Original SA post
Croatan Song is the closest Werewolf ever got to making an actual tribebook for one of the lost tribes. It’s got the Gifts and a small writeup for the Croatan like you’d find in the core. But it’s mainly a setting book about how to run a game in the Americas before the Europeans came. It’s also an auxiliary source book for the Uktena and Wendigo. Since they borrow from their native culture more from any other tribe (for better or worse), getting a better idea of Native American culture viewed through the Werewolf lens would make for a richer roleplaying experience, I guess. As you might imagine, it’s a very focused book, so its utility is very limited.
Werewolf: the Apocalypse’ traditional position on the pre-Columbian Americas has been one of idyllic peace and tranquility. The Native Americans are “close to nature” (ugh), so they didn’t ruin the environment. Wyrm monsters didn’t run around with impunity and all the werewolves and Fera lived in peaceful harmony. Will Croatan Song subvert this picture? Do you even need to ask?
First, though, let’s talk about the Croatan. They’re all dead. All of them. No, you cannot play as a Croatan. Don’t even bother asking your Storyteller. They sacrificed themselves to imprison Eater of Souls. It’s possible that with more aid, they might have lived or at least killed Eater of Souls outright, but in any case, they’re dead.
Well of course he's wearing a feather.
Before their death they were the balance between the creepy mystical Uktena and the angry monstrous Wendigo. Where Wendigo was passionate, they were patient, and where Uktena was hubristic, they were humble. They were prone to gentleness and solitude, which may have been their undoing. They were focused on purifying land, as their totem Turtle was aspected to the element of Earth.
: As wolves, they’re mahogany, like the earth! As humans, they were very diverse, since their kin spanned a third of North America.
: They populated the Mississippi River Valley and the Northeast coast, as well as the southern Great Lake basin.
: Turtle gave the Croatan their steadfastness, as well as their stubbornness. They Croatan also followed Thunderbird, Corn Maiden, Trout, and the Earth-burrowers
On to the tribebook proper with the introduction piece Renown. Hmm, there are three Pure Tribes and three kinds of Renown. I wonder how this tale will end? Please, don't spoil me.
Once upon a time, everything was happy and natural and just like it is at the beginning of every stereotypical Native American folktale written by white people. Humans hadn’t become murderous, city building dicks yet, so that was nice. The werewolves fought amongst themselves, but they still did their job. But, there were three Garou, Uktena, Croatan, and Wendigo, that got into a huge argument. They were brothers, and were usually good about keeping up with their howling prayers to Luna and boasting competitions. One day, though, the boasting turned sour.
Uktena boasted that he had swum underneath the water for all its length, discovering all kinds of hidden caves full of secrets. Croatan had fully explored the forests and mountains and loved all the small animals he found. Wendigo braved the tundra and the glacier winds of the North and bested all manner of Wyrm monster. So, all three argued amongst themselves about which feat was the most bold and which brother was the strongest, and eventually it claim to blows.
Eventually, Croatan decided that they would have to talk to the spirits to settle their argument. The other brothers agreed and they went into the Umbra. Uktena found a river and cleansed himself, meditating on his impatience with Croatan’s gentleness and Wendigo’s rashness. His impatience washed away in the river. Croatan found some dirt and channeled his envy of Uktena’s wisdom and Wendigo’s strength into it. Wendigo found a snowstorm and allowed it to carry his anger at Uktena’s smugness and Croatan’s rationality away.
After that and more meditation, the brothers finally set off on their spirit quest. A moon bridge opens up before them, and Wendigo wants to go first. Uktena is about to invoke “age before beauty” privileges until Croatan interrupts him and suggests that they all go together at once, since the bridge is wide enough for all three. Uktena and Wendigo are embarrassed.
As they go along the bridge, they each see their totem. Uktena sees an uktena, Wendigo sees a wendigo, and Croatan sees
a turtle. They each pledge to win the competition between them.
Eventually, they reach a giant hedge wall. Wendigo jumps over it, seeing it as a physical challenge, but gets nicked. Uktena sees a stream through the brambles and digs it wider, allowing himself to go under the bush without harm. Croatan goes straight through it, seeing it as a challenge of honor. He takes forever and is torn to shit. Still, they go on.
They pass through other similar challenges, where Wendigo takes the immediate physical route, Uktena comes up with a rational solution, and Croatan doesn’t give a shit. Eventually, they’re forced to fight some spirits one on one. Wendigo just goes for it, Uktena finds his opponent's weak point, and Croatan allows his opponent the first blow. They go at it until the spirits grant them a vision.
This particular vision is about the Europeans ruining everything!!! Well, this is coming out of left field. Wendigo wants to kill them, Uktena wants to study them, then kill them, and Croatan secretly plans to abandon his brothers to fight it.
Then Gaia shows up and tells them that each brother represents a different kind of renown! Uktena’s Wisdom, Wendigo’s Glory, and Croatan is Honor, which the Croatan interpret as Suicidal. So, now both the Uktena and the Wendigo pursue Honor
because they can’t increase their rank or learn new Gifts otherwise
to remember the Croatan.
Wasn’t that a great, meaningful conclusion? No? Well, imagine having five full pages of story with no pictures leading up to that. It’s so monotonous and boring for such a lame ending. It tries to mimic the folk device of repeating motifs and patterns, but because this story is like three rolled into one it just drags things out. In-universe it’s probably an okay story, but we already know the Europeans ruin everything and that Croatan dies. That's the whole point of the Croatan.
Each tribe getting its own Renown ending is kind of a twist, but it doesn’t really mean anything. There’s no cosmological truth behind Glory, Honor, and Wisdom, they’re just game terms for the kinds of things werewolves can get Renown for. And for all that, the story is just way too long. Granted, most folktales are very long in their full forms, but when writing a book for an RPG I don’t think respecting the oral tradition of a fictional society is Priority A. This is going to be a problem throughout the book.
Next time: Another origin myth! It's less boring, but only marginally.
Introduction and the Most Boring Diaspora Ever
Original SA post
Introduction and the Most Boring Diaspora Ever
Before we start, I should mention the best thing about this book: the art. I complained a lot about Kane's art for the Children of Gaia book, but when properly inked he can do amazing work. The other artists are of similar quality and it really gives you a sense of the kind of personalities and images the book wants to evoke, better, I'd argue, than the writing itself.
Look at this! This is great.
One the credits page, we learn that each tribe has its own author. Jackie Cassada’s taking the Uktena, Nicky Rea is writing up the Wendigo, and Bill Bridges is handling the Croatan. Really, though, Cassada and Rea count as one writer, as they write pretty much everything as partners. They were one of those teams that got shuffled around and contributed to a huge amount of books for the oWoD. For Werewolf, they wrote the Gurahl (werebears) book, which was fine, and the original Uktena tribebook, which, aside from the completely awful intro comic, was among the best of the first series of tribebooks. They aren’t spectacularly inventive, but they understand this sort of spiritual/animistic source material well. Bill Bridges was one of the big writers for the oWoD and was a principal figure behind W20.
The introduction has an in-character piece introducing us to the story of the fall of the Pure Tribes and an out-of-character explanation of the Croatan Song setting. Unlike modern times, where nature is despoiled and such, nature here is untouched, meaning there’s tons of forests, mountains, and clear lakes to elevate your storytelling. This isn't exactly accurate, since the Native Americans used tons of slash-and-burn tactics, built large settlements, and hunted animals to extinction, but we'll get into that later. There are also monsters, which is also inaccurate, but I guess you could figure that one out.
Moods include: joy, excitement, fear, sadness, despair. Really, any mood. The same goes for theme, too, except there’s a bit more of a focus on initiations.
We have a sidebar about terminology, explaining that the various Indian peoples will be referred to as nations, rather than tribes, for both respect and to distinguish them from the werewolf tribes. Although there’s nothing wrong with tribes, I can respect their intentions here. They also provide a substantial bibliography, which just goes to show how far they had come from Rage Across Australia, where their sources were just one guy. It’s a mix of atlases, nature books, children’s story collections, and Native American histories, about what you would expect.
The art is so good they even retroactively add red-eye.
Chapter 1 has a werewolf invite us into his tent. He starts chanting “hey-a, hey” and already we’re going into what we might charitably call pastiche. This is
to summon the spirits, who only respond to really cheesy Native American stereotypes. He’s talking about the distant past, so only the spirits would be able to remember what actually happened back them.
However, the spirits only know about this story through rumor. In fact, it might just be
Croatan Song has a way of dragging out the obvious.
So there were once three brothers. Little Brother was all feisty, Middle Brother was contemplative but prone to isolating himself, and Older Brother was obsessed with secrets. Each of their weaknesses were softened by the efforts of the other brothers, so they were pretty chuffed with themselves. Are these brothers real? Who knows! It’s a legend. They're really hammering this point in.
Around that time, humans were starting to use and depend on their tools and their associated Weaver spirits. Some werewolves got pissed and attacked them, some literally cried (guess which tribe), but the Three Brothers isolated themselves from civilization and lived in the woods. They took their kin with them, and although they still used tools, they were still more in tune with nature, which is such garbage. The people who would become the Native Americans were just as “civilized” as every other contemporary culture. They built settlements and used tools just like everybody else and altered the landscape just as effectively. This is blatant noble savage nonsense, where the Native American precursors are animalistic but better for it.
Anyway, the Three Brothers protected their people from other werewolves and Wyrm monsters until they received a dream vision. An old woman was crying, saying that her home was being attacked by monsters and that soon it would be as bad as Eurasia! The Brothers asked how that could be, and the woman just said that it had more natural beauty and crap, but it didn’t have any werewolves to protect it. On the face of it, this is dumb because even though humans had begun altering their environment, it wasn't exactly on a grandiose scale, but as we later find out, there actually were changers that were protecting the region. This is a pretty racist origin myth, and I’m willing to believe that was intentional.
The Brothers compared notes and decided that they would help out this lady. When they dreamt again, instead of an old lady, they found a diseased dinosaur monster! Apparently it was meant to stop the old lady from calling the werewolves, but the Brothers scared it away. This proved to the Brothers that the Americas needed saving, and Gaia sent spirits to guide them across the land bridge. Among these spirits were the three totems of the Pure Tribes: Uktena, the river spirit, Turtle, the spirit that bore the Americas on its back, and Sasquatch, the Bigfoot. Joining the party was Crescent Vision, a Stargazer, the only non-member of the Pure Tribes to join the Brothers.
Maybe it was a dragon, I don't know.
The Brothers didn’t trust Crescent Vision, so they decided to haze him. First, they had him pull all the sleds in the party, and considering this included everybody who would become the Native Americans, this was difficult. Still, Crescent Vision did it. Then, he was forced to guide the team without any help from the spirits. Luna shined the way, so really Crescent Vision cheated. Despite this, the Three Brothers still trusted him.
Various groups of Kin left the party as the Brothers went along, settling themselves on what would be the Aleutians and the northwestern coast of Asia. Wyrm monsters attacked, but the spirits protected them, including the totems. Eventually, they reached the New World, and Little Brother and his tribe stuck with the stragglers in the North to protect them. Older and Middle Brother ran south and began breeding with the local populace. They had to wage a huge battle to keep their new land, and in the battle Sasquatch got really cold and froze into Wendigo.
After the battle, the Three Brothers convened. They wanted to go get the people they left on the other side of the land bridge, which had by then sunk. To do this, they awakened a caern to create moon bridges across the ocean. After a few years, the search party returned, but they were pursued by Wyrm monsters. The Wyrm monsters hid the returners behind a silver mirror, which Crescent Mirror broke, sacrificing himself as prophesized. With his final words, he asked that the moon bridge be closed. Today, his spirit guards the caern. Why was he in this story, again?
The Three Brothers began migrating once again. Little Brother stayed behind, since they were used to the cold, Wendigo was a whiny pissant and refused to leave Canada, and the other brothers couldn’t handle the climate. As the two brothers left, various members of their tribes left the migration to settle among the various peoples of the Americas, forming kin relationships with the nations.
Seriously, this book has great art.
Eventually, Older and Middle Brother came to a disagreement. Middle Brother liked the forests and plains, while Older Brother liked the mountains and deserts. So, they split up. Some of the Older Brother’s tribe went to the Southeast, while members of the Middle Brother tribe settled in the Southwest. They fought Wyrm monsters as they went, but at that time they were dumb beasts, rather than the corrupted magicians that would show up later, so they could handle themselves.
They also encountered the Fera! The werecats were pretty cool, but they were selfish and wanted to handle things on their own. They were jealous of the werewolves, which is exactly what the werewolves would think. The Gurahl were more respected, since their rites weakened the Wyrm, protecting the Americas.
Next time: The evils of sun worship