Playing Characters With Mental Health Issues

April 5, 2018 at 8:46 pm (Uncategorized)

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time.

But I’ve hesitated. One, because I’m not sure I can do it justice. Two, because mental health can be a touchy subject. It’s one I deal with in my personal life: both I and many of my family members struggle with it. That doesn’t necessarily make me the know-all guru though, and I have been a little afraid of doing or saying something inadvertently disrespectful to someone who experiences their mental health challenges differently than I do.

But I also think it’s an important post to write, so here goes.

Mental Health in the RPG Sphere

Mental health tends to get treated one of several ways by different games.

The first is the D&D or Pathfinder way, in which it’s largely not addressed at all. If your character has a mental health issue in D&D that’s more a function of how you play the character than anything on your sheet.

The second is the GURPs way, in which various mental illnesses can be selected as “disadvantages” (AKA “flaws,” in White Wolf, AKA other things, I’m sure, in other systems). You give your character depression, you take 10 points to go spend on making them smarter, smarter, faster, better at skills or whatever.

The third is the White Wolf way, in which mental health issues are flaws, things that can be imposed on your character through failed roles/spells, etc., and perhaps most problematically at all, form the central basis of some sects and character types. Most notably, Clan Malkavian in Vampire: The Masquerade. 

Finally, on certain MU*s where you are playing “Feature Characters”, i.e., comic book games where you’re playing the Marvel or DC line-up, mental health issues could well come with the character. Their issues could have been stated implicitly or explicitly, but plenty of fictional characters come with a host of issues they have to navigate.

How Players Mess up Mental Health

Players tend to screw up mental health the same way they screw up playing tricksters. They treat it like some big attention-grabbing comic relief thing. They make just about every interaction about whatever over-the-top delusions their character is supposed to be suffering from.

There’s a reason a lot of Vampire Storytellers say, flatly, “No Malkavians.” Because Malkavians tend to be the worst culprits. A lot of Storytellers/GMs tend to steer clear of spells, effects, and consequences centering around the assignment of mental health problems for many of the same reasons.

Playing like that is disrespectful to people who deal with real mental health struggles. It’s disruptive to other people at the gaming table. And it’s not true to how almost any real mental health struggle works, besides.

If you’ve been playing this way, please stop. Follow these tips instead.

Actually research the condition you’re going to be playing.

Depressed people often smile and put on a good front. Manic people often grow more irritable and spontaneous than hilarious. People with delusions don’t always tell anyone about them. Some are even well aware the voices in their heads shouldn’t be there, or that nobody else is seeing things they’re seeing.

We now live in an age in which people post numerous personal in-depth blogs or forum or Quora posts about what life is like for them. In less than an hour you should have all you need to create a far more nuanced and respectful portrayal of whatever it is you’d like your character to struggle with.

Keep in mind that anyone who is going to be in any kind of an adventuring party is probably suffering from the “high-functioning” version of whatever they’re dealing with. That doesn’t mean what they’re dealing with isn’t severe. It just means they’ve found enough ways to cope with whatever it is that they can get up and do what needs to be done in spite of it. You can play your disadvantages without going over the top.

If you’re doing anything around hallucinations please avoid “cute and funny.” Most people with hallucinations don’t get cute talking rabbits. A lot of the times what they get is a lot more plausible or a lot more terrifying. Or, plausible and terrifying. And a lot of the times, hallucinations might happen when nobody’s around to contradict their reality.

Look for good fictional examples of the thing you want to play.

This isn’t easy, because the media treats mental illness just about as poorly as gamers traditionally do, but it can be done.

I’ve just three examples off the top of my head.

If your character has hallucinations look to Supernatural, Season 6. (Spoilers ahead).

I don’t remember the episode where it starts, but Sam Winchester’s struggles with his Lucifer hallucinations are a fantastic portrayal of mental illness. You’ll see him trying to ignore them. You’ll see him struggle with insomnia. You’ll see how he acts with total logic on the basis of what he is seeing and experiencing. You’ll see how later he’ll press hard on an old scar he has when he isn’t sure what he’s seeing is real, and even in much later seasons he’ll look uneasily around to see if everyone else is seeing what he’s seeing. He is an admirable figure for all that, and still a hero. He also tends to go quieter, not louder, and the one time he starts getting out of control and shooting at nothing…or at other people…it all makes perfect sense from his point of view. Watch, too, how he continues to hunt and do his job, and how long it takes for his family to realize anything at all is amiss.

For anxiety, depression, and PTSD, look no further than Marvel’s Jessica Jones. If you look past the snarky comments and the irritability you see a lot more compassion, guilt, and self-loathing than anything else. You’ll see her move sometimes like moving takes all the effort she’s got. Her reach for her coping mechanism, alcohol, isn’t presented as being cool or sexy. It’s presented as self-medication, a strategy used to cope. She’s not presented as merely “sad all the time.” She’s nuanced, there’s a lot going on there. Watch her micro-expressions, watch the way she struggles to push past her own walls. Watch, too, how she continues to follow the plot and continue her adventure around it.

An older example: A Beautiful Mind. Again, you wind up thinking John Nash’s actions make perfect sense in this movie, because at first you’re seeing life as John sees it. It’s only as the curtain is pulled back and you see what everyone else is seeing that you realize something’s gone horribly awry. John continued to teach his classes and interact with people normally before going to wildly “decode” random scraps of magazine articles. He would not have been out of place at a gaming table, nor would he have made every session about his mental illnesses.

Mental health fluctuates.

People with mental health issues have good days and bad days.

Maybe you’re in the middle of a big, dramatic session where the focus really shouldn’t be on your character’s mental state. That day could be a good day for your character, one where he or she is mostly focused on doing the job, functional.

Later, when it’s more appropriate, you can let the flaw come out more.

You can let it come out in ways that are subtle. It doesn’t all have to be blatant. Poor impulse control, low self-worth issues, an overabundance of guilt, incredible anxiety…these are all byproducts of mental health issues too, and can be played without disrupting the entire game table.

Above all, be kind and respectful.

Real people struggle to get through their daily lives because of these very real conditions. Some of those real people may be sitting across from you at the game table, or are typing away at the other side of the computer screen. Nobody’s saying you can never take a mentally ill character. That would be ludicrous.

Just take one without reducing them to a caricature or a joke. Don’t swing the pendulum in the other direction either, where you treat your character as an object of pity.

In fact, if you’re playing a hero you should remember to play the positive sides too. Even a mental illness can bring some gifts.

Many people with mental health problems show incredible courage. For many, getting up and dealing with life every single day instead of just ending it all represents a fight as tough as any fight you’ll ever have with any fictional demon. Your character, played right, will have that courage too. When their specific mental health condition doesn’t preclude it, many people with certain illnesses have an enormous amount of empathy as well. They understands what it means to be in pain, misunderstood, lost, and alone, and tend to want to work hard to alleviate those conditions in others.

Granted, there are also people who are mentally ill who use it as an excuse to be manipulative, sadistic, and cruel. People are just people, and you don’t want to get into the Nobly Disabled trope or anything. But if you’re playing a hero? You can tap into some of these things and use them to flesh out your character.

And if you’re not sure if you can make a three-dimensional character with a mental health issue? Play someone else. There are, after all, a myriad of other options out there.



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How to Play a Successful Corax

June 14, 2015 at 2:14 am (Uncategorized)

#7 in our WTA series has nothing to do with Werewolf. This one is all about Corax. Written by Raven of Phoenix Rising.

Tired of reading a bajillion books to try and find out enough information to play this game? Can’t blame you. This guide is being written as a quick and dirty run-down to playing one of the Fera, which is a fancy way of saying a shapeshifter that isn’t a werewolf (Garou). If you’ve been playing White Wolf since it came out, chances are, you don’t need this guide. This is mainly intended for players who are new to the theme and want to take on the raven shapeshifters, also known as the Corax.

All of the information you should need to play a newbie Corax is presented on this page. Anything else? Well, you can learn it as you go along ICly. That’s what the ravens do. They learn. Constantly. They dig up information, they spy, they scout, they poke their beaks into everything they can poke their beaks into, but it’s not at all unreasonable for a newbie to be a little less sure of what’s going on than the seasoned folks.

What is a Corax?

A Corax, simply put, is a shapeshifter who can change his or her body into that of a raven. (As a side note, those who can shapeshift into wolves are called Garou.) They are the youngest race of shapeshifters of Gaia (the Earth goddess who is Mother to all life), tasked with keeping tabs on every other shapeshifter race, whereas other races of shapeshifters have other roles they fulfill for her. The Garou (werewolves), for example, are her Warriors. The Gurahl (werebears) were her healers, the Bastet (werecats) are her Eyes and Ears (and secret keepers), and so on. More info on the other shapeshifters will come later.

The Corax do their job very, very well. Each Corax has the drive to learn as much as possible about the world around them, and they are expected to fulfill their duty by telling everyone around them what they need to know. So Corax have a well-deserved reputation of being nosy, noisy, chatty, talkative, blabbermouthy and all around loud and raucous. They talk so much that some of the other races wish they’d just shut up. But although they might be talkative, MOST Corax also know when to shut up, and they won’t give away important secrets to those who shouldn’t have them. For example, no, most won’t give up knowledge of the most important Corax Rites (magical ceremonies) to undeserving enemies or to other shapeshifters. They’re talkative. Not stupid.

Corax also have a notable talent for stealing things. So in generic fantasy terms, you can consider a Corax to be a Scout or a Thief.

As you might expect, being raven shapeshifters, the Coraxes have numerous perks and flaws that come with their existence. First, the perks:

  • You can shapeshift into a raven and fly. You can shapeshift into a man or a woman. Sadly, you can’t fly.
  • Most of your Gifts (super powers fueled by Gnosis or Rage, taught to you by the spirits) enhance your capabilities as a super-spy or super-scout or super-thief.
  • You are pretty much free to do what you want as long as you follow some basic tenets of Corax society. There are no complicated social mores to learn. You are a free and independent spirit.
  • Coraxes are one of two breeds of Fera (the other is the Nagah, the were-snakes) that can never be possessed by Banes (Wyrm demons, see below) and made into fomori (Bane-possessed beings, be they human, animal, or supernatural). Why? Because the Rite of the Fetish Egg that creates a Corax involves the “parent” Corax binding his/her spirit to the young, fledgling Corax, preventing any further attempts at possession. In other words, every Corax is already possessed by his/her parent. More info on the Rite of the Fetish Egg is below.

And the downsides:

  • There are three basic forms that a Corax can shapeshift into. The raven (AKA, the Corvid form), the human (AKA, the Homid form) and the war form (AKA, the Crinos form). Being a raven or a human is pretty awesome. Being in the war form is really awkward, embarrassing, humiliating and cumbersome. You can fly in the war form just fine, but trying to walk is very clumsy, requiring hopping and some quick balance work. You also look ridiculous, like a big, black, overgrown raven-chicken man. The Corax only take the war form when it is of DIRE NECESSITY. When it’s life or death, and not a moment before. Because there is no dignity in your war form, unlike pretty much every other damn shapeshifter type on the planet.
  • In all sorts of legends and folklore, werewolves are taken down with silver. In Werewolf: the Apocalypse, that still holds true. Silver is bad for the Garou and for a whole lot of other Fera too, but not for the Corax. For the Corax, the bane of their existence is gold. There’s a reason for that. An explanation will come later.
  • Corax suck at combat. Seriously. Coraxes just plain suck suck suck at combat, especially when compared to the Garou and even some of the Kinfolk (humans who cannot shapeshift but still get some supernatural perks because they’re family to shapeshifters). This cannot be emphasised enough, because Coraxes share some traits with ravens and birds in general. They have hollow bones, for one thing, which keeps their body weight low so they can fly more easily. They also have next to no Gifts to help them in combat (just a couple here and there), and when they shift up to the war form, they don’t get too many bonuses to their stats. As one would expect, most Corax get by on their wits and sneakiness. Those who can’t manage usually die young.

What do Coraxes Look Like?

Coraxes have a certain look to them, depending on what form they’re in at the time.

Behold, the Corax. Homid on the left, corvid on the right. Glorious black chicken-man-thing in the middle.

  • Homid – The human form will generally have black hair, black eyes, and pale skin, especially if the Corax is of European stock. Even the Native American variety of Corax will have paler skin than his brethren, though he’ll retain the ruddy undertones. Coraxes don’t bulk up, since a lot of extra weight makes flying difficult, ensuring their forms are willowy, lithe, bony, and lean-muscled. A lot of Coraxes like to dress in dark clothes, looking like a bunch of underfed Goths. But not always. There’s no set uniform or anything, of course, but the Gothic look is pretty popular among the raven folk. Coraxes also generally tend to have aquiline noses (but not always), and the ring fingers tend to be longer than the middle fingers on their hands (but not always). Silver jewellery is also pretty damn popular, since it’s so shiny and silver is a useful weapon against most other shapeshifters.
  • Corvid – The raven form is … pretty much a raven. A big bird with glossy, black feathers, a black beak, black eyes, black feet. Generally, up in North America, it’s going to be the Common Raven that you see, though in other countries you’ll see Coraxes that are other species of ravens. Coraxes are generally larger than normal ravens, though, trending towards the size of eagles.
  • Crinos – The war form looks just plain old ridiculous. Feathers and beak on a human body, with winged arms that end in talons, and big bird, clawed, digitigrade feet. You can’t walk well, but you can fly, at least. It’s hard to talk. This is just not a form that a Corax takes without it being life or death.

What is the History of the Coraxes?

If you want to know the whole history of the Coraxes, just go read the Corax book. But a lot of it is ancient history, and a lot of it doesn’t really apply to today, and the newbie Coraxes don’t have to have this stuff memorized coming out the starting gates. So to make a long story short, here are some bullet-pointed tidbits that most Corax, even the younglings, know off-hand:

  • Thousands of years ago, there was a war called the War of Rage. Basically, some shit went down, and the Garou went completely homicidal and started slaughtering all the other Fera. The Coraxes escaped most of the Garou’s wrath by playing both sides of the war. They were informants for the Garou, pointing out minor tidbits of information that the Garou found somewhat helpful. Then they also turned around and told the Fera when the Garou were coming, and they smuggled Kinfolk into hiding. For this reason, the Garou and the Corax get on pretty well with each other. Fera and the Corax? No one else really knows they played both sides, except for the Bastet (werecats), who remain distrustful. But then again… birds and cats never got on well anyway.
  • There was a second War of Rage that happened when the Garou from Europe came over to America for the first time. They started slaughtering more Fera over there, and the Europeans did war with the Native American Garou (the Pure Ones). It all ended very badly for the Native American tribes (the Wendigo and the Uktena tribes of Garou). One American tribe of Garou (the Croatan) ended up dying out completely in an act of self-sacrifice to try and stop the Wyrm from eating everything. The Corax, again, tried to warn and give information, but for the most part, they sat out of this one.
  • Norse mythology and Irish mythology speak very well of ravens. Odin had Hugin and Munin to bring him the news every morning. The Morrigan has her unkindnesses of ravens. For that reason, the Get of Fenris tribe and the Fianna tribe of Garou get on really well with Coraxes. The Uktena and the Wendigo both recognise Raven as a trickster spirit, one who stole the light of the sun to bring to humanity. So they also get on well with Coraxes.

The rest of the Corax history really doesn’t come up all that often in game play. Just know about the three bits above, and you should do fine as a newbie.

What are the Duties of a Corax?

In a nutshell, the duties of a Corax are to gather information from every source available to them, remember it, then pass it along to whoever needs to know. All else that they do supports this.

  • Travel the Umbra. What is the Umbra? It’s the spirit world. It’s a reflection of reality that’s a bit warped and reflects the spiritual nature of the real side. Coraxes are very, very good at traveling the Umbra. Their wings let them fly pretty much anywhere and everywhere, while other breeds have to walk. Eventually, as a newbie, you WILL want to learn more about the Umbra, but it’s so vast, so huge and so complex, that it’s not unreasonable for your Corax to not know very much. More information about the Umbra is down below.
  • Drink the eyes of the dead. Yes, ravens eat eyes, and so do the Coraxes. For them, it is an ingrained, almost instinctive process that is neither a Rite nor a Gift. It is just part of who they are, and drinking the eyes of the dead is something that Coraxes take very seriously. Drinking the eyes of the dead allows the Corax to see visions of the last moments of that dead person. Every time, the Corax must ask permission of the corpse’s spirit to take the eyes, and they MUST BE POLITE when doing it. Without giving proper respect, the spirit is likely to refuse, and you’ve failed in your duty to attain the last moments and remember the dead man properly. Drink from the right eye, and they see the good in his death. Drink from the left, and they see the bad. (Alternating right and left eyes between corpses is highly recommended so you don’t go batshit insane from too much good or too much bad.) Most Coraxes can only drink from one eye, and then that’s it. Even if they drink from the other eye, they get nothing. There is, however, a merit called Double Draught that allows the Corax to drink and receive visions from both eyes. Drinking the eyes of the dead is pretty much a sacred duty that even the youngest fledgling takes on, and not doing it is an insult and likely to get you in eventual trouble.
  • Pay your respects to Raven and to Helios. The Coraxes don’t do what the Garou do. The Garou will pay respect to just about every spirit in creation; they have totemic spirits that guard their tribes, they have totemic spirits for their packs, they revere Gaia, Luna (the Moon), their ancestors, machine spirits, plant spirits, etc etc. The Coraxes give most of their reverence to their racial Totem spirit Raven (the progenitor of them all, who bids them to share their secrets with him by whispering everything they learn up into the air for him to hear) and to Helios (the Sun, who gives them a good portion of their powers and allows them to advance in rank and renown). No Corax wants to piss off Raven or Helios. It’s just really, really bad.
  • Bear witness and learn. Everyone and everything has a story. It falls to the Corax to watch, learn, and remember.
  • Share everything you know and teach those who need to learn. It also falls to the Corax to share everything they’ve seen and learned. Corax are also expected to teach those who need to learn their lessons, like the Garou who might be about to do something stupid and earth-damaging again. Sometimes, teaching those lessons can run some high risks for the Corax, but as the sons and daughters of a Trickster Spirit (Raven, of course), the Corax should be clever enough to teach those lessons without getting caught and thrown into a werewolf’s stew pot.
  • Don’t break the Veil. The Veil is this ostentatious term for the secrecy that shrouds the world of magic and shapeshifters from the minds of normal, mortal men and women. If humanity were to learn about shapeshifters, it could mean doom doom doom for the shapeshifters, and no one wants that. Think mobs of angry people armed with semiautomatic weapons and tanks coming after you. Not good. What threatens the Veil? Shapeshifting where someone could see you, using obvious and flashy Gifts where someone could see you… Basically, just use common sense, and you’ll be fine.

What are Gifts and What Kinds Do We Have?

Gifts are like super powers. Instant spells. They are learned from the spirits, and they almost always require Gnosis (your spiritual energy) or Rage (your spiritual wrath) to be used. Each Gift does something differently, and you can get a description of what the Gift does and how to use it by typing +explain <giftname> while logged into the MUSH.

Most of the Gifts that Coraxes learn tend to enhance their abilities to see, hear or scout out information. They also have Gifts that allow them to slip around and into places unseen, bypassing locks, or making a speedy escape. Pretty much anything you’d expect a thief or a scout to be able to do, they can do it.

What you won’t find a lot of are Gifts that enhance their combat abilities. As mentioned above, Coraxes pretty much suck at combat. So they avoid it at all costs. In nature, you’ll find that ravens have a tendency to find weak or dead animals, then come back to croak and caw at the wolves, leading them back to the easy kill or the dead body. Then the ravens feast on the scraps once the wolves are done tearing open the carcasses. That sort of dynamic in nature transfers over to the Coraxes and Garou. The Corax generally seek out the enemies of Gaia, then come back to inform the Garou, so that the Garou can come in and wipe out those enemies.

You can get a list of all of the gifts available to you by typing +explain/list gifts/mine on the MUSH. Chances are, if you’re reading this guide, you’re playing a level 1 Corax, so you can pick any three Gifts off of that list for your character during chargen. It is highly recommended that you pick Spirit Speech, Voice of the Mimic or Enemy Ways, as these will likely be the most useful to a new Corax and are some of the most commonly taught Gifts. It is not enforced in code or by staff, but corvid-born Corax also tend to learn Raven’s Gleaning or Scent of the True Form. Homid-born Corax tend to learn Open Seal or Persuasion.

It should also be noted that Corax (although they generally deny this when the Garou ask) have the ability to learn Garou Gifts. Being the ultimate spies and thieves, they long ago cracked the Garou code of getting those Gifts, while the Garou still can’t learn the Corax gifts. As a newbie, you won’t have any of those Garou Gifts… yet. But you can later learn them, and information on how to do so can be found on the XP Page.

What are Rites and What Kinds Do We Have?

If Gifts are like insta-super powers, then the Rites are extended rituals that have various effects which are sometimes subtle and can be powerful. Newbies are not expected to know many Rites, especially not the Rites that are considered high-powered and important to Corax society. As a newbie, you probably haven’t earned the trust it takes to actually find someone to teach you those Corax-only Rites, but you’re also a spy. You could learn some of the Garou’s Rites just by parking your ass in a tree and watching them do their thing. A lot of the Rites practiced by Garou are also practiced by Corax.

If you’re new, you’re going to want to take a score of 1 or 2 dots in the Rituals ability, and in chargen, you might consider purchasing the Rites background so you have the foundation for buying Rites. You can also just buy Rites outright with XP after approval. Then when it comes time, pick a few level 1 Rites, maybe a couple of Minor Rites, or a single level 2 Rite. The following rites are most likely to have been taught to newbie Coraxes: Greet the Sun (minor Rite), Bone Rhythms (minor Rite), Rite of Cleansing (level 1), Rite of Contrition (level 1), Talisman Dedication (level 1), The Questing Stone (level 1), Eyes of the Flock (level 2), Rite of the Sun’s Bright Ray (level 2).

You can get a description of each Rite and how it works by typing +explain <rite name> while on the MUSH.

What’s our Relationship with the Umbra?

The Coraxes have a pretty intimate relationship with the Umbra (the spirit world). In fact, some of them grow to love it so much that they fly off into its depths and are not really seen again, except for the occasional cryptic message left here and there, and the other Coraxes call those lost souls the Sun-Lost. The only shapeshifting race that has better and closer ties to the Umbra are the Nuwisha (were-coyotes, who are another race of trickster shifters).

The reason that Coraxes know the Umbra so well is because of their ability to fly. Garou have to walk very carefully and follow Moon Bridges or Moon Paths, but the wereravens don’t. They just fly where they need to go, and their deep need for exploration and poking into secrets means that they know a lot that the Garou don’t. They have found a lot of safe paths for themselves, have found some hidey-holes to bolt to when the heat’s on, and they often leave markers and sigils to signal to other Coraxes when there’s danger or safety ahead.

Young Coraxes are not expected to know a whole lot, but they should know a thing or two. They’ll have traveled the Umbra to some degree, enough to justify maybe one or two dots in the Umbral Maps background. It’s entirely feasible that they don’t know more than that…. Yet. A lot of learning the lay of the Umbra can be done ICly by following the Garou around or asking someone to help GM scenes for you that take you into the Umbra. Or you can ask older, more experienced Coraxes for some teaching.

But here are some things your character, even as a newbie, is likely to know about the Umbra:

  • The Gauntlet. This thing is a pain in the butt. Before you can even enter the Umbra, you have to pierce the Gauntlet. It’s a mystical, sometimes powerful barrier, that stops every Tom, Dick and Harry spirit or being from freely crossing in and out. Once you exert enough strength of spirit to get through the Gauntlet, then you can cross through and enter the Umbra. The Gauntlet is pretty weak in wilderness areas and really, really difficult in areas where there is a lot of technology and urban development.
  • In order to pierce the Gauntlet and cross over, you need a mirror or a puddle of water or some sort of reflective material. Something reflective acts like a magical gateway. Exert your strength of spirit, push into the mirror, and just keep going on through to the other side (if you are actually strong enough to pierce the Gauntlet). ICly, it’s like pushing into jello or thick molasses. Sometimes, it happens quickly. Sometimes, it’s painfully slow. And yes, you can get stuck. That can be embarrassing, not to mention potentially very painful.
  • There are a lot of Realms in the Umbra and a lot of layers. It’s big, vast, complex and some of those Realms completely defy the laws of conventional physics to impose their own laws on reality. A lot of those Realms are extremely dangerous too and should be avoided.
  • You have probably traversed the Penumbra more often than not. This is the layer of the Umbra that is closest to Earth, looks vaguely like Earth, and is more or less a spiritual reflection of that area of the Earth where you entered. For example, if you entered the Umbra from a city street in Detroit, you’re probably going to regret it. The negative amounts of spiritual energy are so vast that the Penumbra is likely to be horribly dark, horribly dangerous, and crawling with nasty spiritual monsters that want to corrupt and destroy you. Furthermore, the only things that will show up in the Penumbra from earth-side are things which have a lot of spiritual energy or things that have been around a long time. So ancient trees and old, old buildings will show up in the Penumbra, but newer buildings, cars, or people walking by will not.
  • The Near Umbra is another layer, beyond the Penumbra, that your newbie Corax may have visited a few times. This is the part of the Umbra where you can find a lot of other, swirling realms to visit (most notably the Thirteen Near Realms, where you probably have not gone and may have heard only rumours about. Don’t worry about the Near Realms. Most of them are nasty places to visit, and you can always find out more information about them later through gameplay). It’s a hazy place, farther away from Earth, and the Garou have to walk Moon Bridges here. But you’re a Corax. So you can just fly to wherever you want to go, because you’re badass like that.

What Kind of Background Do Coraxes Have?

So now that you know some general information about Coraxes, it’s time to focus more on your character’s personal history.

  • You were born either as a human (homid breed) or you were hatched as a raven chick (corvid breed). Very shortly after your birth/hatching (we’re talking days afterwards here), another Corax performed a Rite called the Rite of the Fetish Egg to transform you into a future Corax. This Rite ripped off a part of your Corax parent’s soul, bound it to yours, and made a little spiritual Egg in the Umbra that incubated while you had your childhood/fledglinghood. Upon reaching maturity, that Egg hatched, and you had your First Change. This is how all Coraxes are made. It is a spiritual process rather than a natural or genetic one. Your Corax parent, whoever he or she was, is also not the same breed as you are. Meaning that if you are human-born, your Corax parent was raven-born, and vice versa. That’s just the way Raven designed it to be. No exceptions. With some finaggling and crossbreeding, it’s possible your Corax parent is also your biological parent. But probably not. Also, a lot of other Coraxes know about you. Your Egg had a Guardian, who might have been your Corax parent, and who might not have been. But your Egg was guarded, and you were not some misbegotten orphan who slipped through the cracks. Coraxes keep an eye on their Eggs, protect them fanatically, and are ready to pretty much lay down their lives for the sake of their fledglings. They’re too precious to be lost.
  • Your childhood was marked by needing to know things. Be it a love of learning, being incredibly nosy, or fascinated by the world around you, children and fledglings destined to become Coraxes are already touched by Raven’s curiosity. Throughout the years, they receive that spiritual energy in their Egg in small doses, until the hatching and the First Change hits, at which point the rest of that spiritual energy floods them in one last, big rush. Throughout your childhood, ravens probably came in to check on you, see how you were doing. Some of the Kin may have even prepared you for the inevitable with some teaching and warnings.
  • The First Change probably happened at just a random ass moment. It could have been triggered by intense emotion – intense rage, terror and a need to escape, or a glorious EUREKA moment – but like any chick hatching from an egg, it just happened when it was ready to do so. At that moment, the hatching of the Egg would have been heard by your Guardian in the Umbra, who probably flew to safeguard your egg from predators and then came to see you when you finished your freak-out at having transformed for the first time. For a human, this happened in your late teens, after hitting puberty. For a raven, this happened around 8 to 10 months of age.
  • You got one year of teaching from the Coraxes while you were a Corax fledgling. That’s it. Just one year. Coraxes don’t believe in a rigid mentoring system either. You’re a raven. You already have a natural love of learning, so you were expected to mainly take care of yourself. Your Guardian/Corax parent/substitute parent/group of older, friendly Coraxes were there to help you along, answer questions, and show you some of the ropes.
  • After your year of teaching, you probably went to a Parliament (a grand meeting of craptons of Coraxes, see more info below) and got recognised by Helios as an Oviculum (a rank one Corax). And that is probably where you are now with your character.

Some other things to note:

  • Please don’t create a fledgling character unless you have a mentor of some sort lined up to take care of you, be it a PC or an NPC. (Then again, if you’re taking an NPC Corax mentor, you probably don’t NEED this guide, because you should already know this information and more to be able to play a mentor). Just play an Oviculum. You’re still young enough to be ignorant of a lot of things, so you’re young enough to get some teaching, but you’re also not forcingPCs to step up and play Teach and Safeguard the Fledgie because Corax society would have a Guardian lined up for a fledgling. You’re still independent and master of your own self as an Oviculum.
  • Coraxes do not have high amounts of Rage (spiritual wrath that makes humans uncomfortable), so it’s entirely possible your Corax has a job. These are more likely to be freelance or courier-types of jobs though, ones that let you do a lot of travelling and working on your own schedule. Some suggestions are: bike courier, messenger, investigative reporter/journalist, freelance blogger/writer, or a private detective.
  • Remember that gold hurts, and it hurts bad. It’s painful to touch unless you’re in your breed form (ie, you’re in homid form if you were born a human), and it will drain your Gnosis. You aren’t keeping gold jewellery. But you’re probably keeping silver somewhere, since it’s damn useful against most of the other shapeshifters. Why is this? It’s because of their ties to Helios, the Sun. Garou, with their ties to Luna, are vulnerable to silver.
  • Coraxes are individuals. There are no set rules for your personality. They are wonderfully unique and diverse, coming from all sorts of backgrounds. While they generally tend to dress in black or go for a goth style, they all don’t do that. Some are a bit bonkers, some are irascible, some are friendly and open, and some are very bitter. The only thing they all have in common is a deep, unabashed NEED to KNOW STUFF.
  • Remember not to break the Veil, and that if you are in your war form (Crinos!) you can cause Delirium in any normal, mundane humans who see you (Kinfolk are immune to the Delirium, being family). Delirium is an insanity that’s genetically programmed in humans since their caveman days. Whenever they see a shapeshifter in Crinos, they go batshit crazy with terror or an urge to destroy you. They often don’t remember much when you drop the war form and the Delirium passes, but that’s not always the case. If the human has high amounts of Willpower, they can actually remember you, and that’s bad news for your continued existence.

What Are the Enemies of a Corax?

Even as a newbie, you’re bound to have run into some trouble, even if you had an older Corax or some strong Kinfolk looking out for your ass and taking care of that trouble for you. The main source of trouble for a Corax (or any shapeshifter, really) is someone or something that has been corrupted by the Wyrm.

The Wyrm is a member of the Triat, three entities of creation so powerful that they’re like three gods. The Triat, in whole, are the Weaver, Wyld and Wyrm. Back in the early dawn of time, the Weaver was a force of order that shaped creation, the Wyld was a force of chaos that created pure matter or energy, and the Wyrm destroyed the old so that the Wyld could provide new which the Weaver shaped again. It was balanced, and it was good. Then shit went crazy, or rather, the Corax believe the Weaver went crazy, trapped the Wyrm in her spider’s webs, which drove the Wyrm crazy, and then the Wyrm started corrupting everything with evil.
The reality of it is somewhat more complex than that, but hey. As a newbie, you won’t know much more than that.

So there are mostly four types of enemies to be on the lookout for:

  • Banes. These are Wyrm-spirits and they are nasty. Most often, they’re found in the Umbra, but sometimes they’ll manifest on earth and wreak havoc. They are things like the spirits of Smog, spirits of agony, spirits of pollution, spirits of torture. You probably haven’t handled too many of these, being new. You probably had to go tell the Garou so they could send in their warriors and mages (Theurges) to handle them for you.
  • Black Spiral Dancers. What’s even scarier than a Garou hopped up on Rage and ready to kill? A Wyrm-corrupted Garou hopped up on Rage and ready to kill! And that is what a Black Spiral Dancer is (often abbreviated as BSD). If you saw one of these, and if you’re still alive, you probably flew or ran the Hell away and told your nearest, local Garou about the BSD you spotted. Let them handle these guys.
  • Fomori. These are Wyrm-corrupted humans who are, usually, beyond any hope of rescue or redemption. They’re monsters, rotten to the core, who often have their own super powers like vomiting streams of acid worms or shooting poison tentacles out of their asses. Real charming group of folks, these are. You might have been able to handle taking care of a weaker one of these things yourself.
  • Hunters. Normal people can be scary too. You don’t have to be Wyrm-corrupted to want to kill off shapeshifters, even if it helps. But there are some Hunters out there who are normal people or Kinfolk who’ve gone rogue and want to wipe out EVERY trace of Bad Shit on the planet, and that includes you. So be careful about who sees you doing your Raven-Induced Badassery.

What do Coraxes Think About Everyone Else?

The important thing to remember is that Coraxes are individuals. They think what they like. However, there are some general stereotypes that can be found among them that you can use as a starting point. As a Corax, you’ve probably heard about all of the other supernatural types out there in the general Michigan area and gathered some opinions. Feel free to ignore most of this section if you want to learn from the ground up, so to speak, but it’s advised you at least read up on the Garou. You’re pretty likely to have met a few Garou by the time you reach Oviculum.


These are all the shapeshifters who aren’t wolves. Corax are a type of Fera too.

  • Ananasi – The werespiders. These guys are amazingly good at hiding, so they don’t show up very often, but when they do, it’s usually trouble. The Ananasi are unlike every other shifter type in that they aren’t tied to Gaia but to the Weaver. They’re also rumoured to be corrupted by the Wyrm, there’s some weird metaphysical crap going on with their Spider Queen, Ananasa, and most Corax just don’t trust them much at all. Anywhere you’ve seen a spider is somewhere an Ananasi could be.
  • Bastet – The werecats. There are nine different tribes of these guys, but in Michigan, you’re only likely to run into the Pumonca (pumas and cougars) and the Qualmi (lynxes). The others? The Khan (tigers), Simba (lions), and all the rest? They’re off in other countries and just don’t matter as much. If you really want to know more about them, read their breed book. The Pumonca are extremely isolationist in nature, have strong ties to their native lands, and know much about it. The Qualmi are incorrigible riddlers. They are sly tricksters among the cats, and they have fairly close ties to the Gurahl (werebears) and Wendigo (a tribe of Garou). Corax and Bastet have a somewhat antagonistic relationship, as you might expect. On the one side, you have birds. On the other, you have cats. One group was made to chatter about every secret they find, and the other group was made to keep every secret they find. Needless to say, Corax take a somewhat dim view of the Bastet, the supposed Eyes and Ears of Gaia. The Bastet are arrogant cusses with a superiority complex and a distinct lack of perspective.
  • Gurahl – The werebears. Most of the shapeshifting world believes the Gurahl to be extinct, but some people know better… like the Corax! The Gurahl are actually hibernating… Those that survived, anyway. Their numbers were greatly diminished during the Wars of Rage, and right now, they’re all in hiding from the Garou, sleeping until… Well, no one really knows when they’ll wake up. The Corax get on pretty well with the Gurahl, as they’re generally slow to anger and have their acts together.
  • Nuwisha – The werecoyotes. These guys are tricksters and pranksters, one and all, the chosen sons and daughters of Old Man Coyote. Corax and Nuwisha get on GREAT but have slightly different priorities. Coraxes will play pranks if they teach a lesson, because the lesson and the teaching are their priority. Nuwisha will play pranks for the sheer joy of playing a prank, and if it teaches a lesson, that’s good too. So Coraxes and Nuwisha are kind of like BFFFs… Best Freakin’ Fratboy Friends.
  • Ratkin – The wererats. As above, so below? Not quite. The Corax and the Ratkin have a few things in common. They like to poke their beaks/noses into dark places, to see things which most others don’t see. But the Corax also know there’s something rotten in the sewers, and it isn’t the crap. They’re twitchy and more than a little crazy, and the sheer number of them is going to one day spell out a bad, nasty surprise for the Garou.


The furry wolves! If ever there was a race that is the epitome of ‘a person is smart, but people are dumb,’ then it would be the Garou. The Corax generally shake their heads at the Garou. They could defeat the Wyrm if they just worked together, if they stopped squabbling and trying to kill everyone else. So while some Coraxes don’t trust them and don’t want to deal much with them, many Coraxes see the Garou as the best hope this planet has, and so they try to teach the wolves what they need to know to get it done. Gaia help them all.

There are multiple tribes of Garou out there, and the Corax, naturally, have opinions about them all.

  • Black Furies – Amazon warrioresses. Most of the Garou tend to think of them as Feminazis, and the Corax know there are a few of those kinds out there, especially among the younger ones. But there’s a lot of good that the Black Furies do for the female half of humanity, and sadly, their work is still needed in many parts of the world. These ladies deserve some respect.
  • Bone Gnawers – Scrappy junkyard wolves. They do a lot of digging through the trash and see into the dark places, and some of them are pretty cozy with the Ratkin. On the whole, they’re a good bunch of people, but they’re a motley crew if ever there was one. Some work to better the lives of the homeless, some are rat bastards (haha) and cowards, and some are not much better than domestic terrorists.
  • Children of Gaia – Hippies. So nice. They’re just… so nice. They’re gentle, they’re kind, they’re compassionate, and they just want everyone to get along. The only criticism that the Corax generally have about the Coggies is that they’re so disorganized that they’re not getting anything worthwhile done. But seriously. They’re nice.
  • Fianna – Historically Irish faerie-lovers. The best and the worst of the Garou, right here. They’re loud, boisterous, noisy, and they spend a lot of time fighting with each other. But they are also loud, boisterous, noisy and if you are one of them, man, you are theirs. The Corax get on pretty well with Fianna in general, because the Fianna tend to listen to the Corax when they talk. The ravens belong to Morrigu, after all, and the Fianna have some serious reverence for the Morrigu.
  • Get of Fenris – Vikings! Bust out the mead! It’s a rare Get who doesn’t know about Huginn and Munin, the two ravens who belong to Odin, and because of that, the Get will frequently pack with Raven as their totem, and they have quite a lot of respect for the Corax. As for the Corax, well, they know better than to argue with the Get, and they’ve enjoyed a long-standing partnership with them. The Corax find the enemy, and the Get make the enemies into bodies. Good times, good times!
  • Glass Walkers – Urban wolves with guns and gadgets. All in all, a fairly neutral relationship with these guys. The Corax admire what the Glass Walkers can do with technology, but … there’s something a little bit worrisome about how cozy they are with the Weaver.
  • Red Talons – Genocidal wolves in the wild. If it was born on two legs, the Red Talons hate it. Coraxes will bring them information about the enemy so they can go kill it, but in general, they don’t do small talk. Interacting with them is much like interacting with… wild wolves. Call them over, let them do their thing, and nip the tails and ears of cubs.
  • Shadow Lords – Dark, shadowy, manipulative thunderwolves. They all belong to Grandfather Thunder, who has in his employ all the Stormcrow spirits and some Rogue Raven spirits (guys who ditched Raven to follow him). So for that reason, Coraxes get some respect from Shadow Lords. They like how we bring them information. They respect our spying. Coraxes, in turn, dooooon’t quite trust them so much. Something’s not quite right with these guys, and the Coraxes worry.
  • Silent Striders – Wandering wolves bereft of their homelands, haunted by ghosts. Coraxes and Striders get on pretty well. They don’t often travel together, but when they do, it’s often worth it for all the things a Corax will learn. Just beware of the ghosts that seem to flock to a Strider like fleas to a dog.
  • Silver Fangs – The once-regal, ruling tribe of werewolves. Coraxes view the Silver Fangs as a tragedy. They were once great. They were once shining leaders who managed to keep everyone in line, but those days are long gone. The Silver Fangs are just a shadow of what they used to be, but no one seems to know what to do about it. There’s some pity and head-shaking for these guys, in general.
  • Uktena – Mystically-inclined werewolves of Native American or minority stock. Cooperation happens between the Coraxes and the Uktena quite frequently, especially when something magical’s involved. At best, their relationships are friendly. At worst, it’s mutual respect.
  • Wendigo – Harsh, bitter Native American wolves of the north. Many of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic revere Raven as a trickster, the spirit who brought the sun to humanity, and so there is often a great deal of respect accorded to the Coraxes. In turn, the Coraxes respect the Wendigo and look out for their well-being, but man, do they wish the Wendigo would put the past behind them already. It’s time to look to the future.


There are more than just shapeshifters out there. Although they aren’t PCs on Phoenix Rising, they still show up from time to time, and Coraxes still know about them.

  • Changelings – Beautiful and terrifying creatures that are half-faerie, half-mortal. There are so many kinds. You have the Kithain which are descended from European faeries – the Sidhe, the Satyrs, the Redcaps – and then you have the Nunnehi who are Native American faeries, and there are Inanimae – the spirits of plants, rocks, water and all that. There are probably more too. A lot of people manage not to notice them, but the Coraxes notice, and they pay attention. Changelings are a pretty mixed bag. Some they want to know, others they want to watch from a safe distance, but in general, no Corax wants to be responsible for the death of more magic in the world and believe they’re worth their while.
  • Mages – Humans capable of rewriting reality with magic. Oh, so arrogant much of the time. The Traditionalists get on better with the Coraxes than the Technocrats, that’s for damn sure. None of the wereravens appreciate getting classified as a reality deviant and trying to get destroyed. Some of the Mages of the Traditions – Dreamspeakers and Verbena, in general – get on pretty well with Coraxes. Hermetics are known for being arrogant as Hell. Hanging out with a Mage is generally a very dangerous prospect, so it’s advised that the Coraxes keep their distance, but partnerships do happen on occasion.
  • Vampires – Blood-drinking undead who like convoluted schemes. In general, the Coraxes are the enemies of the vampires. Probably not a surprise. Coraxes are creatures of Helios, the Sun, while vampires are pretty much anything but. Add to that the fact that when vampires lose enough of their humanity, they start reeking of the Wyrm. So Coraxes keep their distance, keep a watchful eye out, and if things start looking real bad, they go and tell the Garou about it. And if a vampire ever Embraces a Corax? It spells guaranteed death for that Corax. No exceptions.

What About the Corax Kin?

All shapeshifters have Kin, and the Coraxes are no exception. Their Kin are found among the humans and the ravens in the world. What makes Kin different from the Shifters is that the Kin will NEVER shapeshift into a different form. If they were born human, they will stay human all their lives. If they were hatched raven or born wolf, they will stay as animals all their lives.

There isn’t much written in the books about Corax Kin, so consider a lot of this to be House Ruling.

Kin are distinguished from normal humans by two things:

One, they are immune to the Delirium, which is a temporary insanity brought about from the days of the cavemen, when the shapeshifters used to hunt down and kill humans. This period in time was called the Impergium. Humanity, as a defense mechanism, developed the Delirium for whenever they see a shapeshifter in their war form (Crinos). It’s especially bad with the Garou, who were mainly responsible for these atrocities, and it happens to a lesser degree with the Corax. But you don’t need to worry about that, really. You can look at a Corax in his war form all you like, if you’re playing a Kin. You’ll likely laugh your ass off before you go running.

Two, Kinfolk carry the genetics to give birth to future shapeshifters. This is especially true with the Garou, who absolutely must mate with their Kin in order to have more baby Garou. With Coraxes, it’s a somewhat different story. A new Corax is created through a special, sacred Rite (the Rite of the Fetish Egg) rather than born. Each Corax is chosen, not brought into the world through a stroke of seemingly random luck. Still, there are requirements when it comes to who can be chosen for the Fetish Egg. The infant human or hatchling raven must be Kin, the offspring of two Kin parents or the offspring of a Corax plus a Kin parent. The Fetish Egg can NEVER be attached to the offspring of two Corax parents (there can just never be a Metis Corax) or to a raven/human who is not Kin.


The genetics of the Corax are getting passed down somewhere along the line, to varying degrees, so most Corax Kin are going to have dark hair and have more delicate musculature and bone structure. However, the Coraxes are not picky about bloodlines in the least, so their Kin can come from just about any ethnic group and from every walk of life. It’s entirely possible that Kin will have fairer hair and lighter eyes than a Corax, depending on who all’s been thrown into the mix along the branches of the family tree.


The curiosity of the Corax comes directly from Raven, and to some extent, this will get passed along the bloodlines. Corax Kin are generally going to be quite intelligent and quite inquisitive. Careers in journalism or careers that involve a lot of travelling or talking will be common choices, but again… this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Corax Kin can certainly pick other careers.

One thing to note is that Corax will frequently form information networks with their Kin. It’s one way the Coraxes tend to appear to know everything that’s going on at once. Family helps!


Corax just don’t need their Kin in the same way that the Garou do. They don’t absolutely have to mate with their Kin in order to birth a new Corax, because Coraxes are chosen and created through the Rite of the Fetish Egg rather than birthed. In fact, Coraxes are most frequently NOT the biological parents of their Egg-Children. Why? The Rite of the Fetish Egg demands that the Corax choose a Kin recipient who is of the opposite breed to him or her.

In other words, a Corax who was born a human must make a Corax who was hatched from ravens. A raven-hatched Corax may only ever attach a Fetish Egg to the soul of an infant human Kin.

Furthermore, Coraxes are notably resourceful and independent. They have low amounts of Rage that would make normal humans uncomfortable around them, so they can hold jobs of their own, if need be. Therefore, Coraxes do not need to rely on their Kin for money or shelter, most often.

Lastly, because the Corax are so terrible in combat, a strong and sturdy Kin (or one who is at least well-equipped) certainly could kick their butts if they got too uppity.

This results in a much more egalitarian relationship between Corax and their Kin, one that is usually based on mutual respect for each other.

Things to Note

If you’re thinking of making a Corax Kin, then in addition to the above information, remember the following:

  • Lost Kin would be a very, very rare occurrence. The very nature of a Corax is to find that which is lost or hidden and bring it to light. There would have to be some effort made to actively hide a Corax Kin from the Coraxes, and even then, eventually, that Kin is very likely to be found anyway.
  • You can purchase the Gnosis Merit and be a Kin with Gnosis, and later, you could buy low-level Gifts with your XP. This is not recommended for newbie players, though.
  • Just because you’re a Corax Kin doesn’t mean you can’t have ties to other shapeshifters. Feel free to branch out! Have contacts and allies all over the place.
  • In case it wasn’t obvious, your Kin character is going to be a human. Raven Kin are definitely around on the game, but they are NPCs only.

Useful Terms to Know

  • Ales: The term for a rank three Corax, one who’s been around the block awhile and is going to be expected to help teach the younger ones.
  • Buzzard. Also known as a Scab. Where the Garou have Black Spiral Dancers, the Corax have Buzzards. These unfortunate, corrupted Coraxes had their Fetish Eggs stolen from their Guardians, the spiritual ties broken with the original, intended recipient, then rebound to another human infant through a twisted ceremony called the Rite of the Broken Wing. The result induces an instant First Change in the infant, snapping its sanity, and the Buzzard is usually raised in Malfeas (Wyrmy Hell) or by Black Spiral Dancer Kinfolk. Buzzards are always deformed in some way, completely demented, and are trained as spies and assassins.
  • Corvus. The term for a rank five, or elder, Corax. These guys are rare, cause most shapeshifters get killed before they can reach the rank of Elder.
  • Delirium: The insanity that humans experience upon seeing a shapeshifter in his or her Crinos form. Coraxes can cause the Delirium while in Crinos, though it’s not as intense as it would be if a Garou did the same. That insanity manifests as terror or an urge to destroy your ass (even if you do look so ridiculous in Crinos that logically, you’d think they’d piss themselves laughing to see you).
  • Fledgling: A baby Corax. Dawwww.
  • Gaia: The name of the Earth, the mother of all living things and the creator of the shapeshifters. She is dying, and because she is dying, the Apocalypse is nigh.
  • Helios: The name of the Sun. He’s one of the two big bosses for the Coraxes, also known as one of the Celestines (one of the most powerful spirits in existence).
  • Kinfolk: Humans that have shapeshifter blood in them but aren’t shapeshifters themselves. They’re family, and generally, they’re more stable than the shapeshifters and are often the go-betweens for them and the mundane, human world. The Garou are notoriously reliant on Kin, and many of the tribes are abusive. Coraxes are more independent. They can steal their own crap to support themselves, after all, or can scavenge easily for food, even in cities. But Kin are important, because only their souls can be bound to a Fetish Egg, and if all the ravens in the world die out, the Coraxes will die out too. Corax Kin can be played as characters, and they often share the same curiosity that Coraxes have, often acting as informants.
  • Luna: The name of the Moon. She’s closely tied to the Garou, who follow her rather fanatically, second only to Gaia. She is one of the Celestines. Coraxes respect her, but don’t really have much to do with her.
  • Neocornix: Still kind of new for a Corax, but getting some experience. This is a rank two Corax.
  • Oviculum: You’re still fresh out of the egg. But this is another word for a rank one Corax.
  • Parliament: Every once in awhile (maybe once a year or so?), all the Coraxes get together in a big ass tree during the day, and they talk about Corax business. The higher-ranked you are, the higher up in the tree you get to perch. You get to crap on the lower-ranking Coraxes. Fun! These Parliaments begin at sunrise and end at sunset, at which point all the Coraxes fly around in one last, raucous burst of cawing to praise Helios, then head down to the ground for more socialising, usually in a bar or five. Coraxes can rise or fall in rank at a Parliament, which is all arbitrated by Helios.
  • Raven: The Totem spirit of every Corax, one of the Incarna (a really high-ranking, powerful spirit), who grants the wereravens a lot of their powers and demands secrets in return.
  • Renown: How famous you are among the Coraxes. Coraxes favour Wisdom first and foremost. Then they go for Honour, and lastly, Glory. The more renown you have, the higher you can rise in rank. For more information, go read theRenown page.
  • Umbra: The spirit world. It’s full of layers and realms, and it’s generally dangerous.
  • Volucris: The word for a rank four Corax. If you reach this rank, you’re going to be expected to teach. A lot.
  • Weaver: The Weaver is one of the three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat, even stronger than Gaia. Often personified as female, the Coraxes believe she has gone completely insane, imprisoned the Wyrm (which drove HIM insane), and is mainly responsible for shaping the creative power of the Wyld into the world and into spirits.
  • Wyld: One of the other three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat, the Wyld is pure, chaotic creativity.
  • Wyrm: The last of the three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat. The Wyrm was the destroyer, who upheld balance through destruction, allowing new life to come forth. He has gone insane, thanks to the Weaver’s imprisonment, and now he is corrupted with hate and evil.

Miscellaneous Facts About Ravens

Perhaps you want to play a corvid-born Corax. Maybe you want a character with the Birdlike Mannerisms flaw (see the +explain entry on the MUSH for what this does). Or maybe you just want your Corax character to appear experienced and knowledgeable about his Kinfolk. Listed below are some miscellaneous factoids about ravens gathered from across the Internet for easy, quick reference.

A Common Raven (Corvus corax). Note the large and sabre-like beak, throat ruff, and the glint in the eyes that says he’s just waiting for you to turn your back.


  • Ravens are some of the most intelligent of animal species. They are adept problem-solvers and have an understanding of cause and effect. A study done in Wyoming discovered that during hunting season, the sound of a gunshot draws ravens in to investigate a presumed carcass, whereas the birds ignore sounds that are just as loud but harmless, such as an airhorn or a car door slamming.
  • In the wild, ravens will frequently find weak or dead animals and call to attract the attention of wolves or other large predators, who will follow them, tear open the carcasses and feast. The ravens, being too weak to rip open the carcasses, wait until the larger predators leave and then eat the remaining scraps.
  • They are omnivorous and very opportunistic. Ravens will eat just about anything they come across, including: carrion, insects, fish, berries, grains, small animals, and human trash. They’ve been known to attack and sometimes kill livestock, especially young kids, calves and lambs.
  • Ravens mate for life. Juveniles may take up to two to three years to bond with a mate, and they will engage in all manner of courtship dances, including a head-bobbing dance and dramatic aerial flights. Once paired up, the mated ravens will claim territory and defend it, where they nest and raise their young. This isn’t to say they’re completely monogamous. Raven males have been observed visiting a female in her nest while her mate is away and copulating with her. Needless to say, if the mated male comes back to find an intruder with his female, there will be a fight.
  • Mated pairs of ravens will work to maintain their close bonds by flying and swooping together through the air, and throughout the year, they’ll often sit side by side, preening each other. During these preening rituals, they’ll make a soft, warbling call called a comfort sound. Nestlings will also make this soft, warbling noise after they’ve been fed. In comparison to their usual raucous call, it’s much gentler and much more soothing.
  • Juvenile ravens are some of the most playful of all bird species. They’ll play catch-me-if-you-can with other animals, like wolves or dogs, nipping at tails and then quickly fluttering away. They play in flight, with wild aerial stunts, or interlock talons with other ravens in flight. They are one of the few animals who will make their own toys, breaking off sticks to play with each other, and they’ll go sliding down snowbanks or play tricks on people by pushing snow onto their heads.
  • Ravens will open their beaks and interlock them as a gesture of affection, the way humans hold hands.
  • Crows migrate, but ravens do not. However, they have been known to travel more than 185 miles (300k) in a year. Nevertheless, ravens are Federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, making it illegal to hunt, capture, kill or keep ravens without a special permit. This includes live or dead birds, their eggs, feathers and nests.

Anatomy and Physiology

  • The only way to reliably tell a male from a female raven is through dissection or DNA testing, although females will sometimes be smaller. They are not sexually dimorphous. Ravens can tell each other apart through behaviour and possibly through their calls or pheromones.
  • They do have a very good sense of smell. It may not be as well-developed as a wolf’s, but thinking that a raven (or many other birds) is nose-blind is a misconception.
  • Raven bones, like almost all bird bones, are hollow. Just as a sidenote, flightless birds (like the emu and ostrich) have denser bones. Ravens also have a keeled sternum, to which the flight muscles are attached. Now, these bones may be hollow, but it is a terrible misconception to think of them as weak. Flighted bird bones have to withstand the impact of landing and the rigors of taking off, as well as a whole host of other activities. How do they manage without their bones snapping? The internal structure of a bird’s bone is filled with crisscrossed struts and trusses, which are amazingly resilient and have been mimicked in modern architecture because of its strength. Bone marrow is interspersed around the hollow cavities, and the cavities are often filled with respiratory air sacs.
  • The beak of a raven is large and curved, very thickly so when compared to a crow’s, and the maxillary beak (top) is larger than the mandibular beak (bottom), whereas a crow is more equally proportioned. The nasal bristles are larger and longer compared to a crow’s. Ravens also have a neck feather ruff that frequently puffs out as they call.
  • Being birds, obviously, ravens do not chew their food. They have salivary glands, and they have a tongue to help them manipulate their food in their beaks, but they have to swallow food whole. From there, the food goes down the esophagus and into the crop (a specialised, enlarged area of the esophagus that stores food till it can pass to the stomach). The stomach has two sections. The first is the proventriculus, which secretes acids and enzymes to begin breaking down food. The second portion is the gizzard, which replaces mammalian teeth in the way it grinds down the food, often with the aid of grit and pebbles the bird has ingested for just that purpose. From there, food passes into the small and long intestines, then it passes as waste into the cloaca and is voided.
  • In captivity, common ravens have been known to live for about forty years. In the wild, their lifespan is typically ten to fifteen years, with the longest recorded wild raven living twenty-three years.
  • Compared to some other birds, ravens are relatively slow at flying. In the wild, ravens have been recorded at reaching speeds between 22 to 28 miles per hour (about 40 kph), although Corax can fly up to 35 miles per hour under extreme circumstances.
  • Ravens are some of the earliest breeding birds, frequently sitting on eggs in February, under snowy conditions. They will lay three to seven eggs and incubate them for twenty to twenty-five days. The eggs of Common Ravens are a pale, greenish colour blotched with dark brown spots. Nestlings fledge at five to seven weeks of age.
  • During the winter when the temperatures drop to extreme lows, ravens can raise their resting metabolic rate to help them stay warm.

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How to Create a Successful Werewolf: The Apocalypse Pack

June 14, 2015 at 2:11 am (Uncategorized)

#6 in my Werewolf, the Apocalypse Guides.

Packs are a major part of the Werewolf theme. Yet they can be challenging to put together. Players come and go. Login times aren’t always convenient for everyone. And then there’s just finding characters you get along with well enough to make it happen.

Note that joining a pack is expected of most Garou, and those that don’t join one face some social stigma. The Renown Cap for characters who are not in packs is only 7; those who are in packs enjoy a monthly renown cap of 8.

Hopefully this guide will make it easier.

Don’t stress over pack purpose.

A lot of people get stuck trying to figure out what kind of pack purpose they should have. In truth, “fight the Wyrm” is as good of a default pack purpose as any. Later, you might find out what your pack is good at as a pack, and you could go ahead and refine your purpose then. Note that it is okay for multiple packs to have the same purpose, though it can be good to have different packs with different purposes at a Sept.

Here are some common purposes.

  • Scouting packs: they find all of the intel so that heavy hitter packs can go in.
  • Spiritual packs: they explore the Umbra and right spiritual wrongs.
  • Gathering packs: they find resources for the sept, including lost fetishes.
  • War packs: heavy hitter strike forces and shock troops.
  • Guardian packs: stay close to home and devote themselves to the defense of bawn and sept.
  • Monkeywrenchers: saboteurs whose only goal is to get in, mess things up for the Wyrm, and get out fast.
  • Lawbringer packs: not all members are Philodox, but they all exist to track down and judge lawbreakers.

People first, then totems.

A big mistake I see a lot of people making is that they get fixated on a totem. “I only want to pack under Stag,” or “I only want to pack under Flea,” or even, “I only want to pack under a totem of Wisdom.”

The problem is that the chances of finding even 2 other people who are that laser focused on the one totem or who even like the totem as much as you do are very slim. Instead, think about finding the people you’d love to pack up with first. You can push your favorite totem once you’ve gotten people excited about joining a pack. They’ll be more receptive then.

If you want a totem of Wisdom float a Wisdom based purpose, then suggest the totems you want. Stay open minded, however. Choosing the pack totem should be a group discussion, because everyone’s going to have to live with it, and the benefits of your favorite totem might not apply very well to the character builds you’re working with. You’re going to spend a lot more time interacting with your packmates than you are with your totem, who is just an NPC with some stat bonuses attached. Some packs play for months without ever once RPing through an interaction with their totem.

When you pick your totem you also want to be careful about choosing exclusive totems, like Mule or Themis, because this will make it harder for you to add new packmates when new players join the MUSH later.

You also won’t really be able to properly pick your totem until you know for sure how many totem points the group will have to contribute. If you’ve just 3 members and all of you have Totem 1 then your choices will be severely limited, and you will probably have to use XP to buy more totem points to buy any totem at all.

Try to create a character that is open to other tribes. The stereotypical arrogant Silver Fang who thinks everyone is beneath him, or the Black Fury who hates all males everywhere, is going to have great difficulty joining or making a pack.

Temp packs are your friend.

It’s hard to know whether you’ll work well with any given group of PCs until you…well…work with them. Joining a temp pack is a great way to make this happen. Nearly any Philodox on the game has the Rite. This will allow you to roll pack initiative and use pack tactics, though your renown cap will not increase and you won’t get any totem benefits. If you feel a good synergy with your temp pack mates then you can go to a theurge or a philodox to help you make the bond permanent. Just make sure all of you have at least 1 dot in Totem…you cannot join a pack without at least one dot in the background.

You’ll probably have to ask in person.

I have never seen anyone create a successful pack by posting on the BBs. Every single pack was created when people went to one another both ICly and OOCly, had conversations, and made ovetures. A potential packmate might turn you down, and that’s okay. It’s more likely that they’re floundering in the attempt to find a pack for themselves as well, and they’ll appreciate the invitation to at least join a temporary pack.

Fostering Pack RP

Once you have the pack together it’s good to RP as a pack. Sign up for events together. Take turns running pack-only events that speak to the pack’s purpose. You could even start a rivalry with another PC pack whose characters all have ranks similar to yours, if you take the time to have some OOC discussions with them about how that might go! Use the plot board to see if you can get T2+ characters to run stuff for you as well. Take the time to do some social RP…packs also spend time together and have fun together. The more you can strengthen the bond and enrich the story the more you reduce the chances that your packmates will simply disappear into the sunset because they go and leave the MUSH.

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How to Play a Successful Theurge

June 14, 2015 at 2:06 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Fifth in my WTA series. I absolutely did write this one. 🙂

Initial Character Build

Theurges generally will either have mental stats or social stats as their primary. Physical stats almost always come dead last. A theurge is typically a support character, with combat acumen showing up primarily at the higher ranks. You can, of course, maximize your abilities by being as strategic as possible. Perception can be important for the Sense Wyrm Gift; Intelligence for Mother’s Touch if you plan to use it. Charisma, Manipulation, and Wits are all rolled for various Rites.

As far as abilities go, Rituals is absolutely vital for theurges, and you’ll want to put at least a 3 in it, if not more. The level of Rites that you learn is capped by your Rituals score. Empathy is important for Mother’s Touch, since W20 uses Empathy now, and not Medicine.

Occult and Enigmas are also pretty vital for your average theurge. Some STs might require Etiquette rolls to deal with spirits as well. From there, you can play around with your concept a bit. A theurge who specializes in working with animal spirits might have a high Animal Ken; a theurge who likes to nurture and awaken various plants might have a high Survival with an Herbalism speciality, and a theurge who works with spirits of war and pain might well have a pretty decent Brawl score.

You’ll want to spend freebies either on extra Gifts or extra Rites. The power of the theurge lines up in both of these items. Rites are a social expectation, and can be very powerful even though they take longer. Theurges are usually the only healer in the pack, so you tend to play with fire if you don’t take Mother’s Touch. Spirit Speech is pretty vital, and theurges without the Rite of Cleansing, Rite of Summoning, and Rite of Binding, at the very least, are pretty much functionally unable to perform in their auspice role. There’s no auspice bonus to Gnosis, so homid theurges will want to take it up right away. A lupus theurge has a clear edge with a starting Gnosis of 5, which is almost the bare minimum for theurge effectiveness.

A theurge might well be older than his or her fellows at any rank, even if he changed at sixteen or seventeen like the average Garou. That is because Wisdom is a slow path to power, and a theurge might well be held back from his Rite of Passage until he’s able to deal with spirits to his mentor’s satisfaction. This is a great auspice to play if you want to play a Cliath who has progressed past his teens or early twenties without looking incompetent by doing so, or without falling back to the (very rare) “late changer” trope.

Your Role, as Seen by the Sept

You are basically a religious leader or a cleric in a theocracy. The Gaian religion is a religion, and you are one of its priests or priestesses. As a Cliath, you are expected simply to know how to deal with any spirits your pack might encounter, to have a few Rites to help out with and usually to act as a healer. In general, you will probably be expected to create talens for your pack and for the sept, as well. By the time you are a Fostern you will be expected to do all of this and more: you might be called upon to bind spirits to your service so that you can fling them at your enemies. You might also be expected to play the role of spiritual advisor. That means you might be interpreting other people’s dreams or omens or visions (or your own). It also means that you might be told things in confidence, or that people might come to you for advice, just like they would to a priest, preacher, minister, imam, or whatever in the real world. After all, going to a Ragabash is likely to make them the victim of a bad joke, going to a Philodox could open them up to judgment, going to a Galliard could mean becoming the subject of a song, and the ragey Ahroun is hardly who you want to talk to about personal problems. Theurges are expected to be wise and to see clearly, after all. At higher ranks, you may even be making fetishes for yourself, your Septmates/packmates, or for the Sept stores.

If there is a spiritual imbalance or curse upon the Sept the theurges will generally be called upon to discover the source of the problem, and to deal with it. Theurges also make sure that the local spirits are happy, even if they aren’t officially Keepers themselves. At the very least, a theurge who discovers a problem with the spirits should report it, if he or she feels uncomfortable trying to soothe the spirit himself. Theurges would take many actions based upon how they feel the spirits would react to those actions.

Theurges are also expected to know their way around the Umbra, which is an ever-shifting, dangerous place. It is the theurge who should know how to get into and out of various Realms, as well as how laws and rules change once he or she is there.

Note that you don’t have to be equally good at all aspects of these expectations. Some theurges are phenomenal fetish makers but are not very wonderful confidants. Some theurges are creepy spirit summoners and binders while others specialice in exorcisms. There is room for a lot of flavor. As a religious leader, you could play the hardass castigating CONFESS NOW MY SON priest, or a freaky spirit-spying chiminage-examining sorcerer, or the battle-spirit ecstatic, or the love-and-peace Gaian-way proseletyzer, and the way you choose to specialize, spend your points, and RP your character will all changed based on the direction you wish to go.

Of course, as a Cliath or a Cub theurge there is definitely plenty of room to learn, which can lead to a great deal of RP opportunities.

Character Contributions

So you’re not a fighter, but you want to contribute to missions and PRPs without feeling useless. For a theurge, advance preparation is often the name of the game, but there is a lot you can do on the spot, too.

  • In advance of the event, +app to bind a spirit to your service. Expect to be given a chimenage to pay or to RP out, but a spirit can often fight when you cannot. All the same, your character is given credit when you summon the wind elementals to flatten your enemies.
  • In advance of the event, create talens that you think might be useful. We have a great talen system (+help talen) to help you do this. Use +app for the initial talen application.
  • During the event, spend combat rounds running around healing your packmates. This is a touch Gift, of course, but it can mean the difference between life or death for everyone in the room.
  • Talk to local spirits in order to get info.
  • Using Sense Wyrm or other Sensory Gifts.
  • Many theurge gifts change conditions to the advantage of the pack. For example, in the Umbra the Battle Mandala steadily weakens spirit attackers while the combat progresses, and Spirit Snare holds them fast. Purchase tribe and breed gifts with an eye towards either doing the same thing (adjusting conditions in your favor) or keeping you alive as you play healer. You could also buy Gifts with an eye towards improving the “spiritual investigator aspect” of your character…any sensory gift is helpful here.
  • Think of helpful Rites. Rite of the Questing Stone is a great Rite for many adventures, as the Rite of Awakening. Some of the minor Rites are VERY helpful at giving you an edge…you just have to remember your character has them and has been doing them.

RP Ideas

You can also contribute outside of “combat” PRPs, or run PRPs that revolve around your role as a theurge. Note that you will have to offer to do a lot of this stuff–most of it won’t come to you. For example:

  • If you’re creating a fetish (see Items) you’ll have to run or have a series of scenes run to make that happen. Think about how you can draw other people into these scenes.
  • If you want to play up the “spiritual leader” aspect, try to find ways to serve as a quiet confidante for those who are upset. You might even do a bit of footwork to study how life coaches, counselors, and others actually do this. There are plenty of resources out there!
  • Use Rites to run your own PRPs. Seasonal Rites and Caern Rites make great PRPs that our players really seem to enjoy.
  • Volunteer to hold a moot role. For a theurge, this is most commonly the Caller of the Wyld, which is a great time and place to show off your creativity. If you can get enough people together, you might actually work together to get multiple people involved as dancers.
  • Teach or learn Rites.
  • Volunteer to summon spirits for the learning of new gifts on screen.
  • RP chimenage. Nobody has to set this for you. Theurges do weird stuff all the time. You can start a lot of scenes by hanging upside down from a tree branch, shirtless, in winter, with glyphs painted all over you. Ask Uni how she knows this. Chimenage can form new PRPs too…some spirits want you to run all over town drawing strange graffiti, some spirits want you to feed the homeless or kidnap abused kids to new homes. The possibilities are literally endless, and they give you an opportunity to show a vital part of the Garou experience that isn’t always covered.


There are quite a few pitfalls when you’re playing a theurge. The first is falling prey to the idea that “doing damage” is the only thing that matters. As you can see, there are lots and lots of ways that your character can contribute to society, even at the lower ranks, and there are a ton of opportunities for RP. You’ll be very unhappy playing a theurge, however, if you expect your mystic to be super powerful right away. Eventually, if you play long enough, he or she will probably develop an “oh holy shit” array of gifts and Rites. Quite a few may even be pulled out when everyone least expects it. You’ll also be able to bind more and more powerful spirits. But right at first, especially, you’re not going to be the bad-ass of the group. And that’s okay. Play a theurge if you love the deeper, spiritual side of the Garou and the culturally rich rituals. You are on the path of the healer, the seer, the counselor, and the mystic. Try to cultivate that as much as possible, and enjoy the rich RP that it can bring.

Combat Tips

Okay, okay, I know, you really, really still want to be able to do some damage. Here’s Constantin‘s best advice:

“Until you have a great fetish like a bone dagger or some other equalizer, go to Hispo whenever and wherever possible, and use the bite attack unless it’s ill advised to do so (they’re poison things and you don’t have Resist Toxin? Ok, do something else). Bite is a difficulty of 5, and in Hispo you get +1 damage. It’s still all aggravated, and you can still regenerate lethal and bashing. Bottom line? The dire wolf form is your best asset…and you can go press yourself against your packmate’s legs for a heal without getting in their way, too. In homid, you want to carry a knife, and later, a fetish knife. After all, you can’t fight in Hispo in the heart of the city…but you sure can take advantage of a difficulty of 4 on the attack roll. Since you get bonus dice on damage for bonus successes, this is important. Use Willpower on Damage rolls, since it’s allowed here…that one extra damage could make all the difference. Your packmates may not ever stop teasing you about being cute and fluffy, but they’ll still respect you. And…break off the attack when they start getting hurt. They’ll thank you far more for healing them then they will for trying to pull some sort of Theurge’s Last Stand after they’ve all been taken out.”

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How to Play a Successful Ragabash

June 14, 2015 at 1:58 am (Uncategorized)

I believe Pegasus of Phoenix Rising wrote this one. Either way, it’s the fourth in the WTA series.

Initial Character Build

Ragabash can be, and do, just about anything. They even have thematic leeway for it. There is no “typical” build for a Ragabash because they are rather atypical. Trying to force a Ragabash to conform is an exercise in futility. That said, the Garou as a whole do adhere to a rather rigid society, and even this most flexible of auspices has expectations associated with it that will probably drive some of the stats.
A physically oriented Ragabash might be an athlete or assassin, a socially oriented one may well be charming and will integrate with human society very well on account of low Rage (supposing you keep it low: 3 or less), and a mental-primary Ragabash will be quick-witted and have knowledge at her fingertips. Anything goes.
In regards to Abilities, Ragabash are expected to be scouts. Stealth, Alertness will be key; that’s so you can get around unseen and notice stuff. Investigation or Enigmas will help a Ragabash understand and decode what she’s seeing. A Ragabash in possession of Empathy, Etiquette and Streetwise will be in a position to notice others’ emotions and interact with various communities. Some Ragabash are thieves and spies, so Larceny and Technology would be required (in addition to Stealth). Ragabash are often (in)famously capable of talking their way out of hot water, and Subterfuge is necessary for being charming, double-talking, and otherwise tricking others.
Your Ragabash does not need to possess all of the above Abilities. The suggestions are provided as conceptual starting points.

Your Role, as Seen by the Sept

In a hierarchical society such as the Nation, Ragabash tend to fulfill the role of omegas. Their renown path is a slow one (reflected by greater number of permanent points required): they aren’t considered glorious, they’re not even really expected to be honorable, and while you think that’d leave them wisdom as their bailiwick, they’re called “Fools” (in the same vein as a court jester). Note, however, that “omega” does not necessarily, or even commonly, equate to “doormat.”
A Ragabash often serves as a pressure valve for Garou with higher Rage. They excel at finding the right thing to say to drain tension or offer distraction. More than any other auspice, they invite play, and that can help drag a Theurge back to reality, a Philodox out of his guilt, a Galliard away from his artist’s block, and an Ahroun out of her violence. Because Ragabash are seldom dominant in the prideful way typically associated with the other auspices (and Ahroun in particular), other Garou can be at ease around them; they aren’t a threat.
Relatively speaking.
It is also the Ragabash’s duty to challenge the status quo and keep others in tip top shape. Because they were born under no moon, they see things others miss. The character flaw that they see causing harm? It needs to go. Ragabash will find a way to get the message across. Sometimes it’s a gentle lesson; sometimes not. Along with Galliards, Ragabash can be very snarky and innovative when it comes to satire. The best insult comics have nothing on Ragabash.
If some policy or social more exists for “no good reason,” Ragabash will do the initial nitpicking and question the ways. Some will do this with a child-like “Why?” for everything, some will use hyperbole, some will use sarcasm and irony. Some will fling themselves into a certain behavior and fail terribly, publicly, to highlight the issue. They do this not to spit on each and every rule, but to make sure that the rule is a good one that truly benefits Gaia and the Garou Nation. Once they find the flaw, theurges can examine the spiritual aspect, Philodox debate and decide upon the legalities, Galliards can research or compose new stories about it, and the Ahroun can enforce whatever ruling is made.
When it comes to actual missions – because the Garou still have a job to do as Gaia’s Claws and Fangs – Ragabash are typically scouts and support characters. No other auspice can claim the sheer number of infiltration Gifts, and the pack without a Ragabash is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to reconnaissance. It is the duty of the Ragabash to keep a head count and report. When combat breaks out, a Ragabash’s stealth often allows for “attacks of opportunity.” They are also renowned for using distraction or taunting, hit-and-run tactics, and usually know the best way to beat a retreat if it comes to that. Nobody expects Ragabash to hit the hardest or get the most kills, but they have free rein to use underhanded tactics many other Garou might avoid.

Character Contributions & RP Ideas

Most Ragabash are dynamic, innovative characters. They exist to “question the ways” and are also called tricksters or contraries — or revolutionaries.

  • Ragabash often have great comedic timing. Telling tall tales, cracking jokes, making puns and generally aiming to get a laugh out of people, even at your own expense, can be worthwhile.
  • Because humans don’t freak out around the average Ragabash, you can easily justify Allies/Contacts or local ties.
  • Ragabash can also hold a job better than other Garou can, so you can probably justify Resources if your tribe stats allow it. Professions that require a creative or inquisitive nature allow Ragabash to shine. Some examples include journalist, hacker, stand-up comic, cartoonist, satirist, actor, teacher, lawyer, entertainer, investigator, thief…
  • See if a ST/GM will allow you to snoop around to get the lay of the land, or, if social-aspected, chat up locals. With some subterfuge and charisma, information can be charmed, rather than intimidated, out of people.
  • Report! Galliards might have an edge when it comes to Gifts regarding performance or communication, but both New Moons and Moon Dancers are called to speak up.
  • Keep it cool. While Ragabash are known for stirring up trouble, it’s typically only when things are already calm and peaceful, not in the middle of an already volatile situation.
  • Ask questions. However much you might OOCly know about the tribes, breeds, auspices, spirits, other supernaturals or what have you, no character knows everything. Even the highest ranking NPCs on the game may only have had extensive contact with a limited number of tribes. Galliards might be the ones called to record stories for the sake of posterity, but Ragabash just want to know things.
  • Teach stuff. People can generally trust that a Ragabash won’t fly off the handle at them, and a teacher with a sense of humor is always appreciated.
  • Scout ahead. If a +Event is planned rather than an ad-lib “everyone manages to show up at the same time!” ask if your Ragabash character can get a look ahead of time. You might be able to give useful information to others. Be sure to plan enough time to RP the reporting and resultant re-planning.
  • Turn things on their heads. Certain tribe+auspice combinations seem atypical and it makes for an interesting dynamic. The Silver Fangs are so rigid… how does a Ragabash function among them? What about the Get of Fenris? The Wendigo are a pretty dour lot, but Amerind traditions respect contraries. Since Black Furies and Bone Gnawers already thumb their noses at many societal norms, does that mean a Ragabash among these tribes might be ultra conservative? Feel free to experiment. Ragabash do that. Just be careful you don’t lose the flavor of the tribe, auspice, and breed.
  • “The Fool” is a moot role tailor-made for Ragabash, and virtually no other auspice dares to step into it. The role of the Fool is to question the precepts of The Litany – which was created by Garou, not Gaia Herself. The Fool argues that the law isn’t right in some way. This gives the Garou of the Sept a chance to reaffirm their ideals and unite in “defeating” the Fool.
  • Be a force for change. Ragabash are creative, inventive creatures. Static, stagnant existence or mindset is anathema to them. Shake things up. You don’t need to be violent or belligerent to do it (although you might be…); many real-world dissenters or revolutionaries would have been considered Ragabash, or at least Ragabash-like.


Perhaps the most common pitfall is falling into the trap of playing comic relief. Ragabash should have a purpose to their antics. Having a quip for everything, or throwing yourself into body humor, can get old fast. Timing is everything, and remember it’s a MUSH: a shared environment. Your character isn’t the only one present. Remember that kid that was the class clown? Wasn’t he annoying much of the time? Yeah.
Some Ragabash players erroneously assume that since Ragabash can do anything, they should: they start acting like every other auspice, doing what the others can. That defeats the purpose of auspices in the first place. Let the Ahroun be the Ahroun. Let the Theurge be the Theurge. You may be able to sniff out a liar (they say it takes one to know one), but that does not make you a Philodox. This is not a “way” that you should question. Question what is questionable, not what Luna has ordained.

Combat Tips

In combat, depend upon sneak attacks; it tends to give you at least one “free” shot or at least a lowered difficulty. Certain Gift combinations can allow for sniping, if you have a ranged weapon. If you have a completely social build with little combat ability, use harrying tactics and taunting/distracting maneuvers.
Since most Ragabash have low Rage, use it wisely. Work with a team (which is to say, a pack) to optimize.
You are a rogue. Get to it.

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How to Play a Successful Philodox

June 14, 2015 at 1:53 am (Uncategorized) (, )

The next one in the series about how to play a successful Werewolf in a WTA game. I believe Raven of Phoenix Rising wrote this one, as well.

Initial Character Build

To start off, the way you build your Philodox is going to depend heavily on how you want to use him, but in general, it’s a good idea to make your social attributes your primary category: Charisma, Manipulation, and Appearance. You won’t be performing like a Galliard does, but as a Philodox, your purview is law, mediation and leadership. You won’t be performing mysterious caern Rites like a Theurge, but you’ll confer with the spirits to perform Rites of your own. You are going to be a people- and spirit-person. And, quite frankly, the vast majority of those Punishment Rites you will learn and levy on the peons will call on your Charisma. Following that, consider what kind of Philo you want. Do you want one that is more war-like? If so, take physical stats as your secondary. Perhaps you want a Philodox who is a bit more perceptive, more of a brainiac and an investigator (if so, take mental stats as your secondary).

When it comes to the Abilities, your typical Philodox is going to want to favour his Leadership, his Law, and his Rituals. Just where you go from there really does depend on what you intend to do with the character. A Philodox will likely never have the brute, raw talent for combat that an Ahroun has, but he’s still a competent fighter, and there are several Gifts that support this (like Resist Pain or Fangs of Judgment). Brawl and Melee (with a dot or two in backup combat Abilities) are good choices to make. Then there are those who want to take their Philodoxes down another road – that of the investigator or the mediator. An investigator, obviously, will want a few dots in Investigation, Alertness, Streetwise or Survival. A mediator will want to take dots in Empathy, Expression, or even Intimidation.

Of all the auspices, the Philodox is the one most concerned with balance. He stands between the furious, brute force of the Ahroun and the laughing, sly cunning of the Ragabash. He knows the history of his people, and he is well-versed in the ways of spirits.

If you ever played Final Fantasy, you could call this guy the Red Mage of the Garou world. He’s a decent fighter, but not the best. He can be cunning, but he won’t be a trickster. He’s a historian, but that usually bends towards law. He’s a spiritualist, but he doesn’t go as deeply into the mysteries of the Umbra as the Theurge does.

So there is quite a lot of leeway in how you build your particular Philodox.

Your Role, as Seen by the Sept

Judge, Lawgiver, Mediator, Leader. All of these things describe the Philodox in the eyes of most Septs. To them fall Gifts of judgement and assessing the truth, and to them falls the task of keeping a Sept prosperous and well-functioning when it is not in a state of war. They don’t have as much Rage as an Ahroun, so they are expected to have clearer heads and clearer vision. They are not as spiritually inclined as a Theurge, and so they are expected to have more focus on the Garou rather than the Umbra. They stand balanced between man and wolf, man and spirit, and man and Garou.

For this reason, there are several positions that many Septs will have filled by a Philodox.

A Truthcatcher in most traditional Septs is one of the most important positions. This Garou serves as judge and jury, overseeing many disputes, and calling upon knowledge of the Litany and its many interpretations in order to give a judgement that is theoretically just and sound. The Truthcatcher also oversees the Cracking of the Bone during monthly moots, hearing out any grievances that the Garou have accrued over the past month and demand to have settled. Such a person is often considered an Elder in the Sept, and such a person needs to be highly intelligent, charismatic and knowledgeable about politics, diplomacy, the Litany, and a variety of Punishment Rites.

The Master of Challenges is another position that is frequently held by a Philodox, and this Garou – as the name suggests – is a master of a variety of challenges. He or she needs to be competent with gamecraft, the staredown, and physical challenges. Often, this includes klaivaskar, especially in highly traditional Septs where many challenges will call for ritualised duelling. A Master of Challenges who does not know the rules of klaivaskar in such a Sept is likely to find himself being challenged in turn for his position.

Even if a Philodox is not holding an Elder’s position, it is likely that he or she will be called upon by various Garou to help judge or mediate a minor dispute between Sept members. He is expected to act as an impartial or objective judge, using the clarity of vision that is his by Luna’s divine appointment to his auspice, to keep peace among a highly war-like and Rage-filled society of vicious, bloodthirsty wolves.

For obvious reasons, this is not an easy auspice to play.

Character Contributions

When it comes to contributing to missions and PRPs, one might find it a little challenging to do it as a Philodox. After all, the Philodox is a leader, but he is most often a leader during times of peace. It is the Ahroun who is called upon to lead during battle. So what does this mean for you and your character when the heat’s on?

  • Philodoxes are not combat push-overs. Their Rage is in the middling range between the holycrap! extreme of the Ahroun and the piddling laughability of a Ragabash. The occasional splurge for an extra attack is possible, and although the Philodox has a few combat-worthy Gifts in his arsenal he will also do well if he focuses on using a fetish weapon.
  • Your auspice is good at ferreting out truth from lies. Philodoxes are people persons. While the Ragabash makes a great scout and could shmooze information out of people, Philodoxes are also more than capable of this, especially when using Truth of Gaia or Persuasion when talking to humans or other Garou. Need to interrogate someone? Call on your Philodox. They can do it either with charm or with intimidation.
  • During a battle, you may be handing over leadership to an Ahroun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give the Ahroun a word of advice. It also means that if there’s no Ahroun around, you might well be the next best choice for leader. Don’t get complacent – pay attention to what’s going on around you and help keep your pack in line. Be the safety net or the balancing force that helps keep your pack from falling to any harmful extremes.
  • Sometimes, a mission can be solved with mediation or diplomacy. Don’t be afraid to suggest it, especially if violence might well get your pack overwhelmed and end in death and disaster.
  • Be proactive. Investigate rumours. The Philodox is the auspice most likely to expose truth from lies, and that also means you have every justification to go out and hunt down evil-doers that your pack can help you destroy.

RP Ideas

  • Stir up a debate with other Philodoxes or any other Garou in general on their interpretations of the Litany. The two Septs on the game are both multi-tribal, so sit down with a few Garou of other tribes and get their points of view. Debate with them.
  • Find ways to serve as a mediator for members around your Sept or your pack. Garou have a lot of Rage to deal with, and that means that squabbles and disagreements are common. It often falls to the Philodox to help resolve those peacefully.
  • Seek out the Theurges to discuss spiritual matters with them. Philodoxes are the other auspice among the Garou that deal the most with spirits, even if their focus is slightly different. Philodoxes lean more towards duty, service to the Garou through law, and keeping peaceable relations. There are spirits they rely upon to help them with this, and a Theurge may be necessary to help you talk with the spriits (not all Philodoxes learn Spirit Speech, after all).
  • Philodoxes traditionally learn Rites of Punishment and Rites of Accord. Find an elder Phildox to teach you some, or take the time to teach another Garou some of the Rites you know. Rite of Cleansing, for example, is a Rite of Accord, and it’s a Rite that all Garou should know, no matter their auspice.


Hands down, Philodox can be one of the most difficult auspices to play and play well. As a judge with command over Punishment Rites, you have the Luna-ordained authority and the power, in some cases, to give another PC a very bad day. All too often, players of Philodoxes will fall into the trap of being a harsh punisher, one who’s ready to lay down a Doom Hammer for the slightest misdemeanour. Some would say it’s thematic, and that players should be aware of it, because… hey. Garou are buttmunch wolves, right? Wolves cuff and bite each other all the time, right?

Sort of.

It may be thematic, and it may be hunky dory when you’re sitting around at a tabletop game with a handful of other people you’ve known and played with for a few years, but on a MUSH, the dynamic is incredibly different. Players can get pretty attached to their characters, and they can get pretty deep into their heads. They may have only been RPing with you for a week, so they don’t know who you are or trust you not to go full-tilt on destroying them. Garou society, being as rigid and complicated as it is (remember, this game has been around for twenty years, so there is A LOT to learn and remember, even for a seasoned veteran), has a lot of pitfalls for new players. So when you play a Philodox, when you look at both sides of an issue, don’t forget to take the OOC angle into consideration. Did someone make an OOC mistake because they didn’t understand the society as well as their character would have understood it? ICA may equal ICC, but don’t forget that consent is still playing a big part in the MUSH experience on Phoenix Rising.

So you may have the authority and the right to lay down a punishment rite or denounce a lower-ranking Garou or a whole host of other things, and you may have done the right thing by Garou society so you’ll walk off smelling like roses ICly, but if you haven’t taken the time to forge some OOC camaraderie and be considerate of everyone’s feelings OOCly, you’re quickly going to find yourself alienated from RP. People will avoid you, because they’ll have gotten it into their heads that you’re on a power trip.

The best way to avoid that is to communicate, communicate, communicate OOCly. Make sure everyone’s having fun. Make sure that if you do lay down a Punishment Rite, the Garou you’re targetting is going to get some character developmental RP and some enjoyment out of it.

Combat Tips

Ahhhh. Combat.

  • You have a few points of Rage, so spend them for extra actions!
  • Enact some Gifts! If combat is really important to you, look through the Gifts list and buy them. Resist Pain is highly recommended to save you from having to take wound penalties.
  • Consider yourself a mid-range type of fighter. You’re not a barbarian, you’re not a rogue. You’re more like a ranger. You can be competent, but you’re not the best of the best of the best, sir, with honours, sir! Stick with your packmates and team up, use tactics. Fighting with your head as well as with your claws is your best path to success when the dice get rolling.

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How to Play a Successful Galliard

June 14, 2015 at 1:50 am (Uncategorized)

The second in my series on Werewolf: The Apocalypse. I wrote this one. 🙂

Initial Character Build

Galliards have perhaps the most leeway with starting stats, unlike theurges or ahroun (mental and physical primary respectively). Pegasus notes: “I’ve played, enjoyed, and been successful with galliards with all sorts of primary/secondary/tertiary builds. Mental-primary Galliards are scholars, historians, loremasters and investigators; Social-primary Galliards are performers and well-connected info-schmoozers; and Physical-based Galliards are Glorious almost-Ahroun battlefield-lovers.”

Galliards remind the Garou why they are alive to do what they do in a way that lets them interact well with other auspices. They stand right between Philodox and Ahroun, and thus have aspects of leadership and combat prowess. Their embrace of passion and art has a spiritual aspect, and that lets them interact well with theurges — who often use poetry, song, or crafted art in their rituals. Galliards also understand the use of humor, and it’s the duty of both Ragabash and Galliards to investigate, teach, report and satirize if need be.

A Galliard without points in Performance, Expression, or both is a pretty sad and sorry thing. Also note that many, many Galliard gifts run off of these two stats.

Where you put the balance of those points depends on the type of Galliard you wish to play. A Glass Walker who updates his sept’s Intranet Newsletter with the goings on of the Sept may want to put way more points in Expression. A Glass Walker who plays a flute and does haunting instrumental tributes may wish to focus more on Performance. A musician who composes epic songs and poems will want both…one stat to compose, and one stat to perform. Remember, of course, there are many ways to play a Galliard. There’s also dance, avant-garde performance art, craftsmanship and graphic design (traditional or modern). Galliards can be painters, grafitti artists, web designers, sculptors, architects or smiths; Expression can be found in all of these. Galliards create beauty — or at least stir up response. That Ukrainian sand painter chick is definitely a Galliard, even though she never says a word. The art restoration dudes on Pawn Stars or American Pickers might well be Galliards, too; they’re preserving history and telling stories.

Galliards are seldom, if ever, shy. They don’t have to be bombastic attention whores (which is a valid concept in its own right!), but their Luna-given task is to create, remind, teach, preserve, and inspire, and they take pride in that. Galliards are acting against auspice when they horde their poetry or refuse to show their artwork. A metaphorically silent Galliard is not doing his duty. Even a mute Galliard can carve glyphs or sign to tell a scathing and expressive tale to enact a satire ritual. Communication is key. A Galliard who doesn’t communicate to the Sept’s and Nation’s benefit is a Galliard that will be denounced for dereliction of duty. Galliard players should be making bbposts, whether it’s an IC blog, journalism report, song, story, dance, installation sculpture or gossip-mongering that’s getting the attention.

Your Role, as Seen by the Sept

A Galliard is part historian, part entertainer, part journalist, part morale officer, and part battlefield figurehead. In a pack, the Galliard is often the “Face” of the group, unless he or she is too Ragey to handle the role (in which case, the Ragabash might be called upon to do that instead).

It’s a good idea to think about what you are comfortable RPing when you decide to build your Galliard. If you don’t feel comfortable writing compositions then focusing on a Galliard who will compose original lyrics and epic poetry might not be a good plan. Fortunately, it’s not always necessary to do that. You could pull stories from the Silver Record supplement for example, and tell them straight. You could also focus on instrumental music, or factual reports via bbpost, or simple howls. See above for additional ideas.

The important thing is to think about how you’re going to get the word out to the rest of the Sept about important events, past and present. BBposts are an important part of giving and getting renown, and people often enjoy seeing their names written into new songs.

If you’re wondering why all this is vitally important to the Garou, specifically, remember that the Garou can’t write much down (except for the Glass Walkers, and they use insane computer cryptography to keep it safe). They are as oral of a culture as our ancient ancestors were. If Galliards weren’t telling and recording the tales their sense of history, identity, and purpose would be lost in 3 generations…to the detriment of Gaia and to the delight of the Wyrm. In many ways, Galliards are what hold the society together. They give Garou a sense of purpose which helps them withstand some of the harsher, crueller elements of Garou life. They give them hope, not just for a potential win, but the hope that every individual will have an opportunity to be seen as heroic, interesting, and memorable…especially when they are gone.

They also help to warn members of society against courses of action which are not so good or wise, giving Garou a path to follow. These cautionary or satirical tales help to keep the hearers on the straight and narrow. And, of course, sometimes they serve as political or social commentary, just as songs and stories do in the human world. This means that the Galliard can be a change agent when such change is necessary for the good of pack or Sept…and a truly deft Galliard can make this happen without inspiring everyone around her to “throat the messenger.”

Character Contributions

As a Galliard, you’ve got a lot of flexibility in how you contribute to PRPs and scenes. Much of this will depend upon how you choose to build your Galliard.

  • Galliards have almost as much Rage as Ahroun do, so take advantage of the extra actions.
  • Galliards are often good at taunting maneuvres.
  • See if your ST will let you make lore rolls (Academics, Occult, etc.) to note weaknesses on enemies, to pull up some helpful, similar situation from a story, etc. which may give your packmates an edge in combat. The ST can use “this reminds you of the story of blah blah blah” to give you helpful hints for successfully navigating the challenge.
  • ICly, just for flavor, you could be howling encouragements to your packmates throughout the battle, shoring them up when they start to flag, falter, or get frustrated because of bad rolls.
  • Most Galliards are great at the “talking to people” “canvassing the neighborhood” types of investigations, if they set their WP high enough to negate their rage.
  • Make sure you record whatever happens! Think about posting a bbpost, or writing a song to share at the next social event. People really, really appreciate it when their Galliards take the time to acknowledge their efforts.

RP Ideas

  • Perform! Set up PRPs to show off your latest composition. Grab your fellow Galliards to pull together a jam session or ensemble performance. Write +bbpost articles about what your pack has been up to.
  • Create! If you’re not a performing Galliard then create art to bbpost, display in a scene, or while RPing with others.
  • Question everyone about everything, at length. Someone made it to a PRP you missed? Go bug them about it. Wring every detail out of them. Your character might want to write about it later, and it’s a great choice for RP.
  • You’re the perfect person to run PRPs (or to seek T2+s to run PRPs for you) which revolve around the history of the area, the Garou, the Sept, whatever. Lost lore is very valuable to the Garou…very valuable indeed.
  • Remember that we have a system here for getting into the Silver Record (see Tales and Songs). Will you be the very first? Even if you aren’t, there’s an awful lot of great RP to be had in the trying.
  • Take a moot role. There are two moot roles that Galliards typically take. The first is the Master of the Howl. Katrina holds the role as Elder, so she usually uses this to control the pacing of the moot. But if you do the Opening Howl you still get the bonus dice and the kudos for the position…and it gives you something to do besides sit there. The second, of course, is Talesinger, and it’s a lot of fun. Not only do you get a captive audience for your brilliant creations, you can legitimately take renown for “telling a great story at a moot.” Especially if the crowd responds well ICly!


The worst pitfall about playing a Galliard is playing him or her as a “not quite as Ragey Ahroun.” Galliards who neglect the storytelling, history, music, etc. aspects of being a Galliard are not living up to the potential of the auspice. It’s also important to think about the actual role this character plays in society…it can be fun (and easy) to jump up and offer some rock jams, but it’s not necessarily what being a Galliard is all about. Third and finally, failing to use the office to grab all the RP you can (by trying to interview everyone you can) is kind of a waste of potential as well…finding an excuse for RP isn’t always easy, but as the Galliard, you’ve got one built right in. Most people will appreciate being asked, especially if you’ve never asked them before…and even if you get someone who grunts that there’s nothing to tell, you’ve at least gotten the excuse for a scene. And someone who likes talking about his or her exploits can easily keep you there all night!

Combat Tips

Combat tips for your Galliard would depend, entirely, on your build. If you took physical stats as your secondary stats then you’re probably a pretty solid fighter without any special help, though as a Galliard you might be more prone to tactical maneuvers like flanking, taunting, and back stabbing than your average kick-down-the-door Ahroun. Even if your physical stats are tertiary you’ve got a bit of rage to work with, and this can be turned to your advantage as well.

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