30 December, 2015

Updated Werewolf

Werewolf was always one of my favourite games. It made efforts to be global when nothing else seemed to be, it may have been problematic in retrospect but at least it was taking those first steps.

When +Levi Kornelsen wrote up his take on a new paradigm for the system, it really got me thinking. I wanted to write a whole heap about this interpretation of the setting, I wanted to run a game with this set up (just like I wanted to run the infamous Kult/World-of-Darkness crossover back in the 90s... I must find that again).  . 

So I don't lose this interpretation of the setting again, I'm just going to post his words directly here on the blog. I might write something more specific in regard to this shortly. For the moment though, I'm seeing some interesting riffs on these ideas for Mage or Vampire to make them more truly global rather than just stereotypical collections of cliches.
 


Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and making it less ugh for a new edition.
(Because enough people seemed interested in hearing)

So, Werewolf: The Apocalypse is...   Kinda messed up, even before you hit the rules.  One of the breed names is identical to a real-world racial group in a not-at-all-good way. The tribes are composed largely of racial stereotypes (one, the Black Furies, is also an overdone gender-politics stereotype), even where the side books occasionally put some serious effort into redeeming or justifying them. The fetish setup can easily lead to "white folks in native headresses".  There are cheap cultural knockoff gimmick spirits peppered throughout.

In addition to this, being pretty keen on eco-terrorism is baked right in; it's a central feature of the game.  That one, though, I'm not gonna touch.  Fundamentally, I'm okay with Werewolves as psychotic furry eco-terrorists.

Let's hit the others.

For "Metis", just straight substitute "Malsang"; bad-blooded.  Or some other word that's otherwise well-suited.  There's no amount of clever justifying that will fix that particular issue.

For fetishes, a note on spirits being real damn touchy about who can "properly" use what is not only an easy fix, it drops into the setting without a single ripple.  A spirit of honour sees you wearing a heraldic or otherwise familial crest (or tartan) that you're not entitled to?  That spirit is not bloody okay with that.  Nevermind the fetish itself, which might very well know where it belongs and with whom.  And, yeah, this means that that attempts at dungeon-crawl-style grabs at magic gear stops functioning in the game, but that potential is replaced with restoring the lost treasures and inheritances of others when you find some lost thing, and being recognized and sung of for the deed...   And that, man, that's some solid werewolf action.

Gimmicky spirits are tricky.  I've written a lot of spirits in my day, and some of the most ridiculous to others sounded just plain great to me at the time I wrote them.  Sooooo....   This basically means passing spirits by a lot of eyes, and ones that are sensitized to weird shit like this, and getting their input.

Okay.  The tribes.  Hoo boy, the tribes.  

My suggestion here is pretty severe; it keeps most of the actual stuff intact, but wildly shifts the perspective:  Reverse the presentation of each tribe, and dump the idea of Ronin completely.  Right now, tribes are presented primarily as being about origins and ethnicity, secondarily about spiritual content and gifts, and stuff on playing a member of a tribe is all based on that.

Imagine if you saw a write-up that went, paragraph by paragraph:

...

THE LINEAGE OF STAG

1. What the chosen children of stag tend to be like, even if they're totally lost cubs that never know their family or come into contact with their patron totem.  No mention of where they "come from", none of that.

2. What stag is like, what this totem likes and doesn't like, how it appears to and guides its children.  Again, no dependency on any specific culture.

3. Spirits that serve stag, what they do, what they're like, how they react to a child of stag.  A touch of cultural stuff here, maybe.

4. The nature of gifts, fetishes, and other magical power you might get from Stag.

5. The human kin of the lineage, where to find them in groups and not in groups, and how they live.

6. The wolf-kin of the lineage, where to find them in groups and not in groups, and how they live.

7. The Tribe - the largest coherent body of werewolves in the lineage (the Fianna), and where their core caerns are found.

8. Camps - smaller bodies of werewolves in the lineage, and where they're based.

...

In that sort of setup, a bunch of things can change radically.  It becomes easy to imagine someone born under the patronage of stag that develops a relationship with the spirits of the totem long before they even meet their first Fianna, and never really meshes entirely with the tribe.  It doesn't make them part of a special Ronin group, just a little disconnected.

The tribes remain, however, as political powers, as extended family you may well have reason to connect with, and on and on.  That's all there, but it doesn't have to be you.

Equally, because the identity is broken up a little, it's possible to make historical relationships with the "homeland" more complex. The children of Wendigo might be utter monsters to the bands that their kinfolk have traditionally lived among, and those kinfolk historically the low-status keepers of a terrible secret. Meanwhile, the kinfolk of the Uktena might be typically shamans among their bands, and Werewolves historically might have been seen as half-spirit children; not really band members, but sacred people even so.  (Those may be bad examples; real research into what would fit where would be needed, but the point is that more complex relationships between Werewolves, their kin, and the nations that have hosted them in numbers could be made sensical.)  This, in turn, helps forward the idea that your character is not a clear representative of whatever culture; making them a stereotype of that culture becomes one step more bizarre. 

This also creates a potential rift among the "Lineage of Pegasus", which could be leveraged on the weirdness of the Black Furies, and even applied to Red Talons.  Does Pegasus not want male children, or is that specifically the tribe?  Are there camps born to Pegasus outside the tribe that think differently, and how are the politics there?  Ditto Red Talons, Gryffon, and Homids.  Having a weird political body out there in the setting that players can have complex relationships with is a fair bit different than fronting it as an absolute character option.

...

Anyway, that's my thinking.
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