Wolves in Wolf's Clothing
The Forsaken have been barred from walking freely in the spirit world as they once could, and their allies in the Shadow Realm are few and far between. Their ancestor’s legendary act of patricide was rooted in the belief that the spirit world and the physical realm must remain in relative balance, however, much as their own bestial and human natures must be. This principle of balance and coexistence forms the basis of Uratha morality.
Werewolves aren’t human. Although they’re raised with human mores, they find certain ethical credos somewhat counter-intuitive. For example, even before her First Change, a werewolf might consider stealing to be not so much a sin. After all, if the owner of the given property wasn’t strong or smart enough to protect it, why shouldn’t the werewolf take it? Yet werewolves often form very close bonds to friends and family, protecting them as a wolf does her packmates. That this affection isn’t always returned — the friends and family aren’t werewolves, and might find the strange child frightening — is a source of constant frustration and angst for these cubs.
When the First Change comes, a werewolf suddenly begins to see the world through different eyes. In some ways, the Change brings freedom. Human laws and morals no longer seem quite appropriate. How can the laws of humans not killing one another apply to creatures seemingly designed to kill? Yet this philosophy is deceptive. A werewolf who utterly succumbs to his bestial side loses the ability to control it. In order to retain their sanity and have a chance at some precious peace of mind, the Uratha must walk a middle path between animal and human, between spirit and flesh, between instinct and reason. This is the path of Harmony.
Harmony stresses the need to abide by the laws that the werewolves have set down, to keep Rage in check until it’s needed, to honour Luna and the totems (both pack and tribal) and to always protect the pack. Those werewolves who obey these strictures might never find complete peace, which is denied Forsaken nature, but they come closest. Those who search for Harmony come nearest to balancing their dual natures, accepting their feral instinct without losing their human reason. Those who don’t are monsters, rampaging beasts with only their shapeshifting powers and Rage to which they can resort. The path of Harmony is not a path of peace or calm — it is the path of accepting the wolf and the human, the spirit and the beast.
Werewolves lose Harmony in the same way that humans lose Morality — they commit sins. What a werewolf considers sinful, though, can vary from human values. Succumbing entirely to savagery takes a werewolf farther from Harmony, but so does attempting to deny one’s inner animal and living strictly as a human.
Just as with mortals, when a werewolf character performs an act that carries an equal or lower rating than his Harmony, the player rolls a certain number of dice to find out whether the character suffers moral degeneration. If the roll succeeds, the character manages to feel shame, regret or at least some sense of contrition. If the roll fails, the character feels nothing except satisfaction at getting what he wanted… and a little more self-control slips away. His Harmony drops by one. For what it’s worth, the threshold for further moral crises drops too, so the player might not need to roll for degeneration as often — assuming the character can resist committing more heinous acts in the future.
As a character’s Harmony erodes, he grows less concerned with the world, yielding more to recklessness and violence. He becomes capable of virtually any depraved act against another human or werewolf. When the character loses Harmony for committing a sin, roll the character’s new Harmony as a dice pool. If the roll succeeds, the werewolf finds some kind of bulwark of sanity at his new level of Harmony. If the roll fails, a derangement manifests in the character’s mind. Derangements are mental and emotional “scars,” in this case brought on by the character’s stress, grief or even remorselessness over acts performed.
The following is a unique hierarchy of sins for use with Werewolf characters:
10: Not shapeshifting for more than three days. (Roll five dice.)
9: Not obtaining your own food; carrying a silver weapon. (Roll five dice.)
8: Disrespect to a spirit or elder Uratha. Roll four dice.)
7: Spending too much time alone; significantly violating a tribal vow. (Roll four dice.)
6: Mating with other Uratha; slaying a human or wolf needlessly. (Roll three dice.)
5: Slaying a werewolf in the heat of battle (Roll three dice.)
4: Revealing the existence of werewolves to a human; using a silver weapon against another werewolf. (Roll three dice.)
3: Torturing enemies/prey; murdering a werewolf. (Roll two dice.)
2: Hunting humans or wolves for food. (Roll two dice.)
1: Betrayal of pack; hunting werewolves for food. (Roll two dice.)
When making a degeneration roll, use only the dice pool associated with the sin committed. Likewise, when rolling Harmony to check for a derangement, do not add other Attributes or traits. You may not spend Willpower to gain a +3 modifier on either kind of roll, though other situational bonuses or penalties may apply.
Failure: On a degeneration roll, your character loses the struggle to maintain his standards of morality when faced with the reality of his sin. He loses one dot of Harmony. On a Harmony roll, he gains a derangement.
Success: Your character emerges from his crisis of conscience with his sense of right and wrong intact. His Harmony is unchanged and he remains as sane as before.
Exceptional Success: Your character re-dedicates himself to his convictions in the wake of his sin, driven by remorse and horror at the deeds he has committed. Not only does his Harmony remain unchanged on a degeneration roll, he gains a point of Willpower (which cannot exceed his Willpower dots). No special bonuses are gained for an exceptional Harmony roll when testing for a derangement.
Not all of the sins that endanger a werewolf’s Harmony are immediately obvious as sins to more conventional human morality. The more unusual violations are explained here.
Not shapeshifting for more than three days. A werewolf cannot achieve perfect Harmony if he denies who and what he is, even for a short time. Running too often as a human, wolf or something in between denies the evolving and changing identity that Luna shares with her children. A character of appropriate Harmony who doesn’t shapeshift for three days is subject to a degeneration roll.
Not obtaining your own food; carrying a silver weapon. Losing one’s edge at the hunt means losing one’s identity as a werewolf. Relying too much on human-provided sources of food, or sustenance stalked and caught by others is an offense against the powerful nature of the predator. Owning and carrying a silver weapon is an inherent offense, for what purpose could it hold but to harm and kill others of the People? Bearing a silver weapon demonstrating that a werewolf has no regard for his own kind. Of course, coming to terms with this sin means that one believes he has a realistic outlook on existence as a werewolf. Despite tenets of the Oath to the contrary, the People still kill the People, so one must be prepared to defend himself.
Disrespect to a spirit or elder Uratha. Werewolves are quick to confront, challenge, intimidate and stalk spirits and their own kind to demand or coerce favors or services. However, they must be careful to do so only when they have the right. The spirits already resent the People for their bastard half-flesh nature and their self-appointed policing of the Shadow. If a werewolf further damages this dysfunctional relationship by demonstrating his lack of respect for spirits or his own kind, he will be marked by the discord that results. The rights of a veteran werewolf or a potent spirit, like a pack alpha, are to be respected until his weakness is made manifest. This is not to say that a werewolf cannot oppose an enemy of superior standing — but he must do so with full respect. A character of appropriate Harmony who haughtily defies or insults a spirit of higher Rank or a werewolf of higher honorary Rank than his own may be subject to a degeneration roll.
Spending too much time alone; significantly violating a tribal vow. The People are plural, just as a pack implies a group. Werewolves are social animals, as instinct from their wild and human origins demands. To go rogue too long runs the risk of causing one to lose touch with spirits and Uratha alike. Yet humans don’t count as relations like other werewolves do. In Forsaken society, others help steer a werewolf clear of damning trends in behavior, and the collective is stronger than the individual, as evidenced by the five auspices bestowed by Luna, each of which is only part of a greater whole. A character of appropriate Harmony who goes without the contact of other Uratha for one week per point of Primal Urge is subject to a degeneration roll. Such separation may be by choice or force. It doesn’t matter which; the separation itself is what’s important. Each tribe levies its own vow tied to the Oath, and these vows are not made lightly. A Blood Talon who surrenders in unworthy fashion has not just demonstrated cowardice, he’s broken a solemn oath. A Bone Shadow who fails to repay a spirit for good or ill understands that she is personally contributing to the imbalance of the world. Minor violations do not require a degeneration roll; a Storm Lord may have a smoke around others even though this displays a minor “weakness.” However, displaying rank cowardice in front of one’s pack would call for a degeneration roll if the character is of appropriate Harmony.
Mating with other Uratha; slaying a human or wolf needlessly. Once, only Father Wolf had rights and privileges to take mates, privileges he denied to his werewolf children. It’s said that Father Wolf even lorded that right over the People, taunting them with his authority. Denied and insulted, the People claimed the right from their harsh Father and slew him. Since that fabled day, mating with other werewolves is seen as an act akin to incest, a taboo and constant reminder of that past act. With so much time passed and perspectives changed, it’s sometimes hard for young werewolves to accept that they cannot mate with their own kind, even if they seem to share no direct blood ties. A character of appropriate Harmony who mates with another Uratha is subject to a degeneration roll. A roll is made per sexual encounter. Werewolves are designed to kill, whether to feed themselves and their families or to defend themselves or their packs. If a human threatens his mate or cubs, a werewolf will tear that person apart without a second thought; humans have no quality that makes their lives more “sacred” than other animals. Killing when there is no real threat, however, is the mark of a rabid beast, not a predator whose nature is in harmony. A werewolf who seeks greater control over his own nature must learn to separate a necessary kill from an act of spite or emotion.
Slaying a werewolf in the heat of battle. As with humans, killing one’s own kind is a moral crime, at least to those who value the lives of their kind. Of course, slaying another werewolf in battle is a point of contention. Arguably, one would be killed if he didn’t kill first, yet werewolves’ ability to regenerate is a means to establish the dominance of one werewolf over another. He who is felled but allowed to recover and rise again is obviously the lesser of the two, and death need not make the point. It’s arguable whether members of the Pure and Forsaken tribes can ever arrive at such honorable terms, however, and survival demands killing. A character of appropriate Harmony who kills another Uratha in battle — whether Pure or Forsaken — is subject to a degeneration roll.
Revealing the existence of werewolves to a human. Werewolves are predators. They’re not afraid of humanity. They are afraid of what would have to happen if humanity learned of werewolf existence, however: Genocide. The People would have to cut a swath through the human masses to protect their own existence. Therefore, this tenet is honored as much for humanity’s sake as for the Uratha’s. A character of appropriate Harmony who reveals his true nature or that of the People to ordinary humans (but not the wolf-blooded) is subject to a degeneration roll. Instances include public displays of bestial forms or Gift uses that prove to have witnesses who understand and remember what happened. Werewolves therefore don’t have complete reliance on Lunacy to occlude their outbursts or indiscretions. There is moral gravity to being so irresponsible.
Using a silver weapon against another werewolf. Whereas carrying a silver weapon is a sign of depraved indifference, actually turning such a weapon against another werewolf is a gruesome sin, manifest on a physical and spiritual level. The act transcends intent and demonstrates will. This werewolf has turned against his own kind. Yet, those are the extremes to which some werewolves are pushed by the abuses of their own kind and the Pure. A character of appropriate Harmony who wields a silver weapon against one of his own kind — Forsaken or Pure — is subject to a degeneration roll. The roll is made for each individual confrontation, not for each attack roll made.
Torturing enemies/prey. A predator respects his enemies and prey, doing what he must to survive, whether it means teaching opponents a lesson or eating to survive. Abuses under either circumstance can lead to imbalance. The torture of enemies calls for retribution rather than resolving a competition, perpetuating rather than ending harm. Likewise, torturing prey exceeds the needs of survival, delving into cruelty. A true warrior and hunter recognizes that neither sin is necessary. A character of appropriate Harmony who inflicts harm (such as physical torture or rape) unnecessarily on an opponent or prey — for fun, pettiness or its own sake — is subject to a degeneration roll.
Murdering a werewolf. A contest of fangs, claws and even weapons among the People is often enough to establish the dominance of the victor. The loser is typically down, but likely regenerating even in defeat. It’s a sign of respect to honour a contest by allowing a defeated foe to rise and accept his place as second. Victors who decide not to demonstrate such honour finish off their bested foes when they’re down, before they can rise again. A character of appropriate Harmony who kills an unconscious foe rather than allowing him to regenerate is subject to a degeneration roll.
Hunting humans, wolves or werewolves for food. Werewolves are born of human stock, but they’re also part wolf. To hunt either — or other werewolves — for food or spiritual nourishment is a form of cannibalism. Even if the act is performed out of desperation to survive, the Uratha consider the act a sin. A character of appropriate Harmony who eats human, wolf or werewolf flesh is subject to a degeneration roll.
Betrayal of pack. There is no stronger bond than that between a werewolf and his pack. There is nobody else that the werewolf can rely on more. A pack is more than family, more than friends. To betray that trust is a terrible treason, one that cannot help but erode a werewolf’s sense of being. A character of appropriate Harmony who betrays his pack is subject to a degeneration roll.
Werewolves with low Harmony scores find interaction with spirits even more difficult and begin to manifest behaviour that is remarkably similar to a spirit’s ban. Harmony isn’t the same as human Morality, however. A high Morality doesn’t grant the same bonus dice on dealing with spirits that a high Harmony does; spirits know nothing of “morality,” but seem to recognize a werewolf with high Harmony as something more akin to them. Similarly, spirits react even more viciously toward a low-Harmony werewolf, as its blasphemous half-flesh nature is even further exaggerated. The specific Storytelling and game effects of degeneration are as follows:
Harmony 10: The werewolf is a paragon of Harmony; the parts of her soul are in perfect balance. Very few werewolves ever reach this degree of enlightenment, and those who do are accorded the same reverence as saints and legendary leaders are among humans. This veneration occasionally carries jealousy and threat of assassination, of course, but only the most depraved Uratha would consider raising a hand against such a holy individual. The spirit worlds themselves might demand justice. The werewolf receives a +2 modifier to all Mental and Social rolls involving spirits.
Harmony 9: The werewolf lives in harmony with the spirits and adheres closely to the Oath of the Moon. She probably acts as something of a guide to her fellows, making sure that they behave in accordance with the laws, but acknowledges that perfect Harmony still eludes her. She’s much more capable of dealing with spirits than most of her kind are, but still faces the same stigma that all do when dealing with otherworld denizens. She receives a +1 modifier to all Mental and Social dealings with spirits.
Harmony 8: More enlightened than most of her kind, the werewolf makes a point of harmonious living. Yes, some of the tenets of the Oath can be cumbersome, but they’re still important, and she attempts to live by them at all times. The pack is important to the werewolf, and she feels lost without it. With perfect understanding of the pack comes the realization that she’s never truly alone, which leads to pure Harmony. The spirits still confuse her, but she’s learned to rely on instinct when dealing with them. She receives a +1 modifier on all Social rolls with spirits.
Harmony 7: Most werewolves fall into the range of Harmony 6 to 7. The werewolf understands the reasons behind the Oath and the need for Harmony, but she can’t always be bothered to observe the more annoying tenets of either. After all, sometimes it’s easier to order pizza than to hunt (or to at least buy and prepare) one’s own food. Sometimes there are more important things to worry about. The werewolf wouldn’t dream of turning on her totem or pack or eating another werewolf’s flesh, however — such actions are simply abhorrent. The werewolf receives a +1 modifier on Social rolls dealing with spirits of her pack totem’s brood.
Harmony 6: A young werewolf can stay at this level of Harmony until she grows used to Forsaken society and begins to understand the need for respect of elders and spirits. She still instinctively bonds with her pack and totem to the point that the notion of betrayal of either gives her a sick feeling, but elders (and any werewolves with high Harmony) seem far away and untouchable. The werewolf understands the need to hide the Uratha from humanity, inconvenient though it is. No mechanical bonuses or penalties apply at this level.
Harmony 5: The werewolf worries her packmates sometimes. She leers at attractive Uratha, and while she understands the troubles associated with consummating such a relationship, she never believes such a thing could happen to her. While she finds killing other werewolves to be abhorrent, she has little trouble killing humans and has to remind herself not to shapeshift in front of them. She knows that the spirits don’t like her, but she thinks that’s because she’s a werewolf, not because of her behaviour. No mechanical bonuses or penalties apply at this level, though the first signs of spiritual compulsions begin to appear. A Bone Shadow might begin leaving three drops of blood on the doorstep of any building she enters, without really knowing why. If someone calls her attention to it, she might brush it off, or it might spur her to re-examine her priorities.
Harmony 4: The werewolf loses much of her regard for life at this level. She isn’t necessarily sadistic, but she’s assuredly selfish. Her pack is important to her, but she couldn’t articulate why if she tried. While more enlightened werewolves feel a revulsion when the notion of sex with other Uratha is raised, she doesn’t necessarily. She understands on an intellectual level why killing werewolves is wrong — it makes for tense interactions, can lead to reprisals and violates the Oath — but she doesn’t see it as a violation of the People. In fact, she probably sees her pack as “the People” and everyone else as outsiders. She suffers a –1 modifier to Social interactions with spirits. Compulsions become more pronounced. The Bone Shadow who previously left a bit of blood on thresholds now feels the need to mark her territory with blood or urine, and becomes uncomfortable if she enters a new area and can’t mark it. She grows impatient and angry if someone questions this behaviour.
Harmony 3: If a werewolf crosses into this character’s territory, the intruder should die. Werewolves at this level don’t tend to work for anything except their own self-betterment, or occasionally their packs’ goals. A werewolf who’s fallen this far into degradation lives by her own Vice. She might be lustful enough to bed anyone who strikes her fancy, werewolf or otherwise, or she might be so caught up in her own Rage that even her packmates aren’t safe from her tantrums. Werewolves who’ve fallen so far usually receive gruff advice from elders to shape up or ship out. Sometimes totems give similar advice, but some totems might not even see a werewolf’s behaviour as a problem. The werewolf receives a -1 modifier to all Social and Mental rolls involving spirits. Compulsions grow obvious and typically vicious at this stage. The Bone Shadow in the example now feels the need to mark anyone she meets with her blood. She sees the behavior as perfectly natural.
Harmony 2: Neither werewolves nor humans should take joy in injuring and causing pain to others. While killing is sometimes necessary, it should be done cleanly, out of respect to the enemy or prey’s spirit. A werewolf at this depth of morality, however, takes great pleasure in causing as much pain as possible to her foes. She probably doesn’t bother to hunt. When violence is necessary, she leaps in, claws flashing, hoping to spill as much blood and viscera as possible. The werewolf is drunk on her own power, but by acting so far out of accordance with Harmony, she denies herself much of the power that she might have. She suffers a -2 penalty to all Social and Mental rolls involving spirits. Compulsions take a turn for the worse here. The Bone Shadow is no longer content with using her own blood as a marker. Now she “bloods” anyone she meets, biting them to taste their blood. Resisting compulsions at this stage requires a Composure + Resolve roll.
Harmony 1: The werewolf teeters on the brink of becoming one of the Zi’ir, the Broken Souls. Spirits shun her, not fleeing from her or raging at her, but simply ignoring her. Some Uratha notice this and grudgingly admit they need to change their ways. Most simply state that they get along just fine without spirits. Even at this advanced level of moral decay, werewolves feel some remnants of a pack bond, and may fight viciously to protect their packs. Unfortunately, they also lose perspective on what is and isn’t a threat, so the elder who bullies a packmate at a gathering might get the same treatment as the vampire who attacks with fang and claw. The werewolf suffers a -2 modifier to all Social and Mental rolls involving spirits. An additional Essence point must also be spent to activate any Gift. A Gift that normally costs a single point of Essence now costs two, a Gift with no cost associated with it now costs an Essence point, and one that normally requires Willpower also requires a point of Essence. Compulsions are now almost impossible to resist. If a character is unable to fulfill her urge, a Resolve + Composure roll must be made to resist Death Rage. The Bone Shadow in the previous examples finds that she must collect a piece of every being she meets and every place she visits. A tiny piece of flesh is quite sufficient, and she can’t understand why anyone would balk at giving it up. She might even begin to offer her own flesh first, just to be polite.
Harmony 0: Werewolves at this level are called Broken Souls or Zi’ir. While they might be capable of functioning socially among humans (or even werewolves), during their auspice moons, their souls are driven far out of balance, making them ravening beasts living only to eat, mate and destroy. Such monsters are incapable of using Gifts or fetishes or of entering the Shadow Realm. Spirits refuse to speak with them at all. Their compulsions become uncomplicated and brutal at this level. Any semi-rational motivation for them disappears behind sheer hunger. The Bone Shadow now knows that she needs to remove a finger from anyone she meets (and is willing to wait until a good time to do it, if necessary), but she can’t remember why.
Degeneration And Redemption
In many ways, the loss of Harmony works like the loss of Morality. Werewolves can gain derangements as a result of Harmony dropping below 7 as usual, and their Virtues may help forestall the loss of Harmony.
The Forsaken look on the derangements of a fallen werewolf not as illnesses, but as symptoms of the subject’s spirit and flesh being at odds. According to common belief, a werewolf’s soul is old, carrying a fragment of lost Pangaea within itself. Over the centuries, such an old soul develops many desires and burdens of its own. When a werewolf loses Harmony, the damage to her sense of self unlocks strange obsessions and fears.
Though the rules mechanics for derangements remain the same, they take an oddly symbolic, even supernatural bent. A werewolf who develops a fixation or obsessive compulsion might be compelled to live out a version of his tribal totem’s ban, or even the ban of an entirely different spirit. Depression might manifest as a longing for lost Pangaea, and phobias might reflect fears of things that local spirits dread. (A werewolf might develop a fear of cats that is somehow “inherited” from the bird-spirits he allied with some time ago.)
Bans And Compulsions
The compulsions that manifest as a werewolf loses Harmony are separate symptoms from derangements. A werewolf could drop to Harmony 2 without gaining a single derangement, but would still be subject to a given compulsion, akin to a spirit’s ban. These compulsions are always symbolic, though the symbolism might not be clear to the afflicted character. Most compulsions have their root in an unconscious need to fulfill some aspect of the Uratha’s relationship with spirits. Potential compulsions might involve:
- Sacrifice and chiminage (leaving offerings of flesh and blood; “wasting” food by leaving it for animals; creating “artwork” in homage to a given spirit)
- Oaths, vows or geasa (refusing to raise a hand against a woman; abstaining from eating a particular kind of prey)
- Auspice duties (howling to one’s auspice moon; irrationally deferring to other Forsaken of the same auspice)
A compulsion or ban should be worked out between the Storyteller and player, ideally representing some aspect of the character’s personality that becomes akin to a spirit’s ban as the werewolf degenerates. The lower the Harmony drops, the more of an effect the compulsion should have on the werewolf’s life, though the Storyteller should be careful not to let a character’s compulsion hog the spotlight. This is a tool for interesting roleplaying and exploring the strange spiritual urges that lurk within a werewolf, not an excuse to be obnoxious at the expense of other players’ enjoyment.
The mechanical side of regaining Harmony is simple enough — it’s an experience point expenditure. The experience-point cost represents the amount of personal investment made in trying to improve oneself where it’s hardest — in the soul. Mechanics alone aren’t enough, though. If Harmony were so easy to achieve, the Forsaken would’ve reclaimed recognition or atoned fully among spirits long ago.
A character who wishes to raise his Harmony cannot do so based on any one act. Harmony has less to do with individual good deeds and more to do with living one’s entire life. As a general guideline, the purchase of more Harmony dots should come hand in hand with a constant effort to live in accordance with the Oath, including the character’s tribal vow. Note that this contradicts statements made about regaining lost Morality for free; this is deliberate. Werewolves understand morality, but it is harder for them to be virtuous than it is for humans; they are at their hearts and souls bloodthirsty beasts.
As with Morality, a character may overcome a derangement when he regains the next higher dot above that at which he gained it. The temporary imbalance between flesh and spirit is reined in, at least for a time.
Why demand an experience-point cost for an increased Harmony when characters lose the trait so easily? Because being a werewolf is a struggle. One moment of grace can’t absolve the sin that stains a very race of beings. Perfect balance is all the harder to achieve when the bestial fury of millennia of predators howls in your veins. Therefore, characters have to earn each step they take toward ideal Harmony, and single acts don’t allow for resounding achievements. It’s a long hard struggle that’s been waged for ages.