Pack Totems

One of the first and strongest ties that binds a group of werewolves into a pack is the association with a totem spirit. Although the pack members may choose the totem that they feel best represents them, it's really more a case of the totem adopting the pack. Totems often refer to those Garou it chooses as its "children."

Totem spirits are generally Incarnae. They are typically animal spirits, but many packs have mythological beings, elemental forces, or other spirits as totems. When a totem chooses the pack, it sends a Jaggling representative known as a totem avatar to attend the pack. The devotion of the Garou gives the totem and its avatar power, and their actions further the totem's goals. In return, the totem bestows some of its powers upon the pack.

Most totems fall into one of the four following categories: Respect, War, Wisdom, and Cunning. The first three are roughly associated with Garou renown; the last is rather less popular among garou, as the cunning warrior is not always quite so honorable or wise.

Background Costs

Unlike other Backgrounds, Totem applies to the character's pack rather than the individual. The members of the pack pool the points invested in this Trait to determine the totem's power.

Each totem has a Background cost rating; the pack must spend that amount to ally with the totem. Some totems are willing to lend great powers to their adherents; their point costs are correspondingly greater. Regardless of how many points the initial totem costs, all beginning totems have a base of eight points to divide among Rate, Willpower, and Gnosis. The totem also begins with the Airt Sense and Re-form Charms. Apart from bestowing power, totems are somewhat aloof from the pack, and they have little influence among other spirits (unless the players buy a closer connection, bought with Background points—see below). With time, roleplaying and experience points, pack totems can grow more powerful, and they could even become the totems of whole septs or (in legendary circumstances) even tribes.

Most of the powers totems bestow are usually available to only one pack member at a time. At the end of each turn, the Garou with the power declares who the power may be given to next turn (assuming that she doesn't keep it). After the initial cost of the totem has been spent, any other Background points add to the totem's strength and abilities.

Cost Power
1 Per three points to spend on Willpower, Rage, and/or Gnosis
1 Totem can speak to the pack without the benefit of the Gift: Spirit Speech
1 Totem can always find the pack members
2 Totem is nearly always with the pack members
2 Totem is respected by other spirits
2 Per Charm possessed
3 Per extra pack member who can use the totem's powers per turn
4 Totem is connected mystically to all pack members, allowing communication among them even at great distances
5 Totem is feared by agents of the Wyrm, which could mean that either the agents run away or they do their best to kill the pack…

The listed cost is in Background points, which can be bought through Experience at the rate of 2 XP per Background Point. (Therefore, three points of Rage would cost two experience points.) The Totem Trait is the only Background that can be increased through experience. The storyteller should allow increases in totem powers only when it fits into the story, such as when pack members gain a higher rank, a new member joins the pack, or when the pack members gain new insight into the nature of their totem. When the totem is affiliated with a more powerful spirit, the greater spirit might grant the strengthening of its servant (pack totem) in return for a great service done it by the pack.

Totems and Traits

The Totem Background allows characters to "buy" a totem spirit to be affiliated with their pack. Obviously, only one totem can be affiliated with a pack. Unless stated otherwise, all bonuses and penalties apply immediately upon being accepted by the totem.

Traits are given on a per-turn basis, and they are available to one pack member at a time. The pack member with the power designates who can use it the following turn, in effect, handing it off to another packmate. Attribute and Ability bonuses add to the pack member's dice pool for the trait, even if the member has no dots in the trait. Ordinarily, renown awards are temporary Renown, and they are given once the pack is accepted by the totem (unless stated otherwise).

For example, everyone in Falcon's pack gains a point of temporary renown upon being accepted by Falcon. Every scene, one member of the pack receives three additional dots in her Leadership dice pool for as long as she wishes, until she "gives" it to another packmate. Four willpower points are available during the story as well, and anyone in the pack can use them until they've been expended.

By spending more experience points, the totem can become more powerful and give the pack greater access to its powers. In addition, pack totems may teach Gifts relating to their affiliation and powers. Unicorn may teach healing Gifts, for instance. The totem may also allow its children to use a particular Gift without teaching it to them properly. An example is Bear, who allows his packs to use the Gift: Mother's Touch without requiring them to learn it themselves.

In addition to the benefits, a totem also has some restrictions that its children must follow to stay in the totem's favor. These restrictions are called Bans. Garou who don't follow the Ban will be cut off from their pack totem, and they must undertake a Rite of Contrition to get back in its good graces. As such, they lose all benefits of the totem, including the extra Traits and access to unlearned Gifts. Packs that violate the totem's wishes repeatedly may find themselves abandoned completely.