[Taken largely from a G+ post I made a couple of weeks ago]
I love Werewolves.
There, I said it.
I love the inner struggle of humanity against feral instinct but most of all I love the idea that Werewolves don’t have to do it alone. They have family. They have Pack.
Sadly, in all the years I have been role-playing, I have never played in a werewolf game.
The White Wolf systems have tended to leave me underwhelmed. Not least because I have found that the system’s complexity gets in the way of the personal horror and community aspects of the werewolf myth that I find so compelling. In recent years my favourite treatments of the Werewolf mythology have been “Being Human” and Kelley Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series.
I have been thinking more and more that when (not if) I run a werewolf campaign it will follow much of the pack model established in Women of the Otherworld. To me the real crux of a Werewolf game should be how all the action and plot are viewed through the lens of the relationships between the Pack members and the group culture of the Pack.
I want to build in mechanics for how loyal your character feels towards the Alpha and the Pack which will, in turn, get you some mechanical benefits but also creates plenty of space for emotional interaction and interesting conversations.
As I said before the action of the game should viewed through the lens of your relationships and the Pack. So the example I gave to a friend recently was as follows:
Scenario: The Pack Alpha gets kidnapped.
We play through planning and executing the plan to get the Alpha back. But this should played out with plenty of intra-Pack conversations and dialogue and space for emotional interaction around the following:
a) how the Pack deals with the loss of their leader and driving force – do they fracture with no-one taking control, does another character rise up to take up the reigns of leadership, how do the pack respond to this? Are the Pack grateful that someone has filled the vacuum or do they resist the new leadership?
b) personal distress of the characters – who feels guilty that the kidnap resulted from their failing to protect the Alpha?;
c) if the Alpha is recovered does the temporary leader want to relinquish control – does the Pack view the Alpha differently
because they were “not strong enough” to resist capture?; and
d) how will the Pack process what happened. Will they emerge stronger as a group? Will they seek revenge?
The idea that when stuff happens you aren’t just thinking about “how do we solve the
plot problem of recovering the Alpha?”, but also exploring what this means for you and your Pack.
I’d almost certainly employ Vincent Baker ‘s amazing “ask lots of questions” technique from Apocalypse World, in drawing out this aspect more heavily.
This is a further development of the way in which I run Amber Diceless – where the theme is again Family. Everything is viewed through the lens of Family. In Amber the family might do horrible things to each other (as per the books) but they can’t shake the fact they share a heritage and it just keeps pulling them back into each others lives.
As an aside one of things which used to fascinate me about Jerry Springer and related TV shows was the way in which people couldn’t just leave each other alone and move on with their lives. Despite some of the terrible car crash relationships some people just didn’t seem to be able to pull themselves out of the destructive spiral they were in together and I was always intrigued as to why. Maybe I am just writing games to answer that question?