The End of “Screw You Hippie” Game Design

I’m not sure how many of you tuned in to the Darker Days Radio interviewcast-thing that we did on Saturday. If not, you might want to go give it a watch/listen. In it, I touched on something that’s got a lot of people excited about Changing Breeds—the presence of the Lost Breeds, and how they signify a change in our approach to game design.

In Werewolf, the Lost Breeds, alongside the three Lost Tribes, exist to play up the theme of extinction. If the Garou get too hubristic or act without thinking, they can lay waste to their own allies and do the Wyrm’s work for it. The Apis, Camazotz, and Grondr join the Croatan, Bunyip, and White Howlers as object lessons from the past that too many modern Garou don’t want to know about.

For a long time—hell, for longer than was strictly necessary—the World of Darkness titles had this idea where the games pretty much told you how to play them. “Here’s inspiration for the last White Howler, but if you play one you’re a powergaming loser.” Or, as the post title implies: “Here’s some game design. You want to use it? Screw you, hippie.”

We can talk a lot about why this came about—my personal theory is that the whole thing was a desire to explore a thematic area while also avoiding “special snowflake” characters who bend everyone’s play around their one character—but the reasons don’t excuse that the books gave rules for one thing and then said that using those rules was bad. Naturally, people who kept up with forums and chatrooms and websites picked up on that attitude and used it to browbeat folks who ignored that the books first described one game then explained how you should be playing a restricted subset of that game.

I’m getting to a Changing Breeds-related point. Honest.

If you’re a student of White Wolf books from the turn of the millennium, you can see that some lines started to fight back against that attitude. As the internet made it easier for fans and designers to talk to one another, the designers could see how what they’d intended wasn’t necessarily how people played. And slowly but surely that had an effect.

For Werewolf, we had slow trickles of information—the Bunyip in the Wild West Companion, then the Croatan in Croatan Song. Past Lives included a way to play in a time when the Black Spiral Dancers were just White Howlers, and included some Gifts for each Lost Tribe—and each Lost Breed. But things only ever went so far. The Onyx Path lets us go even further than that, opening up the development process so you can poke around under the hood. Communication’s a good thing.

And here we are today. Twenty years after Werewolf: The Apocalypse first released, and we’ve got a core book coming with the Lost Tribes in the back, and the first supplement has details on the Lost Breeds, not just as historical footnotes but as characters in and of themselves.

Our attitude towards game design has changed. In some ways we’re still getting our heads around just how that change works. We write books full of things that we think are cool—and here, I’m using “cool” as a shorthand for all kinds of things that can make a game more memorable.

At the same time, as game designers we shouldn’t rely on our assumption of how people will use those cool things. We’re throwing out these awesome ideas, but they become even better when people pick them up and run with it in their games. That’s fantastic, it really is.

You want to have the first Silent Strider to contact her Ancestors? Cool.

You want to be a no-Pure-Breed mutt that Falcon’s chosen as a Silver Fang? Cool.

You want to have your game feature the last White Howler? Cool.

You want to bring one of the Lost Breeds back from the dead, to somehow overcome the millennia of hate and ignorance that drove them to extinction—to show that just occasionally it’s possible to pull off a win against all the odds? Cool.

Now, those examples aren’t necessarily what White Wolf would have done with the whole epic story of the Garou- but so what? This is your story, and that’s what really matters.

Just don’t expect rules for playable Black Spiral Dancers any time in the near future. Or maybe…

  49 comments for “The End of “Screw You Hippie” Game Design

  1. Jonathan
    September 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Digging this. I always felt like in LARP settings in OWOD, there was too much fear of special snowflakes and too much focus on stock character archetypes. You didn’t need special rules to build characters who were special (fun to play, memorable, unique) but just because something was special shouldn’t have made it inherently bad – These are issues that should be in the hands of the Storyteller anyway, and not necessarily backed up with a sledgehammer of canonized game designer snark.

    • Stew
      September 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      I think my comment below applies just as much here; please read it as replying to both posts at once.

  2. ana mizuki
    September 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    There are other things that W20 changes as well.

    First off, in the chapter 2 preview, the lupus section quite clearly noted that lupus can think and speak and learn English just fine. And in the Red Talon section, that Red Talons can and do use tools and they do know the value of the Veil.

    Both things are quite simple, and might have been a given. But I have seen arguments against both, limiting what a lupus can do as a character. With this new text, it gives freedom for a player to experiment with each breed.

    Fearing the snowflake in general is very much a losing battle. You don’t need to use anything but merits and flaws to create one, or simply make a very bad history. In the end, it is the skill of the player to pull off the more unique concepts.

    • Stew
      September 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      The trick to dealing with a snowflake is to stop one player using that character to get more spotlight time than the other players are happy with. (I originally said “a disproportionate amount”, but some groups would be happy with that.)

      Often the best way to do that is to sit down with the player and talk to him or her. Grab a coffee or something and just talk about the game and ask if they wouldn’t mind the other players getting a bit more of the spotlight. No need to get confrontational—and no need for heavy-handed “your concept is wrong” comments in the books.

      If you’re going to have something unusual, I’d rather give you ideas for how to do it.

      • ana mizuki
        September 18, 2012 at 9:35 pm

        Online, it’s not even a issue of spotlight. Just that everyone is so paranoid about people being too ‘special’.

        Major reason why lupus tend to be forbidden, that gnosis 5 alone is feared.

        • Sabin
          September 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm

          If you have seen the sneak peak of the W20 breed/auspice/tribe chapter, they actually put something on the lupus characters to balance that out. Several abilities are restricted or banned for them (Unless they get ST approval, of course), and I find that many people don’t want the challenge of having to roleplay out acting lupus online half the time, assuming you have a good rp group.

          • ana mizuki
            September 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm

            Those restrictions have been in every edition, though.

            I have to disagree with the idea that many people don’t want to play lupus online. From my experience (mostly chats), it is the high gnosis and STs fear of badly played ones that cause them to be often forbidden.

            Ironically, I’ve been in games that aren’t as strict and the lupus have been just OK there.

          • Yiodan
            September 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

            Wow, Lupus characters are seen as “Special Snowflakes”?

            Damn onmy side of the world, people play them for 2 reason: Stats because they have more gnosis and are easier to justify being very physically phycused (those I don’t allow to play lupus) or an RP challenge (those I do).

            In retrospec, yeah, I think most lupus characters i’ve seen have had indeed more screentime than others, but I think that’s fine in the universe of Werewolf. They’re mind is different and it will clash severely with those of most homid. They have much to learn on how to adapt to life amongst other garou and homids in general and their primal nature means they don’t hold back, ever.

            That’s going to naturally give them more screentime, but it also enriches the experience of everyone else around. I’ve seen some indibly powerful scenes in LARP come from that.

  3. Blue Fox
    September 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    This blog post reminds me about the first time I got my hands on book of weaver and GW-tribe books.

    I inherently noted the coolness factor of the gadgets in those books but I also recognized that my players nor me would have little interest in exploring the trans-humanistic/wolfistic(?) themes presented even though we enjoyed and played scifi and cyberpunk settings from time to time.

    So they were left into sidelines and imo that’s how it should be even without some dev saying it out loud; you don’t find stuff in the books useful or proper for your campaign then ignore it.

    That’s also the thing I’ve always liked about wod-books, the themes are (usually) presented as potentials instead of absolutes.

  4. Laughing Hyena
    September 18, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Watched it before it was posted here. I get a shout out in the beginning since I follow Darker Days and for the idea I suggested for Pentex’s OmniTV and Avalon would get behind considering current trends. Avalon also needs to get it’s own TV channel called “The Nub” and that they’ve bought out Magicians of the Bay, makers of “Buy More Sorcery”.

    On that, “slowly breaking away from that previous mindset” part, you forgot that Werewolf Storytellers Handbook (3804) for Revised had a section in the chapter “Breaking the Mold” about “Post-Apocalypse and Other Variations”.

    It was about running W:tA games with different setups or vast changes to the world the players were playing, such as “alternate universes” and “What ifs?” or how to tinker with the setting. One of them had it where everyone in the world was a werewolf and the issues because of that. And I clearly remember someone posting in the forums back in the day about what would have happened if the Garou lost the War of Rage. Or if the Wyld was the Big Bad Cosmic threat instead of the Weaver or the Wyrm. This was way before Forsaken put out the Chronicler’s Guide which did basically the same thing, but for W:tF.

    • Stew
      September 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Not so much forgotten, more off to the side of what I’m talking about. :)

      Here, I’m mostly talking here about the sort of progress in presenting the same idea, from saying “We’re never going to give you rules for X. X is silly.” to “Here’s rules for X, but you’re silly for wanting them.” to “Here’s rules for X and a small range of times when X is perfectly fine.” to “Here’s rules for X. Ways to use X include but are not limited to A, B, C. Have fun.”

      The variants and what-ifs in the Werewolf Storyteller’s Handbook were brilliant things—Garou vs Aliens and Garou vs Steampunk Powersuit were worth the price of admission alone—and that’s a parallel to what I’m saying. “Y’know, if you want you could do A, B, and C.” Part of the whole opening-up of concepts. But then, what-ifs had more of a precedent, what with Changeling 2E suggesting setting Changeling on board Deep Space 9. Some of those inspired bits of the Forsaken Chronicler’s Guide and the post-apocalyptic shard in Mirrors, and I’d love to tackle a big ol’ book of what-ifs for Apocalypse at some point. I can’t guarantee that I’ll get one of those any time soon, but it is something I want to do. Heck, maybe if I ever have some quiet time on the blog I might throw out random ways to mix up Werewolf.

      • Simon
        September 21, 2012 at 2:24 am

        Riffing on Stew’s comments: A fun what-if I was noodling around was ‘what if it was the Wyld that was corrupted instead of the Wyrm’?

        • Blue Fox
          September 23, 2012 at 6:56 am

          As wyld is the “source” of creation and to lesser extent life… I think we would be really crewed.

    • September 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Out of curiosity, where I can I find this link to the what if… about the War of the Rage?

      • Blue Fox
        September 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm

        These are usually at the back of the supplements, in the ST-section about campaign/setting aids, plot hooks and other such things.

  5. Erinys
    September 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    More info on the Lost Breeds from good writers will always be welcome. Sooner or later I honestly do intend to get back to writing that Camazotz Breedbook of mine.

    • Yiodan
      September 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Awww man! Where did I put my notes!

      I once made a Changing Breed LARP where the Garou lost, and so the Fera were much more numerous and the lost breeds weren’t lost. Apis, Grondr and Camazots were playable and we had to build them a lot of stuff to make them so. I don’t remember everything about the Camazots but I remember we gave them a unique brawler-type fighting style because they weren’t quite as fragile as the Corax and still had wings. (Just imagine a knee coming up towards your face with the full power of a Chrinos, but also powered not only by the strength of it’s legs but also of it’s wings. Lost of interesting attacks can be done when you can not touch for ground for several seconds at a time, not to mention it’s extremely confusing for anyone fighting you because they can’t know what to expect. Nothing else fights like this. The main inspiration was taken from a south american fighting style because we figured that where the Camazots were from (that’s were they died anyway).

      Ah, I got tons more!

  6. Derek
    September 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I really really hate the special snowflake thing. The vast majority of games (mostly online) that I played seriously suffered from everyone being a special snowflake, everyone being the hero that changes the world, every group being full of Fera, to the point where I so very rarely saw a group of ordinary Garou. So, yes, I am one of those who fears that it will dilute what the game is about.

    That said, I fully support all the rules for everything being available to everyone. I like the completeness. I would probably organize it all a little differently, but, then, I’m not in charge of the business end. :)

    • Nerdo
      September 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      I fully agree. In my V:tM tabletop chronicle I solved this problem by stating up front that any too special snowflake-ish choices would turn a PC into a “guided PC”, precisely to keep the chronicle from derailing in plot, theme and mood. Do you want to play one of the last Salubri? Okay, but this means you will have greater responsibility toward the other players and I will enforce that, if necessary.

  7. Jared B
    September 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Definitely approve… it’s part of the ST’s job to be as knowledgeable as possible in the history and system of the game to present a full of a story as they can, and this only broadens the tools at their disposal. If something goes against the ST’s story or they want to run a traditional campaign, the ST can omit what they need to… Golden Rule! Personally I find this stuff to be inspiring for great stories and campaigns.

    • Yiodan
      September 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      +1

  8. evolved_lupus
    September 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Now that’s the attitude cWoD needs. Lots of cool options derived from the setting itself and none of them is obligatory or banned. The best of both Worlds of Darkness: nWod approach to cWoD material. Glad to have you at the wheel, Stew!

  9. Xemiel
    September 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    The biggest thing to remember is: if you want to be the special snowflake in your group, you may step on your fellow players’ toes. But if you have a mature group and they *want* you to be the center of the story – or if you’re one of the players who want your friend to have that role – then more freakin’ power to you. Some great stories can come out of that. If you aren’t capable of giving your friend the spotlight in a game, you’re not ready for that kind of game; if your friends aren’t ready to give you the spotlight in a game, they’re not ready. That’s fine, there’s still an infinite variety of stories that can be told without having the Last of the White Howlers in your game.

    For myself, I was in a game of Demon: the Fallen, where events after the start thrust my own character into a leadership role. I wound up being the “special snowflake” in that game… but our Storyteller was deft enough at his craft to make sure everybody in the group got exactly as much spotlight as they wanted. The same thing would absolutely apply to a Werewolf game with a Camazotz reborn into a modern era, for example.

    Another possibility is that the Storyteller controls a Special Snowflake™. {Damn it, I’m using that term often enough in this post it *should* be trademarked :D} What makes the players great in the rest of the Garou Nation’s eyes is that this is the pack that discovered him, or performed the Rite which made his rebirth possible, or cleansed Bat [is Bat corrupted? I don't actually recall], or something or other. The trick is having a Storyteller in that game who isn’t there to play the game on his own with his players as unwilling audience members.

    The trick is actually, of course, having mature players all around. Virtually every game that features the Special Snowflake™ character is going to be tilted to telling stories about or around said Special Snowflake™. A mature group can handle that, may even desire that. It is wonderful that White Wolf is finally willing to cater to a new definition of mature audience: not simply kids old enough to handle the concepts of sex and violence which often go hand in hand with World of Darkness games, but rather players who have matured in the art of telling stories, who have the capacity to set self-centeredness aside and take the back seat in the story from time to time, who have the capacity to take the spotlight without arrogance, who are willing to work together with other people to tell a greater story than any of them could tell alone. THAT is the hallmark of the mature player. And that is exactly the audience White Wolf *should* consider for their products.

    Stew, and everybody else at White Wolf who helped come to this decision, I salute you.

  10. Vaclav
    September 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Agree with the OP. Let the books give us a million possibilities. Let the players and the storyteller constrain themselves (or not) as they want to create the world and tell the story that they want.

  11. Jen
    September 19, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I really like this approach, it gives Storytellers more options as well as players. I’ve always gone for a somewhat modular approach with Werewolf, I use what I like, and if I don’t like it, I don’t use it. (wasn’t the silver rule of Storytelling always ‘if you don’t like it, don’t use it’ anyway?) For example, I do not like the way the Fianna’s sectarian background was glossed over in Revised, so I went with the second edition version. I’m not fond of the Nagah because I don’t like the idea of what’s basically a secret society judging all other shapeshifters by a bunch of arbitrary rules, so I tend to keep them out of my stories.

    Also, you will get special snowflakes regardless of how much or how little wiggle room the players have. (and what’s wrong with an all-Fera game? Wasn’t that encouraged as a way to use the Fera at one point?) If they can’t play Fera, they will come up with something like ‘renegade Black Spiral’, ‘last White Howler’, ‘homid Red Talon’ or something similar. And nine times out of ten, this will be down to the player rather than the setting, because you always, always, always get players who just HAVE to be a special snowflake in whatever game they play. Especially in online games. If you have players like that then I find that the best thing to do is mercilessly persecute them, and if/when they complain then explain that hey, maybe they shouldn’t be playing that kind of character if they don’t want to set themself up for a lot of grief. Especially with those damn Homid Red Talons, better stay in the middle of a city if you don’t want to be ripped apart by the first Red Talon pack you meet. Or encourage these players to play Exalted instead, because if you’re playing Exalted and your character isn’t a special snowflake, you’re doing it wrong.

    Oh man, I hope the Kickstarter goes live soon…

  12. Belial
    September 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    So, on the subject of the Lost Breeds. Stew, are you looking at defining (or elaborating) on their roles at all, or just giving stats to what we already know? Because the roles given for them in the existing books are honestly pretty lackluster.

    The Camazotz, for example, are basically described as Corax 2: Chiropteran Boogaloo, and as much as I love the Corax (a lot. The amount is: a lot) I have trouble imagining a need for two whole changing breeds worth of them. To say nothing of the fact that there’s a lot of conceptual space to explore with the mythic roles of bats and their connection to death and such.

    It totally made sense not to expend a whole lot of creative juice on coming up with roles for breeds that would never grow beyond footnotes, but if you’re not averse to talking about it, could you talk about what you plan to do with those half-thought-out ideas now that they *are*?

  13. Vaclav
    September 21, 2012 at 12:11 am

    I’ve done a little bit of reflection about the last line of the post up there:

    “Just don’t expect rules for playable Black Spiral Dancers any time in the near future. Or maybe…”

    Despite the general consensus (and my own comment) saying the rulebooks should give us the rules for anything, and let us decide what we want to do with it, I don’t think that playable BSD’s is a good idea. One of the things that has always really struck me about Werewolf was in the afterthoughts of the Players Guide. Ethan Skemp remarked on some of his fundamental design philosophies for Werewolf, the first two being “There are heroes in this game,” and “there is a palpable evil in this universe.” As I see it, the whole point of the game is that in many ways, the effort of trying to save something is sublime. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and without an extraordinary effort and a helluva-lotta luck, the Wyrm wins, and everything ends. Playing BSD’s is just in opposition to everything that this game is about in so many ways. There’s no moral grey area with them–they *are* the bad guys. No bones about it. They serve that ‘palpable evil’. So, as far as playing a pack of BSD’s goes, I guess I don’t understand why space in the books would be wasted on it. There are so many other things that contribute towards important areas of the story and the universe.

    Someone might want to play the last of the White Howlers, or perhaps a BSD who’s had a rude awakening of some sort, and now wants to be a ‘good guy’ or at least work against the Wyrm for whatever reason. That’s fine. However, that’s not a BSD–they wouldn’t serve the tribe totem, wouldn’t be able to call on banes and other Wyrm-serving spirits to teach them new gifts, and though they would likely have a hell of a time convincing a Gaian spirit to help them, the point is that they wouldn’t use the tools of a traditional BSD.

    On an mildly unrelated note, I do fully support some of the extremely restrictive rules on things like dual-heritage fera (i.e. half-garou-half-gurahl), vampiric fera, and skinchangers and magick. Is it a bit of ‘screw you, hippie’ design? Maybe, I suppose, but it goes such a long way towards preserving what’s at the heart of the game–the idea that choices matter. It’s one thing to say ‘Gurahl are really rare, you’ll probably need a very strong validating reason to allow someone to play as one–but here’s the template, anyway’ but quite another to say ‘You wanna roll up a Tzimisce Silent Strider Mummy Mage? Here’s your twenty page character sheet and miniature novella of spells, skills, gifts, disciplines, etc.’ In the cosmology of the oWoD, some things just don’t go together, and that’s okay. It forces players to make choices, which are good. Besides, if somebody is really dead-set on doing that, they will, and they can ignore portions of the rulebook or change them as they see fit–but for me, at least, the universe is why I keep coming back to Werewolf, and boundaries like that are a vital part of that cosmology.

    • ethan
      September 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      I kind of left a lengthier reply below, about how not having playable BSDs referred more to a Tribebook than actual rules.

  14. bloodycelt
    September 21, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Werewolf had playable BSD’s at least in revised, and Book of the Wyrm 2nd Ed, in addition to Freak Legion, I don’t think having playable rules will do any harm (not to mention it makes it easier for an ST to stat BSDs ).

    • The Rusty
      September 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Let’s be honest… there’s no mystery as to how to play Spirals. All the information is there, always has been, since 1st edition. Rillpower, backgrounds, totems, rites, Gifts, lots of history and information, all anyone would ever need to play a pack of Spirals. Know why it’s so rarely done?

      Well, think for a moment. You and five buddies are sitting around the table, describing to each other how you’re mutilating someone’s corpse and feeding gibbets of its flesh to some interdimensional entity in the hopes that it will help destroy you and everything else in the universe.

      You want to advance the character? Okay, the storyteller describes to you how violated that character is in the Labyrinth, and you get to figure out how to make him LIKE IT.

      Spend a night playing out the Rite of the Survivor. Exactly how does one worship G’louogh, the Dance of Corruption, or pay homage to the Maejlin Incarna like Lady Yul or Lord Collum? Want to spend several hours finding out?

      Ooooh, you lost the challenge for pack alpha? Okay, the other player’s character gets to eat yours, or rape it. or both. In one order or another. Maybe pass it around to the other players’ characters.

      I think Spiral games are rarely done because in reality, no one actually WANTS to play the thing. It seems to me that “I want to play Spirals” is just a pose people take to make themselves appear “hardcore” or something.

      I don’t think it does any “harm” – I just don’t think it’d be very fun for the people involved.

    • ethan
      September 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Let me clarify a bit: I didn’t draw the line against providing rules for BSDs. All the rules are there. They’re there in Book of the Wyrm 2, as you note, and they’ll be there in W20.

      Where I drew the line was a Tribebook, specifically because I was not at all comfortable in presenting an in-character justification from the perspective of a Black Spiral Dancer on why the various forms of abuse and sexual violation that they commit are justifiable. If someone else wants to present the self-justification of a serial rapist, that’s fine — heck, there’s that American Psycho thing out there at the very least. It’s ugly material, but it isn’t evil to write or read it. It can even be kind of useful if it’s a serious examination of the kind of psyche that makes these decisions in the real world, though that’s some heavy lifting to pull off.

      It’s just way past my own personal boundaries to ever want to work on a book of that nature. Gift lists and starting Willpower? That’s no problem at all.

      • September 22, 2012 at 6:51 am

        Thank you for your perspective and responses, Ethan. :)

        I don’t want you to think I’m writing this because I’m upset with your decisions with how you wish to present the BSDs in the books for play/representation as STs will do as they wish with their games nonetheless. I just like to argue (in the academic sense, for lack of a better word) the idea that representing them with greater depth and from their perspective would add to the horror/importance of them as such a terrible faction within the W:tA setting. Of course, W20BotW isn’t long enough to even really give them a “full treatment Tribe Book” anyways, so I don’t expect 120 pages of BSD-based history, introduction and the likes either. Much as W20 Changing Breeds, there are other sources out there if people are interested in getting the “more full picture” of them as a group.

        While there are some pretty damned terrible things that the BSDs do, I think that there are some pretty important, insightful aspects to them that can be gathered from the TT and MET books, to include in W20BotW, which in itself will be nothing but really showing just how terrible, twisted, and brutal the Wyrm really is. Any justifications that the BSDs can give are basically from folks who (if they are still intelligent enough to form sentences and think on their own) have pretty much drank the Kool-Aid and are using rhetoric and hyperbole to justify their actions in their own twisted, psychotic ways. They are Wyrm. The most dangerous thing about them is that there is just enough seeds of truth in what they can say to convince those with weak wills to fall to their ways when philosophy and intellect can persuade new recruits to join their legions too. But anything they say, or think, will likely be twisted perceptions by the Wyrm. “Oh, the Wyrm is captured by the Weaver. We are only doing the Wyrm’s job of tearing down the order with chaos. We’re not the bad guys! The Gaians are supporting the Weaver with their own ways and keeping our Master imprisoned!” … there may be some truth in there, but spewed from the sickened mind and festering body of a diseased minion of The Wyrm. Even if their “counter-points” are offered, the book should make sure that the reader understands that it is THEIR opinion and from THEIR perspective. Then again, it’s much the same way that the Glass Walkers try to claim that “Oh, no, we’re not Weaver… we just like the interesting Humans and their pretty toys… just because we’ve learned to live in their cities, have adopted their cultures, and have learned to control the elements and find the city more of our home than the wilds doesn’t mean we’ve turned away from Gaia…”
        But W20 BotW won’t be a Player’s Guide to BSDs, nor a “Tribe Book”, though I’d like to almost see it presented in such a way, but also being pretty straight-forward from the beginning that it is written from the perspective of the Dancers… the vile, twisted, diseased, manipulated, scum that they are. Their reasons for what they do should not hold water when tested, but to their own lost minds in their psychosis, it does, and that’s what makes them all the more scary–not that they’re mindless, slobbering monsters, but that they have belief/faith in what they’re doing too.

        But that’s just my opinion and I look forward to seeing what is presented in the coming months for W20BotW. :)
        (Long Live the Glass Walkers anyways! ;-) )

        • Yiodan
          September 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

          The way I always saw the BSDs from all my reading is that they were actually right (please keep reading, you’ll see). when they start out, their only goal is to save the world. And to do that, they want to free the Wyrm from the weaver’s web. If that happen, either the freed wyrm’s trashign with destroy every thing in existence but it can be started over anew and rebalanced (provided we fix the weaver too), or everything turns out fine and the wyrm retakes it’s normal place. In both cases, existence is saved even if in one case the world ends first. On that, well, as the Mokole are fond of saying “Relax. This isn’t the first apocalypse, and it won’t be the last. You know nothing John Snow”.

          Now the only problem is that while they have the right idea on the end game, they have the completely wrong idea on how to get there. To reach the wyrm and free him, they try to dance the spiral, because he’s locked up in the last coil. But that’s just downright plain stupid, the labyrinth WILL corrupt you, and you get to the wyrm, you’ll want to keep him there just like anyone else who reached him in the past (very few people have). And that is where the problem is. That plan will never work. And of course a tribe so close to the wyrm would have a flawed plan, everything about them is means to be twisted and flawed.

          But when I compare them to the other tribes, almost all of them are trying to DESTROY the wyrm. What the heck do they hope to achieve with that? Yeah, let’s kill entropy. Dude, we NEED entropy. The world needs it’s cycle of birth, life and death. The world needs a balanced triat. Killing the wyrm will just destroy absolutely everything in the long run, and not just the world but the entire possibily of existence itself. There’s a reason why pretty much all the fera have a stories about how the wyrm came to be and was much needed.

          The only other tribe that is close to having a solution are the Stargazers who are aiming at weakening the Weaver. Which is the real problem. It’s mad, it’s crazy. It attacked the wyld and when it couldn’t bind it to it’s will tried to do it to the wyrm. Weaken the Weaver so it can’t harm anyone else, so the wyrm can finally free itself and let balance be restored. If only they DID something with that solution, we might have won this war a long time ago.

          My point is, BSDs are exactly like all the other tribes. They’re doign what they think is best for the universe. They aren’t as clear cut evil as pelple think. They’re trying to save the world. They love, they cry, they write poetry, they care. They do what they have to do because it is their duty and their believe that one day, one BSD will actually manage to reach the wyrm and do the right thing. But along the way, they get severely corrupted beyond all hope, some become even become a complete mess of flashing claws that can’t align two toughts. And as a tribe they are just plain too far gone to see that the whole thing doesn’t float.

          • ana mizuki
            September 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

            I have -exactly- the same take on the tribe. Or, rather, their plan is FURTHER along than the one the Nation has.

            Painting the tribe with one brush, as giggling madmen with no sense or reason really takes away from the psychological horror the tribe represents. If that’s all the Dancers were, falling to the Wyrm willingly would be rare. But if the BSDs were smart, cunning (as their renown is) and willing to prove their point in a conversation. That’s when it would make sense.

            Many garou join the Wyrm, because something in the Nation doesn’t sit well with them. And the BSDs give them their wishes..only, once they dance the spiral, they might not even remember why they joined. And hell, BSDs don’t even treat converts as equals.

            The chance of -any- garou falling to the Wyrm is true horror to me. Worse when it’s metis who run away from abuse.

          • Yiodan
            September 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

            I’m right there with you.

  15. SoulDetective
    September 21, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I think the intention is noble, but I can’t help but feel like the door you aren’t supposed to open, not having an actual lock, was part of the charm of Werewolf’s narrative and crunch style. To a point. I won’t contest or disagree with your desire to make this kind of change, but there was a very good reason why games tended to discourage ‘The Last White Howler.’

    I’ve played in games, both online and in real life, where the sorts of people you didn’t want trying to bring characters to the table that were The Resurrected Apis or The Last White Howler, would do so anyway. Because they thought they were oh-so-clever, or the drama they brought was entertaining. And they weren’t.

    World of Darkness tended to get the peanutbutter of play mechanics into the chocolate of the fluff, and if it were apparent that the fluff would prevent the crunch being used in a certain way, that helped ‘browbeat’ Marty the Guy Who Must Be the New Camazotz into just playing a Shadow Lord with some clever Bat related Gifts.

    It was hard enough beating back those sorts with the fluff and the out of character notes dissuading players from it. Because if the books and etc. either say nothing about that sort of behavior, or don’t discourage some of it, it emboldens Marty The Camzotz to try to be that snowflake under the mentality of, “These guys are just haters.” And he then goes to be a problem for the games at the next place over.

    With that said, I’d like to revisit a request I had that might offer some good suggestions, alternatives or story hooks for ‘bringing the Snowflakes back from the ocean.’ I think towards the end of revised/third edition, there was an underlying and hinted actual formula for creating changing breeds. Yes, at face value the origins of the changing breeds are, “Gaia/Weaver/Sea/The Dragon Kings made them. Period,” and it’s supposed to just be a sort of ‘just-so’ story. But, every so often we get glimpses at the hardware and events that may’ve occured beyond the mythology. Such as the hint in Hengeyokai that the Kitsune are a variant of the Nuwisha. Such as the hint that all the misc. tribes of the Garou came about because disenfranchised Garou in the One True Tribe migrated away, to new human populations, under new core, kernel principles, under new sympathetic totems and philosophies, and slowly mutated into new cultures and tribes.

    I think if you’re going to not specifically dissuade or decentivize the possibilities of bringing extinct tribes back to life, that the Werewolf/Changing Breeds would be best served with some good guidelines on just how that sort of thing COULD work by the fluff. How the Garou became the Bunyip and the Kucha Ekundu (distinctively not wolves.) Even if they’re just the equivalent of Totem Spirit deus ex machina, or rank 6 rites and Gifts. Beneath all the tinsil and ambiguity of how that sort of thing comes about, it’d be neat to have some basis for how that works.

    Just a thought.

    • Blue Fox
      September 23, 2012 at 6:54 am

      Kucha ekundu were somewhat explained in the red talon revised tribe book. Their origins are actually very similar to Bunyip.

    • Jen
      September 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      I always found that a good way to deal with players like Marty the Camazotz was to go ‘okay, so you’re a Camazotz. Now justify to me how you know anything about what you are, who you are, and how you have learned your Gifts. And it better be bloody good, because if it’s not, you’re starting with no Gifts and also you have no idea what you are. And if you don’t roleplay that accordingly, no XP for you.’ Yeah, so maybe that’s a bit brutal, but I’d rather not have that type of player in my game anyway.

      Besides, if someone is wanting to play the last anything, it stands to reason that they will have had absolutely zero mentoring, and have no way of knowing about the Umbra, spirits, the Wyrm or anything like that. They’re basically all Lost Cubs, but at least Lost Cubs can find other Garou eventually. The last Camazotz won’t be finding any other werebats though.

      • Blue Fox
        September 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm

        If its planned from the start to be a part of the chronicle I don’t see a real problem with last-xxx characters. These kind of characters would better work as npc’s imo.

        Though if I would allow it to a player I’d make sure the player knows how to play a lime light character; is dependable and manageable, playing with “manners” to not overdo it and screw the game for everyone else.

        • Jen
          September 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm

          I’d agree with that, if the chronicle is built around or built to accomodate a ‘last xxx’ character and this character is an NPC or you’ve got a good player in the role, they can work just fine.

          Unfortunately in my experience, most people who want to play ‘last xxx’ characters do it because they want to make the chronicle all about them, (and often guilt-trip any and all Garou players) which really can be annoying for both the Storyteller and the other players. If a player came to me with a concept for a ‘last xxx’ character which was both reasonable and plausible, I’d certainly consider it before nixing it, because it can create some interesting plot hooks.

      • SoulDetective
        September 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

        Yes, and that doesn’t detract some players, because now you’ve taken to entertaining their delusions of grandeur. Now instead of feeling the stigma of a functional impairment to trying to be The Were-Snowflake, they’re emboldened to try it anyway. Now they have even more reason to try and warp everybody else around their character concept. Unless you’re a firm enough ST to ‘rocks fall’ him if he gets too abhorrent.

        But that leads to hurt feelings, annoyed players, wasted time. Where before there were chokes designed in the game to immunize even asking the storyteller for this. True, it ultimately is the ST’s decision, but “oh god not another snowflake” was important back then, and it’s still sort of important now.

        • Belial
          September 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm

          I think if you can’t say “no” to your players, and they can’t say “no” to each other, there are already a ton of ways for them to ruin your game without werebats.

    • Belial
      September 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      I think if a storyteller doesn’t want someone bringing the resurrected Apis to the table, it’s pretty much their call. I don’t understand how the game line giving *rules* for something obligates a storyteller to allow it.

      Hell, I reject some plain garou concepts if they don’t fit the mood or setting of the game.

      • Yiodan
        September 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm

        I’m completely in agreement with you here. It’s sad, but it,s true. It’s our responsibility as STs to refuse concepts that will not fit the game’s themes and moods. Almost every WW book out there keeps saying that STs should talk with their players to create a game that everyone in the troupe wants to play, and that may well includes rooting out concepts that would derail it. Doubly so for LARP where mood is incredibly important. The game’s goals, themes and mood needs to be clear to those who join or else they’ll be wasting an awful lot of time in a game that won’t answer to their needs.

        Furthermore, to be completely and utterly honest. I just plain want to know all I can about the lost breeds. I love the universe of WW, I crave the lore and knowledge even if I’ll never use it in a game. Not to mention, there’s a bunch of “what if”s ideas where those concepts could becomes completely legit to play.

  16. September 30, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I’m so very pleased with this. ^_^
    For our home games we like to have everything from the most basic, wet-behind-the-ears characters right up to the epic and unplayable in most campaigns. Having different character ‘groups’ for different moods and game themes really does help with the urge to sometimes play something different. (Not to mention that 99% of the time it’s just my husband and myself, and we’ve been playing WoD since it was released and never stopped our campaign/setting. We have a saying in our home of ‘Character First’, meaning that the character concept and roleplay possibility is far more important then stats or power. Basically if the concept is good, we can roleplay through any lack or surplus of character power.)
    When we used to run LARPS of 30+ people, if somebody had a really good reason and we knew that they were good roleplayers, we didn’t mind the ‘special snowflake’ characters. If anything we ran three LARPS at the same time on different days so that one of the LARPs was only for normal, by-the-book characters and the other two had a background to allow some of those odd characters. It’s inevitable that if you say you’re running a werewolf game one person wants a vampire, another a bastet, another a kinfolk mage.. and the only one wanting to play the werewolf wants some strange background, oddball werewolf. So we figured that we may as well cater to it since the point is for everybody to have fun and pretend to be something they’re not. ^_^

    I loved the Past Lives game, but had to tweak it for our home game. I made it go even farther back to the fall of the Second City and instead of a new antagonist I used one of the ‘missing’ antideluvians (Merkhet). I had the characters go back far enough, and one character was rather obsessed with the lost breeds and lost tribes (along with obsession about other supernatural creatures out there), and during their trip through varying lifetimes he was able to discover where some had been hidden in the past through some of the mokole ‘sleep of the dragon’ rituals.
    After returning the pack has been traveling and trying to figure out ways to find and re-awaken some of the lost breeds. (There are only a handful, and we were already going with some of the Apocalypse plots of many of the shapeshifters finally learning to tentatively work together, much from the help of Peter Ward and his bond with the Mokole.)

    I actually have a pretty detailed set of notes about how I thought the Apis would work and we’ved used it in our home games.

  17. Mike Todd
    October 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Sweet, awakened abomination fae kin, here I come! ;) Seriously though, I very much like this change in design philosophy. In my experience, most of the people who want to play a special snowflake either want everything revolving around them, or they think that a character has to be rare in order to be interesting. However, I’ve also seen plenty of really good roleplayers on online chats that wanted to explore an interesting twist to a “snowflake” type character, and were browbeaten for doing so. “If you want to play a White Howler, you must be a bad roleplayer! Rabblerabblerabble!” As you said, this was sort of built in to the design philosophy of old, which only encouraged such browbeating. So I’m very glad to see this change.

  18. Sakuryu
    October 12, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Yes!! Finally a way to properly play my Revived Camazotz ^.^ To tell the other pure tribes that middle brother is upset with them! oh yeah and the devourer is coming back! To go farther than the end of Rage across australia, Ughh just yes lol!

  19. Dave B.
    October 31, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Awesome news – I’m really looking forward to the CB20. I like the histories/roles for each of the shifter breeds – that’s a rich piece of background that’s just missing from the new world – but some of the ‘Here’s something cool, but you can’t play it’ from the old books just seemed kinda… well, ‘Screw you, Hippie’ :-P

    I’ve run mixed changer games mostly, simply because all my players have different favourite animals and would want to play their favourite Breed X no matter how good, shitty or snowflake-y that breed happens to be, game-wise. Unfortunately, some parts of the background makes that a bit tough – fluff-wise, a mixed-fera group should be mostly at each others’ throats and there’s only so much group in-fighting a plot can take before it gets bogged down and doesn’t move anywhere. (Which isn’t to say some tensions can’t be good – quite the opposite, really – but all things in moderation, right?)

    I’m thinking now of maybe doing an alt-world where it was the Corax who got all their spirit eggs smashed instead of the ‘Zotz getting the short end of the stick, or something similar to that… And with the Howler’s getting their own book treatment as well, maybe that would be an alt-world where it was the SL tribe that became the Spirals…

    Possibilities abound!

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