Werewolves have an extensive relationship with the spirit world. Most Garou believe that the fact that they are werewolves is bestowed by Gaia, the spirit of the world itself, while one pledges to a Patron Spirit as an expression of tribe. Similarly, most Garou believe that Luna, the spirit of the moon and sister to Gaia, grants her favor when one experiences their First Change. In the game world itself, a werewolf’s auspice — their moon-sign — confers both advantages and expectations. Every Garou (well, every Garou who’s a player’s character, and most Garou antagonists, too) has a tribe and an auspice.
Gaia’s Chosen, Luna’s Blessing
In game terms, if your tribe is what you do, your auspice is how you do it. It’s a different set of verbs, but those verbs reflect your approach — do you do it with guile and stealth? Through congress with spirits? Or by tearing off heads and ripping off faces as the default? (To be clear, there’s always a risk of tearing off heads and ripping off faces. It’s just a matter of whether or not this is your werewolf’s preferred methodology.) As with things like tribe or even Vampire clans, auspice is at once a “container” for how you want to play, but also an indicator of role among the society of the Garou, such as it is.
- The role of the ragabash is to question authority, challenge unexamined tradition, and even mock that which is worthy of derision — a highly subjective topic.
- The role of the theurge is that of a mystic, to develop an expertise in matters of the Umbra and relationships with the spirits.
- The role of the philodox is to preserve and interpret the ways and customs of werewolves, to arbitrate and render judgment based on the (largely oral) history of the Garou.
- The role of the galliard is to promote the legends of the werewolves, singing the songs of bygone comrades and tonight’s champions of the Garou, inspiring the legends to come.
- The role of the ahroun is that of the warrior, to take the challenge to the enemy and meet them head on or otherwise, delivering to that enemy their deserved fate.
And even within that “how,” there’s tremendous room to define your werewolf’s personal style. You may favor a caustic, mocking ragabash or a witty, stylish one; you might gravitate toward a headstrong, bellicose ahroun or a more strategic ahroun who favors a considered, critical strike. You might enjoy an austere, judgmental philodox, or a compassionate philodox whose anger nevertheless sometimes (often…) gets the better of them.
Where the relationship between tribe and auspice shines is in the vast diversity of werewolf characters who emerge from it. The combinations of what you do and how you do it, when layered with the individual personality choices of the player, make for a million and one different combinations.
Even in just game terms alone, it’s a big matrix. One expects a Bone Gnawer ragabash and a Silver Fang galliard to have two different perspectives, certainly, but think about how differently a Glass Walker ahroun and a Child of Gaia ahroun see things. Now add a Red Talon ahroun to the mix, and you have three werewolves who have differences in who the real enemy even is, let alone how to tear them asunder.
Now add all the other tribes. Now add all the other auspices.
It also shows part of the reason that the Garou Nation is in such a dire state tonight. If the tribes disagree on what needs to be done for Gaia’s sake, and the auspices disagree on how best to effect it, it becomes all the more complicated once each Garou has both of those callings to answer as well as the inherent Rage, spirituality, and monstrosity of being a werewolf. Indeed, some Garou lean into the Rage and monstrosity of being a werewolf… but they haven’t exactly advanced Gaia’s cause, and may in fact be working against her.
Taking Many Forms
Werewolves are shapeshifters, and while many myths depict them as having three forms — human, wolf, and hybrid — the reality of the Garou in Werewolf is in fact more substantial. The Garou have five forms, each suited to specific activities.
- The homid form is the form similar to that of a regular human, and is the natural form of most Garou tonight. The homid form is indistinguishable from non-Garou to most non-supernatural methods of detection. Being homid is great for using tools, communicating, and handling most of the interactions of the modern world.
- The glabro form is a big, hunched, and hairy human. It’s not overtly supernatural, and more sinewy than hypermuscular, but the wolf is just beneath the surface. Close inspection reveals a surprising amount of body hair as well as a loping gait. Taking glabro form is still good for using tools, but is also a bit more durable than homid form — it’s good for wielding weapons and for not making people go HOLY SHIT A GIANT FUCKING WOLF-MONSTER JUST TORE THOSE PEOPLE TO RIBBONS while you’re doing it.
- The crinos form is a nightmarish hulk of claws, fangs, and whipcord muscle, combining the most fearsome traits of wolf and man. Walking carnage, the crinos form always means death for something. It also terrifies most mundane individuals just by seeing it, whether they’re human, wolf, or anything else is in its path. It’s the form that immediately screams WEREWOLF! to anyone observing it, though they might not recall it afterward, having been so horrified.
- The hispo form resembles that of a huge primordial wolf. It’s “That’s a really big dog”-big, but not overtly supernatural. The hispo form is great for long-distance travel, both in terms of four-legged speed and remarkable hardiness. It’s not great for speaking or using tools, but it has a fearsome bite as well as superior senses.
- The lupus form is that of a regular-sized wolf. Indeed, it might easily be mistaken for a German Shepherd or other common dog in certain areas (particularly where wolves are infrequent visitors…). The lupus form excels at distance travel at speed and navigating areas where its comparatively small size aids at stealth or accessing difficult-to-reach areas, like digging under a fence or creeping into a drainage pipe.
Garou can move easily between the forms, and doing so is a manifestation of their Rage. They must be careful not to over-rely on changing shape, however, as “losing the wolf” can have dire results if they’re unable to call upon a form they need when they need it.
And these are just a few of the unique assets available to the Garou in their struggle against the Apocalypse. They have more, but every Garou has these, and is wise to use them well, else they end up nothing but a memory and a streak of gore on the pavement.
Header art by Krzysztof Bieniawski