Layout Time

W20: Changing Breeds is out of editing and in Chaney’s hands. This is a beast of a book — no pun intended. The original outline was for 90,000 words. That didn’t last very long. I talked to Rich about upping that to 120,000 words. We ended up at near as damnit 135,000 words — fully half as much again as the original wordcount. And now my eyes are bleeding.

In celebration of completing the Editing Pass of Doom™, I’ve included the introduction to the Ajaba below the jump.

In other news, I’m going to be a guest at Conpulsion in Edinburgh — an easy con to get to as it’s right on my doorstep. I’ll be running some Werewolf: The Apocalypse, including an exclusive sneak preview of the Skinner SAS! Hope to see some local Werewolf fans there!


Dark times are upon us, my child, but do not mourn. Set your teeth instead to the killer’s grin, for darkness is a friend to those who know the shadows — and none know the darkness better than we.

It was not always so. In the light of First Morning, we were a proud people with a sacred duty. We were the choosers of the slain, the cullers of the flock, and in our footsteps the tears of those who mourned fell like rain. Our jaws offered salvation from a slow death by hunger, by age, by illness. We cleared away the misshapen, the perverse, the wrong-blooded and warped who sullied the herd with their taint. We slew the weak, that the strong might grow stronger and the fallen feed the scavengers and carrion-birds.

It was an honorable duty, a strong birthright, and we did our job well. For generations without number, we held to our ways, and the veldt prospered.

Then came the dry times, when the rains no longer fed the grasslands and hunger swept the land. Drought killed more than even we would dare slaughter, from hunger, thirst, and the heat of the never-ending summer. It drove the herds to seek new lands, looking for water, food, or shelter from the sun.

And it brought men to the land of the beasts.

They came with their flocks, bearing their villages on their backs, and the grasslands died, eaten bare by their cattle and goats. We moved to cull their numbers as well — beast and man alike — but the humans baited us, hunted us, and in time, proved their worth. These were strong men and women, and their blood strengthened our line. Our numbers grew, both two-legged and four, and for a time our clans stretched from one edge of the land to the other. It was a glorious time for the Bringers of the Rain.

But the dry times did not end. And though we held our duty dear, the rains would not fall, no matter how many tears we called to summon them. The wild flocks faded. Even we could not bring swift peace to all those who faced the long night with hollow bellies, never to see another dawn.

Just as hunger drove the herding villages to us, seeking respite, it brought other predators into our lands. Our cousins, the cats-who-walk-on-two-feet, sought the dwindling herds also, and we warred beneath the twilight for food to feed our cubs.

The war between ourselves and catkind grew to desperate levels. They who had once patterned themselves mighty hunters, but who stormed in to steal our kills. They who fouled our waters with their lazy ways. They who left meat to rot in the sun rather than bear the presence of the scavengers who starved around them.

They blamed us for their poor hunting. Blamed us for our “unnatural ways”. Blamed us when their own pride left their cubs to hunger, their Kin to starve, their children to dry up in their mother’s wombs.

There was no longer enough for both to survive. Not enough food. Not enough water. Not enough hope that we all might live on. They murdered our young, and we theirs, and the grasslands supped on blood from both.

Then came the Endless Storm, and the battle came to a head.

Bare your teeth, my child, at the name of Black Tooth, killer of our kind. It was he who learned the Yava of our people. It was he who raged across the lands, slaying Ajaba, hyena, and human alike. It was his pride who swept the Serengeti like a murderous squall, and his minions who hunted us to the streets of Bombay.

Something had to be done. Our king, Adjua Ka, called the people together, to unite our forces — and counterattack.

We gathered by the hundreds — men, women, and children — filling the Ngornongoro Crater until the valley glowed bright as day with our campfires. Metis and Kin, an army of hyenas, humans, and we in between. And, as the sky overhead turned dark, and the shadows crept in around us, our once-King began to speak.

Adjua railed against the Simba and vowed to lead us against them. Together, he promised, we would drive the lions from the plains and stop the slaughter of our people. His words were food for our hunger, water for our souls. In his voice, we could hear the song of our freedom, and an end to our troubles.

Our replies thundered in the darkness — howling voices, stamping feet, pounding shields, snapping jaws — all eager, all ready. It was a night of spirit-raising, war-planning, and truth-telling. It was to be the night when the choosers of the slain took back the midnight land.

It was a trap instead.

I remember bristling fur and wide eyes as the first of the lion’s roars shook the night. Winds cracked the hills and torrents washed away the campfires as the Endless Storm swept over the crater’s edge. In the lightning-flare I saw a wall of lions, leopards, and men around us. There was surprise, but no fear from our people — not then. We were the choosers of the slain. We were the cullers of the herd. We lived to take life — it was our sacred duty, and we were ready to fulfill it upon those who would do us harm.

How little did we know.

They fell upon us, and our world came apart. We fought hard, and we accounted for our lives in blood. But Black Tooth knew our Yava, and his warriors struck exactly where they could do the most harm.

Our people fell like raindrops to the thirsty land.

Some, seeing the battle turn, escaped into the darkness. They ran across the grasslands and summoned up spells to hide themselves. When they reached the cities, they scattered and hoped for the best.

The ones who stayed were butchered. Each man and woman. Ajaba and hyena. Kits and Kinfolk, warriors and children alike. They slew us all, destroyed the court. To mock us, they decorated the site with skulls. And with foul magics, they cursed the lands we once protected, barring us from them for a hundred-hundred years.

So many lives, so many futures, so many tales forever lost. But we are far from dead.

They may have run us into the darkness, but the darkness has ever been our ally. They may have thinned our number, thinking to weaken us, but we are the cullers of the herd, and we know that what survives grows only stronger in response.

Denied our lands, we have scattered to the four corners of the earth and claimed each shadow as our own. Denied our Kin, we plant our seed where we may, breeding new clans to replace the ones so mercilessly taken from us. Denied our duty, we fulfill the role of rainmakers for all, bringing down those who are too weak, too foolish, too vulnerable to survive the teeth-that-bite-and-never-let-go.

We will endure. We will survive. And in time, we will regain what has been taken from us. We will rebuild our families, reclaim our lands, return to our natural place in the order of things.

And when that day comes, the cats will yowl for mercy and find it denied them. They will run, but from the shadows we will hunt them down. And their Kin will mourn over their thrice-wretched bodies as we call forth the rains over the plains of Africa once more.

  25 comments for “Layout Time

  1. Derek
    March 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    This is cool, but now I am unsure if I understand the difference between the Ajaba’s purpose, and that of the Ratkin (or Nagah.)

    • DarkSpiral
      March 28, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      I think (think) I can answer that one for you. Part of it is geography; the Ratkin didn’t have large numbers in the same areas as the Ajaba thrived. Rats, sure, but not the Ratkin Changing Breed.

      The more important part is focus, though I could be off on this one. The Ratkin’s focus is on culling humans. The Ajaba is on culling the sick and the weak, which while including humans, is not quite so focused on them alone, and initially (from the description above) was almost entirely focused on animals.

      The Nagah are actually much easier. They don’t cull anything, at least not in the same way the Ratkin and th eAjaba do. They assassinate the corrupt. Not necessarily the Wyrm-corrupted (though they do that too; all the Changing Breeds do that, to some extent), but those that abuse their power and pervert their purpose on Gaia’s face. As an example, in my games Black Tooth was not actually Wyrm corrupted. A first class, top of the line, psychopathic a$$hole, you bet, but not actually tainted by the Corrupter. Which is why the Nagah wanted him DEAD. They just didn’t have the power to do it themselves, which was of course a plot hook…. :)

      • Yiodan
        March 29, 2013 at 11:12 am

        That’s pretty much it, yeah.

        In short:
        Ajaba: Culls the breeds (and animals, though I didn’t remember that) to keep them strong.

        Ratkins: Culls the humans to keep them within reasonable numbers and prevent them from getting too strong (technologically advanced, etc.).

        Nagah: Judge, jury and excecutioners. The Nagah do not go after those who have already been judged by their own people. The Nagah only hunt down those who passed between the cracks of the judgement system of their kind and got away with it. And if they judge that he deserves death, they kill him.

        Or at least that’s always been my interpretation. I must say I haven’t read those books in years.

  2. Alexander Lezama
    March 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    I was unaware of the Kickstarter for W20, but I am waiting with bated breath for this one. I have always loved the idea of changing breeds and the way they are not the same as Garou. I still have my Ratkin book close by but this one, with so much content and all, is a must buy,

  3. Danny
    March 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Very cool indeed, REALLY looking forward to this book (And W20 itself of course)

  4. Danny
    March 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    I just hope you’ve done right by my beloved Gurahl

  5. Darryl Green
    March 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Well, you just sold me.

  6. Brandon
    March 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Awww no KS? Is there any way you guys can kick start something for us who missed the boat on W20? I wanna get these for my collection o_o

    • IanW
      March 28, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      All our products are available in PDF/Print on demand, regardless of the Kickstarters.

      • Brandon
        April 2, 2013 at 5:25 am

        I still like to contribute towards the cause :3

    • March 29, 2013 at 5:18 am

      Who says there won’t be a Kick Starter for W20 Changing Breeds?
      The Onyx Path Schedule still shows it being KickStarted in June 2013
      June 2013
      WTA – Book of Changing Breeds: A deeper look at the Fera building on the info in W20. 160 pages. PDF/PoD/Deluxe Kickstarter.

      So, even if the date slips, I think the intent is there. I haven’t seen otherwise, have you?

  7. Adamant Siaka
    March 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    I must confess, the mention of Yava has me… concerned. In fact, it’s a [screams internally] moment.

    • Laughing Hyena
      March 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

      Yeah, I’m in the same boat. Never liked the Yava thing from Second edition.

      • March 29, 2013 at 5:24 am

        I don’t mind the Yava, personally. I always saw it as optional anyways. What better secret for Bastet to have than a false one? Though, Why the Ajaba still have onr outside of the Bastet book will be interesting… Unless this text was copy/pasted from the Bastet Breed Book and the Yava portion was un-noticed…

        • Belial
          March 29, 2013 at 6:16 am

          I always liked the yava, personally. Why shouldn’t people who are part spirit have bans?

          • Belial
            March 29, 2013 at 6:17 am

            Which is to say, frankly, I wish all the other changing breeds had them too.

          • Adamant Siaka
            March 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

            They all do. It’s called “I burn on contact with silver and/or gold.” The only ones who lack that are the Kitsune, but they still suffer Gnosis loss if they carry around the taboo metal.

          • Belial
            March 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

            well fair enough, but even so I found the bastet’s yava to add an extra little folklore-esque kick to the whole thing (can’t speak the truth about your parents? Gold) even if some of them were rather silly (Moon soil in your drink? How would anyone even manage that pre-sixties?).
            Also, everyone having the same boring “ow it burns” ban is rather bland. The yava added to it, I felt.

          • LemuneSD
            April 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

            Remember, the Garou (and other shapeshifters/spirits/etc) have walked the stars much longer than humankind has had access to outer space.

    • Brandon
      April 2, 2013 at 5:27 am

      I agree with everyone else here, I love Yava, they add a cultural and spiritual depth reflecting their tribes, and and species origin.

  8. Sakuryu
    April 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Is there anyway at all to special order a W20 HM edition now? I really want one and the story tellers screen and I missed the KS>

    • Laughing Hyena
      April 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Wait later today to see what the Monday Meetings blog says about the progress. But the book is not out yet.

      Not sure on the W20 Storyteller’s Screen being a POD product.
      However, the Heavy Metal is special edition, as well as the “Deluxe Cover” book. You could only get those by pledging for the Kickstarter tiers for them. So the POD version won’t have the same covers or even bookmarks as those two.

      I guess the other way to obtain a HM book is waiting for when they get shipped and then the owners sell their copies online/ebay/etc.
      However, I can imagine one can be much more expensive then even the Revised Limited Edition book online.
      I remember ordering/getting the Revised Limited Edition from White Wolf’s website back in the day ($69.95 and I still have my copy), now that book goes for $300 and up.

  9. Erinys
    May 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Nice! I like the write-up so far. You took the wonderful parts of the Bastet Breedbook flavor (especially the conflict between Ajaba and Bastet) and fitted it with making them a separate Breed.

    “But Black Tooth knew our Yava, and his warriors struck exactly where they could do the most harm.”

    This sentence breaks the flow of the paragraphs. It doesn’t fit the feel of the sentences around it. I’d combine it with the next sentence: “But Black Tooth knew our Yava, and our people fell like raindrops to the thirsty land.”

    Although my preference is not to have Yava at all. I think the whole concept was silly in execution. However, if the Yava were folklore-y riddles that had to be interpreted spiritually instead of literally, that would be alright… for the Bastet, who do the whole riddle thing. But for Ajaba? They aren’t Bastet…

    I hope that W20 can include some of the idea that Hyenas make sure the dead STAY dead, that they are the one Changing-Breed best equipped to fight the undead, including ghosts. That seems like a natural extension of being choosers of the slain, and of the association of hyenas with death and the dead.

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