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  • Gulielmus Bastardus
    started a topic New Storyteller questions

    New Storyteller questions

    Hello all,

    I recently began running my first game of Werewolf: the Apocalypse (20th Anniversary Edition). While I'm experienced with several RPGs, including New World of Darkness, this is my first time running a campaign in the Classic World of Darkness, and I have a few questions about both the mechanics and the setting.

    1. How much experience should I award my players? When I ran NWoD 1e I had a 1xp per hour of play rule, but I'm not sure that's appropriate for this system. Obviously the answer depends on how fast I want them to advance, so let's say I want them to feel like they make real progress over the course of a few months of weekly play while also avoiding the video gamey "get 10x stronger in under a month" scenario.

    2. Speaking of unrealistic character advancement, I've looked at the Renown table in the book, and I don't see how there aren't a bunch of 20-year-old Elders running around. For example, in our first session, the pack successfully ambushed and killed a young vampire without any of them getting hurt, which according to the table earns them 5 Honor. Assuming the garou are combating the Wyrm wherever it dwells and whenever it breeds, shouldn't they be racking up Renown like crazy? Just going from Cliath to Fostern should be doable in a month. Granted, these are the End Times, so I suppose unusually young garou of high rank could be more common than they were in ages past, but still.

    3. What exactly do totems do? Are they meant to serve as guides and advisors to the pack? Do they fight alongside the pack when in the Umbra (especially in the case of totems of war)? Or are they just passive stat boosts?

  • Wilson
    replied
    I agree with the replies above. Definitely keep in mind that temporary renown can't be converted to permanent until the monthly moot, and that renown alone doesn't qualify you to advance in rank. Also, from the characters' perspectives, it's worth considering the responsibilities that go along with each rank. You might be a Fostern with all the renown you need to qualify for a rank challenge, but all the Adren at your sept are expected to hold a major sept office that keeps them close to the caern, and you want to keep "adventuring" to far-flung places. So even though you could qualify for Adren, you decide to remain Fostern because you'd rather be "in the field" than tethered close to your home caern. I think remaining a Fostern indefinitely, even if you have a lot of experience, is a totally acceptable decision, especially if there is no shortage of high-ranking leaders in your sept. And once you step up to Athro, you REALLY become a manager more than an adventurer. Cliath will avoid bothering you because they know you're super busy running the caern's affairs. You'll be leading moots and other important meetings. You might be an awesome Ahroun and great Warder of your sept, but if you don't have really good control over your rage, you're probably not going to pass the challenge to reach Athro. Also, once you've risen to this level, it's probably because you have ambition for leadership, not just talent for it.
    Last edited by Wilson; 07-28-2020, 04:02 PM.

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  • heinrich
    replied
    With W20, iirc, the number of garou not having their first change as teenager is rising. And, in my games that was always the case. Garou not changing past puberty didn't have to become Lunatics, but could - but also could become regular garou who simply changed later.

    With that in mind it comes down to years being active as garou and the level of excitement the sept has when determining the speed of rank progression. A very remote sept might have once a month and incident that requires the garou to send a pack to investigate. Other septs, like in the Amazon, are constantly sending out packs on missions, with little to no time for R&R.

    STs often let the Downtime slip through and play one Plot after another and investigations yielding results in a pace that is akin to TV shows surveillance scene montage rather than an realistic time frame. And that is okay, for the pace of the plot is more important than realism. But it leads to some world view that is out of alignment.

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  • Black Fox
    replied
    Originally posted by Gulielmus Bastardus View Post
    1. How much experience should I award my players? When I ran NWoD 1e I had a 1xp per hour of play rule, but I'm not sure that's appropriate for this system. Obviously the answer depends on how fast I want them to advance, so let's say I want them to feel like they make real progress over the course of a few months of weekly play while also avoiding the video gamey "get 10x stronger in under a month" scenario.
    Others have given the typical XP rewards. Those are usually given in the corebooks themselves. If you know in advance how long the game (or a subset of the chronicle) will last and where you want the PCs to be by then, you can probably determine the number of XP they should have based on how powerful you want them, and then calculate how many XP per session is required. You can then give more or less than the typical to get them to where you want them.

    Originally posted by Gulielmus Bastardus View Post
    2. Speaking of unrealistic character advancement, I've looked at the Renown table in the book, and I don't see how there aren't a bunch of 20-year-old Elders running around. For example, in our first session, the pack successfully ambushed and killed a young vampire without any of them getting hurt, which according to the table earns them 5 Honor. Assuming the garou are combating the Wyrm wherever it dwells and whenever it breeds, shouldn't they be racking up Renown like crazy? Just going from Cliath to Fostern should be doable in a month. Granted, these are the End Times, so I suppose unusually young garou of high rank could be more common than they were in ages past, but still.
    World of Darkness sourcebooks have typically been horrible at NPC design. Many character's abilities, powers, and ranks simply don't make sense given how long these characters have lived. I've learned to simply discard them and come up with my own stats that better reflect their descriptions.

    For me, I use some guidelines. Adjust as needed to fit your STing style, player expectations, and whatever works for you.
    • Most Garou are Cliaths in their teens, Fosterns in their twenties, and Adrens in their thirties and forties. Then they plateau. They make Athro only near retirement, or in posthumous promotion (they die early, and the sept treats them in death as if they had achieved Athro). That is the typical Garou - maybe 80% of them.
    • The other 20% are the elite Garou. They are Cliaths in their teens, Fosterns in their twenties, Adrens in their thirties, and make Athro in their forties. Some achieve Elders in their fifties or sixties, or are made that through posthumous promotion. This represents the typical rise in rank of those Garou with real leadership or specialist ability.
    • Then there are the superstars whose normal rules don't apply. These would be the PCs (at least potentially) along with NPCs movers and shakers - the geniuses, world famous athletes, innovators, and great military leaders - the characters who will drive events in your chronicle, be major villains, or major allies/friends/rivals to the PCs. They advance much quicker. They could make Adren in their twenties and Athro in their thirties and elder by their forties. Perhaps earlier given exceptional circumstances.
    In terms of Rank Challenges, this is what I use.
    • Going from Cliath to Fostern should be easy. Garou just need to prove they are an "adult" - that they've mastered the basic skills required for their auspice, and are responsible enough that other Garou can rely on them to do their duties.
    • Fostern to Adren is tougher. Adren is recognition for meritorious service. It only comes when Garou have proved themselves again and again. You're the veteran that holds the rest of the Garou in your pack or sept together. The NCO lifer in the armed services, or the combat veteran who looks after new recruits to make sure they survive their first battles. The nurse with decades of experience who can hold the emergency room together in a crisis because she's been through it before repeatedly. The experienced engineers who are called together in an emergency meeting to determine how to save Apollo 13, or how to cool down the Chernobyl reactor. For some Garou, this comes easy. For others, they will need a lifetime of experiences. But almost every Garou, should they live long enough, will make this rank as long as they keep trying.
    • Adren to Athro is entirely different. This is about leadership qualities. Athros are where Garou go to when determining the real leadership of their societies. Here they want proof that other Garou can command, be decisive, have all the expertise needed for leadership roles, and can get others to follow them willingly. Most Garou don't make it because they don't have these qualities. But when good Garou reach retirement or die early, the sept want to acknowledge their service and give them that as a honor.
    • Becoming an Elder is even harder, but because these just aren't the leaders of septs. They are the leaders of major, very important septs, of camps, of entire tribes, or have achieved some extraordinary feats. Only the truly worthy and ambitious make it here.
    The prime factor in determining quickness of Rank advancement isn't the Renown. It's the Challenge to achieve that Rank. The challenge to get to Fostern is easy because being fostern merely means being a responsible adult. Adren and above are harder, and we know that accomplishing such challenges can take months or years. And the game tells us that many fail these challenges at their first time.

    In my chronicles, Garou evaluate rank challengers in order to determine what kind of challenge to provide. If in their opinion, a Garou isn't "ready" for the responsibilities of that rank, or truly lack a necessary skill, experience, or judgment to be worthy of it, they always give a challenge that is designed to fail (or at least which will force the Garou to gain the relevant skill or experience). And even if they do think the Garou is ready, they design the Challenge in order for the Garou to prove that they are ready without a doubt.

    (Note, there are exceptions to this rule, typically to showcase an important personality trait of the NPC (like they are a complete hardass) or show some kind of corruption or problem within Garou society (example: the Silver Fangs rig things so that certain favored Garou of their tribe advance quicker).)

    And remember the Renown awards list are just a guide, not written in stone. As you advance in rank, it takes more to earn the same amount of renown. And some things that earned you renown as a Cliath don't get you anything at Adren or above. And you can give Renown or take it away for things not listed on the Renown Chart. But if you do, I think it best to tell your PCs out of character that what they are doing will give or lose them renown. It shouldn't be a surprise.

    Originally posted by Gulielmus Bastardus View Post
    3. What exactly do totems do? Are they meant to serve as guides and advisors to the pack? Do they fight alongside the pack when in the Umbra (especially in the case of totems of war)? Or are they just passive stat boosts?
    I think different STs will treat pack totems differently so you will likely get a wide variety of answers. The better question is what do YOU want the pack totems to be like. What is best for your game?

    This is how I handle them. The Incarna is like the adopted spiritual parent of the pack. They are his children. So the pack totem acts as a kind of godparent to the pack's members.
    • He is there to advise the pack in practical matters, especially as it relates to the umbra. (So this is a good way for STs to give hints on how to act.)
    • He is there to educate the pack specifically in matters of their spirituality, and their role as it relates to Gaia. Each totem has different views on this based on what it is. Packs of War and Wisdom see issues very differently. And totems will approach things differently based on the nature of spirit they are (both Stag and Grandafther Thunder are Totems of Respect, but will impart very different lessons to their childer on proper behavior). Pack totems make great mentors.
    • Totems do this because their children's behavior reflects back on them. They want their adopted children to showcase to other spirits how great they are. And they want their children to reflect the Incarna's nature, style, and mentality. The more pack is honored by other Garou and spirits, the better it makes the Incarna look. All totems should want their pack to succeed.
    Whether or not totems fight, really depend on how the PCs see their totem and how many points they invest in it (as well as the spirit's own nature). Some will want their totems to fight with them in the Umbra. That's fine as long as they dump enough points into it, build the totem, and run it in combat. Others won't. Both play styles should be acceptable.

    As an ST, I try to make the pack totem an important NPC for the pack to deal with.

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  • Mahjemm01
    replied
    For experience awards the book actually has a guide on how much to award the PCs. Generally speaking.....1pt for each Chapter. 1pt for learning curve.....now with that I, myself, break that down to what a PLAYER has learned for a PT, and what a CHARACTER has learned for a PT...and if neither have learned something interesting then no exp pts. 1pt for RP their Nature. Then at the end of a Story add to that Chapter Exp Pts, 1 PT for Surviving and 1 PT for "longevity" (for sticking with the game and staying it thru). Now with Exp I have a house rule that any Exp spent has to have a logical reason......if u want to increase firearms then during the game you better have been shooting kneecaps....you want to learn first Dot of a knowledge then during the game you better be trying to do that regularly to get that First Dot. I have been playing cWoD since mid 90s, and tbh idk anything bout "teaching experience" that Heinrich was talking bout. But I do know that they use to have a system where there was a Time Requirement for learning something. I don't remember it specifically of the top of head. But it was something like for Attributes it was like a week for each Dot. For Abilities it was days for each Dot, and like 3 days for a Gift. Also, just trying to get a "tutor" could be a Story in and of itself.

    As for Renown....be a bastard. Be stingy. As has been pointed out numerous times in these Forums.....Garou are hypocrites. Take as much as you give away for Renown. Rivals are quick to point out your failures. And a Garou can't get that Klaive if it's given to someone else.....can't be the Caern Warden if the spot is given to her....."peer".....Also as Heinrich pointed out.....Renown is only acknowledge at a Moot. Once a month will a Garou's accomplishments will be recognized. And adding in the suggestion that Heinrich mentioned bout a "waiting list" is a good idea. The thing is Experience isn't analogous with Rank. There isn't a "level cap" for the number of Gifts, Ability Dots or anything a Garou can have while at a certain Rank. And TBH, a Garou would want to have as many Gifts as he can get before Ranking up.....due to Challenges and ensuring he gets "that spot" for Acknowledging his accomplishments.
    Last edited by Mahjemm01; 07-25-2020, 02:49 PM.

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  • heinrich
    replied
    1. I have no idea how W20 does it, but it used to be 1XP base, 1 for learning curve, one for (exceptional) roleplaying and 1 extra for a bunch of other reasons.

    2. Renown is supposed to be relative to the rank of the garou, so there isn't necessarily a linear progression, where the next young vampire also awards 5, and the next and the next. Besides that, the Rite of Accomplishment to turn temp into permanent renown is supposed to be performed during a moot. A moot is at full moon, monthly. The garou responsible for the moot might not always give a sponsor of the PCs or the PCs themselves a spot to perform the Rite, because others might want that spot, the sept might get a reputation, if storys about the same youngsters get around each month with new tales about their accomplishments and it might also generate ill will amongst their peers. So. That's a limit.
    Also, to get Renown, like I said, the deeds need to be in relation to their rank. Without time to raise their traits they are kinda doomed to succeed in Rank challenges or in task appropriate for their rank.
    W20 omits rules on how long it takes to raise a trait, iirc. But older books had the "Instruction" skill, there it was stated that the teacher rolls 11 - Int of student per month of instruction. Each success is one XP that might be used to raise that trait. So, this is also a limit...

    3. Depends on you. Each totem has a kind of "way of life" or "aspects" that it stands for and as a prerequisite to raise the Totem trait, PCs are supposed to live up to this. Some Totems have their pack totem avatars be more present in the daily lives of the pack, others not. It depends on the Totem in question and the mood of the totem, your style as ST and then their is the "totem avatar is basically all the time with the pack" trait, a pack can buy for the pack totem. In any case, it is a two-edged sword. Totems are really powerful, if you want this power and knowledge to be also present in the pack totem avatar. An approach I personally like. But if that is the case, you have to limit the players ability to ask the Totem for help or advice all too often, for the pack is supposed to life up to the totems ways out of their own power, and not get a detailed, illustrated guide to living and solving plots from the totem. The other approach would be, that the avatar can only do what its traits allow. So a owl pack totem avatar is supposed to be wise, but with only 7 dots in stats, it has a dicepool of maximum 5 dice in Gnosis to work as mental/social traits. So, if the pack doesn't spend extra XP to raise these traits, the totem avatar has even less dice then some PCs, and that isn't really helpful if the PCs want sage advice from the totem avatar. So....
    Best approach is a solid middle approach. Allow for the pack to step sideways and find the Pack Totem within about 10 to 30 minutes, if the local Penumbra is suitable terrain for the Totem or if you need to pass the PCs tips anyway. So, PCs can interact and ask for advice but can't do it all the time and not by just one-round-meditation or no-time-thoughts. If you want the Totem to act as a quest giver or warn the PCs that their actions or planned actions go aginst the Totems ways, have the totem appear on its own.
    In any case, have the PCs incorporate a totem shrine and its maintanance, little offerings and proud proclamations of worship into their character portraials.

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