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Mammoth's Ban

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  • Mammoth's Ban

    There is a write up on Mammoth as a pack totem in the revised Players Guide to Garou. It's different from the original description of Mammoth in Rage Across Apalachia.

    The ban for the revised Mammoth states that Mammoth asks his children (the pack members) to save him (the spirit Incarna) from destruction.

    Wooly mammoths have been extinct for around 4000 years. And with the loss of that material correspondence, the Mammoth Incarna is fading. Axis Mundi (and other books) go into more detail with Griffin adopting the spirit into its brood to help it survive. Axis Mundi gives some interesting flavor explaining that is because Griffin is the avenger of injustice on Gaia, and thus must be avenging the extinction of animals caused by humans. It also gives interesting detail that every time a species goes extinct, it sends one of the remaining Mammoth spirits into slumber. In essence, Mammoth is now a totem of extinct animals in general so its survived though still fading. So we have some nice flavor text.

    So my question is, what are the kinds of tasks should his children do to help Mammoth? I think this has application to other areas of the game since it is ultimately about chiminage. And other Garou have likely had similar chiminage at some point. When Cave Lion went extinct, the White Howlers likely provided similar chiminage to their totem like Mammoth's children now do to it. STs may want to introduce other spirits of extinct (or near extinct) animals as an interesting plot for their PCs. And there may be some application to spirits who were once Breed totems like Bat and Boar whose natural children (animals) are still around, but their Changing Breed is gone.

    So if you are part of a pack to Mammoth, what do you do? You can't do an easy solution like say you are protecting hunting grounds of mammoths or looking over its mortal children since they are all gone. What chiminage do you perform? Absent taking some mammoth DNA from Siberia and cloning the species again, what do you do?

    I have some ideas of my own, but hoping to hear other ideas.

  • #2
    In Werewolf, cloning does bad things, so that wouldn't help. I think constantly reminding humans about mammoths might help. I suppose the best option is to protect critically endangered species, to protect the mammoth spirits. Perhaps the spirits might be preserved by putting them into fetishes. The White Howlers could form bonds with animal ghosts, and perhaps this extended to cave lion spirits?

    It's a losing game, though. According to Mokole, most spirits of extinct species go to the Dark Umbra, and only Mokole who remember that species can make contact with them. I suppose that if they went extinct in a place without Mokole, nobody can find their ghosts.

    My guess is that Mammoth and White Lion fared better (for now) due to White Howlers and Red Talons and Griffin's brood looking out for them, and due to being famous among humans. So, maybe a few other especially famous extinct creatures, like Dodo, might also linger in Griffin's brood. But most are probably already reduced to ghosts, and the rest will become ghosts eventually.
    Last edited by Erinys; 11-26-2020, 12:14 PM.

    I am extremely literal-minded and always 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.
    Exalted and cWoD book list. Exalted name-generators, Infernal and 1E-2.5E homebrew from many authors.


    • #3
      I admit, it must be difficult. But I think good guidelines are needed to help STs and PCs successfully incorporate the ban in their roleplay.

      I dislike "proactive" bans that prompt PCs (and NPCs) perform some undefined actions instead of bans that simply prohibit certain actions or apply mechanical penalties. Too much discretion creates potential for bad conflict between PCs and between PCs and the ST as they argue about what qualifies. Too often it is simply ignored or becomes the ban of "what we were going to do anyway." But Werewolf has many pack totem bans like that. Mammoth is just one.

      But I also think it's one of the harder bans to fulfill as the sourcebooks aren't very clear at the kind of actions this requires. I agree given the write up on Mammoth gafflings in Axis Mundi, that preventing species extinction (not that this is easy) to prevent these gafflings going into slumber, would be a good idea. But that info exists only in a sourcebook written years earlier. That connection isn't known otherwise. STs and PCs shouldn't have to perform archaeology like that to come up with ideas for the ban. There should be sufficient information in the totem description and general chiminage guidelines (not that this has ever really been provided to players or STs) for people to brainstorm.

      The first thing that occurs to me is that Gnosis should be donated, but in what quantity and frequency? This is probably something that needs to be negotiated between the PCs and ST. And as the pack progresses in knowledge, skill, and strength, the Gnosis donated should go up the ladder - perhaps originally to the pack totem, and then to summoned gafflings, then jagglings, and finally the Incarna itself. And the pack should develop a plan on how to achieve this and when. Obviously Cliaths shouldn't be summoning Incarna. It takes a while.

      I think the comment about reminding humans about Mammoth is right. That implies working with natural history museums, documentaries, classrooms, and other educational means. Perhaps travelling on pilgrimage to museums that have mammoth displays, or well known sites where mammoth fossils have been found. It also includes telling stories and myths to other Garou. The sept moot's Songs & Stories could be a critical venue to fulfill the ban. That's a very different kind of activity then most Werewolf games have, but it is certainly possible to build on that.

      Similarly, preservation and reverence of mammoth fossils and the like. Have the pack be very theatrical - arriving in stylized costumes that proclaim their allegiance to Mammoth during the sept, as opposed to just looking ordinary. Incorporate artifacts, sets, costumes, etc. during rites and pack customs. Have the pack work harder than most to model their behavior and actions on Mammoth to strengthen the spiritual correspondence. Learn appropriate Gifts, act stolid and stable, emulate your combat tactics with Mammoth as inspiration (move en masse like a herd, use weapons that emulate tusks, boot stomp opponents), wear lots of reddish brown clothing, and grow hair long.

      With the species gone, the remaining correspondence are the themes associated with mammoths. Foxes are clever, lions are regal, etc. Those become the more important elements that need to be shown and tied back to Mammoths, and build that on in mythic terms.


      • #4
        Those are good ideas Black Fox, although I'm not sure about the dressing up everyday, outside of Moot.

        It occurred to me as I was thinking about this, that Mammoth would get more help for endangered species from certain Mages. There are Mage groups (the Verbena, and some Dreamspeakers) who take populations of endangered species and hide them in special sanctuary realms in the Umbra. If you ignore the notion of the Avatar Storm destroying all such realms (which I strongly dislike) then you could have a group of Mages who serve Mammoth show up to 'abduct' a large number of endangered animals out of some place the Garou are protecting or patrolling, and take them into a part of the Umbra that Garou have never heard of. Which could be a set up for massive conflict or actual alliance, depending on how the PCs react.

        In general I like proactive bans that create story hooks and ritual actions, but you're right that Mammoth's is much too vague.

        I am extremely literal-minded and always 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.
        Exalted and cWoD book list. Exalted name-generators, Infernal and 1E-2.5E homebrew from many authors.


        • #5
          I wonder what happens if you preserve certain endangered species by removing them into the umbra. I have limited knowledge about Mage so I'll assume entering one of their horizon realms does not lead to material decomposition and becoming ephemera like it normally would. In any case, if they are removed from Gaia (essentially) does it really count? Did you actually preserve the species in a way that Gaia and the Incarna want? At least until such creatures are returned to Gaia (assuming they ever are). After all, one can still find "mammoths" in the Near Realm of Pangea.

          It's such a clever solution (albeit one relying on non-Garou to do the job) that I think something must be wrong with it in some way. The proper place for those animals is in its proper ecosystem in the Realm, not in some cosmic zoo. If you're able to save species in those ways, I think it may trivialize what actually needs to be done. What would people think if the ST pulled that same thing and said, "Hey, some Mages show up and return the Tasmanian Tiger/Wolf to Australia. Everything is now fixed. Hurrah." Some may think its cool, but I think many players would react negatively to such a deus ex machina. Again, it's a very novel solution I had not thought of. But there's something nagging me that it shouldn't be a real solution.

          With the right players, proactive bans can be fun. But in practice, I find way too many players having difficulty with them. It becomes something I as the ST need to help them brainstorm with or provide guidance. (And I think my player based is on the higher side of roleplay.) I don't mind providing hooks, but if it is a proactive ban I hope to have proactive players in that regard.


          • #6
            Indeed, this is the same problem with zoos, or the notion of cloning extinct animals*. Such ex situ conservation is good in the short term, but it's not a permanent solution. It doesn't do much good in the long run unless you can someday return them to the wild and keep them alive there. If that works, then the species is saved! But if their habitat is gone or someone shoots them all, what then? Keep them captive until they're domesticated? Leave them in the Horizon Realms until they adapt to the Umbra instead of Earth? Even in situ conservation is only a medium-term solution. The true solution is for living creatures to have somewhere they can survive without depending on constant help from humans.

            On the other hand, one could view them as refugee populations. If animals (or bygone beasts) are a kind of people with the same right to exist as humans, then just saving one species from genocide is still a great victory. And whether or not you see animals that way, every species has Umbral spirits who are sapient like humans.

            But nope, it won't do a lot of good to Gaia Herself if things don't get better post-Apocalypse, allowing their return to Gaia's back. If the animal is kin to a Changing-Breed, taking them away to some Horizon Realm takes them away from the shapeshifters, which hurts Gaia. And for Mammoth herself, I don't think there is any long-term hope. She's extinct. Unless she can transform himself into the spirit of something else, she'll die.

            In any case, I would't use Mages to return any lost species to the wild unless the PCs are heavily involved in the project, or the Mages' actions create a hook for more conflict or adventure.

            *(Cloning has additional practical problems even in the real world, and I seriously doubt it could save any species.)
            Last edited by Erinys; 11-27-2020, 01:48 AM.

            I am extremely literal-minded and always 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.
            Exalted and cWoD book list. Exalted name-generators, Infernal and 1E-2.5E homebrew from many authors.