Waltz of Flesh
The laws of the People are ancient. Their traditions
vary from tribe to tribe, but all Garou must remember
and hold to the central code of law called the Litany. In
its full form, it is as much an epic poem as a legal code.
Chanting it in its entirety can take hours. Four times a
year, the werewolves of the Fianna tribe gather in their
tribal homelands to recite it in its entirety.
While it takes the greatest scholars to master the entirety
of the Litany, most werewolves learn it in the form
of 13 basic precepts. Each precept has a practical basis, but
not all of them are universally upheld as unquestionably
moral. Each tribe has its own views on right and wrong. In
fact, many perceive a hypocritical gap between what Garou
elders preach and what werewolves actually do. Masters
of Garou law can cite dozens of examples of precedent,
but as fewer cubs learn to chant the details, more argue
ways to bend the rules in their favor.
Garou Shall Not Mate With Garou
The Law: Werewolves should mate only with humans
or wolves. The law forbids the creation of metis because of
the deformities and insanity that settles on the wretched
children of Garou-Garou pairings. This stricture forms the
basis for some of the greatest tragedies of Garou culture.
Many ancient songs tell of werewolves who loved deeply
and carelessly, only to be undone by their passion.
The Reality: Every year, more metis are born. Modern
Garou often claim that prejudice against the metis
is a primitive and foolish mindset. Homids are increasingly
prone to conceive metis as well, as modern ideals
frequently stress romance in a relationship, rather than
the old custom of arranged marriages for political gain.
Combat the Wyrm Wherever It Dwells and Whenever It Breeds
The Law: The Wyrm is a source of evil in the world.
Gaia created the werewolves to protect the world, and the
Wyrm is the greatest enemy the world has. The fastest way for
a werewolf to become respected is to prove himself in battle
against the servants of the Wyrm. If any Garou neglects this
duty, the Apocalypse draws that much nearer to eruption.
The Reality: These are the Final Days. So say all the
elders. The Wyrm is too strong to kill, and even if it were
possible, many suspect it would only delay the inevitable.
Jaded elders are distracted by other tasks, such as securing
territory, contesting for political power, and crippling
their rivals. Few want to accept that the Apocalypse has
begun, for it would mean sacrificing personal ambition
to accept a painful truth.
As straightforward as this tenet seems, it also raises questions.
What happens to a Garou that is possessed, but not
fully in the thrall of the Wyrm? Should he be destroyed? Is
a Wyrm-spirit really destroyed if it is “killed,” or will it just
re-form somewhere else? Can werewolves expect to change
the course of history by destroying all of the Wyrm’s servants,
or should they choose their battles more carefully? Should
the Weaver be challenged as well? Many questions arise
in the course of debating this law, in an age where there’s
little time to spend finding the correct answer.
Respect the Territory of Another
The Law: When one werewolf approaches another’s
territory, she must announce herself first and ask permission
to enter. The traditional method involves the Howl
of Introduction, reciting one’s name, sept, totem, tribe,
and home sept. Many Silver Fangs and Shadow Lords also
insist on a visitor reciting her lineage. In addition to these
precautions, a werewolf should mark her territory, whether
with scent or clawed sigils, to keep peace with other Garou.
The Reality: As the population of humans in the
world keeps growing, A Garou’s howling and urinating
on trees to mark territory becomes impractical. In urban
caerns, some technologically proficient werewolves (like
the Glass Walkers) prefer emails, telephone calls, and
texting, and some set up apps to work with GPS systems
to keep track of territories electronically. As pressure
mounts from outside, many young Garou argue that the
territories that remain should be more communally managed
— though progressive human-influenced thought
has a difficult time winning over a wolf’s territorial urge.
Accept an Honorable Surrender
The Law: A warrior people typically settles its grievances
with bloodshed. The Garou have a long dueling
tradition, stressing trial by ordeal and single combat. Many
werewolves have lost their lives to overzealous practices
such as these; they may have died honorably, but their losses
are keenly felt all the same. A werewolf being attacked
by another Garou can traditionally end a duel peacefully
by exposing his throat. The loser shouldn’t suffer a loss of
reputation or renown for doing so, but a victorious Garou
should be praised for his mercy. Theoretically, any dueling
Garou is honor-bound to accept a surrender.
The Reality: In practice, peaceful werewolves invoke
this law freely, but some are far more selective. After all,
in the heat of battle, anything can happen. Even the most
feral and violent werewolf struggles to obey this law, but
when blood begins to flow, instincts overcome reason.
Some warriors are infamous for “accidentally” overlooking
a surrender and sinking their teeth into an exposed throat.
Submission to Those of Higher Station
The Law: Like the wolves with whom they breed,
werewolves maintain a strictly hierarchical society. When
one’s pack or sept is not pure family, the hierarchy of alpha
and lord becomes necessary. The concepts of Renown and
Rank are integral to Garou society. A werewolf must always
honor reasonable requests from higher-ranking Garou.
The Reality: The weakening bonds of Garou society
have done little to reinforce this tenet among the young.
Too many elders don’t understand or can’t cope with the
human world. Each tribe has its own culture, and not all of
them believe in kowtowing to tyrants or humoring egotistical
alphas just because they have long lineages. A werewolf
will honor the elders of his tribe generally, but opinions
vary when it comes to the highly ranked of other tribes.
Bone Gnawers are highly egalitarian, and although
they’ll show their bellies if the need is there, they tend to
make a note of it and plot a later payback. Children of Gaia
and Silent Striders respect personal choice, and therefore,
they prefer to earn obedience rather than demanding it. The
Get of Fenris respect only those elders who can best them
in combat. Red Talons prefer not to hear “monkey babble”
about complicated hierarchies; you should know your place
instinctively. Shadow Lords and Silver Fangs, on the other
hand, enforce this law with iron fists and sharpened claws.
The First Share of the Kill for the Greatest in Station
The Law: This “kill clause” originally applied to
hunting, but has also had a long tradition of being invoked
regarding spoils of war. In theory, the most renowned
Garou has a right to the most powerful fetishes or other
valuable goods found by her packmates. Silver Fangs and
Shadow Lords demand what they see as their due; other
tribes accept grudgingly.
The Reality: Pack mentality may be a strong instinct,
but not everyone thinks the same way. Again, modern
concepts of egalitarian or democratic philosophy tend
to get in the way. Only the strongest or the most trusted
Garou are able to repeatedly invoke this tenet for their own
benefit, and even then it can strain the bonds of a pack.
Ye Shall Not Eat the Flesh of Humans
The Law: Grotesquely, this tenet arose not from compassion,
but from practicality. Not long after the Concord,
Stargazer mystics noticed that many werewolves took a bit
too much pleasure in devouring human flesh. Such cannibals
found themselves vulnerable to the corruption of the Wyrm.
Elders grown fat off human stock also became weak at stalking
and killing more challenging prey, like the Wyrm-spirits they
should have been hunting. In the 21st century, this law is more
than a simple spiritual matter. Human beings now consume
a frightening amount of preservatives. Their chemical-laden
diet makes their flesh unwholesome.
The Reality: Werewolves can still lose control of
themselves in a frenzy, and some still feel a certain hunger
even when fully lucid. Most man-eating Garou act alone,
concealing it as best as they can from any packmates, or running
without a pack in order to keep up their appetites. Some
gather in groups to take part in forbidden feasts, though — the
Bone Gnawers, Silent Striders, and Red Talons are all said
to have secretive camps that ritually devour human flesh.
Respect Those Beneath Ye —All Are of Gaia
The Law: The Garou ancestors of legend pledged to
become the world’s protectors, so they must respect every
creature’s place in the natural world. Every werewolf is
likewise worthy of respect. The Garou believe in an animistic
and warrior version of noblesse oblige, and chivalrous
behavior is a respectable way to gain Renown.
The Reality: Many cubs, cliath, and metis Garou have
learned the hard way that this tenet isn’t always enthusiastically
enforced. Shadow Lords and Get of Fenris quantify
“respect,” and give those beneath them only what they
believe is “fairly earned.” Bone Gnawers just laugh at this
precept. They sure as hell don’t get respect, and who could
be lower in station than them?
The lupus are often stronger at respecting this tenet.
Particularly noble Garou have even been known to mourn
the passing of their foes, earning the respect of others in
The Veil Shall Not Be Lifted
The existence of the Garou must remain secret. Here,
the law and reality are the same. Werewolves must be
discreet when acting among humans. This practice is far
more than simple respect for the Concord or humanity’s
right to its own civilization. The world is a dangerous place.
Humans have more powerful weapons every year. Ancient
vampires and far more sinister supernatural creatures are
capable of acting on what humans learn. And, of course,
the servants of the Wyrm are lurking everywhere, exploiting
the weak. If werewolves choose to act like monsters,
other creatures will hunt them like the beasts they are.
Garou also have an obligation to protect humanity.
When human see werewolves lumbering about in Crinos
form, insanity grips them, and they concoct all sorts of
outrageous rationales for what they’ve seen. Fear mounts,
panic results, and the populace resorts to drastic measures
of defense. Rampaging werewolves can cause almost as
much damage as the Wyrm-creatures they hunt.
Do Not Suffer Thy People to Tend Thy Sickness
The Law: The warrior who cannot fight or hunt
also weakens those who must care for him. Long ago, an
infirm, aged, or mortally wounded Garou would be torn
to pieces by his septmates. Such a pitiable hero should
not suffer further. These days the merciful and dignified
practice is to let such an elder choose how to end his own
life. In Garou legends, many of the greatest heroes simply
set out on one last journey, never to return.
The Reality: The Children of Gaia despise this law.
They believe in a natural death, caring for their elderly
through the most prolonged and horrifying illnesses. A
few older Garou, especially those crippled by depression
and remorse, simply return to human or lupine society to
die, making peace with the life they left behind.
The Leader May Be Challenged at Any Time During Peace
The Law: A werewolf’s pack mentality may be strong,
but he should not tolerate a weak alpha. If no immediate
threat is nearby, any Garou of sufficient rank may challenge
the pack leader for his position. In a pack, the challenge
takes the form of a quick and decisive duel, test of wits, or
snarling display of intimidation. In a sept, the assembled
werewolves watch the challenge play out as high ritual.
The Reality: Many tyrannical leaders resist challenge
by simply being too strong to defeat. Some mutinous packs
challenge their leader one at a time, wearing him down until
he must relent. It’s also an uncommon tactic for werewolf
leaders to declare a state of constant war, denying any
“peace” in which a challenge would be appropriate. Cunning
werewolves insist on choosing the type of duel that
should result, playing off their rivals’ known weaknesses.
The Leader May Not Be Challenged During Wartime
The Law: Every military relies on a clear and decisive
chain of command, and the Garou are no different.
Obedience in a pack is essential. Once a fight begins,
the alpha’s word is law. A packmate who disobeys may
be punished or assaulted by his companions, or possibly
even by his sept, after the danger has passed.
The Reality: As previously mentioned, some alphas
declare a constant state of wartime to abuse this tenet.
Those who disobey usually have some chance to defend
their actions, standing before a Philodox in a form of
court martial. If a werewolf was under magical control,
corrupted, or possessed by the Wyrm — or if the alpha was
just startlingly incompetent — such disobedience may be
excused, especially if the action saved a pack or the sept.
Unfortunately, any renown the wolf would have received
for her valor may be canceled out by her insubordination.
Ye Shall Take No Action That Causes a Caern to Be Violated
No Garou argues against this tenet. Caerns surge
with mystical energy and the lifeblood of the Earth. If
one is destroyed or corrupted, part of the Earth dies, and
so does the power of the Garou. A werewolf who leads a
proven or potential enemy to a hidden caern is punished
severely, even if the act was unintentional.