4 Days Left - Biting Into the Bitten
With only 4 days left in our Mind's Eye Theatre: Werewolf The Apocalypse campaign, there's time enough for one more developer update, this time about the Bitten, a concept for MET: Werewolf that is both old and new.
Among our highest goals at By Night Studios is encouraging new players to join and enjoy the Mind’s Eye Theatre community. And by “new players” we mean both those completely unfamiliar to MET, and those who are familiar who haven’t experienced a particular game yet. That’s something we keep firmly in mind when making design decisions—and at the same time, we also focus on ensuring that we honor the strong story themes that make World of Darkness so appealing to its fans and players worldwide. We tell stories, and rules should support those stories by make them engaging for the player.
So, when we hear MET players express concerns, we start thinking about how to address those concerns in ways that allow their characters to shine. One of the most frequent concerns that players shared with us was their feeling that new Werewolf players often felt that the game structure obliged them to play characters that were far above their personal level of play experience, and that they felt punished for that inexperience. They also told us that they felt that Kinfolk should be an easier entry point into the game for newer players, but that playing a Kinfolk could put newer players into roleplay situations that made them feel uncomfortable. There was no beginner concept, they felt—especially for players who were not in their late teens or early 20s—that allowed them to enjoy the game with a character appropriate to their level of experience, have some leeway to learn about the game, ask questions without feeling self-conscious, and make mistakes without suffering grave consequences. How to address that legitimate concern, while respecting the rich heritage of the game and also tying any potential changes to a strong, fun story element?
We grounded our response in research followed by intensive discussions within our team and with players, fans, and playtesters. Even people who have never played Werewolf have heard of these creatures, and they’re usually familiar with the most common tropes from folklore—especially the accepted wisdom that the bite of a werewolf transforms a mortal into a werewolf, too. It’s often one of the first things people learn about the werewolf myth, and so it’s an element that a newer player can easily feel connects her to Werewolf as a game.
We also learned that earlier editions of the game mention Lost Cubs as the great sorrow of the Garou Nation: a rare type of character that never changes to reach its full potential. We decided that the best way to tie the bite folklore and the Lost Cubs concept together was to connect them as part of a deeper story about the state of the Garou Nation. Gaia is today in a weakened state, imperiled by ever-increasing attacks from the Wyrm and other threats. And she’s in this situation partly because the threat of extinction has compelled the Garou to look to their own survival before honoring their calling as her defenders.
Lost Cubs were once rare, but Gaia needs warriors: desperation over the condition of their spiritual mother has forced the Garou’s hand. There are many different opinions about what happened and how, but the Garou have figured out that if they bite their Kinfolk or Lost Cubs and then infuse them with some of their own spiritual energy. If they are lucky, they can sometimes complete the interrupted process of becoming a Garou, increasing the ranks of Gaia’s defenders—and perhaps hold the line against the encroaching darkness a little longer.
The technique does not work with an ordinary mortal: only Lost Cubs and Kinfolk can become Garou in this way. And it’s risky for Kinfolk: the majority die in the process. There are few guarantees in the World of Darkness.
We think that this element supports the design goals we mentioned and addresses the concerns players related to us. Players new to Werewolf can opt to play Kinfolk or Lost Cubs until they feel comfortable with transitioning into the Cub role, while also feeling fully part of the big story of the darker elements seeping into the Garou Nation. Their characters are thrust immediately into an important situation— every Garou has his or her own theory on how the Bite works, and what it means to their dwindling numbers. Storytellers will have a number of options for incorporating story elements related to the Bitten into their game, customizing their setting according their players’ needs and their own preferences.
The Kinfolk, Lost Cubs, and the Bitten all live in world where their existence is both celebrated and contested, immediately bringing new players into MET: Werewolf in ways that are both familiar and fresh, allowing them to be important players