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Growth of a Campaign

2nd Installment (PCs and World Trees)

by Et Al
Jan 27,2003

 

As a quick reminder, this is an article following the development of a new campaign via GM emails between his potential players and a few "consultants" (my "Braintrust") as the campaign develops and progresses through its first games. The game is set to start in mid-February or early March.

Rich

Rich is myself, the Game Master of the game in question.

Hiro

Hiro, or Norwood, is the key contributor to the discussions.

J

J, or Breitzman, is a student at an art institute in Chicago.

Grover

Grover is a student of folklore, and is condering the pursuit of a masters in folklore.

Italics will be used for player emails.

The Cast

Here are some details on preliminary character submissions for the game by players.

The first is from an email I sent to the BrainTrust.

Cary has scoped out her PC and has a name that I cannot recall right now [it's a Viking name, rather cool]. Her father was Chance, and she's a Get of Fenris werewolf. As for her relationship with her father, think True Lies. Her dad posed as a traveling salesman, and his "missions" were business trips. He did teach his "only daughter" about odd things like lockpicking, and sharpshooting, but otherwise she lived a normal life. He died on a business trip (the Cambodia storyline) [see below for further details] when she was about eleven, before her First Change. She wants her PC to have an interest in police work, possibly forensics. She has attended police academy (without any of the hilarious characters of the movies unfortunately), and that's about as far as she's developed the character.

Next is a conversation between Josh and myself about his character

So, any further developments on your Pumonca?

He's half-Indian, with a mom named Reesa, a Pumonca. [Reesa is the sister of a Draupnir member named Seth who is metis]

* Is she dead, gone, what? You tell me.... I was just assuming that she had disappeared some years ago.

* What about Dad? Was he a regular guy, did he live on the reservation?

My initial thoughts here was that he was a regular joe, but isn't around anymore. Perhaps I never even knew him? My feeling was that "I" was raised more by "uncles" or "grandparents" which in reality were the tribe elders.

* You said you saw your PC on the res, which is cool. Which res?

Don't know yet.... Is there one that would work better for you?

* What tribe is he?

I'm undecided - but I'm leaning towards Apache or Mohawk.

* Is he accepted, or taunted?

Depends on the day. Even on the res, he's a bit of an outsider. Keeps to himself. Likes to wander the wild areas of the reservation by himself, learning/tracking the ways of the animals, and unconsciously honing his senses. He has a couple of friends, but often prefers the serenity and wisdom of the tribal elders to the chaos of the other adolescents.

* What does he want to do with his life?

Undecided. But he has considered joining the military, where he could use his outdoor skills as a Recon Scout. Beyond that, he doesn't really know what he could do with his skills. Perhaps become a wilderness guide? But he hasn't really thought it out much. (When you were 19, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?)

* Does he know he has an Uncle named Seth?

Perhaps. Has he had his first change yet? My thoughts were that until he has his first change, he only knows that his Mother disappeared, and his father was never around to begin with. Once he does have his change, one of the tribal elders will enlighten him on his Mother's true nature, his uncle Seth, and possibly how his grandparents were murdered. And that knowledge would likely have him set out on a quest (of sorts) to find his mother.

* Does he have any friends on the res?

(See above) Just a couple, and they're not CLOSE friends. Just people he hangs out with occasionally.

Lastly, I received a solid email from Greg on his PC he's named Emma.

The Werewolf character would be a young woman, probably about twenty. She's very politically active, involved in anti-globalization protests and environmental causes. Her most defining feature is her unwillingness to simply accept the way things are or the way others tell her they should be. She's distrustful of authority and "conventional wisdom". She's a Black Fury, sort of Ragabash in her current behavior and thinking, though her true personality is possibly Philodox. In other words, her arc would entail growing out of her immaturity -- the Ragabash-like element -- and into a more sophisticated understanding of the world, representing the emergence of her true Philodox nature.

She's inspired by my sister and her friends. I feel like I know what music she listens to, how she spends her days, how she unwinds with her friends, how she gets around, where she lives, etc.

She isn't self-involved or vain. She is self-righteous, and will not hesitate to cause trouble, but her motivation comes from what she perceives as injustice and exploitation.

I'm thinking she attended a few years of college, which is where she got involved with radical politics, but dropped out either because she was too busy pursuing her causes or because her werewolf nature made school too complicated. At any rate, she might have a mentor at the college, perhaps one of the middle-aged academics mentioned in the Black Fury tribe description. I think she'd be very into Black Fury society, not some angry loner. She imagines all the good the Furies could do (and have done), and feels that organizing and working together is their best bet. That said, she doesn't like hierarchies, and hates the power of entitlement. I think she may have had some very bad experiences with one or more of the Silver Fang.

I realize this may create problems if you go with a quasi-military black ops game. She would never, ever join the military. However, her Rage may manifest sometimes as an impulse toward violence, along the lines of eco-terrorism. In other words, she's not a pacifist and could be persuaded to commit herself to black ops-type work as long as she didn't have to submit to a militaristic chain of command, and as long as it ultimately served a noble end.


The last player, Marc, only sent this email before he lost internet access.

Thank you for sending me this again. I would like to select the were-lion A.J. as my parent. The name of my character will be Dominic (last name?).

By chance, is there a Werewolf book I could use for a short time to read up on the rules a bit? Or perhaps a list of good and websites that could help me become better famililar with our new game?


So far, we have three reasonably interesting PCs, and a character name. I saw potential with Greg's character and her independent lifestyle. She could be a voice for the new order I hoped to establish with the party. With Josh's PC, I saw a character that could act as the bridge between the old and the new. With Cary's PC, I saw a strong link to the Legacy, and many stories could develop from this tie. I sent this information along to the BrainTrust for further discussion. I also sent some follow-up emails asking for clarification and further details.

After poring over the player submissions, I decided to scope out some of my broader ideas and send them to the rest of Et Al:

I want to throw this at you and see what sticks and what bounces off. As I sit and think, the ideas for this campaign are alternatively bright and fuzzy. I'd like some help to bring things together.

Werewolf Legacy:

Background:

The game idea is a campaign where the players are children of the Werewolf Black Ops group from the game I ran in TN. They don't know each other before the game begins, but are summoned (not by obvious mystical means) to a remote island off the coast of Miami called Valhalla Island.

The PCs are the youngest children of the Black Ops squad called the Draupnir, but there is an older group of children who are already functioning as a pack (need a name for the pack). I want some friction between the older pack and the PCs, but in the end, they're fighting for the same cause. One example of the friction is that two of the older pack members are twins, and half-brothers of Cary's character. The twins had no idea their Dad had a wife before he died...

Who's the Big Bad?

Fenris and the Midgard Serpent have decided to bring about Ragnarok now to bring the next world to being. Fenris has followers and the Get of Fenris tribe, and the Midgard Serpent has the Rokea (weresharks) and aquatic followers. Notice I didn't say Loki. I think Loki is a neutral force here. He will play both sides off the middle, but in the end he doesn't want the world to "die".

The PCs will work outside the normal order of the Garou to avert the Apocalypse. The Garou as a race work upon old beliefs and old magics. The PCs will use whatever means necessary to get the job done (which will lead to conflict on many levels). The pack will be like orphans, and the parents who "raise" them will be "broken".

I see plots involving the parents of the PCs (i.e. "Where Are They Now?"), and world-traveling ass kicking. Maybe some cell-like paramilitary bad guys trying to bring about the end of the world. The original campaign ended as the Fenrir (followers of Fenris) tried to use Russian nukes to bring about Mutually Assured Destruction scenarios.

As a one shot, I did a reunion game with the previous group where Thor (you remember this, right Norwood?) was stuck in an Umbral Realm and had to die to exit. So, in this game, one of the former PCs (Sloane) is now a priest of Thor trying to bring him back through faith.

Another parent (Lauren) is a servant of Hel, and she will be another gray side in the struggle.

The PCs will initially start out like an X-Men group, brought together and trained by a mentor. The mentor is an old PC (Razz) who is now human, but used to be werewolf (and vampire). Footing the bill for the big "X-Mansion" is an NPC (George) who is now in Harano (huge depression state). Another old PC (Seth) is now the rune-master and mystical guide for the group. One of the trainers is another old NPC (Donovan) who has a companion named Chun who's an Akashic Brother (Mage physical adept-type guy).

The Draupnir were eight rings made by Odin. So, the next generation of this pack will need to end up as eight members (older and newer packs together) by the final game.

Anything clicking with you guys?

Norwood sent me back a reply asking if players could play a non-child of the potential parent list. I replied:

They must play a child of one of the original team, or present a compelling argument for their PC, and I will shoehorn that character in with them (I did so already, allowing one player to play a nephew of one old PC). I'm presenting it as pretty flexible, and if I allow too much leeway, what's the point of running a Legacy game if I don't have a strong vision of that legacy?

Hrm, this sort of constraints wouldn't really appeal to me as a player so this could be an interesting discussion. I'm keen to understand why you want to run this as a legacy game. I would think the best thing about running such a game is a familiarity of the characters involved for you, am I right?

Yes, it is familiarity of the major characters and the setting that drew me to this campaign idea. My original idea was to run it for the first group who played through, but I'm still in MN, so that won't work. Recently, I've had a blast playing in a current "second gen" campaign of L5R that I thought I could clone that fun in this campaign.

While some players may not like treading the steps of previous players' endeavors, I want to evolve the world past the first campaign, and grow the game to the new players' exploits. But I do need to have a touchstone, a starting point. Do you think players would have a problem with established NPCs and working within a storyline that has development not directly affecting them?

With the Black Ops setting, I have a worldview that side steps most of the Werewolf Native American mythology, and also updates the tactics of the magic and culture. While I love the worldview of Werewolf, I don't want to run a game of an ancient culture mired in outdated ideas and fighting a losing battle with no hope. I want to run a game on an epic scale with conflict between old gods and new ideas. I like the theme of the Aesir led by Odin changing with the times to stem the tide of Armageddon.

What are some ideas you guys have about establishing a Norse presence, keeping Ragnarok as a metaplot and theme and using all of this to move stories forward?

What could Fenris and Jorgumandr have planned?

This sparked some debate between Norwood and myself over several issues. I've pasted the conversation between us together as follows:

I found this rather interesting:

"Ragnarok . . . is destined to begin with an epidemic of bad behavior, followed by a three-year outbreak of strife, hatred, and war. Snorri Sturluson, the thirteenth-century politician who recounted this story, described this arduous period as an 'axe-age, a sword-age, a wind-age, a wolf-age,' during which brother will turn against brother, and incest and adultery will be widespread. Afterwards, Fimbulwinter, the ultimate global freeze, will descend upon the earth. For three years, snow, frost, and stinging winds will whip up unceasingly through the air as a prelude to the catastrophes that follow. Then a wolf will swallow the sun, another wolf will swallow the moon, the stars will drop from the sky, and the world tree, Yggdrasil, will be uprooted." ("The Friendly Guide to Mythology," Nancy Hathaway)

I'm not sure what that conjures up for you. For me it brings to mind a nuclear winter.

--------
The end of the last game had the first Black Ops group stopping MAD and I used nuclear winter as the sign of Ragnarok.

--------
The stars dropping reminds me of the wormwood references in Revelations. Also, the mention of Yggdrasil brings to mind the tree of life from Genesis and the flower of immortality from the Gilgamesh epics. Could this tree be a real tree? However, instead of being in the cold north you could place it in the Amazon rainforest. I recall reading once about a tree in Oregon, I think, that has the appearance of a forest. As the roots spread out they rise up as trunks such that the whole Forest is one freakin' huge root system. Perhaps, playing on some of the shamanistic things in Werewolf, Yggdrasil is a spiritual tree with trunks scattered throughout the globe. The agents of Fenris and such ilk are out to destroy these trees so that they can bring about Ragnarok.

--------
While I never liked the idea of Werewolf being a bunch of enviro-terrorism and tree hugging, this puts a slant on it that I love. It's a perfect example of the old ideas (save Mother Gaia) versus the new order (the World Tree is a key to Ragnarok). In the first game I ran some adventures in the Amazon Rainforest. I'd love to return, the seclusion allows for some large-scale battles and unusual enemies.

----------
As to Loki, the book continues with this to say about him:

". . . The trickster Loki, after eons in chains, will burst free and set sail in a ship made entirely from the fingernails of the dead. With the help of the Fire Giants, his daughter Hel, and all the dead souls from her domain, he will cross the Bifrost Bridge, where Heimdall, who can see for a hundred miles and has such acute hearing that he can hear wool grow, stands ready to blow his horn and signal the arrival of Ragnarok. He and Loki will fight; both will die in the encounter. The Bifrost Bridge will go up in flames and Asgard, the home of the gods, will be destroyed. The Fenrir Wolf will swallow Odin and be killed in turn by Odin's son, who will plant his foot on the wolf's jaw and tear it apart. Thor will slay the Midgard Serpent but will die himself, overcome by its venom. The one-handed god Tyr will attack the dog Garm, who guards the gates of the underworld. Both will die in the struggle. In the end, all the gods will die with the exception of the giant Surt, who will set all of creation aflame. Then the earth will sink into the sea, and the human race will perish."

I know you would like to avoid the bleak outcome of the nordic mythos, but it does go well with the bleakness of Werewolf as written by WW. Perhaps, rather than a chance to stop Ragnarok you could have the players delay it.

----------------
I don't want the PCs to save the world as much as avert Ragnarok. In fact, I want their victories to be bittersweet. How do you stop a god? How do you save the world when its primal forces believe it is doomed? These are some of the central questions behind a Norse based campaign, and also exist within the spirit of Werewolf: the Apocalypse.

Would they gather secret followers and cults, or have avatars, or influence the world through more subtle means?

The short answer I would offer is to go with secret followers and cults. Perhaps an avatar, but one which at least at first is reluctant (perhaps not powerful enough) to intercept the pcs themselves. I'd build up their adversaries as the players become more comfortable in the game world, with their own characters, and with working as a group. Maybe the PCs occasionally glimpse these avatars initially, but not in a way which allows the PCs to shortcut to the end of the campaign. Perhaps at first they don't even realize who they are dealing with. Also, with subtle means, I think you could link Pentex with these powers. That would allow you to run some more traditional W:ta adventures without having to be too hippy or Shamanesque.

------------
I agree avatars is a good approach, because it gives the players specific personalities to hate, and strive to defeat. I also want to use PENTEX because Greg has stated he wants a corporation to hate, and PENTEX is an excellent candidate, and already has so much material to use!

---------
(I could see one or so of the PCs being approached by these agents before they are knowledgeable about their own abilities. Much like the comic strip in the back of the W:ta book where the Black Spiral Dancers are after the kid.)

----------
I like the temptation angle, and hope to use it early in the game.

----------
As far as PC development, I see a storyline concerning Greg and Josh's PCs. Josh's Pumonca starts out with strong Native American ideals and background, then begins to understand the new order and how the old ways are dying. Greg's PC will be the trailblazer, the "evangelist" towards the new order, and will lead the pack in this direction, coming in conflict not only with PENTEX and the forces of Ragnarok, but probably even the traditional Garou.

------------------------------------
One other question I have is how you plan to run the gifts and umbra of W:ta? If I recall correctly you used technology in the previous Werewolf BlackOps game you ran to grant gifts to the PCs. Care to elaborate on this? Also, will there be moon bridges (a natural link with the Rainbow Bridge comes to mind), going umbral, etc.

-------------------------------------
In the original game, PCs learned gifts through virtual sims. Instead of true animal spirits, technology spirits mimicked the process and downloaded the "tricks" (gifts) to the PCs, and when they gained understanding, they could unlock the secrets of the tricks. I may need to revise this. Any thoughts on how to combine The Matrix with Werewolf?

Moon Bridges are also copied by using a skimmer. The skimmer is a transport that duplicates the speed of a moon bridge, but sends the vehicle directly through the Gauntlet. So, the vehicle travels between the Umbra and the "Real World", from point to point. There are stations across the world set up by the Black Ops group. I liked the updating of travel while harkening back to Moon Bridges. What do you guys think?

After this discussion, I started to really formulate a series of quests based on the party hunting down the roots of Yggdrasil. But it still left questions about how to resolve the search. If they find a tree-root, what the heck do they do with it? The answer to this question (from Grover) and some details on a BrainTrust tangent that developed as the folklore lovers discussed the differences between the Greek and Norse pantheons in the next article

- Et Al

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What do you think?

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