form (halfway between Lupus and Crinos) may communicate freely with wolves. This same “lupine language” can be used in other forms, but a greater chance of misunderstanding arises. While the formal and complex Garou High Tongue requires training, any werewolf in Lupus form can speak in “lupine” instinctively. The first time a hominid or metis shapeshifts into a wolf, he can communicate with other wolves.
The most powerful, evocative and effective way to communicate with other werewolves is by howling. Enormous amounts of information can be condensed into a few wailing sounds. All of them incorporate the Garou language. Just as every Philodox studies the Litany, any Galliard should be well versed in all the common howls.
Howls can vary greatly from one sept to another – enough so that an attentive Galliard may even be able to recognize a performer’s auspice or possibly part of his personality. The following are twelve of the most commonly used howls:
- Anthem of War: Ahroun muster their septmates to war with this battle cry. The howl can convey where the enemy is, approximately how many are attacking and how soon reinforcements are needed.
- Call for Succor: One pack member may use this howl to summon his comrades if he is in great danger. Some find it embarrassing, since it sounds like a puppy’s bark for his mother. An expressive howl may include sensory impressions of what danger is near.
- Call to Hunt: A long, low ululation informs the pack of the position of its prey. When done properly, it may also identify what the prey is, describe its wounds or even coordinate the tactics of the pack that’s hunting it.
- Chant of Challenge: This howl begins very much like the Howl of Introduction, but it is quickly contrasted by a horrible mockery of an enemy’s deeds, ancestry and odious personal habits. Everyone hearing the chant can discern exactly why the challenge is taking place.
- Cry of Elation: In the heat of battle, young heroes may think themselves almost invincible, and they may attempt ridiculous feats of courage that no sane werewolf would attempt. The cry basically means, “Look at me!” or (as some elders put it), “Watch me do something incredibly stupid!” With enough expression, it may also convey who should get out of the way, what for or five objects are going to be used, where they will be inserted in the victim and why the pack’s healer should ready her mystic Gifts if the attempt fails.
- Curse of Ignominy: This howl is a horrible, discordant snarling whine used to insult violators of the Litany. As more werewolves lend their voices to the whine, it becomes increasingly painful. The strain on a listener does not subside until he joins the cry. Garou who have fallen into disfavor are subjected to this cacophony. The sounds convey a mocking account of a villain’s failures and shortcomings. An entire sept can memorialize all of the excruciating details by sharing in the chant.
- Dirge for the Fallen: This dirge is a somber, low-pitched howl used as a requiem for the honored dead. Its length depends on the status of the fallen. An attentive listener can learn which participants are hurt the most by this tragedy, and he may even gather brief images of the hero’s deeds, rather like the memories after a great eulogy.
- Howl of Introduction: The Litany commands werewolves to respect the territory of others; this howl is the result. It details a Garou’s breed, tribe and auspice. Some werewolves include parts of their lineage. The Howl of Introduction may even include a sensory impression of why a visitor is worthy of attention.
- Snarl of Precedence: This short violent outburst is directed against a chosen foe, and it usually means, “You’re mine, punk.” Packs use these snarls to coordinate their tactics, establishing who is attacking whom. A higher-ranking Garou does not have to recognize this howl – and he even has the right to “steal the kill” from a lesser werewolf – but most react to a well-executed snarl.
- Song of Mockery: A Ragabash can take any other howl and twist it into something perverted and infuriating. Cocky Ahroun are common victims of well-timed mockery. An undeniably insulting gesture, it’s the musical equivalent of “the finger.” If done properly, the recipient can be taunted into attacking or just losing his composure altogether.
- Wail of Foreboding: Whenever danger approaches, this sound is the general cry of distress. The Anthem of War alerts werewolves to an attack, but the Wail of Foreboding is typically used for natural disasters, unusual phenomenon in the Umbra or anything strange that bears further investigation. A practiced Galliard can give impressions of what the danger may be, but such sensations are usually cryptic and contradictory.
- Warning of the Wyrm’s Approach: A sharp-pitched howl, followed by a series of brief staccato bursts, announces the presence of the Wyrm’s minions. If a scout can scent the true form of these creatures, he may be able to describe it. All who hear the howl can see and feel the foulness that surrounds them.
When a human sees a werewolf in his true Crinos form, suppressed racial memories of the distant past rise from her subconscious. because werewolves culled human “herds” systematically for thousands of years, they have scarred the collective psyche of the human race permanently. If a human sees a werewolf in his true and terrifying majesty, overwhelming fear and madness results. Garou call this phenomenon the Delirium.
The Delirium may be seen as a sort of supernatural blessing, for it prevents the horror of the primeval world from returning. Humans never see Crinos Garou as they really are. Instead, they rationalize such sightings away instinctively, concocting elaborate and horrific stories about what they thought they saw. They may not see anything at all, simply reacting to something they will never remember. Because of the terror of Delirium, most humans refuse to accept that werewolves are real, even when confronted with very real evidence. The racial memories run so deep that it’s a rare and strong-willed human who can see so much as a photograph of a Crinos-form Garou and not subconsciously dismiss it as “some sort of hoax.”
But despite the protection this fear affords, the Garou cannot afford to take chances. Werewolves who unleash the panic of the Delirium without good cause are punished severely or possibly exiled. Their survival depends on staying hidden and acting discreetly; indiscretion has its consequences. Werewolves hunting in human cities are loath to force the Delirium without a very good reason.
Kinfolk are unaffected by the Delirium. After all, they possess Garou blood; they see their relations as they really are. Some werewolves choose to keep in very close contact with their Kin, and they are very open with them. Therefore, the Veil does not always apply to Kinfolk. Because they can see the world of the werewolves for what it really is, many are eager to work with their relations. Many, however, become resentful and bitter that they are just poor cousins the werewolves call on whenever they’re needed, rather than “true Garou.”
From the time when the tribes first watched over their earliest homelands, the Garou have held a deep understanding of the mystical world. They understand that, like the sun has its solar flares, there are places in the world where the deep, primal energies of creation itself are stronger. Werewolves have claimed some of them as their own, building temples and shrines to protect their power. They perform rituals to keep them alive, fight continually for control of them and mediate on deep and spiritual mysteries inside them. The Garou call these places cairns. The rest of us know these as ley-line convergence points.
Cairns are critical to Garou culture. They act as sites of worship, meeting places and even burial grounds for fallen heroes. By tapping into their power, werewolves become stronger. Mystics use them as sacred “lightning rods” to summon ancient spirits or awesome mystical energies. Because so many werewolves are drawn to such places, some settle down and dedicate their lives to protecting a single cairn. Garou society is based around the formation of these extended packs, known as septs.
Of course, other supernatural creatures are drawn to these sacred sites as well, claiming some of them as their own. Ghosts haunt the most decade and dilapidated ones. Sorcerers seek out cairns and draw from their energies. Faeries allegedly defend their own sites of power so that they may remain eternally young. Minions of evil may occupy and corrupt them as well, turning them to the power of the Wyrm. Great heroes gain renown by recovering these sites, but other occult societies reclaim them when these heroes fail.
Many ancient cairns have been swallowed up by rapidly growing cities. A few “urban cairns” retain their spiritual properties as nodes of mystic might in the midst of urban desolation. As more of the natural world dies, young packs of Garou are willing to brave the dangers of cities to reclaim what was once theirs. Such quests are not without risk. If humans see werewolves stalking about in their true forms near an urban cairn, particularly in Crinos form, urban legends and horror stories result. If, for instance, werewolves revel through a city park each full moon, people will avoid that spot instinctively. Seizing and maintaining an urban cairn requires a great deal of secrecy, but the effort is worth it for the power of a sacred site.
Stepping Sideways: The Umbra
What does it feel like to step into the Umbra? It’s like diving into cold water. First, you feel the splash as you break the surface. Then, for a moment, you freeze as your body and mind try to come to grips with the change. Finally, you swim for the surface, take a breath and try to get used to the water. Or maybe you panic, swallow water and start drowning. That’s how it feels.
The spirit world lies just a whisper away. Children feel it, hiding beneath their beds at night, lurking in the woods behind their homes. You dance through it in your dreams. It’s where reflections lie, on the far side of the mirror. To go there, stop walking forward and backward, and just step sideways. It’s that easy.
All werewolves have the ability to “step sideways” into the Umbra. This ability comes intuitively once the First Change passes. Somehow, they begin to sense the world waiting on the other side of the mirror. Shifting between worlds becomes a skill like walking; it’s something that they can just do.
But, of course, the Gauntlet (the veil between the material world and the Umbra) lies in the way, and a werewolf must push through it to step sideways.
System: In most places, the player must make a Nature roll against the Gauntlet rating. If she succeeds, the character slips through to the other side. Failure means that she can’t push through the webs in this location and needs to move and try again. If she tries to enter the Umbra in the same place, Weaver-spirits reinforce the Gauntlet and the difficulty increases up a step for each further attempt. The Gauntlet rating relates directly to the strength of the local ley line. The stronger the ley line, the thinner the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet in the vicinity of root lines has a DC of 10 to pierce; trunk lines are 15; branch lines are 20. Trying to pierce the Gauntlet away from any ley line has a DC of 25.