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The Trajectory of Fear in Werewolf the Forsaken

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  • The Trajectory of Fear in Werewolf the Forsaken

    Disclaimer: This topic will be heavily influenced by this treatise from Ash Law, and it's aim is to adapt it's tools and methodologies into a Forsaken game. It's reading is expected and required to participate on the discussion.

    Unease in spirit:

    Every spirit is a Predator:

    It's easy to forget that even a spirit of Cute or Joy had to eat it's way off the proverbial womb like a shark to gain the faintest hint of individuality, not to say something akin to self-awareness. But they all did. From the rat spirit agent of the local Beshilu, to your pack's very own totem. In an ecosystem where everything is a predator, it now seems logical that the inescapable spiritual evolutionary arms race includes measures such as being capable of blasting things dead as effectively as an assault rifle is capable of.

    Spirits are Everywhere:

    They can see you when you bathe, they can see you when you go to bed. They see you when you think you're completely alone, and the most insidious ones actually feed on the things that you do when you think no one is watching, and make sure you get a bigger rush out of it. Any active spirit is capable of doing this, just with the first dot in a relevant influence.

    Spirits are Mutable:

    Coupled with the first tenet here, it becomes clear that ephemera is mutable. Spirits look one way when they wish to parlay, another when they'd rather hide in the background (likely to play at the venus fly trap, and everyone can do this with a suitable Locus around) and another far more terrifying when they're actually feasting on the guts of their prey. This allows you to establish normality (when they seek parlay or hide) into unease (when they see them messily absorbing some kind of suitable ambient essence) into dread (when you start to seem like a hamburger to the spirit).

    Spirits will Own you:

    Quite literally. It's one of their most terrifying attributes: your life stops being your own. You become a resource to them. A play thing. Not even Uratha are exempt of this - consider Pure totems, enforcing their wills down their pack's necks, or the lone wolf who really has no clue about how to deal with the spirits (and it's likely to get urged, or worse), or the recent nuzusul who's at harmony 10 because he chains himself in the basement in fear of the full moon and there's spirits of slaughter hanging around him like those very chains on the other side.

    Flesh of Dread:

    Let's be honest. Something is wrong with you. Unless you have perfect spiritual balance, you have something that could send you into a killing frenzy - let that be hinted at. If your character's Kuruth trigger is Hunger, let them be afraid of every time their stomach grumble. If it's Wounds, keep having them learning of the gruesome tragedies that befell where they'll visit, making them ponder if they should or not peek on the other side of the Gauntlet.

    Sense of Terror:

    Play up on the heightened senses of the characters to showcase the signs of terror. Even their spiritual senses. They've heard the murder, every stab, they've seen the blood, and can tell intimate details about the victim off it's scent, like when was her last period - but the body is nowhere to be found, and the spirit wilds are quiet. Too quiet. Like whichever possible witness fled the area. There's no trail to follow. What happened? how can you appease the potential spirit witnesses for a declaration? what kind of Gathra must you gather for them? Was that a discorporating wisp of decay and sand the clock of a death spirit? What could possibly have death run scared?

  • #2
    Article is interesting - but it's main idea of Trajectory of Terror is not possible to implant to Werewolf. Why? Because Uratha all the time makes Sacred Hunts. And what is Sacred Hunt? It's - be definition of article - full Horror step in narrative. You know what your Prey is. You have your gruesome shapeshifting powers - or worse for the horror genere - your shamanistic magical powers.

    Even if we want to make step back and start all Unease -> Dread -> Terror -> Horror path - we cannot. From the moment of Uratha's First Change there is no Normality, as 'reader/players' know it - as werewolves are already half-spirits all the time and by there they are in alien mindset from the start. Uratha knows that spirits are everywhere. Uratha sense things that normal people do not. Uratha can shapechange to unnatural forms any time they want. You cannot slowly break away 'illusion of normal' for werewolves - as they are far past normal on the go.

    You can try to rise Dread or Terror phases, it may have some plus to the story. But once you use Uratha, you will not have come to classical horror feel of the game.

    It's somehow demoralizes me as ST even, as I literally wanted to spicy my tomorrow plot of Siskur-Dah on Dragon Idigam my players at Viking Era will do. But beside using some Signposts to mark how foul the Dragon Idigam is, there is not very much I can make more phases beside strict Horror 'and you find beast in the cave'.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
      Article is interesting - but it's main idea of Trajectory of Terror is not possible to implant to Werewolf. Why? Because Uratha all the time makes Sacred Hunts. And what is Sacred Hunt? It's - be definition of article - full Horror step in narrative. You know what your Prey is. You have your gruesome shapeshifting powers - or worse for the horror genere - your shamanistic magical powers.

      Even if we want to make step back and start all Unease -> Dread -> Terror -> Horror path - we cannot. From the moment of Uratha's First Change there is no Normality, as 'reader/players' know it - as werewolves are already half-spirits all the time and by there they are in alien mindset from the start. Uratha knows that spirits are everywhere. Uratha sense things that normal people do not. Uratha can shapechange to unnatural forms any time they want. You cannot slowly break away 'illusion of normal' for werewolves - as they are far past normal on the go.

      You can try to rise Dread or Terror phases, it may have some plus to the story. But once you use Uratha, you will not have come to classical horror feel of the game.

      It's somehow demoralizes me as ST even, as I literally wanted to spicy my tomorrow plot of Siskur-Dah on Dragon Idigam my players at Viking Era will do. But beside using some Signposts to mark how foul the Dragon Idigam is, there is not very much I can make more phases beside strict Horror 'and you find beast in the cave'.
      You are wrong. It is not just possible, but easy to do horror in Werewolf.

      The problem you're mistaking for it being 'impossible' is that you have not been willing to do anything to take the first step.

      Your setting? You've attempted to make as normal as possible, even excluding the Pure to the outer reaches and putting the tribes in various human professions to make everything fit in nicely. Despite the fact that you want Bale Hounds to be infiltrating a protectorate, you have them sit around waiting to be killed like bandits in a video game. Every question you've asked around here is how to make a situation as not-uneasy as possible. You want the most average number of supernaturals in an area, you want the standard response for actions, you take an idigam and make it as standard a monster as possible. It's a big thing with lots of health that can hit hard. Pijavica are uneasy. They are horror incarnate to themselves and everyone around them. But you wanted something more normal. In mage you even had a battle pitting scelesti masters against the players, and rather than take advantage of the infinite possibility of Abyssal horrors they can call down, you wanted a straight fight.

      If you want horror, you have to be willing to take the first step. What is Normal for werewolves is not what is Normal for humans. But werewolves have their own Normal. Spirits exist and act a certain way, as do werewolves. Unease is caused by having these things act up, or act differently. This is easily done, as the ecosystem in the Hisil is not in any form of stasis. It is a house of cards, and the cards are predatory cannibals. All it takes is one person getting frustrated to tip the entire thing over. And even if you have a territory where no one gets mad for some reason, you have environmental changes like the seasons. One of the first pre-made adventures for Werewolf was caused by spirits reacting to longer winters. Their solution? Hive-Claim someone and start an arson spree. We have an entire chapter meant to drill into you that lodges are cults. They are not friendly clubs you join in. It is a cult where you worship a crazy god and you show your piety by doing crazy things. Even the most 'upright' of them, the Lodge of Garm, one of the three Pillars of the Blood Talons, are out there trying to start wars. They're trying to kill enough elder werewolves to let a Secondborn Breach its way into the world with a horde of war spirits. The game is RIFE with situations to build Horror out of and Malus just listed six.

      Now. Not wanting to do that is fine. People have run all these games like they've run D&D, Monsterhearts, some people just use it to ERP. There's no 'right' way to do things. But you cannot denounce other gamestyles as impossible when you've shown yourself unwilling to even try them.

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      • #4


        Bra-freaking-vo.


        Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
        The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
        Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.
        Currently Working On: The Noble and the Sovereign, Blog

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        • #5
          Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
          You can try to rise Dread or Terror phases, it may have some plus to the story. But once you use Uratha, you will not have come to classical horror feel of the game.

          It's somehow demoralizes me as ST even, as I literally wanted to spicy my tomorrow plot of Siskur-Dah on Dragon Idigam my players at Viking Era will do. But beside using some Signposts to mark how foul the Dragon Idigam is, there is not very much I can make more phases beside strict Horror 'and you find beast in the cave'.
          So there can't be horror in RPGs that were pitched as horror games?

          The Idigam are literally designed as outside-context problems. Werewolves have lived with their constructed Tribes for thousands of years; all their prey are more or less known factors. Idigam literally represent the unknown. They stand in your pack's face and make you say, "Oh shit, no amount of training could have prepared us for this."

          If you've reduced that to a dungeon-crawling boss fight...that's not the game's fault.
          Last edited by reseru; 11-09-2017, 07:39 PM.

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          • #6
            Adding to the conversation:

            I imagine part of the problem, asides from your mindset Hamster, is that you make the mistake that Mage-fans occasionally make-that just because you're equipped to figure things out and handle them does not mean you actually get a pass on them.

            Werewolves are remarkably effective at the detective work of their sphere, but it would be a mistake to assume that they know how everything works. Sure, they might have a handle on spirits as a concept(except not, more on that in a bit), but every individual spirit is their own little box of mystery and horror, and no werewolf can inherently know what each one is. That a werewolf is equipped to handle spirits does not mean they are necessarily equipped to handle Dove-In-Katrina, spirit of loss. Same goes for any of the major prey types, and it's important to perceive that broad rules do not stop any individual from having tricks up their sleeves. The buildup and reveal to how the unique horror of each individual prey* is an avenue for the trajectory of fear, that slow revelation of how each prey is horrific. That a werewolf is a god-killing demigod does not save them from the fear that occurs when ignorance transforms into knowledge, and when surety of knowledge is proven to be utterly short. That which is not known cannot be killed, and the act of revelation is the art of horror itself.

            Also important is that this actually applies deeply-werewolves don't actually know why things happen or are the way they are, but they do feel when it's right or not. That's it's own kind of horror, the ease and pleasure of changing is alarming to a new werewolf, as is the onslaught of senses in various forms. And there's no inherent sense of what the book tells them about the spirit kingdoms or shartha hives, only that hunting them feels in place and that a werewolf is equipped somehow them. For new werewolves, everything is new for them, and none of it is actually familiar, but there is a part of them that has always wanted this, and that dichotomy will and should alienate werewolves from themselves. As they get more and more used to it, that alienation translates outwards, until people recognize, maybe overtly, mostly subtly, that you are a being who will bleed anything and anyone for it's red, alien will. And when the werewolf realizes that people who used to be comfortable with them are now fearful of them, that personal horror should start all over again.

            That a werewolf is equipped for it's area of expertise does not mean that everything about that area or their equipment should not be a cause for horror. In fact, it is the very fount your should spew forth from.

            *which, I should clarify, need not actually be individual-a mob of humans can be unique without you needing to articulate why each member of that mob is, it's enough to know that this bunch is inexplicably armed with lightning guns, and this part can't stop crying and you kind of want to drown when you hear it. You want more character than that, but still.

            EDIT: A better way to put this:

            It is important to remember that werewolves, and other characters, don't have knowledge, but do have capacity to learn-and capacity to learn is the essence of horror.
            Last edited by ArcaneArts; 11-09-2017, 10:23 PM.


            Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
            The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
            Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.
            Currently Working On: The Noble and the Sovereign, Blog

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            • #7
              Originally posted by nofather View Post
              One of the first pre-made adventures for Werewolf was caused by spirits reacting to longer winters. Their solution? Hive-Claim someone and start an arson spree.
              What adventure is this? I though the only published adventure for forsake was Parlor Games.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                What adventure is this? I though the only published adventure for forsake was Parlor Games.
                In the Chicago book, each game line has its own pre-made story. The Werewolf one is Fires in Winter.

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                • #9
                  nofather, I will rethink my 'comfort zones' as ST, so thank you for pointing that. But I still stands for my view - and explain it below, answering reseru.

                  Originally posted by reseru View Post
                  So there can't be horror in RPGs that were pitched as horror games?
                  Werewolf is a horror RPG, not the horror RPG. Distinction is that it poorly emulate Classical Horror that Ash Law is writing about, just like rest of CoD games ( beside 'blue book' and Hunter on lower Tiers ) - all CoD games are more Psychological Horror games where put you in the skin of monster with magical powers. You cannot run then Classical Horror in it - as it basis on 'powerless' of player character in confrontation with the 'monster' - and whole cycle of Unease -> Dread -> Terror -> Horror is to intenify this difference in reception of story. It's like you would try to make Classical Horror story with superheroes ( which, in part, CoD monsters are ) - the threat would need to be absurdly big enough and then you need to somehow turn off their powers. If characters can have instant access to shapeshifting, magic, magical items - they anytime can grab them and use them - they feel conmfort, not Terror or Dread. Mage: The Awakening is extreme example of this - you really have a very big problem to scare mages as they can literally do anything. In Werewolf is just simply less - 'they can do many, many things'. To have Classical Horror you need to have near-human players characters in power level - maybe it can be run with Wolf-Blooded, as they are only 'almost humans'.

                  And understand me here - I do not write that you cannot high Dread or Terror elements in game. But to make 'Werewolf point Unease', players need to understand it in the first place - and be in this mindset. I simply state that normal doing, with mortal character. Unease is tough - for years I was maybe on 3-4 really good horror (mortal and a like ) RPG games that captured it. Running on top of that 'we made Unease for half-flesh spiritual gods' ( that Uratha are ) is nearly impossible to achive, just because it's so hard for players to feel it - having twice dissonance psychological barriers. And just like Ash Law article states - without good Unease phase you will not achive proper Classical Horror. You can have great Psychological Horror 'What have I done?' or 'What my wolf instincts push me?' - but not Classical Horror.

                  Originally posted by reseru View Post
                  The Idigam are literally designed as outside-context problems. Werewolves have lived with their constructed Tribes for thousands of years; all their prey are more or less known factors. Idigam literally represent the unknown. They stand in your pack's face and make you say, "Oh shit, no amount of training could have prepared us for this."
                  It's still not proper Unease, it' more a Terror - Idigams are 'weird spirits'. And as just normal spirits are 'weird' in itself - they just seems more 'weirder'. Idigams can rise Terror - "Oh shit, no amount of training could have prepared us for this." - but not starting Unease.

                  Problem is not even with Idigams itself - it's that you must go for players 'you must understand it's so weird for this weird world of weird begins your character is in half itself' - it slips by cracks. Twice Cognitive Dissonance levels and a like things. It simply 'Entry Level' problem of players not 'feeling' the game without a lot of setting experience.

                  Originally posted by reseru View Post
                  If you've reduced that to a dungeon-crawling boss fight...that's not the game's fault.
                  I politely ask you - How then you run Sacred Hunt to make it Classical Horror, not Psychological one? Show me scenes on examples and I will point you why I think players will not feel it on the game session.


                  My stuff for Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E & BtP
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post

                    What adventure is this? I though the only published adventure for forsake was Parlor Games.
                    The one of Chicago.

                    Edit: Ninja'd

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
                      I politely ask you - How then you run Sacred Hunt to make it Classical Horror, not Psychological one? Show me scenes on examples and I will point you why I think players will not feel it on the game session.
                      I did it exactly in the last paragraph of my OP.

                      How the hell is unease hard to achieve when you have characters that can walk into the collected and cleaned scene of a car crash and tell where the 6 years old kid ended up in the pavement? Or better, turn it right into dread as they peek across the gauntlet?
                      Last edited by Malus; 11-10-2017, 02:45 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Malus View Post
                        How the hell is unease hard to achieve when you have characters that can walk into the collected and cleaned scene of a car crash and tell where the 6 years old kid ended up in the pavement? Or better, turn it right into dread as they peek across the gauntlet?
                        Cause it's day-to-day thing for Uratha? If you each day see things like that - and is in as half your life alien spirit wolf god - you become desentezided to humans point of view. Those images are natural for your character - cause you know Shadow Realm works like that. And to make things weirder from those things - it makes players 'not understand' alieness of it, cause of two times Cognitive Dissonance.
                        Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-10-2017, 08:53 AM.


                        My stuff for Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E & BtP
                        LGBT+ in CoD games

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post

                          Cause it's day-to-day thing for Uratha? If you each day see things like that - and is in half your life alien spirit wolf god - you become desentezided to humans point of view. Those images are natural for your character - cause you know Shadow Realm works like that. And to make things weirder from those things - it makes players 'not understand' alieness of it, cause of two times Cognitive Dissonance.
                          If you somehow portray decay spirits going about their job in a way that seems natural, you're doing it wrong.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Malus View Post

                            If you somehow portray decay spirits going about their job in a way that seems natural, you're doing it wrong.
                            Really? So what do Uratha do on day-to-day matter then? They jump in to twisted realms of Shadow Realm, hunt for monster abominations in Flesh, fight with other werewolves. You do not think then than most players comes to see 'booo, it's unnatural realm' as 'okay, we did this 3 session ago and we simply need to find good Locus to go out'?

                            HOW would you made Idigam lair or Wound to be truly alien to even 'normal' alien Deep Shadow Realm domains?
                            Last edited by wyrdhamster; 11-10-2017, 08:59 AM.


                            My stuff for Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E & BtP
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nofather View Post

                              In the Chicago book, each game line has its own pre-made story. The Werewolf one is Fires in Winter.
                              Originally posted by Malus View Post

                              The one of Chicago.

                              Edit: Ninja'd
                              Thanks guys

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