Forsaken… Saturday?

As the title intimates, this column’s a day late. I spend much of the last week going through the redlines for Umbra, and by the time I should have been writing on this week’s topic, my brain was too fried. It should be back to Friday next year. I can’t wait to show off some of what we’re seeing in the drafts coming in.

Last week’s vote was a lot closer than the weeks before – 51–35, with both sides pretty much tied after the first sixty comments. I’m really really glad happy that people are jumping in to comment, even if it’s just on which they want to see.

Oh, yeah. I should probably clarify that Packs won in the end.

As the old saying goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Uratha don’t hold too close to that – they can pick their packmates, at least within reason, but once a group of werewolves is bonded together, they share that bond through thick and thin. They’ve built a whole new family, with all the ups and downs that might entail.

The core of a pack is a group of werewolves – normally between three and six – who share the bond of family, and a spirit that the werewolves press into service. It’s this spirit bond that elevates a group of werewolves into a proper pack, but it’s also this bond that makes it so hard to leave. The werewolves and their totem spirit form the hunting party of a pack; it’s up to them to perform the siskur-dah, the sacred hunt.

Werewolves are people too, and people need friends outside of their family – unless they want to end up like the family from Deliverance. To that end, most packs don’t stop at just a group of werewolves and their totem spirit. The pack includes Wolf-Blooded and a few humans who know the truth about werewolves. They act as lieutenants for the werewolves. The Wolf-Blooded can provide useful assistance, especially those who can open themselves to spirits, or act as loci. These packmates look after the pack’s territory, deal with spirits, and perform the pack’s duties while the werewolves engage in the siskur-dah. Those normal humans at this level carry enough of the totem’s blessing that they are no longer part of the herd, and thus the Oath of the Moon’s requirement that The Herd Must Not Know does not apply to them. The totem is properly part of the pack, binding to the werewolves is synthesis rather than servitude. As a result, the totem operates under different rules to other spirits in the eyes of the Uratha, and joins the siskur-dah in the Shadow.

A small number of packs elevate Wolf-Blooded to their inner circle, allowing her to join the siskur-dah, either because the pack doesn’t have enough werewolves to go around, or because they have to split their members. Though this brings the Wolf-Blooded closer to the werewolves, neither Father Luna nor Mother Wolf ever intended the Wolf-Blooded to hunt. It’s not their role in the universe, and those who do hunt open themselves to grave danger that they’re ill-equipped to handle.

Finally, most packs include a number of humans who may or may not know what the werewolves really are, but who join the pack to be part of something larger. Depending on how the pack organizes themselves, human members might think that they’re part of a gang like the Crips, Bloods, or Hell’s Angels; a criminal fraternity like the Bratva, Mafia, or Yakuza; a secret society like the Cambridge Apostles, Skull and Bones, or the Society of Thoth; or a mystery cult like Aum Shinrikyo, the Branch Davidians, and the Church of Scientology; or a militia movement like the American Resistance Movement, Posse Comitatus, or the Sons of Liberty.

I normally hate run-on sentences, but I wanted to give a sense of the breadth and depth of possible pack organizations.

Anyway. Human members go through some initiation to join the pack, and after that point they’re considered part of the pack. The pack’s totem knows her as one of its own, and she’s never truly alone. Being chosen by the werewolves and their totem elevates the human from among the herd; while most packs don’t encourage the idea of spreading the truth among human members, they use their pack’s cover among the human population to benefit their human members. The werewolves and those Wolf-Blooded and humans in the know help out the human packmates as wel, through means both mundane and supernatural. Part of this supernatural aid can come through Pack Rites, rituals that Wolf-Blooded and werewolves can work that can benefit all of the pack members.

In addition to opening up the concept of packs, the inclusion of otherwise unknowing humans gives the werewolves a connection to the human world that packs might otherwise ignore. Through their human packmates, werewolves can find a tie to the human world — a Touchstone — that can stop them falling too far to the Shadow. Werewolves also have Touchstones in the Shadow that stop them falling too far to the Flesh.

Like large families, sometimes packs suffer a major breakdown. Their human members decide that the pack isn’t going far enough, and break away to pursue their own goals. The Wolf-Blooded believe that the werewolves have fucked up one siskur-dah too many, and try to launch their own hunt. A totem that hates and fears the pack, who Claims a human during her initiation rite and runs off with a twisted meat-suit to form its own cult. And even when a pack’s functional within itself, it’s always in someone’s crosshairs.

Part of the fun of these new packs comes from pack creation, a series of leading questions that helps flesh out the pack — do the werewolves operate as a pseudo-military unit based around half-remembered ideas about wolves, claiming “alpha”, “beta”, and “omega”? Do all the supernatural packmates stand at the same level? Do the werewolves rotate duties among their pack, or do they each have an area of expertise? Do the human members of the pack have sway in the physical world, and what kind? Does the pack only contain werewolves?

Whew. That’s quite a bit, but packs are one of those things that has a big change — but one that we feel really opens up the game. The gang/mob focus of packs gives me the perfect reason to inflict some Kasier Chiefs.

Okay, time for this week’s question. Normally, I’d offer a couple of options that I think would give a pretty even vote; this week I’m really torn. I’ve got the first draft of Gifts in my grubby electronic mitts and they are seriously amazing. But, I promised these columns would always end with a choice. So I’m going to cheat. Next week, would you like Gifts or Gifts?

78 thoughts on “Forsaken… Saturday?”

      • Tough choice, this time. 🙂

        I like the openness of packs – on the other hand, I also enjoyed the feeling of isolation from the mortal world (and all the associated issues and difficulties) that a few Forsaken packs in the book had. So I suppose the game should support (and I’m confident it will support) both packs who’ve got many human members and in which the Forsaken will interact with human contacts a lot; and packs that are all-werewolf (and probably pretty low in Harmony).

        I wonder if Predator King packs will include many human/wolf-blooded members.

        On a completely different matter, if you don’t mind me asking, will the book cover hunting (as in, hunting strategies, the tactical side of running hunting scenes in the game and all that) in any way?

        • Packs of just-Forsaken do still exist, but even they need human Touchstones if they don’t want to fall too far to Shadow. Without a pack to induct them into, it’s harder to keep those Touchstones.

          It will cover some of the nuts and bolts of the hunt, and each antagonist description includes notes on hunting that kind of creature; the Storytelling chapter has more on running a sacred hunt.

          What we can include is limited by word-count — we’re making a new jumping on point with the same word count as Blood and Smoke. Right now, I think that the Hunt and the Pack both deserve a full book, both providing more information on both Forsaken and Pure, but I don’t know what’s going to get approval.

          • Thanks for your reply!

            I really hope that that book on the Hunt will see the light one day. I’d certainly buy it.

          • I pray then that with limited space a mechanical something with regard to pack tactics is introduced. I felt that in WtF’s beginning there seemed to be no “so much better as a pack hunter” until a few supplements smoothed that out.

  1. I vote for… GIFTS! 🙂

    As to new pack dynamic – I like it’s cult-like vibe, even more old version of mages cabal. I don’t know enought older Forsaken, but description of pack sounds more like Lodge to me – is this intentional? So we could assume that old Logdes are now new packs?

    Also, I’m very fond of Touchstones for werewolves, for both human and spirit side. It’s both logical, and makes game really balanced in POV.

    • Lodges are something else again — in fact, they’re probably one of the parts of the game that’s changed less. They fill much of the same conceptual space that they did.

      • Honestly, I can’t help but think that the Lodges as they were before almost make more sense now, what with the Tribes have duties and missions. Lodges serving as refinements on that concept doesn’t really require a lot of change from their prior presentation.

  2. Does being part of a Pack offer any fully human members resistance to Lunacy? Or will the members know about werewolves but not be able to see their true magnificence, taking it more on faith. Either way, very cool.

    • I left that up to my writers. Some totems may grant human pack mates partial resistance to Lunacy, while others will know yet be unable to be around them, and the majority never really know.

  3. “Father Luna nor Mother Wolf”

    I love the added ambiguity of this and perhaps there is even more in the final text!

    As for the vote, I prefer that mysterious question mark, so this means:


  4. So – the gangs are the Bloody Talons, the Bone Shadows are the secret societies. Let me guess: the Hunters in Darkness are the militias, Storm Lords the cults and the organised criminals the Iron Masters? Am I just slightly off bat or way off bat?

    Also – gifts?

    • What kind of organisation your pack appears to be has nothing to do with tribes; it’s all up to the werewolves in the pack.

  5. What is it with you and all these devilishly difficult choices?! I suppose I’ll have to vote Gifts. But it ain’t easy!

    Also, a very interesting article. But I have a question; can werewolves have objects or places as touchstones, like the vampires do?

  6. Doesn’t the idea of allowing humans as part of the pack defeat the purpose of what the Forsaken deal with daily? Shouldn’t the themes of Forsaken be that they are separated from both their human world and the spirit world enough to hammer in the idea that they truly are Forsaken. Making what they do that much more important? Not bad mouthing it, just seems odd. Personally I’d probably never allow it in my game. Still I am glad we do get more focus on the Packs and why they are vital to the lives of the Forsaken. Are we going to see a small write-up as well for the Pure? Maybe a side bar or so.


    • I disagree — the whole pack stands apart from the human world, including the human packmates. It’s an enclave in for werewolves in a hostile place, somewhere they can breathe in between hunts. That some of the pack is human reminds the Forsaken of why the world of flesh needs them, just like their spirit totem reminds them why the world of spirit needs them. Some packs make the mistake of thinking that all humans are like their pack mates, but they don’t tend to live long.

      • A human being part of a pack doesn’t just get to go an adventure and then come home and rest easy, right? They’ve become part of a world without safety and with a different, dangerous set of rules. They might not know it’s because there’s a monster at the end of the phone tree, but they’ll notice.

        Look at Sons of Anarchy. John Teller’s journals talk explicitly about how when the club became outsiders making their own rules, they stepped into a world of lies and violence. It wasn’t really because that was what they were looking for, exactly, but because going outside the law meant that those things were just going to happen.

        So it doesn’t matter that some prospect has no idea that the Reaper is actually a death-spirit totem and the sergeant-at-arms is a werewolf. He’s still isolated, he’s still got his life on the line. When the pack struggles through close police attention because of the machinations of a Bale Hound, that prospect is going to be tense and besieged like everyone else.

      • Also, from a pure storytelling view, having family and friends who can’t turn into a 12′ tall hulking terror beast, to protect, really adds story potential. If your fellow werewolves are being threatened, there is an idea that they can care for themselves. No so with your friends from your biker club.

        I love the idea of something like “Sons of Anarchy” where only those who sit around the table are Forsaken, with everyone else being blooded or pure mortal.

  7. Quite an interesting write-up this week! My question is does the totem play a larger role in pack mechanics than before? As it is now, the amount of power they bring to a pack made them more useful as a roaming buff center rather than feel like a member of the pack. Sure the pack knew that it was getting something out of them, but it always felt like an outsider rather than a valued member.

  8. When you wrote “Father Luna” and “Mother Wolf”, I thought “Well someone did this in an early morning funk.” Luna is a female name, therefore anyone would consider her a “mother”. As for gender-bending Father Wolf, has it been so long that the Uratha don’t know what gender their lupine ancestor is anymore?

    Also I vote for Gifts because:

    1. I want them to make sense mechanically.

    2. It’s the only choice.

    • While I agree that Luna is a feminine word and it might better have been written Father Moon (Father Luna created static in my head I swear to god I read it three times) though the moon is considered feminine in just about every western culture and many but far from all in the east as well) it is a spirit and one that is known for change.

      Urfarah (which I think means literally “father wolf” ironically) is a spirit and therefor genderless. also I think that Urfarah has more in common with God than Adam. We, culturally, associate the Lord with male descriptors because that’s how language and culture works, but it can (and has) been argued that God is genderless, though He has historically acted out the male role more often then not.

      and now I got an idea for a Forsaken Church with talk about Urfarah making Uratha in his image and what not, with apologists and fundamentalists. God, I love the new pacts.

      as for my choice, I’m going with Gifts. I was going to say Gifts, but really I can wait for them if it means getting a peak at the new Gifts. You’ve gotta stop with the hard choices, Mr. Wilson.

      • By “Western”, it looks like you mean “European”.

        If you look at lunar deities with explicit genders as listed on Wikipedia, they break down 39 Goddess, 32 God, 1 both. The idea of the moon being “feminine” is not as common as many people think, and comes about at least as much from people cherry-picking which myths to pay attention to as any inherent consideration. After all, more gamers are familiar with Artemis, Phoebe, and Seline than Kidili, Men, and Ta’lab.

        Heck, going by the most proximate religion to the uratha’s origins, the Sumerian God of the Moon is Nanna, son of Enlil and Ninlil.

        • My thoughts exactly. In Central Asian Tengriism, the Moon is a Father figure (Ay Ata) or sometimes a Grandfather figure (Ay Dede).

          The Mother Wolf eerily reminds me of Romulus and Remus.

  9. I’m going to be contrarian and vote for Auspices. 😛

    OK: so what used to be known as “packs” are now known as “hunting parties”, and form the heart of the now-broader concept of the pack. Got it.

    Are pack members restricted to Uratha, Wolf-Blooded, and ordinary humans? Or can the membership also include, say, spirits and/or wolves (I’m going to skip the obvious crossover options)? Even though there are no wolf-born Uratha, I could easily see pet wolves being inducted into the pack and both benefitting and benefitting from the pack. (Note that some humans bond with their pets to the extent that they refer to said pets as “their kids”. And a wolf that has received a boost from the pack’s totem could serve well as a sentry.)

      • I don’t know that we’ll have room to specify one way or another. Depending on how it shakes out, you might get me to write something on wolf packmates here after the book’s out.

  10. I like the little slip of information about pack rites that says wolf blooded can utilize them too. Can they utilize those type of rites to the same degree as werewolves or do they just allow teamwork?

    I vote for gifts! <_<

  11. YES! Werewolves get Touchstones! Is this setting a precedent for all major templates getting them? Cause I like this idea a lot.

    Also, BADASS! That’s what new, expanded packs are, BADASS!

    So, I want to vote for Kuruth, but I don’t think that’ll work. Still, I assume there’s a choice hidden here between Gifts and Gifts?, so….Of course I gotta go with ‘Gifts?’.

    • On the Touchstone issue. It should be pointed out that Demon (which is comparable with these Chronicle books because its also post-GMC rules) does not use the system.

      So we already know that not every major template will be using Touchstones. Personally I think it would be stretching the idea quite a lot to fit it into games like Mage, Hunter and Promethean.

      Mages are not as removed from humanity as Vamps and Wolves to start off with, but I can see an argument for “keeping them grounded” away from Hubris. Still think its a stretch though.

      Hunters are supposed to be isolated to a certain degree by the “thing they know” and the Vigil they keep. They find support in their cells, compacts and conspiracies if they find it at all.

      As for Promethean, having a human that’s immune to disquiet kinda defeats the point of one of the major tones of that game.

      Can see there use in Changeling definitely and even Geist. Though with the latter I like the idea of one Human Touchstone and one Ghost Touchstone.

      • Demon doesn’t need Touchstones because Demon has Cover-they serve similar narrative elements.

        It doesn’t make sense for everyone, sure, but as a commonality it’s something I like seeing.

    • No hidden choice. These new Gifts are incredible and I’m sharing them next week.

      We’ve not set much by way of a precedent — Touchstones work for vampires and werewolves work similarly but come from different roots. A vampire’s Touchstones are things in the human world that she has but can’t keep because a vampire’s relationships decay. A werewolf’s Touchstones are things she wants but can’t have because she can’t live in just one world any more.

      As to what other games are doing, I don’t know. Have to see what happens when Dave starts blogging Mage.

  12. Liking this a lot. It makes the Forsaken packs seem very much self-governed, which I think fits the game well.

    Voting for Gifts?

  13. Out of interest is there a sense of “becoming” in this new version of Forsaken?

    Its just that Rose talked a lot about Blood and Smoke being a game about your character “becoming” a Vampire rather then being a Vampire as soon as you wake up embraced.

    Likewise, Demon the other game in the post GMC NWoD has very much the element of being a Fallen Angel and “becoming” a Demon as you get further from the God-Machine and closer to hell.

    So yeah, does this version have a similar idea running through it?

    • It’s not as strong a theme. Vampire is about becoming, about the journey from point A to point B and how that changes you. Werewolf is about boundaries, about walking this line between two things without going too far either way.

  14. Okay. You win. No reservations, no fears, I’m all in. You have my faith. Congratulations, Blood & Smoke needed mechanical teasers to get that out of me.

    Also, before I forget, the First Gifts, without the question.

    So, Packs are now mystery cults based around glorious hunters. Which, most importantly, is a group that expressly included the Totem now. I kinda love Totems, but their never felt like their was enough to make them an equal partner in the Pack. Which always bothered me sense their were the key to make something into a _real Pack._ Looks like your putting work into making that no longer the case. Now the only thing we need is the ability to add lesser Spirits into the outer pack alongside our cult/gang.society humans, and Packs are officially everything I ever wanted them to be. I think its going to be a good day. 🙂

      • Officially? Yes. They were, and I liked that, but nothing was ever really done to make them feel like more than a living power up for the Werewolves of the pack , the teasing mentions of divergent mechanics for them gives me hope that we shall see it better handled.

  15. I like it. We had a thread about werewolf cults a few months ago, and it’s nice to be able to incorporate werewolves as the head of organizations like that, rather than as folks who must always be outside and at odds with them. So you can have your own criminal syndicate, instead of being that gang that the real criminal syndicate tolerates because they leave chewed up enforcers in their wake.

    I’m really interested in gifts. I’ve been going over the different splat powers lately and I just get disappointed when checking out werewolf ones. There’s so many that could be more useful, but are instead so limited, only working on werewolves or spirits, having no affect on anything else.

    Anyways, to throw out a question brought up on the forum that piqued my interest. Since werewolves can fall too much towards the flesh, as well as having human and wolf-blooded packmates, would it be possible for more shadow-oriented werewolves to have spirits as part of their packs, not counting the totem? There were a few spirits in my game that we had constant interaction with, but unlike some of the later splats, in Werewolf there wasn’t a way to get a minion or familiar that wasn’t a fleeting thing or a fetish.

    • Yes. It might not get much more than a passing mention as our focus in the Idigam Chronicle is on the human side of the pack keeping the Uratha grounded in the human (replacing the ban on uratha/uratha parenthood).

      If I get a future book on the pack, spirit pack mates (along with wolf pack mates) are something I really want to include.

  16. Oh man! You took your time! I was up until 5am just see if I could get the first post! (I wasn’t -.-)

    Any how… it was awesome as I was spected, my troop will be thrill with this new changes since several of them try to incluide their Wolf-Blooded in the hunt but it was really difficult without breaking the Oath of the Moon.

    I like the idea of a gang/cult thing and probablly that will make my troop creating their own cult around either the Totem or the Moon (yes they all know the consequenses but they are already insane so… ).

    I agree with the general idea of making lesser spirtis part of the pack, that would balance the flesh and the spirit side of the werewolfs. Tho I understand that is difficult since spirtis are alien to the human side of thinking so making them trust worthy to belong in a pack sounds… rather difficult but interesting. Maybe with a few restrictions it could work out, like “only lesser spirtis of the choir of the totem” making the werewolfs closer to the Totem.

    So I have three questions
    1.- Umbra? Really? Are we going to see a few change machanics on the Shadow making the apariton of Umbra, Middle Umbra and Deep Umbra? Shadow lands? Because as far as I know Umbra was part of the cWoD and not part of the nWoD.

    2.-And I quote “Do all the supernatural packmates stand at the same level?” meaning that other supernaturals can join a pack?

    3.- Can the Totem comunicate with humans once they are inside the pack?

    Vote: Just because I like to make my own destiny: AUSPICE! (I bet if we all say auspice you may change your mind :P)

    • 1) No, Umbra’s a book for Werewolf: The Apocalypse. I’m the line developer for both games.

      2) The question’s mainly there to differentiate between werewolves/Wolf-Blooded and humans. But who knows? It’s an open question that would likely have to wait until a further book to answer.

      3) We’re still working out precise details of a totem’s blessings to human packmates. If it can, it’ll be through dreams, omens, and the spirit’s Influences, rather than directly speaking to them.

  17. So, based on “Touchstones” – I take it that without the command to only breed with humans, it’s Harmony that takes the role of making Uratha stay connected to human society, with all the built in horror that brings (despite Rage making it much easier to forsake it in favor of only forming emotional bonds with other Uratha)?

    • Yeah, pretty much. They have to keep in touch with the Flesh, and most use a human packmate Touchstone to do that. Others actually keep in touch with humans who aren’t part of the pack. Which is better is open to interpretation.

  18. Even though packs are only one aspect that must be crammed into Idigam, are there plans to include examples of how werewolves around the world manage their territories, packs, etc. like there were for Kindred governments in Blood & Smoke?

  19. I admit, I do feel a little bit of concern at seeing the ‘choice’ presented to us this week.

    You say “I’m really really glad happy that people are jumping in to comment, even if it’s just on which they want to see.” but in the very same post you’re discouraging that kind of commenting from continuing by not actually presenting potential comment-makers with a choice.

    • It’s a one-off this week. I have the Gift mechanics in hand, and I want to get feedback on them sooner rather than later. I didn’t want to present a hollow choice — Gifts against something else, where something else is weighted to lose — because that’d be worse than cheating on the question. I don’t believe in illusionism.

      • That makes sense. I would have felt more comfortable with it if you had explained as much in the main post itself, but thank you for explaining that here.

  20. I like this because this was how I always treated them in the original incarnation. I do lean a bit heavier on the pack-as-street gang construct, with intentions that seem insane to the regular banger because the werewolves are attacking the crack house not the crack heads, but it will still be nice to see a greater technical impetus on what was already superifically mentioned in books like Lore of the Forsaken, Tribes of the Moon, Blood of the Wolf, and Predators. But looking at the other end of the coin will there be greater support for the wolf on his own as well? Not just ghost wolves specificially, but those tribal wolves who have no pack due to attrition or disaster?

    • It’s a big hit on Harmony to run without a pack, and it makes the Siskur-Dah very problematic. We’re very crammed for space, so I’m not sure how much detail will go in to the Idigam Chronicle specifically at this point.

  21. Super excited about the Pack changes. I’m actually running a game part-time with two other Storytellers, who are controlling Mage and Vampire setting elements, while I’m doing Werewolf, and the centerpiece of my plot is a motorcycle club based on The Sons of Anarchy, so reading this through that lens, I was very pleased to see that some design elements I’m already working with are becoming a core part of the system. Seeing in the comments that that inspiration was direct and intentional was awesome.

    One thing I’d *love* to see detailed a bit is the idea of how a MC can be reflected in the Werewolf pack structure. Is each chapter a pack and the overarching organization a “lodge” of sorts, or is the whole thing a massive, massive pack that just has social cliques and a ton of territory? More broadly, I’d love to see a lot of detail in general about the human-world appearance of various Pack structures.

    Can’t wait to see Gifts! Wheh you do the writeup, can you tell us a bit if the big old Hacks and Houserules thread from the Werewolf forums had any influence over the new designs, and if so, how?

    • Some of what you want with packs will show up in the Hunting Grounds; other bits may have to wait until future books.

      As for Gifts, we started with a different set of goalposts, but Chris Allen’s writing them and I’d be surprised if he hadn’t picked up some ideas from the forums. 🙂

      • Once the Gift article’s up and I’m back from Easter, I’ll be happy to chat a bit about what influenced the new designs and the kinda direction I wanted to take things, if it’s fine with Stew 🙂

  22. For lack of a better place to bring this up, I’ll ask here. Is there a chance of getting some small note, a brief blip, something akin to the vague notes on other supernaturals such as vampires and the like, that gives some indication of the Uratha take on Changing Breeds? I know, I know, they’re not part of the W:tF line. I know, I know, a lot of fans hate them. I know, I know, the CB book isn’t the best-written thing to come off the press. But given the rather unique situation — both the Uratha and the Changing Breeds being Essence-fueled shape-changers with near-identical power stats and extraordinarily similar mechanics — it would be nice to finally get some very brief note on the matter in a Forsaken book (even if it’s just “They’re weird; don’t like them.”).

    • Not in the Idigam Chronicle. We’re not able to touch as much on the Pure Tribes as I’d like; mentioning something from a non-Werewolf book isn’t on my radar at present. Never say never, as Rich is fond of saying…


Leave a Comment