Werewolf: The Forsaken
is the second game line in the new World of Darkness, and the direct successor/reinterpretation of the original Werewolf: The Apocalypse
. In many ways the change in title encapsulates the differences between the two games. PCs do not face Doom with a capital D, but more personal dooms defined by an ancient crime which was both sin and responsibility, and by the very nature of one’s existence as a monster, leading to the subtitle, “A Storytelling Game of Savage Fury.”
THE BOOK: Werewolf: The Forsaken (WTF) is just as well-put together as the other new World of Darkness (nWoD) books, hardcover with a coppery color and finish, and a front piece based on a left-side view of a wolf’s skull. The interior art is of a very high standard, probably better than Vampire: The Requiem, and done in sepia tones. One of the tropes of the Werewolf: The Apocalypse (WtA) line was to present the introduction of each book as an EC-style comicbook story. The opening fiction, “Fresh Meat,” recalls that tradition without duplicating it; it’s not in comicbook format but the text is illustrated. The subject also displays a certain difference between the game lines: As in some of the old stories, a man gets bitten by a werewolf and suddenly becomes one himself. However, it turns out to not be that simple.
The Introduction goes over the basic premises of the game. As with WtA, the werewolves are pack animals and half-spirit beings charged with a guardianship of nature. The circumstances of that guardianship are not quite “Gaia’s Warriors vs. Pure Corruption,” though. And whereas werewolves in the old game could be born to either human or wolf and inherited their true nature upon puberty, the WTF characters are all born human and start to awaken to their true nature in early adulthood or later. Around this time other werewolves sense the “potential” and trigger him by having him bitten, and then stalked until he experiences his “First Change.” The lunar phase in which that First Change occurs also marks the new werewolf with an auspice, a lunar sign that defines his place in the pack.
This section also goes over which werewolf myths are real in the setting, gives a bibliography of media references, and finally gives a Lexicon of in-character terminology. For instance, the werewolves as a race are called “Uratha,” or just “the People.” This is also in keeping with the old game. The WtA game created a whole dictionary’s worth of terms for the werewolves and “Changing Breeds”, with a hodgepodge of Celtic, English, tribal American and completely made-up words, and WTF does the same thing by creating a whole new set of in-setting terms, with even more dubious etymology. I am not going to use most of those terms here. But as with the original Werewolf, the writers go to great lengths to make the “People’s” vocabulary large enough to almost qualify as a true language, much like Klingon, which considering the great similarity between werewolves and Klingons is only appropriate.
Chapter I: The World of the Forsaken tells of the origin of the werewolves and their role in the supernatural world. According to their myths, the world began as “Pangaea,” a hunter’s paradise where humans and spirits lived together and the realm was kept in order by the greatest of the hunters, a spirit named Father Wolf. He was loved by Luna the Moon, and she bore him children whose descendants would become the werewolf race, with Father Wolf siring offspring from several other mothers besides. However, these acts of creation depleted Father Wolf’s power, and as he became weaker, more spirit threats were allowed to operate unhindered. By the laws of the wild, a weak alpha has to be killed by his pack, but when the first pack turned on their father, three of the group refused to join the attack, either out of fear or regret. The spiritual shock of this act reverberated throughout the world, actually separating the physical world from the world of spirit.
So right here there is a certain moral shift: Werewolf: The Apocalypse was specifically designed around clear concepts of good and evil, with the former force of balance becoming the primary evil in the universe, which inspired the creation of the werewolves to fight it. In Forsaken, the death of "paradise" occurs at the hands of the heroes' ancestors, not out of malice but of necessity. In the words of the narrator, “We destroyed the greatest thing we ever had because it had to be done.”
After this tale, the book goes over the angst that new werewolves feel, largely due to their heightened senses and emotions. It describes in some detail the event of the First Change, in which a werewolf-to-be starts experiencing his new sensitivity to the spirit world in a variety of weird, non-causal events. At this point he is stalked by a werewolf pack (usually to make sure he isn’t hunted down by the enemies of the Uratha) and bitten, which brings on the final change. Once the new werewolf is brought into the fold, he has the choice to join one of five “Tribes of the Moon” loyal to the spirit wolves who slew Father Wolf. Like the new Vampire but unlike WtA, tribe membership is not a blood inheritance, but more of a “political” affiliation. It is possible for a given Uratha to run as a tribe-less “Ghost Wolf,” but this leaves him without several advantages compared to his peers, notably the lack of a tribal spirit patron.
The principal enemies of the Tribes of the Moon are actually fellow werewolves of the “Pure” faction, followers of the three spirit wolves that stood by during Father Wolf’s death and rationalize their inaction as loyalty. As opposed to the “Forsaken,” the Pure Tribes generally seek to restore the former condition of Pangaea, in which the spirits ruled the world of men. This also means that they have a wider variety of spirit allies. They do not, however, have the advantages of a lunar auspice, since they were not forgiven by Luna or do not consider themselves in need of forgiveness. The animosity of the spirits towards the Forsaken tribes stems from their self-appointed task to police the spirit world as Father Wolf did. As the spirit world and the material world tend to reflect each other, spirits who are allowed to run loose often corrupt the physical environment- likewise corruption or alteration of the physical world can change its spiritual nature or the type of spirits who prefer to live there. Each spirit has a ban based upon its nature, along with certain other restrictions (a tree-spirit may not be able to leave the vicinity of its tree, etc.). The mystics of the Uratha compile various bans and rules of the spirit world for use in either confronting or allying with various spirits. Many of these spirits escape the "Gauntlet" between worlds by finding a way to possess humans or other creatures. More bizarre versions of this concept are "Hosts" of vermin-spirits of rats and spiders, whose original essence splintered when hunted by Father Wolf, which means they have something of a collective mind when more and more of them get together. In the case of the larger Hosts, they can capture a human and suck out his flesh to leave a skin-disguise that the Host can use to walk around in the wider world.
After discussing such enemies, Chapter I then goes into more detail on the rules of werewolf culture, which naturally is both pack-oriented and shamanistic. In most cases, a pack will find its own spirit totem by hunting it and forcing it to serve- in fact, each of the Tribes of the Moon gained its status by forcing a pact with each of the elder wolf-spirits. The totem grants certain bonuses to each character or the group (as described in Chapter III) and in exchange, the pack agrees to serve the spirit's interests, which among other things means agreeing to recognize the spirit's ban and obey it themselves. This section also reviews the subject of breeding- as in the old game, werewolves mate with humans in order to reproduce, which increases the chance of the human parent producing a "wolf-blood" with werewolf affinity or even a future werewolf. However the Uratha parent's temperament and spirit duties make it extremely difficult to live a normal life or raise children. This also makes life difficult for those children, especially if they actually inherited the full werewolf bloodline and are destined to change. And as in the old game, it is forbidden for a male and female werewolf to mate- not because it produces an inbred "metis" but because it produces a freakish "Ghost Child" that lives in the spirit realm but cannot be affected by spirit rites. So again werewolves are not allowed to have sex, unless of course they're gay.
As both wolves and humans are territorial, the book also goes on at length about the advantages and responsibilities of territory. Here again the book starts to branch away from the WtA standard, not so much in content as in emphasis. The older game was an all-encompassing war against the "Wyrm" that was the source of all spiritual corruption, and was in one way or another involved in everything that threatened to destroy the planet itself. In Forsaken, the scale of conflict is more existential: Spirits need to be policed not because they're Evil, but because their goals clash with the rest of the world. The role of a werewolf pack in the spirit world is directly analogous to that of a wolfpack in nature which culls the herd and keeps it from overpopulating. Likewise the scale of the setting is brought to the level of the characters' natural environment, reinforcing their territoriality. Among other benefits, a given territory may have a locus (or loci) where the barrier between matter and spirit is weak, providing both access to the spirit realm and a source of Essence to replenish the characters' powers (see below). Of course, these loci are also the main spots where hostile spirits enter the world, so holding these spots is just as much a responsibility as a luxury. The discussion of territoriality leads to mention of two broader aspects of Uratha society- gatherings and the Oath. Gatherings are meetings between packs on neutral ground, and are only held when the cause is important enough to justify a pack leading its territory. Among other things, new werewolves are "initiated" and new packs are recognized. The Oath is the overall law of the Uratha, with tenets such as "The Low Honor the High, the High Respect the Low" and "Not to Walk on All Fours, That is the Law." This Oath is very important in story terms, and in game terms it forms the basis of the principle of Harmony, which is detailed in Chapter III.
Chapter II: Character gives the rules for creating a werewolf character. In the new WoD, characters are built on a basic template with the core rules, defining a character’s abilities pre-First Change. The book specifically says that “prelude characters” (whose origin and First Change is to be roleplayed at the start of the chronicle) ought to leave their auspice and tribe choices to be determined in the course of play. Next the “werewolf template” is added, allowing the ability to shift between five forms (the traits of which are described in Chapter III, although the character creation example goes over the process of marking the various changes to stats), the character’s Auspice, his tribe (or lack of one), his Renown (see below) and the werewolf-specific Traits of Primal-Urge, Harmony and Essence.
Primal-Urge is basically the character’s “mystic muscle” stat, determining several effects including the dice pool of several Gifts and one’s resistance roll against Gifts and other supernatural powers. At higher levels it also allows the character to spend more than 1 Essence a turn and allows the option of raising base (human) stats above 5 dots each. As with the new Vampire rules and Blood Potency, high Primal-Urge is not a totally good thing. First, the innate predatory vibe of werewolves tends to put people off, resulting in a Social roll penalty to everything but Intimidation. This starts at -1 and gets higher as Primal-Urge is bought up. Moreover, a werewolf with Primal-Urge of 6 or more is at least as much spirit as matter, and away from a locus, he begins to suffer “Essence bleed” until he falls unconscious. Essence is the werewolf’s “mystic juice” stat (if Primal-Urge is like Blood Potency, Essence is like Vitae). It is used to activate various Gifts, heal instantly or perform some other effects. A character starts with Essence rating equal to his Harmony, which starts at 7 unless the player takes the option to trade Harmony for Merit points. Harmony, described fully in Chapter III, is the werewolf code of Morality; the book says that the inhuman conditions of werewolf existence, including their part-spirit nature, make it necessary for them to live under a different moral code than humans. In some respects, the same argument could be made for vampires, which is why the Vampire: The Masquerade line established the option for “Paths of Enlightenment” that took the monster’s perspective into account. The Vampire: The Requiem line deliberately avoids this option, on the grounds that most players treated the concept as “Path of What I Was Going to do Anyway.”
Renown determines the werewolf’s status along one of five (I’m sensing a pattern here…) measures: Purity, Glory, Honor, Wisdom and Cunning. Each type is favored by both a particular Auspice and a tribe. A PC starts with 3 dots in Renown normally, with one dot of choice, one determined by auspice and one determined by tribe. A “Ghost Wolf” has no tribe and therefore only gets two dots (auspice and choice). If the character’s Auspice and tribe Renown are the same, he actually gets two dots in that score. This all leads to a fairly arcane and involved system for determining the PC’s eligibility for Gifts (supernatural powers). A new werewolf gets three dots in Gifts, which are likewise assigned as one Auspice, one Tribe Gift (or ‘open’ Gift for Ghost Wolves) and one Gift of choice. However, both here and after character creation, a character’s primary Renown is the ‘cap’ for Gift advancement, so that if a starting werewolf has only 1 dot in each of three Renown categories, he can’t buy a level Two Gift. If an experienced character has a primary Renown of 4, he can’t buy Gifts of higher than Level Four. At this stage, the character has the option to trade his ‘choice’ Gift for a single dot in the Rituals trait; this gives access to a level-one magic rite, and the character can get more such Rites with experience or Merit points, although obviously one has to buy the Rituals trait up to get higher-level Rites. The list of game-specific Merits in the book includes Wolf-Blooded (a 4-dot Merit for mortals who possess a minor werewolf ‘gene’), Fetish (a ‘magic item’ that is actually bound to a spirit) and Totem, a spirit patron that is bought with pooled points by the pack members in a process described in Chapter III. Given how central the concept of the totem is to the pack society, it is something that ought to be discussed amongst the group before play, with players planning to set aside at least one Merit point each.
The Auspice is essentially the character’s caste, determining his role in the pack. The Auspices are based on the phases of the moon: Full (warrior), Gibbous (bards and prophets), Half (judges), Crescent (mystics) and No Moons (scouts). These are basically as they were in WtA, but in White Wolf’s ongoing effort to purge its games of “fishmalk” silliness, the No Moon is much less practical joker than deceiver, whose skills and powers are specialized to throw off the enemy. One new aspect of the game is that one’s Auspice also determines the nature of the First Change, with a Crescent likely to be haunted by spirits and a Full Moon liable to kill anyone around him. In game terms, each Auspice gets its own exclusive Gift list, and each new PC gets a free Specialty point in one of three Auspice-favored Skills (the No Moon, for instance, can place that point in Larceny, Stealth or Subterfuge).
Then you get the typical "splat" list of five Tribes plus Ghost Wolves, with each given a lavish sample character illustration with a faded picture of that character's hybrid "war form" in the background (nice touch). The listed Tribes are the Blood Talons (militarists), Bone Shadows (death-oriented mystics), Hunters in Darkness (who preserve sacred places), the Iron Masters (who live in civilization) and the Storm Lords (who consider themselves leaders of the tribes). These are some pretty obvious, but not exact analogues to some of the major tribes in WtA. Each Tribe upholds its patron's spirit ban (for instance the Storm Lord ban is 'Allow No One To Witness Or Tend Your Weakness'). Each has a primary Renown Trait, a list of three favored Gift lists (sorta like Clan Disciplines in Vampire) and, of course, its own stereotypes about the humans and other supernaturals. There doesn't seem to be much benefit in being a Ghost Wolf other than not having to uphold a ban, and even that is more of a story element than a game rule. It should be noted though that not having a tribe doesn't mean a Ghost Wolf can't belong to a pack.
Finally Chapter II lists the Gifts and Rites of the werewolves: Gifts, as in the old game, are taught by spirits with an affinity for a certain Gift. This usually means that the character will be expected to roleplay the events by which the werewolf is allowed to earn his Gift. Or not. If a character raises a Renown trait at any point, he earns a free Gift at the same number of dots from his 'favored' lists; again, one has to have Renown at a certain level to get a Gift of that level. However, it's also possible to learn Gifts "out of sequence" - like getting a 3-dot Gift without getting the first two on the list- as long as he meets all the other qualifications and has the experience points. The dice pool for each Gift, as in the new Vampire, actually uses three Traits, in this case not only an Attribute and a Skill but the relevant Renown (and as in the core rules, not having the relevant Skill imposes penalties on the dice pool). There are also certain dice pool modifiers, like being under one's auspice moon or near a locus. Most Gifts also cost 1 Essence or Willpower point per use. The different number of Gift lists is substantially more varied than the Discipline lists in Vampire, and in some cases a lot more powerful; the highest-level Gifts can summon a pack of spirit-wolf followers, flood a town, or crank the user's Strength into double-digits for a turn.
Rites are self-explanatory- special rituals that call upon the spirits for a certain purpose which is usually more open-ended than a Gift power, and also take longer to invoke. The knowledge of Rites is a Trait bought up with XP like a favored Gift list and does not require a certain Renown rating. However the base dice pool for most Rites is the ritemaster's Harmony Trait, since Harmony reflects the character's affinity with the spirits. Each Rite also has its own ritual requirements and time to perform. Rites range from the one-dot Rite of Dedication (allowing one to attune one's clothes so that they don't just rip away when the character shapeshifts) to the five-dot Rending the Gauntlet (which allows an entire pack to cross the spirit barrier at any point in space, not just a locus).
Chapter III: Special Rules and Systems details miscellaneous rules that aren’t already in the core rulebook. First, combat: Werewolves automatically regenerate one box of bashing damage per turn and can spend 1 Essence to heal a box of lethal damage (although this precludes bashing healing; otherwise the character heals lethal as quickly as a mortal heals bashing). Aggravated damage (including wounds from silver) heals at the same rate that it does for mortals. It's noted that (as opposed to the old game) regeneration works in all forms, which is another thing that prevents a character from living a "secret ID" life among humans, given the risk that people will see how quickly the character heals if attacked. The werewolf's other main advantage is the ability to shift between human, wolf and three hybrid forms as an instant action (or reflexively by spending 1 Essence). Each of the non-human forms has its own modifiers to the base human stats (including Speed, Health and adjustments to each from other stats) along with penalties to Manipulation (or alternately an inability to use Social skills at all). The character sheet at the back summarizes all these modifiers in one place. The wolf form allows the advantages of heightened senses and quadruped mobility while the "Near-Human" or "Near-Wolf" forms are basically stronger versions of the base type. The full hybrid "Gauru" form stands over two feet over the base form, with the advantages of bipedal form plus the senses, speed and lethal attacks of the wolf, plus 1 point of Armor, AND the ability to ignore wound penalties until mortally wounded. However the designers "nerfed" the man-wolf form somewhat: Given that it's the "war form" optimized for combat, it requires channeling a berserk fury that requires the character to spend most of his actions looking for something to attack. He fails most Mental and Social tasks, and can only use reflexive Gifts that aid in combat. Further, he can only maintain this form for a number of turns equal to (human) Stamina + Primal-Urge, and of course when he shifts back to human form, he loses the extra Health, which may cause deep injury if he hasn't healed any wounds taken in combat. Still, this ruling makes sense, given that the man-wolf form is so combat-efficient, a lot of WtA characters spent most of their time in it. Yet another hazard of werewolf life and the Gauru form is the threat of Kuruth, or "Death Rage," where the character has to resist provocation to avoid flipping into Gauru form (even if he's already used it in the scene) and attacking both friend and foe. This leads naturally into a discussion of Lunacy, in which mortals who witness werewolves in their hybrid forms suffer a type of hysterical amnesia depending on how high their Willpower is. (This used to be called 'The Delirium' in WtA but is here given a more appropriate and less highfalutin title.)
After a brief discussion of werewolf senses (including rules for tracking by scent) the chapter goes into the concept of Harmony, which parallels Morality but uses a completely different scale of sins, each of which is explained in detail; for instance a werewolf of Harmony 10 has to roll for not shapeshifting for over three days (because that denies one's animal side) while a werewolf of Harmony 6 or more would have to roll for mating with another Uratha OR killing a human without cause.
High Harmony werewolves receive bonuses to Social rolls against spirits. In addition to risking derangement like another character who loses Morality, a werewolf who loses Harmony starts to lose the balance between his matter and spirit. At lower levels of Harmony he develops a spirit ban that manifests as increasingly bizarre and compulsive behavior. It is also much easier to provoke him into Death Rage.
Then Chapter III discusses pack totems, which offer a lot of advantages to a PC group, not to mention a lot of story elements. As mentioned above, the Totem Background is a "pooled" background bought with Merit points set aside by the PCs. Experience points can be spent later to improve the Totem. When spending points a balance should be struck between granting pack benefits through the totem spirit and making the spirit more powerful and capable of defending itself (because if the Totem is destroyed, all its benefits go away). A Totem can grant three types of bonuses: Pack traits that can be used by only one pack mate at a time, given traits that permanently add to all pack members or story benefits that can be used a limited number of times per story. A spirit also has a ban that the pack must follow as a mark of trust; for instance a River-spirit might demand that the pack protect the flow of any rivers. The book says that the severity of a ban may or may not subtract from a Totem's cost, depending on how severe it is. Generally speaking, the more power a Totem grants to its pack, the more severe the ban, and giving "Disadvantage Points" is justified mainly if the ban greatly outstrips the power granted by the Totem.
Chapter III also goes over the definitions of each Renown trait (what it is, how it is earned in roleplaying terms, etc.) and the concept of the lodge, which is a sort of "guild" or uber-pack within a tribe, membership in which grants its own benefits, similar to those of a Totem (given that each lodge has its own Totem). The chapter ends with a list of sample fetishes, including "klaives" which were introduced in WtA as fancy silver war blades for werewolves despite the fact that real silver is usually too soft to forge into a decent weapon. At least the samples given here aren't actually made of silver, given that wearing a silver weapon in WTF is a sin against Harmony.
Chapter IV: Storytelling and Antagonists is the "GM's advice" chapter. It is noted early on that the classic werewolf story is an example of "internal horror" in which a normal person struggles against his transformation into a monster. In this game the real internal horror is that the transformation is only the beginning of the character's new life. This chapter stresses several aspects of the werewolf viewpoint, among them the fact that werewolves, like true canines, perceive things much more through scent than sight, their access to the spirit world, and the "savage fury" that undermines their relations with others. The pack nature of werewolves is discussed, including the need for a leader or "alpha" among the group. Given that each auspice has its own strengths, this section discusses how the Storyteller can design an encounter around challenges that a particular auspice can deal with, allowing a PC of that auspice to take the leader role for that mission. The pack's territory is a major factor in the game, with werewolf territoriality meaning that a Werewolf game is usually just as rooted in one area as a Vampire game, even if werewolves have fewer restrictions on their travel. This leads to discussions of the supporting cast, such as other Uratha packs, local spirits and especially humans, who can impact the territory without even living in it, especially if the land is owned by an unethical corporation. This emphasis on territory also increases the horror factor of the game, as the PCs are invested in protecting their territory and the people they come to know. Physical and spiritual threats can reinforce each other; for instance serial killings in an area create their own malign presence in the spirit world, and that spiritual resonance must be dealt with even after the actual murderer is dealt with. Moreover, a werewolf's own nature makes her a potential threat to loved ones, either due to her losing control or due them being targeted by enemies.
Storyteller advice also includes the setup of the campaign. One bit of advice is to start with introductory stories that give a feel for what players actually want in a game- the book advises emphasizing territory and supporting cast over plot because it is easier to adapt the former than the latter. Another bit of advice is to balance between planning and flexibility by taking down notes of certain details like description of the pack territory so that there isn't a discrepancy that players may notice later. The book discusses how to expand the scope of the campaign, which in Werewolf usually means expanding the pack territory or making a "road trip" to accomplish a certain goal away from home. There is a list of sample antagonists, including a Wolf-Blooded human who has experience in hunting Uratha, experienced Pure leaders, a few examples of Rat and Spider hosts, and a serial killer/cannibal who is "Ridden" by a Hunger spirit. Finally, there's a brief table of how to increase Traits with XP, and a discussion of how the Storyteller should award experience points.
Appendix I: The Spirit World is fairly large for an appendix, given the importance of the subject to the Werewolf setting. It starts logically enough with the mechanics for getting into and out of the spirit dimension (aka the Shadow, or Hisil). Barring that Rending the Gauntlet rite, a character normally needs to use a locus to breach the barrier using Intelligence + Presence + Primal-Urge; in the old game you could do it with any reflective surface, and while a reflector does reduce the difficulty, it's not enough in this setting. It's also allowed for one character to be the "pathfinder" who uses his rolls to bring the whole pack across. Once the characters reach the Shadow, the landscape is a subtly changed version of the normal world, based on the laws of spirit. One point that's made is that things with a certain resonance, like an old church or athletic stadium, can continue to exist in the Shadow even after the original has been torn down in the physical world and replaced with tract buildings. It's mentioned several times that the Hisil is the "memory" of the world in this respect. The Shadow contains spirits of emotion, abstract concepts and other human influences, but no actual humans or spirits of sentient beings, even ancestor-spirits or ghosts (which are tied to the material world). It has "Glades" of positive energy and peace and spiritual "Barrens" with little or no Essence. It also has "shoals" of negative energy and depression and "Wounds" of atrocity, and the spirit lords of the Wounds bear a fairly strong resemblance to the Wyrm hierarchy of WtA (they're still called 'Maeljin,' for one thing).
This Appendix discusses the game effects of a locus; in addition to allowing the transit of werewolves or spirits, a locus site allows spirits to heal more quickly and generates Essence points per day equal to 3x the locus rating in dots. However truly powerful loci are usually in obscure places far from civilization, otherwise sites of great power are quickly exploited by mages, spirits or other forces for the Essence. A pack that owns the locus can use that Essence itself or allow it to "pool" to a capacity of 10x its rank in Essence points. Excess points can cause the locus to rise in dot-rating, but a given locus is usually drained by hungry local spirits. It is possible to change the resonance of a place, for instance purging the death and despair resonances of a murder site, but that requires not only changing the physical landscape but taking deliberate steps to counter the old resonance or create a new one, for instance by sponsoring concerts or other goodwill events. The book accurately refers to such efforts as "extended (acts) of social and physical engineering". Such efforts also include making pacts with the local spirits. However, after all this the pack can use an extended rite to reshape the spirit landscape, and dedicated lands can offer a one-point benefit based on their new resonance. The example given is how a territory dedicated to "endurance" allows +1 die to a roll involving Stamina once per day.
Then the Appendix details the game rules on the spirits themselves. They are described as "shackled by drives more powerful than any animal's instinct yet with the possibility to become inhuman gods." A spirit can assume more than one aspect over time; a weapon used by a serial killer may become a more powerful spirit with tendencies of Fear or Murder in addition to the common traits of its original type. It's also mentioned that spirits prey on each other in the same way that animals in the wild do, and the quickest way for a spirit to gain power is to consume lesser spirits of its type. The more powerful a spirit is, the more of an idealized thing it becomes. The problem for the world and for werewolves is that a spirit that gains self-awareness seeks to preserve or propagate itself by any means necessary, such that even a spirit of Joy could gravitate to and encourage drug use, which will in turn cause it to become corrupted as users become addicted and burn out.
In game terms, the spirits are given the same ranks as in the old game, with minor spirits being called "Gafflings," greater spirits "Jagglings" and god-level beings like Luna being referred to as "Incarnae" or "Celestines". Werewolves organize spirits of a given type into "Choirs" and sub-categories as "descants" (e.g. 'the Car Descant of the Vehicle Choir'). Spirit courts are usually very possessive of their privileges and very political. As such, they do not trust each other, much less the Uratha, which is why a werewolf who needs to pact with a spirit (to learn a Gift or for some other purpose) needs to practice chiminage. Given that spirits require Essence for survival, such chiminage usually means either a direct gift of Essence points or some act that will promote the spirit's influence and thus increase its Essence indirectly. Page 273 gives some examples of what gifts a spirit requires for certain services.
Spirits are written with only three Traits: Power, Finesse and Resistance (recall that in the core game, Attributes are grouped into Physical, Mental or Social stats according to their function; for spirits, "Power" is used for Strength in physical actions, Charisma in Social areas, and so on). A spirit has a Size rating and a Corpus (health) rating equal to its Resistance + Size. Size is usually a measure of spirit rank, but not always. A spirit also has at least one dot in its appropriate Influence; the more dots it has, the more it can do with that Influence, up to controlling or creating examples of its Influence. A spirit has Essence points depending on its Rank in the hierarchy, and uses Essence to use Influence and some other powers. Spirits can fight normally in the Shadow, of course, using Power + Finesse as a dice pool.
Each spirit has its own powers (Numina) in addition to their Influence powers. Some spirits can anchor themselves to the material world by using the "Fetter" Numina to link to an inanimate object; others can use "Living Fetter" to do the same with an organic being. This leads finally to discussion of the Spirit-Ridden, who are usually associated with a spirit that's just "passing through" and using the character as an anchor. In other cases, a spirit may feel resonance with a particular sort of person (like a Dog spirit who bonds with a dog-lover) and the link causes the character to merge with the spirit both physically and mentally, gaining the spirit's Traits and some powers but losing his humanity. There are also "Spirit Thieves" who jack a body out of desperation without being able to access its own powers. The Ridden in this case is still driven out of his human life by the spirit's needs but has none of its abilities.
Appendix II: The Rockies presents a setting for the game. In the Colorado area, the local werewolves were generally able to handle themselves against vampires and the like but in the late 1970s, a primal Cthuhlu-type spirit named Gurdilag infested the spirit landscape and devastated all opposition until a visionary Iron Master, Max Roman, quested to discover the creature's spirit ban. After he sponsored a great gathering of packs, they managed to destroy Gurdilag and its agents but were then left with the task of cleaning up in the aftermath. The power vacuum left by the creature's war on werewolves creates great opportunity for new packs to find their own territories, but Roman's continuing vision of cross-tribal unity is opposed by the Storm Lord Rachel Snow, who feels (perhaps correctly) that the Uratha only keep strength through competition. The designers state that along with the theme of opportunity "is a theme central to Werewolf itself: consequence and responsibility."
Whereas I considered Vampire: The Requiem to be just “old blood in a new vessel,” I was more impressed by Werewolf: The Forsaken, which is actually more true to the wolfpack-in-human-skins concept than Apocalypse, which was much more overtly political and environmentalist and suffered for it. As opposed to “Captain Planet with fangs,” Forsaken comes off a lot more like High Noon; the characters have to do needed work and are hated for it, but they uphold their responsibilities because it would be against their nature to do otherwise. Compared to Werewolf: The Apocalypse, this is a much more existential approach, and I find it much more to my liking. The other themes- spirituality, protection of the environment, the struggle of dealing with life as a werewolf- are inherent to the premise of the game, and Werewolf: The Forsaken takes a genuinely new approach to them, making this a game that can appeal to both old fans and those who were never interested in the old game or old World of Darkness.
A well-put-together product that does a great job of portraying the werewolf viewpoint.
Werewolf: The Forsaken builds on the original Werewolf and creates a more credible and compelling setting.