totems

A pack’s totem is one of their strongest ties that bind them together, in spite of whatever personal disputes, rivalries or domination games packmates may play. Pack members choose the totem that they feel best represents them, although it’s the totem spirit that adopts the pack.

Rite of the Totem (level three, mystic rite)
This rite binds a totem to a group of Garou, joining them together as a pack. During the rite, all werewolves who wish to bind their destinies to a particular totem spirit must coat their eyes with an infusion of saliva and mugwort, tobacco or a similar substance holy to Gaia and step sideways into the Umbra. In the spirit world, the ritemaster leads the Garou in a hunt for the spiritual spoor left by a totem spirit. Such evidence varies with the spirit, but Garou worthy of the totem’s attention can always find it. Even tracking down the spirit does not guarantee success, for the totem must decide whether the Garou are worthy to become its fosterlings. An undecided totem may require a quest of the supplicants, although one is almost never required if the pack has just completed a Rite of Passage successfully.

Totem is a Background, and can be purchased with Background points during character generation or by spending XP during the chronicle. Each totem has a base Background cost, and the pack must spend that minimum amount to ally with that totem. All beginning totems have certain base stats in Rage, Willpower, Gnosis, and a few basic spirit Charms. Additional powers can be purchased with Background points (or, more likely, with XP during gameplay). Buying new dots of the Totem background costs 2 xp per dot. And, they should be justified with in-character actions, such as when pack members go up in Rank, new members join the pack, or characters gain insight into the nature of their totem. Pack members can also pay homage to their totem in any number of ways, typically having to do with the pack shrine at the sept — spending time improving it, dedicating victories, or stories to the totem, paying homage by prayers or praise.

Totems grant their packs certain powers based on their nature. Some of these will specify that each pack member gains something. Others do not, and are available to one pack member at a time on a turn-by-turn basis; a pack member with the power can ‘hand off’ the power to another. There may also be one-time awards of temporary Renown, given when the pack is accepted by the totem.

After the initial cost of the totem has been spent, any other Background points add to the totem’s strength and abilities. A base-cost Totem starts with eight points to divide among their Rage, Willpower and Gnosis (their basic spirit traits). They begin with the spirit charms Airt Sense and Reform (an innate sense of direction, travel and spirit tracks in the Umbra, and the ability to dissolve their forms and reform them in their home Domains, a method of escape). The pack members can build up the power of their totem — and in the process, build its influence among spirits, and build a closer relationship with it.

Additional powers

CostPower
1Per three points to spend on the spirit’s Willpower, Rage and/or Gnosis (note: this can be bought repeatedly)
1Totem can speak to the pack without the benefit of the Gift: Spirit Speech (note: pack has bought this power)
1Totem can always find the pack members
2Totem is nearly always with the pack members
2Totem is respected by other spirits
2Per charm possessed
3Per extra pack member who can use the totem’s powers in the same turn
4Totem is connected mystically to all pack members, allowing communication among them even at great distances (at Storyteller’s discretion) (note: pack has bought this power)
5Totem is feared by agents of the Wyrm, which could mean that either their agents run away or they do their best to kill the pack…

There are four categories of totems: Respect, War, Wisdom and Cunning. You may note that three of these roughly match up to the types of Garou Renown…and one does not! Totems of Cunning are fairly rare, and most Garou don’t respect clever totems of trickery and stealth — or the packs who follow them. That said, some packs of young Garou see some virtue in tackling the Nation’s problems in new ways.

Here are some of the totem spirits from which you might choose.

Totems of Respect

Falcon (Background cost: 5)
A most noble spirit, patron of the Silver Fangs, who grants Leadership, Willpower and Honor; Falcon’s ban is against dishonor, and any children of Falcon who lose permanent Honor must find a way to make amends, even if their deaths are required.

Grandfather Thunder (Background cost: 7)
More feared than respected, the patron of the Shadow Lords grants Etiquette, Willpower, and extra power of Intimidation when they invoke Thunder; his ban is that his children must give their peers and rivals no more respect than they deserve.

Pegasus (Background cost: 4)
Patron of the Black Furies, Pegasus will never accept a pack with even one Get of Fenris member. Pegasus seeks to protect sacred places, and grants its children Willpower and Animal Ken. In return, they must always aid females of all species, young ones in particular.

Stag (Background cost: 6)
Stag represents masculinity, virility and the raw untamed power of nature. The Fianna tribe reveres him. He grants Willpower, Survival, and Stamina for long-distance running. Stag packs must always show respect toward their prey, and perform a Prayer for the Prey after a successful hunt. They must always aid the fae.

A few others from the Player’s Guide: Bison, Lion (the old tribal totem of the White Howlers), Quetzal (primarily a central/south American totem), Sphinx. And more still.

Totems of War

Bear (Background cost: 5)
Bear is a master of healing and mystical rites, and also fierce in war. He grants Medicine, Strength, and the ability to use the Gift: Mother’s Touch once per day. They are well regarded by werebears and some animistic peoples, but Garou distrust followers of Bear, and pack members lose Honor and receive diminished Honor rewards.

Boar (Background cost: 5)
Many combative, young packs, many Fianna among them, choose Boar for his fierce anger and ornery determination to finish a fight. Boar grants Brawl and Stamina, but demands that his followers never hunt or eat boars.

Fenris (Background cost: 5)
Naturally the tribal totem of the Get of Fenris, he is powerful and bloodthirsty, and scorns weakness. Packs gain a point in a physical Attribute, some Glory, and some respect from Get of Fenris, who may invite such packs to join them in battles and Wild Hunts. They must never pass up on a good fight.

Griffin (Background cost: 4)
Griffin is the patron of the Red Talons, and is unlikely to be the pack’s choice. He almost never accepts a homid Garou as his child due to his rage against humans, who have driven many species to extinction. If by some miracle the pack chose Griffin and it worked out, they would gain Alertness, the ability to speak with birds of prey, and the respect of Red Talons.

Rat (Background cost: 5)
The tribal totem of the Bone Gnawers, maybe you wouldn’t expect Rat to be a war totem. He excels at hit-and-run warfare, fighting to weaken, cripple and finally overwhelm. But you know what they say about a cornered rat. He grants Willpower, greater skill at stealth and silence, and a stronger bite. In return, naturally, the pack must never kill vermin.

Wendigo (Background cost: 7)
Patron of his namesake tribe, the cannibal spirit of the frozen north teaches how to convert the bitter cold into lethal rage. He grants Rage points and Glory, and some respect from the Wendigo tribe. Wendigo’s children must aid animistic peoples in need.

The player’s guide also stats Bull, Flea (popular among Ragabash and Bone Gnawers), Shark, Weasel (they’re good biters), Wolverine (the animal, not the X-Man). Here’s more!

Totems of Wisdom

Chimera (Background cost: 7)
The patron of the Stargazer tribe who have left the Garou Nation for parts east, Chimera seeks to unravel layers of puzzles and deception. She grants Enigmas, Perception, Wisdom, the ability of disguise while in the Umbra, and greater proficiency with riddles, dreams and enigmas. Chimera only demands that the pack seek enlightenment.

Cockroach (Background cost: 6)
The totem of the modern age, if you believe the Glass Walkers. He grants skill over computers, electricity, science and technology, and his packs can enter the Umbra and view data stored on media or streaming through data cables. Their ban is against killing cockroaches – good luck with that in the city.

Owl (Background cost: 6)
Tribal totem of the Silent Striders, who may appear to aid the pack when it is in danger if they follow Owl. Owl’s children gain wings in the Umbra and can fly from place to place. They gain skill at stealth and silence, air, travel, movement or darkness. Although they may benefit from mysterious interventions from Silent Striders, these packs won’t get along well with Ratkin.

Raven (Background cost: 5)
Raven follows Wolf, picking over their kills, and at times leading the wolf to a kill, teaching wisdom through his games. He is a totem of wealth, but expects his children to carry no wealth, instead trusting in Raven to provide. He grants Survival, Subterfuge, and Enigmas. Wereravens respect Garou followers of Raven.

Uktena (Background cost: 7)
An ancient water spirit with the features of a serpent, cougar and deer, he knows many hidden secrets, much like his namesake tribe. He places a protective ward over his children while they are in the Umbra. He teaches secret lore to his children, and they gain additional XP to spend on certain lore and mystical abilities. While Uktena Garou treat them like brothers, other Garou distrust such packs. They must recover mystical lore, objects, places and animals from the Wyrm.

Unicorn (Background cost: 7)
Patron of the Children of Gaia, Unicorn embodies Gaia’s love and represents peace, healing and harmony. I know, right? You’re liking it already. Her children can move at twice normal speed in the Umbra, gaining Unicorn’s swiftness. They gain greater facility with healing, empathy, and Gifts of strength or protection. They must aid and protect the weak.

Others from the PG: Chameleon, City Father/Mother (an anthropomorphic spirit representing a large enough city to manifest one), Dolphin, Fog, Twister, and five varieties of Wind Incarna. And even more. Endless variety!

Totems of Cunning

Coyote (Background cost: 7)
The unpredictable trickster, more Ragabash than the Ragabash, is a clever warrior and a master of deception. His children gain Stealth, Streetwise, Subterfuge and Survival. They aren’t considered particularly wise, though, and they lose some of any Wisdom rewards they may receive.

Cuckoo (Background cost: 6)
Children of Cuckoo are master infiltrators, like the bird herself, who lays her egg in the nests of other birds. As spies and manipulators, they gain Manipulation and Subterfuge, along with the power to be overlooked; if successful they can blend in almost anywhere, so long as they don’t draw attention to themselves. Other Garou are wary of these opportunistic manipulators, however, and they lose some of any Honor rewards they may receive.

Fox (Background cost: 7)
Tricking both prey and enemies, Fox loves to confuse opponents and teaches his children to do the same. They gain Stealth, Subterfuge, Streetwise, and Manipulation. Aside from never participating in fox hunts, packs following Fox lose some from Honor Renown awards as they are considered untrustworthy.

A couple others from the player’s guide: Goat, and Raccoon (a survivor in wilderness and city alike). And some more.

This is not to be taken as a comprehensive list, BTW. Go right ahead and net-search for other Totems if these aren’t enough. Impress your pack with a totem spirit from your Tribe book. Don’t bug me with some other game’s made-up SuperTotem that will let you beat the Wyrm with one claw tied behind your furry backs. But yes, there are others.

There have been others, to be sure. There are always others, are there not?

Totem

totems

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