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Dealing With Collateral Damage In Werewolf Stories

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  • Dealing With Collateral Damage In Werewolf Stories

    Obviously this can be an issue in any Chronicles of Darkness game, portraying as it does a world in which your average Homo sapiens risks exsanguination, extraterrestrial kidnapping, erasure from reality, or transformation into a soulless servitor of tyrant-gods, but the myriad and diverse threats in the Forsaken setting all imply that at least a handful of people are going to die during the course of a story, whether in the violent fallout of a First Change or Death Rage, from the hostile takeover of a Host, from the horrifically grim process of Claiming, from joining into a grotesque abomination of flesh at the behest of a sick radio frequency, from having one's teeth turned into cancerous puppets, from transforming into statues of living glass, from looking at an idigam, and so on. I see how this sets up the narrative stakes of the game: The Uratha are the shepherds who must protect their flock from all manner of dire wolves, and not taking one's duty seriously means a lot of people might die very painful deaths. I also see how this plays into what might be called the Darwinian horror of the setting: We humans are used to seeing ourselves as standing proudly at the top of the food chain, domitors of the natural world, whereas in fact all manner of awful, powerful things are lurking in the shadows to consume our flesh and spirits, not because we're special, but because we're useful, because we were there.

    All that said, if we look not at the entire world, but focus just on a single region, a long-term Werewolf game could depopulate an entire locale depending on the type of story being told, especially since, unless a particular game has a super-tight focus, it can be assumed that multiple types of threats will be present. Furthermore, these dangers aren't the kinds who normally care about not leaving a trace; the crime scenes in the aftermath of a rogue wolf cult, bodyjacking spirit, or Azlu infestation must be the stuff of precinct legends.

    This is all to say, I am wondering if others who have played or run Werewolf have had to deal with this issue of widespread destruction and its consequences, whether this is a problem or actually an important feature of the game, what solutions or consequences might present themselves, and so on.

  • #2
    Originally posted by espritdecalmar View Post
    All that said, if we look not at the entire world, but focus just on a single region, a long-term Werewolf game could depopulate an entire locale depending on the type of story being told, especially since, unless a particular game has a super-tight focus, it can be assumed that multiple types of threats will be present. Furthermore, these dangers aren't the kinds who normally care about not leaving a trace; the crime scenes in the aftermath of a rogue wolf cult, bodyjacking spirit, or Azlu infestation must be the stuff of precinct legends.

    This is all to say, I am wondering if others who have played or run Werewolf have had to deal with this issue of widespread destruction and its consequences, whether this is a problem or actually an important feature of the game, what solutions or consequences might present themselves, and so on.
    Looking at it from a more normal perspective, how much catastrophic or bad things are you intending to inflict upon the area? If the area is always constantly being inflicted with a new Azlu/Beshilu/Idigam/Wolf Cult every single week, then of course the area will depopulate given enough time. More realistically though, if you intend to keep a story inside of a smaller size area, consider using the Hisil more where damage will mostly go unnoticed (except to spirits), create issues that require more investigation and brain over brawn, or create an excuse for the players to leave their territorial comfort zone and roam the land. Now granted some stuff is going to have wide ranging consequences such as multiple packs trying to deal with a rank 5 spirit of explosions or something, but these should be the exception rather than the norm. Ultimately, the best way I found for preventing your population from declining is to mix up your encounters to reward other types of behavior besides hack and slash.

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    • #3
      More of a feature.

      It's worth noting that many of the antagonists are going to attempt their own version of a Masquerade for assorted reasons that usually revolve around knowing that attention can equal investigation, which equals death. Hosts, for instance, appreciate that some human forms are pathways to authority and power in the human world (the fiction in the second edition core book has a nice example of this). So while the monster rat-men party in the basement, Officer Chumley the new host is stuck using his new body to place APBs on known werewolves. And while you do have things like spirits and claimed of murder and chaos, they are more likely to keep their presence known to a select few faithful, who will then cause the murder and chaos for them, allowing them to feast off the Essence created without endangering themselves. In either of these cases, werewolves might end up plowing through dozens of humans or once-humans, and how they deal with that is a part of the game. That said, how much of a part is up to the ST. If the pack is in wolf form, causing lunacy, while they attack a spirit-influenced punk in the middle of his murder spree, no one's going to be around to put together 'giant wolf = Louanne Supernik, from 112 Evergreen Terrace. But if Officer Chumley rides up to Louanne's house with a few cars for backup knowing that she's triggered by the Other, it's suddenly made personal and Louanne's player is going to have to do something about it. There are some things you can do, of course. There's many abilities that let you inflict Lunacy on people, the Veil rite, one can make a bargain with spirits or other supernatural entities to alter memories or recordings of the event, or kill them all and make it look like something else.

      But in the case that your identity gets blown, or you deal with a more noticable disaster, like an idigam or host or spirit activity that has gone way out of control, your game sort of turns to a different kind of horror game. Survival horror, I think, covers it. Your access to your normal resources would be hindered, including things you might be able to buy as a mortal, as well as loci (many of these might be altered irrevocably during a disaster, eliminated, or made more limited, forming a sort of hub for pack activities, something you have to be on guard constantly for). But this kind of thing werewolves are particularly good at. Healing in Chronicles can take a long time, normally, so for something like mortals you're forced to stagger out games, but in werewolf between dietary benefits and being able to heal fast, as well as your advantages to resist disease and poison, the situation is one werewolves can excel in. Adaptability is a big part of their nature.

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      • #4
        Another point to consider is to intersperse your major death-and-gore-fests with extremely mundane issues that demand resolution through human means. This breaks up the action, grounds the game within the pack's territory and keeps it way from "monster of the week" mentality. The fact werewolves heal so fast can facilitate play that would, yes, wreck a region in short order. That's PC play, however, while NPC packs spend most of their time patrolling, hunting for essence, and making sure the 1001 extremely normal crises that come up from living with and around other people don't impact the pack.

        I mean, being a werewolf has to be a bit like being in the army: long periods of boredom stuck with strange troopmates, interspersed with points of extreme terror and violence.

        --Khanwulf

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