Shifter Backgrounds

These Traits describe special advantages that are granted to a character by birth, opportunity, or circumstance. When choosing Backgrounds, make sure to flesh out the what, why, and how. Ask yourself questions such as: What Ancestors have come before whose heroic accomplishments in life might inspire you with their memory and mystical counsel? Why did you inherit a fetish rather than someone else? How does your Pure Breed manifest? What relation are your Kinfolk?

Some tribes have restrictions on which Backgrounds a character can take at character creation. These restrictions fall into two categories: discouraged Backgrounds — like Contacts and Resources for the Wendigo, or Mentor for the Glass Walkers — and restricted Backgrounds, like Ancestors and Pure Breed for Glass Walkers, or the Silver Fangs’ required purchase of three dots of Pure Breed.

Usually, discouraged Backgrounds are social in nature and restricted Backgrounds are supernatural. Discouraged Backgrounds are essentially very rare: while most Bone Gnawers start with no Resources, anyone who buys a ticket can win the lottery.

Restricted Backgrounds have a closer tie to the nature of a tribe — a Bone Gnawer with Pure Breed, for instance, is going to be the focus of a lot of attention from the Garou Nation. (If none of his ancestors had it, where did it come from?) They are explicitly not attainable without Director permission.


Ancestral memory in humans is no more than pseudo-scientific nonsense. To the Garou, who can contact the spirits of their ancestors, it’s a fact of life. Many werewolves carry some of the memories of a distant ancestor; some even allow their forebears to take over their bodies.

Once per game session, the player of a Garou with this Background may roll his Ancestors Background (difficulty 8, or 10 if he’s trying to contact the spirit of a specific ancestor). Each success allows the character to increase any Ability by one for the purposes of a single narrative encounter, even if he has no dots in the Ability — and he doesn’t suffer the penalty for not having the Ability.

For example, young Emil, a pure flatlander, must scale an immense cliff to come to the aid f his embattled pack. Emil has an Ancestors rating of 4 and Athletics 0. He calls on his forebears to guide him, and Emil’s player rolls four dice at difficulty 8. He scores three successes. Emil contacts his great-great-great granduncle Cragtamer, who guides him over the sheer face and over the top. Now the player has an effective Athletics rating of 3 to make his climbing roll. If the Garou had an Athletics rating of 2, then his effective dice pool would be 5. The effect lasts until the successful completion of the challenge that Emil called upon his ancestor Cragtamer to overcome. In this case, scaling an immense cliff. It wouldn’t persist as a blanket bonus to enable him to better dodge attacks.

While it is more difficult to contact a specific ancestor, successful contact provides either useful advice or precognitive visions at the discretion of the Director. Botching an Ancestors roll may indicate that the character becomes confused, deranged or even catatonic for the remainder of the scene as he’s overwhelmed by the memories of thousands of lives. Alternatively, the ancestral spirit refuses to relinquish the body. How long the ancestor stays depends on the Director.

• You have brief, hazy visions from the distant past.
•• You remember faces and places from past lives just as you remember those of your early childhood.
••• You put names to faces among your ancestors.
•••• Ancestors converse with you on a regular basis.
••••• Your ancestors watch your adventures with interest, and they often come to counsel you.


The Fate Background represents a prophecy that accompanied your birth or the creation of your pack. A Fate is always something significant, but it’s as likely to be dark and infamous as it is to be full of glory. In these times of Apocalypse, the Garou cannot afford to sacrifice even one warrior, no matter how dark the portents surrounding them are. However, even those with terrible fates often prove to be some of the greatest Garou, perhaps because they try so hard to defy their fate. Some even succeed.

Packs tend to garner prophecies of greater proportions than individuals. This is not only because of the greater weight a pack can swing compared to a single werewolf, but also because the Garou tend to see a pack’s accomplishments as more legitimate than those of just one person.

Once per game session you may use this Background to add successes to any roll that either failed or achieved fewer successes than were required. The player rolls his rating in this Background (difficulty 8) and adds any successes to those that were achieved in the original failed roll. If this means the action succeeds, the player should describe what fortuitous events caused him to succeed.

When Fate is pooled among the pack, each member may call on this Background once per game session. If the action failed involves the entire pack in some way, then the player may draw on an amount of Fate up to the highest individual Fate in the pack. If the character is acting on her own, the player can only draw on an amount of Fate up to the lowest individual Fate in the pack (to a minimum of one).


You possess a fetish — a physical object into which a werewolf has bound a spirit. The spirit grants a number of powers to a fetish, so they are very significant to the Garou. Such things are valuable, and other Garou (or other supernatural beings) may covet them. A number of sample fetishes are presented on W20 p. 221.

There are four ways to acquire a Fetish on Liberation MUSH:

  • You can spend points on the Fetish Background in Chargen. Whether the Fetish is approved or not, will depend on how logically it integrates with your character’s backstory and purpose.
  • You can acquire a Fetish as part of an on-grid plot. There might be circumstances that allow you to ‘snatch one up’ so to speak, such as taking it from the body of a dead combatant, or some cache. If you want to keep the Fetish, you will need to buy the Background points for it, paying 5 XP per dot level of the Fetish. If you don’t wish to pay it, then some other fate will befall the Fetish (perhaps taken by an NPC or sent to its next living kin, or something broken during the struggle). There is a payment involved so that players can still acquire Fetishes at roughly the same cost of what it would have taken to devote Freebies to it in chargen, but in a way that precludes abuse.
  • You can use the Rite of the Fetish to try and create one. This will take time and effort. You will still need to pay half the usual cost of the Fetish (rounded down), but the cost may be borne by multiple characters, provided they assisted in the questing, forging or summoning. It might only take 1-2 RL weeks to create a Level One Fetish. It could take several RL months to create a Level Five Fetish.
  • An already created, existing and paid for Fetish may be passed on to other PCs without incurring additional costs. Be warned: Any incidence suggesting a ‘Conflict of Interest’, such as passing a Fetish to your friend who passes it to your alt at a later date will be dealt with severely.

NOTE: For now, we are only approving Fetishes whose mechanic effects have been described in either a W20 or in some cases, a Revised Werewolf resource. Although the latter will be subjected to closer scrutiny and potential revisions. You are free to tweak the nature of their appearance, name or background – but no custom mechanic effects for now, except for occasionally swapping out one Ability for another. I am not going to be approving Fetishes who lower Combat-related difficulties for the time being, even though one or two of these are valid and may be permitted in the future.


Kinfolk are otherwise normal humans and wolves who descended from Garou without inheriting their spiritual duty. Through this Background you are in contact with a number of Kinfolk. While Kinfolk are normal members of their species in most respects, they are immune to the Delirium, giving them the dubious advantage of looking upon a Crinos-form werewolf. They know that you are Garou, and they are willing to help you however they can, although most are not in positions of power (such people are considered Allies). Networks of Kinfolk are a valuable way for werewolves to deal with the human world without risking frenzy or discovery. Some Kinfolk may be related to you directly, while others are contacts you have made through your sept.

HOUSE RULE: In addition to their other benefits and for the purposes of roleplaying, the Kinfolk Background interacts with the Influence System on Liberation MUSH in an identical fashion to the Contacts Background. Which means that if you want to use your Kinfolk dots as Contacts, they must be set up as such in your +notes.

• Two Kinfolk
•• Five Kinfolk
••• 10 Kinfolk
•••• 20 Kinfolk
••••• 50 Kinfolk

Pure Breed

Garou take great stock in ancestry, and the werewolf who is descended from renowned forbears has a definite advantage in Garou society. This Background represents your lineage, markings, bearing and other features of birth. Other Garou revere werewolves with high ranks in Pure Breed as heroes of yore come to life — and such werewolves are expected to act the part. The higher your Pure Breed score is, the more likely you are to impress elder councils or receive hospitality from foreign tribes. Each point of Pure Breed adds an extra die to formal challenges (such as Rank challenges) and to Social rolls involving other Garou (even Ronin or Black Spiral Dancers).

Pure Breed is a nebulous combination of bloodline and spiritual inheritance. A character with high Pure Breed looks and carries himself like an archetypal member of his tribe — however, if he does not join that tribe, any benefits of Pure Breed are removed by the tribe’s totem. Many werewolves with Pure Breed can trace their ancestry directly, while others resemble distant ancestors who cannot be connected without a degree of genealogical exactitude that is lost to the Garou.

Some tribes place more value on good breeding than others, but Pure Breed is almost universally respected. It’s a mystical trait, and werewolves can tell instinctively whose blood is particularly pure. Of course, Garou expect those of pure blood to live up to the standards set by their noble ancestors. They frown on those who can’t or won’t accept the challenge.

• You have your father’s eyes.
•• Your grandfather made a name for himself and you carry that name with pride.
••• Your pedigree is blessed with pillars of the Garou Nation, and the blood tells.
•••• You could be dressed as a beggar and still command respect.
••••• The greatest of heroes live on in you.


Rituals are an important part of Garou life. This Trait denotes how many rites the character knows at the beginning of the game. Remember that to learn a rite the character needs a Rituals Knowledge rating at least equal to the level of a given rite. While Rank is not necessarily a factor, many Theurges would need a pretty convincing reason to teach a Level Five rite to a Rank 1 Garou (which makes it equally unlikely to be approved in chargen). Note that two minor rites can be purchased in place of one Level One rite.

HOUSE RULE: You may learn Minor, Level 1 and 2 Rites from PCs and NPC Mentors for free, although it requires a certain duration of teaching. This won’t be obsessively enforced, but I am wanting something like an average of three days per Minor Rite, a week per Level 1 Rite, and two weeks per Level 2 Rite. While I don’t require logs of the teaching sessions, the roleplaying does need to happen.

Levels 3-5 Rites still need to be taught by a PC or NPC Mentor, but they cost 5 XP each (per Rite, not per level of the Rite). Again, higher level Rites are unlikely to be taught to lower ranked Garou outside extreme situations.

  • PC teachers must have an Instruction Ability equal to the level of the Rite they are hoping to teach.
  • PC teachers may teach one concurrent Rite for every dot of the Instruction Ability that they possess.

Spirit Heritage

The Garou are creatures of duality — torn between man and wolf, and between flesh and spirit. The Garou share a kinship with inhabitants of the spirit world, but some have a stronger connection than others. For some reason, perhaps an ancestral tie to a household of spirits, certain types of spirits react more positively to you than others. This doesn’t need to be a friendly relationship — spirits may be fearful and respectful of you, in awe of you, or feel a sense of duty to you. No matter what the relationship, one group of spirits is more likely to cooperate with you.

When you select this background, choose one type of spirits. Examples of possible groups are animal spirits, plant spirits, elementals, urban spirits, and even Banes. When dealing with spirits of this type, the player may add his Spirit Heritage rating to any Social rolls, or rolls involved in challenges. Spirits whom you are attuned to view you, to some degree, as one of their own — a daunting prospect for those attuned to Banes, when other Garou discover their heritage. If you act against such spirits or ignore their plights, you may be seen as betraying them.

• Spirits can smell their scent on you, though no one else can
•• The spirits note your arrival. You bring your chosen spirits to mind in others when they look at you, though few understand why.
••• In the Umbra, you emanate an intangible, though noticeable, sense of your aligned spirit type.
•••• In the Umbra, you have visible hints of your aligned spirit type. Those attuned to nature spirits may have tiny twigs emerge from their fur, for example.
••••• Some question if you really are only half spirit


Totem is a Background that applies directly to the character’s pack, rather than the individual. Unlike other pooled Backgrounds, the pack spends all of the points that members have invested in this Trait to determine their totem’s power.

Each totem has a Background cost rating; the pack must spend that amount to ally with that totem. Some totems are willing to lend great powers to their adherents; their point costs are correspondingly greater. See Pack Totems (W20 Core p. 373) for a list of possible totems. In addition to their Totem bonuses, all beginning totems have a base of eight points to divide among Rage, Willpower, and Gnosis. The totem also begins with the Airt Sense and Re-form Charms. Apart from bestowing power, totems start out somewhat aloof from the pack, and they have little influence among spirits, unless the players buy a closer connection with Background points. With time, roleplaying, and experience points, pack totems can grow in power as their pack grows in Rank and influence. Some totems can eventually even become the totems of whole septs.

Most of the powers that totems bestow are available to only one pack member at a time. At the end of each turn, the Garou with the power declares who the power may be given to next turn (assuming that she doesn’t keep it). After spending the initial cost of the totem, the players can spend any remaining Background points to add to the totem’s strength and abilities.

1Per point to spend on Willpower, Rage, or Gnosis.
2Totem can speak to the pack without the benefit of the Gift: Spirit Speech.
2Totem can always find the pack members.
3Totem is nearly always with the pack members.
3Totem is respected by other spirits.
3Per charm possessed.
3Per extra pack member who can use the totem’s powers in the same turn.
6Totem is connected mystically to all pack members, allowing communication among them even at great distance.
9Totem is feared by agents of the Wyrm. Either minions of the Wyrm flee from the pack, or they do their best to kill the pack.
The listed cost is in Totem Background points, which can be bought through experience at the reduced rate of two experience points per Totem Background point. There is no limit to the number of Totem Background points a pack may purchase.

House Rule: Garou PCs are not allowed Personal Totems on Liberation MUSH.

Learn more about Pack Totems here.

Fera Backgrounds

No Ananasi may have Ancestors or Pure Breed; Ananasa doesn’t want her children dwelling on the past. Queen Ananasa also serves as the totem for all werespiders, granting Occult +3 and Enigmas +2 while the werespider meditates in his Sylie. In return, they must obey her laws.

Bastet use most of the same Backgrounds as Garou, eschewing only Ancestors (with the exception of Swara). They use personal rather than pack totems, however (calling such patrons “Jamak”). Bastet make additional use of two Backgrounds unknown to the Garou: Secrets, which they share with the Corax, and Den-Realm.

Corax rarely stick with any single Mentor for an appreciable length of time, and dismiss Pure Breed as elitist nonsense. They have no pack or personal Totems, either; Raven claims each Corax for his own, granting them one free dot of Athletics, Enigmas, and Subterfuge. In return he asks only that they whisper each secret they learn into the air, that he might hear it as well. Corax can, of course, purchase the Secrets and Umbral Maps Backgrounds

Owing to their rarity, Gurahl rarely amass much in the way of Resources. All Gurahl have an aspect of Bear as their personal Totem. They also use a unique Background: Umbral Glade.

Nuwisha use the same Backgrounds as Garou, as well as Umbral Maps. Virtually all Nuwisha have a personal totem, inevitably a trickster spirit of some sort. Rarely, a Nuwisha will bind herself into a pack of other Fera — but only if the pack is united under a trickster totem.

Ratkin generally don’t have much in the way of Resources or Allies, and don’t have Ancestors or Pure Breed at all. Some wererats establish themselves under a permanent Totem, while others use a special rite to temporarily assume a Totem for the duration of only a single mission or quest, dissolving their bond to the spirit once their task is done.


The Bastet has built or acquired (either by inheritance or duel) her own Den-Realm, a sanctuary where she and the land have become one. In the Umbra, a Den-Realm resembles a Domain, one which other travelers cannot pass through without permission. The appearance of this Domain is up to the Bastet who owns the Den-Realm — a proud Khan’s Den-Realm may resemble a maharaja’s fortress, while a Balam’s might resemble an impenetrable forest.

A difficulty 8 Perception + Occult roll is necessary to recognize a Den-Realm for what it is, and penetrating its walls uninvited requires a roll as though the intruder were stepping sideways (difficulty 9). This automatically alerts the Bastet that an intruder is coming in.

A werecat inside of his Den-Realm enjoys several benefits: He may step sideways at any time within his Den-Realm, against a Gauntlet of 3. A number of times per scene equal to his Gnosis rating, the Bastet may make a Gnosis roll (difficulty 6) to blink between two points in his Den-Realm without crossing the intervening space. Any attack on the Den-Realm (whether by banes in the Umbra or bulldozers in the Gaia Realm) registers as a cold bolt of pain in the werecat’s heart. The Bastet can freely peer through the Gauntlet from either side within her Den-Realm. Finally, the Bastet can lead any others she chooses across the Gauntlet while in her Den-Realm as though they were packmates.

A Den-Realm’s rating determines how big it is. The first rating is for urban Den-Realms, while the second is for the much larger Den-Realms possible in the wilderness.

• The size of a house/one square mile.
•• The size of a mansion/two square miles.
••• A city block/five square miles.
•••• Two city blocks/10 square miles.
••••• Five city blocks/20 square miles.

HOUSE RULE: Den-Realms are rare in Los Angeles – and nearly the entirety of the gameplay takes place in urban areas. No Bastet may begin with a Den-Realm, though they may eventually claim one with the Level Three Rite of Claiming (Bastet Breedbook, page 121), if they can find someone willing to teach it. A Bastet may not have a Den-Realm of greater size than her Rank.

Rite of Claiming (Level Three Moon Rite): This mystic secret proclaims the foundation, or transferal of a Den-Realm. To do this, a Bastet travels across her territory on foot, marking the boundaries with scratches, urine and other forms (graffiti, incantations, blood, etc.) When the circuit is completed, the werecat performs the rite in the place where she began, and binds herself to the essence of the place. From then on, the area is her Den-Realm. Although it may be expanded by performing this rite again, no werecat can keep more than one separate Realm.

Umbral Glade

A Gurahl with this Background possesses a Den which opens into a Glade in the Umbra, serving as a “mini-caern” or wellspring of Gnosis. The size and location of the Umbral Glade determines how much Gnosis is available for the resident Gurahl. If more than one Gurahl remains within the Glade in order to regain Gnosis, the total Gnosis available must be shared among those wishing to partake of it.

In addition to providing Gnosis for the Gurahl, an Umbral Glade gives the werebear an instantaneous doorway into the Umbra without the need for a rite.

• A 20 x 20 foot area, supplying one Gnosis per day.
•• A 50 x 50 foot area, supplying two Gnosis per day.
••• A 100 x 100 foot area, supplying three Gnosis per day.
•••• A 500 x 500 foot area, supplying four Gnosis per day.
••••• A 1,000 x 1,000 foot area, supplying five Gnosis per day.

HOUSE RULES: Speak with Sundance before pinning your heart on this Background.

Umbral Maps

The character possesses a wealth of experience and received information about Umbral navigation. These “Umbral maps” are not physical objects, but rather the collected lore of symbolic navigation among spirit paths, the entry methods for safe havens and refuges, the cycles of natural spirit paths, and reliable methods to bypass various obstacles along the way. This Background is normally the province of Corax and Nuwisha, though other Changing Breeds occasionally pick it up as well.

• A few safe paths and refuges. The character enjoys –1 difficulty to rolls to navigate the Umbra.
•• Several routes to common destinations. As Level One, plus once per story the character can re-roll a failed attempt to navigate through the Umbra.
••• Safe zones, routes to virtually any place, and knowledge of where not to go. –2 difficulty to rolls to navigate the Umbra, plus one re-roll per story.
•••• Several safe places and refuges, extensive knowledge of Umbral paths and dwellers in those areas. –2 difficulty to rolls to navigate the Umbra, plus two re-rolls per story.
••••• No one knows the Near Umbra like the character. –3 difficulty to rolls to navigate the Umbra, plus three re-rolls per story.


The character possesses information that would be considered desirable — or damaging — by someone else. While such knowledge can sometimes place the character in danger, mostly it gives her leverage and advantages. What the character does with these secrets (bartering them for favors or cash, using them to take down minions of the Wyrm, or something else entirely) is up to her.

The player and Director should work together to determine what sort of secrets the character possesses. The Background’s rating determines the value and number of secrets the character knows. This Background is normally the province of Corax and Bastet, though other Changing Breeds (and even the odd Shadow Lord!) occasionally pick it up as well.

• A small but noteworthy secret — a secret affair, a hidden sexual orientation, a minor crime.
•• A moderate secret. The human identities of a Garou pack, the whereabouts of a criminal on the run, a significant crime, or evidence of two Garou sleeping together. Alternately, a few minor secrets.
••• A substantial secret, or equivalent amount of lesser secrets. A matter of life and death or utter ruination for someone. The location of a lost fetish that someone needs to stay lost. The identity of a murderer of one or more Fera.
•••• A heavy secret, or equivalent amount of lesser secrets. The location of a national fugitive, a vampire’s “little black book” of contacts, the location of a Gurahl.
••••• An enormous secret, or equivalent amount of lesser secrets. A high-level Pentex plot. The location of a legendary cursed fetish. The secret weakness of an Incarna.

HOUSE RULES: Forthcoming. Expect a significant revision to this Background to make it something more interesting and useful, and less something that should simply be derived from roleplaying.