I’ve long been intrigued by the setting for Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition: Gaia’s warriors, protecting the planet from those who would deliberately despoil her for their own greedy ends. While the wolf pack inherent in W20 is the default, I’m more interested in creating a Fera or different type of Breed. W20 Changing Breeds allows me to explore several types of playable possibilities from the Ajaba to the Rokea, and includes legends, history, culture, Traits, new Merits and Flaws, and so much more.
To build a character, I’m going to use the character creation process beginning on page 112 of W20. Then, I’m going to apply options from Changing Breeds when needed.
Step One: Character Concept
For this step, I’m referring to Changing Breeds to mull over my options. I see crows in my daily life, and marvel at stories of them bringing shiny things to people’s homes in exchange for food. Since I have a personal fascination with crows, I select the Corax. The write-up begins on page 92. Aspects of the Corax that stand out to me are their immunity to silver and their tendency to be hired as spies and information gatherers. The Corax are weakened by gold, however, and can’t resist picking up a shiny object.
After reading the Corax Traits on page 94, I form a basic character concept. Keira likes dance music, jewelry, and going out most nights. She favors wearing black to compliment her dark hair and often dons sunglasses to hide her ink-black eyes, the mark of her breed, Homid. As a Homid, Keira was born human and that acts as her natural form. Keira wears a black trench coat and carries a large messenger bag over her shoulder. The coat has lots of extra hidden pockets and the bag is large enough to carry several items if needed.
Unlike other Breeds, the chatty Corax don’t belong to a tribe. Instead, they have associations that allow members to join or leave as they please. To mesh with Keira’s character concept, I opt to associate her with the Hermetic Order of Swift Light: the New York-based business arm of the Corax that finds information and things other Fera need. To pay bills, Kiera is a freelancer who buys and re-sells rare and unusual goods on the Internet. The money she makes covers rent, but also funds her Twinkie-corn chips-and-tequila habit, too. On the side, Kiera brokers additional information for her personal contacts and, for a price, she’ll pass on what she knows.
Step Two: Select Attributes
To assign my character’s Attributes, I refer to page 112 of W20. Since Kiera specializes in acquiring, selling, and negotiating, I prioritize her Mental Attributes and have seven dots to spend. She also, however, needs to be good at communication so Social Attributes will be secondary with five dots, and Physical Attributes will be last with three.
For my point spend, I decide to prioritize Wits in the Mental Attributes, give my Social Attributes an even spread, and spend more dots to up my Dexterity rating for Physical.
My starting character now has the following ratings which reflects the total including the free dot in each Attribute.
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 4, Perception 3
Social Attributes: Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3
Physical Attributes: Strength 1, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2
Step Three: Select Abilities
For this step, I’m referring to page 112 of W20. The number of dots I have for Abilities (Talents, Skills, and Knowledges) breaks down into 13 for primary, nine for secondary, and five for tertiary. I opt to put the most dots in Talents to help counter my lower rating in Physical Attributes and because those are useful Abilities to have. Skills will come in second with 9, and Knowledges will come in last with 5. Because Keira is a Corax, she is entitled to a free dot for Subterfuge (Talents), Athletics (Talents), and Enigmas (Knowledges) per page 407 of W20.
I have 13 points to spend. I’m giving one dot each to Athletics, Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, and Primal Urge; I’m allocating two dots each to Alertness, Brawl, Streetwise, and Subterfuge. When adding my free dots, my Talents are as follows: Athletics 2, Alertness 2, Brawl 2, Empathy 1, Expression 1, Intimidation 1, Primal Urge 1, Streetwise 2, and Subterfuge 3.
I have nine dots to allocate for appropriate Skills. I don’t have any free dots, so my Skills are as follows: Crafts 1, Drive 1, Melee 1, Larceny 2, Stealth 2, and Survival 2.
For Knowledges, I allocate five dots relevant to Kiera’s job and take advantage of the free dot in Enigmas. Her Knowledges are as follows: Computer 1, Enigmas 1, Investigation 1, Rituals 1, and Technology 2. When this book was originally written, phones weren’t the powerful tools they are today. The extra dot in Technology will help cover Keira’s reliance on cell phones, since she’ll likely be using her phone (or an anonymous ‘burner’ phone) for her business.
I like characters with a broad range of Abilities. They may not be sure-skilled at anything, but they have a chance to do more than highly specialized characters. I believe this gives them a better chance of survival; or, at least, to survive long enough to beef up those scores through spending experience points later.
Step Four: Select Advantages
For Advantages, I’ll refer to page 112 of W20. In this step, I’ll be selecting Backgrounds, Gifts, and Renown which give the Fera additional powers and abilities reflecting their dual natures as both human and supernatural creatures. These powers may or may not be supernatural themselves, but often — in the case of Gifts — relate to the supernatural. Renown is a measure of the Fera’s successes, and how much other members of her Breed are aware of those successes.
Given the social nature of Corax and Keira’s role as a gatherer of information and finder of things, Allies, Contacts, and Resources seem like natural choices. I only have five dots to spend in Backgrounds, so Allies gets one dot, Contacts gets three, and Resources gets one.
Gifts are supernatural blessings given to the Fera by Gaia and sometimes by the spirit of their Breed. Corax get to choose three from two different starting lists – one list for Homid breeds, the other for Corvids. There’s some overlap, but enough differences that choosing between the two gave me more than a moment’s pause. In the end I stuck with Homid, though a couple of the Corvid Gifts made me kind of jealous. For Keira’s Gifts, I selected Morse, Open Seal, and Spirit Speech found on page 99 of Changing Breeds.
With the Morse Gift, Keira can tap out a message in code on a hard surface, sending a clear message to the nearest Corax. The number of successes indicates how elaborate (or simple) that message can be. With extra effort, the message can instead be transmitted to the nearest Gaia shapeshifter of any Breed.
The Gift of Open Seal allows the user to open any closed or locked physical device. With extra effort, even magically locked devices can be opened.
Spirit Speech is a Gift that bestows understanding of spirit speech to the user. Spirits know a lot of secrets, so this may come in handy for Keira’s tasks as a runner/operative for the Hermetic Order of Swift Light.
The Renown system for Changing Breeds is on pp. 217-222. The were-ravens follow the same paths of Glory, Honor, and Wisdom the other Fera do — they just assign different value to the three terms that fall under Renown. Wisdom is most important of all to a Corax, and Glory least of all. Corax value actions that benefit others, especially other Corax. Selfless sacrifice is highly prized, but rash acts or rage are strongly discouraged. Being notorious rumormongers, Corax seem to hold a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of philosophy, with Renown being lost as easily as it is won thanks to a constant stream of rumor and innuendo. As a starting character, Keira has three points allocated to Wisdom, but zero in Glory and Honor.
Step Five: Finishing Touches
Finishing touches begins on page 112 of W20; I also refer to page 406 for specific rules. First, I need to record Rage. Corax don’t have auspice; their Rage at character creation is 1. Gnosis, which is based on their Breed, is 6, and their Willpower is 3.
Following this, I have 15 freebie points to spend.
I’m spending 5 of my freebie points to give Keira a second dot in Strength, just in case. I also want to acquire the Raven’s Gleaning Gift, so I spend seven points to acquire it. This Gift allows Keira to see value in random objects, but doesn’t indicate whether that is practical, monetary, or if it will fill some future need. Then, I’m spending one point to add one dot to my Backgrounds for a Mentor, which will hopefully be another Corax Keira can turn to for advice now and then. I spend the remaining two points to buy a seventh dot of Gnosis. If Keira plans to use any of her Gifts, she’ll need Gnosis to power them, and it seems harder to replace than it is to use.
My freebie points spend is as follows: Strength +1, adding Raven’s Gleaning as a Gift, adding Backgrounds (Mentor) 1, and bumping up Gnosis +1.
I didn’t choose any Merits for Keira. They are presented in the W20 book as optional, purchased with freebie points. I didn’t have that many freebie points to begin with but, more importantly, none of the Merits presented in W20 or in Changing Breeds didn’t enhance Kiera’s core concept.
That’s it: I now have a Corax that’s ready to play. Keira is ready to take on the Wyrm in her own way and do a little business on the side. Her ‘finding things’ career might be the easy way in to any chronicle, but she has to be careful: she isn’t built for combat, so she needs to pick her battles more selectively than the battle-ready Garou, the various Bastet, or a Gurahl.