Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part I: The Introduction
Before I begin: the new World of Darkness line is, for the most part, well written and playable, with occasional bits of broken mechanics or asstastic fluff that we make endless fun of in the WoD thread. This book is not representative of the quality of the rest of the books White Wolf makes. This book is pretty much the distillation of absolutely everything wrong with oWoD that caused White Wolf to reboot in the first place, reprinted as an excuse to make loads of money off furries.
Let's just start with the cover.
A were-lion, Gorilla Grodd, and a were-baboon are all atop a pile of junked cars, apparently being led by someone who looks like Thor with antlers glued to his head. It's kinda weird how some hybrid forms in this book are way more human than others, Deerhoof Antlerdude here being the prime example (we'll get to see more of him later.)
We can't get any further without discussing the authors of this shitheap, however. Most of them have only been credited with writing Changing Breeds, as far as I can tell, but the main writer and developer of Changing Breeds is one Phil "Satyrblade" Brucato. Yes, that's how he's credited in the book. Let's see what he's done. To Wikipedia!
"Satyr" Phil Brucato is an American writer and game designer. He is best known for his work with White Wolf, Inc., including role-playing games such as Mage: The Ascension, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade. He has also created Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium for Laughing Pan Productions.
Noted for his motto "To write is to tell the Truth,", Phil uses fantasy fiction to inspire his readers toward real-life achievements. Although he's often considered a neopagan author, his work displays an openness and respect for all forms of spirituality.
[Bolded works are 'start running' levels of terrible, I added a few from RPG.net]
Selected Role-playing work with White Wolf, Inc
* World of Darkness: Changing Breeds
* The Swashbucklers Handbook - co-author
* Infernalism: The Path of Screams - author
* Revelations of the Dark Mother - co-author
* Freak Legions: A Player's Guide to Fomori - contributing author
* Vampire: The Masquerade, Revised Edition- (contributing author) by Robert Hatch & Various Authors (1998, White Wolf, Inc.).
* Kindred of the East - (contributing author)
* Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade - author & designer
* Bastet - co-author
* Cult of Ecstasy (1996, White Wolf, Inc.).
* Vampire: The Dark Ages - contributing author & designer
* Mage: The Ascension, 2nd Edition - author & designer
* The Fragile Path: Testaments of the First Cabal - editor & contributing author
* Changeling: The Dreaming - contributing author (1st and 2nd editions)
* Players Guide for Changeling: The Dreaming - author and designer
* Black Furies - author and designer
* Ravens in the Library - editor & contributing author, with Sandra Buskirk (2009, Quiet Thunder Productions).
* Love Wisdom — A Soul’s Journey to Wellness (editor) by Dr. Shannon South (2009, Trafford Publishing).
* Rites of Pleasure: Sexuality in Wicca and NeoPaganism - contributing author, edited by Jennifer Hunter (2004, Citadel Press).
Oh. Ohhhh. Oh dear.
Moving on. The into piece to the book is the standard White Wolf poorly formatted artsy attempt to make sub-par short stories look good, except this one is so short it could probably fit on a single page with normal editing. It's about a Mexican woman trying to cross the border into America to start over. It starts with these choice words:
When I came into this country, I crossed the desert on foot.
We moved at night, eating stale tortillas and stealing water from cattle troughs.
The man who guided our crossing called himself “COYOTE,” but the only beast in him was MAN.
She talks about how she'd heard about men like him doing horrible things to people in the desert, and surprise, he tries - scratch that, succeeds at - raping her one night. While being raped, she flashes back to her father killing a gray fox that had been eating their chickens, and how it made her break down sobbing as her father yelled at her for being a sissy. As she remembers her screams, she shifts and rips the rapist guide to tiny pieces, and wakes up soaked in blood and butt naked in the middle of the desert, alone.
We haven't even reached the contents of the book and we already have rape, symbolic rape of nature, natural vengeance, nudity, and murder. Well, I have to give it credit, the intro does tell you exactly what you're in for.
The introduction chapter proper sets the tone by describing Man as a clever monkey despoiling nature, hiding from the beasts in the shadows, etc etc yadda yadda all the stuff that made us cringe back when oWerewolf was out. It also sets the tone where disturbingly almost-sexual language is used constantly when talking about Changing Breeds and animals in general, like "animal sensuality", "passionate," "beautiful," "quick to love," and the like. I know it's intending to talk about stronger emotion and instinct in general, but if they're trying to not sound like they want to fuck animal-people, they're failing pretty miserably, here.
The book defines what the Changing Breeds are, at this point:
A member of “the changing breeds” is a person who shares a metaphysical connection to an inner animal. This connection allows that person to shift between human and animal forms. The connection is innate, primal and mysterious. No one knows really why or how it happens, but once opened, that bond cannot be broken except by death.
Yyyyep. We've got ourselves a Therianthrope splatbook. And don't you think they're going to just gloss over the furry fandom,
oh no my friends,
they're gonna tackle that shit head on.
Moving on, we get the first mention of the first "axis" in character creation, Accords. In the new World of Darkness system, each line has two main categories for the supernatural type. Put very simply, it's generally 'race-analogue' and 'class-analogue,' but nowhere near as restrictive as that. The race analogue are the Clans in vampire, the Seemings in Changeling, and so on - the subtype of the supernatural race you belong to. The class analogue is usually a social group or philosophy you follow: Courts in Changeling, Tribes in Werewolf, etc.
The class analogue in this are "Accords", also known as "Songs of the Souls" (not even kidding.) It's "a spiritual harmony composed of longing, awareness, hunger and rage." This is basically the temperament of your character and what they do. The Accords are the Den-Warder (nurturing/protecting), the Heart-Ripper (predatory), the Root-Weaver (builder), the Sun-Chaser (trickster) and the Wind-Dancer (intuitive/thoughtful).
The book goes on to say that there's no real were-creature society, as it's too fractious and widespread. The reason I bring this up is because they use the term 'parliament of werebears' and it made me think of how much better Parliamentary politics would be if arguments could escalate into MPs turning into giant-ass bears and mauling each other.
Anyway. The second axis, and the one that is way the hell wider, is the Nahual, or spirit animal. Yes, you have a power animal that you can see in your dreams that reflects in your body and demeanor, and determines what shapes you can shift into and what stuff you can do. If you've ever read Werewolf or even seen a movie with werewolves, you have the general idea.
So, what artwork should you use to demonstrate this idea? Maybe a werewolf howling to the moon, perhaps? Or a werecrocodile eating people? Maybe something unusual, like a werespider in a web?
You're getting bird-woman tits.
Keep in mind that, aside from the cover and introduction,
this is the first piece of art in the book.
This is what we're dealing with.
Also, if you look really closely at the hobo's bottle of Not-Jack-Daniels, "Daniels" looks a hell of a lot like "Dalek." I would totally drink Dalek booze.
Also on the same page as Avian Mammaries is a discussion about how mankind are a bunch of jackasses (with a cringe-inducing clarification that women can be just as bad as men) that Nature is starting to fight against with Changing Breeds, and how the Changing Breeds constantly balance their hatred for humanity's Earth-raping ways with their sympathy to humanity. Thus, they're never at peace, alien to both worlds, yadda yadda crawling in my exoskeleton this carapace will not heal.
Next is a list of legends and myths about shape-changers, most just reiterating things already said or setting up discussions in the next chapter, but two are so
-inducingly bad I have to show you.
Animal-folk are all of “exotic” ethnic descent: Myth rooted in fact. A feral can be born from any ethnicity; most, however, come from regions where people live in close proximity with the animals in question, and have deeply symbolic attachments to them. A werecougar, for example, will probably come from American stock, while a werelion would probably have African ancestry.
Ferals are just eccentric human “furries”: Myth, with elements of truth. Some people consider themselves “animals under the skin”; a few of these therians even possess the Changing Gift. For the most part, though, furries are human beings and ferals are just a little bit more...
Oh joy, back to the awkward sexuality and I'm-not-racist-but from the oWoD. How I missed cringing every time I read a book. Speaking of which, the Theme of the line is "urgent righteous fury" and the Mood is "raw sensuality."
The last section is a "further reading/viewing" section with a ton of shit either vaguely relevant or blatantly ripped off from. What's hilarious is they credit Cesar Milan and Inconvenient Truth in here as inspirations. Lastly, a choice entry in the glossary, and another semi
piece of art. Thankfully, they are
“shit-speak”: Communication through elimination, animal-style; expressing one’s self in methods that humans find disgusting.
Next time: More fluff so bad you'll want to rip off your own skin.
In Which Our Minds Are Forever Sullied
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part II: In Which Our Minds Are Forever Sullied
This is going to be a long one, because this book is
with shit to point out and dissect.
So now we get to the first proper chapter of the book, The Wild Heart. In nWoD books, the first chapter talks at length about the fluff before the later chapters put the crunch into its designated places, as a way of hooking you on the feel of the game before throwing all the nitty-gritty at you, and keeping you interested to see how everything works. In this book, the opening chapter serves to make you wish you were reading Werewolf, chewing thumbtacks, or that you were able to go back in time and just burn the money you spent on this fucking book.
The first fluff is a few pages of italicised in-character exposition called "Nature, Thou Art My Goddess." In-character exposition has been done well in a few lines, especially in Changeling and (some of) Werewolf, but this is, as you can imagine, one of the many times that White Wolf's bungled it. Allow me to sum it up in bullet points:
- Changing Breeds have always existed.
- Tacked-on Lovecraft reference to Great Old Ones possibly existing.
- The First were red in tooth and claw, hunting everything, life was good, etc etc Garden of Eden myth that was done infinitely better in Werewolf. I'm going to be saying that last part a lot, if you haven't noticed.
- Everything was relatives and one, flesh and spirit mixed, and everything was fuckin' each other. No, dead serious, that's one of the 'possibilities' they mention except they expound upon it for a giant paragraph so you know which way they lean. The Snake was bangin' Eve, women were all up on the beasts, lost gods were bangin' mankind to make Nephilim, nobody could keep it in their pants.
- Nature with a capital N is alive and a thing. Totally not Gaia.
- Human intelligence is heavily implied to be evil.
- The Clever Monkey becomes Man the Conqueror and starts fucking Nature sideways. Not like that you weirdos.
- Changing Breeds could not be enslaved so they were cast out and killed.
- Religion is made, used to conquer natural world of spirits.
- Industry overtakes religion, now Man is The Despoiler.
- Nature has arbitrarily decided it's time to actually fight back against Man for some reason instead of slapping its shit when the Industrial Revolution started, Changing Breeds begin campaign of ecoterrorism.
The opening paragraph after the story is absolutely hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
" That's the common litany of a shapechanger's childhood. Whether those words are spoken in Bantu or Bronx English, the refrain’s the same. That weirdness isn’t always a bad thing, of course. As the child soon discovers, some people will find that oddness utterly compelling. "Animal magnetism" is more than just a phrase to a feral person. From childhood onward, it's a fact of life.
Yes, you're not just a weird kid picked on by bullies, you have the soul of a lion just waiting to get back at all those meanies! Christ, in middle school I was shut in a locker for a whole period and stuffed in a garbage can, but I never once thought it was because I was a special snowflake that they just couldn't handle. Kids are just jackasses.
Anyway, children who will become ferals (I hate this term so much and the book doesn't stop using it) often have the temperament of their animal self and have occasionally have birthmarks or habits that reflect it as well. And, wouldn't you know it, it's the hormones of puberty that activate your spirit self. How convenient.
The feral will feel kinship with animals like them, who will be friendly and accommodating, while the animal's predators, prey, or natural enemies will also react accordingly. Supernaturals may be able to get a feel for the animal presence as well, as well as sensitive mortals. There's a bit of discussion about religion and spirituality in here as well, as well as a disharmonious crawling-in-my-skin phase (also known as 'puberty') just before the First Change.
(There's also a sidebar about what the animal experience may be like according to Scientists, with such gems as 'recognizes cause and effect' among more psychologically important bits.)
Finally, the First Change arrives from some sudden outside stimulus, like a fight, bullies, car crash, overdose, or something similar. The Frenzies/Rages are back in horribly ill-fitting suits this time, and the new feral either goes into a Rabbit Run (Fear Frenzy) or a Tiger Storm (Frenzy/Death Rage) as fitting the situation/animal and proceeds to run like a coward and/or tear shit up. The book says the behavior will happen no matter if you need to run through a fire or "tear up a bus full of nuns." Because animals are retards.
By the way, Lunacy - the fugue-like madness and memory loss that overtakes people when they see a Werewolf in a hybrid form that comes from Luna protecting them and their existence - is also back with a shoddy coat of paint, called Delusion. It also apparently dragged Vampire's 'blur out cameras and video' mechanic into the back alley and beat it to death before wearing it like a cheap suit. This is the first major hint that the mechanics of this book are either shamelessly cannibalized or original and broken/useless.
After this, the feral must come to an accord with their Nahual, with suggestions like adopting a pet, "making clothing or
that match their spirit animal," "
making self portraits of their animal self
," and "
joining groups of 'Otherkin' - people who believe (sometimes correctly) that they're not entirely human.
" That's right, Furcon is really crawling with people who can actually turn into Street Sharks.
I'm around a tenth of the way into the book and I'm already all
Oh yeah, they also introduce the Morality mechanic which is
Harmony copy-pasted from Werewolf with names switched around. The Accords are brought up again, but I already mentioned them. To reiterate, they're Mama Bear, Serial Killer, Engineer, Kender, and Oracle.
Now, we get to the power animals, the breed types, the Nahual, the actual what the fuck you are of the game. There's a
of them, so I'll just copy and paste.
• The Bastet — Named for their most notorious godhead, these cat-folk range from supple wildcats to noble yet implacable weretigers.
• The Land Titans — The rarest but most powerful shapechangers, these elephant- and rhino-men seem more like endangered gods than mortal beings.
• The Laughing Strangers — Tricksters, robbers, beautiful eccentrics...how much of the reputation of these weasel-, rat-, hare-, coyote- and fox-folk is earned, and how much is propaganda?
• The Pack — Loyal yet ferocious, these cousins of the werewolves count wolfkin, dog-bloods and hyena-people among their ragged band.
• The Royal Apes — Despite their brutish stereotype, these uncomfortably man-like beasts include sagacious mystics along with tree-swinging tricksters.
• The Spinner-Kin — Grandmother Spider weaves her web across the world, and while her children seem quite sinister, they create the most beautiful designs imaginable.
• The Ursara — From shy black-furs to ferocious grizzlies, these werebears boast potent medicine and terrifying rage.
• The Wind-Runners — Stags, elk, horses and deer blend grace, speed and strength with human cunning and an urge for freedom.
• The Wing-Folk — Corvians, swan maids, owl-folk, even werebats are joined by their outstretched wings and the open sky.
I can still think of a bunch of examples that don't fit anywhere - like, oh, say,
where the fuck are all the reptiles, fish, insects, amphibians, and all that in general?
The answer is shoehorned into an index in the back. This is the problem of trying to categorize shapeshifters, there is a metric fuckton of animals you can use. Even with the handwave of "it has to be powerful and respected so no werelemmings or whatever" that's still an unspeakable amount of animals, with several stuffed into categories that don't fit. War against the Pure, a book late in the Werewolf run, had a chapter dedicated to pretending Changing Breeds never happened and just gave you a toolbox to make whatever the fuck you wanted. Wereroach? Go nuts. Were-electric-eel? Totally possible. Werelobster? Knock yourself out. Were-waterbear? Okay, that's pushing it.
What I'm trying to say is this book makes me hate its mechanics before we even hit the mechanical chapters.
Speaking of which, the only three forms a Changing Breed has by default are human, animal, and warform (hybrid), with near-human and near-animal bought as an upgrade. Silver also hurts them for absolutely no in-game reason beyond "they're kinda like werewolves so fuck it."
The book segues into discussion of Feral Clans and general upbringing, whether that's people beating the evil out of their kids, smothering their freedom with it, or being accepting. There's also discussion of how some depraved clans keep themselves going through incest and implied bestiality. I hate this fucking book.
There's also discussion of 'urban tribes' a lone shifter may fit into, such as druggies, bums, carnies, gangs, and...
Furries and Therians
Who better to chose as a feral tribe than people who already believe they're animals at heart? Whether they take the idea seriously or regard it as a playful kink, furries and various therians (people who feel like animals at heart) envision themselves as non-human souls trapped in human form. They share a feral’s deep affinity for certain beasts and animal behavior. True, the furries and therians' idea of "animal" is often idealized, but such folks make excellent friends for people with truly wild hearts...so long as they don’t wind up with real hearts bleeding on their living-room floors.
And after that, things start getting uncomfortable. Like, really, really uncomfortable. Discussions of love life uncomfortable, which paints werebeasts as a bunch of emotionally abusive psychos who either bluntly attempt to fuck or rape whoever they've got the hots for. And then, we get the most horrible paragraph in any World of Darkness book, old or new,
the infamous Savage Genetalia power from Freak Legions (which Phil helped write, remember.)
I have permanently stained Imgur, this website, my eyes, and your mind to show you what we're dealing with, here. nWerewolf went
out of its way to slap the shit of people who wanted to do creepy sex stuff involving shapeshifting and animals, including an entire section in one of the books about Werewolf physiology regarding to reproduction and how trying anything aside from the usual is going to end horribly (and, if two werewolves have sex, it ends in a horrible ghost abortion that tries to kill its parents because it hates them so much for making it exist.)
And Changing Breeds goes "yeah, nah, ignore that, FUCK EVERYTHING THAT MOVES."
There's more to the chapter involving Feral society on the minimal scale (the coterie/pack/cabal equivalent), but I just...I can't say anything more after that image.
Next time: we all desperately try to forget what we've seen and hope that the mechanics aren't a complete pile of shit. Spoilers: we're going to be disappointed.
A Little Less Perversion, A Little More Broken
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part III: A Little Less Perversion, A Little More Broken
First, I must share an image I didn't get to due to the way we ended last time.
Not only does the guy at the bottom look kinda like Samuel L Jackson having some sort of stroke, I like to think the lion guy tearing things up in the background is just an ordinary lion that happens to be a werebro. By the light of the full moon, it gets an insatiable thirst for Natty Light and spray tans.
Anyway, now we get to the real meat of the book, how it plays. It, as expected, plays pretty terribly. This is the point where the book goes from "Okay, so the intro is terrible, but maybe the mechanics will work with a new coat of paint!" to "I have no paint thinner and I must huff."
The character creation is like all the other supernatural types in nWoD: make a human character then apply the supernatural template on top. Compared to a lot of templates (looking at you, Promethean and Geist) it's actually pretty compact. This is because it is literally the Werewolf template with name changes and a few things switched around, right down to Renown (now Respect), universally regarded as a piece of shit mechanic that shouldn't exist.
One thing I will give the system is that it separates supernatural power into Favors and Aspects. Favors are alterations to the basic forms that define what your shapeshifting is like, and Aspects are the standard supernatural powers you've come to expect. However, the Aspects are retarded and poorly balanced, and Favors are even worse. What's really bad?
The book acknowledges this.
Each breed has three Favors that "come with the territory" for such creatures. A few Favors resemble Merits in the World of Darkness Rulebook, and are described that way in game terms. No, these Favors aren’t always "balanced" in game terms, any more than a mouse and a lion are “balanced” in real life. Even so, the human element provides a certain balance among beasts; a shapechanging hare, for example, is far more clever and magical than a normal bunny.
When I read this paragraph, I wanted to find whoever was responsible for this condescendingly smug shit, drag them behind the shed, and shoot them for their own good.
Anyway, we get the full writeups of all the Accords now, which are long and tedious and I won't bother you with a breakdown of each. Mechanically, they each give a bonus or penalty to Harmony degeneration rolls, a free skill specialty, a discount to a Respect type, and determine what their default Rage type is. However, the bear guy they use as the example for the Den-Warders totally looks like Sean Connery.
Seriously, look at that. Fucking Sean Connery.
On to Favors. Let's just point out that, with maximum Stamina, the very first Favor is broken right in half when it's needed. Aquatic - which you can get for free if your animal lives in the water, because Nahuals give you tons of free Favors as part of the package - you can survive up to about mile below the surface without having to worry about getting crushed by pressure or freezing to death. You don't even need to shift forms to do this. If my Wolfram-Alpha-ing is correct, that's in the neighborhood of being crushed by 152 atmospheres, or 2234 PSI when you're 5000 feet below. And yet, you still need to buy Water Breathing to be able to hold your breath that long. Oh yes, I said hold your breath. You can either breathe water or hold your breath if you have Water Breathing, and you don't have to be underwater to use it. Something nasty in the air? Fuck that, I don't have to breathe for a couple hours now. This is just extrapolating one of a whole lot of broken abilities in here.
Other highlights include incredibly cheap perfect night vision that enhances your stealth, the possibility of having eleven limbs to use in combat, +4 to attack rolls in all forms via retractable claws or horns (?!), permanent 4/3 bulletproof armor for all forms available at character creation, the possibility of a Size 17 form when humans are Size 5, and free flight.
Now for Aspects. Let's get the most notorious one out of the way.
(• to •••••)
Some critters are too cute for words, even if they can rip your arm off. A feral with this talent can cute her way out of most kinds of trouble, adding a +1 bonus per dot to all Social rolls that emphasize her adorable qualities. This trick can be used in any form, but grants only half of the usual bonus to attempts made in human shape.
Yes, it's in italics in the book. This just makes me want to make a wereshark with
5. Lookit dose adowable teef!
Bare Necessities is the awful pun rename of the Rite of Pants from nWerewolf (which is not really called the Rite of Pants, it's just the only name anybody remembers.) You can absorb clothing and small objects into yourself when you shift, basically. So, yes, the default is that you're ass-naked every time you shapeshift back from animal form.
Beast Magic is freakishly, unbelievably broken. It allows you to take one specific spell from a Mage Arcana of your choosing (up to three dots), and be able to cast that without Paradox. To be fair, this costs a ton of experience - it has its own mini-track - and your maximum Feral Heart dots (the power statistic) can only be 3 - your maximum Beast Magic dots.
Wait, hold on a second, that means if you have a three dot Beast Magic spell, your maximum Feral Heart dots are zero, meaning you are no longer a Changing Breed by the rules of the game which means you can't have Beast Magic at all
GOD FUCKING DAMNIT MY BRAIN JUST EXPLODED
Anyway, you can imagine that giving the already pretty evidently broken Changing Breeds access to Mage spells, expensive or not, quickly catapults things into "fuck you I win" territory. Nab the Life 3 spell that boosts Physical stats, shift into warform, and proceed to literally use trucks as throwing ammo.
Birth Blessing is a pointless one dot Aspect that allows the character to bless a pregnancy by kissing the mother's stomach or kneeling at their bed, which does...absolutely nothing except guarantees a healthy child and pregnancy. Welp. Would be great in real life, but really, how often would this come up in a role playing game?
I know what you are thinking and if you say it I blow your head off. I am going to start making these more short and skipping a lot just to show the worst off. There's still a lot.
A mere two dots allows you to purchase the ability to eat the hearts of your victims for Essence, essentially guaranteeing a morally bankrupt feral will never, ever run out of mojo.
Next is something that seems kind of innocuous until you read the whole thing:
Clever Monkey (• to •••••)
The agile mind of this shapechanger can assess a situation and fit together (literally or otherwise) the pieces involved. As an Aspect, this trait confers a +1 bonus per dot to Intelligence dice pools involved in solving puzzles, navigating
mazes and problem-solving dilemmas.
The problem involved must have obvious "pieces" and a clear and achievable goal — this trick can’t puzzle out peace in the Middle East.
This Aspect helps a feral repair an engine, master sudoku or solve a logical mystery. The Aspect works in all forms, and (contrary to its name) applies to all shapechanging animals.
For three dots, you can spend Essence to completely erase Aggravated damage, one-to-one. This is kind of incredibly useful due to Agravated damage taking two weeks to heal normally, taking priority before other wounds. Also, due to a shoehorned fluff reason (the goddess Durga) weretigers get it for only two dots.
Exoskeleton shows off the completely hilariously imbalanced internal mechanics of the book by costing two merit dots to spend Essence to activate incredibly obvious armor that only acts as 1/1 armor that slows you down and makes you easier to hit. Meanwhile, three merit dots in Favors gets you 2/1 bulletproof armor with only a minor social drawback to make it available in human form.
You can spend merit dots to increase the perception roll to up to +5 (for smells), and perception is one of the most incredibly useful rolls in the entire system.
A staggering example of his breed, this feral seems more like a totem spirit than an actual beast. His fur or scales shine, his eyes glow; an aura of sublime
surrounds him at all times. Even in still air, the breeze seems to caress this marvelous creature. People and animals instinctively revere the character when he’s in his beast-forms. In game terms, the player adds a +4 bonus to Social rolls in which the werebeast stands to make a powerful impression — but
when he’s in one of the animal shapes.
Still sounds like you want to fuck animals, book.
Five dots gives you an potentially even more broken version of the Geist respawn mechanic called Nine Lives.
Sexual dimorphism is a mechanic.
Five dots gets you called attacks to the neck that deal aggravated damage.
You can literally buy the Totem mechanic from Werewolf for double cost. Way to completely steal a huge part of the game's world and not actually give it any backdrop, fuckers.
You can buy werewolf regeneration.
You can basically buy up to +5 in any fucking roll you can imagine.
The Sun-Chasers have their own special Aspects, including...um. Tar Baby. It does what it does in the Brer Rabbit story.
There is literally a "bully victim" merit that lets you hide easier in crowds but people ignore you and belittle you and blah blah fucking blah.
Y'know what, the stupid is eating my brain too hard to keep going right now. Suffice to say, Changing Breeds have a
problem with "Anything you can do, I can do better," are jaw-droppingly broken, and flagrantly designed to make badass Mary Sues. And we haven't even
to the stats some of the shifter forms get. Here's a hint: elephant-shifters get a base bonus of
twenty health levels
by turning into their animal form.
Next time: completely retarded derangements, the old disguised as the new, and seriously fucking elephant men can get like Strength 12 without even trying what the fuck is wrong with this book
A Miserable Little Pile of Mechanics
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Review Part IV: A Miserable Little Pile Of Mechanics
Welcome back. This is the point where the mechanics give up all pretense of being any good and collapse into a singularity of stealing from better things and ruining them.
For those with no knowledge of the WoD system, here's a quick crash course for stuff you'll need to know here. Every supernatural system has a "Power Stat" ranging from one to ten that measures how strong your character's supernatural power is in general. Mage has Gnosis, Vampire has Blood Potency, Changeling has Wyrd, etc. etc.. It's used as dice in some power rolls, to resist other supernatural powers, determines how much mojo you have to throw around, and - this is the important part for right now - increases the maximum dot cap on your statistics from five to [Power Stat] once it hits six or above. Hitting this level is nowhere near easy, requiring something in the neighborhood of 160 experience points when the system says you should only get three or four per session. This is to represent that, if you're that old/powerful, you're nobody to be fucked with, and can reach literally inhuman levels of power. A skill or attribute of six or above is the stuff of legends and fearful, whispered stories. The only ways of getting a cap above five before the Power Stat bumps it up that I can think of involve Prometheans each having a specific attribute that can hit six dots, or a Changeling with an extremely expensive merit that can only be bought at character creation and only allows one specific attribute to be able to hit six dots.
Feral Heart, the Changing Breeds power stat, allows for characters to have a stat cap of six at character creation by simply sacrificing their merit dots to get Feral Heart 3. At Feral Heart 5, this reaches 7. From Power Stats 3 to 8, Changing Breeds are strictly better than every other line in the World of Darkness when it comes to basic statistics.
If there was
doubt that this wasn't a system designed to make Mary Sue characters for the authors, it just got shot in the head.
Also, the only 'downside' to having a high
Feral Heart is that you get a slowly increasing Social roll penalty that's stiffened if you're a predatory shifter. However, a shifter can add their Feral Heart to social rolls for [Feral Heart] turns, for no cost, any time they want. So, there is literally no point where you ever have to suffer social penalties, and it quickly turns into a free boost. Even better, if you read into the shitty explanation well enough, it may actually
the Feral Heart penalty before applying the bonus. You can also do this song and dance with Perception rolls, which, again, are some of the most useful rolls in the entire system.
Oh yeah, you also bleed off Essence at the higher end, but at that point you're going to be swimming in it.
Now onto the mana-equivalent, Essence, stolen from Werewolf, neutered now that characters don't necessarily ever have to deal with spirits or The Shadow. Most characters will only use it to shapeshift instantly, use random shit, or (the clear winner) heal Lethal damage instantly.
Now to Harmony, which is stolen from Werewolf wholesale and given some shoehorned additions. Harmony is the Morality stat of the system, basically how sane/moral you are (and yes, tying relative sanity to relative morality is indeed a giant shitstorm waiting to happen, we all know). Weirdly, the system actually
on Morality in a couple minor ways before taking a giant steaming dump all over the rest. The biggest and my personal favorite way is that it goes through each individual breaking point and clarifies it, and also goes through each level on the track and describes what a person is like at that level. It's a really great touch that was in Vampire and Werewolf that sort of disappeared in the later lines and I have no idea why, especially when you get to the
that is Geist's Synergy. Another minor cool touch is that once you get to a low end of Harmony, the 'real' you can leak out depending on which way you're sliding (which I'll explain in a minute.) For instance, a tiger might cast the shadow of a woman, or a dude might have a bear for a reflection. Lastly, it actually gives a more mechanical reason to avoid slipping low by tagging the low levels with a blanket penalty to rolls involving Composure, which makes sense for the track's fluff (keeping balance within and not losing your shit). The rest of the penalties in other systems involve having the dice pools involving your Morality-analogue be lowered, which ranges from laughably pointless to crippling, and a host of other things that also range from slaps on the wrist to utterly devastating.
However, that's about as far as my praise will go for this incarnation of Harmony. As if the Morality systems weren't crippled with their own issues that have been discussed at length by the WoD threads and generally anybody who looks at the Morality system long enough to go "hey wait a minute," Changing Breeds essentially tries to squeeze two tracks into the one, the fluff demanding that the character lean more towards Humanity or Beasthood through the derangements they're probably going to rack up as they fall down through Harmony...and yet, Harmony is stuffed with sins from either side with no real caveats, especially at the higher levels. So, all your sins could be acting like a complete jackass to nature, wearing only the finest clothing made out of 100% clubbed baby seal, and you could either have no derangements at all (and therefore little to no external impetus to act out low Harmony characteristics) or have all the derangements that make you more animalistic.
By the way, eating the flesh of your animal type, killing anything 'important' as a hunter (whether for food or sport), killing anything 'important' for giggles, killing your animal type/humans,
humans/your animals, 'Betraying Man to Beast or Beast to Man', sadistic murder of animals/humans, and cannibalism of humans/shifters all count as different infractions! Can you tell they had no fucking clue what they were doing? Cause I sure can.
Also, at Harmony 2, 1, and 0, shapeshifting progressively becomes more and more difficult until you're either stuck as that one guy from Jumanji, or as Cujo.
And now...we get to the derangements.
Oh my fucking Lord.
Derangements are going to be their own update because God
Skipping them, we reach the rules for shape shifting. They're the Werewolf rules (SHOCK AND SURPRISE), with holes punched in for the modular stat changes of the different breeds. Also, apparently, no animal form, no matter how human or dextrous, can use anything as complicated, or more complicated than, scissors. The example they give is an elephant using a computer, and I counter with a gorilla driving a car. Every single car chase is improved if the drivers are gorillas. Prove me wrong
Anyway, rules for the Warform are brought up, with all animals getting a violent bent according to their animal's personality, even peaceful herbivores becoming "sadistic trap-and-torture killers." Otherwise, the rules follow Werewolf.
Animal form spends most of its time talking about how being treated as an animal by people is alien and weird, then adds a new mechanic that staying in animal form for a long time (like, several weeks) may cause your character to forget they were ever a shapeshifter and remain an animal.
Near-Man (Throwback) and Near-Beast (Dire) forms are addressed with shoehorned one-size-fits-all modifications applicable to existing breed stats if you bought the merit that lets you use them, but their applications as compared to Werewolf are slim at best.
Lunacy (now Delusion) is changed from depending on set reactions based on maximum Willpower to an actual roll, bogging down things unnecessarily while adding a degree of randomness to the proceedings. And yet, when you do the numbers, the results are pretty much the same when it comes to statistics...until you factor in Feral Heart acting as a penalty, pretty much ensuring a powerful shifter will never get busted. Sigh.
Regeneration is literally Werewolf's regeneration with the healing made twice as slow, unless you buy a merit to make it Werewolf's system. Siiigh.
Silver dealing aggravated damage is in for no justified reason. Siiiiigh.
Death Rage/Frenzy/Etc is copy/pasted with name edits, only with a new version that's basically summed up as Captain Planet With A Chainsaw. And I would watch the hell out that show, even if the mechanic is stupid. Like, "flicking away a half burnt cigarette means the guy comes home to a giant pile of elephant shit on his doorstep" and "starting a small fire means chasing them down with beast form or destroying their property with bodily waste (this is seriously an example, swear to God)" stupid.
And that finishes the chapter! After this is the chapter with all the breeds, which is a bountiful cornucopia of horrible art, terrible writing, and jaw-dropping mechanical asshattery.
But that will have to wait.
Next time: Derangements. God help us.
Apparently "Act Natural" Means "Shit Everywhere"
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Review Part V: Apparently "Act Natural" Means "Shit Everywhere"
The Derangements unique to this line are so terrible that I'm just going to copy and paste
every single one
and comment on them all.
Cage Shock (mild): Similar to a caged beast, your feral grows distressed. Pacing back and forth, he whines or snarls. Enclosed spaces feel constricting; clothes feel too tight. Anything less than open sky seems like a cage, and if forced to remain indoors, clothed, or otherwise confined, your beast gets restless.
Effect: On a failed Resolve + Composure roll, your character acts out and complains loudly about his "imprisonment." He may strip or bang around his "cage." For the rest of that scene, all that character’s Social rolls suffer a –3 penalty from his extremely annoying behavior.
It's a bad sign when even the game acknowledges something will cause "extremely annoying behavior." Also,stripping naked, screaming about being confined, and otherwise being a lunatic only removes an average of a success from my rolls? Good to know, I'll just head to work naked and beat anybody who tells me to wear THE INSTRUMENTS OF CORPORATE OPPRESSION and they'll only be slightly less inclined to like me!
Feral Frenzy (severe): It's all a trap. The beast must be free. Tearing at any barrier between himself and freedom, this werebeast acts...well, feral.
Pissing and shitting,
he abandons human speech and restraint. Anyone who sees him will assume he's insane, and they’re not really wrong.
Effect: On a failed Resolve + Composure roll, your werebeast goes utterly wild. Until he escapes "confinement," he’ll act like a trapped and wounded animal. You can spend a point of Willpower to bring him out of it, but until then he's dangerous to himself and anyone who comes too close.
So, being literally, vaguely, or metaphorically constrained in any sort of fashion has a good chance of sending me into a FATAL-esque frenzy of expelling body waste, fucking things, and murder. I bet Byron Hall's spirit animal is one of those goats that collapse in a paralyzed heap when even remotely startled.
Neoprimitivism (mild): The modern age is bullshit to your character. She affects tribal fashions, sports tattoos, goes barefoot everywhere and yammers about “the Pure Ones” — ancient people who supposedly lived in perfect harmony with Nature.
Effect: This feral misses no opportunity to criticize everything about the modern world and people in general. Unless she stays cool (a Resolve + Composure roll), objections to her attitude may drive her to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, inciting a loud and potentially violent confrontation.
There is literally a derangement that makes you a stereotypical filthy hippie. The way this is written, I honestly can't tell if it's taking the piss or not.
Feral Antics (severe): Like a wild animal, your feral bites, scratches, shits on the floor and generally behaves in counter-civilized fashion. She sheds as much clothing as her companions will tolerate, and speaks as little human speech as possible.
Effect: Isn’t it obvious? Unless she controls herself (the usual roll), this character will be utterly unable to deal with most people.
First, fuck you game, for being patronizingly
about this. Second, this pretty much Feral Frenzy only
, and it evolves from the Filthy Hippie derangement. Also, "animalistic" and "counter-civilized" does not mean "completely retarded."
One with the Bears (mild): He’s not half-animal — he’s
animal. Trouble is, this feral's view of animals is extremely idealistic. He talks with them as if they're fellow humans, yet holds real humans in contempt.
He might be a furry or therian with elaborate garb and mythic history;
or he’s renounced the human world and lives sort of a New Age dream in the deep wilderness. Either way, he's disconnected from the truth of his situation.
Effect: Aside from neurotic and often unsociable behavior, this feral can function in Man's world. He hates Man's world, though, and prefers to spend time in the wild...where he may or may not know what he's doing. In bad situations, the player might need to make a Composure+Survival roll; failure means he's in over his head and may not be able to get back out without help.
Despite license to play a literal therian, it's this derangement that convinces me that somebody on the writing staff knew
what they were writing and was dedicated to subtly making it a farce. Really, all the derangements give me that feeling to some extent, but some of them...it's really hard to tell.
Hate of Man (severe): People suck. All of 'em. Overwhelmed by the stench and disregard of modern Man, the feral avoids people as much as possible. When forced to confront human company, he shivers with hate, spews insults and might even attack for little or no apparent reason.
Effect: In human company (including, perhaps, his friends), this feral trembles with loathing. He trusts no one who’s not a beast at heart. His Social rolls suffer a –3 penalty from his undisguised hatred, and he could get violent if provoked. A spent Willpower point might keep him in check, but his disgust for humanity is clear. Unless circumstances demand, he remains in Primal form. Odds are good that he’ll soon lose the ability to change back...ever.
I find it funny that all three of these different types of animalistic derangement all end up with Fishmalk levels of intolerable player actions, just with
Beast Fears (mild): This person’s afraid of animals, including the one in the mirror. Around beasts or fellow shapechangers, he seems agitated; if one confronts him, he may panic. This derangement is common among "little animal" ferals such as foxes or hares. It’s workable, but highly inconvenient.
Effect: Essentially, this is a phobia of animals — see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 97. Without a reflexive Resolve + Composure roll, the character trembles fearfully around other beasts, even sometimes himself.
Y'know, if I found out I was able to turn into a rabbit, my reaction wouldn't be "OH GOD RABBITS ARE TERRIFYING," it would be "Goddamnit, why couldn't I turn into, like, a bear? Or maybe an armadillo or something."
Obsessive Humanity (severe): Conflicted about his own nature, this werebeast dresses expensively, uses big words and refuses to look in the mirror except to groom his perfect hair. It’d be funny if he wasn’t so obsessed about his humanity. Even the slightest challenge to it makes him sick with nerves.
Effect: Your character is obsessive compulsive (see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 98), "managing" his conflicted nature by controlling his environment as much as he can and freaking out when he cannot.
"HAVE I REMINDED YOU THAT I AM A HUMAN TODAY?" All this makes me think is playing a gimmick Changing Breed who acts like
Filthy Brutes! (mild): Your character doesn’t fear animals — she hates 'em. Lashing out subconsciously at the beast within herself, she teases and torments animals whenever possible. Flicking cigarettes at zoo beasts, kicking dogs and throwing water at kitties is normal fun for her. Naturally, this slides her further down the scale of sins.
Effect: Unless the player makes a Resolve + Composure roll when given an opportunity to abuse a helpless animal, she’ll inflict some probably non-fatal punishment on it. Even though she’ll often be excused because "they’re just dumb animals," the fallout from this sort of thing can get really messy...
Oh, you thought I was kidding about that "Wearing clothing made of 100% clubbed baby seal" didn't you? Oh no my friends, it gets worse.
Hunter King (severe): The worst hunter of all is the one who’s killing her own reflection. This shapechanger murders animals with extreme cruelty. Only rarely does she assume beast-form to do it. Proud of her bloodlust, she becomes a warped reflection of Man the Conqueror. She kills because she can, and may be highly acclaimed among humans who don’t know her true nature.
Effect: This character is a serial killer of animals. Given a chance, she’ll hunt, torture and murder as many animals as she can manage. She’ll often take a career that requires her to kill often and messily — a seal-clubber, vivisectionist or big-game hunter whose appetites astonish even her human companions. Yes Storyteller, this type makes an excellent villain for a Changing Breeds chronicle.
Yep. There's a derangement that makes you an unholy fusion of Cruella DeVille, a Captain Planet villain, and a Pentex CEO. Really, my friend put it much better than I ever could: "So, this is 'A Rational Person Discovering They're Living In A Changing Breeds Chronicle's Disease', right?"
I'm No Animal (mild): In a constant state of denial, this shapechanger refuses to...well, change shape. Unless extremely stressed, he won’t assume an animal form — and if he does, he immediately regrets it. In human form, he does everything he can to distance himself from his true nature. All traces of his double life are hidden with obsessive zeal.
Effect: In addition to compulsive behavior with regard to his animal self, your character resists all but the most extreme motivations to change shape. To force himself to assume that hated form, he must make a Resolve + Composure roll; failure means he’ll face his death like a man.
See, this one I actually kind of like. It actually seems like a real psychological defense mechanism that would happen if someone suddenly discovered they could turn into a swarm of bees. If they didn't just run around screaming "THE PAAAAAAAAAAAIN!"
Banish the Beast (severe): He won't Change. At all. Obsessive to the point of insanity about his role as a
your shapechanger utterly forsakes his true nature. Suggestions that he embrace his wild self make him violent; he smashes or withdraws from every trace of his feral life, including the people he once held dear.
Effect: This character won’t change unless forced to do so; even then, he must make the usual roll and spend a Willpower point to assume beast-form. Anyone who tries to remind him of what he is will probably be attacked — first non-fatally, possibly with lethal intent if that doesn’t shut them up.
Again, I kinda like this one, even if it does kind of neutralize a lot of what makes a shifter a shifter. Oh wait, this is Changing Breeds, that's exactly why I like it.
And now, for the Hall of Shame when it comes to this chapter's art.
This is for the Favor that gives you razor skin like a shark. Now, not only are the faces goofy looking, look carefully at this and you'll see all sorts of perspective fuckups. What's with the dude's punching arm? Where's the bro's entire right arm? Why does the bro appear to have a boner? What is up with the suited man's torso?
Apparently, goat-men have needle teeth, are more man than goat, and are hermaphroditic satanists.
You think I'm joking about that last part, don't you.
And now, we get to the picture chosen to demonstrate the Warform, awesome power of Nature, the hellish vengeance of Earth given form, the raw power of all that is Good:
Good night, everybody.
Next time: The Breeds.
Fight of the Century
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part VI: The Fight Of The Century
And now, with all the mechanical bullshit out of the way, I can finally bring you the full, mechanical demonstration of why Changing Breeds is broken dreck.
I'll get this out of the way first: yes, this demonstration will be using the most obviously overpowered breed in the system. However,
that is the point.
Munchkin asshats will be munchkin asshats, and when your response to colossal power imbalances is
, I'm not inclined to show you much mercy.
But now, it's time for the main event.
In the red corner: a human with five dots in every single skill and attribute, making him the pinnacle of human perfection at anything he could ever try to do. He will not be using Fighting Styles, as adding even more complexity to this would be a major hassle and hard to make digestible. Suffice to say, this man is the strongest, smartest, most charismatic man possible when it comes to raw statistics.
An artist's half-assed depiction of The Man Your Man Could Kill Like.
This is a man who, when pitted up against a zero EXP werewolf, not only stands his ground instead of instantly losing his mind and fleeing, but actually kills the thing. This one man can go toe-to-toe with (what's
to be) one of the scarier things in the World of Darkness and get himself a sweet new head for his trophy wall. He doesn't use guns either, because they are for sissies and he wants to give his prey a sporting chance. He uses a giant fucking battleaxe.
Mechanically, he uses a colossal by human standards, still frightening by supernatural standards 16 dice to attack with his battle axe (Strength 5 + Weaponry 5 (Battleaxe) + 5 damage weapon). Combined with the axe's 9-again ability, this means that he rolls an average of about six or seven successes per attack against a helpless opponent. This is enough to instantly knock an average person unconscious and make them start bleeding out.
Surely, if he can kill a werewolf at character creation when it's in Warform, no zero EXP character (barring Mages being Batman) could possibly give him any trouble, right?
In the blue corner: a zero EXP Mhole-Rho.
The Mhole-Rho breed starts out with Extra Limb (Trunk), 4L tusks, and an animal form three times the size of a human being. Also, they get Natural Armor, a Favor, as an Aspect, meaning it's purchasable during creation with the seven free Aspect dots. Boom, six dots sunk in means a permanent -4 to all melee attacks against him, and -3 to gun attacks, as well as downgrading the attack to bashing damage. This means that shooting this guy with a gun, regardless of whether it's a pistol or an anti-tank rifle, is strictly worse than stabbing him with a knife when you have the same dice pool. Yes, this means charging the giant elephant with a battle axe is going to work better than shooting it with a fucking anti-materiel rifle. Changing Breeds!
Oh, but we're not done yet. You see, not only is the Mhole-Rho Warform a ridiculous improvement compared to the Werewolf Warform, it's squat diddley compared to its animal form. Elephant form gives +5 to Strength and Stamina, only lowers Manipulation - a social stat that focuses on making people do what you want - by one, boosts Size from 5 to 15, increases its Speed by 6, and adds a bonus die to perception because why the fuck not. The size boost combined with the stamina boost means that you get
twenty more health levels
compared to your normal human form. For reference, the average human has seven health levels, and The Ubermensch in the red corner has ten. Mr. Elephant here, without skewing his stats at creation to game the system, can have
health levels. This means you need to either rack up 87 bashing damage (and remember, guns do bashing to him!), 58 lethal damage, or 29 aggravated damage to kill him. In a system where getting more than five successes in combat is a sign that you just wiped the floor with somebody for the round, this is essentially impossible.
With the last Aspect dot left over, we get a Aspect that boosts Strength and Size by one more each because fuck you.
Now, for the fight itself. All damage will be done as averages, and I won't be showing all my work for the sake of removing clutter.
To be generous, we give Big McLargeHuge the initiative. The elephant's armor means his normally earth-quaking attack is now downgraded to merely bone-rattling, and he deals three lethal.
The elephant gets its turn, and immediately heals one lethal damage due to its regeneration. It, by virtue of having absurd strength and giant tusks, has a base attack pool of 13 dice before any skill is factored in. We'll give it Brawl 2 to make it bog average, and a nice round 15 dice. Big McLargeHuge's perfect reflexes give him a Defense of 5, meaning that the elephant is attacking him with the same dice pool of 10, resulting in three lethal damage. However, the health level discrepancy makes his attack much more punishing in comparison.
Oh yeah, and due to the fact that he has a trunk,
he attacks twice every round.
Granted, this attack does not gain the bonus from the tusks, but that still means he just clobbered Big McLargeHuge upside the head for two bashing damage.
By repeating this round once more, Big McLargeHuge is incapacitated, having only dealt 12% of the damage necessary to even knock his opponent out. You can translate this to him being able to take on five or six McLargeHuges at once and still coming out on top.
With Changing Breeds, you can
make a character who, at creation, can effortlessly swat the absolute best humanity has to offer. Meanwhile, Vampires can be roasted by an average man with a spraycan and a lighter, Werewolves can be fucked up by an average man with a silver slug shotgun, Mages and Sin-Eaters don't count because they fucking cheat, Prometheans are too worried about the entire town coming after them with torches and pitchforks, and Changelings are busy making sure the True Fae don't realize they're around.
This book can eat all the dicks.
All of them.
Next time: I actually go into depth about the breeds instead of picking one and rambling about it.
The Cat Breeds
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part VII: The Cat Breeds
The Breeds chapter opens by saying that, while the Changing Breeds are crazy rare in general, the Storyteller can take advantage of "distorted probability" and have high concentrations of them in an area. The second paragraph section is a lot funnier when you consider what I just spent the entire last update writing about, as well:
If you happen to be the Storyteller for your troupe, keep this in mind: the World of Darkness is yours to determine. The following breeds may be "official," but they’re not required. You don’t have to use all, or even one, of them in your chronicle. If you love the Corvians, they could become a fixture in your world; if not, feel free to ignore them.
This goes double for potential player character breeds. You are under no obligation to let players run any feral species. Some of the following breeds are incredibly rare, absurdly powerful or potentially ridiculous in the wrong hands. If you as the Storyteller feel that a breed would ruin your world, then leave that breed out of it entirely or restrict it to non-player status. Ultimately, you are the finial arbiter of what your players can and cannot play. If you don’t want were-elephants in your chronicle, don’t allow players to have them. Leave the Land Titans as vague rumors or thundering shadows, and keep your sense of mystery intact.
"For the millionth time, yes, the were-elephants are completely broken, and despite the fact that we spend a lot of time talking about them and how rare they are and have a big ol' writeup of them, you don't have to use them if you don't want to. Just, y'know, use them in situations that wouldn't require statistics anyway."
There's also a tiny section about making your own breeds, with suggestions such as "read other books" and "be balanced." Also, according to suggested stat ranges for animals, elephants really are the incarnation of God's wrath, and cattle, moose, and bull seals can have 14-21 health levels and Strength 4-8. I'm pretty sure that a cow doesn't need several shotgun blasts to the head before it falls unconscious
Anyway, now to the first of the breed supergroups, the Bastet, or cat people. There are a
of words for all of these, so I'm going to be giving y'all the Reader's Digest versions.
And, fitting this fucking book, the first paragraph's about how much the author wants to fuck cats.
When Cat embodied herself on earth, so magnificent was she that it took not one godhead to contain her glory, but many. Ra took cat-form to slay the serpent of night
[no he didn't]
; Lilith yowled like a cat in heat. Sekhmet roared with the fury of a lioness, but it was Bast, precious Lady Bastet, who epitomized Cat best. Goddess of the home, marriage and sexuality
[not precisely, she was conflated with other gods of Egypt A LOT by the end of ancient Egypt]
, she purred with satisfaction and spat with rage. Temples filled with earthly cats were her sanctums, and a city — Per-Bast, called Bubastis — was raised to her earthly name. In its streets, cats and people mingled. Spirits met and blood flowed freely. Perhaps the Changing Gift had been there all along. In Bubastis, though, it became sacrament. The souls of Man and Cat merged as one.
Curious and tactile, Bastet are creatures of sensation. They see, hear, taste, smell and feel more deeply than most humans can imagine...and Bastet
it. This openness to experience often seems rude by human standards; Bastet acquire "reputations" regardless of their morality. Brazen in her physicality, a werecat sizes up anything (or anyone) of interest. Still, she’s a capricious soul, and if that object of her attentions or affections bores her, she’ll be searching for another one in no time.
God damnit book. I have three cats. I love the little bastards. But
stop fetishizing them.
I have seen them fail to make a tight turn while chasing each other and slam into the wall face-first, eat their own vomit, piss on the carpet, get humped by my dog, get frightened by flies, and smack into the windows trying to chase birds from inside. Cats are awesome, but they are not perfect. They can be downright retarded at times.
Generally the rest of the supergroup writeup is poorly disgused
ing over cats and applying cat stereotypes to people willy-nilly.
Also, every breed has a Stereotypes section. I initially skipped over all of them to save my sanity (a reflex cultivated by reading other WoD lines), but here's the Bast one.
Man: "You might be lord of half the world/You’ll not own me as well."
Mages: Such lovely tricks. I wonder how they do it.
Vampires: *purring* Everything that’s bad about creation, wrapped up in the prettiest packages. Even the most revolting of them is worth the price of his acquaintance.
(As pointed out by Mors Rattus, somebody's forgetting a fifth of vampires are supernaturally hideous and horrible to be around.)
Werewolves: If they keep to their side of the rug, I’ll keep to mine. If not, someone’s gonna bleed.
Now for the first actual Breed: the
, the tiger-people. Basically they're a bunch of alpha male dominant ruler types
ing about the tiger dying out and being made into a cheap symbol while wanking over Indian creation myths involving god-and-tiger bestiality, gods bleeding tigers, or whatever.
When it comes to mechanics, the Rajanya are...well, they're pretty broken. The gold standard for shapeshifting is the Werewolf stat spread, which I will be referring to a lot (despite it being arguably extremely underpowered compared to how the books present it.) The stat spreads for Warform and Wolf as such:
Warform: Strength +3, Dexterity +1, Stamina +2, Size +2, Health +4, Initiative +1, Speed +4, 1/1 Armor, +3 Perception, lethal damage attacks, no wound penalties.
Wolf: Dexterity +2, Stamina +1, Size -1, Initiative +2, Speed +5, +4 Perception, lethal damage attacks.
The Weretigers, for comparison, have this:
Warform: Strength +5, Dexterity +2, Stamina +5, Size +3, Health +8, Speed +7, Initiative +2, +2 Perception and penalty negations, better lethal attacks than Werewolves.
Tiger: Strength +3, Dexterity +2, Stamina +3, Size +2, Health +5, Speed +8, Initiative +2, +3 Perception and penalty negations, better lethal attacks than Werewolves.
Also, weretigers get a discount on the ability that lets you regenerate aggravated damage. So, yeah. The very first breed the player reads about is broken as fuck. Way to go, book.
Next up, the
. They're apparently cursed with eternal hunger due to Bast getting pissy over the Persians butchering cats when they sacked Per-Bast. This makes them look anorexic and pretty which "earns them spots of honor in the worlds of high fashion, club-hopping and mass celebriculture." They all get five dots of Mage spells (essentially ensuring they have a 0 dot Feral Heart maximum and not clarifying whether or not there's still a three-dot cap on individual spells!), are forced to buy Striking Looks with merit dots, and have "a curse of constant hunger" that has absolutely no mechanical impact. Also, their Warbeast form is instead "an eerie Throwback [near-human] form."
Somehow, "eerie" doesn't really cut it for me. I prefer "WHAT IN THE FUCK BREAK OUT THE FLAMETHROWER."
Statwise they're actually kinda pathetic aside from a huge boost to Perception.
are the werelions, or "The Golden Dangers," which still leaves me wondering if that's a typo or just retarded. They're a bunch of wanna be royalty who are also idiots when it comes to detecting lies. It also has this in the writeup:
Taller than the average person, these ferals boast lean muscles and thick heads of hair. Since hair is regarded by many black Africans as a sign of animalism, Hatara often shave their heads clean; some, however, grow dreadlocks in the modern age, and honor their feline ancestry with a sacred fashion statement.
Now, I don't know if that's an actual thing or not, but that's still kinda...oWoD, if you know what I'm saying. Also, they say the animal form is a "tiger sized lion", which I find hilarious for some reason. Statistically, they're only slightly less broken than the Rajanya.
are the werepanthers, whose backstory is "This one woman was like 'Oh shit, there's snakedemons, I better fuck a black panther and a spotted panther and have werebabies.'"
Seriously. I don't know if that's actual mythology being hilariously fucked up, or this book being hilariously fucked up. It's hard to tell when you've read a lot of mythology.
Anyway, their shtick is having a really nasty First Change that gives them inner balance and an extra dot of Harmony. Statistics: not as broken as Rajanya, still better than Werewolf.
Then there's the "Other Breeds," breeds that don't fit neatly into the rest of the group's
themes. From this point on, if I don't mention statistics, it's because they're either par for the course or just boring. First is the
angry latino Aztec werejaguars who murder people for the Old Gods and can see the future.
are/were pagan were-European lions that survived Rome's conquering by explicit rape and murder of populations. They're now giant-ass housecats, who specialize in being con artists, tricksters, and politicians. Yes, the book says that. They can use trickster Aspects and have a Throwback instead of a Warform.
are American big cats like pumas and bobcats with Native American ties, a penchant for tall tales, and are compulsive bullshitters and riddlers.
They also look suave as fuck.
are pagans, Satanists, or urban magicians, black cats with blacker magics that are the embodiment of Old Magicksz etc etc. They're like Bubastis without the hunger curse and an even stronger focus on magic. They also turn into wolf-sized cats when angry.
Next time: The Land Titans and The Laughing Strangers.
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part VIII: Land Titans
I just got back from a lovely weekend at my cousin's wedding, and now I'm sitting down to write this. Sometimes, I think I have issues.
First off today, we have the writeup of the Land Titans, the elephant-men and rhino-men. Why they're in the same group, fucked if I know. Rhinos are closer to horses and tapirs than elephants, and an elephant is closer to an aardvark than a rhino. I know that the book bullshits this by saying mystical and thematic connections are more important, but aside from "really big African animals" I'm not buying it.
It starts by saying GOD DAMN
MAN KILLED OFF ALL THE ELEPHANTS/RHINOS AND THEY'S PISSED NOW, NATURE IS MAKING AN ARMY OF GOD-MEN. Personality-wise, they're gentle giants who will snap you like a Slim Jim if you get them angry, and they're also quite sociable. They're generous and kind, but also hold grudges for years (and yes, they make a "an elephant never forgets" joke.)
They tend to stay in the regions where their elephant and rhino brethren are found, and rarely move due to how endangered they are. The book actually makes an interesting scenario by saying that they sometimes get captured by conservationists or zoos in animal form, but that shapeshifting usually allows them to make a break for it. Or not, because apparently anybody who tries capturing them - even people with good intentions - gets horrifically murdered for their insult.
They apparently have an affinity with ghosts, because why the fuck not?
Female Land Titans love being among large amounts of their fellow animal type in animal form, integrating themselves into their social webs. Males stay on their own and murder anything that looks at them funny until they get older.
One cool thing is that, through semi-formal bonds of integration via gift giving and honor systems, clans of shifters, herds of elephants, and locals often become bound in a large web of mutual aid and defense, with elephants ruining the shit of anybody messing with a small village and the villagers shooting up any poachers that try messing with the elephants.
The stereotype block is as follows:
Man: I have to ask myself why I should bear any goodwill at all toward those who've driven our kin to the edge of the Long Sleep. Then I walk among our palaces and towns and recall that not all men are mad.
Mages: Look darkly on the would-be king whose throne rests on ancient secrets...
Vampires: When a corpse will not stop moving, step on it until it does.
Werewolves: Majestic dogs, in their way. I honor their nobility from a very safe distance.
For once, all those quotes are actually kinda cool (and
as fuck in the case of the Vampire one.)
Anyway, it's time for our first breed, the
the Burnt-Horn People, the rhino-men.
Close, but not quite that kind of rhino-man.
Once proud and numerous, the strongest shifter breed on land doesn't do so well against high-caliber rounds and explosives - despite my friend and I running tests that show the exact opposite when you hit the actual mechanics. Fun fact, even with a massively overhauled and hilariously deadly gun system, elephant-men (and rhino-men to a lesser extent) can take two anti-tank bullets to the skull before keeling over.
Anyway, the Azubuike are all antisocial dicks with poor eyesight (with no mechanical reflection) and a fear of fire that, again, has no mechanical reflection. All two dozen of them in the entire world. The writeup of their animal form says they can run up to 35 mph on a charge, and, (un)luckily for them, I can check their math because they give a sort of speed-to-MPH ratio in the core book's listing for vehicles! Since Speed 103 is apparently 70 miles an hour, it stands that Azubuike must be able to go at Speed 51-52 in animal form to live up to the claim. An ordinary person who turns into a rhino and runs at full tilt goes at Speed 34. While that's still pretty terrifying to most people who can sprint at Speed 18 on average, that's not as fast as real rhinos can (apparently) go. However, if Big McLargeHuge, The Man Your Man Could Kill Like, turned into a rhino, he'd be able to sprint at Speed 46, which is nearly enough to keep pace with cars on most of the roads near me. A rhino bigger than a truck slowly catching up to me on a 30 MPH road is kind of terrifying to think about.
Anyway, that ridiculously
derail aside, we get to talk about the mechanics. They start with natural 3/2 (thankfully not bulletproof) armor, a 3L horn, and some flat-out frightening stat bonuses to their forms. While the elephant Warform is kind of the chump's choice, it's actually viable here with only slightly lessened bonuses that are negated when you remember, oh yeah, this form can actually carry giant fucking swords or something.
are the Asian Elephant breed, and the book implies they fought in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and other nearby countries as "ghostly elephant-men who crushed entire platoons in wild mountain fights." Oookay then. Basically, the Jhaa are Gloriously Superior Asians that all are muscular and beautiful with a taste for high living that's being taken away by the White Devil and secular corruption. Also, they explicitly wear "shockingly immodest garb unless formality demands otherwise."
Yeah, I'm just going to move on. Mechanically, they're broken as hell, but not as broken as...
are the African Elephants, the Walking Mountains, and subject of a long post earlier. Thus, I'll just touch on the fluff. They're colossal, larger than life, empathetic, and bringers of prosperity, something that's sort of fallen apart in modern Africa. They've either tried to struggle through it, or gone a little crazy with bitterness and started murdering soldiers with giant elephant warbands. Most are black people who favor traditional clothing such as dashiki, because they're African, duh, this is how it works. They also often reach seven (or more) feet tall and weigh over 300 pounds. Their elephant form can weigh up to three tons (I know, I'll get to this) and stand from ten to
feet tall, which is kinda colossal when the largest elephant ever officially recorded (Barnum and Bailey's bullshitting aside) was about thirteen feet tall. Hilariously, a three ton elephant is about 6,000 pounds no matter what system of ton you're using, and a fourteen-foot, 6,000 pound elephant would be thinner than a motherfucking string bean. The average elephant weight is about five tons (11,000 pounds), with the aforementioned largest elephant ever recorded being about twelve tons (24,000 pounds). To put it this way, a 6,000 pound elephant's skeleton could be almost a third of its total body weight.
Also, the Warform can be up to fifteen feet tall and only gains about a ton. However, back of the envelope calculations using the Square Cube Law indicate this is
more or less
in the right neighborhood, from what I can tell.
In the Other Breeds section is only a single entry, the
South Asian elephant-men who appear to have a common secret, are all very quiet and stubborn, work hard, but also have a shared greedy streak. They, hilariously, get their weight/size proportions right while mentioning how the Mhole-Rho are still bigger. They are literally Mhole-Rho's stats, with the Primal form one dot smaller, a small Dexterity boost to Warform, and a slightly worsened Manipulation penalty. Way to
Christ, this is a lot more than I was expecting to write for these guys. I don't think I can get to the Laughing Strangers without making this post huge.
I'm going to have to do a separate entry for every single breed category, aren't I?
Next time: the Laughing Strangers, seriously this time. Featuring: every single art piece in the section being terrifying/bad!
The Laughing Strangers
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part IX: The Laughing Strangers
The Laughing Strangers opens up with this masterpiece of bad "folksy" writing.
Dancing at the Crossroads
Well, good morning, Mr. Congressman! By my ears, I am bettin' you got just a ceiling full of thoughts right now, all tied up like you are. I swear you look like a denim full of concern! It is almost memorizing how sweat and worry just seem to just fall out of you like penny candy stolen from the five and dime. I bet you hadn’t even felt the dangers coming on, since you were sleepin' all deep. It was like they had walked up a dusty road from a long way away and now are tracking fret across your bedroom floor. Of course, I can understand wakin' up knowin' you tried to cheat me might be a bit of a jangle on the nerves. Ain’t that just the thing about makin' deals ya got no intention of keepin', though?
When you up and forget to pay the piper, the piper ain't gonna ever forget about you.
As for the fluff...they're Kender. They're fucking good-ol-boy rodent Kender. Tricksters, folksy down-home wisdom, spinning tales, going on retarded adventures, being douchebags that dance just out of reach, all of that. Also they're psychopathic sadists when in Warform. There's a lot of words to the writeup but I just saved you the effort of reading it.
Here's their stereotype block:
Man: Have you ever noticed that they all taste like chicken?
Mages: You have to admire the kumquat-shaped balls of those crackpots. You would think they don't realize that the Universe is keeping score.
Vampires: Two words: road kill.
Werewolves: Hard to respect a critter whose big claim to fame is getting down with his mangy transgendered self in Granny’s old flannel pajamas...
(Wow, intolerance and retardation, way to combo!)
Anyway, now for the breeds themselves. Apparently, the person they got to make art for this section watched a whole bunch of Rock and Rule while huffing a whole lot more glue. Let's play a game, shall we? I'll post all the images, and you guess what breed they are, which will be in a spoiler below each. See how many you can guess!
, it's between the two entries and it's really fucking hard to tell!
If you got any of those I call you a liar and a cheat of the foulest kind.
See, if this artist was going for the Uncanny Valley, then he hit a fucking home run. However, I
he missed the memo that this was for shape-shifting animal people. These all look like Near-Human forms to be extremely generous, and only one of the breeds in the chapter starts with that by default. So, either he's drawing very lame depictions of PCs that may not even exist, or these are the most pathetically ineffectual Warforms I've ever seen.
Anyway, the writeups proper.
are the rat-people, who are apparently all Indians used to being treated like royalty who look down on all the rest of the Laughing Strangers for being common rodents, due to Indians believing rats and rat-people to be the reincarnations of dead children. Right, let's just roll with that. Continuing in the fluff-without-mechanics, Minjur can never get lost and carry diseases in their warform without actually having backup for either of those. Minjur also set the stage for four of the six breeds in the chapter by having the breed bonus be "Nine Aspect dots, can pick from the Bag of Tricks aspects, and gets +2 to Stealth rolls to hide from creatures of Size 5 or above." The other two are only minor modifications of this.
As the justification for the increased Aspect dots says, the Warforms for most of the Laughing Strangers are utterly pathetic wastes of mechanics that nobody's gonna use. The animal forms are all tiny, fragile, and ridiculously fast.
are hare-people, who apparently have zero characterization or relation to hares beyond "insatiable lover" and "ridiculously lucky" for some reason. They can make the impossible happen for other people, so long as they get their end of the bargain fulfilled, and wreak hell if not satisfied.
Apparently, many legends of Satan and Loki have to do with fucking rabbit people being douchebags. Just making this its own paragraph so it's noticed.
They're all either albino or blacker than Norwegian death metal, and their Warform is more charitably described as "I'm cosplaying an elf" form," which actually means my theory about all the warforms being hilariously ineffectual looking was right and that picture really is what they look like. Welp.
And then there's THIS bullshit.
Background: Baitu often manifest their Gift as early as five years old. Most
offspring are the children of parents who cut a deal with some mysterious patron and paid off that debt in bed. Considering how fertile hares can be, the Gift runs surprisingly light in the family. Many births fall squarely in the animal or human camp, with no sign at all of the Gift. If a true Baitu is born, however, the attentions of the Laughing Stranger who sired the Baitu is immediately drawn. Often
pointedly aware of the paternity situation, the human guardian parents are usually too skittish to harm the child, for fear of retribution. Oftentimes, this leads to the young Luck ruling the household. When the Baitu who sired the youngling believes the offspring is ready, he takes it from the guardians' care. Superior mentors, Baitu make time throughout their lives to stay in touch with their children.
So, let's break this down:
- Baitu require payment in sex more often than not.
- A married woman gets saddled with the kid. Apparently, no Baitu woman ever gets knocked up, or if they do, they stick them with the father and his wife because fuck you that's why.
- A normal woman could possibly give birth to a motherfucking rabbit (which is actually addressed earlier in the book, generally stating 'It's rare, it's horrifying, the mother usually doesn't live, and if she does, she's probably left insane').
- There's a disturbing implication that these people may broker luck deals to, and fuck, normal rabbits.
- Despite being transient drifters with no real attachment to people, they're perfect parents who fucking KNOW when their kids are born and if they are so much as disciplined once they'll kill you.
-I hate this book and I want everybody involved in making it to be slow roasted over a grease fire.
Baitu have the same breed bonus as their ratty relatives, and the same speed bonus as Rat forms (despite their fluff boasting that their hare forms could run at 45 MPH, and no, I'm not doing that math again). However, they get Nine Lives, a five dot Favor, for free as a breed favor. Y'know, the one that brings you back from the dead as long as you have a spare dot of Feral Heart and your body is relatively intact. Yknow, the one that's based off cats in its fluff, and yet no Bastet breed starts with it,
and only one has it as a discounted Favor at all.
I'd like to reiterate that grease fire thing. Just saying.
are the raccoon-people and are curious, snarky, romantic bad boys that apparently look enough like bears in war-form that "most reports of bears near cities" are actually Archunem schooling people. They also have Nine Lives for free, with pretty much no justification. Their animal form is also better than their bear-esque warform in every way except health.
There's so much wrong here that I want to strangle this book. I want to find this book's neck, wrap my hands around it, and choke it until it stops being alive. Then I'm going to peel off its skin and make a funny hat.
are the (oh God this is going to hurt already) fox-people. They reference the kitsune by saying that the Reynardi have a sense of honor compared to them: tricks must be done with style, attacking the weak is poor sport, etc. They're the classic Robin Hood and trickster with a lesson in the laughter kind of people, only made insufferable by this book's writing. Warform is apparently rare and Near-Human is favored more, which (fucking duh) is not mechanically represented. They always have vertically slit eyes in all forms, and also have Nine Lives for free because why not.
If you notice that as each of these posts reaches the end, I stop trying, it's because fatigue and horror sink in over the course of the whole thing and I'm unable to keep up the meticulous levels of nitpicking.
are the coyote-folk, and the writeup is basically "Coyote is a douchebag, coyotes are adapting well to mankind's dominance." They literally hunt and eat children for no real reason except "because I can" or "because my soul is that of a coyote AND one of the Native Americans killed by Whitey." They're generally loners (what) and have,
by mechanics this time holy shit,
a Near-Human form instead of an animal one. However, compare this description to the picture posted above:
Just as other trickster breeds, Coyote's brood have no War-Beast form beneath their skins. Instead, Mistai favor their human aspect, but with lean and beastly features. Softly furred with silvergray and dry-grass brown fuzz, Mistai wear their coyote heads proudly. Seen so often in shadow, these faces look like masks from a Western fever dream. Tall — seven feet from soil to hat — Coyote's children remain slim. They are never idle chatterers; their silences let other tell too much.
Doesn't really match, does it?
Also, the Mistai are heavily implied to seduce and/or rape their way across the country to keep their numbers up. DRAKENGA-wait, wrong universe.
Last in the chapter, in the Other Breeds, are the
, the possum-folk. They're essentially hillbilly Nosferatu without the sun allergy or the mandate to look like they fought with a grain thresher and lost. They keep large info networks between themselves and stick together (despite the book saying that very rarely happens), and prefer living in the mountains. They, yet again, have Nine Lives free, only in this case I buy it because of possums playing dead.
Next time: The Pack. I sure hope you like shitty knockoff werewolves and half-erased cocks-and-balls, because I sure don't.
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part X: The Pack
The opening fiction to the Pack's section is the story of a guy who's about to throw a half-dead dog that lost him a bet in a dog fight into a dumpster, then getting ambushed by
Bull Mastiff Man.
The intro writeup apparently writes the dog breeds as having "To Serve and Protect" etched in their veins at the same time that they threaten to castrate people for neutering and spaying dogs, and calling legislation to ban breeding of dogs for dogfighting "draconian."
wait a minute what
Moving on. Hyenas are also lumped into the Pack despite being a distinct evolutionary line closer to cats than dogs, due to
laziness and mysticism. They're written as, surprise, the creepy scavengers.
The book also addresses the mildly interesting question of why ancient shapeshifters can sometimes turn into dog breeds codified less than a hundred years ago. Naturally for the WoD, it says "Fucked if we know, make up the reason yourself." Normally I enjoy this, because I love making my own cosmology, but in this book it's pretty damn lazy about it. It brings up the question in a sidebar solely to say "Do it yourself."
The Pack are all intensely social and crave a distinct hierarchy in their lives. They also surround themselves with animal and human kin to act as Omegas to them. There's also the problem of them dealing with prey-animal shifters and the possibility/probability that they'll try to hunt and eat them, even if they're friends. Also, they hate the Bastet because hurr cats and dogs. It's not like I have three cats and a dog and they're all bros or anything.
The book also mentions that some Pack may end up as breeders for dog fighting, despite the opening fiction, a discussion of Pack Heart-Rippers in a few paragraphs, and entire tone of the book being violently and diametrically opposed to this. The paragraph that mentions this does not paint them in a negative light for doing so. This fucking book.
Man: Loyalty should bind both ways.
Mages: Big dogs looking for bigger bones, digging up everyone else's yard.
Vampires: Just as Alphas without a pack, they suck the life out of everything they touch.
Werewolves: Truly a breed apart, for all the best and worst that this implies.
are the first of the three types of Pack, the domesticated breeds. Yes, all of them. Yes, that means that this
have the exact same statistical representation. The book explains this by having tinier dog breeds explode to preposterous size in Primal form, most shifters are from old, large breeds, and saying that there's no Chihuahua shifters (and that it's probably for the best.)
Maerans are basically stereotypes of dogs writ large: loyal, protective, hate being alone, don't do well with cats, go berserk around intruders, etc et-
CAN WE GO ONE FUCKING UPDATE WITHOUT ALLUDING TO, OR OUTRIGHT MENTIONING, BESTIALITY!?
That canine blood manifests through a "pedigree" — as the breed of dog a person becomes. This pedigree reveals a deep connection between the shapechanging human and the dog-shape he attains. While Maerans don’t usually arise from bestial couplings between humans and dogs (though there are rumors to that effect...), this connection does appear to follow family lines.
Mechanically, the Maerans are Werewolf Lite, with approximately the same spread with the numbers lowered.
Next are the
, the hyenas. Riantes are scavengers who prefer to live alone with their enclaves of fellow hyenas, kin, and Riantes. They're all sorts of crawling in my skin about being outcasts, "[hiding] their bitterness in caustic laughter and [burying] their tears in scorn and disdain for what they cannot have." Most Riantes are poor or barely making ends meet, which might have something to do with the fact they only show up in the more strife-filled areas of Africa and the Middle East. Hyenas also are deeply tied with witchcraft and the rumor of a hyena-man can get lynch mobs a-frenzying. The book also mentions the misconception/myth that hyenas can change sexes, though thankfully shooting it down and not expounding on why that exists.
Warning: disturbing biology lesson ahoy!
It's because female spotted hyenas have a seven inch clitoris that looks like the male penis, and they give birth through it, often creating fatal tearing or leading to a suffocated newborn. This is due to the female hyena being stuffed with male hormones to pass onto her male children so they have as many babies as possible to pass on her genes, which kinda backfires sometimes as the babies are so aggressive they attack each other from the moment they pop out of their mom's dong. Evolution is a hilariously cruel thing. Oh yeah, and the hyena greeting ritual involves sniffing and licking their wangs/pseudowangs. Both genders get erections on command to show submission and greet another hyena higher on the social ladder.
Once you've stopped trying to scrub that image out of your brain, you can be as thankful as I am that the writers stopped short of giving a mechanical way to make furries with dickginas playable.
Anyway, the backgrounds say that African Riantes tend to treat both genders equally while the Indian breeds have females be dominant, which is flat-out wrong, as spotted hyenas (rather apparently now) are overwhelmingly matriarchal.
Mechanically, the Riantes are actually kind of an interesting alternative to Werewolves: slightly smaller but equally as tough, with the animal form being far tougher and slightly slower.
are the discount bin werewolves. Their writeup:
. No, seriously, that's pretty much the whole thing. They have no idea why they exist or why other werewolves exist and why Father Wolf doesn't favor them. They have no warform at all, just a huge-ass Dire Wolf form that has its stats only barely differentiated from the Werewolf version. They're also mostly (uuuuuuuugh) lone wolves.
The final breed, from Other Species, is the
They're Australian aborigine stereotypes who turn into dingo-men. That's about it.
You may have noticed that there wasn't any art this time. This is because both art pieces in this chapter were
I would bet a large amount of money that the artist drew those penises with meticulous detail and then smudged them in Photoshop so it would be publishable. Judging from a later piece in the book, I'm probably not wrong.
Next time: the Royal Apes. Oh Jesus.
The Royal Apes
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part XI: The Royal Apes
And now we hit the primates.
The opening fiction actually succeeds at being somewhat creepy, though that's probably because they used aye-ayes and those things give me the heebie-jeebies to begin with. The short version: scientist is with a group of local hunters, scientist sees curious aye-aye, superstitious locals shoot the aye-aye, a huge, spindly dark form destroys the scientist's lab and takes the body back in the night, giant flaming yellow eyes looking out from the dark filled with hate and grief.
The writing in this section is actually so not-shit compared to the usual I have to question what the fuck it's doing in here. Yes, there's some parts that stumble, but overall there's actually a nice collection of story fodder in here, to the point where (I thought I would never actually say this about this book) I might actually
some of it.
In fact, while reading this, I went to the index to see who wrote this, and discovered that the author also wrote the Wing-Folk breeds. I skimmed them, and all I have to say before we reach them is that she somehow managed to make were-hummingbirds
Alexa Duncan, you're off the hook for now.
Back to the Royal Apes, though. The general tone is that looking at a primate is like looking in a skewed mirror for humanity, and judging by the twisted shit that humanity does to primates a lot of the time, the implications aren't pretty. For better and for worse, primates are a lot like humanity, whether it's gorillas chilling out in the forest or chimpanzees waging war on each other and devouring the babies of the losers.
Royal Apes have very few physical tells compared to other shifters, since they're so close to being humans in comparison. It's mostly minor stuff like orangutan-men with violently orange-red hair, or gorilla-men built like twelve quarterbacks. Most of their tells are behavorial, like smiles that seem like more of a threat, or preferring to be barefoot. In a touch I find kind of interesting, some shifters feel almost bald in human form due to how much hair they have in their animal form, and obsessively style and tend to "what little they have." Also, shifters with vibrantly colored animal forms like to wear loud, garish clothing.
Royal Apes can show up anywhere due to how tied they are to humanity, but have a slight preference for their natural ranges. They're omnivorous, preferring a vegetable diet except the occasions when they get an insane craving for very, very raw meat. This can either be sated by going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, or hunting down and eating somebody. This is stated with far creepier language than I'm using, basically being one of the only screwups in the chapter.
Royal Apes keep very close ties to their kin, whether animal, human, or shifter, and subject any newcomers to intense scrutiny. If you make the grade, you're kin, but if you fail, you're kept at arm's length. If you try to start shit with the shifter or their kin, praying for a quick death would be wise, because you're probably not going to get so lucky. Also, Alphas are shoehorned in once again (I've avoided mentioning this every single time because it gets really old), with one of the only other screwups in the chapter coming from the baboon habit of keeping (and abusing the females within) harems being mentioned, and said to be an example for some shifters.
Man: Poor cousin! He fancies himself the ruler of the world, yet all the while the ground crumbles beneath his feet.
Mages: Parlor tricks bore me. Our own witches are far more fearsome.
(This is so searingly, hilariously, flagrantly wrong that I'm tempted to make a mini-update showing how apocalyptically deadly a Mage who wants you dead can be, if there's interest.)
Vampires: What the undead do is their business, as long as they keep out of my house.
Werewolves: Any fight between us would leave each side too bloody to be worthwhile.
The first breed proper is
The Hanumani Brahman.
The first two breeds in this chapter are more loose social or regional ties than actual groupings of species. The Hanumani Brahman are a confederation of families from India and parts of the former British Empire that have a huge rate of turning out Royal Apes. They believe they're descended from Hanuman, a Hindu monkey-god. They put so much faith in their Royal Apes that as soon as one comes of age they instantly become the head of the household, unless one already is. The families are all insanely rich, but are slowly losing influence due to them refusing to admit any new families to the caste.
Most of the Royal Apes in the Hanumani Brahman are macaques or gibbons, or other primates native to the Indian subcontinent. Their Warforms are basically giant versions of their normal forms, and...well, there's actually a part in here that made me crack a smile.
In their wiry and ferocious War-Beast forms, they prefer to go naked or wear silk lungis or kurtas.
After several spectacularly failed experiments with a Kevlar-silk hybrid armor, the elder Hanumani declared modern body armor "an unnatural contrivance."
Many families still keep traditional quilted silk and leather armor, but this is mostly for show these days, much as a European noble family might keep a dusty suit of plate armor in the library.
In keeping with their snooty nobility, the Hanumani Brahman are all trained in archery from birth, and prefer to have other shifters or mercenaries get their hands dirty for them. They dress in preposterously expensive and classy clothing at all times, whether it's Italian-tailored suits or flowing silk saris. Many families directly run a shrine to Hanuman, and those that don't make frequent pilgrimages. Their upbringing makes them extremely pious and rather conservative, viewing alliances with non-Hanumani distasteful. However, younger Hanumani Brahman are starting to shake things up and go "slumming."
Mechanically, the Hanumani Brahman all have Magnificence for free. Their mechanical bonuses and penalties for their forms are interesting (albeit a bit powerful), except for a Health bonus to the Warform that is almost certainly a typo (it should be +2, but it's written as +7
). The real power comes when you remember the animal form has opposable thumbs.
+3 Dexterity in animal form makes this frighteningly viable.
(That totally looks like a gorilla riding another one as a cavalry unit)
Next up is
The Order of the Luminous Way of Sun Wukong.
Christ that's a mouthful. Anyway, the writeup starts with a quick explanation of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, Great Sage Equal To Heaven, and Greatest Troll Of All Time. For those of you who haven't read Journey to the West, first off, smack yourself in the face, and second off, go read it. If you're too lazy, the
short version of what's relevant is that Sun Wukong is a hilariously arrogant jackass of a monkey who tries to get into the Heavens, and tears shit up when they treat him like an idiot (because he sort of is one.) Eventually, the Buddha himself comes and lays a philosophical (and somewhat literal) smackdown on Sun Wukong, dropping a mountain on top of him for 500 years as punishment for wrecking the Heavenly Kingdoms. He was released to be the bodyguard, guide, and traveling companion of Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk traveling to India to bring back the Buddhist sutras there.
The Order uses Sun Wukong's role as liason between Beast and Man as inspiration, and serve to protect beast from man, and man from beast. They murder poachers going after apes, but they also kill man-eating baboons or displace especially troublesome monkeys. Initiates to the Order must be simian shifters, and accept a life of ascetic Buddhism in the style that Sun Wukong did when freed. Interestingly, the tenets of Buddhism turn out to be great ways to stave off Harmony loss. However, if their Harmony goes too low, they end up like Sun Wukong himself before his imprisonment, violent and destructive tornadoes of chaos and dickery.
The members of the Order have rather normal human and animal forms, but their Warform is actually pretty damn awesome. In Journey to the West, Sun Wukong had a suit of golden armor, his eyes burned with gold, and he had a magic gold staff that could be any size between pin and pillar. The Order views an actual suit of golden armor as being incredibly impractical, preferring to think of their confidence and inner peace as metaphorical golden armor. Despite that, their Warforms have gold flecks in their fur, shining golden eyes, and their auras turn into searingly intense golden light to those who can see it.
Members of the Royal Apes that learn of the Order travel from all over the world to the few monasteries left that accept newcomers, and while some leave early, those that emerge at the end of their training come out as wise monks and incredibly disciplined warriors. Yes, the monasteries teach a modified form of Shaolin kung-fu to the students so they can defend themselves in the world, and the training is so ingrained, the Order's breed bonus is
they are able to use Fighting Style: Kung-Fu in all their forms.
Yes, this means there's the distinct possibility that fighting one of these guys means you're fighting a giant gorilla in Buddhist robes that knows kung-fu.
Like I said, I might actually USE some of this.
However, their form bonuses are slightly disappointing as it's literally a copy-paste of the Hanumani Brahman.
Next is the
, the witch-mandrills of Africa. Superstition in remote villages of Africa means that many Changing Breeds are horribly murdered or driven out, and abathakathi (the term, not the breed) are children, usually female, who are saddled with blame for all sorts of blights and diseases due to purported sorcery. The ordinary children saddled with this title are usually killed, while those who actually
shapeshifters usually have their first change while being threatened with death. The fear, hate, and bitterness at being driven out causes the Abathakathi to actually learn the talents they were said to have, and seek revenge on Mankind, 'adopting' rape victims seeking abortions, jealous husbands and wives seeking poisons to kill their spouses' lovers, and others consumed by hate and fear. They essentially become avatars of the vicious cycle, perpetuating the same hateful myths and acts that led to them becoming what they are.
The Abathakathi breed bonus is pretty lame: "You can buy Beast Magic! But not at a discount or anything. Please disregard the other breeds earlier that get free Beast Magic."
As far as stat bonuses go, they're basically ever-so-slightly faster and tougher than other primate shifters.
In the Other Breeds, we have two (technically three) more left.
First are the
, baboon-shifters with innate magic. Apparently, the first baboon mated with a falling star and had two kids, whose descendants are these two groups. Tothians follow Thoth, the Egyptian god, and approach their magical nature with a scholarly, regal bent. Babi-Ahsh, meanwhile, are much more visceral and spiritual, reading entrails for hints at the future, running naked screaming at the stars, and the like. While the stat spread continues to be
, the breed gives the choice between innate Beast Magic (Tothians, Mage spells) or Spirit Gifts (Babi-Ahsh, Werewolf Gifts).
Lastly are the
, the shadow-men, the were-bigfoots. Yes, were-bigfoots. The book's unclear about whether sasquatches are their own animals with their allotted shapeshifters, or if it's just a bizarre quasi-breed. The oddly human camps with huge footprints that monster hunters find could be explained by shifters like this. They're intentionally incredibly mysterious, hanging between myth and reality, shadow and sight,
Their breed bonus is an extra two successes to any successful roll based on stealth or avoiding detection (sasquatch hackers, anyone?), and the stat spreads in their forms are actually the best in the chapter for depicting large primates like gorillas or orangutans. Also, even their 'animal' form (Bigfoot; the Warform is a giant smelly Bigfoot) triggers the Delusion.
Next time: The Spinner-Kin. Or the Mage thing, if people would like.
Mages Are Broken
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part XI 1/2: Mages Are Broken
Disclaimer: None of this works quite the way I say it does if you assume that Magic > Physics, which the system does in order to prevent maniacs like me from doing what I'm about to do. I'm going to be showing what happens if people forget that rule (and, from a questioning of my friends who play WoD, most of us HAD), or deliberately ignore it.
Hello, and welcome back to The Battle of the Century, Round 2. After having the title of Manliest Thing In The World wrested from him, The Man Your Man Could Kill Like went back to the drawing board.
He puts on his robe and wizard hat
and casts Level 3 Eroticism
and becomes The Mage Your Mage Could Cast Like.
Mage in nWoD claims to be cross-splat compatible, but this is a damned dirty lie. Mage is only cross-splat in that the mechanics are the same as the other systems. When it comes to relative levels of power, a munchkined Mage at character creation could easily mop the floor with just about any other character at creation barring humongous amounts of munchkinry and more planning than Batman. Mages thrive on being paranoid and always prepared, and also having about a dozen or so pre-made powers (and potentially infinite powers if you're creative enough) per dot of their supernatural power as opposed to only one. Also, they have ten different Arcana to choose from (Death, Matter, Life, Spirit, Time, Fate, Mind, Space, Forces, and Prime).
Half the reason I'm doing this is to remind you that no matter how broken Changing Breeds gets, it can always be worse. The other half is because this example horrifies me.
So, our hero still has 5 in every Attribute and Skill, and now we'll give him Gnosis 5 and the maximum amount in each Arcana he can. He can't have five dots in all Arcana, because Gnosis sets hard limits for each Arcana you learn after the first. For example, at Gnosis 1, your first four Arcana are limited to three dots maximum, the next three are two dots, and the last three are one dot. A mage with Gnosis 1 who has learned all the Arcana before increasing his raw power would be exceptionally weird, however.
We're staying at Gnosis 5 because Gnosis 6 and above is really powerful and unlocks Arcana above 5 dots, which is considered to be the domain of Archmastery, and Archmages are synonymous with "ST Fiat."
There's about eleven thousand ways to kill, maim, humiliate, destroy, trick, enslave, annoy, or benefit somebody with each Arcana, with certain arcana (hello, Mind, Space, and Fate) being exceptionally good at what they do. However, a few Arcana seem innocuous enough until you apply advanced learning to them, at which point they suddenly become some of the most hideously powerful stuff available to ANYTHING in the whole system.
I'm referring to Matter and Forces in the hands of somebody with a degree in either Chemistry or Physics.
is the deadliest thing in the World of Darkness.
Imagine the open battlefield that our hero and the Elephant Man were on last time. Let's make our hero's three five-dot Arcana Forces, Matter, and Space. Space 5 means that, given a sympathetic connection (like a hair clipping, some blood, or a photo), he can be on the other side of the planet from Elephant Man and still cast a spell on him (albeit not one that's full-out offensive). Or, in this case, just open a Scrying window and cast through that. The Mage Your Mage Could Cast Like is definitely going to want to be at least one county away for this one.
With his fifteen dice roll for the rote, our hero casts the Matter 4 spell, Lesser Transmogrification. With his average of five successes, he is able to affect an "olympic swimming pool"'s worth of one kind of matter and transform it into one kind of liquid, and vice versa. The only real limitation is that you can't make impossible things, like liquid wood.
Our hero busts out his chemistry textbook, and settles on turning a 29x29x29 meter chunk of the ground below Elephant Man into
liquid chlorine triflouride.
(If you count this as an exotic substance, this technically requires Archmastery to do sympathetically.)
This stuff oxidizes more than oxygen itself does, meaning it can burn things you probably think are impossible to burn, like ashes, sand, water, solid asbestos, concrete, bricks, and probably the human soul. As mentioned in the article, a one ton spill of this - which translates to about 512 liters if my math is right - burned through a foot of concrete and at least a meter of sand and gravel before guttering out, while burning off hydroflouric acid fumes, an acid that gives you a fucking heart attack as it burns your skin off.
That was 512 liters. An olympic swimming pool has 2,500,000 liters.
That, my friends, is a whole lot of burning.
Also, if the ambient temperature where the spell is cast is about 13 Celsius or 55 Fahrenheit, the liquid will immediately turn into a gaseous state, probably explosively, sending Satan's own hot sauce soaring through the air. If the area is even remotely wooded, or otherwise full of things that burn well to begin with, I would honestly expect to be able to see the fire from space.
Suffice to say, I don't think you even need to figure out how many dice are rolled to burn up Elephant Man before saying "Fuck it, he's dead. And so is a good portion of the county."
Other possible japes with Forces and Matter include:
- Warping gravity with enough force in a wide enough area to make a significant portion of the planet's crust implode
- Turning bullets into
solid Caesium slugs
- Being able to remotely access any information being transmitted wirelessly, WITH YOUR BRAIN
- Doing the chlorine triflouride trick with liquid nitrogen, flash-freezing the poor idiot before the liquid nitrogen turns into gaseous nitrogen at insane rates
- Make your Storytellers go crosseyed when you ask how it's unfair to be able to turn water into napalm when the only mechanical restrictions between Matter dots are mostly based on the metaphysical value of matter so you can't turn dirt to gold until 5 dots
And much more. This is only a small fraction of what you can do with two of the Arcana, as well. There's commanding legions of zombies, spiritual hordes, giving people aneurysms with a thought, becoming The Incredible Hulk, and scores of other ways to break the game.
So, what's stopping some lunatic Mage from blowing up the planet shortly after Awakening? Three things, really.
1: Archmages. Basically, if you survive long enough to become an Archmage, you know that the balance of power in the world is hilariously fragile, and all the Archmages - Pentacle or Seer (looooong story, but they're two opposing groups) - observe Pax Arcana. This generally means "Don't do stupid obvious bullshit with Archmastery or magic in general that would reveal Mages or ruin the planet/reality, or we'll fucking kill you." And they will, because they're essentially demigods by the time they're slinging Archmastery around.
2: Paradox. The Abyss - a horrible, sucking un-reality defined by its lack of definition or form or logic, created by a huge magical catastrophe in the past - notices when spells are cast that flagrantly go against how reality should work. It proceeds to latch on to these spells and devour that delicious Supernal energy with all it has, screwing with how the spell is cast. At best, this is you getting a nasty headache from internalizing the damage. At worst, the Abyss spills into reality where the spell is cast, and all sorts of horrible abominations come out hungry for a meal of Dumbass Mage. Casting a spell like this doesn't mechanically guarantee the Abyss noticing it, but any Storyteller worth a fuck would immediately have the Abyss explode in from how vulgar the spell is. Really, it's arguable whether or not the incursion is better or worse than the actual spell. At this point, Archmages would probably be interfering as well.
3: Despite how broken Mage can get, it requires you to actually sit down and think about how to break it. At first glance, it just seems moderately powerful, but as soon as someone with a devious mind, a command of how the Storyteller system works, and a good amount of practical knowledge sets themselves to breaking the game, the game breaks in a spectacular fashion.
There's also the argument that the actual tone of the game setting itself could mean any phenomenal cosmic power you wield is utterly meaningless in the face of a horrible nega-universe devouring everything and false gods who hate you on a personal level sitting in the thrones of heaven controlling everything, but that doesn't negate the fact that Crazy Steve just blew up Cleveland.
In summation, Mage Storytellers should pray they don't play with douchebag munchkins, and if they do, they'd better be ready to flat out say "No, fuck you, you don't get to do that."
Next time: I actually go on with what this review is supposed to be about.
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part XII: The Spinner-Kin
Oh Christ why am I doing this again
The first sentence of the segment reminds me why I took so long to get back to updating this review.
Elegant yet chillingly dispassionate, the Spinner-Kin are the poetry of enigma.
God. Anyway, they apparently have the nickname (sorry, 'arcane title') of the Arnae, which is probably supposed to be a bastardization of Araneae. Howeever, googling Arnae gets a rather hysterical urbandictionary.com definition.
Having an unquenchable lust; not being able to stop screwing your partner; sex addicts.
Changing Breeds, everybody.
Anyway, the 'hat' of the Spinner-Kin is basically being short-lived, creepy, eternally ready to spring on opportunity, and always minding the future while working in the present. They're all very slim, the men rarely taller than five feet and the women able to reach six or more (I wish I could say that this was just due to gender dimorphism in spiders, but, uh...we'll get to it.) Animal form ranges from horrifying swarms of normal-sized spiders to cat-sized tarantulas that would probably make me shit out all my internal organs in terror.
Spinner-Kin live for about five years after their First Change, leading to an almost fanatical devotion to seizing the day. This usually expresses itself in being endlessly social, but some of them go all emo and skulk around. They also have little use for families, being rather universally shitty parents or spouses who give little guidance to their children. They rarely have friendships or spouses, seeing the connections as too fragile and meaningless, or that people worthy of such attention are competition.
Arnae live all over the globe, with several examples of pretty cool adaptations spiders have made (underwater air domes from silk, now nowhere is safe!), though it does imply they also live in Antarctica which I'm pretty damn sure they don't. Spider eating habits are also mentioned, and some are apparently chiefly cannibals like several spiders. I'd be less inclined to call this retarded if it weren't for how preposterously rare Changing Breeds are supposed to be. A spider shifter who could only survive by eating spider shifters would probably starve to death shortly after their First Change. They also mention Werewolves genociding them when they're discovered while ranting about Hosts, stating that this means they simply must strike first when discovered.
This is where they bring in the Azlu from nWerewolf, if only to distance themselves from them. For the unaware, there's a pair of very distinct spirit breeds (by default) in nWerewolf, called the Azlu and the Beshilu, who are referred to as Spirit Hosts. Beshilu start as tiny rats, and Azlu as tiny spiders. They operate by infesting the body of a human being (the heart with the Beshiu, and the brain/nervous system with the Azlu), and killing them while consuming their body and spiritual energy to reproduce. Soon, the corpse either pops into a tide of Azlu/Beshilu, or fuses with the spirit to create a horrible hybrid abomination that wants only to continue growing and serve the agenda of the Hosts.
The Beshilu want to rip down the barrier between Spirit and Flesh to reunite the two, not particularly caring that this would be horrendously catastrophic to both sides, as it would allow the Beshilu to recombine into the Plague King, an ancient, blind, disease-ridden rat spirit killed in prehistory. Meanwhile, the Azlu -who are also descended from a powerful spirit from prehistory - want to strengthen the boundary between Spirit and Flesh until both are strangled off, starving reality of definition and starving the Shadow of Essence, its lifeblood. To paraphrase from one of the books: "Do realize that this will happen? Yes. Will it be bad? Probably. Do they care? Not in the slightest." Some think they're insane, some think they arrogantly believe that they'll survive the catastrophe, but most just shrug their shoulders and say "Fucking spirits, man." They weave their webs because that's what they're supposed to do, God damn it, so stop interfering or they'll eat you.
I bring all this up to show what
setting background is like, by the way. The book does to just go "Spinner-Kin think they are vulgar abominations and give the good spider-people a bad rap" which is what spider-spirits do in the normal setting anyway.
Anyway, moving on. Females always take the natural leadership role and focus mostly on Physical attributes while men focus on Mental and Social. In case you weren't already catching the drift from this chapter, one of the example character concepts is dominatrix. At least they didn't say anything about using webs for that.
Man: Bulbous and deaf are these. They could not hear the sound of the Web singing from their actions if it was as loud as the Bells of Saint Michael's. However, they are fun to watch.
Mages: Invest your days toward the Fates, or do not. Dabbling in the sticky oil of the Universe is a game only for children and suicidal flies. (They forget that Fate is actually a very, very, very powerful Arcana for Mages, methinks.)
Vampires: For all that they have a delicious sense of style [sic], they completely lack the manners to know when they should leave the party.
Werewolves: Does doggie want to play in the big sticky net?
(I'll admit this one made me smirk.)
Now to the breeds. It's a weird mix of good and bad this time.
First, we have the
, or the Eight Knives. I really haven't made up my mind on how I feel about these guys. The breed originated in the Mediterranean, though they eventually spread across the globe. Their expertise is two-fold: information brokering, and murder. They hunt for the Truth at all times, preserving it while cutting away any falsehoods. Some set themselves up as syndicate crime overlords, some as assassins or spies, and some are simple archivists in libraries. They endeavor to be experts in whatever field they specialize in.
All Nanekisu have a silver-white scar vaguely resembling a hand on their undercarriage in animal form (which was apparently cut, if you keep reading) and Warform, which is a huge teeming mass of spiders in the shape of a colossal spider.
To get information from the Nanekisu, you have to pay a price in blood by fighting one in combat. The more valuable or secret the information is, the stronger the warrior you must face is.
Now we get to the part that I'm still undecided about : this breed is apparently joinable. A spider-shifter can, if they defeat a Nanekisu in combat, ask to become one. They are then given a challenge: if they allow themselves to be poisoned to death, and the ritualist will revive them as a Nanekisu. Simply accepting is passing: all supplicants are accepted if they submit.
Here's the really weird part: the breed is apparently a collective hive-mind. The text says they still have their own souls and bodies, but one mind apparently drives the Nanekisu in all their manifestations. You could read this as something from them all being 'themselves' with a sort of mental construct co-operating with them all, to a vast and alien hive-mind formed of the minds of all who have submitted to it using the shells of supplicants as puppets to enact its will, or some mix between the two.
The latter is really fucking cool, but it also steps pretty hard on the toes of the Azlu and doesn't entirely mesh with the whole spider thing. Ants, sure, I'd buy this in a heartbeat, but spiders? I see where they're going with the information gathering/web of influence thing, but it still doesn't quite click with me.
Anyway, mechanically, the Nanekisu are actually pretty Goddamn frightening, being lightning fast and having Nine Lives. I actually can't get mad at this implementation, though, because the fluff behind it is excellent (albeit stolen directly from the Azlu); the component spiders of the body break up, book it, and try to reform elsewhere.
So I guess the moral of the story is that if you find something cool in Changing Breeds they probably stole it from another line.
Next up are the
the Recluses and tarantulas. They have a lame creation story about Fate and Light and Darkness and Who Is The True Monster and yadda yadda. People who transform into Carapaché are almost exclusively South American, and often undergo their First Change when stuck in colossal jungle spider webs. They are exclusively of the Wind Dancer Accord, and are a bunch of shamans and autistics who are cripplingly shy and afraid of human contact. No, seriously. They all but use the word autism. Anyway, they tug on the threads of the web of Light and Darkness to...uh, I have no idea, bring it into balance? Make sure one wins? Basically they're the "insufferable cryptic old wizard doing random bullshit for a butterfly effect" archetype.
They are all painfully skinny and of Latin descent, who hate clothes because it makes them think of the webs they were caught in during their First Change. Their Warform is a giant fucking tarantula that spins webs, which they acknowledge isn't the case, but most people don't discuss biology when being eaten by a tarantula the size of a Volkswagen.
Mechanically, they're very, very fast, venomous, and sneaky.
In Other Species, we have two more, the first being as
-meets-White-Wolf as you can get.
In the grand towers above Hong Kong and the vaults below Singapore, a fatal game of Go has been waging for nearly 1,300 years. Open the wrong door in Beijing or turn your head in San Francisco just a moment too soon, and you may see one of the 10,000 secrets of old Qin. Neither Communists nor emperors nor Western oafs could untangle the web of the C'hi Hsu, a venerable breed whose alchemies stop the tread of time. In the centers of those webs sit vampiric spider-witches whose arts stave off the frailty of their kind.
So yeah, Chinese vampire lich spider people, because why the fuck not.
might be intended to mean Mystic Webs, but whatever. Arnea must pass 1,000 tests presented by a master of Five-Web Magic to learn the secrets of immortality, who usually sit around ordering people to do something while mandating that all their visitors must fast for three days and have precisely seven different smoke perfumes on them at all times while in their presence. This is not a joke, this is a thing.
To save the rest of the writeup: think "oVampire political circlejerk" and that is what the C'hi Hsu do all the time.
Mechanically, they're boring as hell, too, aside from being preposterously fast.
Lastly are the
toxin-crafting dominatrices that have pretty much the same stats as C'hi Hsu.
You think I'm joking, don't you?
Legends claim that Poison was once the concubine of Sleep. Dressed richly in the fever dreams and delusions of early Man, she wooed Him into a false peace. She brought wakeful dreamers into states that mimicked dreaming and death. Sleep had more territory with which to travel due to her ministrations. He fell for Poison's affections. Unfortunately, this is a legend for spiders. Poison acted as a female should. Sleep has never forgiven Her. He sent dreams from beyond the Web to his children to bind her in the hatred and death of Man. Forever in the darkness, She has grown mad. The Sicarius are Her voice. How organized madness can be if hate leads the way.
Sicarius have worked for centuries to prefect the magic of toxins. From herbalists to pharmaceutical chemists to the lethal red back spiders, these Spinners hone painlessness into pain. Understanding the power of sex as well, they are hauntingly alluring. In their bravest shape, these "spider queens" arch a full eight feet in their slender yet formidable arachnid forms. To see a Sicarius in her full glory is to finally understand hopelessness in love.
Until the turn of the 19th century, no males were born under the venom of Sicarius. Now still rare, males who are so blessed must constantly prove themselves useful and keep a watchful eye on the affairs of their betters. Some Sicarians believe that the breed's toxins had grown too weak to pass on without the male counterpart. Many others still resent that implication....
Misandry, misogyny, bad mythological writing, callbacks to the everpresent lolmadness in oWoD, cringe-worthy sexuality, and the implication of the spider form invoking some emotion of love/sexuality.
CHANGING BREEDS, EVERYBODY.
Next time: Ursara. I pray that we get through this without a gay joke.
Original SA post
Well, I'm home for break, I got hammered for the first time for my birthday last night, and I woke up without a hangover at all while everybody I went with had splitting headaches. Perhaps this is because I am apparently a cheap drunk and erred on the side of "not blacking out" but still. I almost feel like I need to suffer a bit to balance out the scales.
But what could I possibly do to make myself suffer?
Changing Breeds Part XIII: Ursara - Alternatively, Why Do I Do These Things To Myself?
Welcome back. It's been about six months since I last touched this shitheap, and I doubt any of you can blame me. You may want to go back and reread the last parts of this review to catch up and refresh yourself. For those who are too lazy and need to be brought up to speed, Changing Breeds is the worst book ever made by White Wolf and I want to watch Phil Brucato get covered in steak sauce and thrown to rabid wolverines.
The opening story bit is about a werebear who traps a hunter in his own pitfall and proceeds to murder him after helping him out because
HUNTERS IN MAH FOREST. Ursara are one of the oldest Changing Breeds and are associated with wisdom, power, guardianship, and bravery. Also with absolute, uncontrollable, holy rage when you get them mad enough.
Also, this passage has something that made me giggle more than it should have.
To be Ursara is to accept a mantle of great responsibility along with fantastic might. Guardians of the hearth, towering killers, deadly clowns, consummate hunters, seers at the gates of death — all accords find their greatest manifestations in the bear-kin.
I want one of you out there to draw me a giant grizzly bear in a tiny clown suit honking a horn at other bears looking at it disappointingly. One of you drew the
Shark, so I know there's artists in here
Ursara are usually powerfully built, excellent survivalists and deeply love their homes, rarely going too far from them. They are slow to anger but will fuck you up six ways til Sunday if you push them past their limit. They have deep voices and move at their own pace, which others usually find insufferably plodding until they're motivated to quicker action. They usually don't mess with or even associate with other changing breeds unless one challenges them in their territory, in which they end most fights with a single backhand.
They drift from group to group of bears when associating with them, as they, like the bears, prefer to be solitary unless raising a child. They aren't afraid to use modern technology to keep in touch with mortal relations or other Ursara, which opens up the spot for a truly agonizing "smarter than the average bear" joke that the writers use with glee. Also, bears have alphas now, apparently. I really should be making that point in every Breed but it's even more ridiculous here, even with the handwaving of respecting elders and only doing it during crisis.
Man: Long ago, Man looked to us as gatekeepers to the lands of Death. Perhaps he needs to be shown the way there more often.
Mages: Too much power in such a small vessel. Who picks up the pieces when it explodes?
Vampires: Only Man refuses to die. We can fix that.
Werewolves: The bond between us is as ancient as the hills. Their teeth are sharp, but I will not "forsake" them.
The first breed are the
, who - wait a minute.
The first breed are the
, who are the black bear breed and are mostly Native Americans. They are the most even-tempered and sociable of the breeds, to the point where they get a free Social specialty, and mostly focus on bringing Man and Nature back into balance with each other, preferring to do it harmoniously but going to violence if it's necessary. Stats-wise, they're swole as hell but also rather slow in their animal forms, compared to other shifters at least.
Next up are the
, whose name comes from the Inuit lord of polar bears and not Nanook of the North (hopefully.) They are, in almost all cases, Inuit or Yupik, and look at the extremely rare "white-white bears" as spiritual thieves or the harbingers of the end times. They are more than a little pissed about global warming, as you would expect. They're essentially a bunch of Inuit stereotypes, really, mixed in with ecoterrorism undertones. They'd fit right into Werewolf: the Apocalypse. Stats-wise, they're huge and buff, and bizarrely have
listed as a common aspect.
Lastly, in Other Breeds are the
, which are the primal dire-bear types, the sort of animals that inspired Norse berserkers and roamed the earth long ago. They are the incarnation of the wrath of Bear and of Nature, and the wild North winds. I guess this is as close as we get for stats for a grizzly breed, if you don't just take the Nanuq, but
these statistics are insane. The Warform stands at 15 feet tall and has +6 Strength and +8 Health, among other stuff. They have no breed bonus because their stat bonuses from shapeshifting are so insane.
And that's it for the bear breeds. Next time are the Wind-Runners, featuring the infamous Deerhoof Antlerdude (whose magnificent junk hair is featured above), and his horrible, horrible secrets.
Deerhoof Antlerdude's Shameful Secret
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part XIV: Deerhoof Antlerdude's Shameful Secret
I have been dreading this part since I started writing this.
Now, I'm just going to post the entirety of the opening fiction for you. See if you can spot what made me actually feel physical pain.
Who Can Tame the Wind?
"His leg is shattered beyond repair," Marcannon told the attending veterinarian. "I brought him home, but you need to put him down. He’s no good to himself or to me."
Dr. Steed looked down at the injured horse, its flanks heaving in pain, then at the stable owner. "I think I can save him," she said, her voice steady though her eyes misted over.
Marcannon shook his head. "It would cost more than he’s worth. Now do what I'm paying you for."
Epona Steed rose to her full height, facing a man whose judgment she had occasion to question more than once. "No," she said. Before the stable owner’s eyes, the slim animal doctor grew taller and bulkier, sprouting a second pair of legs along a lengthening backbone.
Marcannon's eyes widened in fear. A creature out of myth stood before him. "My friends are coming to take him off your hands," she said, using her physical bulk to back the cowering man into a corner of the stall. She reared up on her hind legs and tapped the man with a hoof, sending him down to the ground in a groaning heap. "I’ll bill you for the cost of his death," she said. "Now he belongs to me."
Dr. Steed. Dr. Epona Steed.
Can you believe that's not even the worst thing we're gonna be seeing today? Because I know what's coming and I still can't really believe it.
The Wind-Runners are the noble prey animals, who divided themselves up into "Prove ourselves useful" (Horses) "Catch me if you can, suckers" (Deer, antelope, etc) and "You pick, boss" (Zebras, who represent duality). They're all lightly but powerfully built, and have the aura of coiled, nervous energy waiting to explode into flight. They're quick-witted, but tend to jump on the first idea they have and run with it, whether or not it's a good idea. They form strong ties to kin, human and animal, and tend to be rather insular and soft-spoken (until alarmed, in which case they're insanely loud). They also spend a lot of time in animal form with wild herds of horses or whatever their breed is, protecting them and mangling anybody who tries to take more than what they need from the herd.
Wind-Runners are almost exclusively vegetarian or vegan, preferring their food to be bland and boring because they see it purely as fuel. They usually outrun or outfight natural predators, but do get killed and eaten a not-insignificant portion of the time, especially when the predator's another shapeshifter. They also lay traps for human hunters to kill them, especially ones who they view as 'cheating' by hunting in numbers with submachine guns. I must say though, I have no fucking idea who hunts with a goddamn submachine gun.
The rest of the information is basically reiterations of stuff we already know, aside from Alpha Horses who protect the family circle and Alpha Horse Women who make most of the decisions.
Man: For better or worse, our fates are intertwined. Yet until they learn better respect than what they have shown, we rush toward an abyss.
Mages: Capable of greatness, yet often blinded by their own splendor.
Vampires: Their death-stink sticks like shit to ragged hooves.
Werewolves: Wolves are wolves. We may share a fated dance, but they don’t always have to lead it.
Fabio here is one of the
Since that's a hell of a mouthful (and apparently pronounced Ush-SHY-shrah-VEE), I'll be calling them the Sharp-Eared Ones, or just Ushies. According to this, Hindu myth has Uchchaishravas as a winged horse that Indra gave to man after chopping his wings off in order to create horses. Close enough, except Ushie didn't have wings, he just had seven heads. Seriously, look it up, the pictures are hilarious.
Anyway, Ushies believe they got the original Ushie's wings and are its stewards, and are looking for ways to give them back to horses to give them their freedom to fly once more. They usually prefer to be their centaur Warform when among close associates and - wait a goddamn minute. Warform has murderous rage attached to it. Did you even think about that, author!? The first time Fabio decides to cut loose with a horse for legs he's probably gonna kill everybody he sees!
Anyway, the animal form for these guys is a larger-than-normal horse with that look equestrians know means this is one of those dick-ass horses who's all like "You try kicking my sides with those spurs on and I will thow you off and stomp your thighbones into Jello." I've actually met a horse like that, bastard was scary as all hell. Warform is, as you can see, a centaur, which means they get all the benefits of opposable thumbs and giant murder legs. They also apparently retain their human intelligence in this form as well, so they can use complex weapons and communicate. While this is kinda lame, the idea of centaur cavalry with M16s is pretty hilarious. Also, having your origin story be Indian myth and yet having your Warform be based on Greek myth is pretty weak, guys.
Mechanically, they're actually kinda crappy compared to everyone else, until you remember the opposable thumbs in warform thing. They're extremely fast, can knock down opponents, and larger than normal, but that's about it.
I'm going out of order here so I can save the best (worst) for last. This is a
They're shapeshifting Injun shamans. No, really, that's about all the characterization they get. They apparently can cross the Gauntlet into the Shadow (the world of spirits) by running really fast, which has no mechanical representation. They also are mandated to have at least three dots in Empathy. Aside from that, they're basically faster, more fragile Ushies.
A breed without a picture,
are the deer-folk, seers and guardians of the hunted. They watch over their kin and protect them from "weekend warriors" (it's in quotes in the book too.) They usually come from "American mutts" or Native Americans in America, or the equivalents in other countries. Their animal forms are massive, tempting deer, with the stags as 14-point bucks and the does having prominent forehead bumps. A few are jet black or solid white, and these are usually the spirit-magicians. The Warform is a giant naked man or woman with a stag's head bristling with sharpened antlers. Many Flidaisin also pick up the Near-Man and Near-Beast forms, which are graceful, doe-eyed (Hurrrr) humans and giant murderous looking deer, respectively. Mechanically, they're fragile, fast, and have Striking Looks in human form.
And now, we reach the one, the only...
gets his writeup at last. Technically the real name for the breed are the
, Elken-Volk, or Horned Harbingers. Here's their backstory!
Long ago, it’s been said, the Horned God lay with the Great Earth Mother. Where his seed scattered, beasts sprang up with vast antlers like the Lord himself. Although their antlers could not span the sky as his did, they nevertheless challenged the trees to grow to ever-more luxuriant size. The hooves of these mighty beasts shook the grown, and where they struck, springs flowed and flowers grew. Such was the creative power of the Elken-volk that Man himself was both humbled and aroused. To capture some of that virility for himself, the bravest hunter stalked the largest elk. They fought until sunrise, shattering the forest as they fought, and when the Great Mother saw what had been done, she turned them both into a single beast and charged him to watch over Nature’s restoration.
Yep, think we hit the creepy quota there. While real life mythology is full of stuff like this - Izanagi wanking the Japanese islands into existence, Enki jizzing the Tigris and Euphrates, etc. etc. - it's still very, very uncomfortable to imagine Phil Brucato - who put his nickname "Satyrblade" in the credits for fuck's sake - editing this. Also, there's another reason, but we'll get to that at the end.
Anyway, all Alces are statuesque fertile sex god types who have an affinity for nature and spirits, but usually don't enter cities without a damn good reason. They take their time to decide on an action, but their word is bond once they do, unshakable and unstoppable. The animal form is a seven foot at the shoulder elk with a six-foot antler span, with does being slightly smaller with no horns. In Warform they grow to over eight feet of muscle, fur, nudity, and horns crackling with electricity. As for their society, they usually gather in groups of the same sex for company and protection, while mating is a "formal affair, wrapped in the rituals of age-old tribal custom." I only thank God they don't elaborate on that. Mechanically, they're insanely strong, tough, and fast, with their warform being one of the biggest in the book.
And now for the part I know a few of you have been dreading as much as I have. Deerhoof Antlerdude's Shameful Secret, as you can see from above, is that he does not have a penis. At least, in the published book he doesn't. The artist saw fit to fix that on her Deviantart account.
Behold, his dong the size of a coke can.
~xxsqueekbatxx Dec 6, 2008
Woohoo! awesome work. well shaded and well hung lol
~ShamanSoulStudios Dec 11, 2008
=) Thanks so much! The original to this didn't have the penis as it was for a book interior. After I read a comment that said, It looks like he has a tribble on his crotch, I knew I HAD to give him his manhood back. So far, everyone seems pleased with the results.
What makes this knowledge even worse?
She has a bunch of My Little Satanic Pony fan art. I'm not even fucking kidding you here.
So, in conclusion, I want to die.
Next time: The Wing-Folk, which stunningly has a few kinda cool ideas.
Ha Ha Ha! Birdmen.
Original SA post
Changing Breeds Part XV: Ha Ha Ha! Birdmen.
This is gonna be a big one, folks.
The opening fiction for the Wing-Folk section actually shows some promise and creepiness compared to the standard this book has set, with a mortally wounded soldier seeing an ethereal nurse at the foot of his bed who resembled a nurse on staff, except for the fact that her arms split into wings of hundreds of feathery arms and hands, which she uses to choke him to death in an embrace, the beating of wings the last thing he hears as she carries him to the afterlife.
The book talks about the roles birds and bats have taken in mythology, from psychopomps to heralds to omens to tricksters to embodiments of fate to embodiments of good or evil. The book raises an interesting point that man is still, on some level, averse to killing birds as rampantly or directly as other animals. Those we kill or consume on a regular basis are normally flightless or 'pests' and prey animals to other birds, and it's actually against the law to hunt, kill, or otherwise harm many predatory birds. The Wing-Folk take this to heart and come down with bloody vengeance on those who would try to break this taboo. They view themselves as rightful rulers of the Earth, for they are unfettered by the grip of gravity or terrestrial woes. They're also slightly more numerous than other breeds, and it's said that they could easily act on their desire for rulership if they could ever collectively agree on anything. They're unable to look past territorial squabbles and petty arguments long enough to band together unless all their lives are threatened.
The homes of the Wing-Folk tend to be open, spacious, and full of trinkets they find interesting. Most feral Wing-Folk are often kleptomaniacal and Kender-esque in what they define as theirs. They also flock to where their animal forms are viewed with the proper respect - Corvidae prefer the Tower of London, crane-folk prefer Japan, etcetera. They're all aloof and egomaniacal to a fault, believing their breed is the smartest, most cunning, and most worthy breed amongst the Wing-Folk, leading to most of their disputes. Despite their own boasts, they tend to be too smart for their own good, with very little practical wisdom to back them up once their intelligence and smart-ass mouths get them into trouble.
Wing-Folk are rather gluttonous and gourmands of the weird, liking food that most Westerners find strange, like candied ants wrapped in leaves or poached field mice. They sometimes cannibalize smaller Wing-Folk when enraged or half-mad, and don't have strong rivalries with many other shifters, too busy fighting themselves. They do, however, creep out fish and snake shifters, and shy away from cat and rodent shifters. They inspire extreme devotion in their animal kin, but bird-folk mostly view their feral cousins as disposable, unbothered by anything short of systematic purges of their populations. Bat-folk are much more protective of their relations.
Some breeds view themselves as representative of the spirits or gods (or God), and get into extremely violent arguments with other shifters (or creatures) who claim to be the true inheritors of divine wisdom. Some take their psychopomp role in mythology equally seriously, ranging from genuinely empathetic participants in assisted suicide to serial killers who justify what they do as easing suffering.
Bird-folk usually gather in small groups of mated pairs, which may be paired for life (leaving the survivor to remain celibate or commit suicide when their partner dies) or may be a pair of serial monogamists (always in a single relationship, but unafraid to move on to a more interesting mate). They have a high rate of twins or triplets and are frankly abusive to them most of the time, but God help whoever else who tries messing with a Wing-Folk's kids. Bat-folk are far more communal, and their low birth rate and even lower rate of children showing the Gift mean the community will lay down their lives to protect their young. Every Wing-Folk thinks itself the alpha of its own group in a fashion, the one with the most force of personality acting as the true leader until someone gets sick of their shit and overthrows them.
Man: Man is a mere page in the vast tome of our people's history.
Mages: They could achieve more if they weren't afraid to get their hands messy. True magic requires sacrifice.
(Hahaha, ahaha, ha.)
Vampires: No good for food, no use as servants. What use is something undead?
Werewolves: What have we to fear from creatures bound to the earth?
The first breed are the
, the Bright Assassins, and these guys are rad as fuck. Their animals are the quetzal bird and the hummingbird. The book mentions a Guatemalan tale that the quetzal bird used to sing the most beautiful song in all the world, but when the Spanish conquered the Americas, its grief caused it to only sing with harsh screams from then on. Once its people are free from the oppression forced upon them, it will sing its song once more. Its shock of red feathers on its chest comes from when it dipped itself into the blood of a fallen Mayan warrior prince who fell in combat with the Spaniards. Huitzilopotchli, god of war and the sun (also known as that charming fellow who Aztecs chopped out hearts for), called souls of warriors who died in battle, women who died in childbirth, and people sacrificed in his name to be part of his retinue in the Sun for a time, then released the souls back to the Earth in the form of butterflies and hummingbirds.
The birds together form a sect, the vastly more populous hummingbirds believing themselves to be the returned warrior souls of the honored dead come to reverse the dominion of Man over nature. The rare but powerful quetzal shifters are the assassins and terrorists of the sect, preferring to kill single targets to consume their heart as tribute to Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopotchli and gain the victim's strength. Some few follow Mictlantecuhtli, the god of the dead, and just eat anybody who looks delicious, in order to send souls to their master. They're a bit unhinged.
The Gente Alada are, as you can imagine, mostly in Central America, with the quetzal-shifters having roots in Guatemala. They train all their children in the arts of war and the lore of their people, except the Mictlantecuhtli guys, who murder any human children they have because they hate humans that much. Their cousins look at this as depraved at best and sacrilegious at worst.
Quetzal shifters wear red shirts and vests to honor their animal selves, and their warform is a man with green wings, a crest of feathers, a trailing tail of feathers, and rows of feathers on their arms and legs. They traditionally paint their chests red with blood before battle. Hummingbird warriors are small and slight in warform, but their beaks are sharp enough to pierce and pluck out a man's heart. Those who follow Mictlantecuhtli wear bland clothing and paint themselves with ash before battle, preferring to be ghostlike instead of HERE I AM LOOK AT ME WHILE I MURDER YOU
Mechanically, all Gente Alada have three free specific specialties (Close Combat, Silent Killing, and Aztec History) given to them but their normal three specialties must be in Brawl, Weaponry, and Athletics. They get +2 to rolls to hide themselves due to their size as well. They are blisteringly fast and insanely dextrous in their alternate forms, but pretty frail compared to most everything.
Next up, the
The book talks at some length about the legends of Crow and Raven, especially those from Native American mythology. They're represented as creator gods, discoverers of man and land, thieves of the sun, the right-hand bird of Satan, comforters of Lilith, guides for the dead, and tricksters. The Corvians don't want to spoil a good joke, so they refuse to confirm or deny any of these. The children of Crow and Raven are walking paradoxes, unable to take life seriously while acknowledging its seriousness, liars who always tell the truth, black-hearted jesters, ignorant sages, they have a tendency to drive people around them crazy. They don't take mockery and deceit as well as they dish it out, though. They're obsessively curious, gathering trinkets and information with equal zeal, and are incredible informants if you can ever get one to actually share what it knows.
They're vain and preening in all forms, often wearing black clothing or dyeing their hair black in human form. Some go for a Gothic or punk look (some ironically, some not) while others prefer snappy dress suits. Irreverent and eerily smart from bith, most Corvian use mockery and cruel humor to cover up how incredibly frustrated they are at the world and how much they care about it. They're teachers who smash your illusions and call you an idiot for having them, then help you piece back together the truth of the matter.
Due to the myth that Raven never loses his temper, the Corvians do not have warforms, instead becoming bird-men that look like they crawled out of a Bosch painting, man-sized ravens, or giant swarms of crows and ravens. They are able to hide well, and are able to get the Bag of Tricks aspects like the Laughing Strangers are due to the history of crows and ravens being tricksters. Their animal forms are decidedly middlin' when it comes to power.
Next are the
the raptor-folk (not those raptors) and Ministers of War. They're the warrior-kings of old and the generals and old money of today, claiming to have created their order in the days of Charlemagne and constructing a vast and glorious history for themselves. Ruthless, power-hungry, and marrying brutality and chivalry, the group is more of an old boys' club than a close knit family. They crush anyone in their way, whether through legal means and suing people into oblivion, or by sending assassins (or assassin-birds) to deal with someone more directly. They have hideous tempers under their impassive looks, and have a bad habit of shooting messengers.
The Ministers arrange marriages between families to consolidate power, killing the children if they object, and otherwise stay out of each others' businesses, as interfering with someone else's territory is a massive breach of etiquette. Mechanically, they are hilariously fast and shockingly brutal in combat, as befits "eagle the size of a large child" or "eagle-man with talons the size of butcher knives."
Next are the
, the bat-folk. Due to mankind demonizing bats and associating them with evil and sorcery, they tend to be extremely shy and stay far away from humanity, only venturing into civilization by accident or in desperate times. While some places are still accepting of bats and the bat-folk, such places are being encroached by Westernization, and thus most bat-folk remain nomadic and wary of humanity. They enjoy tattooing and embroidery, as well as leather crafting and dyeing. As mentioned earlier, they have very low birth rates, so the women tend to be polyandrous among both shifters and humans, and superstition says that remaining with a single mate may even render them infertile, so falling in love is discouraged. They have a rich oral history in songs they teach youth, hoping that the songs will coax the Gift out of them. This sensitivity to music and sound also means they find most sounds of human civilization painful.
Their animal forms are giant-ass bats and bat-people who sadly do not look like Batman. Think more Man-Bat (an actual character.) They're beefier than most of their bird cousins, and still pretty damn fast. They also get a free specialty in Song if they have the Expression skill.
Next are the
, the owl-folk - specifically the screech owls. Emissaries of the dead and the form taken by hags and witches, including Lilith, Mother of Demons. Despite Athena's companions being owls, the mythological depictions of owls are overwhelmingly sinister in tone. Strigoi are necromancers, and have "a weary familiarity" with the dead. They do not treat the shades of the dead with much respect unless given it in return, and are unafraid to abuse or troll ghosts to amuse themselves. They're solitary in nature, and their homes are pretty much gooncaves. Speaking of goons, they also care little for their own appearance and live sedentary lives, often becoming somewhat obese and wearing the same clothes until threadbare and so horrifically nasty the smell practically has a life of its own. Mates are often paired due to wanting to make an unknown quantity living nearby something more comfortably familiar, rather than love or a sense of fidelity.
Their animal forms are large screech owls and the thing you see in the picture above. Statistically, they're pretty slow but stockier than most bird-folk, and have Aspects that let them fuck around with dead people and spirits.
Lastly we have the
swan-folk who make Kevorkian look like a slacker. They come from Valkyries of Norse myth, the Choosers of the Dead who honor great warriors with a quick, peaceful death. Comforting the living who do not need to die yet with medical treatment, company, or 'company,' Those who they deem as ready or needing to move on get a snap of the neck, an injection, and a comforting embrace as they pass on to whatever afterlives await them.
Mechanically, they have no breed bonus at all, which I'm pretty sure is an oversight, and have surprisingly fast and durable shapeshifted forms.
...wait, that's it? That's the whole chapter? There was nothing flagrantly stupid or terrible? What the hell is this, a decent book!? No, seriously, this was actually a good chapter and if the rest of the book had been up to this quality it'd be far less painful.
Next time: the catch-all breeds, and then the example characters, and then I'm free! Holy shit!