“There is two type of Shadow Lords,” The impeccably well dressed man known as Mitchell “Midnight” Knight states to me as he faces his gargoyle lined Gothic fireplace. The fire’s reflection dancing in his cold blue eyes both in the figurative sense and literal. His hand swirls a glass of brandy worth more then my paycheck as he continues, “Those who have power and those who covet it. I was once the latter, and now am the former.”
Raising an eyebrow I ask him the question he is obviously expecting, “And how did you come by this power?”
Smiling at what he views as an easy manipulation, “There is an old saying in the industry you work in, and not the industry that brought you here mind you, that authority is given but power is earned. I earned my power through daring and deed. Through seeing an opportunity and seizing it by the throat.”
Not one to be pushed around, I try to take him off balance with my next statement, “But what of those who claim you got here on the backs of your packmates, your dead packmates to be precise?”
The man turns to me so that half his face is covered in shadow, his stare freezing my heart as I realize he is not one to take jabs from a kinfolk. His voice as cold as those eyes as he responds in a tone that makes me feel that this is the final word, “Those who fell, did so for the greater good. The strong survive to serve Gaia, and to let the weak survive is not serving her or anyone else any good. Like a surgeon, I cut the diseased and weakened tissue in order to save the whole. Yes, it is not pretty, but it is better to be able to complain about a scar than to be silent and in your grave. War is not pretty, and we are at war. Do not mistake that. If your kin, be they the berserkers or the drunkards were to get in the way of saving Gaia, I would cut down every last one of them to save her and then sleep soundly afterwards. Your soft heart is a weakness, as is your reverence to past deeds of past ‘Kings’. Today and the deeds of those still living is all that matters. Your deeds show one that is willing to learn, so learn that what is needed is not always wanted and what is needed is someone with the strength and integrity to recognize the Wyrm’s influence where ever it rears it’s ugly head. The Shadow Lords are that, the surgeon and inquisition, ready to burn the impure to save the whole. Do not give reason for our eye to fall upon you. Oh, and you have roughly two minutes before I release the hounds. Be a dear and see yourself out.”
I gulp down a lump of fear and nod before gathering my items to leave, having found all I care to here. If you don’t mind, I am going to be a dear and see myself out now.
The Shadow Lords are many things, and as one of my storytellers put it they are “well rounded assholes”. This Garou tribe is not the most beloved, and they don’t care to be. They are not the kindest, and do not see the reason they should be. They are often seen as bordering on corruption, power hungry, and covetous of the Garou crown. In fact, they are the greatest rivals the Silver Fangs have ever known. While the Silver Fangs rule through right of nobility and lineages that stretch back through generations heroes long since dead, the Shadow Lords are a tribe that weigh each Garou on the deeds in which they themselves have performed. This causes a few things that become readily apparent within the tribe. For one, the young are ambitious and tend to be prone to making grand moves in their bids for power. On the other hand, the elders have the power and know the cubs will do anything to get it. As my dad used to say, “there is brave ones, and there is old ones, but there is no old brave ones.” This statement is reflected in how the higher ranking Shadow Lords are the ones who learned to be patient, to be cold, and to calculate the precise time to strike. Like a stock-trader, there is always a time to act and a time to bide, survival is knowing which is which. Truly, the older ones are the pinnacle of power because they had to fight to get where they are and have the cunning to keep it. This meritocracy makes things stacked against the Metis from the start, but does not hold them back if they have the drive to succeed. The Lupus will often learn to dominate and cow his litter mates before he learns the ways of man. The Homid on the other hand, well…
Genetically speaking, the Shadow Lords hail from a stock with powerful builds native to what is now Eastern Europe. As such they very often come from Slavic or Germanic lines. Though they do breed with those of any type who show themselves to be sharp in mind and ambitious, the lineages are still heavy in that dark haired stock. Russia to Germany and Romania, the Shadow Lords have likely had a claw in every royal family or prominent mover and shaker. In the Americas, they shoot for the board rooms and lobby floors, or even as high as the White House if they could ever manage it. Woe unto those who find themselves in the courtroom of a Philodox of the Shadow Lords. They are just, but brutally so. One can expect the maximum sentence, if they are lucky enough to not have every sin and transgression laid bare as flayed flesh. Though what I think would be amazing to see is a detective or FBI member coming from this tribe.
This brings me to another point, the Shadow Lords are like the white blood cells of the Garou Nation. More times than not, a Garou rending the veil or breaking the Litany will find himself under the eye and thumb of a Shadow Lord. Those who are falling to corruption will find themselves sniffed out and brought to justice swiftly. It’s not pretty, as often the family or pack mates of the accused are not aware of the transgressions, but it is necessary. This “Spanish Inquisition” style of draconian justice makes the Shadow Lords one of the most disliked, if not out right hated tribes. Similar allegories could be made between the struggles of certain movements and the police forces of America. Where this hatred finds some ground though, is that the Shadow Lord will twist the knife and use the guilty to their own advantage if they can. Accessory after the fact I believe is the legal term, though I may be wrong. None the less, your skeletons in the closet are a weapon and tool to these Garou, don’t you ever forget it.
The Shadow Lords revere the Totem Grandfather Thunder, who is a blatant allegory of Odin. Old guy, very dominant and powerful, has ravens he sends out, controls the weather, yep… we got a link to Nordic beliefs. So it is not a big leap to see how the Shadow Lords have a “Might makes right” Darwinist belief system. That being said, they do have one thing going for them that most tribes do not. They are open minded about working with other supernatural creatures. In many texts it speaks of the relatively good report between the Corax and the Shadow Lords, likely due to them both having the favor of Grandfather Thunder’s raven’s Hugin and Munin. Vampires have even been known to broker deals with the Shadow Lords, though both sides expect and plan on betraying the other. Though I cannot find where, I recall one of the older books stating the Mokole have an intense hatred of the Shadow Lords, due to their efficiency at finding nests and smashing eggs during the War of Rage.
Worth it’s own paragraph is the Hakken of Japan. This is an off shoot of the Shadow Lords tribe that makes it’s home in Japan and parlays with the Eastern Beast Courts. The genetic link has little in ways of forming a common bond between the Hakken and Shadow Lords. In fact, they believe that the Shadowlords, and indeed the Garou Nation as a whole, is a group of blood thirsty barbarians. The Hakken believe the rightful way to be defenders of Gaia, whom they call the Emerald Mother, is to work with all other shapechangers as equals, not as players using pawns in a game. This cooperation spanning hundreds (thousands?) of years with the Beast Courts has granted the Hakken many strange and wonderful abilities. These Samurai like Garou can pull from the Hakken and Hengeyokai Gift lists on top of everything available to the Shadow Lords (breed, auspice, tribe). These powers come to bare in their role as the vanguard protectors of all that is good in the East.
Now as for Roleplay one should look to the ones who do the job you need done but don’t necessarily want done. To use comics and pop culture as a reference… A Ragabash Shadowlord would be like Batman, the ninja and detective who gets to the bottom of a situation and is willing to make the tough calls when it is called for. Do yourself a favor, check out when he stared down Darkseid and called his bluff. A Theurge Shadowlord would be like Night Wolf from Mortal Kombat. He channels the spirits and roots out corruption at it’s source whenever possible. A Philodox Shadowlord would be like Tuvac from Star Trek, coldly calculating but always for the greater good as needed. A Galliard Shadowlord would be like Thanatos from Gargoyles, fun loving but still darkly seeking power no matter the cost. An Ahroun Shadowlord would be like Judge Dredd. Judge, jury, and executioner of the Litany. Be harsh, be cold, be calculating. Others have time for fun and games, you do not. I’m sure there is other examples but those are some ideas.
The Shadow Lords are predators in the social and physical sense. As such they have been granted many gifts and aspects that enhance this role. Here is some highlights and my personal favorites:
Aura of Confidence is exactly what it sounds like and much much more. With it you never betray any sort of weakness and your aura is hidden from any who wish to see it.
Fatal Flaw allows you to gain a bit of an edge in almost any situation. The gain is small but every bit helps. The fact that it can be used infinitely and without cost is a blessing.
Seizing the Edge breaks an intrinsic game mechanic. Normally a tie goes to the defender but with this ties go to the Shadow Lord.
Shadow Weaving allows you to bend the shadows to aid you in many ways, not the least of which is to enhance your stealth abilities.
Whisper Catching allows all whispers within 200 feet to be heard clearly. Remember how I said these guys are good at catching the bad guys? This is part of why.
***Scary part? The above are all available at the start of the game and are rank 1.***
Clap of Thunder allows you to bring the BOOM! Crowd control is an amazing thing in any game, and this one works wonders.
Direct the Storm turns that nasty rage problem of Garou into a weapon, one you can aim.
Icy Chill of Despair brings all the terror one can instill in another to the forefront. Much like the scene in Lord of the Rings when Gandolf tells off Bilbo and scares him while he grows along with the shadows. “do not think me some conjurer of cheap tricks” or something like that.
Paralyzing Stare allows you to freeze a target in place with just a glance.
Shadow Cutting lets one attack their foes shadow but damage the owner. This is incredibly hard to defend against and the smart Shadow Lord will set up lights to lengthen shadows.
Under the Gun curses a target to have missiles literally change course and aim at the target of the curse. Like Dungeons and Dragons arrow catching shield, except… it’s the cursed one’s face.
Open Wounds turns the next attack into a Uwe Boll movie. The victim bleeds profusely no matter what aid is given.
Durance keeps some talons from being destroyed upon use. This can royally piss of spirits but may be necessary in some cases. Needs must when the devil drives.
Strength of The Dominator drains a targets rage into the Shadow Lord, again a gift that makes them the inquisitors of the Garou.
Obedience turns the Shadow Lord into the ultimate Alpha Wolf. His commands, his words, his will is law and must be obeyed.
Shadow Pack is an amazing tool when one needs reinforcements. Similar to the clone Jutsu of Naruto, you create copies of yourself that share all your skills and abilities but none of your property or gifts. Imagine a Raging Crinos splitting into many, all of which want to eat you. Yep… that’s a game changer.
Well that sounds like a good breeze over on an interesting tribe and one of my personal favorites. You are highly encouraged to give these guys a try, as everyone likes the bad-ass anti hero. As always, you are encouraged to ask questions or make comments. I’d also love to hear who your favorite anti heroes are.
For now, I have to go prep Midnight for a showdown with my players that is coming soon. That and I have to get ready to roll out to Egypt to speak to the Silent Striders next week. The Striders are the an amazing tribe with a rich history. Plus they are the first tribe that stems from Africa, which we all know is home to an amazing amount of fauna. What does it take to be the alpha predator there? What does it take to kick that predator out of it’s home? We shall see! You enjoy yourself, I know I will.
Stay Nerdy my friends,