Pooling Merits

Some Backgrounds can relate to the pack, rather than the individual werewolves. Specifically, the members of a pack may choose to pool their individual Allies, Contacts, Retainers, and Resources. Totem as a Merit can already apply to the pack rather than an individual character, thus is not a candidate for pooling.

A character can draw on a pooled Merit even if that Merit is normally restricted for her tribe.

The Anchor

The players should choose one Merit as the anchor that links their characters’ shared assets together. For example, the players of a pack of Glass Walkers might choose Resources, with the money and property placed in joint ownership to the pack explaining how the pack can access skilled people, connect to Kinfolk around the world, and even serve their destiny as a pack of moneyed werewolves. Any of the poolable Merits can serve as an anchor.

No pooled Merit can have more dots assigned to it than the Anchor Background does at any time. If that Merit is damaged by events during play or in downtime, the other assets drift out of the pack’s control, and it takes effort to win them back.

Any character contributing to a pool may withdraw his stake at any time, but extracting personal assets from a pack causes some damage and bruises relationships: he gets back one less dot than he put in.

Example: The members of the Irregulars build their shared Merit pool around the pack’s Allies: a group of ex-squaddies and political agitators in London who can put them in touch with a people in almost every field, and through whom the Irregulars can call on Retainers for assistance. They put a total of five dots into the Allies pool. Members of the pack add four points of pooled Contacts, and two points of pooled Retainers.

A pack of Black Spiral Dancers wants to make life difficult for the pack, and slaughters the people the Garou relied on for help. Their Allies rating drops from 5 to 3. With so many people dead, the Irregulars can’t get in touch with many of their old Contacts, so that Merit also drops from 4 to 3. Fortunately, the Black Spiral Dancers didn’t kill anyone who knew about the Retainers, so that pooled rating doesn’t change.

Sustained effort by the Irregulars to help people out and forge new alliances and friendships in new areas can repair the damage. Who knows who their new friends will be able to introduce them to?

As the Anchor Merit rating rises again, so do the ratings of those anchored to it, as a result of storytelling directed toward the goals of improving the lost Merits.

Under normal circumstances, a pack can’t change its Anchor Merit, nor can it acquire a new one. While it may choose to abandon the assets represented by a given Merit over the course of a chronicle, and thus free itself from the limitations of the backgrounds pooled to that Anchor, the fact that most Merits can change value only as a result of the story’s events means that the pack must acquire new Merits in this manner.

While some werewolves want to pursue their personal goals, the majority pull together and act as a pack against any hardships. It can be hard for a pack to accept pooling their Merits when they don’t necessarily know or trust one another, but as time moves on, most packs see the utility in holding assets as a pack rather than an individual. It makes sense on a fundamental level - the pack, not the werewolf, is the fundamental unit of Garou society.

Using Pooled Merits

Pooled Merits represent the pack’s communal property. Anyone who contributes to any aspect of the pool has equal access to the full resources. Even a character who donates only one dot of Contacts still has equal access to all the Merits in the pool. Not everyone can use the pool at the same time. A pool of seven Allies represents the same seven people. Who is available to help which members of the pack depends on circumstances and agreements among the pack.

Example: Four Glass Walkers form a pool around their shared Resources - their investments and the property and assets of their wholly-owned corporation. They wish to get dots of Contacts (people in the business world), and Allies (specialists each werewolf has met in her travels). Beth contributes three dots of Resources and one of Allies; Danny adds two dots of Allies and one dot of Resources; Laura can contribute two dots of Resources and three dots of Contacts; Chuck is short on dots, but can contribute a dot of Contacts. This makes the pool Resources 6, Allies 3, Contacts 4. Everyone can tap this pool equally: Chuck can draw on all the pack’s Resources if necessary, while Beth and Danny can both draw on the pack’s Contacts for their own ends - despite not having any Contacts of their own.

Some packs may agree to place an individual access limit on shared Merits, to reflect any agreements between the packmates, at the Storyteller’s discretion. These arrangements are more common among young packs who do not yet trust one another.

Upper Limits

Packs can get Merits that surpass the normal five-dot limit through pooling their points. This is normal, and reflects the many advantages of a pack working together - a pack can keep in touch with more people, or maintain tighter control over a range of investments than one werewolf can. Pooled Merits don’t have any absolute upper limit, but things get outright bizarre if you aren’t careful - the world’s 20 richest people aren’t all members of the same pack. It’s usually best if the Storyteller sets a 10-dot limit on the Anchor Merit.

Some Merits work best if they scale differently in a pool to the individual scale, especially when they break through the normal five-dot limit. If an average pack of four players each adds one or two dots of Resources to end up with a shared pool of 6, the effect isn’t that they’re secret billionaires. Instead, they’re of modest means, but it’s damn near impossible to tear the pack’s fiscal assets from them. As with all questions of balancing player expectations with elements of the story, the players and Storyteller should talk through the issue and set out some guidelines for what each shared Merit represents before the chronicle begins.