Guide to writing a character for GarouMUSH

Some Background On The Werewolf Game

To help you write a good application, context is necessary.

As previously noted, GarouMUSH is based on White Wolf's Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a part of their old World of Darkness Storyteller system, which includes Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, and Changeling. The basic setting is a World of Darkness, a harsher and more difficult world, in which the aforementioned spooks and nasties really do exist -- and always have, silently influencing human history without ever becoming truly public.

In the Gothic-Punk world, supernatural beings are a minority, a shadow-society existing beneath the brooding veneer of the world we understand. In such a situation, normals -- that is, those characters who are not supernatural -- become an important balancing agent, providing a backdrop against which the shadow society may move. These characters can of course be fascinating in their own right in a Gothic-Punk world, and needn't at all be excluded from supernatural dealings -- the ace reporter who follows supernatural phenomenon, for example, or the Catholic priest or Cult member, or the police officer/gang tough who has seen just a little too much in his day.

That said, GarouMUSH focuses on the Garou (the name the Werewolves have for each other). The Garou aren't really a true species in the scientific sense; if they breed with one another, the offspring are sterile, deformed mules called Metis (pronounced "meh-tee").

The Garou are the warriors of Gaia; the sentient spiritual and physical embodiment of the earth. They are Her defenders, whose stated goal, as a race, is the protection of Gaia and destruction of those who would defile Her.

How many Garou are there? or, What The Wolves And The Bees Do.

First of all, knowing some more of the Werewolf game's background is useful.

In the world of the Garou, there are Garou, Kinfolk (those humans related to the Garou, who don't shift), and standard humans.

Garou only produce fertile offspring if they mate with humans or with wolves, and only a very few of these children will exhibit the Werewolf traits. In either case, these youngsters are left to be raised with the society in question, either the humans or the wolves.

(For the stats geeks, a Garou-human pairing has a 10% chance of producing a Garou cub. A Kinfolk-Kinfolk mating has about a 1% chance of producing a Garou cub.)

Around age 15-19 for "human-parented" or Homid werewolves (age 2 for "wolf-parented" or Lupus werewolves), these children are kidnapped (usually) by a local pack of Werewolves, and taught the ways of the Garou. Until they pass a Rite of Passage, they are referred to as "cubs", but afterwards are full Garou, known as "Cliath".

Breed, Auspice, and Tribe, or: Where Do I Fit In?

There are three primary sets of divisions among the Garou. The first, as mentioned above, is Breed -- Homid, Metis, or Lupus.

The second is Auspice, which is to ask: Which moon were you born under? This determines your 'job' in Garou society. The Ragabash (new moon) tend to be tricksters. Theurges (crescent moons) are mystics, spiritualists and the like. Those born under the half moon, the Philodoxes, are mediators, peacemakers and leaders. The gibbous moon is the auspice of the Galliards, the musicians and storytellers. The full moon is that of the Ahroun, the warrior.

In addition, there are thirteen tribes -- racial strains, if you will -- ranging from the feral Red Talons, whose members are only of the Lupus breed, to the Glass Walkers, one of the few tribes who accept, endure and even revel in city life, from the peacemaking Children of Gaia to the warlike Get of Fenris.

More on the tribes can be found on our on-game news files, or on our wiki.

Narrowing the focus: Some Background On Our Particular Game.

GarouMUSH plays out its drama around the environs of St. Claire, a fictional city in eastern Washington state. The Columbia River flows by on the east side of the city, which shades from high-class Glittertown in the north to the commercial district, then to downtown and finally the industrial sector in the south. East of the city down Highway 22 is the small town of Kent Crossing, and, farther east into the forest, the Caern -- a spiritual nexus point at which the Sept of Garou that GarouMUSH deals with have gathered to work together against the machinations of the Wyrm and its minions. The Caern has been awakened, its spiritual power active, and has been named the Caern of the Hidden Walk by its occupants; the Totem watching over the Caern is Aeolus, the mysterious and effusive spirit of fog.

Beyond the Caern to the east are high mountains, while a major highway (Interstate 90) runs out of town and through the mountains north of the Caern; along the highway are a number of housing developments. To the south and southeast of the Caern is national evergreen parkland, known as Wolf Woods National Park, dotted here and there in the mountainous regions with long-dead silver mines.

OK, thanks for the background, but that application question... How Do I Write One, Again?

Brainstorm, then type. That's not very helpful, though.

To be more specific, what we want is a compelling, world-consistent, well-written story of reasonable length. As a guideline, pre-change cub applications tend to be about 2-4 page; cliath applications tend to be about 3-6 pages. (My last cliath application was 5 pages.)

To quote one former GarouMUSH wizard: "An application should be like a woman's dress: long enough to be decent, but short enough to keep me interested."

Wizards don't mind reading longer applications so long as they're interesting and engaging and good. Wizards don't particularly care to read rambling applications that seem to go on forever, but wizards will readily reject an application that is too short and doesn't develop the character enough.

That 'Compelling, World-consistent, and Well-written' Thing...?

Many players on GarouMUSH believe that we consistently achieve a very high quality level of role playing is because of the exacting emphasis we place on proper English grammar, correct spelling and punctuation. Your application will reflect, in a prima facia manner, whether or not you can contribute to this atmosphere. As it says elsewhere, just as you would not care to read sloppy prose in a book, we do not care to read sloppy poses on our MUSH.

It is precisely for that reason then, that your application depends so much on spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you cannot be bothered to proofread your application, chances are you will not bother to proofread your poses before you press the Enter key.

The more interesting you can make your writing, the better your application will be received. We prize good storytellers on GarouMUSH. Your application should in essence, be one part biography, and one part interesting story. It must hang together well, and not just be a rambly collection of details. Just like when your Uncle Charlie sits around after a meal to tell you fashionable lies about his fishing trip and ask you to pull his finger, the wizards are equally as lukewarm about reading line after line of dry, boring, cliche prose.

World consistent means that you've looked at and talked to some of the people who play on the MUSH regularly and developed some kind of coherent concept that would complement the MUSH. It also means that your application is reasonable in scope, power and activity -- within the accepted normal bounds of Garou society as laid out on the MUSH and to some extent in the White Wolf source books.

Should I worry about game demographics before starting brainstorming? or, How Do I Fit In?

Not necessarily. Play what you want. But it can be useful to look at the on-game census, to see if there are any over-used character types currently on-game. This can be found via typing +census while logged in, or by using Aspen's nifty web-census tool.

Are there restrictions for new players?

Well, yes. As noted, new players can only apply for Rank 0 or Rank 1 Garou, humans, or Kinfolk. (Kinfolk can be either wolves or humans.)

In addition, we encourage new players to play Homids, rather than Metis or Lupus characters. (There are worldview issues on both that can differ from how some games treat them.)

In addition, Stargazers (as abstruse and very rare Garou) are limited to experienced GarouMUSH players.

Cubs cannot take the Rites background in character generation. (It's used as an indicator of how many Rites your character already knows, so a person new to the Garou life wouldn't have that opportunity.)

Cubs may take the Fetish background, but it should come from a relative or parent. Remember that fetishes are fairly rare and an adult Garou may want to have control of it. Fetishes kept within a family lineage may be given or delivered after the cub has finished or completed a Rite of Passage, or may be given to their care upon Firsting; it all depends on the background.

All fetishes must be pre-approved during the application process by your -reg wizard.

Can I do X Interesting Mechanical Thing? or, How Not To Game The System.

First of all, we use only the basic Backgrounds and Attributes.

We don't use, for example, the Merits and Flaws system, though one can take inspiration from them in the application.

Nor do we use the Talents, Skills, and Knowledges secondary attributes; we trust people to keep track of what they're good at and bad at in their heads. (And their +gminfos.)

Other things, talk over with your -reg wizard. Do recall that White Wolf tends to rely heavily on dice (which we don't require) and abilities (which we don't use). So, we have taken the White Wolf rules and bent them in major ways to fit our goals, our atmosphere, our rules.

The most major difference, hardest for people to get used to, is that the players, ideally, determine the result between themselves, in combat. The players should discuss any drastic actions in pages, and decide the result based on what makes the best story. We are, after all, a storytelling MUSH, first and foremost.

In larger combats, the GM/storyteller can often use dice more liberally, but it depends on the person and the situation.

So work with your -reg wizard on stats and interesting fetishes, scars, experiences, and so on, based on that factor.

OK. So I want to play a cub. Talk to me more about cubs?

Cubs first change during adolescense, after the hormonal changes of puberty make it possible. They tend to change first anywhere from 15-19 years old, though there are outliers who are younger. (A character who is 19 will probably take a bit longer to assimilate into the Garou lifestyle and mindset.)

Between being born and undergoing its first change, a homid garou has a number of years to spend growing up, developing values (or lack thereof), experiencing life at home, making and losing friends, learning at school, and basically having experiences that define them.

Given their Rage, Garou, as a rule, don't make particularly good parents. In addition, we're talking about the World of Darkness. So this means that garou, as children, often are missing a parent, see their garou parent only on occasion (generally during the slimmest moons), or--as is the case with most garou--has the garou parent die while the garou child is still young.

While the game is set in the World of Darkness, bad things are not all-invasive and should not be used as a crutch for developing your character.

If your application has your character being constantly beaten by an abusive alcoholic father while his drug-using mother/prostitute sits sedated in the corner, has your character being teased and ostracized mercilessly every day at school by classmates and teachers, then gang raped by a pack of wild dogs with AIDS while experiencing the only happy moment in his life ever, you're going overboard with the angst.

On the other hand, idyllic childhoods with no problems at all are boring. So a balance is needed.

Also, don't be good at everything. Sure, there are child prodigy violinists, but what are the odds that your character is one of them? Odds are that your character is pretty average in most things, but might shows some mild talent or promise in one or maybe three areas--and counterbalancing weaknesses in others.

So if your character is a straight-A student, football quarterback, lead singer in a popular local band, budding supermodel, computer hacker, captain of the debate team, full of street-smarts, and is a master of Tae-Kwon-Whupass--and you think that's realistic... Then you may want to apply somewhere else.

The following list of questions, redacted and expanded from the main Werewolf book, will help you think about some important aspects of your character's life.

* What was your family life like? (Homid Characters)
* Did you fit in with other kids? If not, why not? (Homid Characters)
* What were your interests? (Homid Characters)
* What were you like in school? (Homid Characters)
* What was the kidnapping like? (Homid and Lupus Characters)
* How well are you accepted? (Metis Characters)
* How well are you assimilated into your tribe/sept? (All)
* How did you get to St. Claire?

Answering these questions for your character should give you a good start on envisioning who he or she is, and how he or she stands as regards Garou culture. Armed with this knowledge, you can make your roleplaying on GarouMUSH as vivid and meaningful as you desire it to be.

OK, but how do the Garou find my character? or, The Life And Times Of The Kinfetch.

If a garou realizes that his mate has become pregnant, that garou will perform (or have someone else perform) a special ritual (Rite of Baptism by Fire) once the baby is born. This ritual will determine if the offspring is garou and, if it is, allows a small spirit of the garou's tribe to be attached to the newborn.

This spirit "wakes up" prior to or around the first change. If the first change was provoked suddenly and without warning, then the kinfetch zooms off as the change happens. If the first change is gradual, the kinfetch zooms off before the change happens (possibly even a month in advance), giving any nearby Garou an early warning that the change is drawing near and that there's a cub that needs kidnapping nearby and giving the Garou the opportunity to minimize collateral damage, deaths, and potential Veil problems.

Kinfetches will seek out Garou of the same tribe first and foremost. If there don't appear to be any in the area, the kinfetch settles for any Garou that's handy, relaying the location of the cub, the cub's tribe, and (often) the cub's auspice. Once the kinfetch leads a Garou back to the cub, it vanishes.

The Kinfetch spirit often reflects the cub's Tribal Totem.

Auspice is often be indicated by the kinfetch, generally by an Umbral glyph that appears once the Kinfetch wakes up. This is particularly useful with lupus cubs who can't look up their birthdays to see what the moon was that day.

OK, what if I want to play a cliath?

Please do!

Oh, you want details.

A cliath character can range from a callow and inexperienced Garou just off their Rite, to a 35 year old experienced and battlescarred specimen.

Generally, since there is societal pressure to become second rank (Fostern) there does have to be some reason why a character hasn't become Fostern, but that's simply a matter of deciding things in their history.

A cliath application should include everything a cub application includes, plus a Rite of Passage, their emotional life afterwards, and some delineation of their exploits and mis-steps as a cliath.

Again, having them be the Best Ever at Everything: Boring. Having them be perfectly normal: Also boring. Find a happy medium.

There are guides on the Wiki to aid you in the general basics that your character will probably know, and the spiritual basics.

Parting advice

Two pieces of highly useful advice for new players:

1. Listen to any advice that is given to you in an OOC capacity by other players, act upon it, and adjust your RP accordingly. If someone tells you you're doing something wrong, listen to them so the wizards are not called in to tell you that, yes, you are doing something wrong. The players that have been on the game longer are attempting to help you fit in to the existing MUSH worldview, so don't take constructive criticism as an attack on you--or that you've made some horrible and irreconcilable error. You're going to make mistakes: all we ask is that you learn from them and not repeat them.

2. Get involved. Actively pursue RP by paging other players to ask about getting RP. Lurk IC in public locations where other characters might happen to "drop in" if they see someone else on the grid. If your character is parked in a private room or the OOC Lounge, people are probably going to assume you don't want to RP.