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Personal totem question

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  • Personal totem question

    One of my players has acquired an Uktena gaffling as a personal totem, and already put some xp into acquiring 2 Rage, 3 Gnosis, and 3 WP for it, along with the ability for it to always be close to him as well as have the charm Break Reality.

    My question: how often do you think the totem should be able to use the charm? It only has to roll against its gnosis, not spend any, so... whenever it wants?

  • #2
    You could have just said no. But the Totem would use it when YOU wants, it is allied to the PC, but it is not the PC.

    Use it when you think it is good for the story and come up with whatever reason for the totem to refuse using it without good reason.

    She/her pronouns


    • #3
      Garou are supposed to have only one totem at a time. So if a Garou does have a personal totem, he is not connected to any pack totem. And if he was previously connected to a pack totem and abandoned it for a personal totem, that's the equivalent of dumping your girlfriend or boyfriend for a new one. The old totem will not be pleased. And this should be played out with the other pack members. Not knowing the circumstances of your game and PC, that may be relevant. A PC could always have some kind of personal relationship with a spirt outside their pack totem, but that would be different than having a personal totem.

      But let's continue with the idea that it is a personal totem. The totem is still an NPC similar to an Ally or Contact. It can help the PC, but still has its own needs and desires. So I strongly agree with monteparnas that the spirit can decide not to use any charm - especially one like Break Reality - because it would be inappropriate to do so. Another thing to do is really track the spirit's expenditure of Essence and the like, so as it is uses more of its power on behalf of the PC, the spirit does get weaker and subsequently asks the PC to do a lot of things that help it recharge. After all, that personal totem doesn't have an entire pack doing things to further a pack quest which arguably helps the spirit achieves its purpose here. It is relying on one guy to fulfill all chiminage and spiritual maintenance. It's a big commitment for both sides.

      Another thing to remember is that this spirit is putting a lot on the line to be a personal totem to one Garou. Its reputation is now tied to that Garou as everything he does reflects on the spirit. The spirit has a tremendous incentive to make sure the PC acts "appropriately" (as the spirit determines it for his own reputational needs, not the personal desires or interests of the Garou). And Uktena gafflings should have very mysterious and dark needs. Is the PC able to handle being in such a strong relationship with this kind of spirit? Totem is not subservient to the Garou. They are partners, and the spirit would see itself as the senior partner there to guide and mentor the Garou. If you have Axis Mundi, look at the section talking about Spriit Pacts, especially personal pacts on page 30 for guidance and ideas.

      Break Reality requires the ST to assign a difficulty rating according to the change being done. So anything you find ridiculous simply has a 9 or 10 difficulty and perhaps many successes needed to do it (partial success means only a partial change done according to what you want). So that gives you a way to dial back the ability of the Charm to wreck havoc. And any failure means the spirit loses Essence. So the more impossible or weird the request, the most likely it weakens the spirit.

      Lastly, it would be appropriate to simply deny the PC giving the Uktena spirit the Break Reality charm. That is a Triatic/Wyld spirit charm. It's not normally available to Gaian spirits. Unless I as the ST wanted the spirit to have it for reasons of my own, I wouldn't give it. Now such a charm could be explained. But what exactly is the purpose, role, or nature of an Uktena gaffling with such a Charm? It's probably not up to anything good as most people and Garou would define it. It might use that Charm to do things the PC doesn't want it to do! Uktena is supposed to the Grand Unlocker of Secrets so this gaffling with its Break Reality charm is likely to get into a lot of trouble (meaning it is going to get the PC into a lot of trouble). But you as ST may find that useful as a means to introduce plot.

      My best advice to you is to think hard on this personal totem as a real NPC of the setting. Give a lot of thought about the nature of Uktena spirits, and why this one has such a charm. What is its purpose? And therefore, what does it want out of this relationship with the PC? Then when you are ready, have a serious conversation with the player on how this will play out. Is that going to be fun for him? Annoying? Joykilling? If it leans towards not fun, then change the spirit accordingly until you and the player are comfortable. If it seems like fun for everyone involved, then proceed.


      • #4
        Excellent feedback as always, thank you.

        I'm relieved that almost everything expressed above is in accordance with my own understanding. This is a momentous development for both the pack and the PC, and has indeed resulted in the pack totem taking offense and withdrawing its blessings from the PC in question. Given that the pack totem is Mammoth, he's been more lenient than perhaps another totem such as Grandfather Thunder might have been, but is still displeased and offended.

        I won't bore you with the entirety of the backstory, but suffice to say that the PC is entering a phase in the game where he'll be removed from Uktena oversight, and having detected strong strands of fate touching his life, and not trusting him to pursue the tribe's interests, his tribal elders maneuvered to make this happen so as to ensure the best possible outcome for their tribe. I'll be playing the Uktena gaffling as an NPC, and it sees itself very much seen as the senior partner, has its own agenda, and will strive to keep the PC aligned with Uktena's tribal goals. I foresee some (hopefully) excellent rp down the line, as the Shadow Lord metis beta suddenly has to deal with another agenda in the pack, and the Uktena PC himself has to now balance his desire for power and secrets with the now urgent obligations to his tribe.

        Luckily this has all been discussed ooc, and everyone's on board.