One Foot in Flesh and One in Spirit

Open Development, Werewolf: The Forsaken

Harmony won last week’s vote, 40 to 4. I will cover everything that comes up for a vote, these wee contests only affect the order of posts.

Harmony as a trait measures how well you balance the flesh and the spirit. The idea of balance, of needing to walk between two worlds while never being fully in one or the other, is key to Werewolf. That balance is what gives the Uratha a spark of control over the changing beast within. Being about balance and about change, Harmony as a trait ties the Forsaken to Mother Luna, goddess of cycles, change, and balance.

That perfect position of balance comes at Harmony 5. When your Harmony is higher, you’re closer to the flesh than the spirit. At Harmony 10, you can’t enter the Shadow and you need to burn Essence to shapeshift at all (except when you enter Kuruth). At Harmony 0, you’re trapped in the Shadow. You need to spend Essence and roll to not shapeshift when you face an emotional stimulus — and you’re laden with spirit bans over and above those from totem and lodge.

Balanced Harmony makes shapeshifting easier, making it a reflexive action or even removing the roll entirely. It also means that Kuruth triggers become more specific — you go from your auspice moon rising, to seeing your auspice moon, to seeing your own reflection in the light of your auspice moon. When you face Kuruth, you can hold it off for longer.

This way we can reflect the problems that werewolves face when they’re too human as well as when they’re too spirit. It’s a damn hard line to walk, though. Werewolves face two kinds of breaking point. Breaking points toward spirit reflect events that remind a werewolf of her inhumanity and supernatural nature. Breaking points toward flesh reflect things that remind the werewolf of the human life before her Change. Uratha who want to retain balance need to find ways to hit breaking points towards flesh, because they’ll hit a whole lot towards spirit just by being a werewolf. Having high Harmony makes it easier to fail breaking points towards flesh — the more human you act, the easier it is to be human. The same also applies for breaking points toward spirit. Once you overbalance, you need to work at finding that sweet spot right on the edge. As with Blood & Smoke some events are pretty much always breaking points for certain levels of Harmony, but players define other breaking points as appropriate for their characters.

Having Harmony work this way is a departure from how we’ve handled traits in most World of Darkness games. Harmony is not used as a dice pool, and it isn’t a resistance trait. It’s a measure of a werewolf’s balance and connection to Mother Luna. Freeing it to balance at 5, rather than higher always being better opens up a rich design space to reflect not just werewolves who are out of balance, but how they’re out of balance. It also gives us a lot of room for interesting breaking points.

Music for this week is the Manic Street Preachers’ Motorcycle Emptiness brings across the feeling of isolation and discontent that comes from being a werewolf and realising that people live hollow lives unaware of the animistic world around them. That’s easily a breaking point towards spirit for a high-Harmony werewolf.

And finally, this week’s vote: What do you want to hear about next week, Wolf Blooded or Tribe?

  86 comments for “One Foot in Flesh and One in Spirit

  1. evolved_lupus
    March 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Tribe. The way Harmony works now is really intriguing.

  2. batro
    March 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Tribe !

    It’s very interesting to see the new Harmony, and it’s a great idea. Harmony is really a balance now. And for the players, it’s easier to think like a Forsaken.

  3. Christian A
    March 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Tribe, please.

  4. Will
    March 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    WOLF KIN PLEASE! I’d love to see if you’ve made wolf-kin as interesting to play as Ghouls in B&S

    …also, that song gave me major nostalgia

  5. Satchel
    March 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Tribe.

    “High Harmony” meaning “more human” says interesting things about the Ithaeur, assuming rites still work off of Harmony – overlaying the scale with the associated forms of the auspices also lends a context that suits an inversely proportional degree for spiritlike qualities to humanity that explains the seeming switch in position between Elodoth and Rahu beyond “Gauru is the war-form, Rahu is the warrior-auspice.”

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Rites don’t work off Harmony — we don’t use it as a dice pool anywhere.

      I’ll edit that into the post.

  6. March 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Really neat on Harmony. Does this mean that Harmony 0 is not as “You’re an NPC” as it is for vampires at Humanity 0? I can sort of see the character sheet such that it is more this kind of toggle where you track where you are on it, rather than how many dots in it you have. If that makes any sense. I like how it impacts things more and how you might purposefully try to force breaking points due to wanting that center.

    On for next week, Tribe. Want to see how they’re presented differently this time.

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Harmony 0 has you wracked with bans and barely functional, and unable to enter the physical world. You’re not necessarily a Storyteller character, but it’s going to be incredibly hard to get back from.

  7. Handriel
    March 21, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I love the tug and war of this system. I can see great things coming from this book!

  8. Yossarian
    March 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Tribes!

    And great concept!

  9. Peter
    March 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Tribe.

  10. Matt
    March 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Tribe, please. I always felt tribe was the weakest link, since it seems to hold so little immediate relevance to the individual werewolf’s existence, after pack and territorial groups. I really want to see how th new stuff handles it.

  11. Peter
    March 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Tribe.
    Also are Broken Wolves a thing of the past?

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      That depends. 🙂

      Harmony 0 has stated effects — you can’t leave the Shadow, you’re wracked with bans, and can’t control your shapeshifting. If you can’t bring yourself back in a short period of time, you’re screwed.

  12. Matt
    March 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Tribe!

    This seems like an improvement over previous rules in every way, and I love how it illustrates how a werewolf is neither human nor spirit, but a mix of both. And it requires a balancing act, which is more in line with the name “Harmony” in general.

  13. TotalWorldDomination
    March 21, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Another vote for Tribe.

    Love the new harmony. You’ve created a system where you’re actually encouraged to engineer your own breaking points from time to time. Fantastic.

  14. Ephsy
    March 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    T-t-t-tribe!

  15. Octavo
    March 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I vote Tribe. I want to see whether the Oaths will change.

    I’m really liking how Harmony is busting out of the “Morality” mold and evolving to match the central struggle of the game. Keep it coming!

  16. Dale
    March 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Tribe!

  17. Skolis-Ur
    March 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Tribes please.

  18. Saibot
    March 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    My vote goes to Tribe.

  19. Octavo
    March 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Will players still start at Harmony 7 to denote that they’re weighted toward the human side of things?

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Yes, characters still start at Harmony 7.

      • Octavo
        March 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm

        Makes sense.

  20. shkspr1048
    March 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Wolf-Blooded. The treatment of Ghouls in Blood & Smoke makes me intrigued as to how other “half-breed” humans will be portrayed.

    Also, any chance at seeing some example breaking points for the new Harmony model?

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      I’m really excited about what we’re doing with Wolf-Blooded. They’re really going to get a chance to come into their own.

  21. Tim D.
    March 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Tribe

  22. Charlaquin
    March 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    This is exactly what I was hoping for when I first read that teaser about Harmony, and I think it will go a LONG way towards making Forsaken the game I always wanted to play but never felt it was. Thank you!

    My vote for next week is Tribes. Much as I’m curious about Wolf Blooded, I think Tribes will be a bit more central to the player experience most of the time.

  23. ale
    March 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    i will follow the pack, Tribe.

    from what i understand human breaking points rise harmony and spirit breaking points decrease it, is that how it works???

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      That’s how it works, yeah. Something that you can’t do because you’re not human is a break towards spirit, something that reminds you of life as a normal person breaks towards flesh.

  24. Aspel
    March 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I’m more interested in Wolfblooded. The Ghoul template really is pretty cool in Blood and Smoke.

    How do you deal with the fact that you can basically not buy up Harmony? If you start at 7, what stops you from going to Breaking Points until you’re at 5 and not buying anymore dots of Harmony?

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      You don’t have to buy more points of Harmony, but the breaking points around 5 are really easy to hit. Getting to 5 is one thing, staying there is much harder.

  25. AnaMizuki
    March 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    This might be more a playstyle thing I’ve seen, but I think high Harmony could be a bit more punishing to show its an unnatural state for an Uratha. Because I’ve seen people play Uratha that never shifts outside hishu unless there is combat (and even then, using essence to shift), and who never go into the shadow. How would the Harmony drawbacks be punishments to players who play them as normal for uratha?

    And I vote for tribes, too!

    • Stew
      March 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Characters with too high Harmony can’t cross into the Shadow at all, have to pay an Essence just to have the chance of rolling to shape shift (with a penalty), and have nasty-ass Kuruth triggers that are almost impossible to avoid.

      That last is the worst penalty — you might know the trigger but it happens even if you try to avoid it (the difference between “shape shift when the moon rises” and “shape shift when you see the moon). Because of how Kuruth now works, it becomes a massive pain in the ass for the whole pack. The pack mates will want him to lose some Harmony because they’re spending too much time dealing with him and not enough time hunting.

      (This will become clearer when we cover Kuruth)

      • AnaMizuki
        March 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm

        Thing is, aside from the Kuruth, what if those first two are seen either as a non-issue or a good thing by the player? After all, their character can more easily do their day job and socialize with humans now (not taking account Kuruth triggers here,note, just playing devil’s avocate). Outside Kuruth, there should be more reasons to want to be part spirit. I’m hoping the new rules for the rest will give that, though ^^

      • IanW
        March 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        I love how the high-Harmony werewolf is now a lot closer to werewolves of mythology. Mostly human, but on the rising of the full moon (or another phase), they uncontrollably shift into war-form and fall into a mindless rage. Good work on fitting that in!

        • AnaMizuki
          March 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

          ….I didn’t consider that, but it actually makes sense. Refusal to become a wolf and trying to live solely as a human will result in becoming extremely uncontrollable.

          • Roads
            March 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm

            It looks like it’s going to add a really nice incentive to either accept your true nature or become a monster.

            Not that it’s going to turn the tide, but I’ll vote Wolf Blooded.

  26. Darkfool
    March 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Tribes please

  27. Atavist
    March 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I like it. It seems like it gives some incentive towards passionately human acts, with the breaking points towards the flesh. Incentivizing breaking points seems a way to encourage, uh, pathos? Dunno if that’s the right word.

    One vote for Wolf Blooded. I never really liked them before so interested in seeing what they’re like.

  28. March 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I love the new Harmony.

    Although I’d love to see the Tribes, Wolf-blooded were one of the old splats more poorly executed,IMO, so I vote for Wolf-Blooded.

  29. Christian a
    March 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    How does Harmony work for the Pure?

    • Stew
      March 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      We’re still fine-tuning this.

  30. Arcane
    March 21, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Tribe.

  31. Tony
    March 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I like the implications raised by the idea that a character must seek breaking points to balance their Harmony, rather than simply avoiding certain actions. Being a highly balanced Uratha seems like a very uncomfortable thing, in many ways – something I think is incredibly appropriate.

    This will give playing an Uratha a very different feel from playing other supernaturals… and from playing Garou. Or rather, this will give mechanical weight to what being an Uratha should already have feel like. Bringing the spirit/flesh dualism to the fore like this is a great step toward letting Forsaken be the game it should be. Bravo!

    Out of curiosity, is there a reason it’s still a 0-10 scale, and not a -5 to 5 scale, or… something else? It just seems kind of weird that “High Harmony” doesn’t refer to a “good” state. It’s like saying that a clearly off-balance scale is “Highly balanced” because the heavy end is the one you chose to label “Positive.” Granted, I’m not quite sure how to fix that issue, except maybe to rename the Trait entirely…

    Also, it seems like it would actually be very difficult to remain on the extremes of this scale for very long, as the slightest reminder of one’s dualistic state would set off a breaking point in the direction of balance. I can see that being trapped in/out of the Shadow would make it hard to get back to balance, but until one reaches that point… Is there something I’m missing that makes it harder to get back to the middle after you end up near an extreme?

    Finally, my vote is for Tribes. 🙂

    • Tony
      March 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Sorry for the super-long comment 😛

    • Stew
      March 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

      As you get towards the extremes, it’s harder to succeed at rolls when you face breaking points that drag you further to that edge — you get reminded of what you are, and that causes some freak-outs, but it’s easier to go back to denying what you are.

      We’re using a 10-dot scale because we don’t use negative numbers for traits. All our important traits are represented as dots on the character sheet, and thus all you have to do as a player is count the dots. Dot-counting is especially useful for some types of dyslexia and dyscalculia. If you’re counting dots backwards, or having to remember to count dots and then subtract 5, it increases the cognitive load.

  32. Raymer
    March 21, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Freaking Fantastic! And though I am torn due to my love of the Wolf Blooded, I too will request Tribe.

  33. Sikla Alkis
    March 21, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Wolf-blooded. Dear sweet Mike, wolf-blooded.

  34. Ramiro
    March 21, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Really interesting new take on Harmony…. TRIBES PLEASE!!!

  35. Pablo
    March 21, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Great work, I love this different view. I like how these chronicles serve to give each game its own, more defined identity.

    My vote goes, against the odds, to the wolf-blooded.

  36. Antares
    March 21, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I love what you have done with Harmony. I like the idea about rites needing a new type of roll. I had players with almost no intellect, wits, manipulation and occult making awesome rites and that fealt a little bit unfair for those who dived into the occult of the games.

    I would like to see more penalities for Harmony 10, it sounds like if the character pass the roll on Kuruth (or shapeshift) he will be fine for the rest of the night, not to mention that if you meditate you get bonus for any WP rolls.

    My vote is going fro WOLF-BLOODED. Tho I love to see something about Tribes, I don’t feel like they were bad in Forsaken, they lack a little bit of structure compared to Covenants and Orders as a ST it wasn’t difficult to come up with a solution at a city level.

    Wolf-Blooded on other hand were to important in my last history because family ties were difficult to uphold among my players.

    • Stew
      March 25, 2014 at 10:42 am

      More of the downsides for Harmony 10 will become clear when we detail Kuruth.

  37. Patrick
    March 21, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Awesome – I love how all the new Integrity stats really match up to the key themes of the gameline in question and don’t feel quite as… I dunno, bolted on to the previous “Morality” scale. I’m excited to think that Promethean’s Humanity will look incredibly different from Vampires.

    Oh, and Tribes.

  38. Mr. Paint
    March 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Tribe

  39. Nick W
    March 22, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Going with the grain again for Tribe please.

    Harmony definitely sounds interesting! I’d love to see how it works from theory to in-play, but it seems like a good tool to have the kind of werewolf you are be reflected by your play style also.

  40. Wolfgar
    March 22, 2014 at 1:34 am

    That outline for the detail of the Harmony mechanic sounds good. The best part in my mind is that it feels closer to being it’s own mechanic rather than just being a bolted on clone of Humanity. I am curious how it is supposed to work with the experience system if higher levels may turn undesirable and lower levels turn desirable. The “sins” or breaking point details are really where the rubber hits the road on this one though. Hopefully you guys will find a sweet spot between breaking points that are too easy to avoid (like “Don’t wear silver jewelry”) and ones that are too tough to avoid (like “Never defend yourself”).

    I vote Tribes next. I’m interested in Wolf-Blooded but Tribes are more important to the whole structure.

  41. Jonathan
    March 22, 2014 at 2:52 am

    I’m going to say Tribe just because it’s been stated that everything will be covered eventually and tribal affiliation has a lot more bearing on my games than wolf-blooded.

    Since it looks like tribe is going to win out, I have a question I want to throw out concerning tribes but it also gets into Renown: will Ghost Wolves still start with less Renown than a Tribal Uratha? A player in our group felt that was too large a handicap and joined the Iron Masters rather than play a Ghost Wolf.

    • Stew
      March 25, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Yup. To paraphrase Trainspotting, Ghost Wolves are werewolves who choose not to choose a tribe. That choice means they’re not on an even footing with the others.

      Of course, some of them want to be, but that’s for another spoiler. 🙂

  42. Falco
    March 22, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I’m sure it’s not going to win, but I put in my vote for wolf blood, I similarly want to see how they’re going to be made to shine a bit more.

  43. Thorbes
    March 22, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Agh! This week’s choice is much more difficult…

    On one side Tribes always felt a bit lacking in the Core. Supplements did a great job at fixing it to a point but still felt too few, too late. Knowing how one of the two main ways of defining your character has improved is tempting, to say the least.

    On the other hand, I am greatly interested in the wolf blooded as a concept and think that the “lesser templates” asociated with each game are one of the coolest concepts of each line.

    Decisions, decisions….

    Ok, Tribes. They are just too much of a cornerstone to ignore.

    Give us some Tribes.

  44. Behalior@gmail.com
    March 22, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Tribes please.

  45. Seidmadr
    March 22, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Waitwaitwait. Does this mean that we won’t get to know about the new Kuruth mechanics at all? D:

    Then if the same rules apply to this vote… TRIBES! They are simply more important to the setting than the wolf blooded are. Of course, I’d prefer both, but in the case of having to choose: Tribes.

    • Chris Allen
      March 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Stew covers that in his first paragraph: “I will cover everything that comes up for a vote, these wee contests only affect the order of posts.”

      You will get to know about the new Kuruth mechanics at some point.

  46. Oisin
    March 22, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Very interesting about Harmony, I really like the idea that the players will have to balance being a Werewolf versus having a human life. I think the idea that at low Harmony you can start shapechanging uncontrollably when your auspice moon rises could have some very interesting dramatic consequences.

    Would love to hear about Tribe next

  47. March 22, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Wolf Blooded! #guitarriff

  48. Eric Christian Berg
    March 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Tribes, please.

  49. Brian Goubeaux
    March 22, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Huh, so Harmony this time acts like Clarity for Changeling (I think). For my vote, I say Tribes because I want to know if the Ghost Wolves would become an official tribe, like how VII became an official Convenant in Requiem through Blood and Smoke.

  50. Joe B.
    March 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

    My vote is for Wolf-blooded. I think of Tribes as I think of political parties. I am less intrigued about ideology (at the moment) and more by kinfolk 😉

  51. March 23, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Brought-up already, but what is the reason for a 0-10 scale when maybe a more -5 to 5, 5-1 Spirit and 1-5 Flesh, or some other scale where 0 is the place you want to be and divergence from that is the greater numbers? Seems to me that this would give a better idea of what’s going on and as stated, makes Harmony 10 not seem kind of “Good” without context.

    And stuff.

    • Stew
      March 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

      We’re using a 10-dot scale because we don’t use negative numbers for traits. All our important traits are represented as dots on the character sheet, and thus all you have to do as a player is count the dots. Dot-counting is especially useful for some types of dyslexia and dyscalculia. If you’re counting dots backwards, or having to remember to count dots and then subtract 5, it increases the cognitive load. Having two scales makes it seem like a character could have dots in either of them, which isn’t the case.

  52. Oran Solus
    March 23, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Sounds really interesting, it gives me as a storyteller the ability to explore both sides of being part flesh and part spirit, and I’m excited for the possibility of characters being on other sides of the scale and how their more balanced pack-mates deal with this.

    For the next update, I would actually like to see more on the wolf-blooded.

  53. Quasi
    March 24, 2014 at 5:55 am

    WtF was more interesting than WtA, but they’ve never been my cup of tea. But just with this mechanic and associated fluff, I might have to revise my opinion.

    For the next update, I’d want to hear what you have to say abou the Tribes.

  54. Zooroos
    March 24, 2014 at 6:30 am

    This week’s poll is a tough one, but I think I’ll vote Tribes. Because I’d like to know what they’re doing with them and also what role plays the Shadow and the spirits in their whole concept. Could we run Werewolf this time as a no-Shadow type of chronicle? (I’m looking forward merely for the option of running such a thing, not as a complete rehash of the game)

  55. QM
    March 24, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I’m impressed how with just one (albeit large) change to the mechanics and fluff, you’ve managed to make me and my friends actually interested in Werewolf.
    Well done!

    Anyways, next I’d like to hear about the Tribes.

  56. Rain
    March 24, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Well, I’m rather obligated after last week to say Wolf-Blooded, aren’t I?

  57. Tora
    March 25, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Tribes please. I really like this new Harmony mechanic and can’t wait to see what the new idea is for Tribes. Maybe a little more interaction with tribal totems?

  58. Fion
    March 25, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Wow.. just wow. Harmony redesign is awesome. What an idea, I love it. My mind is reeling from the possibilities. I would have liked to see more but perhaps it just isn’t ready to be shown yet. If this first bit of Idigam Chronicles info is any clue, this book is going to be supremely awesome. You OP guys are amazing at this! My group hasn’t enjoyed WoD since V:tM came out all those years ago!

    As for next week, I think I’ll go along with consensus and say Tribe. I am supremely keen to hear what my beloved Iron Masters are getting up to. 🙂

  59. tau neutrino
    March 25, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Will murder, manslaughter, and killing in self-defense be breaking points?

    • Stew
      March 25, 2014 at 10:48 am

      We’ve not nailed down the breaking points yet, but the attitude to violence is informed by the Harmony sins in the Forsaken corebook.

  60. tau neutrino
    March 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Should it still be called “Harmony” if the higher levels indicate disharmony between the human and wolf sides?

    Will the Wolf-Blooded use Integrity, and will they get breaking points for seeing the Uratha shapeshift?

  61. ale
    March 26, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    were does the wolf fit between flesh and spirit??
    is ordering a pizza and going to the supermatket still a sin?

  62. leetsepeak
    March 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Tribes.

    This is really exciting. I honestly wanted to like Werewolf before but didn’t, not only does this sound mechanically interesting but fun too, I really want to have to balance between the wolf and the man. It’s like how Vampires want to balance between man and the beast, but made unique and appropriate for werewolf without avoiding the whole “am I wolf or man?” question.

  63. Belial
    March 28, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Would it make sense to call the stat something other than “Harmony”? I’m with others who feel that “High Harmony”, just by nature of the words, seems instinctively like a “good” thing to me, and I wonder if the way around that isn’t to change the name. Given what high harmony represents, “Humanity” would actually work if it wasn’t taken.

    Also, while I realize crossover isn’t a primary concern, how does this “aiming for the middle” approach to the stat play with other supernaturals who have abilities that (affect/rely on/base their difficulty on) the stat of the target?

    Or is their a conscious effort to eliminate those sorts of rules from other supernaturals (I don’t, off the top of my head, remember seeing any in B&S, but there are a lot in pre-GMC books).

    Also, I vote Tribe

    • Belial
      March 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      *there

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