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Tribal Bans: Who Judges?

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  • Tribal Bans: Who Judges?

    So, this is something that came up tangentially in the “Decent Anshega” thread. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to restart an argument — but in that thread, several people mentioned that interpretations of tribal bans vary significantly from place to place, and even between individual Uratha. But like breaking the Oath of the Moon, breaking a tribal ban has a direct mechanical effect, by causing a breaking point towards Flesh. So, who or what determines when a particular act violates a tribal ban? Lunes are apparently the final authority when it comes to the Oath of the Moon, and presumably spirit courts fulfill the same role among the Pure, but I always assumed that the Firstborn or their servants judged tribal bans. But if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be much room for interpretation — especially among the Pure, whose Firstborn don’t come off as very tolerant. On the other hand, it can’t be completely subjective, or tribal bans would be utterly toothless. (“I bought this new car with money I earned from my labor, so it’s LIKE I made it myself. Right, Dire Wolf?”) And in fact, Garima Khatri from “Shunned by the Moon” has constant Harmony problems as the result of breaking her tribal ban, even though she believes she’s justified in doing so.

    Of course, I realize that in an actual game, the Storyteller is the final arbiter of all this. But what criteria should they use to decide when a character is risking Harmony?

  • #2
    The general trend seems to be "does the Uratha honestly consider this to be inconsistent with the tenet as they understand it?" Not "can you wordsmith your way around this 'counting' as a violation of the ban?" but "if you did this, would you feel the need to justify it?" Garima's unambiguously violating her tribal ban, but Silver Wolf's demands of the Ivory Claws are satisfied by adhering to the interpretation you have — the Pure are institutionally big on both hypocrisy and penance, but as a general phenomenon the tribal bans can probably be safely said to be kept by not doing anything that you wouldn't have to defend as "that one didn't count."


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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    • #3
      Originally posted by DSPaul View Post
      And in fact, Garima Khatri from “Shunned by the Moon” has constant Harmony problems as the result of breaking her tribal ban, even though she believes she’s justified in doing so.
      She also has social pressures over it, which is a useful tool in the storyteller belt.

      Of course, I realize that in an actual game, the Storyteller is the final arbiter of all this. But what criteria should they use to decide when a character is risking Harmony?
      Well, work off of a couple ideas. In the game as written, something hammered home is that werewolves are meant to move around in Harmony a lot. In turn, Breaking Points do not offer Beats, nor do they force the player into a situation where they hand over their character sheet. While moving into another Harmony bracket can be a pain, it's not nearly as punishing a mechanic as the meter is in other games, where it can cost Experience (and in some cases time) to 'buy' back. Lastly, the bans are put forth as tribal oaths. They're things characters swore to upon joining a tribe, and the player should be aware of this.

      Because of that, I think there's little reason to shirk when calling Breaking Points into play. So providing the situation revolves around a choice the player and their PC made, go for it.

      As for the in-world explanation, I believe it's meant to be the Firstborn or one of their lesser spirits that decides. And from there, the storyteller can decide that perhaps a more extremist pack wants to make an example of the oath breaker, or the tribal totem can send a challenging spirit to teach them a lesson.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DSPaul View Post
        So, this is something that came up tangentially in the “Decent Anshega” thread. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to restart an argument — but in that thread, several people mentioned that interpretations of tribal bans vary significantly from place to place, and even between individual Uratha. But like breaking the Oath of the Moon, breaking a tribal ban has a direct mechanical effect, by causing a breaking point towards Flesh. So, who or what determines when a particular act violates a tribal ban? Lunes are apparently the final authority when it comes to the Oath of the Moon, and presumably spirit courts fulfill the same role among the Pure, but I always assumed that the Firstborn or their servants judged tribal bans. But if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be much room for interpretation — especially among the Pure, whose Firstborn don’t come off as very tolerant. On the other hand, it can’t be completely subjective, or tribal bans would be utterly toothless. (“I bought this new car with money I earned from my labor, so it’s LIKE I made it myself. Right, Dire Wolf?”) And in fact, Garima Khatri from “Shunned by the Moon” has constant Harmony problems as the result of breaking her tribal ban, even though she believes she’s justified in doing so.

        Of course, I realize that in an actual game, the Storyteller is the final arbiter of all this. But what criteria should they use to decide when a character is risking Harmony?
        There’s three answers to this, each focusing on a different aspect of the question.

        Firstly, out of character the Storyteller decides based on what they know of the character’s approach. If the action seems contrary to the ban, especially if it’s contrary to the character’s interpretation of the ban, impose a breaking point. The Storyteller should probably have a slightly more narrow view of this than the player.

        Secondly, the character decides. This isn’t really a choice as such, and no spirit or whatever is watching over her shoulder to enforce Harmony hits. When she swore the oath of the tribal ban, her own half-spirit nature became the enforcer. If she goes against her ban, she suffers.

        Thirdly, the tribe decides. This is one of the great things about Pure and the conflict they have within their own tribes. By definition, those who break the tribal bans become the tribe’s sacred prey. Fail to challenge a falsehood? You’re disrespecting your spiritual oath and the Shadow’s laws, and become prey. Accept something lesser? You’re disrespecting your lineage and become prey. Honour human craft? You’re disrespecting the hunt and become prey. This is the most couched in politics and social pressures. Many Predator Kings think Garima disrespects the tribal ban but she makes atonement and has protection from more senior members of the tribe. If they withdraw their protection she’ll become prey for many of her tribe mates.


        Writer. Developer. World of Darkness | Chronicles of Darkness | The Trinity Continuum

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