- 1 Introduction
- 2 Playing a Shifter
- 3 First Change
- 4 Multiple Forms, Multiple Breeds
- 5 The Human Perspective
- 6 Rite of Passage
- 7 Silver Hurts!
- 8 Moon & Auspice
- 9 Gaia Vs. The Wyrm
- 10 Rage & Frenzy
- 11 Spirit-Half & The Umbra
- 12 Tribes & Totem Spirits
- 13 Wolves and the Fera
- 14 Kinfolk
- 15 The Litany
- 16 The Septs of Europe and the British Isles
The world is a wide and dangerous place.
Long ago, when the world was new, there were no monsters. But those times are long past. Forgotten are the memories of the tranquil forests and the times free from strife and chaos. When once creation, order, and destruction worked in harmony; now discord rings across this world and all those beyond.. And yet, there are those that fight to balance the world once more.
To nature, there is a balance. A purpose to every raindrop, rock, and seed. To fight the changing dangers festering in the dark, nature made the Shifters.
A combination of Man, Animal, and Spirit; Shifters have fought and toiled behind The Veil, far from the gaze of mankind yet closer than he would expect. Stories and legends tell of some of their forms and miscounted deeds but rarely touch the full extent of their tasks or true nature.
Men fear the darkness.. as they should.
Playing a Shifter
When White Wolf, the publishers of the World of Darkness roleplaying games, began to develop the Shifters they drew their inspiration from the various world myths and legends about animals and lycanthropes.
With these inspirations, they created intricate histories and cultures for each type of Shifter; breathing the spark of life and a deeper rooted meaning to creatures that modern media and traditionally superstitions have portrayed as mindless, savage monsters.
Playing a Shifter is different than playing a Vampire or Wraith in Shadow Accord. We tend to spend much of our time outdoors. We maintain territory. We protect our own.
Many of the Shifters see themselves as the guardians of the Earth, of Gaia. They fight, and revel, and tend to live passionately; all behind The Veil which shrouds humanity from the true horrors in the world. Others fulfill their tasks in silence and in the shadows.
Shifters are spiritual beings; Shamanistic and connected to the waxing and waning of the celestial bodies of the sun and moon. They live in a world where their Gods not only play an active role in their lives, but they can be summoned for wisdom and guidance. Shifters can pierce the Gauntlet and explore the vast Umbra beyond; if they dare to tread such dark paths.
Tied forever to the great forces of nature, Shifters are caught between the ever growing human world and the wilds. Some seek to guide humanity when they can, some seek to halt their advance, and some just don't care.. yet.
Like the rest of Shadow Accord, the genre of horror-fiction plays a large role in the Shifter portion of the game. Not only are Shifters the monsters in the woods, they also have to worry about the REAL monsters that they KNOW are ACTUALLY coming to get them. "Ignorance is bliss" doesn't tend to apply to Shifters. With all that in mind, take a look around!
All Shifters go through a first change; it’s the first time that the person (or animal) turns into the monster – and retains the ability to do so at will thereafter.
Before the change; they are normal. After; they are never the same again.
Almost every First Change is an uncontrolled frenzy of violence, and more often than naught, folk end up hurt or dead. This type of event is commonly where the stories and myths of werewolves come from.
One of the myths is that these sorts of changes occur ONLY on full moons. In fact, while the phase of the moon determines an essential characteristic about the new Shifter, it is not the reason for the First Change.
Most First Changes occur around puberty, with humiliation, stress, or survival being the trigger. Often, a tribe of Shifters will deliberately attempt to trigger a First Change in their young when they hit puberty. A Shifter who has their change amount other Shifters are less likely to cause as much damage and can be taught about their new life right away.
Multiple Forms, Multiple Breeds
All Shifters are capable of changing their form between Animal, Human, and a physically powerful, monstrous form known as Crinos; though Shadow Accord only represents the Human and Crinos forms during game hours.
Since Shadow Accord is a WYSIWYG type game, the Animal form can only be represented between-event downtime role-play such as in the Forum Roleplay sections. This is because there is simply no costume or rule that can reasonably portray the size, speed, and grace of an animal.
Shifters come from many different backgrounds, even more so due to the fact that a change can occur in Animals as well as Humans. The result a Shifter's original upbringing, whether they were born as a human or that of an animal, drastically shapes Shifter culture in profound ways.
The Human Perspective
To a newly changed human the prospect of changing in to a monster, let alone an animal, can be frightening.
Some characters may have been born an animal - they become capable of wearing a human form after their First Change, and often have trouble grasping human higher-thinking concepts, but have much sharper instincts and the benefit of a focused worldview. They often feel Homid-born Shifters create problems by over-thinking, and not trusting their instincts.
Lastly, some Shifters are unfortunate enough to be born Metis. These are born and stuck in their Crinos form until their First Change.
Rite of Passage
After a First Change, a Shifter is considered a child (cub, kit, or itty-bitty-spider). As a child, they must learn and do as they are told, but they have no responsibilities beyond this - including their own protection. When a child is ready to be an adult, they undergo some sort of some form of challenge, quest, or test to prove themselves. Every shifter society has a different way of doing this, but, it is most commonly known as the Rite of Passage. Every shifter that is no longer a child has gone been through one, and earned their place as an adult – usually with an impressive story about the deed. Once the Rite of Passage is complete, the Shifter has their first rank, is allowed to have their own opinion, and is responsible for themselves. These are often considered the ‘Teenage’ or ‘Young Adult’ years. Those that show exceptional maturity and/or skill will soon find themselves eligible for the next (second) rank – wherein their responsibilities and authority grow – as do expectations of them.
Silver prevents most Were-critters from using their trademark ability to regenerate. Others are hurt by Gold instead, and some do not have any precious metal vulnerability. Fire prevents just about everything from regenerating.
Moon & Auspice
Most Shifters are strongly tied to the Moon – though how they are tied to the Moon (or Sun, in the case of the Corax) is handled a differently with every different Shifter group. The Garou (Werewolves) are the largest group and hold close ties with the moon. A Garou’s powers and their role in society are determined by what phase of the moon they were born under. This is known as their Auspice. The five Garou auspices and roles are: New Moon (Ragabash – Trickster), Crescent Moon (Theurge – Mystic), Half Moon (Philodox – Law-keeper), Gibbous Moon (Galliard – Bard), and Full Moon (Ahroun – Warrior). Non-Wolf Shifters have other (often secret) roles in their society that also determine which powers they have, sometimes based on the movement of various celestial bodies – sometimes not. In Shadow Accord – those who do not have an Auspice choose one anyway to determine which powers they have access to; it is assumed they have access through some other appropriate means.
Gaia Vs. The Wyrm
Gaia – Mother Earth – The World – is what most Shifters fight for. They literally fight tooth and claw to protect the Earth. They fight the Wyrm, an entity that is attempting to corrupt and spoil the world. It’s actually quite a bit more complicated – involving a Triat of forces of nature: The Wyrm, The Weaver and The Wyld – but the basics are: ‘Fight the Wyrm, save the world’ – many Shifters feel it doesn’t need to be any more complicated. Gnosis & Gifts: This is a Shifter’s connection to Gaia. It is spiritual energy, and each Shifter is capable of wielding it in a variety of different ways – most commonly to fuel Gifts (a variety of supernatural powers). Some see this energy as sacred as it all comes from Gaia and afford the use of Gnosis a measure of sacred respect – others see it as a tool of war, and when used in fighting for Gaia it is always sacred.
Rage & Frenzy
Another boon that Luna grants – though – it is as much a curse. Rage is the anger that Luna feels for the pain that she must watch her sister, Gaia, endure. She shares her rage with Shifters – which has the potential to make them more dangerous and even harder to stop. But a Shifter that uses this ‘boon’ looses control and attacks everything around them. Rage is powerful and is always just below the surface – it marks Shifters as predators and makes them prone to emotional outbursts.
Spirit-Half & The Umbra
You might have noticed that the Earth and Moon have been talked about like they were living entities or people. It’s because, to the Shifters, they are. In addition to being physical objects, they are great spirits which reside in the spirit-world, parallel to the ‘real’ world. Shifters can walk between these worlds, as they are half-spirit themselves (half spirit, one quarter man, one quarter animal? Yep! Some things weren’t meant for fractions). All physical things have spirits, though, most are small and many are sleeping. Knowing the ways of spirits and giving them proper respect isn’t the ‘religion’ of the Shifter - it’s more just like daily life.
Tribes & Totem Spirits
Larger groups of Shifters (wolves and cats) have different associations that they gather into, known as tribes. The remaining Shifters are organized into one ‘tribe’ of all of their species. Each tribe has traditions, philosophy, rules, and spiritual powers (gifts) in common. Each tribe also has a patron Totem spirit (a very powerful spirit) that acts as a guardian and guide to that tribe, as well as embodies their ideals.
Wolves and the Fera
Wolves outnumber the other Shifter types (referred to as ‘Fera’ meaning ‘Shifter that isn’t a wolf’). The reason that the wolves outnumber the other Fera is because of the War of Rage – a war that happened several thousand years ago wherein the Garou slaughtered many Fera, some to extinction. Though the war happened thousands of years ago, most Fera harbor deep resentment for their losses. Each different species of Shifter holds a different purpose and role in Gaia’s plan, so to lose any was considered a tragedy. Most Garou, however, feel they were justified in what they did during the War of Rage. Not unsurprisingly, the Garou’s role is that they are the ‘Claws of Gaia’ – the society that was born to hunt the enemy in packs and fight on the front line. The others all have different purposes. Bastet: The Cats – Their role in Gaia’s plan is to be the secret keepers. They value the virtue of Honor above many others. Bastet aren’t housecats; they are born of the large hunting cats. Though they do not hunt in packs, they are dangerous even when alone. Ratkin: The Rats - Their role in Gaia’s plan is population control. They are supposed to keep the human populations. Usually this means ‘down’ – and they’re very good at doing that – but sometimes their task is more difficult when they need to help humans survive from being wiped out in an area. They certainly feel it’s a lot less fun. Corax: The Ravens – Their role in Gaia’s plan is to be the messengers. They all take after Raven, their patron spirit, which means they are inclined to be a good-humored, well informed, useful, and obsessed with shiny objects. Ananasi: The Spiders – The Ananasi are the exception to a lot of the rules when it comes to Shifters. They are insect shifters that don’t have a connection to Luna or Gaia, don’t have Auspices, aren’t hurt by Silver… and have their own share of problems, their own purposes, and their own goals. Pretty much all of which are private. Most shifters know they are different – they just don’t know how different – so they are often regarded with suspicion at a bare minimum. More often than not – hostility. Gurahl: The Bears – Their role in Gaia’s plan is to be the healers of the land. Most Shifters never meet one in their lifetime, because they are very, very rare. They are also bears – and therefore very, very strong.
Garou and Fera all have Kinfolk. Of those in the bloodlines that produce Garou or Fera, only one out of every ten goes through a First Change. The other nine are kinfolk, and will never go through a first change. Kinfolk are treated differently in different parts of the world and among different tribes. In no society, however, are kinfolk treated as equals. Kinfolk are vital for the survival of any given bloodline, as they make the best spouses (or ‘mates’, as most shifters say). This is because kinfolk typically understands and empathizes with their full-blooded brethren, and gives their lives to the cause just the same. Though a Garou could breed with a non-kinfolk human, this can make for an unstable situation, and most humans cannot be comfortable near a Shifter because of their Rage. Kinfolk are resistant to the effects of the Rage, amongst other strangeness that surrounds most Shifters (and the war they chase), having put up with all their brethren since the beginning of time.
The litany is the code of laws that the Garou follow. All Fera have their own, separate sets of rules. The Litany for each group can be found in this guide.
Across The British Isles, Europe, and indeed the world are encampments of Gaia's chosen. A Sept is an force of shifters who maintain a territory and defend the lands from the Wyrm, and often from the machinations of man. These Sept's are often, but not always, formed around and for the protection of a Caern: a sprouting of pure energy from Gaia's very essence. To protection of a Caern is a Sept's primary job.