Following up from yesterday’s post, Chris is back again with Shadow and Wolf Gifts. As a means of preamble, I’ll point out that the City Gift (updated below) was the first thing I ever wrote for Werewolf: The Forsaken — it’s neat to get turnabout like that. Over to Chris:
Designing Shadow Gifts
A Shadow Gift is the fusion of a spiritual concept with the werewolf’s primal power, letting her tap into a symbol through the lens of her Renown. Only werewolves can use Shadow Gifts and they aren’t appropriate for use by other supernatural creature (with very, very rare exceptions like an idigam using the Thief of Gifts power). A Shadow Gift’s power is defined by the meshing of werewolf and concept.
A Shadow Gift should always express a broad concept, like the Gifts of Death, Rage and Technology. A French werewolf could acquire the Gift of Cities, but there is no Gift of Paris or Gift of the Eiffel Tower. A faith spirit could carve the Gift of Fervor into one of the Uratha, but not a Gift of a specific religion. Uratha upon the shores of the world all seek the Gift of the Sea rather than separate Gifts of the Atlantic, Pacific and so on. A Shadow Gift is never so specific as that.
Shadow Gifts are also never exclusive or limited to a particular group of werewolves. Were I to create a Gift of Metal, I couldn’t then limit it only to the Lodge of the Stannary in my Cornwall-set chronicle. Any spirit with the appropriate symbolism or themes of metal could inflict it on any Uratha that persuaded it to, offered the right gathra or chased it down in the Sacred Hunt. In 2nd edition, the Shadow Gifts favored by the Pure Tribes – such as Agony and Disease – can also be acquired by the Forsaken. The only way to get affinity with a particular Gift is via a Tribal bond, but it never conveys exclusive access to that Gift.
Shadow Gifts always have five Facets, one for each Renown. The power that a Facet gives reflects the Gift’s symbol or concept via the Renown in question. There are ‘soft’ guidelines for the sort of powers that each Renown should manifest, but the ultimate arbiter should be ‘does this feel like it matches the Renown in question?’ Some Gifts require that several or all of the Renowns delve into an area that would usually just be one Renown’s preserve, like the Stealth or Insight Gifts, but each Facet should take its own distinct approach to the specific concept at hand.
Cunning Facets lean towards sensory powers, especially those that reveal hidden weaknesses. They can provide concealment or powerful trickery, and often circumvent obstacles or problems rather than powering through them. Cunning takes advantage of flaws and hidden things.
Glory Facets often focus on combat prowess, resilience and steadfastness. They can often be blatant and extreme displays of supernatural capability and raw power, especially where inspiring or intimidating others. Glory augments the Uratha and overwhelms obstacles.
Honor Facets focus on pack-wide effects, especially those that are protective or empowering, and on social effects that center on hierarchy and the enforcement or severing of ties. They can be balancing, equalizing or containing, especially where relating to transactions and exchanges. Honor aids pack-mates, forces the prey to battle and strips them of their strengths.
Purity Facets focus on what are often the most direct and purest manifestations of a Gift’s concept. They often focus on hunting and predation, especially the primal power of the werewolf. Purity helps the werewolf seek out that which is not in accordance with the natural order of things, and hones her towards being the ideal inheritor of Urfarah‘s mantle.
Wisdom facets lean towards powers that grant knowledge and revelation, especially those that help with planning or controlling the hunt. They offer new ways of approaching or tackling an obstacle, or give mastery over elements of the world. Wisdom helps the Uratha control herself and others.
The example Shadow Gift I chose to create is an update to the 1st edition City Gift. I started by looking at the old Gift to see what could be taken from it. City Eyes has a wonderful feel for an urban shaman, and City Running has some potential conceptually. I’ve already managed to sneak Gridlock into the core book in the form of the Gridlock Puzzlebox fetish, so no need to recreate that here. Word on the Street clashes too much with Knowledge and Insight powers already, while Urban Chaos might fit but needs alteration if it’s going to find its own niche that isn’t already covered by Weather or Technology Facets or Fog of War. I then glance over other Gifts for ideas, but there’s nothing in the Urban Gift that grabs my attention.
I then brainstorm for a bit, write up some very basic ideas and match them towards what might be appropriate Renown. The Gift of Cities is not just about the bricks and mortar that make up an urban area, but about the nature of humanity that lives there – thronging crowds and tightly packed communities. I quickly exclude any power ideas relating to damaging or destroying buildings since there are already plenty of object-destroying Facets as it is. From here, I tweak, amend and adjust as necessary, scrapping and rewriting a couple of ideas entirely before I settle on something I feel comfortable with.
Which Facet is assigned to which Renown changes a lot during this design process. City Eyes flips back and forth between the Cunning and Wisdom slot a few times as I tweak and amend the various Facets, but ends up in Cunning due to its sensory focus. Wisdom gets a Facet that attunes the shaman to the city and lets her carve her own routes through it; I get the mental image of a canny pack with an urban bolt-hole entirely closed in by buildings and requiring the Facet to access it at all. Glory originally gets Carve the City’s Flesh due to its blatant supernatural effect, but ends up with Riot for the greater, more out-there impact of the power. Faceless Crowd starts assigned to Honor but I shift it over to Cunning a few times when refining the concept, before eventually shuffling it back to Honor again – it plays heavily into the themes of social ties (and the loss thereof) and of removing outside influences that Honor often draws upon. Urban Predator offers a simple, straightforward expression of the hunter in the city, one who is adapted to the environment’s dangers and can easily shrug them off.
Gift of Cities
City Eyes (Cunning)
The city has its own worn face of stone, steel and glass, through which the werewolf peers.
Cost: 1 Essence
Duration: 1 scene
The werewolf touches a single building or structure and transfers her senses into it. For the duration of the effect, as long as she is touching the building, she can project her senses through any of the structure’s windows or other apertures, both inwards and outwards. She can project through up to her Cunning in windows at a given time, which may be anywhere on the building; as such, the werewolf could well be able to survey several different areas at the same time. She can immediately sense whether any person she sees is an inhabitant of the building or an intruder, and adds her Cunning to Empathy dice pools targeting inhabitants and to perception dice pools targeting intruders.
The werewolf’s howl sets the human hive abuzz.
Cost: 5 Essence
Duration: Hours equal to Glory Renown
Once this Facet is used, a riot will spontaneously start within 100 yards of the werewolf’s current position as long as there are enough humans available to form one. A number of humans will find themselves drawn together and will begin the riot based on a seemingly natural trigger – someone’s anger will flare up about an injustice, seeing a representative of an authority that he resents or the surfacing of his Vice. The riot will rapidly snowball in size and rage across the area for its duration, likely causing significant destruction and disruption. Being caught up in the riot will seem natural for those involved, but this Facet offers no control or influence over the direction or purpose of the riot; it merely ensures that the riot will happen, and that it will be destructive and fierce.
Faceless Crowd (Honor)
Though surrounded by his fellows, the prey finds no solace – only loneliness and despair.
Cost: 1 Essence
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Subterfuge + Cunning – prey’s Composure
The werewolf may use Faceless Crowd against any prey she can perceive who is in a crowded area.
Dramatic Failure: The werewolf gains the Ban Condition. She must wear as featureless a mask as she can acquire for the Condition’s duration.
Failure: The Facet does not take effect.
Success: For the duration of the scene, the prey dramatically fails any attempt to interact with human crowds, groups, or passers-by, as well as any solitary humans who do not already know him. Usually this dramatic failure will take the form of simply being ignored, as if he doesn’t exist, unless being noticed would actually be worse (such as if he were committing a crime, or picked someone who will react violently to his attention). Cries for help and pleas for aid go unheeded. Running, bloodied, down a street with several Hishu Uratha on his tail provokes no more than a brief glance. Drivers literally don’t see him until the last moment. Explicitly supernatural displays will trigger the crowd to notice what is going on, as will Lunacy, and those affected by Faceless Crowd will remember any other participants after the fact if prompted (such as the appearance of the Hishu who were on the victim’s trail).
Exceptional Success: The prey additionally suffers the werewolf’s Honor Renown as a penalty to rolls to call upon Allies, Contacts and Retainers during the scene.
Urban Predator (Purity)
The primal wolf has little to fear from the grinding gears of the city.
The werewolf reduces all damage dealt to her by collapsing buildings, moving vehicles, falling (as long as it is onto a structure or onto a constructed surface like a pavement or road), electrical discharges from power lines or faulty equipment, and other urban dangers by her Purity Renown. A collapsing building will never damage her last remaining point of health. This Facet does nothing to protect against actual weapons.
Carve the City’s Flesh (Wisdom)
The Uratha’s talons split apart the very meat and bones of the city.
Cost: 2 Essence
Duration: Until the next sunrise or sunset
While she is within a built-up area, the werewolf can use this Facet when touching a wall or building to create a temporary street, alley or other urban passageway up to 30 yards long per dot of her Wisdom Renown. Brick rumbles, concrete unfurls and fresh architecture rears up to bring the new street into existence. This may be a narrow alleyway, a road capable of taking a vehicle or a cul-de-sac depending on the whim of the creator. Any existing structures shuffle aside and squeeze up to make room for the interstitial newcomer. The world does not notice that the street exists – humans do not notice its appearance and assume it has always been there, it has no Shadow, and attempts to remotely view into it fail. When the created street ceases to exist, anyone in the street (and anything they have about them) is ejected back out into areas adjoining the temporary space. Anything left alone in the street disappears. An object that vanishes in this manner will turn up sooner or later somewhere else nearby, usually in an alley or dead-end.
Designing Wolf Gifts
Wolf Gifts are innate powers of the Uratha – the evolutions of Essence and spirit that come from the heritage of Wolf and Moon (or whatever other dark power may have spawned werewolves). While a Wolf Gift follows roughly the same structure as a Shadow Gift – five Facets each assigned to a different Renown – it does not need to be unlocked through a spirit. By default, every werewolf has access to every Wolf Gift.
This doesn’t mean that every new Wolf Gift you add to the game has to be widely available, though. As inherent aspects of the werewolf, there’s viable design space around requiring a character to find a way of delving deeper into her spiritual power to access it. A Gift of Essence might require the Uratha to undergo strange, alchemical treatments first, perhaps involving buying a representative Merit. Delving into the blasphemous Gift of Man, that gives dominance over other werewolves just as the human tames and leashes the whipped dog, could be the preserve of those Uratha willing to undergo horrific, self-abasing rituals or to sign on with the Maeljin.
Wolf Facets are cheap and are a good place for minor tweaks to innate werewolf capabilities, minor blessings and powers that very closely relate to werewolf myths. Facets that don’t scale also fit nicely here. A Wolf Facet should generally round out the werewolf template or expand and enhance it in an existing area rather than feeling like something completely different and new being bolted on.
For the sample Wolf Gift, I hammer together the Gift I would have created if we’d had the space in the core book. It focuses on Essence as one of the underlying engines of the werewolf condition. To get ideas, I reread over the details of the werewolf template, looking for levers and hooks that I can hang minor powers off. I quickly decide I want one that interacts with the taboo of eating human and wolf flesh, and while I flirt with assigning that to Purity on the basis of emphasizing the raw and instinctive side of the hunt, I end up giving it to Cunning. The power for transferring Essence is obviously going to either Honor or Wisdom; Honor feels the better fit and I have another candidate for Wisdom. Purity gets the most straight-forward of the ideas I have, adding Renown straight to the Essence pool size. Glory takes the longest to come up with an idea for, and I flirt with notions of blazing Essence, increasing Renown flare and other such things. However, I want to attach one of these Facets to augment Reaching, and Glory turns out to be the best fit for it.
Of all the new Gifts in this article, the Gift of Essence is the quickest to design.
Gift of Essence
Marrow Eater (Cunning)
The hungry wolf makes the most of his every meal.
The werewolf gains twice the normal amount of Essence from consuming human or wolf flesh.
Essence Surge (Glory)
This Facet grants the Uratha the strength to cross between worlds in the blink of an eye.
Cost: 1 Essence
By using this Facet when Reaching across the Gauntlet, the werewolf may add his Glory to the dice pool for crossing over and, if successful, transitions instantly across. On an exceptional success, he regains the point of Essence spent to activate Essence Surge.
River of Essence (Honor)
With this Facet, the werewolf may offer his packmates the very Essence of his being.
By touching a packmate and using this Facet, the werewolf may transfer Essence at a rate of 1 point per turn. He may offer a maximum of Essence points equal to his Honor Renown each day in this way. Attempting to use River of Essence on a packmate without an Essence pool causes the Facet to fail.
Primeval Echo (Purity)
This Facet amplifies the echo of Urfarah within the werewolf’s spirit, letting him draw deeper upon his ancestral power.
The werewolf adds his Purity Renown to the maximum size of his Essence pool.
Essence Sight (Wisdom)
The Uratha with this Facet can gaze into the channels of Essence that gouge through another being, and tell just how greatly her spiritual strength waxes or wanes.
Cost: 1 Essence
Dice Pool: Wits + Occult + Wisdom – prey’s Composure
The werewolf may use Essence Sight against any prey that she can see.
Dramatic Failure: The Facet fails and the Uratha expends an additional point of Essence, which literally bleeds out of his eyes as visible, oozing ephemera before it evaporates.
Failure: The Facet fails to take effect.
Success: The werewolf can immediately tell how much Essence the prey has in her Essence pool. If she has no Essence pool, he merely receives the knowledge that she is at 0 Essence.
Exceptional Success: The werewolf regains the point of Essence spent to activate this Gift.
So that’s the end of this article! I hope you found it interesting and useful. If you have any queries or questions, if you want additional details about Gift design or feel I didn’t fully explain any of the above in enough depth, please comment and I’ll do my best to answer.
And season’s wishes to you all!