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Additional Spirit Broods

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  • Additional Spirit Broods

    I find spirit broods a useful tool when I run chronicles. They're an easy way to identify spirits friendly to Garou, particularly non-Theurges who lack the many tools Theurges have to navigate the Umbra. That's good for learning Gifts and creating spirit NPCs for them to interact with. It also provides an easy to way to provide some soap opera/roleplay in regards to spirits. I like to liven up the umbra and its spirit inhabitants so it seems dynamic.

    We were given spirit broods for each of the tribal totems in Axis Mundi, but I don't think there's ever been published additional broods. I think that's a shame as I said because I consider them a useful tool. I think there are other spirit broods that are roughly equivalent in power and prestige to the tribal totems. I am interested in hearing from you if you've ever used the concept, and if you've added additional broods in your games.

    The easiest additions would be those spirits who have (or once had) Changing Breeds of their own, and were included as pack totems in the corebooks. So that woud leave us the following Incarna who should have extensive spirit broods.


    I think Coyote is complex because officially the actual spirit who is patron of the Nuwisha is not Coyote the animal per se, but the more universal Trickster. So I would say Trickster is the actual Incarna with the brood, and then place all the various "masks" as part of his spirit brood like Coyote (although I dislike that many of the aspects in the Nuwisha breedbook are straight from human mythology because I think those aspects are more High Umbral than what a Gaian spirit would have). Including Fox here would also make sense, but I don't think Trickster should have TWO Changing Breeds.

    I would also include Incarna not listed as Garou totems, but who represent other changing breeds like Lion (and possibly other Bastest breeds), Crocodile, Hyena, Serpent, Bull, Bat, Spider, and Shark.

    If there's enough interest in this topic, we can even brainstorm what other spirits should be part of each brood.

  • #2
    Brainstorming spirit broods sounds cool, although I have no brainpower for it right now.

    I think of the Trickster as a Celestine, with various Incarnae in his/its brood, incl. Raven. But I don't know if there's any textual support for that.

    She/Her. I am very literal-minded and write very literally. If I don't say something explicitly, please never assume I implied it. The only exception is if I try to joke.
    My point of view may be different from yours but is equally valid.
    Exalted and cWoD book list. Exalted name-generators, Infernal and 1E-2.5E homebrew from many authors.


    • #3
      I agree it makes sense, but since the game has Corax, Kitsune, and Nuwisha, I'm reluctant to group all of them under a single Trickster Incarna. I think its only Nuwisha that explicitly states their breed totem is actually Trickster in guise of Coyote. Plus in the game, Raven isn't explicitly a Trickster figure although there are some mythologies that put Raven in that spot.

      The game is actually fairly loose with the same spirit being seen as more than one thing, and having the same spirit appear under different spirit broods. Dream Ravens are under Chimera; Hrafn are under Fenris; Rogue Raven Gafflings under Grandfather Thunder; and Raven itself is presumably its own because of the Corax. And there are other similar examples. So there's no problem having similar spirits (given a different name for convenience sake) in different broods. So there can still be trickster Raven spirits for Trickster/Coyote even with Raven itself having its own brood.

      If Trickster is actually some Celestine level figure as you said, then we're back to having the different breeds under its own thing and its own Incarna. But I'm unsure if I can accept Trickster as a Celestine since the game makes a pretty strong match that Celestines match up with celestial/astronomical objects, and don't act as direct totem patrons for the Changing Breeds. Instead, I think I prefer Trickster as a powerful Incarna. Coyote (as its own Incarna, and this is the source of the Pack Totem of the Garou) would be under him specifically because of existing game lore; but the other Incarna might simply be friends with Trickster/Coyote and outside that spirit brood.

      I think there's many potential solutions that individual STs could like. And I don't think we'll come to agreement on a single version. Trickster probably approves of that.

      I think this is a good discussion topic, but hope it doesn't overwhelm the thread as there are many other interesting things under it.


      • #4
        I am working on a list of possible spirit broods beginning with Boar, as I think he's one of the easier ones to do. The first thing I have to do is determine the appropriate "spiritual correspondence" of the Totem Incarna to determine the type of spirits that belong in the brood. Then I need to assign/create spirits that reflect that. That's taking a while since there are some very creative spirit examples in Axis Mundi so it's not just picking some similar animal spirits and creating a brood.

        The three main correspondences for Boar that I have are 1) dangerous prey animals (these may be small or medium sized omnivores, but aren't primarily predators - they're still typically the prey of larger predators), 2) diggers of the soil (boars often forage on roots, tubers, and such), and 3) cleansers of the land (this is not do to boars so much as the Grondr's supposed role).

        The Axis Mundi book typically only has 4-8 spirits for each Spirit Brood, but these are supplemented by spirit totems in the tribebooks which I consider must reflect other spirits of that totem incarna's brood. Furthermore, besides spirits that are clearly associated with the totem's main purpose, most totems also have other spirits that provide some variety in order to make all kinds of totems available to the tribe (Fenris' spirit brood includes spirits of joy; Unicorns has a war spirit; Stag has spirits to enact his vengeance, etc.) So this requires some deft touch as well as just being creative.

        = = =
        Still hoping to hear from people on other potential candidates of sprits who are Totem Incarna with their own spirit broods.

        Just thought of an important one I left out - Turtle. We know that Turtle was once such a spirit since he was a tribal totem and thus had to have a spirit brood. I think canonically Turtle is now in slumber and/or angry at the Garou and thus unavilable as a totem for them. So it brings some interesting questions as to what has happened to his spirit brood, and how they might react to Garou (and other Changing Breeds now). So I think it's a great example of what an ST might do with the spirit brood concept to assist roleplay in the Umbra.

        From a quick look at the Croatan Song book, we have a few quick examples of Turtle's brood. The Earth-burrowers are mentioned as "ancient allies of the Croatan." Probably the Corn-Maiden and possibly Trout, though neither is explicitly written as connected to the Croatan or Turtle (though they are mentioned in the W20 corebook description). W20 also mentions Thunderbird, but we know that spirit (or perhaps an aspect) also has ties to the Wendigo. Turtle's spiritual correspondences seems to be burrowing animals, shelled animals, and earth spirits; but I would also add amphibious animals, honor, and stamina/fortitude/stability.


        • #5
          As one might tell from my posts on Whippoorwill, I am continuing to look at developing spirit broods for use in my game. I find it useful as a guide for roleplay among spirits, and I am also working on introducing spririt affinity and notoriety in the game, and using broods as a means to distinguish reactions to decisions of the PCs. Offending one spirit may harm one's reputation much more within that spirit's brood than the spirit population in general, and some broods may care less or not at all depending on what was done. Likewise for building rapport and strength.

          So I finally came to some conclusions about a spirit brood around Bear. What are the main correspondences that associate around this Incarna and his brood? Well, I'm saying..

          Bear attracts solitary animals (as opposed to herds, packs, or other extended groups; omnivores in the Order carnivora (as opposed to omnivores among other animals like ungulates); animals and plants that are know for "powerful medicine" or healing; the protective nature of a mother bear defending her cubs; hibernation and rebirth; and immense physical strength. Some of this obviously ties into what's known with the Gurahl, and that's on purpose. What was harder was expanding on that. Another thing I like is that bears are one of the few animals besides man that have plantigrade feet, and they stand and sit much like men do. This often makes bears seem very human to us. They also have a superb sense of smell - much better than a wolf's (a wolf's sense of smell is about 100 times that of man's; a bear's is between 2000-3000 times better).

          So what kind of spirits do we have? I first looked at the canonical pack totems.

          There's Rhino. It's a solitary animal, and obviously strong. At first, I hesitated because bears and rhinos don't share a common environment and I thought that should hurt brood membership. But after some research, I saw the Indian Rhinoceros historically overlapped with certain bear species in India and SE Asia. That was enough for me to add it. It also helps that rhino horn is associated with certain mystical properties. Of course, Unicorn likely has some Rhinos as well. But it's not essentially for all spirits of one type to be exclusive to one totem.

          Weasel is another one. Males tend to have solitary territories, and there are a lot of folklore concerning the magic and power of weasels.

          I like Butterfly as an addition as well. It's often associated with souls which fits well with Bear's rebirth portfolio.

          I thought Salmon also made a good addition. Its another powerful, magical animal, and bears often eat them. Salmon is a spirit that already has ties to other tribes like Wendigo and Fianna, but it's not inappropriate for some to also be associated with Bear.

          There's also Frog and Toad, and these small animals are often thought to be very powerful magically. So it's appropriate for association with Bear. As amphibians, they'd likely also be associated with Turtle. So I'd split the difference and arbitrarily assign one to Turtle and the other to Bear.

          Badger is mentioned in the Red Talon tribebook, but it has a lot of aspects better associated with Bear than Griffin. Its solitary, an omnivore, and lives in dens under the ground. It's not a problem that Red Talons like the totem.

          Then there are animals that have never been given totem write ups. Of these I like skunk and mole as they're solitary animals, but sufficiently different to give Bear some diversity. I've also thought about the European Otter (there are Otter totems in the books, but they all seem to be based on North American ones associated with Wendigo and Children of Gaia).

          Possibly the honey bee as well. I've always thought honey bees (or ants) were much better than Cockroach as being a Weaver totem. And despite the obvious connection to modern day cities with Cockroaches, I would think the early Warders would have done better than going with another insect. However, perhaps we can play on that by saying Honey Bee was not available as a result of it belonging to Bear, and so the early Warders were dissuaded from every trying to develop into a tribe using Bee as a totem.

          Fox too is a solitary animal with lots of magic, and I'd think he'd make a nice addition. But given that Kitsune exist, I am thinking Fox is best served having its own spirit brood.

          And of course, besides simply picking animals, we can develop various aspects of Bear - one as a warrior/protector, another as a healer/shaman, and so on. Just slap some interesting names and distinguish their nature.

          I remember Mangi the Death Bear spirit mentioned in the level five Gift that can bring people back from the dead. But I don't think such a spirit would be part of Bear's brood. It seems more like a particularly powerful aspect of Death - more like an Epiphling, separate from the Brood. Does any remember any other spirits mentioned in the Gurahl breedbook or elsewhere?

          The hard part is always coming up with interesting, unusual spirits like those found in Axis Mundi. I'm still brainstorming those. But probably something based around its amazing sense of smell. And perhaps a spirit known for associations with humans given its morphology and the ancient bear cult of Stone Age people. And likely a spirit of hiberation as well. Perhaps a more whimsical, friendly spirit based on so many beloved characters for children in books, movies, and toys.

          One reason I really like Bear as an Incarna with its own brood is that the Garou see Bear from an unusual perspective. They recognize his power (I have always liked the Bear totem write up; it's a totem of War, but its powers are more directed towards healing), but also don't trust the spirit. The Gurahl are usually depicted as the enemies of the Garou, but the Bear totem isn't necessarily negative towards them. Overall, they seem to view Bear as a treacherous figure and not dependable. It's an interesting dynamic, and it's one I'd like to explore that as part of its general brood as well. One just needs to figure out how to depict its contradictory nature.

          I am thinking perhaps the spirits of this brood are particularly sensitive and keen to overreact. If offended, the brood acts much more hostilely and much quicker than other broods; but if treated well; they can be very generous. And perhaps they don't trust the Garou any more than the Garou trust them, so negotiations and contact by the PCs with these spirits are at a greater difficult and require more successes. Another option is that this brood starts with some affinity/notoriety against other broods. So characters from the usual tribes (Silver Fangs, Get of Fenris, Shadow Lords) are treated more negatively initially, but certain others (I'd limit this - but the Uktena and Wendigo and Silent Striders would be good contenders) are more positive. The rest being neutral. Contacting the spirits of this brood should be more of a high risk/high reward for Garou.


          • #6
            One issue with spirit broods is the issue of how to run them when certain tribal totems may not seem to be "present" in the setting. This is mainly an issue in historical chronicles like one in the Dark Age setting, or a pre-Columbian contact North America. The "generic animal" totems seem universal. But the ones based on legendary and mythological creatures would seem to be heavily based on local human culture. Are Wendigo and Uktena present in Europe or Asia? How do Garou in North America (or even the Middle East or East Asia) see "Fenris" if they don't have reference to Norse mythology? Or in fact, how did the Garou see these spirits in the thousands of years before there were human cultures that told stories about Fenris, Pegasus, and the like.

            My solution is that the Garou still knew about these Incarna and their spirit broods, although not to the extent that their tribes and the tribes around them did. They just interpreted them in different ways.

            So in my chronicle's Dark Ages, the Garou Europe (and in Asia) knew that "Uktena" existed and interacted with his brood of serpents and river monsters and exotic animals. But they only knew him as the Horned Serpent, and they knew only general things about the totem by the way his brood interacted with them. He was very mysterious and unknown. "Wendigo" was seen as the spirit of a particular bad winter. The Get of Fenris likely called it Fimbulwinter. The Black Furies might have called him the Boreal Wind. Or a more generic term like Great Winter or Blizzard might be used. They'd be aware that the spirit of winter in the extreme north existed and had a lot of power, but he was a mysterious figure.

            I haven't given as much thought as to how the Pure One tribes would have interpreted corresponding Incarna, but they would have done the same. Fenris is fairly easy to translate over - a giant, monstrous, dangerous wolf. You can call that by a variety of names. Since Fenrir means "fen dwelling", it's probably some equivalent of that "The Lone Wolf in the Bogs". The Pure Ones wouldn't know Pegasus as a winged horse, but they did know that there was some kind of protective spirit sent from the moon to watch over women. Griffin was probably a spirt that watched over the parts of nature that were inviolate and not to be disturbed, and was known by a variety of names.

            At least, that is how I run it.

            Of course, now it's a trap that if there is some Incarna with a spirit brood out there, then it means there HAS to be a Garou tribe or Changing Breed behind it. I'm leery of that. I'd like there to be some powerful Incarna with broods that are still independent, just enough to disprove that theory. But I'm not sure where to go for inspiration.

            Old Man Sea (mentioned in the first Players Guide as a pack totem, but then never mentioned again it seems) could be one of them. Historically Mammoth or Elephant might have been its own Incarna with its own spirit brood, and they have since found other Incarna to serve. Maybe we should add an Incarna to represent the animals who live underneath the earth, fossorial creatures. Maybe Earthworm or Shrew. And we should probably have some kind of lizard separate from Crocodile or whatever rules Mokole. Bison/Buffalo could have been one as well. And given the near extinction of the Buffalo, that could have lead to all sorts of interesting adventures in the Wyld West period or even now. Are there Garou who work to keep Bison as one of the Great Incarna? Are members of his brood defecting? What does that mean in the spirit world? It might be interesting to have Bison/Buffalo as an Incarna still today, but incredibly weak and possibly ready to fall from power, or even to the Wyrm. That might make an interesting chronicle hook.

            Something else I like is the Wren, the small passerine bird. In Europe, the wren was known as the "King of the Birds", and there's a cute story of how the Wren defeated the obvious contenders for that title. While Falcon reigns supreme among Garou, we already know that Owl is its own Incarna not beholden to Falcon. And Raven is likely its own Incarna as well. So another bird as its own Incarna and brood of small, plucky animal spirits should be fine.

            I'm sure there are other good candidates.
            Last edited by Black Fox; 01-18-2021, 04:54 AM.


            • #7
              I have been giving more thought on a theoretical Incarna brood leader of spirits that live under the earth. I learned a new word today - bioturbators. These are animals and plants that rework soils by digging, eating, and defecating sediments so that soil is altered and remixed. They serve an important role as ecosystem engineers. Bioturbation is an essential process to increase biological and chemical diversity by transporting nutrients. And I think that's a great hook for a spirit brood (tillers of the soil). It doesn't need to be animals that live underground, but those that rework the soil. Or at least a combination of the two. While there are large and small animals that do this, most of this work is done by small invertebrates. (OK, science class is now over).

              Moles and badgers fit into this category, but per an earlier post I'll likely stick them into Bear's brood for other reasons. But mentioning them for consideration. Or do as other writers are done, and be fine with the "same" spirits being in multiple broods with slightly different names to distinguish them.

              Other good animals include shrews, gophers, prairie dogs, earthworms, and slugs. They're all associated with living underground, recognizable, and very different from each other. Armadillos could also be part of the group.

              In bodies of water, these include various bivalves like clams and oysters; crabs and shrimp; to fish like salmon and even walruses, although these last bits are getting far from creatures that also "live underground". But clams and oysters should still be good candidates.

              But there are other animals that could do the same as well - scorpions, some spiders, termites, and ants. Usually arachnids and insects aren't included in broods because they are consigned to the role of the Weaver, although the Weaver's actual servants aren't truly spiders and such, but Triatic spirits that take the form of them. But much like the Wyrm corrupts Gaian spirits in its service, it's possible other Gaian spirits might be friendly to Weaver spirits as well. Despite, I think at least some of these animals could be included.

              Obviously, I don't think any of these creatures have any spirit or totem write ups, so we're in completely new territory. And once again, we'd be on our own in coming up with more creative spirits to expand the brood to be more than just a list of animal spirits. However, our "tillers of the soil" concept is strong and I think we can come up stuff associated like this, like Garden Gnomes who watch over and protect the work of people who tend their own gardens, or a protective spirit that watches over farmers. We might also have some kind of architect like spirits that transcend ant and termite colonies to embrace underground constructions. Or cave spirits to represent natural tunnels. And as creatures that live underground, they are associated with the underworld and thus the dead. Besides spirits associated with that, it could make a good home for some of the spookier spirits once affiliated with Lion of the White Howlers such as Cairn Rattler. The W20 White Howler tribebook description of Cairn Rattler (spelled caern rattler, but "cairn" is probably a better spelling for this spirit for obvious reasons) says the spirit disappeared after their fall. But this would be a good place to put it if people wanted to reuse the totem.

              The question is what creature is the best candidate for Incarna level status, a spirit that is formidable enough to take on Thunder, Stag, Unicorn, Rat, and others?

              There's a lot to consider. Which of them have enough spiritual resonance to have accrued enough power that they could dominate or protect other spirits? Ants are probably the strongest such candidate, but they're almost too strong and have way too many connections to other correspondences outside the scope. They definitely have the live underground and move soils part down pat. But they're probably the most Weavery of all animals out there, and much of their cultural considerations involve hard work and cooperation. They'd also be an unlikely candidate to extend protection to spirits of mammals and such. So as much as I like them, I think I need to exile them to some other theoretical spirit brood that the Garou likely do not interact with at all.

              Earthworm is another strong candidate. It fills this spirit roll perfectly as well, and is instantly recognizable. It would also make an interesting addition to our growing "incarna pantheon". But perhaps too different. Should Earthworm truly be the master of the tillers of soil? Or simply one of its more powerful friends and servants?

              If we want something more traditional, our strongest candidates are mole and shrew. Gophers are found only in the Americas, and I prefer concepts that are more universal around the world so they could gather more spiritual power from being observed. I reluctantly might have to go with mole even though I first identified him as a potential member of Bear's brood. But Shrew is also worthy to consider. Something I did not know until I began reading more is that the Shrew family is likely the most successful family of Mammals in the world in population size. Who would have guessed? It's also not a rodent, which helps distinguish it from Rat. They're also interesting in other ways - as shrews are some of the few mammals that can be venomous, and some species are the only terrestrial mammal that can echolocate. They can also go into torpor. Both moles and shrews also have a lot of folklore about them. I think Mole is the more obvious choice, but Shrew offers a lot of diversity in the kind of spirits and themes that could be associated with, making a more diverse spirit brood.

              ​Does anyone have a favorite?


              • #8
                A lot of fascinating stuff here. Will read again, think about it some, then respond.


                • #9
                  I just realized by going with a spirit brood approach, that there's an obvious gap in my system. And that is I need to address the role of Wolf.

                  The game has always skirted around the issue of the Wolf Incarna. I've had players ask me if it is possible to have Wolf as a totem. My stock answer is no. Wolf already blesses the Garou, and he doesn't want to treat his children unequally by favoring some as a tribal or pack totem. If there is no totem that can be picked, then for 99% of games out there, Wolf doesn't need to be addressed in the game. There can be wolf spirits, but because most people don't utilize the brood concept extensively, they just need to be generic spirits out there. It doesn't matter if they belong to any brood. In my scheme though, I need to address it.

                  Obviously Wolf needs to be a Major Incarna, and have his own spirit brood. But in terms of their relationship with Garou, that brood should be distinguished from other broods. As the spirit parent to all Garou, the brood should be known for their approachability towards other Garou. They should be favorable to all Garou in any kind of affinity/notoriety system. They should willingly speak the Garou Tongue so any auspice can talk to them without need of a special gift like Spirit Speech. How they might treat Ronin or even BSDs is open to some debate and discussion, but obviously Wolf is pro-Gaia and wants all his children to be a single family. We also need to make sure Wolf is distinct from Fenris (which is likely an aspect of Wolf that has achieved prominence, or in some interpretations could be something else). The corebook defaults "wolf spirits" as teachers for a lot of Gifts (breed, auspice, and tribe), so the idea of a common body of spirits available to all Garou fits in well.

                  Ironically, I see Wolf as a distant parent, and probably more hard to contact than most Incarna by the Garou. Again, he doesn't want to show favor by allowing one Garou, or one pack, or one tribe to claim they speak for him and thereby gain authority over others. In terms of spirit politics, he also doesn't want to anger any of the tribal Incarna by stepping on their toes. So he is probably Olympian and distant at least in terms of Garou. His brood is enough to be on friendly terms. He himself is even more inaccessible. He and his brood might act differently if one of the other Changing Breeds tries to contact him as he is just another powerful spirit to them, but they don't accord him any special place among their people. But I think this opens some interesting roleplay opportunities here for STs to have NPC Changing Breeds with some tie to the Wolf spirit. Especially for breeds like Corax that should have some connection to such spirits.

                  So who should make up Wolf's spirit brood?

                  Obviously wolf spirits belong here. I also think wild canids in general are a good fit. Jackals certainly make sense. And if Jackal is part of Wolf's brood, then the Striders being part of the Garou Nation makes a lot more sense even if their Pure Breed form is a jackal. This should also extend to dholes, African Painted Dogs, and even dingoes. For those who like the Red Talons having members that are non-wolves (I am not one of them, but tastes are different), this makes for an elegant solution for why its allowed but others. Similarly, if the Bunyip are Garou per canon (instead of a Changing Breed like I have them in my home chronicles), then Thylacine was also part of Wolf's brood. So despite them not being a wolf or even a placental mammal, the Bunyip are still Garou. A corollary to that logic is that canids with their own Changing Breeds should not be part of the brood - so that leaves out foxes and coyotes.

                  Another obvious set of spirits are the totem spirits that seem to be an Aspect of Wolf. There's the Old Wolf of the Woods (Red Talons tribebook) and Winter Wolf (Rage Across Russia). I'd also put here the Spirit Without Name from the Players Guide. Now the totem descriptions says some of these only accept Lupus members as pack totem. But that doesn't mean the spirits themselves can't be summoned or interact by other breeds. Totem bans are supposed to be intrinsic, not by choice. So they can still be friendly to all Garou even if they can only be pack totems to a certain group.

                  What other candidates do we have? On the principle that Wolf's spirit brood is friendly and available to all Garou potentially, we can look at those pack totems that seem universally popular as opposed to tribe or regionally specific. The corebook totems are all accounted for, but we have expanded lists in the Players Guide that should still fit this principle. Not every totem listed there seems appropriate. But we have some totems that showed up in every Player's Guide, and some that seem especially appropriate for Wolf. I think Weasel and Wolverine are good choices. Possibly Flea - not an immediate choice, but there's logic to it. Fog (Aeolus) is present in every guide, and I'm inclined to add it just to explain why it's so popular among Garou even though it's not an obvious choice by itself. It would also help to diversify the brood.

                  There's also the option of Phoenix although a good case can be made it should be its own special Incarna not part of any other spirit's brood. In its favor is Phoenix's special role in Garou culture - the source of the Prophecy of Phoenix, and its role as the totem for the Silver Pack. It could also be connected with the idea that the First Wolf saved Gaia from death, died in doing so, but Gaia raised him back to life. That fits thematically in Garou myth. But I could also see the point who would want Phoenix to be separate. So I'm undecided currently.

                  Another "obvious" addition would be Raven, but Raven is already spread thin with having its own children (Corax), and multiple examples existing in other broods. As much as it makes sense to add him, the game is forcing us to keep him separate. Though it's possible to add another special group of Raven spirits just for Wolf that embody the symbiotic role between ravens and wolves in their hunting/feeding practices. Maybe call these spirits "Wolf Birds". If you have a better name suggestion, please share.

                  Wolf may not have a very large brood, but that is OK. The size of the brood alone does not determine the Incarna's power. Stag is known for having a large brood, but Owl has a small brood. Both are still major Incarna.

                  Are there any obvious choices I missed? Other spirits that would make sense? Other comments on the brood and its role in the Umbra and connection to the Garou?


                  • #10
                    At this point, I want to go into more detail about how I intend to use this in my chronicles. What benefits does this get me? I did not do this before in my games, so why am I doing it now? Well, I want to improve my depiction of the Umbra and spirits in general. By organizing things, I better understand the spirit world, and thus can better describe things to the PCs. This is just one of the ways I am doing so.

                    The main reason is to give me a tool that helps me differentiate the spirits when they interact with the PCs. Assigning them to a brood gives me several things that help me out. First, it defines the spirit's loyalties. That may come into play. Second, it could also give me rivals, and that could affect the PCs. Pegasus doesn't like Fenris, so it would make sense if a Get of Fenris interacting with one of Pegasus' brood has more troubles than other Garou. Not all spirits have obvious issues with another, but some have things that STs can explore (Bear and Turtle are obvious, but potentially so do any of the totems of the other Changing Breeds or fallen tribes.) Third, association with a brood should give it some affinity with the desires of the major Incarna, so it helps me as an ST when coming up with motivations, chiminage requests and the like. It also helps me as an ST determine what kind of spirits care about certain events the most. If I want a spirit to introduce a plot hook, I can pick a brood that is most impacted by it, and pick a spirit from it.

                    It also helps to create consequences for PC actions in the Umbra. It gives me a quick way to handle spirit affinity and notoriety. I can't recall if tabletop materials go into this, but I know several LARP organizations use the concept as a means to systematize Garou's involvement with spirits. Things you do either build your reputation with the spirits, or hurt your reputation. Some things Garou do should build affinity and notoriety in general. But there are times when actions may build reputation with one brood, but not affect others, or even harm reputation with another. Knowing major broods in advance allows me to do this.

                    This creates additional roleplay opportunities for the PCs, especially Theurges. I have traditionally handled things very generically without giving much thought to distinguishing spirits. Now I have a framework the Theurge needs to navigate, just like in the real world. They can make friends and enemies. They can choose to specialize in one kind of spirit brood, expand their connection, or attempt to make all happy. Each approach has benefits and drawbacks.

                    It can also help PCs when they build their character. They can utilize this approach in Backgrounds like Spirit Heritage or Spirit Network, and the ST can help them with that. Or with Merits and Flaws like Enemy, Notoriety, or tied to a Curse.

                    It also helps me make quick determinations on how likely spirits might know the Garou Tongue and choose to speak with them. For example, the broods of the Tribal Totems should know them and should usually be willing to speak it with Garou. But the brood of Turtle, while knowing the language as a result of their association with the Croatan, might choose to not to speak it because of Turtle turning its back on them. While the brood of Bear might now know it at all. This helps an ST navigate the ways that non-Theurges can interact with spirits, but still keep an important role for Theurges to use Spirit Speech.

                    Another thing it does for me is give me a handy list of major spirits that should be the “pantheon” of the Garou and Changing Breeds. That comes in handy when I want to create a myth or legend for the game. (This is another thing I am working on – a list of short, handy tales I can introduce in game, especially as a way to teach about the Umbra. I am fond of using very short stories – like Aesop's Fables, or shortened versions of Kipling's Just So Stories – to explain the spirit world.) If I'm telling a myth about a council of the animal spirits, I know who to mention and who likely shouldn't be mentioned. I've found that brief, short stories of this kind don't take up much time in game, and the players tend to like them a lot.

                    How complicated an ST wants to make this is up to them. Theoretically, an ST could reduce the broods – at least in terms of RP tool – to a very few. Or they could make it even more varied than I am. Whatever helps them. But I do think this approach offers benefits to an ST, especially one who has mastered other elements of the game, and now want to work on their handling of the Umbra.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pwtucker View Post
                      A lot of fascinating stuff here. Will read again, think about it some, then respond.
                      Looking forward to any comments. Doing this allows me to brainstorm and organize my thoughts, but hearing other views would give me perspective or even inspiration.


                      • #12
                        At this point, a slight digression. Rather than go into detail about one particular spirit brood, I want to talk about category of them – the Incarna of the seas.

                        As a group, they likely have little relevance to most Werewolf chronicles. There may be some very specific chronicle concepts where they come into play, or if one is running a Rokea chronicle, but usually they don't need to be addressed at all, or at best very loosely. Since we likely won't need an extensive list of such spirits, we don't need to create large broods for every Incarna. If we just have a group of appropriate Incarna, we can just slot any spirits as needed. Hence just one post for the lot of them.

                        Naturally there is not much information in the sourcebooks, but the most relevant are the Rokea book and Blood-Dimmed Tides. But we do have mention of various marine animals scattered elsewhere. So we can construct a basic system of Major Incarna here.

                        First edition Players Guide has Old Man Sea as a pack totem. He never gets mentioned again. He's likely not a popular totem among Garou, but I think the game misses something without him. Old Man Sea should be a figure equivalent to Grandfather Thunder – a Sea Lord to the Sky Father like Poseidon to Zeus. He's a good place to store whales and dolphins, and any iconic sea creatures and plants that wouldn't fit elsewhere like starfish, seahorses, seaweed, kelp, and the like. Marine mammals like walruses and seals can also go here unless you want them as their own thing.

                        Shark is another obvious candidate. He is the father of the Rokea, and he's mentioned as a pack totem in several Players Guides. His spirit brood would involve any large marine predators – most likely other fish like marlins, swordfish, albacore.

                        Blood-Dimmed Tides gives us an explicit Incarna – Pakurwu Tooth Edged, the Incarna of Coral and Reef. I can't find any reference to the name Pakurwu, so it is either made up or a derivative of something. I would just call her Coral. Any of the critters that depend on the reefs as an ecosystem would fall under her brood.

                        We know Turtle is an Incarna as well, although one that has either grown distant completely or just distant from the Garou. But he still needs a brood. As a former Garou totem, his brood would include lots of non-marine animals and concepts. But he would include a lot of marine animals like turtles and other amphibians. One possibility is to include seabirds here as well – though these might be their own brood or part of Old Man Sea, or maybe under Falcon.

                        I also want to mention Uktena, as he is the most likely candidate to be an Incarna of freshwater animals – we know spirits of fish, river monsters, and sea serpents in general are part of his brood. So if we ever need other similar creatures of the fresh waters – but not marine animals – this is a good place to stick them if Turtle isn't the right place. Sulis, or Thermal Spring, is an interesting totem in Revised Players Guide that should go somewhere. I'm undecided whether it belongs here or with Turtle, or perhaps some other place.

                        At this point, we've run out of obvious candidates in published sources, but we can easily see gaps. An Incarna of Ocotpi and Squid is natural. The Rokera version of Banes are called Qyrlings, and they often take the form of cephalapods and jellyfish. But it's obvious these animals are not Banes, and Qyrling merely assume the form of them, they aren't them themselves. Blood-Dimmed Tides call all spirits of sea creatures Apsarae, and divide them into Bone and Unboned (Rokea gives us the term Pelageans for spirits of all fish and marine mammals). So there needs to be at least one Incarna for the Unboned Apsarae. An obvious name would be Kraken, but that name is already used as an alternative form of Qyrl/Wyrm. I'd just call it Squid and get on with it. A lot of the molluscs and other Unboned (like jellyfish and the like) can go here. You might want to use some other spirit.

                        You might also want an Incarna of the various crustacheons – they're Unboned as well, but I think most of us would want them to be separate from the spirits of squids and octopi. Crab is mentioned as pack (slew in the term of Rokea) totem in Rokea, and horseshoe crab in Mokole. So let's make Crab the Incarna of this brood. As a side note, Weaver spirits take the form of shelled animals, much like how they take the form of spiders on land. They equivalent to Pattern Spiders as a group are called Scuttlers, but these are Weaver spirits – drawn to ships, oil rigs, and the like – not Gaian spirits.

                        Depending on how far you want to diversify things, I'm sure there are all sorts of gaps you could fill to get an even larger array of Major Incarna. But unless you are a marine biologist or planning an extensive sea chronicle, it's unlikely you need anything more than this. Still, I think there is a role for at least another Incarna of fish. Forage fish are those smaller prey fish that get eaten by larger ones, and they are an important source for the fishing industry. As a prey species, it fits a similar role that Stag does on land. So I think adding one more here makes sense. The largest group of such fish are the Clupeidae which include herring, sardines, anchovies, and the like. They're often called the herring family, so Herring it is. Still, if you just want to dump this under Old Man Sea, it would also fit and I might do the same. Same thing for all those other strange fish – rays, eels, lampreys, and the like. If it is important enough to you, make a new Incarna. If not, stick them somewhere else.

                        We also have oddball spirits found among the other Incarna. Axis Mundi put Narwhal under Unicorn because narwhals have a single protuding tusk that makes it a horned animal like Unicorn. And maybe you want Salmon under Stag or Bear. Otters are mentioned under Wendigo and Unicorn. Polar Bears are obviously under Bear. Oysters and clams might be put under Mole as diggers of the soil if you want more diversity. So there's lots of options.

                        And of course you have all sorts of variants of water-spirits you could put under the Water Elemental (I don't think we've ever been given names of elemental Incarnas, but there are plenty of inspiration we can take from myth and legend). And there seems to be a lot of Wyld spirits that are similar – Breakers mentioned in Rokea, and Spiral Schools in Blood-Dimmed Tides. Both have the Charm Break Reality which is a Wyld charm. These groups should be rarely encountered unless you are running a chronicle completely centered on the ocean, or someplace exotic like the Arctic Circle.

                        This should be more than enough for any Garou game, and probably superfluous for 98% of them. But if you set a game in a coastal city or near a shore, it might be useful to have some groupings of these spirits. Even in freshwater locations – like around the Great Lakes – an ST may still want to distinguish between those spirits loyal to Uktena, Turtle, and invasive species of Old Man Sea plus any oddball stuff. Or if you want the PCs to go after the PENTEX subsidiary Hallahan Fishing and at some point they need to learn how to navigate the very different umbral broods most affected by them.


                        • #13
                          This post will be less detailed than others because it's something I am still kicking around in my head. And that is the issue of Plant based Major Incarna with their own broods.

                          Plant spirits are a major part of the game with their own rules, and they can play a major role for the PCs as natural talens when plants are awakened by the Rite of Spirit Awakening. Axis Mundi not only gives us a bunch of plant spirits, but also details some plant spirits among the tribal incarna (olive trees for Unicorn; grain for Stag). Croatan Song lists Corn Maiden as a Garou totem, though it defines it as a spirit affiliated with the Weaver (as presumably are all domesticated crops). That might place it under Turtle. Rage Across Russia also lists a lot of spirits for "streams and fields" (although some of these could be Wraiths or Fae, but shown as spirits for ease of play) that also fit well under plant spirits. The original Wendigo Tribebook listed certain plant spirits that were "natural" Talens (not needing to be awakened for their spirit powers to take effect) such as tobacco and purifying plants like sage, cedar, and sweet grass.

                          Axis Mundi also tells us that Oak, like the other tree spirits, serves the Incarna called the Cosmic Tree (also known as many other names like Tree of Life, World Tree, etc.) It also tells us that Oak formed an alliance with Stag. So we know there is at least one plant spirit with its own brood - the World Tree. Now the World Tree has many more spiritual correspondences than just being a plant. So I think this means we should be thinking very big in terms of what kind of plants should qualify as a major Incarna with its own brood.

                          There are some very powerful psychedelic plant totems in Axis Mundi, but they are referred to as enigmatic spirits. And I personally think such enigmatic spirits, despite their power, have their own brood. That would make them much less enigmatic. We might also want to place Tobacco here as a very powerful plant spirit that just does not have its own brood.

                          So we know there is World Tree, under whom we can place most other tree spirits and presumably a lot of others plants in the forest (and possibly some spirits that aren't plants). Are there any other possible candidates? None that I know of from the sourcebooks. But we might create a few more on plants that seem they should have strong spiritual power.

                          One possible candidate in my mind would be Rose. Flowers in general are distinguished from other plants, and many in general - particularly roses - have strong symbolic value of many different meanings.

                          Another possibility might be Mistletoe. It's a parasitic plant which makes it different from others. It had strong connections with fertility, vitality, and protection from evil. The Christmas ritual of kissing under the mistletoe, and the legend of Loki causing Baldur's death from a mistletoe arrow also speak to its power. It also has medicinal value and some important ecological roles. I'm not sure what kind of Incarna or spirit brood it could be, but ruling over many medicinal herbs and such is one possibility as well as plants available in winter to feed animals. Although I admit there are many other plants that could fulfill the same role.

                          Should domesticated plants have their own Incarna? And what different role would they have? In Axis Mundi, they discuss Corn spirit. And while the description is that of maize, it also talks about how Gaia sometimes adopt the guise of a corn spirit (meaning grains in general like wheat or rye). This is something that usually confuses American readers. Europeans often use the term "corn" to mean any kind of grain, but Americans use the term to mean exclusively maize. So I think the reference to European corn spirits mean this is grain in general (while the Grain spirit of Stag seems to refer to grains used to make alcoholic drinks, not those that are eaten - making this even more confusing). Anyway, in that description of Corn, Axis Mundi tells us that while Corn was a major source of Gaian worship with various harvest festivals and the like, that the spirit is far less available now since people celebrate that less and the rise of industrial agriculture has transformed the harvest into a far less spiritual endeavor. Still, I think "Corn" (we may want to call this Cereal to make it less confusing) could be a good selection. As an Incarna of domesticated crops, it is clearly segregated from other plants and has a very unique depiction that would make plants of this kind treated very differently from all wild ones.

                          We might also want to look at this from other perspectives. If World Tree covers trees, then it obviously is a spirit of forests. But we have other biomes like tundra (both polar and alpine), grasslands, and deserts. These are dominated by other kinds of plants. And wetlands could be considered their own thing. Should one or more of these have their own Incarna to rule over the plants of these habitats? Are there any real candidates of spiritual power among the wild grasses, shrubs, reeds, and such that could act as a Major Incarna with their own brood?

                          Garou games are unlikely to utilize Plant incarna or their spirit broods much. I rarely see Garou PCs interact with plant spirits, and those that do seem to stick mainly to using the Rite of Spirit Awakening. There is little interaction even to make fetishes, making chiminage relationships unlikely. And while it is possible to imagine some specialized games utilizing the Incarna of the seas or waters, it would be a very unique game that made extensive use of plant spirits.

                          But plants are a vital part of Earth's ecosystem, and the idea of Garou as protectors of the landscape are built into the game. So this could be an area where creative thoughts could generate a lot of good ideas that could vitalize many chronicles and open up a richer experience. I think this could be an area of very beneficial creative brainstorming.


                          • #14
                            There was an issue of Swamp Thing where Alec had to tell a funny story, so he told a tale of how he snuck into a movie theatre to surreptitiously watch a movie he really loved. He used a piece of popcorn to corn a very tiny corncob-body. A later issue showed Swamp Thing and the rest of his kind marching to war, and, amidst all the awesome imagery is corncob Swamp Thing.

                            Now I want to play a corncob kami charged with helping out a farmer...


                            • #15
                              Hmm, think this last post was meant for the kami thread... Oh, well.

                              I next want to look at reptile spirits. The game has had many of them over the years, and besides the Croatan tribal totem of Turtle, there are also the Mokole and Nagah who are shapechangers. So there should be some Major Incarna with their own spirit broods out there.

                              I originally thought to start at a trio of totems looking at Turtle, Crocodile, and Snake. But after borrowing the Mokole and Nagah tribebooks to look at what they mention about totems and spirits in general, I had to make changes. It seems the Nagah have the exact same patrons as the Mokole – the Dragon Kings. So that folded everything with them into one spirit brood. I wasn't too disappointed because I had trouble finding appropriate spirits to fill under Snake other than... snakes.

                              One reason I am very interested in these spirit broods is that they really represent a different roleplay opportunity than the others. While not outright hostile to Garou (Garou packs still have many totems that are found here), these are likely some of the most unfriendly overall of all the Gaian spirits. The Turtle incarna is noticeably absent. And the Mokole and Nagah are some of the more hostile Fera towards the Garou. So we have the challenge of determining some guidelines for the spirits of these broods to show this while still allowing Garou to obtain pack totems and engage in chiminage.