What are the Garou?

Put simply, the Garou are werewolves. In the World of Darkness, werewolves are more than brainless creatures that attack and kill anything unfortunate enough to be in its way; they have culture, beliefs, laws and a sense of purpose. They are supernatural creatures with the ability to enter the spirit world and battle against the evil that is slowly gaining power and destroying the world from the inside out.

The Truth

In the World of Darkness, werewolves have walked among humanity for as long as humans have existed. They can blend into human civilization, but rarely for long. They're predators at heart, and people can sense as much on an instinctive level. At heart, a werewolf is a creature of both human and wolf nature, but it is neither fully. They refer to themselves by a name from their own tongue -- the Garou.

Werewolves cannot breed among themselves to preserve their lineage; their blood is too potent, and the result is too much like inbreeding. To continue their bloodlines, werewolves must mate with humans or wolves. However, the chance that any children or cubs that result from such a pairing will breed true is small. In most cases, the spirit half of the werewolf isn't passed on.

Werewolves born to human or wolf families are indistinguishable from their mortal siblings. There is no detectable "Garou gene," and DNA-testing does not reveal anything amiss. Newborn werewolves simply appear to be normal humans or wolves in almost every respect. Only a very few are even told by their parents that werewolves exist at all. However, young werewolves are prone to strange dreams and fits of temper that alienate them from their relatives or friends. Finally, some time after adolescence, a young werewolf undergoes his First Change. This event is often brought on by stress or trauma, leading the confused young werewolf to lash out at whatever is hurting him. It's then that the werewolf's Garou relatives arrive to collect him. Once among his own kind, he is initiated into his Garou tribe and taught the purpose and traditions of his people. From that point forward, the young werewolf lives a life of constant danger. Should he persevere, though, he can become a legend among his Garou kin.

Garou society is older at its core than any human culture. Many of its traditions date back to a time before agriculture, before the first humans settled Australia, and even before history as we know it. They have managed this amazing longevity while keeping their true nature a secret from humanity by two means: oral tradition and faith.

To the Garou, the past is a living thing. They keep tales of their ancestors alive, retelling them at gatherings to inspire the latest generation to strive for similarly heroic deeds. The laws laid down millennia ago are learned and recounted by each generation until every werewolf knows them by heart. By keeping all their lore alive in an oral tradition, the Garou have retained a sense of continuity that binds each generation to the next.

Secondly, werewolves believe that Gaia -- the living spirit of the world itself -- created them to defend her and make war against her enemies. They're aided in this belief by several points that seem to support their claim: their obviously supernatural nature, their allies among the spirit world and the fact that they are definitely at war with the forces of spiritual corruption. Their war has been going on for millennia -- not even the wisest Talesinger among the werewolves can recall a story of their race at peace. According to their traditions, Gaia brought werewolves into being as a response to the rise of their enemy -- the Wyrm. The Garou maintain that their true purpose in life is to fight, kill and die in the server of the Earth Mother.

The Garou's claim to be a race designed for battle is certainly well founded. Werewolves are deadly creatures, perhaps the most lethal overall of any living being in the world. They possess great strength when they shapeshifting, allowing them to tear apart metal and stone with their bare talons. They heal remarkably quickly, making them nearly impossible to kill with mundane weaponry such as knives or small firearms. They possess mystical powers that allow them to travel the spirit world, strike with stealth or monstrous force and even call on the forces of the earth itself. They have all the intelligence and tool-using capability of any human, making some werewolves masters of both high technology and occult power. Most importantly, werewolves are pack creatures, which makes them a hundred times stronger. A pack of werewolves is worth more than 10 times its weight in enemies.

If they were more numerous, it's possible that the werewolves would have already won the war. But they are too few in number; at the beginning of the 21st century, they are a dying race. Their enemies are virtually uncountable, and they range from humans who fight with raw intelligence, cunning and resources to monsters from deep in the earth that can tear apart tanks -- to an entire tribe of werewolves that has sided with the enemy. Worst of all, the Garou fight amongst themselves. Rivalries that started centuries ago continue even today as blood feuds that prevent the Garou from achieving the unity that would make them unstoppable. Just as their pack mentality brings them together, their Rage drives them apart. Such is the tragedy of Werewolf.

Werewolf the Apocalypse Sourcebook © 2000 White Wolf Publishing, Inc. page 22