Wolves in Wolf's Clothing
Death Rage, or Kuruth, is the werewolf at their most savage — ignoring mortal danger, desiring nothing but to feel his prey tear apart under their fangs and claws. The phrase “Death Rage” means many things to werewolves. It is a reminder of the death of Father Wolf and a warning of the death that follows in an enraged Uratha’s wake. The truest meaning, however, is that succumbing to Kuruth is a loss of self akin to death — and that it courts the possibility of dying like a rabid beast instead of as a warrior or hunter. Each Death Rage could be a werewolf’s last.
Entering Death Rage
A werewolf loses control of their anger and enters Kuruth when provoked beyond the bounds of self-control. When confronted with a particular stimulus that might cause a character to lose control, the player must roll Resolve + Composure for the werewolf to resist giving in. Success means the character can retain control, while failure means that they shift reflexively into Gauru and enters Death Rage — even if they has already assumed Gauru form earlier in the scene.
The dangers of Kuruth are at their height during situations of life and death. The following stimuli can trigger a Death Rage check when a character is in combat:
|When a wound inflicts aggravated damage|
|Upon striking or being struck by an attack roll that is an exceptional success (at least five damage)|
|When a wound is marked in one of the character’s last three Health boxes|
The true horror of Kuruth, however, is that it can surface apart from life-or-death situations. For example, a werewolf can be driven into Death Rage by discovering that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, only to come to her senses covered in his blood and torn flesh.
Werewolves with high Harmony are at reduced risk of being driven into Death Rage in situations that aren’t as critical as life or death. A low-Harmony werewolf sees every insult as an attack, every challenging stare as a direct threat. A werewolf who lacks the sort of self-knowledge and discipline that Harmony represents is on a hair trigger.
The following list details potential stimuli that might subject a werewolf to a Death Rage roll when not in combat. A player must make a check when faced with a provocation that matches their character’s Harmony score, or any provocation above their Harmony score on the following chart. Therefore, a check to avoid Death Rage doesn’t have to be made for a werewolf with Harmony 8 when injured by aggravated damage outside of combat, but a roll must be made for a bestial monster with Harmony 2 when humiliated, injured, or betrayed.
|10 – 9||Loved one/packmate slain or badly injured; betrayed by loved one/packmate|
|8 – 7||Betrayed by ally|
|6 – 5||Injured outside of combat by an event that inflicts aggravated damage; loved one/packmate in danger|
|4 – 3||Humiliated or injured|
|2 – 1||Insulted; authority challenged|
The Storyteller is the final arbiter of whether any stimulus is enough to potentially drive a character into Death Rage, and they may add other triggers to the list.
Virtues and Vices can change the chances of entering Kuruth, depending on the situation. A character with great Faith might find that their anger doesn’t rise to the surface as readily in the comforting presence of something they believe in (such as a priest of the religion he practices). Or they might enter Death Rage more easily if an enemy firebombs a church or murders a priest. The Storyteller decides when a Virtue or Vice influences a Death Rage roll. If appropriate, the player gains or loses one die from they’re Resolve + Composure pool.
It’s possible that the powers of supernatural beings other than werewolves could provoke Death Rage among the Uratha. An example is vampires’ Eye of the Beast Discipline. That power and others like it apply to werewolves and their Death Rage quite easily. The werewolf subject goes berserk if the contested roll made for the Uratha fails, the dice pool determined by the power in question.
In the case of Eye of the Beast, if the werewolf loses the contest, they’re assumed to flee in Kuruth as if one of their last three Health boxes contains a wound. If the contested rolls tie, the werewolf simply enters Death Rage. If the werewolf wins the contest, they remain in control.
Death Rage Effects
The roll to determine if Kuruth is invoked is made reflexively and immediately upon the offending event or circumstance.
Upon entering Death Rage, a werewolf automatically assumes Gauru form as a reflexive action (if they’re not already in Gauru). The usual Stamina + Primal Urge limit on the number of turns spent in Gauru form is ignored. The character remains in Gauru for as long as the Death Rage lasts, which is normally for the duration of the scene.
While in the grip of Kuruth, a werewolf can’t perceive other beings as anything other than moving shapes that their instincts guide them to attack. They attempt to destroy any potential target they can see, friend or foe. They typically keep attacking one until it is knocked unconscious or killed, and then moves on to the next available target. This berserk state lasts until the end of the scene or the character suffers a wound in one of his last three Health boxes (when they would normally suffer a wound penalty). At this point, the instinct for self-preservation takes over.
A werewolf in Death Rage who has suffered a wound in one of their last three Health boxes isn’t subject to wound penalties. They are subconsciously aware of the danger, however, and is overwhelmed by the instinct to survive at all costs, an instinct that takes the form of pure fear. They run as quickly as possible away from the source of the trouble. A fleeing werewolf in Death Rage attacks anyone who impedes their flight, although this is more with the intention of driving them out of their way than killing them. Once the character reaches a safe hiding place, they remain there until the episode passes (typically until the end of the scene).
If a werewolf succumbs to Death Rage in combat due to suffering a wound in one of their last three Health boxes, the flight instinct kicks in immediately.
Whether he’s fighting or fleeing, a character in Death Rage is still subject to all the mechanical benefits of Gauru form. In addition, any attempts to mentally or socially coerce or influence the subject through Gifts, vampire Disciplines, mage spells or other means suffer a -3 penalty. It is exceptionally difficult to direct or halt the overwhelming fury of Kuruth.
The character is also subject to all the penalties of Gauru form, such as being unable to use complex tools or attempt most Mental or Social tasks, with an exception: A character in Death Rage who’s driven to flee doesn’t seek to attack something each turn. In addition, a werewolf in Death Rage cannot use any fetishes or Gifts of any kind. Nor can Willpower points be spent for bonuses to dice pools or Resistance traits. The character’s reservoir of self-control is utterly lost. Essence may still be spent to regenerate lethal wounds, and any Gifts or fetish powers that were activated before entering Death Rage last for their usual duration.
The effects of Death Rage persist for the remainder of the scene, though the Storyteller may allow an additional Resolve + Composure control roll once several turns have passed or if the character’s packmates try to talk them down to end the state early.
If a werewolf ever suffers a wound that exceeds their Health dots (it would cause them to go unconscious or start bleeding to death), and the attack could trigger Death Rage (say, it’s an exceptional success that inflicts five or more points of damage), the roll to resist Kuruth is made before the character is decreed unconscious or down. The timing of events here is important, because a character entering Death Rage gets four extra Health dots by virtue of assuming Gauru form. Those extra Health might allow them to remain conscious where they would have collapsed in another form. If the Resolve + Composure roll fails, the character enters Death Rage and assumes Gauru, potentially gaining more Health dots if they weren’t already in Gauru form. These extra dots might be enough to keep the character conscious. If the Resolve + Composure roll succeeds, the character remains under control, remains in their current form and doesn’t go into Kuruth.
The player may choose to forgo the roll and have their character automatically fall into Death Rage. This has the advantage of keeping the character on their feet longer, but at the loss of control. A wounded character in Death Rage could get themself into an even more dangerous situation.
The Shadow Realm seems to remember the death of Father Wolf and the rise of the Gauntlet all too well. Each time a werewolf falls into Kuruth, they echoe the moment of murderous rage that changed the world forever — and spirits hate and fear them for it. It drives a greater wedge between the werewolf (and their pack) and the spirits of the area. Although there is no specific rules system to enforce this phenomenon, the Storyteller should feel free to play up the fact that each time a werewolf enters Death Rage in a chapter or game session, they earn more animosity from most spirits. Just as the first outburst of Kuruth separated the Uratha from their spirit kin, the killing fury of today’s werewolves continues to mark them as Forsaken.