The world is on fire. Global temperatures increasing. Sea water levels rising and acidifying. Political powers in an infinite cycle of saber-rattling and war, endlessly creating refugees which militarized authoritarian police forces victimize with abandon. Unshakeable addiction to fossil fuel strangles the world’s breath, even as energy companies reap record profits from resources extracted from the planet we all share. The billionaires are in a race to chop down the last tree with their own private hatchets, for their own personal gain.
Gaia, the world-spirit, is dying or dead. The only creatures left who can do anything about it — the only monsters with any capacity to act — are her chosen champions, the Garou. Werewolves.
Once they fought to avert the Apocalypse. Now, in the 5th edition of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, they struggle to survive it.
(If you’re a player familiar with legacy editions of Werewolf, this is a heads up to expect some noteworthy changes in both system and setting. W5 isn’t a continuation of those earlier editions, it’s a re-imagining of Werewolf built on the core themes of the original game.)
Tribes and Patron Spirits
Something all werewolves agree on is that the world is in a disastrous state. What they don’t all agree on, though, is what to do about it. And that “what” represents one of the important decisions a player makes about their Garou character, their tribe. In simplest terms, a tribe is any number of werewolves who are pledged to a patron spirit. Tribe is akin to the clans in Vampire, a social unit but also a way of looking at things and a call to action on handling them.
In a game design sense, certain verbs define the tribes as an expectation of gameplay. If you want to take the fight to the enemy or solve mysteries or inspire fear and confidence, that’s tribe for you.
Tribes also have other characteristics, the first of which is pretty obvious: Patron Spirit. The Patron Spirit is the powerful spiritual entity that bestows their support to a tribe, the sort of emblematic leader in whose name that tribe wages war against the Apocalypse. In the era of Apocalypse, tribes represent a way to do something, to take urgent action.
Werewolves usually discover the tribe to which they feel the most connected shortly after their First Change. This sort of “calling” can take many forms, from having a Garou mentor who instructs the werewolf in the ways of the Garou to a spiritual vision in which an avatar of the Patron Spirit comes to the Garou to a battlefield epiphany at the moment of the First Change when it’s obvious that I’m a monster and I’m going to tear these motherfuckers apart. Some werewolves choose their tribe; many werewolves feel that, somehow, their tribe chooses them. A tribe is a relationship not only with other Garou of that distinction, but also with the Patron Spirit itself.
Tribe also imparts special spiritually mandated benefits and restrictions — a favor and a ban, something with which the werewolf gains proficiency from their spirit patron as well as a vow to uphold a certain way of life or attitude. For example, as a favor, Shadow Lords can conscript Stormcrow spirits to aid them, while, as a ban, the Galestalkers must partake of fresh kill daily, all based on the primal urges of their Patron Spirits.
As well, Patron Spirits grant the ability for Garou to use their Gifts, spiritual powers that represent the Patron Spirit’s goals and acumen. Most of these Gifts are taught by spirits that have something in common with the Patron Spirit, or might even be avatars of them. Whatever the case, invoking Gifts is effectively asking a spirit to intervene on one’s behalf. And doing that requires the spirits to respect the Garou and their aims.
Garou society is greatly concerned with its own purpose — werewolves know that they’re a people in service to enigmatic spirits, and as a result, they care a great deal for not only their own legends, but also how the spirits view them. In game terms this is expressed as Renown, and the Garou particularly revere three particular facets of Renown: Glory, Honor, and Wisdom.
These virtues reflect both how a werewolf undertakes a given situation, but also the esteem in which spirits and other werewolves hold them. A Garou with low Renown may have difficulty convincing a spirit to lend them its Gifts; a Garou with high Renown may be courted by packs seeking bold action against the tragedies of a world in Apocalypse… or may find themselves undermined by bitter rivals who resent young upstarts challenging their own legends. Renown is a double-edged sword, increasing a werewolf’s ability to effect change, but painting a target upon them as someone able to bring about that change.
Each tribe (through their Patron Spirit) is associated with a particular aspect of Renown. For example, the Black Furies and their Patron Spirit Gorgon are associated with Glory, while the Ghost Council and their Patron Spirit Horned Serpent are associated with Wisdom. Associated Renown helps establish the tribes’ archetypes (in game terms), but Garou can definitely earn Renown outside that which is the hallmark of their tribe, allowing players to portray characters “against type” if they wish.
A Call to Action
Tribes and Renown are just two of the perspectives Garou bring to bear, with their animistic outlook on the world and its state. We’ll share more with you here in upcoming blogs.
The question for werewolves is, if the world is dying and the people responsible for killing it are gleefully pillaging the corpse, now what?
It’s the end of the world and you’re a fury-fueled monster.
When will you Rage?