WOD PORTLAND’s Recent History: Power Vacuum
The “Vampire War for Portland” The Uratha termed it, finally ended about two years ago.
This “Vampire War” is still a fresh and painful memory (especially for the People that saw the decimation of the Mt. Hood Uratha packs) – to the point that they have not completely recovered from the other supernatural’s invasions on their territory even today.
After two years of assessing the impact of the Vampire’s war for the city, however, two things have become abundantly clear. First, the near eradication of Portland’s Vampire coteries opened up a huge number of urban territories for the Uratha, which has resulted in a dramatic shift in the balance of power among the city’s few surviving packs. It has also had the unexpected side effect of giving the Pure Tribes a more solid power base within the city, since they can claim territories there as readily as any Forsaken pack. More important, however, is the fact that the Forsaken coalition took heavy casualties during the war, which has created a critical manpower shortage. Therefore, reclaiming the city’s Shadow, fending off attacks by the Pure and settling territorial squabbles among packs now seems all but impossible.
In sum, Portland represents an enticing opportunity for modern Uratha, but it is a very dangerous place. The spirit wilds are a mess, inter-pack squabbles are ever-present, and the threat of attack by everything from Pure packs to Hosts is omnipresent. Yet it is a city on the edge.
For Uratha who are prepared to accept the risks it has to offer, it is a land of great opportunity, if only they can hold onto it. Werewolves who can repair the city’s shattered spiritscape and secure it against the many threats it faces stand to gain power and influence far beyond that of any potential rivals.
To begin with, the battered Shadow of Portland has affected the city’s inhabitants in numerous ways. Over the course of several decades, the callous actions of the vampires and other unpleasant sorts) have rubbed off on the land, turning various parts of the city into dens of rage, despair, paranoia or fear. People visiting these areas are subtly affected by this resonance. They are overcome with feelings of anger, hatred or confusion for no discernible reason, and when they talk to others about their experiences, they find that they are not alone. Then they start to ask questions. Why do people feel so depressed on one city block and not another, when there’s nothing particularly special about that city block? Why do people get so reckless over a particular stretch of highway, even though it’s no more treacherous than anywhere else on the road? What is it about the tavern downtown that makes its patrons so volatile?
Of course, there are no answers to these questions that are available to normal people. As a result, they start to make up stories, and those stories can take on a life of their own in the World of Darkness – Portland. Most such tales, of course, are just idle talk, the result of people trying to fend off the demons in the world around them and regain some control over their lives. But some have an element of truth in them that Uratha might find useful.
OPEN TERRITORIES IN THE PACIFIC NW
A number of territories have opened up in and around Portland Oregon in the last several years as more and more people are coming to the small City now being put on a big map, thanks to the newly emerging local Film industry (Particularly Grimm in its depicting of many supernatural occurrences and beings that are local only to the area – this has drawn the attention of many other supernatural beings also being drawn to Portland. The number of vacant territories now in the city is nothing short of staggering, and werewolves are needed to restore balance once again to Portland.
Werewolves from all over the region are often sent here initially to curb or at least slow the flow of supernatural spirits that are trying to promote the concept of “Keep Portland Weird.” It is assumed they want Portland weird for the purpose of breaking their bans and entering our physical domain. This is also the reason that Vampires fought so hard to try and take Portland because Portland’s ‘weirdness’ is a perfect mask for their laws of Masquerade.
Many werewolves wind up coming here for some elder initiation or other personal reasons, and wind up loving it here in this rugged country. Many wind up staying, preferring to maintain their newly staked claim.
Claiming a territory is a two-step process.
First, the pack must physically occupy the area chosen, and they must make some sort of physical claim on the area. (Some use gang-style graffiti to make their presence known, while others buy property or use other legal means to indicate that they have a claim to the area. Such extravagant claims aren’t really necessary, though. Fiscal investments can help to stave
off challengers for the territory, but a simple mark is all that’s really needed to satisfy the dictates of tradition).
Once the pack has physically claimed the territory, it must make its claim known to the spirits inhabiting the territory. The most polite way is to approach the dominant local
spirits with measured respect, making the pack’s claim in ritualistic fashion and asking for the spirits’ support. This in itself is never enough to win over the local spirits, of course; the enmity of the Shadow denizens toward the Uratha is not so easily dissolved. However, it is still a formality that some packs observe, even if it almost has the connotation of a formal declaration of war.
Other packs simply move in and start going to work without so much as a by-your-leave, a great example of this is in and around Denver Colorado. where many of the spirit wilds are still a chaotic mess.
Even if a pack feels that they must make a formal claim, a given area may not have
dominant local spirits, only a constantly seething cauldron of spirits striving for dominance.
CLAIMING TURF IN PORTLAND
At present, most of the open territories with enviable resources are in urban areas. Existing packs have already claimed many of the prime rural and park areas (though challenges
for the “good territories” are fairly common, with most of the victories going to the current tenants). Of course, there’s so much open land that werewolves couldn’t claim
it all even if they quadrupled in number, but the advantage of a more rural territory and the privacy to hunt in peace has tended to draw packs to the choicest locales.
Urban territory isn’t hard to come by. Much of the city is open to anyone who cares to claim it, and far more territories are available than there are packs to claim them.
This latter point is actually an item of some concern for the veteran packs in the city, as Pure Tribe packs or bands of Beshilu or Azlu are undoubtedly setting up shop in unclaimed territories with the intent of using them as staging areas to launch attacks against Forsaken. As a result, both local Alpha’s Carthage Grumwaldt and Patrick Silent-stalker
have teamed up to seek the aid of other Uratha, or enticing packs to the city, at least until its shattered spiritscape can be repaired.
Here are some things Uratha should keep in mind when trying to deal with spirits in their territories:
• First, the characters need to find out what happened in their territory during the time of the Vampire War. Though the human population was unaware of the battle raging in the physical and in the Shadow, it affected many people in subtle ways —((Foe example: Was there a series of suspicious activities or an outbreak of mental illness in the territory? Did the Azlu or Beshilu heighten their activity, or destroy the spirits’ capacity to function normally?))
The players don’t know, and they won’t until they learn about the history of their territory and its inhabitants.
• Once the characters know a bit about their territory’s history, they need to determine how the spirits themselves have been affected by the altered reflection of the physical world. In Portland, the spirits have often (but not always) been traumatized by the events of the past century, and are quite likely lash out at the Uratha even when it’s obvious that the werewolves are trying to help. Patience is an absolute must here. The characters have to practice a bit of psychology to draw these alien yet sometimes predictable entities out of hiding, and teaching them to trust again is no easy task. The results, however, speak for themselves.
• Unfortunately, trauma often results in corruption, and players should be prepared for spirits that need to be exorcised or destroyed before an area can be restored to full health. Werewolves who have yet to be hardened to the idea may have trouble with this task, but it’s aided by the fact that most spirits don’t particularly want to wallow in pain and misery for all eternity. The same can be said of any human ghosts in the area, which are ready to move on, if the characters can act as a bridge and release them from the ties that bind them to the world. Finding out what those ties are should be a priority for the characters.
• Ultimately, though, a pack simply can’t destroy or run off all the spirits that are present in their territory, no matter how much hostility they face. A healthy territory needs spirits to populate its Shadow. Part of revitalizing a territory means determining which spirits may prove to be the least
trouble, or even potential allies if properly courted, and acting appropriately. Most spirits can be cowed into a semblance of peace, but the most powerful may have to be appeased to some extent, either by bringing their rivals to heel or by showing that the pack respects the bans of the spirits who have been here the longest. The best way to achieve a semblance of peace with a spirit is to convince it that the pack’s presence will mean better things for the territory and the
spirit’s own best interests — and reminding the spirit that challenging the pack isn’t in its best interests at all.
As the characters learn more about the territory under their control, and as they take action to revitalize the spirits who give their territory life, they find that the physical and spiritual geography of their new home changes for the better.
The human populace is stirred less by the schemes of escaped spirits or loci of powerful negative resonance. The spiritual “ecosystem” returns to something recognizable and sustainable, with no one spirit claiming an undue share of power. If the characters can maintain this state of affairs, their very existence gains legitimacy. They see that the Uratha can perform Father Wolf’s duties (and well), which raises their esteem in the eyes of other Forsaken and spirits alike