Werewolf: The Forsaken is a role-playing game set in the Chronicles of Darkness setting created by White Wolf Game Studio. It is the successor to Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the "game of savage horror" from the original World of Darkness line of games. As in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the game builds a great deal on myths and popular culture to create a unique take on the werewolf, though there are many differences between the two games. The epic, even mythic struggle portrayed in the original game has been de-emphasized in favor of a more personal sort of horror.
Players portray Uratha, werewolves whose duty is to protect the world from creatures of the spirit realms. Any human with Uratha heritage may undergo the First Change at some time in their life, becoming a werewolf, though what triggers the change is unknown. Each character has an auspice or role, and most join a tribe. Unlike traditional werewolves, Uratha may change at any time into various forms between man and wolf, though they do find this easier when the phase of the moon matches their auspice.
Uratha are fierce territorial predators who feel the compulsion to hunt. Many have trouble containing their aggression, hindering their ability to live normal human lives. Like wolves, the Uratha form packs in order to hunt more efficiently and better guard their territory.
Uratha are also spiritual creatures, able to channel spirit energy, which they call Essence, to make use of supernatural powers called gifts to aid them in their hunts. They also possess an instinctive (if rudimentary) understanding of the First Tongue, the language spoken by their ancestors and spirits (possibly also the original language of all humans). Many Uratha learn to speak the First Tongue fluently.
Each Uratha has an auspice, a traditional role in Uratha society, tied to one of five phases of the moon. Luna decides each Uratha's auspice, based on their personality and abilities; accordingly, an Uratha will go through the First Change during the corresponding moon phase. (Most of these auspices differ from those of Werewolf: The Apocalypse in subtle but important ways.) The five auspices have names in the First Tongue:
- Rahu (The Full Moon, The Warrior) - warriors of all kinds from brawlers to seasoned commanders.
- Cahalith (The Gibbous Moon, The Visionary) - seers, storytellers and lorekeepers.
- Elodoth (The Half Moon, The Walker Between) - diplomats to the spirit courts, judges and arbiters.
- Ithaeur (The Crescent Moon, The Spirit Master) - occultists and keepers of spirit lore and rituals.
- Irraka (The New Moon, The Stalker) - scouts, spies and trackers.
Tribes are groups of Uratha who have chosen to follow the teachings of one of the totems, five powerful wolf spirits who were among the original children of Father Wolf. (Most of these tribes have partial or direct analogies in the tribes from Werewolf: The Apocalypse.) Each promotes a certain attitude to or agenda behind the hunt. The five tribes, with First Tongue names in parentheses, are:
- Blood Talons (Suthar Anzuth) - the tribe of Fenris Wolf, who promotes the warrior and wolf aspects of the Uratha.
- Bone Shadows (Hirfathra Hissu) - occultist and shamanistic Uratha who seek to restore relations with the spirit world and gain a greater understanding of them with the guidance of their patron, Death Wolf.
- Hunters in Darkness (Meninna) - animalistic scouts and mysterious stalkers; protectors of loci, the spiritual centres of the world. Black Wolf is their totem.
- Iron Masters (Farsil Luhal) - this tribe, following the teachings of Red Wolf, embrace change and new ideas. They feel a stronger bond with humanity, keep up with the latest in human technological advances and prefer to claim cities for their territory.
- Storm Lords (Iminir) - the tribe of Winter Wolf feels that it is their personal responsibility to lead all of their Uratha brethren and seeks to do so through strength of will, force of personality and a higher sense of nobility.
Werewolves descended from those who chose not to rise up and slay Father Wolf. They blame their Forsaken cousins for the loss of Pangaea and view the extermination of the Forsaken as a holy crusade. They are superior in number to the Forsaken, and their culture of hate and battle prowess has made them the Forsakens' most implacable enemies. The Pure have only contempt for humanity and feel no duty to defend them from spirits, which makes spirits far friendlier to them than to the Forsaken. Their only disadvantage is that Luna has not granted them her favor, which means they have no auspices and are more susceptible to silver than the Forsaken.
Every Uratha may change at will into five distinct forms. The forms, named in the First Tongue, are:
- Hishu - human form. An Uratha appears to be a normal, if very fit and healthy, human. An unconscious or dead werewolf returns to this form.
- Dalu - near-human form. The Uratha is slightly bigger, hairier and stronger. The supernatural features of an Uratha become more prominent in this almost-human form.
- Gauru - wolf-man or war form. Half-human, half-wolf, Gauru form Uratha are generally 8 to 9 feet tall and much heavier and stronger than any human. In this form a werewolf's blood-lust rises to the surface and is much harder to control. Uratha can only channel the power of the Gauru form for a limited time, and generally only take this form to kill.
- Urshul - near-wolf form. An Uratha in this form is a huge wolf 3 to 5 feet high at the shoulder.
- Urhan - wolf form. The Uratha is indistinguishable from a normal wolf, though different Uratha resemble different breeds or species of wolf.
Long ago, the world was a paradise known as Pangaea, where the spirit and material worlds mingled freely. Balance was kept by Father Wolf, a being of great power who patrolled the borders between the worlds. Luna, spirit of the moon, was impressed by his strength and wisdom and, in her human form, took him as her lover. From their union the Uratha were born: part spirit and part flesh, part man and part wolf.
As the years went by, some of Father Wolf's children saw that he had become weak, and, to prevent him from failing in his duties, rose against him and killed him, intending to take his place. The death of Father Wolf also raised a barrier between the worlds, making it impossible for any being to cross except at certain places. Luna, stricken with grief, cursed all Uratha, though those who participated in Father Wolf's death later swore an oath to her to continue upholding Father Wolf's tasks. In doing so, they regained some of her favor - at the cost of incurring the enmity of the spirit world. These Uratha became known as the Forsaken.
(This is the only origin presented in Werewolf: the Forsaken. While it is stated that other stories exist [all with the common element of a paradise destroyed by the ancestors of the Forsaken], the book [and presumably most Uratha] consider this the truth.)
- Spirit - Spirits are the most common adversary of the Forsaken. Spirits gain sustenance by feeding on the concepts they represent. Some spirits possess humans in order to create more sustenance for themselves by manipulating their victims, others travel to the material world for the alien experiences offered by possessing a human. For example, a pain spirit might possess a child in order to inflict pain on other children in order to feed itself. The Forsaken's primary duty is to hunt down these wayward spirits and return them to the spirit world by any means necessary, defending humanity from their depredations. Most spirits hate the Forsaken for denying them the pleasures of the material world, which makes travel to the spirit world dangerous for them.
- The Hosts - Bizarre creatures who, like the Forsaken, are a hybrid of spirit and flesh, man and animal. They are descended from powerful Pangaean spirits hunted by Father Wolf for their attacks on humanity. They escaped total destruction by splitting themselves into thousands of spirit shards, each of which inhabited an animal. These shards became the Hosts. When a host becomes strong enough, it will consume a human and become a man-animal hybrid similar to the Werewolf's Gauru form. The Hosts are driven to weaken or strengthen the separation between the spiritual and material world, which can wreak havoc in the area they inhabit. They also harm humans, either by spreading disease or by eating them. This of course causes the Forsaken to hunt them down whenever possible.
- The Idigam - The rarest of the Forsaken's enemies, these Chthonic entities are the spirits that represent concepts that existed before the world was fully formed. As such, they have no place in reality and exhibit powers and motives beyond comprehension. The most infamous Idigam, Gurdilag, was able to forcibly meld spirits with humans, and even Werewolves, to create unnatural hybrids that were under its control. Idigam are vast and unknowable, which makes them almost impossible to confront physically.
- Other Supernaturals - The Forsaken occasionally come into conflict with other supernatural denizens of the World of Darkness, like vampires and mages. Usually this conflict occurs because the other supernaturals encroach on the werewolves' territory, either by breaching the Gauntlet and entering the spirit world or by attempting to make use of a locus that a werewolf pack has claimed as its own. However, unlike in Werewolf: the Apocalypse, there is no racial enmity between the Uratha and any other group of supernaturals; any given werewolf pack may become allied with or make sworn enemies of any given vampire coterie or mage cabal on a case-by-case basis.