All werewolves, and many of the other Changing Breeds, have the ability to "reach" or "step sideways" into the Umbra. This ability comes intuitively once the First Change passes. Somehow, they begin to sense the world waiting on the other side of the mirror. Shifting between worlds becomes a skill like walking; it is something that they can just do.
But the Gauntlet lies in the way, and a werewolf must push through it to step sideways. In most places, the player must make a Gnosis roll against the Gauntlet rating. If she succeeds, the character slips through to the other side. Failure means that she cannot push through the webs in this location and needs to move and try again. If she tries to enter the Umbra in the same place, Weaver-spirits reinforce the Gauntlet and the difficulty increases by two for each further attempt. On a botch, the character may get trapped in the Pattern Web, appear in the midst of a spirit storm, or simply vanish for a while, only to reappear hours later with no memory of the missing time. A pack may nominate a single "opener of the way" to lead the entire pack into the Umbra.
Garou have found a way to make it easier to reach into and out of the Umbra. Reflective surfaces, polished silver, a quiet pool of water and especially mirrors make stepping sideways easier. Some say that these aids let a werewolf concentrate on his true self and see his spirit. Others believe that they are holes in the Gauntlet, which reflect images because what lies on the other side is not visible on Earth.
Regardless, a werewolf who has access to a reflective surface has several advantages when trying to step sideways.
- First, the difficulty of the roll drops by one.
- Second, her attempts do not alert Weaver-spirits, so if she fails, she may try again in the same place with no penalties.
- Also, if the player botches, the reflective surface breaks, tarnishes, or becomes agitated and unusable, rather than leaving the character trapped between worlds or missing time. Experienced fomori have a habit of breaking mirrors so that their opponents cannot flee into the Umbra.
A common superstition also holds that werewolves need mirrors to emerge from "wherever it is they come from," which is blatantly untrue.
Garou, Apis, Ajaba, Corax, Grondr, Kitsune, and Nuwisha all step sideways in the same way, using all of the same rolls and penalties. Other changing breeds cannot normally step sideways and have special restrictions. All other Changing Breeds except Ananasi could take a seven point Merit which granted them the power, which gave them the same ability to step sideways as the Garou.
Ananasi could only step sideways in Crawlerling form, and their difficulty checks are inverted: pristine wilderness is difficult for them, whereas places heavy with the Weaver are much easier. They may also cross into the Umbra in their own Sylie.
Camazotz may only step sideways if they are in darkness or shadows. If they possess the Level Two Gift: Into the Sun, they may step sideways if they are in bright light, but the Gauntlet is considered two points higher than it normally would be.
Nagah may only step sideways if they are in or near their Ananata, if they have swallowed their Ananata, or if they are within Serpent Waters, aquatic glens that bleed from the Umbra to the real world. This assumes the Glen has not been corrupted or dedicated to some other Changing Breed like the Garou.
Ratkin may only step sideways if they are alone, or in the presence of non-sentient creatures, spirits, or other Ratkin. Humans, certain intelligent creatures, or other Shifters deny the Ratkin the ability. Ratkin can purchase a two-point merit that allows them to step sideways in the presence of others.
Rokea could only swim sideways while within a sea or ocean with the aid of the Rite of Passing the Net. Blackwater Rokea may learn a Level Two gift that allows them to step sideways, but Blackwater Rokea are extremely rare. A special four point Merit called Swim Sideways may be taken by Rokea, that allows them to step sideways while in any saltwater body.