| Core (revised) pg. 42 |
Each pack also dedicates itself to a particular totem when it is first formed. Many of these totems are great animals spirits, such as Raven or Bear. Others, such as Grandfather Thunder are more personified. Lesser known, more esoteric totems, like Almighty Dolla' and the Great Trash Heap, are cryptic and bizarre. These great spirits each have their own special strengths, so the choice of a totem often relates to a pack's goals or strengths. The choice is made during an intense and mystical rite. The pack then receives a totem spirit, a spiritual servitor of the totem that can act as their guardian, guide them through the spirit world and even lend them mystical power.
On some occasions, the pack is gathered expressly to serve a specific totem, and all the cliath who serve it are first brought together to form a pack with this affinity in mind. For instance, if a Wendigo sept decides to form a Raven pack, it may gather together the most infamous tricksters and sagest masters of knowledge. Once, it was easy for elder Theurges to simply summon these guides. However, since magic is dying rapidly in the world, many packs now undertake a great quest into the spirit world to find their totem spirit. Until it does so, the pack travels without such guidance.
Of course, the pack does not have to stay together forever. Some packs disband after many years of cooperation, especially if their goals in life change. If the pack makes this decision, such as when their purpose is accomplished, the totem spirit is released ceremonially.
Core (revised) pg 99
More important to the Werewolf chronicle than any of the individual characters is the pack they form. Among Garou, the pack is the basic social unit; Garou who are not part of a pack are practically social outcasts. For a pack to work, the characters must cooperate with each other. Pack unity is important to success among werewolves.
It may be difficult to conceive of playing a group as closely knit as a pack, but consider that the Garou who make it up have been through hell (also called the Rite of Passage) together. They've lived with each other, breathed the same air, eaten the same food and lived with the same decisions. They came together after their respective First Changes, and they have spent nearly all of their time since working (or playing) together.
Core (revised) pg. 102
The pack serves as the chronicle's center, the axis around which everything else revolves. Characters can join or die, but the pack remains. Because of its nature, it's extremely important that the players agree on the sort of pack they want to play, as that will impact directly the kind of stories they will play. If a player decides that she doesn't like her character two stories into a chronicle, it's easy enough to let her switch in a new one. If the players decide they don't like the pack's nature, though, it may be necessary to overhaul the chronicle completely.
Most packs in the Final Days are formed during a Rite of Passage as the characters band together in the interests of survival. In past times, such packs were formed from members of a single tribe. Now, however, the Garou are too few, and the End Times too near, for elders to continue this practice. Modern packs are usually formed from members of several tribes, in the hope that they may support each other's strengths and cover each other's weaknesses.
When they create the pack, players should answer several questions. Players should answer these questions before they create their characters or play out their preludes, but they may change the specifics afterward. The important goal is to establish a firm pack concept to give each character context.
• Where is the pack based? — What territory does the pack claim? Where does it range? Does it even claim territory? Do the pack members patrol their territory, or do they even acknowledge such responsibilities ? Do the members have their own homes or do they live together? Is the pack urban, rural or wilderness-based?
• What is the pack's mission? — What goals and motivations unite the pack? Do the packmales seek to destroy aparticularly powerful Bane? Do they exist simply to protect their territory ? Do they seek vengeance on someone in particular or upon anyone who defiles Gaia?
• Who, if anyone, is the pack alpha? — Who makes decisions? Who leads the pack? How does the pack decide? Some packs choose the alpha through violent challenges, allowing the victor to lead. Others designate different members to lead during different missions. The Ragabash may lead scouting missions while the Ahroun leads in battle.
• What is the pack's totem? — Does the pack have a totem? If so, what is it? Why do the characters follow this totem? Did it choose them, or did they choose it?
• What is their sept like? — What kind of sept does the pack belong to? Does it give the characters additional responsibilities ? What is its name ? Who are the leaders ? The elders ? Does the sept have a totem? Do sept members have certain duties that they must fulfill to appease certain spirits? Why?
• Does the pack have friends and allies? — Does the pack have any friends beyond its individual members' contacts and allies? Who are they? Does the pack protect them?
• What about enemies? — Does the pack have any enemies? Who are they, and why do they hate the pack? What are their motivations? Are they Garou? If not, what are they?
The pack concept is lodged deeply in the Garou psyche — everyone is viewed in that context. Garou view solitary werewolves as creatures to be pitied or cursed; they're certainly not whole. Of all Garou, only the elders live without packs, and they do so (hopefully) because they've fulfilled their sacred mission. In all too many cases, though, such is not the case. Few Garou survive to become elders, and few elders have surviving packmates.
According to Garou tradition, Gaia charges each and every pack with a purpose that draws its members together; a purpose they are meant to serve and fulfill. In fact, potential packmates often experience visions or dreams guiding them together and revealing their purpose, before the pack is even formed.
In the End Times, many Garou are drawn together with visions of their own violent deaths—but those deaths always serve some greater purpose. Many younger werewolves are uncomfortable with these visions, but they support each other within the packs and help those who lose conviction in their cause.
Core (revised) pg. 123
Unlike other Backgrounds, this Trait applies to the character's pack rather than the individual. The members of the pack pool the points invested in this Trait to determine the totem's power.
Each totem has a Background cost rating; the pack must spend that amount to ally with that totem. Some totems are willing to lend great powers to their adherents; their point costs are correspondingly greater. See Pack Totems (p. 293) for a list of possible totems. Regardless of how many points the initial totem costs, all beginning totems have a base of eight points to divide among Rage, Willpower and Gnosis. The totem also begins with the Airt Sense and Re-form Charms. Apart from bestowing power, totems are somewhat aloof from the pack, and they have little influence among spirits (unless the players buy a closer connection is bought with Background points). With time, roleplaying and experience points, pack totems can grow more powerful, and they could even become the totems of whole septs or (in legendary circumstances) even tribes. Most of the powers totems bestow are usually available to only one pack member at a time. At the end of each turn, the Garou with the power declares who the power may be given to next turn (assuming that she doesn't keep it). After the initial cost of the totem has been spent, any other Background points add to the totem's strength and abilities.
1 Per three points to spend on Willpower, Rage and/ or Gnosis
1 Totem can speak to the pack without the benefit of the Gift: Spirit Speech.
1 Totem can always find the pack members.
2 Totem is nearly always with the pack members.
2 Totem is respected by other spirits.
2 Per charm possessed
3 Per extra pack member who can use the totem's powers in the same turn
4 Totem is connected mystically to all pack members, allowing communication among them even at great distances (at Storyteller's discretion).
5 Totem is feared by agents of the Wyrm, which could mean that either the agents run away or they do their best to kill the pack
The listed cost is in Background points, which can be bought through experience at the rate of two experience points per Background point. (Therefore, three points of Rage would cost two experience points.) The Totem Trait is the only Background that can be increased through experience. The Storyteller should allow increases in totem powers only when it fits in to the story, such as when pack members gain a higher rank, a new member joins the pack or when pack members gain new insight into the nature of their totem. When the totem is affiliated with a more powerful spirit, the greater spirit might grant the strengthening of its servant (pack totem) in return for a great service done it by the pack.
Core (revised) pg. 293
One of the first and strongest ties that binds a group of werewolves into a pack is the association with a totem spirit. Although the pack members may choose the totem that they feel best represents them, it's really more a case of the totem adopting the pack. Totems often refer to those Garou it chooses as its "children."
Totem spirits are generally Incarnae. They are typically animal spirits, but many packs have mythological beings, elemental forces, or other spirits as totems. When a totem chooses the pack, it sends a Jaggling representative known as a totem avatar to attend the pack. The devotion of the Garou gives the totem and its avatar power, and their actions further the totem's goals. In return, the totem bestows some of its powers upon the pack.
Most totems fall into one of the four following categories: respect, war, wisdom and cunning. The first three are roughly associated with Garou renown; the last is rather less popular among Garou, as the cunning warrior is not alwfitfs qHRe so honorable or wise.
core (revised) pg 294
The Totem Background allows characters to "buy" a totem spirit to be affiliated with their pack. Obviously, only one totem can be affiliated with a pack. Unless stated otherwise, all bonuses and penalties apply immediately upon being accepted by the totem. Traits are given on a per-turn basis, and they are available to one pack member at a time. The pack member with the power designates who can use it the following turn, in effect, handing it off to another packmate. Attribute and Ability bonuses add to the pack member's dice pool for that Trait, even if the member has no dots in the Trait. Ordinarily, renown awards are temporary Renown, and they are given once when the pack is accepted by the totem (unless stated otherwise).
For example, everyone in Falcon's pack gains a point of temporary Renown upon being accepted by Falcon. Every scene, one member of the pack receives three additional dots in her Leadership dice pool for as long as she wishes, until she "gives" it to another packmate. Four Willpower points are available during the story as well, and anyone in the pack can use them until they've been expended.
In addition to the benefits, a totem also has some restrictions that its children must follow to stay in the totem's favor. These restrictions are called Bans. Garou who don't follow the Ban will be cut off from their pack totem, and they must undertake a Rite of Contrition to get back in its good graces. As such, they lose all benefits of the totem, including extra Traits and access to unlearned Gifts. Packs that violate the totem's wishes repeatedly may find themselves abandoned completely.
Some of the most common totems and their affiliations follow. Several totems are also affiliated with tribes, but members of the tribe don't gain the Traits listed with each totem. Only packs allied with avatars of these totems (who are the ones responsible for channeling the granted powers) gain the bonus.
Tribes benefit from the patronage and wisdom of the tribal totem. It is often the spirit that cubs meet during their Rite of Passage and teaches them their tribal Gifts.