Tuesday 23 November 2021

Werewolves Are Bards

"They won't let you bring a weapon on-site," she said. "Not even in your car" . 

"I left the gun in the safe at the shop," I told her. "And they don't need to know that you are a weapon".


In "Mercy Thompson", werewolves are sociable creatures. Really sociable. They need to have a pack, or some substitute, otherwise they'd go crazy and die. There are "lone wolves", but they tie themselves to something like a pack, too - family, team of mercenaries, I dunno, group of tabletop players, why not. 

Also werewolves are deadly predators. A werewolf literally has two minds - there's the human, and there's the monster. Sometimes the human is in control, sometimes the wolf is. 

Finally, there are submissive werewolves, who don't have the ambition to fight someone to the death just because, and there are dominant werewolves, who often die early after being Changed, usually in a fight with another dominant werewolf. And when a wolf is dominant, it affects more than just the "let's fight" urge. A dominant werewolf can give orders to weaker wolves, can make another wolf calm down and relinquish the control to the human half, and also can bend normal humans to their will. 

In other words, dominant werewolves are a charisma-based class. They also really like music, with their enhanced hearing letting them get much more out of it than normal humans.

And did I mention that the leader of all werewolves, the Alpha of all Alphas, is an old Welsh bard? 

Now, there's this thing about bards. I like bards. Zak Smith doesn't like bards. When I bought "I Am The Weapon", I joked that I just might try to make a bard character using the system, to which Zak responded that I am a monster. Perhaps he was right. So... 

Werewolves are bards with a split personality. In "I Am The Weapon", one of the stats is "Appeal", and it's basically charisma - combination of good looks and strength of personality. A werewolf can use this stat to force his or her will on others, by rolling Appeal against the other character's "Calmness", the stat that represents force of will, sanity, and ability to resist mental attacks. In a dominance battle between two wolves, it's simpler - Appeal against Appeal, the winner is more dominant, the loser may accept it or try to settle the argument with fangs and claws. This is how many wolves die.

There's a catch, of course. Whenever things get messy, the wolf tries to take control. When the werewolf is under stress, the player rolls his Calmness against his Appeal - the willpower of the human against the instincts and personality of the wolf. If Calmness wins, cool, you're still in control of yourself. If Appeal wins - then the wolf is in control. Your character is now a fierce, bloodthirsty predator. For how long? Could be one round, then you roll Calmness vs Appeal again, could be more, I'm still not sure how I like it. 

Another catch is that werewolves are very, very sensitive about anyone disrespecting them. Looking into a werewolf's eyes is a challenge.  Another werewolf sitting behind you in a car is sneaking into your territory and planning an ambush.

Werewolves are tough. They start out having superhuman strength, agility and senses (just above peak human ability). When they shift to wolf shape, their strength, agility and senses increase by one level (but Calmness goes down by level, so it's easier to lose yourself to wolf when you're shapeshifted). 

Werewolves badly need to have contacts. They have to start having some group as a Contact (not necessary a pack, though it's a popular choice). 

Werewolves transform, want it or not, at the night of full moon. 

And, to make it easier to flesh out a new character, I've thought of some questions to ask a player. 

1. No one (pretty much) is born a werewolf, people are Changed into werewolves. When did this happen to you, what did you do before the Change, how did you survive? (Previous occupation gives you a Skill, which can be useful or not in present time)

2. After the Change, medium life expectancy of a werewolf is about 10 years. Most frequently new wolves are killed in battles for dominance or for breaking the rules of the pack. What special quality do you possess that let you survive? 

3. Lone wolves die. To which group are you connected, who knows what you truly are? 

4. A werewolf is a killer by nature. How do you deal with the bestial bloodthirst that lives inside you? 

Next time we'll talk about vampires.

Friday 19 November 2021

I am the werewolf, he is the vampire, she is the witch, and each of us is the weapon

 Zak Smith's superhero system, I Am The Weapon, is cool*. 

But having a cool system isn't enough. You need to think of something fun to do with it. And when it comes to superheroics, with me, it's always either "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can again, and again", or "Otam, clotam, Batman in Gotham". It gets old fast. 

So I thought about urban fantasy. There's a nice book series (actually, two of them) by Patricia Briggs about an Earth where the fae decided to come out in 1980's and admit that, yes, they do exist. Thirty years later the werewolves followed. And no one wanted to out the vampires for obvious reasons. 

It's a world with plenty superpowered characters who are very different (werewolves are mostly similar but they're all more or less crazy which gives them variety, vampires who are old enough to be independent usually have different powers, and every kind of fae is different from another kind of fae, and there are also witches and demons and Native American supernatural people and by the way remember king Arthur's sword? The sword is a real thing, and it's still hidden somewhere close by). 

So I took IATW, and I started working on a pitch that would help to make up some characters suitable for this world. Werewolves are strong and fast and have sharp senses, and vampires are strong and fast and dead at daytime, - cool, sure, but I also want their magic to work in different ways, using different stats. The magic of the witches is easy, Zak's Sorcery from IATW should work just fine - intellect-based, learn a spell before you can prepare it, cast it in a critical situation before you can learn it, prepare up to five spells per day and so on. But vampires should be special. 

And I had some ideas that seemed to be fun, some of them about making a character, some of them about playing. I'll write more about those after I give them some testing with the group. 

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* Last time I checked, you could buy I Am The Weapon from Zak's Store. It's worth every cent.

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