Werewolf: The Apocalypse

The Garou are beings of both physical strength and spiritual depth. Created by (and in most cases fighting on the side of) a force known as Gaia, Garou are shapeshifters capable of changing their physical form at will to appear as humans (a form they call homid), wolves (lupus), or several intermediary mixed forms. There are: glabro; physically strong and brutish humans, crinos; the traditional wolf-man, and hispo; wolves of unnatural size and strength. Unlike werewolves in most traditional folklore, Garou in Werewolf: The Apocalypse are neither mindless predators nor lunatics. Instead, they are depicted as defenders of Mother Earth and its Umbra (or spirit world).

The Creation Myth

According to Garou mythology created as backstory for the game:

In the beginning there were the three members of the Triat: the Wyld, the Weaver, and the Wyrm. They were balanced with one another in the beginning. Creation began with the Wyld. The Wyld is chaos and the vast endless of possibility, constantly swirling with change, shifting forms endlessly. From the Wyld's heedless creation came growth. Gaia sprang from the Wyld.

The Weaver, the embodiment of order, selected portions of creation from the Wyld and gave them structure; kept them from dissolving back into chaos at the moment of their birth. In doing so, the Weaver began to create the fabric of the universe - the Pattern Web.

The Wyrm was once the restorer of balance. Residing between the Pattern Web and the chaos of the Wyld, it ensuring that neither the order of the Weaver nor the chaos of the Wyld prevailed throughout reality, removing all that was not harmonious.

According to Garou myth, this was the true cosmological cycle of chaos, creation, and destruction. It lasted an eternity, but was ultimately shattered when the Weaver gained consciousness. The Garou disagree on exactly how this happened.

Regardless, the Weaver subsequently tried to spin the entire Wyld into full, patterned existence. The futility of such an impossible task drove the Weaver insane. In its desperation, the Weaver ensnared the Wyrm within the Pattern Web in its pursuit of the Wyld, in turn, driving the Wyrm insane as well.

Now the balance of pattern and chaos has been replaced by stagnation and decay, as the Weaver madly weaves its patterns unchecked or balanced, while the Wyrm, trapped within the Pattern Web, works to devour Gaia and destroy all of creation from the inside out.

History

According to Garou oral history, it was always their duty to keep the balance in nature on behalf of Gaia. They did so by culling overgrown populaces, hunting too powerful predators that otherwise would rampage unchecked and fending off otherwordly spirits that overstepped their stance.

The formation of nations and cities was the first radical change wrought on the Garou by humanity. The Garou prevented it by declaring a limited war upon humanity, a period known as the Impergium. During this time, Garou are credited with destroying large human cities, retarding the technological and scientific progress of the human race, and even imposing population caps upon the humans of any given area, killing and sometimes eating humans when they grew too numerous. Though the Impergium dates back to the Mythic Age before recorded history (occurring over a period of approximately 3,000 years between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago), humanity has retained an inborn fear of the Garou. Humans seeing Garou in their hybrid (Crinos) form are usually struck with a condition known as Delirium, a state of panic and denial that has been largely responsible for modern humanity's disbelief of the existence of the Garou. Most humans who have suffered from Delirium either have very little memory of the incident that caused it or they rationalize it and remember an animal attack or the work of a psychopathic human. Subconsciously, however, the human may experience an aversion to wolves and other canids in general or to the particular Garou they witnessed. The memory loss or rationalization of events as well as the fact, that that the general public is unaware of werewolf existence is called The Veil (not to be confused with the mystical barrier between material and spiritual world called The Gauntlet).

Following the end of the Impergium, the Garou maintained an active but subtle role in the direction of humanity through the Industrial Revolution and to the present. During such time the Garou waged war with the other Fera, dramatically reducing the numbers of the other shifters as well as completely destroying at least 2 Fera breeds (the Apis were-bulls and Grondr were-boars); this time is known as the War of Rage. The War of Rage lasted approximately another 3,000 years after the end of the Impergium, and the Garou claim that it was started when the Gurahl were-bears refused their duty to teach the Garou a powerful rite.

During the period of the "taming of the West" in America in the 1700-1800s, the Garou engaged in a second War of Rage against not just the Fera of the New World, but against their own brethren, the Native American tribes of Garou (who call themselves the Pure Ones); in this war, the Garou exterminated the Camazotz were-bats and drove their totem, Bat, to madness and the service of the Wyrm. The careless progress of the European Garou (called Wyrmcomers by the Pure Ones) also severed the mystical bonds restraining a powerful bane (a spirit servitor of the Wyrm). This bane captured and devoured a powerful servant of the Weaver, combining their essences and becoming the Storm-Eater. The Storm-Eater whipped the umbra of the West into a terrible frenzy resembling an earthly storm, gaining it the nickname "Storm Umbra," and further threatened to bring on an early Apocalypse. The Storm-Eater was eventually re-bound by the sacrifice of 13 Elder Garou and the execution of the Rite of Still Skies (discovered by the Two-Moons pack, lead by the Silver Fang Theurge Isaiah Morningkill of House Wyrmfoe).

The overwhelming societal transformation of the Industrial Revolution weakened Gaia and pushed the Umbra away from terrestrial reality, giving it less influence over the world. This period was marked by the withdrawal and extinction of many spirit varieties, but also heralded the birth of new "urban" spirits (such as glass and electricity elementals). These changes were visible in the Umbral landscape, as sites associated with Gaia became fewer and weaker, while the Pattern Web of the Weaver and the corrupt influence of the Wyrm became more prominent.

As the defense of Gaia becomes more difficult, the Garou have found their tasks increasingly harder to perform. Once able to act as silent warriors and guides, many have been reduced to guerrilla tactics and monkeywrenching. These ill omens have led to a general consensus that an Apocalypse is nigh, in which a final desperate battle will be waged by all sides. In addition to discrete threats such as the Wyrm and its minions, Garou find themselves opposed to the faceless foe of general disinterest in Gaia. Environmental disasters and modern warfare have done considerable damage to Gaia in recent decades. This callousness is sometimes spread by the Wyrm itself (as best exemplified by the Pentex corporation, a global conglomerate dedicated to spreading the Wyrm's influence). The Garou themselves are a self-acknowledged dying race; the largest Gaian tribes number 750-1,250 Garou world-wide, with the smaller tribes numbering less than 500. The wyrm-serving Black Spiral Dancers comprise fully one-tenth of the total Garou population and are the largest single tribe.

Garou Tribes

Garou tribes resemble human tribes in that they are a community of members sharing common lineage, traditions, rites and values. The Garou tribes each claim descent from the human peoples of particular geographic areas or demographic subset of human/wolf society (or claim that the particular human culture descended from the Garou tribe). There were once sixteen tribes, but only thirteen remain servants of Gaia in the modern age. Twelve of these tribes form a great alliance known as the Garou Nation.

Three tribes have been lost to Gaia:

  • The Bunyip of Australia (destroyed in the War of Tears)
  • The Croatan of North America (who sacrificed themselves to protect their homeland)
  • The White Howlers of Scotland, who were corrupted by the Wyrm and became the Black Spiral Dancers.
  • A fourth tribe (the Stargazers) remains loyal to Gaia but have withdrawn from the Garou Nation joining instead with the Beast Courts (a loose conglomeration of lycanthropes of other species called Fera) of Asia in an effort to reclaim and protect their native Tibet.

Society

Garou are not solitary creatures. They live in packs like wolves do and organize themselves into septs (groups of packs). In former times septs used to be communities of one tribe only, but in modern times septs often house garou from more than one tribe. This also lead to multi-tribal packs. Some septs live around a holy site, called Caern, a place with magical properties. Besides the community the a garou lives in, the tribe he belongs to, has a more or less strict social infrastructure, depending on the tribe in question.

In a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game, the players' characters usually form a pack. This pack is either wandering (not belonging to a particular sept) or living in a sept. The other garou of the sept are then the Storyteller's Characters (NPCs).

The playable Tribes form a loose coalition, known as the Garou Nation. This Nation is based on two core aspects: the common set of laws, called The Litany, and the three virtues Honor, Glory and Wisdom. The Rank of a Garou in the society is measured by his renown as being glorious, honorable and wise.

Spirituality

Garou are spiritual creatures. It is said that they once were animistic spirits themselves, and upon entering flesh they retained their spiritual affinities and pacts. The culture of the Garou nation is centered around venerating various spirits (every pack, sept, and tribe has its patron spirit or totem) that can help them in their war against the enemies of Gaia. While it is Theurges who deal with spirits most often, every werewolf has to deal with spirits, in order to gain favors and knowledge, and to learn Gifts, the quasi-magical powers of Garou.

The thematic conflicts of Werewolf: The Apocalypse is largely driven by a spiritual war being waged by the Triat, incarnations of the three aspects of reality:

  • The Wyld is the force of primal creation and chaos
  • The Weaver is the force of stability and stasis
  • The Wyrm is the force of corruption, decay, and destruction.