Werewolf: the Forsaken

12 Campaigns of Christmas #4 Askal (Stray Dog)

Werewolf: the Forsaken tells good stories about keeping territory. As self-proclaimed stewards of both the Spirit and the Material worlds, the Forsaken werewolves find themselves hunted as often as they are the hunters.

Stray Dogs is Werewolf: the Forsaken set in Metro Manila. While werewolves here are not a cultural icon as much as it is a hollywood monster, I think that there’s a way to make room for them here. We just have to get creative.

“Askal” is Filipino slang for “Asong Kalye” which translates to street dog. I’m thinking of a chronicle around a pack of Forsaken fighting to defend the territories of Metro Manila from threats from the Spirit Realm and the mortal world, from petty street crime to fighting a full swarm of the Host.

This will be a gritty urban fantasy dealing with the fact that the Pack won’t be able to hold down cushy white-collar jobs. They’re drifters that navigate the labyrinthine slums and dark alleys of the roach-infested underside of a Third World urban sprawl. Animism is still very strong in the Philippines and possession, spirits and all sorts of nastier denizens of the Shadow will find some very nice places to nest in.

The Value of Trying Something New

Over the past few years, I’ve been pretty much locked into a standard pattern of games mostly revolving around Mage: the Awakening and Legend of the Five Rings. Both are excellent games, and are certainly worth playing, but I think I’ll need to figure out if changing my usual focus will help me improve in directions that I don’t usually take.

I think if anything I’ve learned that my Social/Political games are pretty involved, so maybe it’s time I lean slightly away from those. The current game I’m looking to work on is a Supers campaign, but I’m still not sold if I’m going to expand it to a full-length campaign just yet.

While that’s going on, I’ve taken to the habit of going over my collection of PDF books, some of which I’ve already mentioned in yesterday’s post about Games I Ought to Run. Upon further review, maybe I should force myself to run games that I found to be either too difficult or too arcane the last time.

Push myself further, in a manner of speaking.

So I’ve been taking a look at some of the games that have traditionally been giving me some trouble. Either with concept or getting a game off the ground. I’ll see if I can document the process of planning as well once I successfully sling a pitch to my players as well.

I don’t have a list of games as of yet, but already some of the early shoe-ins for this will be Geist: the Sin Eaters and Hunter: the Vigil but also some of the older classics like Werewolf: the Forsaken or Vampire: the Requiem.

[Gaming 101] Games to Start With Part 2: Horror

Next to Fantasy, Horror has to be one of the most popular genres for Roleplaying games. In today’s installment for Games to Start With, we’ll take a look at the games focused on the creepy and horrifying.

Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium
If you haven’t heard of H.P. Lovecraft, then you have some serious catching up to do. Call of Cthulhu is one of the most revered and well respected horror roleplaying games in history. Aside from having an incredibly rich tradition of horror literature to draw from, the game’s Sanity system ensures that nobody survives an encounter with evil without developing a few derangements.

Trail of Cthulhu by Pelgrane Press
If the classic Cthulhu experience sounds a little dry, then perhaps the newer Trail of Cthulhu game will be more up your alley. Powered by the Gumshoe system, the game focuses less on being able to find clues and more on what to do with them. Pelgrane has some terrific support for this line, and you can’t really go wrong with this pick either.

World of Darkness by White Wolf Publishing
Perhaps the most popular horror game series in recent times, the World of Darkness puts players in a world similar to ours, but where things hide in the shadows and prey upon humanity. The default of the game has players take the role of ordinary people who have had a glimpse of the supernatural and need to survive it (like the protagonists vs. Sadako in The Ring.) But the line truly shines when it starts getting into the supernatural games, where the aspect of Personal Horror becomes clear when the players take on the role of the monsters themselves, as you’ll see in the games below.

Vampire: the Requiem by White Wolf Publishing
The most popular of the World of Darkness supernaturals, Vampire: the Requiem is an unrelenting look into the vampires of the World of Darkness. It’s vicious, ugly and horrifying, and there’s nothing sparkly about the vampires here. Some enthusiasts have likened it to The Sopranos with fangs, where the politics of the undead take center stage and the struggle for power is eternal. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Werewolf: the Forsaken by White Wolf Publishing
Predator and Prey, the Werewolves of the World of Darkness are live a life of constant struggle for survival. Tasked with an ancient duty to police the spirit world and mortal realm from incursions from both sides, the Werewolves live lives of terrifying violence and constantly ride the razor’s edge between fury and sanity. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Mage: the Awakening by White Wolf Publishing
What would you do if you had the power to change reality? Players take on the role of Mages, ordinary people who have been blessed or cursed with the ability to see beyond the boundaries of this false reality. Much like the protagonists of the Matrix, Mages have been made aware of a higher reality and can no longer close their eyes to the unreal horrors that creep in from the cracks of this fallen world.  Mages are cursed with knowledge and hubris in equal measure, and the world shudders at the tragedy that follows in their wake. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Changeling: the Lost by White Wolf Publishing
Players take on the role of humans who have been abducted by the Gentry to the realm of Arcadia, home of the Fae. In their terrifying period of capture they are twisted and transformed, turned into something no longer human. They are the Changelings, and their escape from Arcadia was no easy feat, but now that they’re free, they must constantly remain vigilant against the jealous Keepers who want them back. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

Hunter: the Vigil by White Wolf Publishing
Something happened, and you know it wasn’t some freak accident that took her away from you. The players take on the role of Hunters, humans who have seen the supernatural and have taken steps to take back the night. Desperate and perhaps more than a little crazy, the Hunters live a lonely life of struggle to find closure by killing the monsters that shattered their normal lives. (Requires the World of Darkness Corebook to play)

There’s more to the World of Darkness, with Promethean: the Created, Geist: the Sin-Eaters and the upcoming Mummy: the Curse but I feel that the above titles are the strongest in the line so far.

That’s it for my initial batch, next week we’ll look at another genre: Sci-Fi

If you’re interested in picking up any of these in hardcover, you can order them directly from Gaming Library.

To place an order, please go to Gaming Library’s special order express page : http://www.gaminglib.com/pages/special-order-express-page

Take note that placing an order there doesn’t mean you’re committed, rather the Gaming Library team will be giving a quote and you can now choose whether to push through with the purchase or not.

Missions vs Sandbox, What’s Your Preference?

RPGs come in all kinds, but one particular distinction that bears paying attention to is if the game lends itself better towards mission-based play, or a more sandbox style approach.

Mission-based games are those that often have the player characters taking on a specific role relating to a group of PC types that are meant to achieve X goals via Y means.  Games like these often invest a lot of time and effort playing up the group that the players are meant to be a part of, to instill a clear range of acceptable behaviors and actions.  Some examples are:

  • In Flames by Greg Saunders – Features the Player Characters as the Exiles, a group of individuals working for a being calling itself Ghede to fight against abusive individuals known as “Barons.”
  • Eclipse Phase – At its default level assumes that the player characters are part of Firewall, a secret organization created to combat extinction-level threats.
  • All For One: Regime Diabolique – Assumes that the player characters are all part of the Musketeers, fighting against the darkness that is sweeping over France.
The advantage of Mission-based games is that it forms a common element that ties the group together.  This is excellent for games that rely on heavy teamwork and for groups that don’t care for that much player vs. player conflict.  Rather than spending time with keeping secrets from each other and otherwise politicking, the group can focus on a given objective.
Conflicts in this setup tend to be focused on external threats, and don’t leave a lot of room for introspective plot hooks.  This setup is also great for large numbers of players as everyone gets a chance to do something.
Sandbox style games are less specific about their arrangements.  Often, these games focus more on a situation rather than a mission.  While there are exceptions, one of the most common questions Sandbox games tend to offer is “Congratulations, you’ve just become a Vampire/Werewolf/Mage/Exalt/Godling/etc.  Now what do you do?”
White Wolf is notorious for catering to this form of game, but they’re definitely not the only ones:
  • Part-Time Gods – Has various factions, but certainly no unifying group and “mission” behind their existence.  The Player characters find themselves blessed (or cursed) with the divine spark of godhood and have to find out how to live in this strange new world of godhood.
  • Legend of the Five Rings – Is a game that is definitely broad enough to accommodate various sandbox themes.  While one could argue that a game about Duty, Honor and Sacrifice is bound to be mission-based, there’s arguably plenty of room for sandbox style play where one can track the life and significant events of the lives of the various Samurai.
Sandbox play is great for those who enjoy the concept of immersion.  Rather than having set goals and allegiances, the players are free to explore the social landscape of a game and make these decisions for themselves.  These decisions in turn, have consequences that manifest in various ways but always change the dynamic of the game.  Siding with one group will influence the world in one way, while siding with another will have other effects.
Between the two my personal preference falls towards Sandbox style.  Mission style stuff is convenient and fun, but I find Sandbox style games to be more rewarding from the point of view of a GM.  Mission based games are like a string of one-offs to me, barring a few recurring villains and NPCs, once a mission is done, it’s pretty much over.
Sandbox games appeal to me since it also involves the player characters in the act of changing the setting.  Everything they do and achieve alters the setting somewhat for better or worse.  While this means that some of the more wanton player types tend to make a mess of things, it also means that conscientious players can achieve far greater things with the right contacts and plans.
That said, neither style is “superior” over the other, and it’s purely a matter of preference.  I’m very curious to find out what people prefer to play though, and why.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

[WoD] Characters are People First

Upon talking to a lot of people about World of Darkness games in general, I’ve noticed that one common stumbling block would be the fact that a lot of people have difficulty comprehending the “classes” of the game.  Whether it’s the 13 Vampire Clans of the old Vampire: the Masquerade or the 5×5 setup of the new Vampire: the Requiem, there’s a certain disconnect when people approach WoD games with the same character creation mindset of other games.

I find that the easiest way for me to build characters in a World of Darkness game is to come up with a complete concept for a person first, before I go out and start filling in dots.  By giving myself a few minutes (or even a few hours) to mull over who the character is before I commit pen to paper does wonders when it comes to making the right choices to simulate the concept.

For most people, building characters tends to be an issue of fiddling with a system.  Personally, I prefer to translate concept to paper using the language of the system.  No more, no less.

Ultimately an rpg is meant to provide a system to simulate the physics of a fictional setting.  And because it is such, any system worth its salt should be able to accept a given character concepts within reasonable boundaries.  Trying to play a fantasy elf in a Vampire: the Requiem game is obviously out of bounds.

WoD games tend to have character options that work with a given philosophy or mindset.  Conceptualize a person first, then slap on his affiliations later based on what makes sense.  When it comes to most nWoD games, this divide is split up between:

  • What kind of person the character is
  • What the character wants to do

The first of the 5×5 splats, be they Path or Kith or some other term, details the nature of the character.  This choice should reflect who this person is on the inside.

the second, Orders or Courts are largely a means to describe the character’s agenda.  This is their calling, what they want to do with the fact that they’re no longer “human” or “mortal.”

This approach largely rewards those who think their character’s concepts through and make it easier for you to find a “niche” that works for you even if you haven’t even looked at the rules per se.

[Let’s Study – W:tF] Analysis & Conclusions

Now that I’ve had a chance to actually read through Werewolf: the Forsaken, take a look at it’s component parts and what it presents in terms of a setting and character options, I feel that I’m now reasonably informed to move on to actually putting what I’ve read into a campaign idea.


Being a Catholic, I’m no stranger to the theological concept of Redemption, that is, the forgiveness or absolution from past sins and protection from eternal damnation, generally through sacrifice.  W:tF strikes me as a game about the struggle for Redemption in theme.  Guilty for the murder of Father Wolf, the Forsaken work to redeem themselves in their own eyes.

But what I found impressive was that it took this theme and brought it (as nWoD does) down to earth.  There’s no higher being that judges the Werewolves, weighing their hearts against their sins.  Instead it is up to each and every Pack of the Forsaken to live with their sin one day at a time.

You don’t know what it’s like being me

There’s a remarkable amount of similarity between Werewolf: the Forsaken and Adolescence.  To become a Werewolf is a violent upheaval in your life, where nothing makes sense, your emotions are barely restrained, and rationality is not quite your most defining feature.  Werewolves are shoved into a situation where they have no friends except those who are like them, and the entire world is against them, except for the few Totems and mentor-figures that may serve as their voice of reason.

Like teens, the Werewolves must struggle between what is Socially acceptable, and what is being demanded of their Emotions.  To deny either completely is a sure-fire way to fall out of favor, whether from your peers or your authority figures.

Urban Jungles

Another facet of Werewolf is the idea that it’s a daily struggle to survive.  Beset on all sides by superior numbers from the Pure, as well as Spirits who would be more than willing to rid the world of the Forsaken, it is little wonder that Werewolf doesn’t talk much of stability.

In a disturbing taste of what is to come, the Forsaken are forced to endure being hunters and the hunted, living the Pangean dream, in an ironic twist.  The comforts of a home and peace are denied them, and their harrowed existence is but a taste of what the Pure want the world to be.  So hunted as they are, the Forsaken have to find a way to turn the tide and restore balance.


There’s a good game lurking somewhere in the Werewolf: the Forsaken setting, but I’m not sure I’m of the right mindset to spot it and relate to it.  Perhaps it’s a cultural bias, since werewolves aren’t exactly part of the Philippine mythology, but I find it difficult to empathize with the characters.

The history with Father Wolf and the act of trying to redeem themselves is awesome, but doesn’t translate very well to the modern day.  Also, having an angry mob of The Pure Tribes willing to lynch you on site tends to dull most of the hope that the Forsaken can probably try and muster.

Werewolves concern themselves with the immediate, confining themselves quite low on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  With quite literally everything against them, it’s little wonder that the Werewolves prefer to focus on just plain survival.

I’ll admit my bias against this sort of mindset as well.  I like the idea of stability.  The idea of being constantly under siege is a demoralizing experience for me, and even if I like to think I’m an optimist (“Maybe we can rally the spirits to OUR side! Yeah!”) the amount of time and effort this would require from a group that effectively has little territory, and even less resources would mean selling out in one way or another (“Okay Major Spirit Lord… you’ll help us if we offer a human sacrifice once a month?  Well… what’s a missing person’s report these days, right”)  and turning into the Pure.

I’m certain there are people who love Werewolf: the Forsaken, and feel that I’m missing something, and honestly, the Let’s Study articles were part of the effort for me to learn what it is that I need to understand.  As I wrap up this series on Werewolf: the Forsaken, I’d like to invite people to comment, tell me what I need to know, show me where I’ve made poor assumptions.

[Let’s Study – W:tF] Tribes – Storm Lords

Perhaps the missing piece I was looking for in terms of the Tribes, the Storm Lords are the self-styled leaders of the Forsaken, taking upon themselves the burden of command in order to give purpose to the werewolves.  Among the Tribes, it is the Storm Lords that work hardest to come up with a goal for the Forsaken Nation, pushing them forward to fulfill the duties and responsibilities once held by Father Wolf, lending confidence to those who would otherwise be lost and afraid.

Interestingly, it is the Storm Lords that give me the impression that they “know” what to do to try and make up for their sin against nature.  This is a good thing, as now the rest of the Tribes make more sense.  Unlike other similar groupings (say the Mage Orders or Changeling Courts) the Werewolf Tribes fulfill specific roles within a greater Forsaken organization.  Seeing as they’re outnumbered and outgunned, it takes a strong leader to instill confidence in those whose resolve is nearly eroded.

It’s easy to give up if you’ve made a mistake.  Easy to try and blame someone else (as the Pure do,) but it’s entirely different for you to actually go and own up to the mistake and take steps to fix it.  The Storm Lords know that the biggest lesson the Forsaken have to learn is to shoulder their responsibilities.

What they did was terrible, and resulted in the end of their utopia.  But that doesn’t give them the excuse to lie down and mope.  I particularly like the Storm Lord’s motto of “Allow no one to witness or tend to your weakness.”  While it sounds utterly hubristic, it is also that kind of attitude that can foster confidence in your followers.

%d bloggers like this: