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 caern the sept protects may have a different name from the sept itself, but it is more common that they share the same name. 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.
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.
The Sept of the Smiling Angel has always been at the front of the battlefield. 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 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, 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.
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 Officer Positions
There are various official positions at the sept, such as Warder and Gatekeeper the most important of which are full time positions that are usually reserved for elder Garou. In large septs, these figures will have entire packs of Garou at their disposal to help them with their tasks. Other sept positions only have duties to tend to during the monthly moot, which may be split amongst the various members in a large enough group. In small septs, these lesser positions will often be held by less powerful Garou, or may go completely unfilled.
The Sept Alpha (or often ‘Sept Leader’ in more enlightened parlance) 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 also seek out advice from the Tribal Leaders in regards to major decision making that will impact the Sept as a whole via a more Democratic approach as opposed to ruling 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.
The Sept Officers that report directly to the Sept Leader are: Caern Warder, Master of Rites, Talesinger, Master of Challenges and the Truthcatcher.
Next to the Sept Leader, the Caern Warder may be the most politically powerful Garou in the Sept. When it comes to any and all matters of the bawn and caern’s safety, the Warder has the final word. The Caern Warder is responsible for the defense of the bawn and the caern both physically and spiritually, as well as any and all wards placed around the bawn to be maintained and secure. It is the Caern Warder’s duty to decide who will be allowed to enter the bawn and the caern’s heart in regards to guests of the Sept of Smiling Angels. Finally, the Caern Warder oversees the Guardian Packs that patrol the bawn’s perimeter by delegating authority, sending them out on routes and demanding follow up and reporting on their day to day.
This position comes with a lifetime of sacrifice and dedication to the bawn and the caern, for as long as the Garou is able to maintain their role. The Garou makes the heavy decision to bind their life to the bawn and not leave it for any reason. This, much like the Sept Leader’s role, may be perceived as very lonely, but one that is considered to be highly honorable. Thus why this particular role has been traditionally suited for Garou of the highest ranks, for they have no need to chase glory.
Whereas the Warder is in charge of the Sept’s defense, the Wyrmfoe is the one who coordinates the packs in time of war to take the fight to the enemy. It is their job to evaluate the threat, understand the level of risk, and then take action whether it’s threats to the Caern, or those outside of it within the Garou’s territory that are claimed. The Wyrmfoe also has the honor of leading the Sept in revel during each moot, or, assigning a Garou to the role to determine their level of aptitude to lead. The Wyrmfoe is front and center of the action, willing and inspiring their Septmates to combat, to chase, and to hunt!
Unlike the Caern Warder, the Wyrmfoe does not have such restrictions as being bound to the bawn, or any set territory. It is their job to understand the threat level of the surrounding territories and act upon them when necessary. This role is highly sought out by young Ahroun hungry to make a name for themselves in hopes of one day becoming the next Caern Warder and for those who seek out the thrill of combat and glory.
The Wyrmfoe also directly reports to the Caern Warder to deliver analysis of threats, risks and plans of action to take offensively. This allows the Caern Warder to shore up the proper defenses and prepare the Bawn in case of fallout.
Master Of Rites
The Master (or Mistress) of Rites is considered the preeminent authority on the spiritual matters of the sept. While the Keeper of the Land focuses on the physical aspects of the bawn and ensuring the spirits are happy, the Ritemaster focuses on the residents and the means by which they work with those spirits. Teacher, guide, and protector; it is the job of the Ritemaster to ensure that Garou are performing the correct rituals within the bounds of the bawn and that the powers of the caern and resident spirits are not drained unduly. They also take lead in summoning the spirits at moot and running many of the major rituals who’s outcome can impact the caern and sept at large. It also falls upon the Master of Rites to ensure that any Garou who are creating talens or fetishes within the Sept’s area of influence upholds their side of the deal with the spirit, and that the deal is fair to both parties.
In the Sept of the Smiling Angel, the Ritemaster also serves in the role of Gatekeeper to protect the pathstones and monitor the health of the sept’s moon bridges. The Ritemaster is expected to be present in and around the bawn most of the time.
Keeper of the Land
The Keeper of the Land is responsible for maintaining the physical and spiritual health of the bawn and it’s caern. This role is critical in ensuring that Gaian spirits are happy and find the Caern pleasing to visit. Thus, it is important that the Keeper is one who is able to converse with the spirits in a respectful manner and meet their needs and desires (within reason). While some may see this role as a janitorial position, nothing can be further from the truth. This role comes with its challenges that takes skill in spiritual diplomacy and a critical eye to notice anything, even if minor, may be out of place that could potentially upset the spirits or the physical well-being of the bawn.
The Keeper of the Land reports directly to the Master of Rites and works in tandem to converse with the spirits of the bawn at the Sept of Smiling Angel.
The Talesinger’s role tends to be best suited for high ranking Galliards to record the history of the Sept’s actions, victories and failures in it’s Silver Record. Within this role at the Sept of Smiling Angel, the Talesinger also takes on the responsibilities of the Den Parent in regards to history and education that fall outside of tribal teachings. During the Moots, the Talesinger is front and center to inspire the Sept and rally their emotions through stories of victory and glory before the Revel. The Talesinger is also responsible for ensuring that the members of the Sept battle harano and not lose their will of the fight, or their love of Gaia. This is important in keeping a Sept’s heart healthy and happy.
The Talesinger also supervises the Master of the Howl and works with younger Galliards to ensure they learn the history and lore of the Sept to one day pass the torch. During Moots, the Talesinger will assign younger Galliards roles such as storytelling, as well as allowing them to participate in the Moot Rite for those who have learned it to open the festivities.
Master of the Howl
Considered a minor Sept position, the Master of the Howl is primarily held by a young rising star of a Galliard, or an ambitious Ragabash. The Master of the Howl leads the Sept’s howls through the moot, from opening to close and is responsible for setting the tone of each one throughout the moot. It is their job to set the mood of each howl and ensure that the Sept follows suit. One wrong note may be considered offensive or rude!
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. The Master of the Howl also reports directly to the Talesinger to pass along any updates in news, gossip or history that may need to be recorded.
Master of the Challenge
The Master of the Challenge is a prestigious position within the Sept as they are the ranking Garou who oversees all challenges in regards to renown or issue resolution. This role is important for the Sept to determine the fairness of each and every challenge brought forward to the Sept. They have the ability to set, and overrule terms of any challenge that are deemed unjust. At the end of a challenge, it is the Master that declares a victor or a loser in challenges of conflict, and whether a challenge is successful in regards to rank and renown. The Master of the Challenge tends to be a high ranking Ahroun or Philodox who has proven themselves to be fair and unbiased in terms of decision making. The Master of the Challenge can also assign judges to oversee challenges and decide their fairness if multiple challenges are to happen at any given time. This role ensures that the hierarchy of the litany is upheld and that the playing field will always be fair.
The Truthcatcher of the Sept is the ultimate authority overseeing any and all issues involving disputes amongst the Garou not able to be resolved by a simple challenge. For obvious reasons, this position is usually held by a ranking Philodox that has the reputation of one that is fair, just, and unbiased, as well as someone who interprets the Litany in the way it was written. The Truthcatcher will oversee and hold any trial in regards to violations of Sept Law and Litany, assigning redemption requests to restore lost honor, and being a witness to any oath or promise that may be considered a ceremonial binding. During the Moot, the Truthcatcher will lead the cracking of the bone to ensure that those who need to speak up will have their turn and voice heard.
The Guardians are a group of Garou that dedicate their services to the primary defense of the bawn and caern, and answer directly to the Caern Warder. The Guardians tend to be made up of multiple packs of cliath and fostern who seek honor and glory in defending their spiritual home from attacks brought upon by the Wyrm. They act on the word of the Warder and will pass along any requests upwards for the Warder to decide upon. To be a Guardian is seen as an honor, as well as a great way to start one’s life fresh from their passage rite if they have not found, or formed a pack to take them in. This gives them both experience and renown in the eyes of their Sept. Normally a position of jealous honor in traditional septs, the Smiling Angel needs to make use of every warm body that it can to defend their home. So newcomers to the caern often find themselves tossed into the trenches to prove their worth until they join an alternative pack.
IMPORTANT: Garou PCs are expected to be in a pack, whether by joining one or forming their own. Otherwise, they will be assumed to be assigned to the local, partially NPC Guardian pack (with preference given to bundling PCs together). More than just a way to encourage pack mechanics, as well as discourage players from self-isolating as lone wolves while ignoring their primary urges as a Garou to be a part of a bigger family: It also reflects the Los Angeles Sept’s canonical history, as described in its backstory. The Sept of the Smiling Angel has been surrounded by enemies and under threat for a very long time – and as such, certain practices have developed that are not always in direct accordance with more traditional Septs.