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WHAT I LEARNED FROM RAGE ACROSS NEW YORK

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  • WHAT I LEARNED FROM RAGE ACROSS NEW YORK

    Early sourcebooks for the World of Darkness loom far in the memory of each game line because those settings were often the first experience many players had with that game. The very earliest setting books were also instructive in teaching players “this is how the game is supposed to be run.” At least they were for me. There are all sorts of things that become obvious through play in these settings which were not described in the corebooks or storyteller guides.

    Rage Across New York is one of those important early sourcebooks. The NPCs in the setting became very important in the overall metaplot of Werewolf (something which did not happen to Chicago By Night's characters), and by an unscientific survey from various online games, the New York setting is far more popular than other early settings like Amazon or Australia.

    So what do we learn about how the game should be played? (Or at least what did I learn?)

    The following posts will summarize parts of Rage Across New York as well as related materials such as the corebooks and Rite of Passage which reveal more information. I'll comment on the actual material itself as well as what it taught me as the general principles of what makes up a werewolf chronicle and how to run a game. Some of this will simply be my opinion about the sourcebook in question. But more importantly are the general lessons of how to run a game, as well as things in the specific setting that may not have been clear to me in the beginning, or which now contrast with how the game developed later on.

  • #2
    One of the interesting things is that straight off the bat, the book tells you that the core of the setting is New York state outside New York City. When I first picked up the book, I was surprised by this as I assumed the core setting would be the city itself especially since the Sept of the Green was detailed in the first edition corebook. It turns out that New York City itself is the equivalent of Gary in Vampire – it's where the PCs start out, but it's not meant for them to remain there.

    So the geographic area in a Werewolf chronicle is much larger than Vampire. Furthermore, the focus will be much more on the rural and wilderness areas of course.

    This is biting off quite a lot. It's one thing to describe New York City itself, but to do so as well as do it for Upstate New York and the smaller cities found there is a big task. We'll see how well they pulled it off as we continue.

    Comment


    • #3
      1. History

      The History section spends a lot of time in pre-colonial New York, which is actually general North American Indian industry since few specifics about the local Indian nations are actually given. There are nine pages of history. Three are pre-European contact, and another five discuss the colonial era before the American War for Independence. This would seem to indicate that a major theme of the book would be the struggle between the New World and Old World tribes, but that is not what happens.

      Furthermore, despite various details of the history, little of it is actually relevant to the actual setting. The backstory introduces the Seventh Generation cult, but its activities are generic bad guy stuff that doesn't lead to any kind of real legacy that informs the setting like the struggle between Menele and Helena does in Chicago By Night. We'll find out they're just very cartoonish bad guys whose most salient feature really has nothing to do with their war against the Pure Ones mentioned in this section.

      Garou Tribes get name dropped here and there, but again nothing that establishes any kind of clues or legacies. When exactly some of the Old World tribes arrived and seized caerns aren't mentioned even though this would seem to be rather important history. Instead we get an entire section of multiple paragraphs covering a third of a page which basically says “One tactic the Wyrm's minions used was to sell alcohol to Indians which allowed them to become Bane possessed.” There's over two pages where any attempt to narrate a history stops and we gets overextended descriptions of various problems that have affected the Indians which would be better with shorter word count and placed after the Indians were driven off their lands (the text never explains when and how the Iroquois actually lost their lands which seems to be a big omission).

      The book suffers from a Dances With Wolves interpretation of history with good guy Indians and very bad Europeans (which was not unusual for the era when the book was written since the movie had just come out). It is a false history though which doesn't mention the shady dealings the Indians did amongst themselves, like the Iroquois wars against the Huron and others. The idea that the Indians had their own agendas and would exploit the various European powers in their own wars for dominance is completely absent.

      This is often a problem for World of Darkness history sections. They tend to speak in very generic terms, but their actual references rarely tie things together for a modern day campaign using the NPCs, organizations, and events described later on in the book. So while it gives some flavor, there is little relevance to the game. Nine pages that don't need to be referenced to run a game in this setting is a wasted nine pages.

      Additional history relevant to specific tribes and protectorates are given later in the book, and I feel that the information there would have been better included here to improve the narrative. If a reader wanted to learn the history of the setting, he shouldn't have to look all over the sourcebook to find the relevant information.

      It's mentioned the Seventh Generation – an ancient secret society – was invited by generic Wyrm agents to stop the Iroquois (this despite the fact that the Iroquois would become important allies for the British colonies against the Huron and their French allies, but never mind that). The cunning plan of the Seventh Generation to do this was to offer bounties for Indian scalps and to start accusing women in New England of being witches because the Seventh Generation just hates women. The cult is then never mentioned again, as the narrative only talks about generic Wyrm agents and Wyrm minions.

      This is a huge lost opportunity. These nine pages might have well been completely removed as they have almost no relevance to the rest of the book. It would have been much better to have used the space here to set up background to Werewolf politics and plotlines that the PCs would be coming across in their game. When I write my own chronicle history in preparation for the game, I try to remember this. I concentrate on creating a history that informs and has relevance to the situation the PCs arrive in as opposed to trivia which has no connection. So I guess this is a negative lesson learned.

      Comment


      • #4
        2. Geography
        The next section is a lot better. It describes how the Garou divide land into Protectorates based around natural formations and how water (in the form of lakes and rivers) are the most common borders. Cities, being scabs, are not considered part of the Protectorates, and often these fall between the boundaries of Protectorates as the Garou don't want to be responsible for them. It then tells us what caerns are located in each protectorate.

        This is excellent stuff and the protectorates are well described. We see that some Protectorates don't even have caerns (like the Catskills, but Garou live there anyway). We also know that the Sept of the Green, despite having a caern, actually doesn't have a protectorate (although this would be New York City itself and Long Island) as the other Garou refuse to honor it as such. We can imagine at one point in time there was a Long Island Protectorate before the Europeans arrived, but this is never mentioned.

        This is probably the single best thing I learned from this sourcebook, and my Werewolf games make extensive use of Protectorates as political units among the Garou, or at least as geographical descriptors.

        The only thing I would have liked to seen is a Protectorate having more than one caern so we completely divide the concept of Protectorate and sept. In practice, I notice that many online campaigns give the Silver Fangs their own separate caern in Vermont which would make the North Country Protectorate (which includes Vermont) an example of one which has multiple caerns.

        This section taught me several things when I first read it. The first is that unlike in vampire, there is not one “domain” where the action takes place in a Werewolf chronicle. Instead, a “proper” setting includes multiple caerns of various levels, multiple septs, and multiple protectorates. This is huge as the dynamic of a game is very different when there are multiple political organizations involved.

        Even better, the book shows us a map of New York with a general outline of each Protectorate and any caerns. This is something simple, but it is missing in almost every other Werewolf setting book. In my opinion, such maps are essential. A good map taking up half a page would have been invaluable in the other Rage books.

        One thing I would have liked to seen is a description of how Garou in the Catskills Protectorate (which has no caern) organize and decide things. Does each pack do their own thing? Are there general meetings between packs or pack leaders to figure out general policy? Where do they go to get renown recognized and go up a rank level if they have no sept? Do they technically belong to a sept at another protectorate? This should have been addressed.

        Since Garou really need to belong to a sept, or at least be allowed regular access to a caern, my own solution was for the Garou of the Catskills Protectorate to join the large sept located at the Finger Lakes which has a level 5 caern. Of course, there is also the possibility that packs travel to the Sept of the Green in New York City when needed as to learn Gifts and use moon bridges. While it is a caern of fellowship and would welcome them, I would think most Garou would prefer a non-urban caern though.

        We also get a description of New York City with a full page map showing us locations of oil spills, landfills, toxic waste sites, recycling centers, parks, wetlands, and sewage treatment sites. We then get another page which describes banes that would live at each of the polluted sites. There is a missed opportunity here. The map is potentially useful, but there is nothing that indicates how this is supposed to be used in game. Are these places used to test new Garou as the Sept tells them to scout out the areas and kill banes there? Are they mostly avoided by the Garou? We get some indication that these should be strongholds of the Wyrm that the Sept of the Green continually fights a losing battle against, winning some and losing some, but it's not developed enough that it should be. This seems like a section that was once much bigger and more important, but was cut in size so other material could be included.

        I would have liked to have seen some kind of Penumbral map which showed where various umbral Domains were – the Webs, Hellholes, Blights, and even Glens in the city. Plus some description of important individual spirits there. The translation of the Penumbra into the local setting was probably the one thing I had the most difficult time with, and this book didn't really help me with that.

        It also would have been good to include some language describing the other large cities in New York, even though they would not have Garou. Not only Buffalo, but Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany. They are important economic areas and would have some kind of Wyrm minions. Likewise there are little details on actual Indian reservations in the state although this would be important to know in regards to Uktena and Wendigo – although admittedly this would likely have been difficult to research at the time since the authors would be reliant on their local public library and not have internet research available to them. So while understandable, it is still a failing.

        This chapter had the biggest impact on me in terms of chronicle creation. I establish protectorates and have multiple caerns and septs available, or create political tension between the various septs. However, I don't see this much in other games where usually the chronicle is based on one big sept, and other septs in the area are given short shrift so it seems that many (most?) did not learn the same lesson as I did.

        Comment


        • #5
          3. Power Groups and Characters
          Next are NPCs, both Garou and others. This is a huge section of the book, and there will be many posts about it. There are some very interesting Garou NPCs here covering all levels of ranks. We get Rank 1s and 2s as well as 3s, 4s, and 5s. This is very good as it gives all sorts of NPCs the PCs may run into – peers as well as leaders. This is another highlight of the book, but there are a lot of things that need to be teased out of the descriptions here.

          There are some general points I'd like to bring up before we get to the individual NPCs.

          If we go by the NPC descriptions here, we have a pattern for how many fetishes are owned by Garou of each rank. On average, rank 1 and 2 Garou have less then one fetish. This tells us that elder Garou very rarely allow Garou of these ranks to keep them. The corebook tells us this, but the setting actually supports this. (This isn't always true of certain things in World of Darkness, and many of us can point things out in each gameline where corebook description and actual settings or game play turn out very different.) If you are a low ranked Garou you must either have an uninteresting fetish others don't want, keep it secret, or really be a badass so you can hold onto it. At rank 3 and above, Garou tend to own a number of fetishes equivalent to twice the sum of their level (An average rank 5 Garou owns between 8-10 total level of fetishes – this could be two rank 5 fetishes, ten ranks 1s, or anything inbetween). This is average only. There are lots of examples of Rank 4s and 5s that do not have any fetishes, and other members with far more. But in general, this is a good guideline which I use in my own games.

          The general population of each Garou tribe is ridiculously high. There are over 350 Garou if you include the Ottawa Wendigo. This puts average sept/protectorate population around 50-60. This comes to around one Garou for every 50,000 people in the state which makes Garou more prevalent than vampires. I've done the math though, and most other early sourcebooks keep this same general ratio to the human population so it could have been intentional. This is way too many, and it is something the gameline will eventually get away from and reduce their numbers. If we go by the suggested number of Garou per caern level listed in future products and add in the Ottawa Wendigo and a small caern for the Silver Fang king, there should be perhaps 100-150 for the caerns indicated which is still very high given the human population and lack of wolves. (If we go by a ratio of 1 Garou for every 500,000 people, the Garou population of New York for the time “should” be only 36 Garou – one-third or one-fifth of even the lower number based on caern ratings. I've only ever used that ratio as a general overall number, not a strict guideline for any one region.)

          Assuming STs want a more reasonable number of Garou than those listed in the books, there will still be more Garou than “should” be supported. This does not need much to justify this, but some effort should be made. Personally I think 100-150 Garou is a much more manageable number than 350. Simply from an ST perspective, I think 350 Garou is way too much to effectively handle even if most of them are never given names, much less stats.

          Even at the time the sorucebook was first published, the number of Garou in the region seemed ridiculously high. As a result, I completely ignore them and come up with whatever I want. Over the years I've become increasingly more conservative in my Garou population in my games, and I've thought harder about issues like rates of mortality and their replacement rate so I can stabilize the Garou population over time while keeping a very slight trend towards reduced population than only becomes apparent over a long time. But that process began with my first reading.

          Next will be comments on some individual characters.

          Comment


          • #6
            There are a very good number of anatagonist Garou included.
            • There is a Bone Gnawer who is organizing other Garou in NYC to be man-eaters. This is actually known to the tribe although we're told the tribal elders have sworn to take a hardline against him if he continues to voice this openly. This is just a great plot point and potentially could become a major element of a chronicle. Because this guy is rank one, it would be easy for the ST to have the PCs meet this unassuming Garou, then the PCs forget about him, and the ST can then start building a pack for this guy that grows in power until the PCs finally intervene.
            • There is a renegade Get of Fenris pack in New York City that is essentially the Swords of Heimdall camp. While they spark racial violence, the metis leader is said to hate all homids, elder Garou, women, and his own tribe. He's just filled with self-hatred and takes it out on everyone. He also has secret shameful ties to some important members of his tribe since he's metis. They seem to just be there to wreck stuff up. A good group to distract the PCs to the real threats of the chronicle as they are obvious foes, but actually of little importance. That is brilliant. They're a red herring to distract the PCs.
            • There is infighting among the Glass Walkers of NYC to control the tribe, and one member is so ambitious that his heart is being influenced by the Wyrm. Unfortunately, this is all generic stuff like the vague way the Emperor tried to corrupt Luke Skywalker. No actual description of how he could or would willingly (or unknowingly) ally himself with the Seventh Generation is given. There seems to be an assumption if he turns evil, then that's just what he would do which is ridiculous. But the division within the tribe creates a lot of good conflict and complications.
            • The Red Talons actively seek to kill Wyrm-tainted children. Now that would seem to indicate an amount of moderation among the tribe, but we'll learn later on this is a euphemism for children who have been sexually molested by the Seventh Generation Wyrm cult. Their leader, Slashes-the-Heart-of-the-Wyrm, also believes a tribal war is inevitable and thus is using politics to keep the various tribes in anger against each other. Good use of politics by a tribe usually depicted as naive and ignorant although this isn't a very good plan. However, given other tensions in New York, Slashes could probably inflame the situation severely.
            • Then of course there is the insane Silver Fang king of House Wyrmfoe. He actually doesn't have an evil plan, or any kind of master plan. His metanarrative purpose is just to prevent any other local Silver Fangs from providing effective leadership overall in the tribe. Another good complication.
            • There is a lupus Uktena (Clubfoot Razorback) who wants a war between the Pure Ones and the other tribes, and is one faction leader in a typical three sided dispute between fanatics, accomodationists, and moderates between the two.
            • The above lupus has a potential ally in the Rank 6 Wendigo lupus leader of the tribe in Ottawa (Cries-In-the-Wind) who hates the “invader homids” and doesn't even like the Red Talons. At the same time, that Wendigo does not seek outright war and is working to advance First Nation rights within Canada. But wow, a Legendary Wendigo. This character should be far more important to any New York chronicle than the sourcebook indicates. He should be a looming presence within the New York setting.
            Now these are simply the NPCs who are outright anatagonists. It does not include NPCs of dubious morality; like the multiple Garou allied with the vampires in New York, hardline Black Furies, or the Hamlet-like Get of Fenris jarl who is paralyzed with indecision and therefore making his tribe and sept weak. These Garou exist as complicating factors for PCs attempting to fix things; but they are nonetheless generally fighting on the right side.

            In other words, this seems very different than later interpretations of Garou where outright villainous Garou are downplayed or simply removed from the setting, and the authors promote obviously heroic NPCs. I like this version in RANY a lot better.

            Another observation is that the two NPCs fighting for control of the Glass Walkers in New York City are only rank 2 and rank 3. We are told both are “assisted” by additional Garou, and the rank 2's description mentions he receives “perfect advice” from another. This indicates that the real power in the tribe are actually these other characters, and that they are only using Kleon Winston and Harold Hunt to rule in their place. Presumably there must be reasons why these elder Garou do not claim the spot themselves. It would have been better if this was developed more.

            Another thing that is noticeable is that on the edges of the setting there are three very powerful lupus ahroun Garou who hold a warlike agenda and are the leader or potential leaders of three tribes – Uktena, Wendigo, and Red Talons. Although they have different goals and prejudices, the three could come together. An alliance between Razorback and Cries is obvious, while Slashes seems enough of a politician that he would support them simply to get the tribes fighting each other. The only problem is the odd assertion in the Wendigo write up that creates Wendigo anger or dislike against these two tribes. This seems like something added at the last minute to thwart the obvious alliance between these three. But I think there is a very real chance that this lupus alliance could happen and lead them to attack the other tribes should an earlier intertribal fight break out. Thus the ST controls whether or not this happens.

            Also, we don't get enough descriptions of the Glass Walker especially given their number in the city (40 in NYC and 12 elsewhere in New York). We just have two NPCs. Given that NYC is the financial capital of the world, a major center of the arts and media, the source of a huge organized crime network, lots of street gangs, one of the largest ports in North America, and many other things, it would have been nice to see various concepts for the tribe here.

            I think charts of septs and packs similar to Vampire's coterie charts would have been a big help somewhere in this section. There is a LOT of politics going on, and such charts would have summarized things nicely and clarify certain things some readers might miss.

            Comment


            • #7
              In the same chapter we get a description of caerns. We have one rank 1 caern, two rank 3 caerns, and one rank 5 caern. The sourcebook is teaching us that a chronicle's setting should have caerns of multiple levels - although I am greatly surprised there is a rank 5 caern in the setting. Based on the corebook, I'd imagine such caerns to be extremely rare and the Sept of the Hand of Gaia, while a very interesting background, does not really seem to justify such a powerful caern. However, it does provide a sept for many other Garou who do not have a caern of their own (The level one caern obviously cannot support many Garou, one protectorate has no caern at all, and the other rural caern is completely controlled by the Get of Fenris who minimize access to it – the Shadow Lords of that protectorate don't even seem to be sept members). So this would imply that the Sept of the Hand of Gaia is THE most important sept in the book. Unless you're running a purely urban chronicle at the Sept of the Green, the Hand of Gaia is likely going to be the home for the PCs. And of course the PCs need a place to eventually learn Rank 5 gifts so a local level 5 caern makes sense from that perspective.

              While tribal structure is given, populations at each sept are not. This is a big flaw although based on Protectorate and Caern descriptions plus the Tribal NPC sections, this can be worked out. The tribes section gives some indication though. NYC alone has 49 Bone Gnawers, 40 Glass Walkers, maybe five Fianna, seven Get of Fenris in a racist skinhead pack, a few Shadow Lords, one Stargazer, and a few others detailed in the corebook not mentioned here (the Red Talon Spotlight plus another Stargazer, Howard Koar). This is well over a hundred Garou in the city, more than five times what would be expected based on its caern size (as determined by guidelines in future sourcebooks). Sept of the White Water has 20 Fianna and almost 36 Uktena – a lot for a rank one caern (which later books will say on average has up to 10 Garou). The Hand of Gaia sept has 17 Black Furies and 26 Children of Gaia although the other tribes must have representation here - most Garou not specifically mentioned to be elsewhere are likely to be based here.

              The numbers here are generally whacked, and I can't imagine anyone playing at the time (1993) actually including anywhere near this number of Garou. What ST would want to plan for all these extra Garou! The sept populations based on caern ranking is only a guideline, not a law, so I don't mind ignoring it. The Sept of the Green can be completely overpopulated for a variety of reasons, but it strains to have 56 Garou at a rank one caern. I think most STs will seek to rationalize and reduce these numbers.

              Given the importance of the Canadian Wendigo and Red Talon, it is unfortunate that their Protectorate(s) and caern(s) are not included in the sourcebook even though it is technically not part of New York. At least give us some names and descriptions!

              I think this would have fit better in the Geography section - it's only one page worth of written material. It also leaves each of the septs rather poorly detailed. A lot more information could have been given about them along the lines of what we were told about the Sept of the Green in the corebook, even if its a lot less detailed. As is, the ST needs to completely fill in three whole septs plus possibly additional septs in Canada and Vermont for the setting to work. This is a lot for one ST to do especially since the first setting sourcebook for Werewolf is teaching the first generation of players of what the game is like.

              So this is a very flawed section given its importance. It's not that what is presented is bad, just massively incomplete.

              Comment


              • #8
                Next is a description of the Defiler Wyrm and the main antagonists of the sourcebook, the Seventh Generation cult. This is where the book completely falls flat. This is basically a group of occult pedophiles and we get 18 pages describing the cult, its various castes, and some example NPCs. NYC is the head of this worldwide Wyrm cult network of child molesters.

                I have no idea what the hell the writers were thinking. While this obviously marks the Seventh Generation as despicably bad and evil, I can't imagine many players wanting to roleplay through this. It is just too much. Furthermore, this cult's main theme doesn't have much to do with the setting we've been presented with – industrial pollution in the corebook and the plight of Indians in this book's history section. This should be a minor antagonist at best in terms of theme. This is the only thing the authors could come up when deciding what kind of Wyrm threat exists in New York City (and to be honest, the entire state)?

                For some reason the writers decided to tie this cult of child molesters directly with right wing politics. It seems almost any platform position of the Republican Party in the early nineties is only a cover for child molestation and murder. There is an entire sidebar devoted to this. This is simply idiotic.

                New York state and New York City were not exactly a hotbed of conservative politics. Even those successful Republicans in the state have been firmly on the moderate or liberal side of the party. Conservatives had very little power and influence in New York, so it is amazing they were put there as the hidden power causing everything to go wrong. Such a group might make an appropriate villain in a setting where conservatives actually wielded real power and influence so the Seventh Generation could hide behind the scenes and cause secret corruption, but it is ridiculous for them to be in NYC. The most obvious means of child sex abuse in NYC, the city's sex industries (in the time the sourcebook was written, Time Square was covered with peep shows), don't fit well with such a group. Child molesters gravitate towards occupations which put them in close contact with children, often unsupervised. It's how they find their victims. Businessmen, financiers, and PBS political television shows are poor at that. Schools, criminals, and the entertainment industry do – but they are unrepresented.

                If I had to come up with a villain for the Garou to fight in New York, I'd try to think of the problems actually facing New York.

                Of course, you do have various pollution, and here it would be fine to have some kind of corporate or even right wing villains behind them. That is what Pentex is for. But outside of that, you had the violent crime, drug addiction, urban decay, graffiti and vandalism in the city itself. But none of that seemed to be any source of any Wyrm activity in RANY. You don't have villains who are obvious race hustlers causing racial strife in the city; or politician villains allied with street gangs because they help get the vote out and therefore work against the police to provide order; or villains encouraging vandalism by declaring it art (as long as it never shows up in their neighborhoods). You don't even need to get very political about it. I wouldn't be interested in a Rage Against Rent Control. But at least have villains APPROPRIATE to the actual condition of the city and state at the time.

                You would also have multiple enemies across the state, as the kind of enemies in NYC are probably not the enemies the Garou of the Adirondacks or Niagara fight. Let's have a description of multiple opponents who can also feud and fight amongst themselves. And maybe a cult like the Seventh Generation can find a place within that, perhaps linking a lot of these other cults or factions together. Perhaps even make them a key organization linking the various Wyrm factions together. But as written, I don't think this works as a good antagonist.

                This almost kills the entire sourcebook. It's that bad.

                The next posts will break some of this down and show what useful bits can be taken from this disaster.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This does not mean that the entire section is completely useless. There are some things that can be retained here. As written, the Seventh Generation is divided into five castes based on function – government, politics, medical, snatcher, and warrior. I am torn between whether this functional division makes sense or is ridiculous.

                  We're told the government faction is actually based in Washington, DC although New York pundits, think takes, and power brokers are influential. The leader of the caste in NYC seems to be a parody of William F. Buckley, Jr. famous at the time for the Firing Line show on PBS and editor of the National Review, and who did reside in New York City for some of his life. I don't see how he makes an interesting opponent at all. In fact, this entire caste might as well be jettisoned although the idea of a Wyrm tainted/powered talk show host has some kind of potential.

                  This person, like all the caste leaders of the cult, has Rage, Gnosis, and various Gifts. They don't seem to be Fomori though. I assume such statistics represent the occult powers granted to them through their rites and sacrifices to the Wyrm – but this is never stated. Nor do I remember any other humans being given such stats outside this sourcebook. One thing I do like is that they give a description of these NPCs as they appear in the Umbra. Humans who are somehow spiritually advanced or powerful should have an appropriate umbral visage. That is definitely a keeper of an idea.

                  We're on firmer ground with the business caste whose leader is a centuries old Dutchman (Van Gelding) who originally arrived when New York City was New Amsterdam. I like this because 1) we are getting something based on the actual history of the place, and 2) as the world's financial capital, some Wyrm cult involvement here makes sense.

                  What doesn't make sense is its involvement in the Seventh Generation. I think this would be far better if we use the business caste as the basis for its own separate Wyrm cult, probably one based on Vorus the Urge Wyrm of Greed. There are various ways the cult could operate to recruit Wall Street traders, bankers, and other financiers into occult service in exchange for powers that would help them get rich. There's just no need to tie child abuse into this. I can think lots of ways which wealthy bankers and financiers could be corrupted into the Wyrm's service, but many recruits would be too repelled in the rites of this cult. It would take a long series of corruptions before people would descend to that level and cripple its ability to recruit.

                  It's interesting to compare this Van Gelding with the Ventrue clan vampire Horatio Ballard in Chicago By Night. Both are important economic actors with everlasting lifespans. Between them, it could be argued they control the North American economy in the World of Darkness. It's possible the two know each other and cooperate. Otherwise, they might constantly fight each other – even if inadvertently. Both are also pedophiles which creates a possible connection between the two. For people looking for intriguing crossover opponents in their chronicle, there's something here they could exploit. (Of course, if you go my route and use the Business Caste as its own cult, Van Gelding's pedophilia would be eliminated).

                  The next two castes, the Medical and Snatchers, I think are really the only ones needed for a cult like the Seventh Generation itself as they are the ones directly involved in the child abuse. Eliminate the caste system and merge them while keeping enough members rich and influential enough that the cult is protected from the authorities. There are some interesting things at the core here, but an ST still needs to make a lot of changes to make this work. The kernel is that the Medical Caste is in fact extremely old – it was a Wyrm cult first invented in order to separate the role of the shaman from being a healer, and thus help eliminate Gaian shamanism from people's cultures so it could open them up to future Wyrm machinations.

                  The problem is that the villain as presented is the entire medical profession as its existed since Hippocrates until Sigmund Freud arrived with his theories of psychology. Nevermind that Freud is generally discredited in actual psychology now (and was at the time although that was often not known in the general population), and that the portrayal of the cult aligns objective good with the satanic ritual abuse moral panic of the 1980s. The book implies anyone who opposed that in real life must be an agent of the Wyrm. This is just ridiculous. Usually people opposed to moral panics are seen as a good thing.

                  Now I don't mind for the purposes of plot that one instance of moral panic proves correct, and that a occult conspiracy is real. That can be the start of a great plot and is standard for the horror genre. But not on a permanent basis. The idea of cold, mechanistic modern medicine might be ignoring other aspects of healing is something that works when properly implemented, but not in the cartoonish way here.

                  There is an interesting core idea here, but it needs to be completely rewritten and the blanket attack on the medical profession needs to be removed. Since its origins are in fact irrelevant, that is easily done.

                  The warrior caste is just useless and seems to exist just to provide some heavy fodder for the Garou at some point. Certainly some infiltration of law enforcement is needed by the cult to protect its activities, but it is much harder to see how the cult could recruit here for their purposes. The idea of an entire faction here is therefore harder to support. It is just boring and pointless.

                  Note that despite the cult's involvement in sexual exploitation of women and children, there is no mention of New York's vast entertainment industry. In light of the recent allegations of sexual abuse and assault in Broadway and Hollywood (which films many movies and TV shows in New York), this is especially an obvious hole in the cult's operations.

                  Overall this section is a mess and a lesson of what not to do when creating your own antagonists. However, there are some good ideas in general (giving cults certain core game mechanics in Rage, Gnosis, rites, Gifts and having a separate umbral description), and a good ST can rework the cult here into a smaller, but more believable Seventh Generation cult plus a revised separate cult based around the Business caste which could be used to justify other kinds of stories in the chronicles.

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                  • #10
                    I see that this thread is getting many views and Likes, so I'm surprised to not see any comments - either about what I wrote or people's own use or play experience with RANY. Please feel free to comment if you'd like. I still have some more way to go.

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                    • #11
                      So I don''t have much to add, but have thoroughly enjoyed your writing about it. I've run several games set in NYC. I used to live (and thus game) there, but we mostly just ignored what the books had set. I used Sept of the Green mostly as written, but I never bothered with the Seventh Generation outside of a brief story where they were minor antagonists supporting the actual big bad of the story. Going back and looking through RANY, I agree they spend way too many pages on the cult. And as written it doesn't fit in terribly well with the political structure of the city/state.


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                      • #12
                        After I'm done with RANY, I intend to go over the Sept of the Green's description in the corebook and some of the supplements whose action is there.

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                        • #13
                          I think the part that made Seventh Generation also pretty bad for WtA, is that it really is an evil that can't be combated directly. So games like mage or wraith..or,heck, even changeling, would have suited the group better.


                          My gallery.

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                          • #14
                            The Seventh Generation as an organization can certainly be combated, but any kind of general evil, whether it be crime, drug addiction, greed, etc., can't really be defeated. These are social problems that can be contained and reduced to an acceptable level. Garou presumably do have a role they can play at that, especially in terms of preventing Banes from making it worse, but PCs don't show up so they play social workers. They show up so they can hit things and have exciting adventures. If the Seventh Generation was portrayed more like cults in Call of Cthulhu, it would be more playable.

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                            • #15
                              Next we get a description of the Order of the Rose and Heaven, the primary NPC antagonists of the Seventh Generation. The Rose are basically witch hunters who know the supernatural evil behind the child sex abuse cult. Members were previous victims of the cult and have sworn an oath of celibacy to prevent them from possibly spreading its evil. Of course, some members violate the oath anyway, but abandon their children thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Interestingly the two humans described here are given Rage and Gnosis despite not having any supernatural powers (unlike the cult leaders), a concept that would not last long in Werewolf.

                              Heaven is a Garou pack devoted to ending occult child abuse. They know that occult practices of the Defiler Wyrm is involved, but not that the Seventh Generation exists. This means their real purpose is to serve as exposition to the PCs assuming they follow this plot hook. There are some interesting things about the pack's leader. There is a subtle indication that she herself might be the victim of sexual abuse. And she and her pack keep their activities hidden and do not seek Renown for it. Its important for this work to be kept secret. Most Garou do not know about her work, and the Silver Fang king is explicitly not one of them. Given later description of Silver Fang inbreeding and forced matings to preserve the Pure Breed, this has disturbing implications. Although not stated, the obvious home for this pack is the Hand of Gaia sept, and certain Black Furies and Children of Gaia there are likely assisting Heaven while they keep their secret.

                              Both groups are underdeveloped. I could see the Order of the Rose not even being used in many chronicles because they don't add much except as a group that knows of the Seventh Generation's existence. The Heaven pack is an interesting example of a unique pack quest with a very sympathetic character. They do serve a purpose for a chronicle based primarily against the Seventh Generation, but the ST still needs to develop them before they're useful. Still, the general idea of having obvious help (and both Garou and non-Garou in origin) isn't bad when presenting PCs with any large opponent – they can be a convenient way to give the PCs plot hooks and exposition. And having a non-Garou ally can provide good moments of roleplay as PCs discuss among themselves how much should they reveal.

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