Rites are the outward forms of the Garou's rituals and celebrations. Rites form and reinforce the spiritual and social ties that bind the Garou to each other and to Gaia herself. The common bond formed by rites resonates in the souls of all Garou. Many werewolves maintain that without the continuous practice of such rites, the Garou would lose their ties to the Earth Mother. In so doing, Theurges warn, the Garou may become something less than their true selves, possibly reverting to simple wolves and humans instead of Gaia's chosen.

The special ties werewolves have with the spirit world allow rites to function. The Garou invoke these bonds with Gaia's spirits when performing rites. In the dawn of time, shapeshifters struck a great pact — the Pact — with the spirits of Gaia. In return for the shapeshifters' fealty and service, the spirits would empower the werebeasts' rites, flooding them with supernatural power. For this reason, nobody but a shapeshifter can perform rites and expect them to work. The spirits will not answer the call if they are not legally bound to do so. This relationship is unique to the Garou and certain other Fera, and it makes the performance of these rites their sacred right and privilege, and theirs alone.

Through rites, Garou weave the social, emotional and religious fabric connecting werewolf to werewolf, pack to pack and tribe to tribe. When Silver Fang meets Black Fury or Silent Stricter meets Glass Walker, the rites of their ancestors give them common ground on which to tread. Even the simple Rite of Contrition has prevented many meetings between werewolves of different tribes and packs from erupting in argument and violence.

Rites also allow tribes and packs the freedom to define themselves and to develop their unique roles in Gaia's defense. Often tribes, and many individual septs, have their own rites and their own versions of common rites. The raucous, howling tumult of the Fianna's Rite of Spirit Awakening has little external similarity to the Shadow Lords' dark and brooding rite of the same name, yet the essence and purpose of the two rites are the same.

Types of Rites

Rites have both religious and magical connotations, and they serve both social and mystical purposes. Most rites can be performed in either the Umbra or the physical world. When teaching rites to young pups, Garou may group them by the purpose each type of rite serves for the Garou and for Gaia. Rites of accord, caern rites, rites of death, mystic rites, rites of punishment, rites of renown, seasonal rites and minor rites are the most common types of rites that Garou practice. The basic requirements for each of these types of rites must be fulfilled to perform any of these rites successfully.

Descriptions and requirements for each type are listed here, along with common rites from each category.

A werewolf has the potential to learn any rite. All she must do is find a teacher. A Garou's auspice usually determines the rites she is expected to learn. Most elder Garou are more than willing to teach rites. In fact, the number of young werewolves who seem to discount rites as antiquated or cumbersome disturbs the elders. Many new packs fail to see the importance of rites, preferring to spend their time doing things that have a more "immediate" impact. However, these same gray furs criticize young wolves that insist on modernizing or individualizing rites to meet the needs of their packs.

Enacting A Rite

Ritemasters generally lead groups of Garou in the performance of rites. These rites are grand ceremonies usually held at caems with much tradition and socializing going along with them. It is the nature of rites to be social affairs. Most rites require the presence of at least three Garou, although a lone werewolf may conduct certain minor rites and mystic rites. Many older septs frown on the practice of performing rites away from the group.

Rites require great concentration and skill on the part of the celebrant. A rite takes a minimum of 10 minutes per level to cast, while minor rites take from two to five minutes to enact. Rites almost always require some form of trinket or special material. The general requirements for particular categories of rites are detailed in the following lists.

It is the responsibility of the ritemaster to ensure that all the requirements are met and that all Garou present participate fully in the rite. The player or Storyteller should roll to determine the success of the rite. The exact nature and difficulty of the roll will vary with each rite. Storytellers may decrease the difficulty of a roll if the ritemaster and participating characters enact the rite particularly well (i.e., if the players roleplay it well).

For every five Garou beyond the base number required (again, usually three) who are present and helping perform the rite to the best of their ability (in addition to the ritemaster), the difficulty level of the rite decreases by one (to a minimum difficulty of 3).

Rites are considered to be a natural way of affecting the natural order. They are part of how things work. Werewolves believe that if a rite is performed properly, the effect will occur naturally, just as a scientist would follow cause and effect. If you drop a rock, it will fall; if you perform a rite as it was handed down to you by your ancestor's ancestors, then the desired effect will occur. However, some rites do require Gnosis. These rites are particularly powerful breaches of the natural order.

Learning A Rite

The tribal elders who teach rites were themselves taught by their elders, who were taught by their elders, and so on back through the ages. In order to gain the knowledge (and tacit permission) to perform a rite, a young werewolf must approach an elder who possesses such knowledge. In the vast majority of cases, the elder will request payment (in the form of talens) from the young whelp in question. The number of talens required varies with the amount of teaching needed (level of the rite) and the elder's opinion of the cub (comparative rank and roleplaying) . Elders will often allow the young Garou to do a favor instead of (or in addition to) donating talens. Such favors may range from providing the elder with fresh rabbit meat and caviar for three full moons to tracking down a minor enemy of the elder's and tearing out his throat. In any event, the favor asked is normally proportionate to the power and importance of the rite the young wolf wishes to master.

Learning a rite is an extended action. A Garou must have a Rituals Knowledge at least equal to the level of the rite she wishes to learn; a character with Rituals 3 cannot master a Level Four rite. She must also spend time — at least one week per level of the rite she wishes to learn (three days for minor rites) — with the elder who knows the rite. The player must roll Intelligence + Rituals (difficulty of 10 minus Intelligence). The number of successes required equals the level of the rite. The student may make one roll per period of teaching ( one week for a Level One rite, three weeks for a Level Three rite, etc.). If the student fails a roll, she must spend a Willpower point to continue her studies. If she botches a roll, she is not yet ready to learn the knowledge she seeks. The character must wait at least three turnings of the moon, or until she has more life experience, to try again.

A character can begin the game with knowledge of rites by purchasing the Rites Background. Subsequently, however, rites can be learned only through roleplaying; they may not be purchased with experience points.

A character can attempt to enact a rite in which he has previously taken part, but which he does not know. Needless to say, he has little chance of success. The difficulty is three higher than normal, and the player must spend double the amount of Gnosis points if any are required. In addition, elder Garou often see such an attempt as impertinent or even sacrilegious. Attempting an unlearned rite in the presence of an elder may decrease the Garou's Honor or Wisdom in the eyes of his sept.

Finally, it's possible - but obscenely difficult - to create new rites. Such a task is no small matter, as it involves convincing a great portion of the spirit world that a new rite is necessary, and that they must empower it whenever called to do so.

Auspice Roles

Not all Garou have a natural affinity for leading the Great Rites. Many are content to know some minor rites and a smattering of rites most significant in their own eyes. In fact, Garou traditionally view werewolves born under certain auspices as the rightful ritemasters of the tribes. In particular, Theurges and Philodox are groomed for such positions from the time that they first enter the sept as adolescent cubs. It is almost unheard of for a Garou of either auspice not to have at least some skill in the enactment of rites. In general, Theurges tend to learn mystic rites, seasonal rites and caern rites, while Philodox traditionally leam rites of accord and rites of punishment.

This is not to say that Garou of all auspices do not learn rites, or even lead rites occasionally. Galliards are likely to lead rites of death and rites of renown. Ragabash and Ahroun may also learn and enact rites, although the sept is unlikely to encourage such behavior unless a particular reason comes up for such a Garou to lead a rite. For example, an Ahroun might lead his war party in a Rite of Wounding after a cub's first battle. It is wise to remember that individual packs are of ten ( but not always ) more flexible when interpreting such traditions, being more concerned with which packmate will best carry out a rite than with following every musty old tradition. Any Garou is allowed to learn a mystic rite, regardless of auspice.

Rites Chart

These rolls are the standard ones required by type to enact any given rite. If no roll is mentioned in a system's description, assume that the roll is standard.

Type Roll Difficulty
Accord Cha + Rituals 7
Caern Varies (max. Gnosis) 7
Death Cha + Rituals 8 - Rank
Mystic Wits + Rituals 7
Punishment Cha + Rituals 7
Renown Cha + Rituals 6
Seasonal Sta + Rituals 8 - Caern Level
Minor none none