“Something like a shadow has fallen between present and past, an abyss wide as war that cannot be bridged by any tangible connection, so that memory is undermined and the image of our beginnings is betrayed, dissolved, rendered not mythical but illusory. We have connived in the murder of our own origins.”

- Edward Abbey

The Pain of Loss

In the quote above, Edward Abbey, famed wilderness advocate, curmudgeon and spiritual father of direct-action ecological protest, complains of the loss of primal beginnings: his childhood, when he roamed backwoods and fields, carefree and intensely in love with the landscape around him. Beyond being a cry against the loss of wilderness itself, it seems a cry against adulthood and the discerning mind that accompanies it - the mature mind, somehow separate and discreet from its upbringing in Eden. It is a cry of anger and of the loss of something that can never be regained.

Which is what Werewolf is really all about. Behind the deeds of high daring, the glory of gut-rending combat and the horror of monsters from the abyss is the heart of the Garou's plight: deep, aching loss and its inconsolable pain, pain expressible only in extreme, unthinking anger - in Rage.

While the life of a Garou may seem at first liberating upon realization of one's identity as a werewolf, it is in fact ultimately doomed. Along with the power to tear one's foes to pieces comes the unavoidable realization of the true state of the world, the full knowledge of a paradise lost: that progress and a brighter tomorrow is an illusion born of humankind's ignorance and that you have been born centuries too late, long after the light of the Dawn has faded. Your inheritance has been squandered by all who came before you, except for those few, valiant Garou who struggle in the shadows against the Enemy. Your mother is dying, and there is very little you can do about it. But hope is not snuffed entirely: Maybe, just maybe, your anger can turn things around.

This essay is not a recommendation to increase the hack-and-slash potential in your game; it is the opposite: a plea to recognize some of the deeper themes inherent in Werewolf. Their introduction into a story can greatly enhance the drama and, dare I say it, the art of the experience. I believe the pain of loss, of Harano, is the Grand Theme behind Werewolf, around which many stories can be told.

Many fantasy worlds (and ancient creation myths) posit a Utopian beginning to the world, one that is marred and destroyed by evil with the aid of human ignorance and greed. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is the best example of this, for no author has captured the sorrow and loss of heaven on earth better than he in his account of the Elder Days: The Silmarillion. This book is a good source to get a feel for the sorrow of the Garou, who, like the Valar and the Elves, have lost much over the course of time but have gained little in recompense.

Recognition of this monumental loss provides a certain poignancy to the combats in Werewolf - these guys aren't just tearing enemies' eyes out for the fun of it; they're doing it out of some deep need, inexpressible in words but fully revealed in action. Not only does the bottled-up sorrow and inability to turn back the clock need an outlet, but somebody's gotta pay for the loss. Knowing the cause of the Garou's combative ways does not necessarily lead us to condone such actions, but it does help us to understand the Garou.

Playing up this emotional level can be cathartic in many ways. Sometimes, the pain of our own lives needs expression in fantasy form, as does the anger arising from that pain. Don't get carried away here, using it as an excuse to practice beating up tormentors and bullies thinly disguised as Wyrm creatures. If done well, with a careful eye to drama and plot, a Werewolf chronicle can serve as a purgative for unspoken ills, in the same way that great works of literature can. While the content of a Werewolf game - big, hairy guys running around growling - may never rise to the accepted heights of literary quality, its level of interactivity provides something more visceral by far.

If there were no hope at all, however, what would be the use of such artistic musings? To show that we're all doomed? How fun and enlightening that would be.

Beyond the sorrow and misery and anger there is hope, a chance that things can be again as they once were, that the seeds of victory lie deep in the soil of Gaia, waiting through the desolate winter to sprout forth anew and usher in Spring. The Great Mystery is the frailty of existence (even for Garou) and the long-enduring bonds forged in the oh-so-brief time afforded a life. The feat is to survive sorrow and put aside mourning for what is not yet fully lost. To fail in this task is to invite Harano, winter unending.

This is the true fight of the Garou: to cling steadfast to the goal and not the losses. To honor the dead and cherish the children to come. To see the cycle of the seasons through and usher in a new year.

(This is taken from the 5-point Flaw available to Silver Fangs)

Garou of any tribe may suffer from the dread associated with Harano, but Silver Fangs are particularly noted for carrying this great weight. Harano is an inexplicable gloom and inexpressible longing for unnameable things; some say it is caused by contemplation of Gaia's suffering. Garou who suffer from Harano are prone to depression, lassitude and sudden mood swings. They may not act at all or may explode into intense but ill-advised activity.

A character suffering from Harano must make a Willpower roll each scene; if the roll fails, the Garou plunges into Harano. While a Silver Fang suffers from Harano, his perceptions are distorted, and all Dice Pools are reduced by one. If the Willpower roll botches, the character acquires a temporary Derangement.

Those who suffer from Harano may also have moments of lucidity with the expenditure of a Willpower point. This lifts the gloom for as many hours as a character has permanent Willpower. Harano may also be dispelled with some Gifts. Harano is not necessarily permanent - extraordinary Silver Fangs may free themselves from its grip after exceptional travails.

Some Garou believe that the Silver Fangs' burden of Harano is greater than others' because the Fangs in some way did more to cause Gaia's suffering than did the other tribes. Proposing such a theory is enough to provoke a violent response from some Fangs; most are wise enough to keep silent on this matter.

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