The garou in Werewolf: The Apocalypse have a lot of customs and traditions, many of which go back for thousands of years, and are specific to particular tribes, camps, and so forth. While I've played a variety of chronicles in this particular game in both the tabletop and in LARP settings, though, there is one, particular tradition (a formality, really) that I feel gets overdone to the point that it becomes a rote reflex. And doing that, I think, reduces it to just another game mechanic rather than actually marking events as special, or noteworthy.
I'm talking, of course, about the name, rank, and serial number introduction that always defines so many of the interactions between the garou.
Before we go further, of course, don't forget to check out the rest of my Vocal archive for further World of Darkness content, and consider checking out my series Discussions of Darkness over on the Azukail Games YouTube channel as well!
Standing on Ceremony
In a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game, when two garou meet for the first time, the exchange typically goes something like this. "I am [PC Name], [List of Deed Names], [Societal Rank], [Birth Form],[Tribe],[Moon Sign]." The particular order these things are done in varies from game to game, but this is typically all of the information that's exchanged during this kind of greeting.
It feels like a combination of a formalized introduction, and a dick-measuring contest all in one. That's par for the course for werewolves, but it has this tendency of getting really tedious really quickly. Especially if you're meeting a lot of other werewolves, whether that's because you're at a LARP with a lot of players, or because you're in a tabletop game with a lot of other garou NPCs.
On the other hand, you don't want to eliminate this kind of interaction entirely, because it does set a tone for the world. It creates a glimpse into the culture among werewolves, and it brings players into the setting as they learn about (and participate in) these kinds of interactions. The key is, as I said on Discussions of Darkness regarding the pageantry of the setting, to find a balance where players get immersion, but not so immersed that it fades into the background.
To help maintain the balance, I have some suggestions I would make for folks running Werewolf games out there. In no particular order these are:
- Keep Formal Interactions Formal: This kind of official introduction has a very traditional feeling to it; as such, try to reserve it for formal situations. If a character is being recognized at a moot, or they are being officially given a rank challenge, or being commended in song for great deeds, that is when we get their full name, rank, and all their honorifics. It makes it clear something important is happening when this kind of interaction is happening, rather than just meeting someone and doing the werewolf equivalent of sniffing each other's butts.
- Let One's Reputation Precede Them: I talked about this in Character Reputation in RPGs: The Small Legend, but it bears repeating. If characters have done important deeds (especially deeds worthy of being recorded by the galliards), at least some people should know who they are. They may not know every, single detail of the character, but they know enough that their reputation precedes them somewhat. As such, consider having players make lore checks to know about particular NPCs, or if your PCs are famous (or infamous) enough, have the NPCs recognize them without the need of any formal introductions. As a side note, one should also have backgrounds like Purebreed come into play here, where a character's ancestry may be recognized by friends (or enemies), which might smooth some roads, while making others more difficult.
- Change Up When This Happens: There are a lot of tribes, caerns, traditions, and personalities in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and their attitudes toward this particular piece of garou culture could say a lot about them. Is the local power structure run by a traditionalist Silver Fang who acts more like a king, with people presented formally to him with all the old pomp and circumstance? Or is this area more of a Bone Gnawer stronghold, where hearty handshakes, close hugs, and no real standing on ceremony are more common? Do some places have you introduced by another person, considering it gauche to do it yourself? Or is this something you do more with spirits than with people, as formalities are infinitely more important to many residents of the Umbra?
These are just a few things to consider when it comes to this little convention within the game, but it's also important to apply these same kinds of questions to other interactions, events, and social niceties. Because variety is the spice of life, as well as our games, and with such widespread cultures and traditions, things should be a little different from one place, people, etc. to another.
If you're interested in more Werewolf: The Apocalypse content from myself, check out the fiction anthology Tales From The Moot, which features several action-packed stories of the garou. If you're looking for game resources, though, check out my 100 Kinfolk Project Bundle, which has nearly 1,500 kinfolk NPCs in it for all the standard tribes, as well as the Black Spiral Dancers, and even the mokole!
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