Sept of the Smiling Angel

The group of Garou who live near and tend an individual caern is called a Sept. This community of werewolves defend the caern from the forces of the Weaver and Wyrm, other supernatural threats, and the incursions of humanity in general.

The sept is usually the focal point of a much larger protectorate, the exact size of which is dependent upon the sept’s location (such as whether it is an urban or rural caern). A sept can consist of only a few werewolves, barely enough to make a single pack, or a dozen or more packs. Septs are usually dominated by one or two tribes of Garou, with a few representatives from allied groups.

History

The Sept of the Smiling Angel has always been at the forefront of the battle. From the first arrival of the Three Brothers on their pilgrimage into the Americas, to the waves of influx of Western Garou and then the growing power of the Wyrm; the caern has been subject to as frequent of upheavals as the earth itself. Some Theurges like to joke that Earthquake has always held some manner of sway, keeping the Garou humble by throwing them off their feet from time to time. Some even argue the Garou’s age old plight in the region has influenced the spirit of Los Angeles, inspiring a place known for devouring the weak and rewarding the strong.

This frequent change and need to always be ready for a fight has formed the unique makeup of the Smiling Angel. Politics are frequent, tenuous alliances common, and a Garou who isn’t hungry usually finds their blood watering the concrete. A modern city requires modern solutions, and while the spirit of traditions remain the Garou of the sept understand the wisdom in being flexible. As such, they enjoy a few unique aspects and subtle nuances in their traditions, rituals and demography, just as most every other Sept in the world does in some form or fashion. It remains to be seen if the ‘Smiling Angel’ will live up to its hope and promise, or if the smile will give way to a rictus of pain and rage from the last, cornered wolf.

The Cub’s History of Los Angeles, which sketches the rise, fall (and rise again) of the Sept of the Smiling Angel.

Territory & Demographics

Septs can change, and often do. The caern beneath Los Angeles, over the last hundred and fifty years, has been protected by three different Septs: The original Uktena of the Sept of the Acorn Woodpecker eventually gave way towards the close of the 19th century to the Iron Riders who replaced them. The Sept of the Setting Sun was dominated by the ‘Wise Guys’ camp of the Glass Walkers (who the Iron Riders evolved into) for most of the subsequent 20th century.

The Sept of the Setting Sun was overrun by the Black Spiral Dancers and almost completely dispersed. The modern Sept of the Smiling Angel began when the Children of Gaia, Bone Gnawers, Uktena and Black Furies came together to drive the Black Spirals out and start a new era in the 1970s.

The heart of almost every sept is its caern. This is the sept’s sacred place, the focus of all sept rituals. This is where the sept comes to celebrate its victories, mourn its dead, and sanctify the turns of life’s wheel. Septs unlucky enough to lack a caern are barely real septs, and usually do everything in their power to find or build a proper caern. Caerns and septs are so closely related that sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. Technically, however, “sept” refers to a community of Garou living together, while their “caern” is the magical and spiritual center of the sept.

Caern Overview: Bawn & Heart
A caern has two parts: the bawn and the heart. The bawn is the majority of the caern’s area of influence, and contains the memorial, the living area, the shrines, and the assembly area. Garou consider a caern’s umbral reflection just as much part of the bawn as its physical surroundings.

The bawn consists of everywhere under the caern’s spiritual influence. In some septs, the edge of the bawn also marks the outermost border of the sept; larger septs, however, may claim far more territory. In most rural caerns, much of the bawn is a broad field with most of the trees and undergrowth cut away. This has the dual purpose of providing the Garou with an open place to run and play, as well as limiting an attacker’s cover and making it easier for a sept to erect defenses. In an urban caern, the bawn might be a block or two with an unusually low crime rate and an unusually high number of trees and small gardens. Some urban bawns are just the lobby of a single building, with the caern itself somewhere above — or below — the ground.

The bawn is a spiritual region, as well as a physical location. As a result, it might be separated from the outside world by natural boundaries, like a river or series of rocky outcroppings. In many cases, the sept marks the outer boundary of the bawn with fences, standing stones, or graffiti tags. In the bawn the spiritual energies of the caern usually come across as a vague feeling of peace and well-being, even in a sept dedicated to a spirit of Glory.

Almost all septs maintain a memorial in their bawn. Although this area may be called “Graves of the Hallows Heroes” or “Glade of the Honored Dead,” only a few septs can actually afford to inter their dead. Instead, most septs honor their dead with memorials. These memorials can vary wildly depending on a sept’s aesthetics and resources, from statuary depicting the hero in his prime, to a climate-controlled room where acid-free scrolls recall the life stories of the dead, to a forest clearing with simple Garou runes carved into the trees.

Most septs provide a separate living area so that as many Garou and Kin wish to can live within the bawn. The kind and quality of a sept’s living quarters vary wildly, from tents to cabins to grand rustic manors for rural caerns, and seedy dives to small apartments to penthouse apartments for urban caerns. Most communities interpret the Litany to mean that high-Rank Garou should also receive the best housing. Depending on the needs and culture of the sept, the living area may also include other structures dedicated to the practical needs of life, including kitchens, dining halls, an infirmary, a library, a practice field, and more.

The living area of a sept always includes some kind of public assembly area. Some smaller septs just repurpose one of the living structures, clearing room in the center of the dining hall by pulling chairs and tables to one side or simply gathering in a likely part of the bawn. Other septs have a special area dedicated to meetings, like a natural amphitheater. Usually a central feature, like a large flat stone or tree stump, or ancient fire circle, acts as a focal point.

Most caerns have many shrines to the sept’s various spirit patrons, including at least one dedicated to the sept’s totem spirits. Many septs also honor the totems of the tribes that make up the sept’s population, as well as the totem spirits of the sept’s packs. A few septs go so far as to build shrines to other members of the local spirit courts, including their totem’s allies and underlings. Some caerns gather all their shrines into one place, while others have many small shrines hidden all over. In old caerns, the shrines can be somewhat mysterious, honoring spirits that no one Garou in the sept recalls. Wise septs continue to worship at these shrines, making guesses as to which offerings will please their spirits; less thoughtful septs let these shrines fall into disrepair.

Heart of the Caern
The most important part of the caern is its heart. This is the epicenter of the caern’s spiritual power, the place where the spirit world and the material world have achieved a sort of primordial union. The caern’s heart is where the Garou come to pray. When the caern is about to fall, this is where they come to make their final stand, warriors of Gaia until the end.

Caern hearts are as varied as the caerns that surround them. The form of a caern’s heart always reflects the emotions associated with the caern. A tiny sweat lodge that forms the heart of a caern of Glory might smell like blood and have walls decorated with weapons and grisly trophies, while the heart of a caern dedicated to Wisdom might be a glassy pool that sometimes seems to reflect the sky of the Umbra rather than the sky of the physical world. The emotion of the caern leaks into the minds of those who stand at its heart, a subtle influence at first that can build into powerful waves of emotion given enough time.

Hearts also have practical uses. The heart always has a very weak Gauntlet, making this an ideal place to summon spirits, bind packs to totems, and craft fetishes. It is also the only place in the caern where a moon bridge can be opened.

Most importantly, the heart of the caern is its link to Gaia. If anything harms the heart, the entire caern will wither; if the heart is tended and protected, the caern might even grow. Some Garou believe that the connection flows both ways, that if they feed the hearts of their caerns, Gaia will become stronger. Even those who disagree usually lack the conviction to voice their thoughts — who can argue with keeping the heart of the caern healthy and strong?

The Umbral reflection of the caern is a strange place. Usually, the Umbra is an idealized version of the physical world. In a caern, however, the spiritual is an almost perfect mirror of the physical. In the caern heart, almost everything that could contain an awakened spirit does. Some Garou find the spiritual clamor unnerving, but most find it more like returning to a place where everyone speaks your own language after a long time abroad — busy, but comfortable.

Inner Bawn
The Inner Bawn is where the Sept’s leading elders and officers, such as the Sept Leader, Ritemaster, Gatekeeper, Warder, etc, and the Guardian pack live. Depending on the size and nature of the Sept’s territory, the Inner Bawn might host a number of other Garou and kinfolk as well. In Los Angeles particularly, the violent tribulations of the last few decades has meant that the underground tunnels and bizarre, subterranean cityscape of the Inner Bawn has often served as a refuge of last resort.

The subterranean caern of the Sept of the Smiling Angel is located in Downtown Los Angeles, primarily found beneath Skid Row, yet with tunnels reaching as far as the Historic Core and even Bunker Hill. It represents a submerged, hidden cross-section of Los Angeles’ past, from the time of the Tongva, on through the parade of centuries to the Spanish Invasion, the ‘Wyld’ West and up through the 1960s. There are streets of buildings to be found down there, which many believe to have been bulldozed or simply forgotten about long ago, seemingly mystically preserved and embedded in the rock. You are as likely to find a nearly complete, old-timey hotel from the 1930s, an art deco travesty or the first few perfectly preserved feet of what had once been an Old West saloon, the rest lost to time and the surrounding stone.

All of it has been stitched together by a network of old Prohibition-era smuggling tunnels, which were expanded by the Wise Guys during the early 20th century to create a more defensible perimeter for the Heart of the Caern. There is also to be found an entire community of Bone Gnawer kinfolk (and a few others) squatting in parts of the surreally preserved, secret underground shanty-town (called ‘Down Town‘), who were able to take up residence after the Wise Guy’s fall from power. There are rumors up and down the West Coast of a hidden, homeless paradise somewhere beneath one of the major cities, even if the reality is far more bizarrely dangerous.

Not even the oldest living Theurge is perfectly aware of exactly how the Sept’s subterranean bawn has acquired its collection of seemingly lost buildings from the past have turned up there from time to time. Most believe it is owing to an ancient pact with Earthquake, and neither Earthquake, nor the Guardian Totem of Concrete Coyote (not its first), have ever bothered to disabuse them.

Outer Bawn
The Outer Bawn is considered to be of immediate strategic and tactical importance to the Sept, and is also where a large percentage of the Sept’s Garou and kinfolk live. It is not nearly as safe and sacred as the Inner Bawn, though.

For a rural Sept, the ‘Outer Bawn’ might be a hundred square miles of wilderness. In Los Angeles, the Outer Bawn roughly correlates to Skid Row and its surrounding Toy District, Seafood District and Flower District. These are densely populated urban areas, and as such patrolling them takes on a different tone and flavor. Although there’s no shortage of human crime and suffering, Skid Row is portrayed in the Pentex-influenced media as even more bleak and vicious than it really is.

In truth, the Sept has been doing a lot of good work in the area for several decades. It has become a mecca for 10,000+ homeless, because despite its reputation, it’s actually safer for them than elsewhere. They can find a hot meal, and benefit from social services. The Sept (especially the Children of Gaia kinfolk and Glass Walker City Farmers) have been instrumental in helping out the mortal denizens.

There’s at least several hundred Bone Gnawer kinfolk living on the streets of Skid Row as well, many of whom travel nomadically to other parts of Los Angeles, operating as a very effective, clandestine intelligence service. Homeless are always coming and going from Skid Row. It’s not the best place to panhandle, and it’s not the beach, but there’s a guarantee of a hot meal, and the police won’t follow you in. (And yet, every gang to date that has tried to take advantage of that fact has received a brutally rude awakening).

Protectorate
Beyond the ‘Outer Bawn’ is a geographic area that is more or less agreed to be under the Sept’s ‘protection’. It’s not uncommon for other Garou belonging to the Sept to live in the Protectorate, and to only rarely visit the caern itself. Young packs of Garou will often travel around the Protectorate in their service to Gaia, or even to the Protectorate of an allied Sept (Such as between the Sept of the Western Eye near San Francisco and Los Angeles).

In Los Angeles, the Sept’s Protectorate includes Bunker Hill and the immediate DTLA area and much of Central Los Angeles (Where Gideon Wu and his Glass Walker pack can be found). It includes East L.A and the San Gabriel Valley (Where Morena Moon and a dozen other Uktena can be found.) It once stretched as far west as Culver City (where a small pack of young, intrepid Glass Walkers could be found before they were mostly killed last year), and as far to the northeast as Pasadena (Where another small pack of Glass Walkers operates out of the CalTech Campus). Finally, the Sept’s Protectorate includes South Los Angeles, and more theoretically, a broad swathe of the Southlands, where several large Bone Gnawer packs can be found.

There’s a large hive of Black Spiral Dancers in the region (thought to be beneath the Inglewood Oil Fields, but whose tunnels extend as far as Temple-Beaudry near Bunker Hill), and several dozen WICs (Wyrm-Influenced Corporations) are very powerfully situated across the Southlands and East LA. Not to mention other supernatural threats, such as leeches and namebreakers.

In addition, the Sept has maintained a taboo for the last fifty years, to avoid travelling on the freeways except when absolutely necessary. It is believed that hostile entities (possibly some Pentex-infiltrated or undetermined government organization) have a way of monitoring the freeways in a way the Garou still don’t entirely understand. It’s hard to confirm if this is a true threat or an urban myth – but it has become ingrained.

Demographics
The Sept of the Smiling Angel has always had a somewhat unusual population, given the strength of its caern (which in recent decades has decayed to a level two, from the level four it was in the 19th century) vs the scale of its challenges.

There were enough Glass Walker Wise Guys from the 20s -> 50s to keep a lid on Los Angeles, during what many consider its golden age. However, they proved insufficient to contend with the explosive increase in the city’s population, which brought with it new threats and tribulations.

Since then, the Sept has only survived thanks to successive waves of new Garou, such as the Children of Gaia in the 70s, the return of the Glass Walkers in the 90s, and the rebirth of the Uktena in the Oughties. And always, a constant infusion of Bone Gnawers, following their kinfolk west to what has been dubbed the ‘Homeless Capital of America’, ever since the first Depression-era tramp caught a train to where ‘the streets are paved with gold’. As such, many Garou are transplants, even though L.A’s ‘conquer or be conquered’ lifestyle means that it only takes a few years of surviving against the odds before one starts thinking of themselves as a native.

There’s usually around four to five packs worth of Garou at any given time, who are most closely attached to the Sept’s bawn in DTLA, and from whom the ranks of its Officers are almost entirely drawn. This group consists of virtually every Child of Gaia in Los Angeles, although even here they barely match the local Bone Gnawers and Uktena. There is also the occasional Black Fury from the nearby Sept of the Western Eye, a rare visitor from another Tribe, and a few Glass Walkers (mostly City Farmers and Urban Primitives) who find themselves more sympathetic with the current Sept leadership than any alternative, even from their own ranks. 

There is a large, strong pack of wealthy, Asian-American Glass Walkers located in Bunker Hill, under the leadership of Gideon Wu – the Elder corporate wolf who many Glass Walkers believe should be the Sept’s leader. Technically belonging to, yet of a different heart, they believe that the future security of the Sept rests entirely on their taking the reins of power in their capable, manicured paws. Their success in protecting Bunker Hill against Wyrmish depredations from the nearby Temple-Beaudry toxic pit has proven they’re no pushovers in a fight, either. Combined with access to vast material resources and mortal influence that out-strips the Sept itself, they present a formidable political challenge, despite their lower number of actual werewolves. Their strength is further buttressed by a support network of kinfolk teeming with technically savvy operators, lawyers and lobbyists. 

With the exception of Bunker Hill, the Glass Walkers are the most decentralized and mobile tribe in Los Angeles. It changes as the years goes by, and as the tempo of the ongoing war with Pentex goes through phases of waxing and waning. There’s currently a pack of them to be found in Pasadena at Cal-Tech, and until recently in Culver City on the lower Westside (in-game events saw the Culver City pack sadly overrun by the Black Spirals of Inglewood). Both modest-sized packs were very independent-minded, though could be expected to side with Gideon Wu in matters of internal Sept politics.

There are at least several large packs, mostly consisting of young, aggressive Bone Gnawers with a few Uktena roaming around South L.A. and often even deeper into the Southlands. They are almost entirely disaffected with Children of Gaia leadership, though unlike the more organized Bunker Hill cadre, they have yet to unite around a single champion. Should they ever manage to do so, they would have the numbers to make a credible push for a change in the Sept leadership.

Finally, there’s a couple packs of Uktena in East Los Angeles and the massive, sprawling, chiefly urban area of the San Gabriel Valley where a large number of their Hispanic intermixed kinfolk can still be found in the Puente and San Jose Hills. They have repeatedly searched for a small caern of their own, and have repeatedly pursued rumors of one into the San Gabriel Mountains, Antelope Valley, and the Los Angeles Forest over the last couple decades – yet have failed each time.

What this means is that an area containing at least ~10-12 million humans, there’s not even close to a hundred werewolves to be found and less than half of them are pulling in anything remotely like the same direction. Every new arrival could potentially make a great difference.

Sept Hierarchy

Septs only survive because Garou fulfill their various functions, from simple cleaning and maintenance to organizing the caern’s defense or rallying the Garou to attack the Wyrm. Septs — and their spirits — honor those Garou who take on these jobs, which makes sept positions an important part of the Garou struggle for dominance.

Sept Standing

A character’s Sept Standing is the degree of respect accorded to them within their sept for one reason or another. They might perform some valuable function for the sept, come from an important or influential lineage, or perhaps their deeds simply speak for themselves. Either way, those with a high Sept Standing can count on their sept’s support. Kinfolk characters can potentially acquire up to two dots of Sept Standing, granting them some duties in the sept.

A character with an unusually high Sept Standing might have been tutored by a famous Garou or come from a well-known family — or perhaps he was thrust into an unusually advanced position when her elders and betters were killed. On the other hand, a character with unusually low Sept Standing for his Rank might be a newcomer, or grappling with a bad reputation, deserved or not. Generally speaking, Ragabash, Metis and Garou hailing from ‘outsider’ tribes must prove themselves twice over, since they’re rarely given the benefit of the doubt.

A character’s Sept Standing has two facets. The first is the degree to which his sept respects him and the second is a character’s position within the sept — his job in Garou society. Each position in a sept has a Sept Standing requirement (see below). A character must possess that many dots in Sept Standing to reap the rewards of the position.

Garou crave hierarchy, but they are also creatures of action. You can take on a job without having the necessary Sept Standing (and given the rate of attrition in Garou society this is practically a given), but you will suffer a social dice penalty equal to the disparity between your Sept Standing and your position as jealous rivals maneuver to replace you and even your friends doubt if you’re truly up to the task. Despite the daunting challenge there is rarely a shortage of candidates for any open position as it offers the surest route to earning respect if you succeed.

• Known: You have established yourself as capable of pulling your own weight. It is common to be afforded the following privileges: Take up residence within a permitted area of the Inner Bawn (such as the Fremont Hotel or Down Town); borrow one of the sept’s vehicles; borrow common tools and supplies from the sept’s stores.

•• Respected: You are viewed as more than merely competent. Your septmates ask for your advice and the elders invite you to take on responsibilities. It is common to be afforded the following privileges: Take a talen from sept stores as needed; borrow rare or specialized tools and supplies from the sept stores; have your opinion heard on most subjects without anyone rolling their eyes or getting impatient with you; given at least passing consideration for most vacant sept positions even if you’ll need to grow into it.

••• Valued: You are an important resource to your sept. The sept does its best to make sure you are comfortable and appreciated so you don’t seek a place elsewhere. It is common to be afforded the following privileges: Borrow a minor (one to two dot) fetish for a week or two without asking; petition to borrow a significant (three to four dot) fetish for a week or two; take up permanent residence in a honored location (such as that reserved for tribal gathering spots or sept positions); permission to open the caern and benefit from its blessing; reasonably expect assistance from the sept’s high-ranking experts (such as help with making a fetish by one of the sept’s shamans, or combat training from the sept’s leading Ahrouns).

•••• Honored: Formally or informally, you are one of the sept’s leaders, with much of the sept’s resources at your disposal. It is common to be afforded the following privileges: Have sept kinfolk (or even cubs or cliath) go out of their way to make you comfortable in the sept such as by keeping your abode clean or running errands; have your opinion solicited on most subjects that affect the sept; trusted to handle all but the sept’s mightiest fetishes on your own recognizance; assume responsibility for the the sept’s cash disbursements (if relevant); assume a position of great responsibility and leadership.

•••••+ Revered: You are one of your sept’s greatest heroes. Whether terrifying or beloved, these Garou tend to make either demands or sacrifices far out of proportion to any other wolf.

Sept Positions

These positions are traditional, but not written of in the Litany, and vary from location to location. Some of these positions may be absent in some septs, due to local custom or practicality. For example, a very small sept might do away with the position of Keeper, forcing the Keeper of the Land to recruit informally when she needs help. Other septs might split more complex positions into two or more simpler positions — for example, embodying the Wyrm Foe’s ritual and tactical responsibilities in two different Garou.

In particularly small or troubled septs, Kinfolk will sometimes be called upon to fulfill some of these positions. Because Kinfolk are not full members of the Garou Nation, they cannot effectively take on leadership roles and will rarely have the Sept Standing to benefit from the bonuses that a Garou might receive. It has been known to happen though, especially in isolated septs where the Kinfolk are much older and the Garou especially young and untested.

Sept Positions can be very different between traditional ‘rural’ septs and urban or ‘Urrah’ septs, since they’re responding to very different needs. Some of the position, such as Warder or Wyrm Foe, are treated very differently elsewhere where they’re valued even more highly or less. Some positions have a lower Sept Standing requirement since it’s less unusual for them to be assumed by scrappy, ambitious alphas on the rise (such as Warder and Wyrm Foe), despite being very important roles. Garou know that such jobs have a high attrition rate, especially in times of war.

What follows below is how these positions have evolved in the Urrah-dominated, inner city urban sept of Los Angeles.

Remember that while Garou can fill positions in excess of their Sept Standing, they don’t receive the ‘benefits’ while doing so. Only a Garou whose standing and reputation is fully equal to the task will receive the bonuses.

Guardian (Sept Standing •)

Responsibilities: All of a sept’s Garou are ready to lay down their lives to defend it on a moment’s notice, but the sept’s Guardians have made it their personal responsibility. Guardians act as a sept’s sentries, patrolling it’s borders and responding to threats within its protectorate.

Most septs have between five and ten Guardians — the equivalent of one or two packs — and it isn’t at all unheard of for an entire pack to collectively take on this duty. In some septs, the local packs will rotate the honor of serving as the sept’s guardians. In times of war, the Guardians are on duty at all times, which depending on the nature of the threat may keep them on constant patrols throughout the protectorate or forbidden from venturing beyond the Outer Bawn. This is typically at the direction of the Warder (who in turn takes counsel with the Wyrm Foe and Sept Alpha).

The traditional, largely rural septs of tribes such as the Silver Lords, Wendigo, Red Talons and even the Black Furies view it as an unforgiveable shame for their Kinfolk to take up arms. Other tribes, especially Urrah werewolves such as the Glass Walkers and Bone Gnawers view it as a vital necessity. The city has many dangers and the sept’s kinfolk are often uniquely positioned to help on the urban battlefield.

It is well known in Los Angeles that the Sept would have fallen many times over if it weren’t for the efforts of its large networks of native Kinfolk. It is estimated that there are at least several hundred Kinfolk throughout Los Angeles that are actively involved in the defense of the protectorate, ranging from the ghettos of South LA to the glittering skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angles and all the way to the Puente Hills of the San Gabriel Valley. You will find cells of Kinfolk ‘commandos’ and ‘support squads’ doing their best to even the odds. Sometimes, the Kinfolk commander of one of these cells is honored with the position of ‘Guardian’.

NOTE: Historically, members of the sept who were packless were assumed to be assigned as a Guardian. With the sept replenishing its numbers, Guardians are now formally recognized and designated by the Sept Alpha, Warder, or Wyrmfoe.

Standing Benefit: A Guardian’s constant training and familiarity with the terrain allow her to reduce difficulties by 1 which depend on maneuvering, coordination and teamwork while fighting on the sept’s home ground.

Keeper (Sept Standing •)

Responsibility: The Keepers do the maintenance work and heavy lifting around the sept. Most Keepers are young Garou trying on serious responsibility, or those convicted of minor crimes trying to avoid a worse punishment. Keepers must spend some part of each day in the sept, looking for ways to contribute, but they have plenty of time to pursue their own business. Keepers are designated by and work under the Keeper of the Land and assist her with her duties.

Kinfolk frequently become Keepers. Even the most conservative Garou agree that Kin can perform petty, but necessary, work for the sept. In conservative septs, Kin gain much more respect for taking on this job than they do for ambitiously claiming a responsibility that some Garou believe should be for werewolves alone.

Standing Benefits: The spirits of the sept understand that the Keepers are the minions of the Keeper of the Land, and grant them some respect. Keepers enjoy a +1 bonus to Social dice pools when interacting with spirits within the sept’s territory.

Caller of the Wyld (Sept Standing ••)

Responsibilities: It is the Caller of the Wyld’s responsibility to summon the sept’s totem spirits — including the spirit of the caern itself — to most moots. This requires knowledge of Garou rites, to perform that actual summoning, and Umbral politics, to ensure that a spirit is not summoned out of turn or accidentally snubbed. In addition to their ceremonial role, the Caller tends to and maintains the relationship with the avatars of the totem spirits that align with the Sept, often possessing intimate knowledge of their abilities and bans.

Young werewolves, especially ambitious Theurges, enjoy this position because it helps them build a relationship with the sept’s local spirits. Callers often perform the duties of a Keeper when their services aren’t required, giving them the ability to leave the bawn and pursue their own goals with their pack.

Standing Benefits: The Caller of the Wyld gains a +3 to Social dice pools involving interaction with the sept’s totem spirits, and a +1 to Social dice pools when interacting with other spirits associated with the sept.

Keeper of the Land (Sept Standing ••)

Responsibilities: The Keeper of the Land maintains the sept’s physical appearance and relationships with the sept’s local spirits. However, they are more than just a glorified janitor — not only do the Garou deeply respect someone who takes responsibility for protecting and beautifying the natural environment, Gaian spirits find a well-kept sept more attractive. Thus, the Keeper of the Land is a combination gardener, park ranger, and shaman.

In an urban caern, the Keeper of the Land makes sure that the caern reflects the wishes of the local spirits. She spends time rearranging fixtures and planting small gardens. Instead of shrines in secluded caves and hollow tree trunks, urban spirits prefer things that resemble community memorials to the victims of car accidents and gang violence, except with strange sigils replacing photographs and the addition of an offering bowl. The result looks like a strange combination of urban renewal and modernist feng shui.

The Keeper of the Land has significant interaction with spirits. In addition to their duties in the physical, they are also responsible for monitoring the umbra of the sept’s bawn. Often times it is the Keeper of the Land who is the first to know of any issues that arise within the sept’s territory, ones that aren’t initially viewed as a threat by the Warder or the Guardians. The Keepers, especially ones who are Garou, assist the Keeper of the Land in their duties, giving them the ability to leave the bawn and pursue their own goals with their pack.

Standing Benefits: The Keeper of the Land is beloved by all the sept’s spirits and can count on their advice and help. A Garou who fulfills this position well enjoys a +3 bonus to Social dice pools when interacting with spirits within the sept’s territory.

Master of the Howl (Sept Standing ••)

Responsibilities: The Master of the Howl is responsible for leading the sept in howls and songs, including the howl that formally begins and ends every meeting. Young Garou also covet this position because its public nature gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills and earn the respect of the community, but it is still a position that leaves them plenty of free time to pursue their own agendas. The Master of the Howl also works with the Bone Gnawers to ensure there is an effective Barking Chain, a line of communication from city to bawn to travel news swiftly that is considered urgent, as well as the Talesinger to pass along any updates in news, gossip, or history that may need to be recorded.

The Master of the Howl is often given to a young Garou as a gateway to greater responsibilities. In most cases, it is held by a young rising star of a Galliard or an ambitious Ragabash. However, lupus give this position much more respect; even in mostly-homid septs, lupus tend to hold the position, striving to prove to their peers the role is far more than a nice, but unnecessary luxury. Often, a lupus will settle into a sept just to fill this role until he is satisfied that the sept understands its importance.

Standing Benefits: The Master of the Howl reduces all difficulties to express himself through howls (see W20 p58) by 2, thanks to the constant practice. He also gains access to the Barking Chain regardless of tribe or auspice, and a +2 bonus to Social dice pools when interacting with elements of the Barking Chain.

Talesinger (Sept Standing ••)

Responsibilities: Technically a minor position, the Talesinger is honored far above her station. The Talesinger takes the stage during moots and tells stories that serve a variety of purposes, from entertaining and educating with stories of the past, conferring news of the wider Garou nation, and keeping the wider sept aware of the great deeds — and embarrassing failures — of its packs. Like the other positions related to the moot, the Talesinger is a good position for a young Garou who wants the freedom to come and go from the sept as she pleases.

Additionally, the Talesinger also takes on the responsibilities of the Den Parent in regards to history and education that fall outside of their tribal teachings. The Talesinger also works with younger Galliards to ensure they learn the history and lore of the sept to one day pass the torch. During the Moots and Meetings, the Talesinger is front and center to inspire the Sept and rally their emotions through stories of victory and glory, ensuring that the members of the Sept battle harano and not lose their will of the fight, or their love of Gaia.

Standing Benefits: The greatest benefit of this position is its political capital. Many Garou want to court the Talesinger’s favor, since the Talesinger decides how to interpret their packs achievements and relate them to the rest of the sept. The Talesinger gains a +3 bonus to Social dice pools when dealing with all Garou of her Rank and lower.

Truthcatcher (Sept Standing •••)

Responsibilities: The Truthcatcher is a combination judge and jury, charged with settling disputes between members. In some septs, the Truthcatcher may also serve as a lawyer, advising and representing Garou when they stand before the sept’s elders. The Truthcatcher needs to be intelligent, persuasive, and possess an exhaustive knowledge of the Litany. The Truthcatcher needs to hold court at every moot, and should make herself available at regular intervals between moots, but need not be available at all times.

Any dispute that can’t wait a day or two is probably the domain of the Master of Challenges, rather than the Truthcatcher. Everyone wants to court the Truthcatcher’s favor, because no one knows when they might be called upon to defend themselves or stand in accusation of a Garou who has wronged them.

Standing Benefits: The Truthcatcher gains a +3 bonus to Social dice pools when dealing with the Garou of his sept. He also gains a +3 bonus to all Enigmas and Law dice pools when investigating a crime within the sept.

Warder (Sept Standing •••)

Responsibilities: The Warder has four main responsibilities: Their greatest responsibility is choosing, training and coordinating the sept’s Guardians, and in septs where the Guardians consist of a single pack, is virtually always the alpha of that pack. It is to the Guardians that the Warder will turn to for assistance in meeting their other three duties.

The Warder’s second responsibility is to ensure that the sept stores are well stocked with the tools for defense. This encompasses more than just weapons and ammunition, but also talens, food, medical supplies and survival equipment…or even sometimes just bus fare or a carpool schedule. Whatever it takes for the sept to meet its needs.

The Warder’s third responsibility is to act as a kind of ‘sheriff’ for the Outer Bawn. They should keep an eye out for rowdy or disruptive elements (whether human hunters or nosy campers in a rural setting or drug dealers, vampires or even often the authorities in an urban setting) that could endanger the sept. They will keep an eye on the nearby kinfolk as well, and will often be the first one turned to, if say, Maria’s son was arrested by the local police for no good reason, or a loan shark is coming to break his knees. The Warder must handle such minor security issues in a judicious fashion. In the Spirit World, he’ll ensure that a check is kept on bane activity. He’ll go to the Sept Alpha if it’s something more serious like an incursion of Spirals occurs.

The Warder’s final responsibility is to ensure that the outlying packs of the Sept’s protectorate are communicating and sharing intelligence with each other – often using Guardians as runners, scouts or temporarily attaching them to a pack that seems under greater pressure. They will coordinate closely with the Wyrm Foe in this regard.

Benefits: The Warder is a respected member of the community and enjoys a two-die bonus to all Social dice pools when dealing with members of the sept in relation to his official duties. The Warder has considerable discretion to draw resources from the sept when need be. He can draw on a temporary three dots of Equipment per chapter.

Wyrm Foe (Sept Standing •••)

Responsibilities: The Wyrm Foe is the second highest military position in the Sept. The Wyrm Foe’s responsibilities are partly practical, partly ritual. At the end of each moot, the Wyrm Foe leads the sept in declaring its solidarity with the Garou Nation and readiness to do battle with the Wyrm.

More practically, the Wyrm Foe is the offensive counterpart of the Warder, in charge of coordinating the sept’s packs in their assaults against the Wyrm. When the sept needs to defend itself, the Wyrm Foe works with the Sept Alpha and Warder to make sure that the sept’s packs are armed and positioned for defense, instead of offense.

If the Sept has to launch an offensive requiring two or more packs, it is virtually always the Wyrm Foe (who is often but not always, one of the pack alphas involved) who leads the overall effort. This makes the position extremely attractive to the war leaders of the Garou, who see it as a sure route to Honor and Glory.

Because his position is the one most similar to the Sept Alpha in terms of inspiring the sept’s packs and leading them to martial victory, they’re often the most likely to aspire to replacing the Sept Alpha, either by serving honorably and being turned to when the Alpha dies or steps down, or through scheming and challenges. This isn’t always the case though: Many a Sept Alpha (especially an old or injured one) has been propped up by the unswerving loyalty and ferocity of their Wyrm Foe. This gives the Wyrm Foe the stereotype of being either the Sept Alpha’s greatest detractor or staunchest enforcer, and many of the Garou Nation’s legends and mythologies revolve around the dramatic tension between these two roles.

Benefits: The Wyrm Foe is the focus of the sept’s martial fury and discipline. He urges the Garou to make use of their inner beasts, but to do so constructively. All Garou who hear the Wyrm Foe speak before a battle require an extra success on Rage rolls to give in to frenzy for the duration of the fight. He also enjoys a +3 dice bonus to all Social rolls in relation to his duties.

Gatekeeper (Sept Standing ••••)

Responsibilities: The Gatekeeper oversees the maintenance of the caern’s moon bridges. He or she is responsible for opening and closing these passageways into the Spirit World and for the annual renewing of the caern’s moon bridges. Gatekeepers serve as the liaison between caerns, deciding whether or not to allow another sept to open a moon bridge linking two caerns. The Gatekeeper also keeps and defends the caern’s Pathstone. Inexperienced werewolves seldom qualify for this position, except in the smallest caerns. 

In times of danger, the Gatekeeper closes off access to the caern through the Spirit World, subject to the final decision of the Sept Alpha. While Gatekeepers do not necessarily represent any particular auspice, the werewolf that holds this vital position must know both the Rite of the Opened Bridge and the Rite of the Opened Caern, as well as many other rites related to moon bridges. A Gatekeeper is in charge of the caern’s Pathstone, a powerful fetish that not only signifies her position, but also enables the Gatekeeper to communicate directly with the sept’s totem, thus allowing the opening of a moon bridge.

The stationary nature of the position means it is almost always held by one of the older werewolves of the Sept – especially those who age or battle injury prevents them from taking a more active role.

Since the Gatekeeper seldom leaves the caern, he often seeks emissaries to travel along the moon bridges he opens to make certain that the pathway is free of hindrances. Emissaries also initiate discussion with other septs to determine terms of travel between septs. Occasionally, when dealing with hostile or rival septs, the position of Gatekeeper’s emissary can involve tricky negotiations and sometimes battle.

Benefit: The Gatekeeper is a highly respected member of the community and enjoys a three-die bonus to all Social dice pools when dealing with members of the sept. It additionally conveys three bonus dice to Social dice pools when dealing with the sept’s totem spirit.

Master (or Mistress) of Challenges (Sept Standing ••••)

Responsibilities: Given how prone the Garou are to internal fighting and disputes of honor, the Master of Challenges is possibly most important member of the sept. His responsibility is to oversee challenges of all kinds. He protects the sept leadership against distraction by meaningless challenges, and is the first line of defense for young Garou against being humiliated by their betters. The Master of Challenges must be a powerful and respected Garou, with the strength of arm and personality to enforce order on impassioned werewolves.

Unlike other members of a sept’s judiciary, like the Truthcatcher or the Council of Elders, the Master of Challenges must remain at or near the sept at any time. When passions run hot, sometimes only the rituals of Garou society stand between a relatively normal conflict and a sudden frenzy that ends in tragedy.

Benefits: The Master of Challenges is widely respected and gains a three extra dice to all Social dice pools when dealing with septmates. In fact, the position of Master of Challenges is regarded so highly that even outsiders will respect his demands, granting her a +2 bonus to Social dice pools when dealing with outsiders in sept territory.

Finally, long practice dealing with the dangerous passions of the Garou grants the Master of the Challenge a special benefit. As long as he is acting in his capacity as Master of the Challenge, he does not need to make Rage rolls due to frustrating or infuriating trigger situations.

Master (or Mistress) of Rites (Sept Standing ••••)

Responsibilities: The Master of Rites (also often referred to as the ‘Ritemaster‘ or ‘Ritemistress‘) is the sept’s chief shaman. Almost always a Theurge, the Master of the Rite is responsible for overseeing all the rites and rituals performed in the sept. The Caller of the Wyld and to a lesser extent, the Talesinger and the Keeper of the Land are subordinate to the Master of Rites. In addition to performing many important rites herself, the Master of Rites must act as the sept’s repository of spirit lore, whether this means memorizing extensive lists of local spirits and their preferences or maintaining a written library. When other Theurges and Umbral questers need advice, they come to the Master of Rites.

Although she needs to be available to the sept’s members and leadership and must attend all moots, the Master of Rites does not need to stay at the sept at all times. However, her knowledge and expertise is an important resource. The rest of the sept would see it as a sin against the principles of Wisdom for the Master of Rites to risk herself unnecessarily.

Benefits: The aid and advice of the sept’s various spirits counts as three dots of the Allies and Mentor backgrounds, which the Master of Rites can call on at will. These Background dots are only available from the sept itself, and the spirits aren’t as willing to aid a Ritemaster who spends too much time away from the sept. The Master of Rites is known and greatly respected by the spirits of the sept, which grants him three extra dice to Social dice pools when dealing with the sept’s totems and local spirits.

Sept Alpha (Sept Standing •••••)

The Sept Alpha (or often ‘Sept Leader’ in Urrah-dominated Septs) is defined as the one Garou who has full accountability for all members of the Sept and has to make executive decisions in regards to its well-being and health.  The Alpha is not just a figurehead, but the overall encompassing voice and representative in how a Sept takes action. 

Depending on the leadership style, the Sept Leader may operate in concert with a council of elders, adopt a more a more democratic (if sometimes more chaotic) approach or rule with an iron fist.  While a Sept’s victory may be shared by those who serve it, a Sept’s failure sits squarely on the shoulders of the Sept Leader.  It can be lonely at the top while trying to manage the intricacies of politics and threats both internal and external.

Most importantly, the Sept Alpha is the highest military position in the Sept. The Wyrm Foe, the Warder and Guardians and the sept’s packs all bow to the Alpha’s authority in times of war. When the sept is under attack, the entire community defers to the Alpha to defend the safety of the sept’s resources, including Kinfolk and other non-combatants.

The Sept Alpha has final say as to suspending the laws of challenge in favor of uniting against a common foe. Although Sept Alphas who repeatedly abuse this right have rarely been known to enjoy long reigns.

Benefits: An Alpha’s power is only limited by the Litany itself and the power of rival Elders to cast him down if he proves corrupt. This translates as a +5 bonus to all Social dice pools when dealing with the Garou, Kinfolk, and spirits of his local sept. Even outsiders will accord an Elder great respect, granting a smaller (+3 dice) bonus to social dice pools. The Alpha can theoretically call upon every spirit ally, financial resource, and fetish the sept has to offer. The Storyteller should judge what is appropriate, since different sized septs have such radically different resources to offer.

Elder (Sept Standing •••••+)

Responsibilities: The Elders are the leading werewolves of the Garou Nation. No Garou reaches this position without having survived a very long time (their average age is well over fifty, which might very well be measured in dog years given the incredibly dangerous and violent existence that most Garou lead) while having amassed great Renown (Rank 5 is the defining requirement of this position). These are the Garou who truly shape the politics of the Garou Nation beyond the local level, and will often travel great distances to meet and confer with each other on the most pressing matters of the modern age.

Elders are often expected to weigh in on matters that affect their tribe as a whole, or the greater geographic region of the sept they hail from. The most respected Elders are often sought after as mediators in the greatest disputes. The most ruthless Elders engage in power politics on a scale little dreamed of by the average Fostern.

The Elders of a tribe rarely share the same opinion on the many challenges confronting them. This often leads to the formation of various ‘Camps’ within each tribe, which tend to come into existence when enough Elders are able to exert enough influence to gather a significant number of adherents to their philosophies. Although some Camps might appear to be the result of purely geographic fortune or a grass-roots youth movement…a closer examination virtually always reveals that they’re made viable by the the patronage of approving Elders. When this tacit support is withdrawn – such as in the case of the Glass Walker’s ‘Cyberdogs’ fiasco – the Camp usually disintegrates shortly thereafter as well.

Benefits: An Elder’s power is only limited by the Litany itself and the power of rival Elders to cast him down if he proves corrupt. This translates as a +5 bonus to all Social dice pools when dealing with all Garou and Kinfolk of their tribe below their Rank, and a +3 bonus otherwise.

Caern Totems

Much like packs, septs have totem spirits. The sept’s totem spirit rests inside the caern, basking in its spiritual energies, and can be called forth by the Master of the Rite to give advice, act as the sept’s emissary to the spirit courts, lay his blessing upon the sept’s packs, or even fight on the  sept’s behalf.

Sept totems are also willing to do battle alongside their Garou, either materializing to fight in the physical world or fighting in the Umbra. Thanks to their long association with the Garou, sept totems are very likely to employ spirit versions of Garou Gifts when they take the field, in addition to manifesting the Following Charms: Materialize, Open Moon Bridge, Peek, Realm Sense and others.

Sept totems don’t have Bans in the same way as pack totems. The presence of so many Garou makes it nearly impossible for the spirit to be cognizant of all their choices at all times. Instead, the Ban applies to the sept as a whole, a sort of “guiding principle” of the sept. If the sept acts against its guiding principals then they will not be able to summon their totem for a lunar month. If a sept makes a habit of violating their principals, their spirit will eventually abandon them.

The Sept of the Smiling Angel is an Urban Caern (Level Two) of Stealth, located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. The Sept’s Guardian Totem is the Concrete Coyote.

Concrete Coyote (Totem of Cunning)

Concrete Coyote is one of the more unusual spirits that the Garou Nation has ever encountered. He is only ever seen at night, superficially resembling a scavenging coyote in size and build. It often takes a moment before the concrete texture of his fur and the glowing sheen of his almost headlight-like eyes become apparent. His presence is usually accompanied by a whiff of roadkill and asphalt.

There is no doubt among the sept’s Theurges that Concrete Coyote is deeply bound to Los Angeles – although he seems to be something more than a city-spirit. Instead, the closest approximation of the sept’s most experienced mystics is that Concrete Coyote represents an ideal. He was given form by the many millions of lost, hopeful or desperate souls who have made their way to Los Angeles over the years, and who have found themselves doing whatever it takes to survive once they get here.

It was once thought that Los Angeles’ urban sprawl would drive the native coyote extinct – instead, their population is growing and thriving as never before to the peril of suburban pets everywhere. There isn’t – on the metaphysical level – a great deal of difference between that, and the hopeful Midwestern actress who perseveres through casting couch abuse while working multiple gigs as a waitress or the homeless, self-reliant wanderer who gets by on his wits on the streets of Los Angeles.

Concrete Coyote was not the unanimous choice for the sept’s totem spirit back in the 1970s. There were sizeable factions who pushed for either Unicorn or to re-dedicate the caern to Bear as it had been in the days of the Uktena. His choice was the result of a spirit quest carried out by Isabel ‘Star-Eyes’ Moon and Johnny Walker, and no one has ever been as familiar with Concrete Coyote as those two were.

Concrete Coyote’s seemingly natural affinity for Urrah werewolves means that both the Glass Walkers and the Bone Gnawers have at times tried to claim Concrete Coyote as one of either Cockroach or Rat’s Brood, yet the Uktena know better. For their part, the Children of Gaia have never entirely gotten over their regret at Unicorn not being chosen, and there are those who believe that all of the sept’s current ills can be traced back to that decision. Regardless, Sept Leader Mason ‘Light-Lifts-Him’ King, and his eventual son and successor, Liam Andrew King, both accepted Concrete Coyote gracefully.

Boon: Concrete Coyote serves the sept by ensuring that the way to the Inner Bawn is ever changing and shifting, protecting the caern from being discovered by outsiders. It is only rarely – and at great effort – that the Black Spiral Dancers have been able to breach these defenses. There are countless other threats (no least of which are the human authorities) that are kept at bay.

Ban: Concrete Coyote would not dream of hindering the sept’s werewolves in doing whatever it must take to survive. However, non-Urrah Garou (essentially those from more traditional, rural septs) look down upon Concrete Coyote, and upon Los Angeles werewolves in general. In a way that sometimes mirrors the contemptuous opinions of Angelenos held by humans living in other states, Concrete Coyote’s adherents can rarely expect a warm welcome when travelling abroad.