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Spirit Ecology in WtF

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  • Spirit Ecology in WtF

    This seems to be a huge part of Werewolf, but it's also one of the least talked about in regards to full statements or systems designed to be mathmatically sussed out, like a Beast Hive or the Astral Realms from Mage.

    I don't have any big paragraph to really write up for this as I'm hoping for more of a discussion, but how do you run the ecology of the Shadow? How populated is it, how much "bigger" is it than the Flesh, how much space does a big spirit need to throw it's weight around, etc etc. I'd really be interested in hearing how people run courts and broods, as I've seen in some previous discussions that people see them as sorta diametrically opposed to "Shadow as an ecology."

  • #2
    A few books in first edition really got into it, most notably the Book of Spirits, and for werewolf in particular, Predators. Though they never get into the complete top-down details from a Shadow Prince all the way down to its lowest minions.

    I have it pretty populous, and pretty predatory, but I've noted that when I have described that people instantly respond with the description of it as a hellscape battle royale, so this is probably a good place to elaborate. It would be populous the way the area it reflects is. The Hisil reflection of a forest is not animal spirits constantly running around eating each other, because that's not what an actual forest is like. Take a walk through a forest and you're more likely to see trees and grass. And while they may seem peaceful, they too are stretching their roots to fight their neighbors for water, and stretching their branches to compete for sunlight. In some places like my hometown you might get things like strangler figs, literally choking the life out of their host-trees to survive.

    Similarly in a city, every moment of every day is not filled with buildings being demolished and new buildings being instantly built up in their place and 'the Superbowl is in town' levels of activity. Buildings are mostly static, sometimes ripping off their facades to reveal something else when a new franchise has bought the space but still trying to get consumption. Just like in real life, malls have their dominant shops they're known for, blocks have their dominant buildings, some public transit stops are more busy and active than others. In my games, these will have more powerful and influential spirits and will likely brook less competition, or enforce Essence tithes among the lesser shops that are exploited or disrupted by change borne by werewolves or in the real world.

    Time of day changes things, too. Outside, during the daytime, I have helions with a tendency to be dominant spirits, what with the gravity of Helios keeping things sluggish. Spirits that can will try to cross the Gauntlet, or more likely try to get shelter, which can form a subservient relationship (or a more symbiotic one). Spirits that are naturally indoors don't usually have to deal with this, and just like any difference between haves and have-nots, can result in some attitude dissonance. At night-time, spirits are more active, bopping around and trying to scrounge for Essence, seeking out loci and so forth.

    As for a specific ecology, a running trend in Chronicles of Darkness is the fact that everything depends on context. If a mall has two dominant shops, it may have two dominant spirits vying for control. One might have one, maintaining power in the mall with an iron grip, or none, with more of a free for all or animals-at-the-watering-hole type of thing. But basically when building an area I try to pick out some major points of interest that seem like they would be big Essence pools. Flesh out a dominant spirit, figure what kind of associates it would have, and how it would seep its way through the rest of the territory. The Sparkblood Seneschal, from the core book, lurks in a power plant but is likely to have minions throughout the plant, as well as lesser spirits sworn to it through transformers and conduits throughout the area. The book Territories is also good at depicting this, one of the example territories being a national park ruled over by three big spirits, King Spine, representing more of the natural aspect of the place (specifically cacti, but also the sun), Garbed-In-Flesh-Of-Shadows, a spirit of fear that represents more of a human-oriented aspect to the place, as its location on the border makes it a prime spot for trafficking, and both traffickers and border patrol fear what can happen when they meet up with each other. The last member is the most powerful, Black Fire is a Rank 5 spirit of fire that came up more spontaneously after lucking upon a locus, then using its great power to basically steamroll other spirits and loci. While King Spine is an eager spirit trying to make its place in the world and (it's strongly implied) has made a deal with a helion in order to boost its power and control, and Garbed is an usurper that fits there as well as anywhere, Black Fire represents a sort of chaos that sometimes just happens. I think it's a really good example of how a fairly quiet area can be chaotic in the Hisil. It doesn't have lists of minion spirits, but it seems like Spine would have the most native ones, Garbed more picking up stragglers and pointing them in the direction of Spine's loci (or offering them in exchange for subservience) and Black Fire is just going to try to roll over everything while picking up more wild Rank 1 and 2 spirits in its wake.

    It's just how I try to do it, I think it sticks close to the books but it's still my interpretation. Similar to a city of humans and its VIPs, everyone in between doesn't need to be mapped out unless that's some part of the plot. Most games or books or tv series' or movies focus on the Big Names and sometimes have named or unique between characters that can spark interest and be fleshed out if the players show interest or mess up. Many people (or in this case) spirits exist between the pack and the Sparkblood Seneschal, but not all of them have to be detailed since most of them will never come into contact with the players.
    Last edited by nofather; 03-17-2020, 11:13 PM.

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    • #3
      I like it! I've been watching an absolute TON of nature documentaries in preparation for running Werewolf, and I think one thing I'm definitely going to keep a running theme is that "Big Predators" don't usually hunt every day, nor are they always successful. They do one big hunt that gluts them for a while and usually spend their time eating small things or just at rest. The smaller you are the more you actually have to eat.

      I think it's also important for my setting to realize that a lot of Resonance is compatible with a TON of concepts and ecological niches. Every Animal spirit seemingly has a ton of conceptual Essence it can pull from to help refine it, I think the Pack does a really good job at describing how one concept can feed a lot of different Spirits.

      I think the main thing that ends up an issue is that it's hard to decide what the "civilized" Shadow is like versus the "wild" shadow.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Voytek View Post
        I like it! I've been watching an absolute TON of nature documentaries in preparation for running Werewolf, and I think one thing I'm definitely going to keep a running theme is that "Big Predators" don't usually hunt every day, nor are they always successful. They do one big hunt that gluts them for a while and usually spend their time eating small things or just at rest. The smaller you are the more you actually have to eat.
        This makes a lot of sense considering the difference in Essence pool maximums across the Ranks. A fully sated Rank 5 spirit can go 50 days before it is forced to hunt or go dormant. A Rank 1 spirit can go 10 days. Lesser spirits really do need to eat much more often than their superiors. Not only that, when higher Ranking spirits do hunt other spirits (rather than accept tithes in a court system) the prey tend to be "larger" and contain more Essence, which sustains them much longer.


        Bloodline: The Stygians
        Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
        Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Voytek View Post
          I like it! I've been watching an absolute TON of nature documentaries in preparation for running Werewolf, and I think one thing I'm definitely going to keep a running theme is that "Big Predators" don't usually hunt every day, nor are they always successful. They do one big hunt that gluts them for a while and usually spend their time eating small things or just at rest. The smaller you are the more you actually have to eat.

          I think it's also important for my setting to realize that a lot of Resonance is compatible with a TON of concepts and ecological niches. Every Animal spirit seemingly has a ton of conceptual Essence it can pull from to help refine it, I think the Pack does a really good job at describing how one concept can feed a lot of different Spirits.

          I think the main thing that ends up an issue is that it's hard to decide what the "civilized" Shadow is like versus the "wild" shadow.
          I'm glad to hear that and yeah you and Tessie absolutely have a point, a bigger spirit isn't going to need to glut on tiny Rank 1s every day and might be seeking out a more steady source of Essence like a locus. And the higher Rank spirits having more Influences to pull from really helps them in their feeding.

          Offhand, I figure 'civilized' areas are more likely to negotiate and work off tithes than the wild. Like a sheltered spirit-area allowing spirits of emotion and activity hang around them providing they bring people and Essence in. While wild spirits keeping it more akin to their reflection, with rabbit and wolf spirits having a strong relationship but not really having to worry about dealing with tree spirits for shelter from the sun.

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          • #6
            While the Shadow is absolutely predatory in its nature, it does not have to be expressed through hunts (or other types of physical/violent contests where two spirits literally wrestle over Essence). Higher Ranking spirits often collect tithes from their inferior siblings. Such structures are often described through feudalistic terminology, but you can just as well describe it as a protection racket without changing how the system works. Just by changing how you describe it could reduce how such systems are perceived as civil or society-like, and instead reinforce that it's merely systematic predation that is not that far from regular wild predation.


            Bloodline: The Stygians
            Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
            Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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            • #7
              In first edition, Lore of the Forsaken, I recall a part where it says that Luna, among 100 Billion spirits, has forgiven the forsaken. I know this was just a figure of speech but it does suggest that there are LOTS of spirits out there.

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              • #8
                Ehh that's like saying 100 billion animals, 'spirits' are very specific but are very ubiquitous and endless variation even within that specificity.

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                • #9
                  That's ~12.8 spirits per human. If we assume equal distribution over the earth's surface and remove any water areas and Antarctica, we get ~3.4 spirits per human. That sounds a bit low.
                  Imagine how many animals are out in any given area of nature anywhere. There aren't one spirit per animal, far from it, but there are also spirits for plants, for geological formations like rocks and rivers, for different weathers and similar types of conditions, etc.


                  Bloodline: The Stygians
                  Ordo Dracul Mysteries: Mystery of Smoke, Revised Mystery of Živa
                  Mage The Awakening: Spell Quick Reference (single page and landscape for computer screens)

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                  • #10
                    And removing water areas discounts the ABSURD amount of Essence there probably is in the oceans.

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