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Totem Death and how it affects the Pack

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  • Totem Death and how it affects the Pack

    So I've been doing a setting write-up for a CofD one-shot (which when I've written up enough, MAYBE I'll put up here) and part of it concerns Forsaken and the spirit courts there. And the after-effects on how a prominent spirit that happens to be a pack Totem suddenly vanishes and how it affects the local spirits and Forsaken. But I want to check in a on a couple of things first:

    1. Can a Totem spirit die?

    From my initial readings, it seems like Totems are, for the most part, regular old spirits. Meaning they'll die by the usual methods of losing all their Corpus and their Essence. Or a pack decided to call a Siskur-Dah on a Totem and are successful in doing so in ending it permanently. Or a mage bouncing in with Spirit 5 and utterly destroying the Totem. So is that the case, or do Totems have special protections that makes it harder for them to be destroyed like other spirits due to them being Totems?

    2. What happens to the pack who lose their Totem?

    Mechanically I know that all the members of the packs lose any benefits (increased Traits) but how would it affect the pack in-story? Do they have a whole crisis of faith thing, or would there be a risk of the pack falling apart? Or would they just shrug it off and get to work finding a new Totem? Or something else?

  • #2
    Originally posted by tasti man LH View Post
    So I've been doing a setting write-up for a CofD one-shot (which when I've written up enough, MAYBE I'll put up here) and part of it concerns Forsaken and the spirit courts there. And the after-effects on how a prominent spirit that happens to be a pack Totem suddenly vanishes and how it affects the local spirits and Forsaken. But I want to check in a on a couple of things first:

    1. Can a Totem spirit die?

    From my initial readings, it seems like Totems are, for the most part, regular old spirits. Meaning they'll die by the usual methods of losing all their Corpus and their Essence. Or a pack decided to call a Siskur-Dah on a Totem and are successful in doing so in ending it permanently. Or a mage bouncing in with Spirit 5 and utterly destroying the Totem. So is that the case, or do Totems have special protections that makes it harder for them to be destroyed like other spirits due to them being Totems?

    2. What happens to the pack who lose their Totem?

    Mechanically I know that all the members of the packs lose any benefits (increased Traits) but how would it affect the pack in-story? Do they have a whole crisis of faith thing, or would there be a risk of the pack falling apart? Or would they just shrug it off and get to work finding a new Totem? Or something else?
    Spirits don't have an expiration date if that's what you're asking. The benefit of being a totem is the devotion and consequently strength that they deride from their packs. Dealing with a totem with 25 points invested in it is different than dealing with one with just 7, because their ranks and therefore their withstanding rating will be different.

    Packs which have their totem devoured or destroyed could implode by playing the blame game for example; in 1e, they would stop spiritually being a pack, in 2e, totems aren't strictly necessary for the pack bond.

    The issue with a totem is that it is literally the spirit of a pack. A pack which venerated a spirit of vengeance will be hard pressed to pick a radically different spirit as a totem, and that's another source of conflict for such a lose.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by tasti man LH View Post
      1. Can a Totem spirit die?
      Yes, they can die. They don't have special protections just from being part of the pack, though they can if the pack is heavily into spirit rituals and has one that does that. Totems tend to have more access to Essence than the usual spirit, however, and the 'core' aspect of the totem tends to be better held together. For instance if their totem is the spirit of a place, like a bridge, odds are the bridge is well maintained or protected. So it can be harder than usual to kill a totem just because they have more in the vein of allies.

      2. What happens to the pack who lose their Totem?

      Mechanically I know that all the members of the packs lose any benefits (increased Traits) but how would it affect the pack in-story? Do they have a whole crisis of faith thing, or would there be a risk of the pack falling apart? Or would they just shrug it off and get to work finding a new Totem? Or something else?
      I mean, this is like 'what happens to the person who loses their pet,' in regards to the sheer variety of different possible results. Not that a totem is a pet equivalent, but some just like some people think of pets as 'just animals' others think of them as family. Some packs might break apart and never see each other again, some might go out and hunt a new and appropriate spirit. There's an example in Night Horrors of a pack that was wiped out, except for the totem and newest packmate, and as a result the totem has become twisted and the werewolf in a strange dependent relationship upon it.

      Some detail goes into this in the Pack, but the totem is a member of the pack the way only other werewolves can be. Its resonance fully encapsulates the pack, they hunt alongside the werewolves, it is their emissary to the Hisil and an anchor of sorts. Generally this is a very close relationship, but some packs are going to be more distant, the Pack notes that while not hunting with the pack is rare, sometimes joining in is impossible, like with location spirits bound to their area.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by tasti man LH View Post

        1. Can a Totem spirit die?
        Yes, absolutely.

        2. What happens to the pack who lose their Totem?
        Things probably suck really badly for them, unless the totem was a tyrannical little shit, poisonous influence or other nasty piece of work that they are now relievedly free from.

        The exact impact on a pack will obviously vary hugely depending on the pack in question, and their relationship to their totem. One where the totem really was the beating heart of the back, to whom they all felt connected? Yeah, crisis of faith and losing a close confidante both at the same time. Fellow traveller on an ideological path? Might be that the death triggers grim resolve and determination in the pack to See It Through. Sly, weaselly little shite that was always on the lookout for an opportunity and was squirming its way up the spirit hierarchy with the pack's help? Not only the loss of the totem, but possibly the need to run around frantically trying to keep all its plates spinning to stop all those debts it owed coming due on the pack, or to stop a hierarchy crumbling, or just to keep the thing going until they can find a new totem and slot it in where the old one's climb to power left off.

        There's also fun and games with the pack's attitude to any new totem they might succeed in gaining. How do individual pack members look at it? Overconfident assumption it'll do everything the old one did? Resentment that it isn't their old alien-spirit-buddy? Assuming that it'll just get right on with the existing pack traditions and ceremonies - ones that were shaped very much by the nature of the old totem - and that it won't start manipulating them for its own ends?


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