A note on the umbra and this guideEdit
The umbra is a strange, spiritual place that doesn't always conform to the rules of nature or physics, like the physical world does. Locations, paths, and space can fold, extend, disappear, or be created for no reason whatsoever. Reality in the umbra is sometimes fluid, seemingly altering with no rhyme or reason. Thus, this guide presents only "normal" situations in the umbra. There are exceptions and there are unusual things that can and do happen--particularly near places with a strong Wyld presence. While these strange events can happen, it is best to run any abnormal events past one or more spirit wizards prior to running an one night stand (ONS) or introducing something new or unusual into the MUSH's worldview.
What is the Umbra?Edit
The umbra is a spiritual reflection of the physical world, but not an exact replica. Things in the realm generally have no spiritual presence unless they have been around a very long time--50 or more years perhaps. Or, if the structure has an extremely strong emotional/spiritual influence (a prison, a church, a hospital, etc.), it might beging to manifest spiritually in a few years. An incredibly traumatic and massive event (an apartment building that collapsed and killed most of the occupants, trapping many of them under tons of rubble where they slowly died over the course of many days, or a house that is used to torture large numbers humans and twist them into fomori) might create un umbral resonance in a few months or maybe almost instantly in the most horrific/beautific instances. As an example, a new road is run through a forest. Umbrally, there is nothing there but forest. Over the next 5 or so years, a path through the forest might develop. Then it grows wider and wider, the trees part, and a weaver-wyrm swath appears on the ground. In 10 (well-used highway), 50 (rarely used road) or 100 (driveway) years, there might be a spiritual reflection of that road in the umbra. Some places will have a stronger, faster established spiritual presence (Route 66) than others (Highway 51? Never heard of it.). Some roads (driveways, footpaths through the woods) will never produce an umbral presence. For instance, the abandoned railroad tracks going through WWNP have no spiritual presence. Stepping sideways from the top story of a brand new skyscraper or the bathroom of a passenger jet in flight would be highly, highly inadvisable.
Other Spiritual Realms and the Deep UmbraEdit
There are junctures, wrinkles, and gates in the fabric of the umbra that allow access to the Deep Umbra and, through the deep umbra, other realms. Most cliath garou are not privy to such knowledge as the deep umbra connecting these realms is vast, confusing, dangerous, and easy to get lost permanently in. Such is the domain of more experienced, higher ranked theurges.
Urban and Rural Places and the UmbraEdit
With a few extremely rare exceptions, a location in the physical world that has a lot of technology, a lot of pollution, and a lot of people in it is going to have an umbral reflection that is far more dangerous than the umbral reflection of a rural area. Hence, the umbra in the city is a hostile place for Garou to venture into, and it's not advisable to do so alone.
Day, Night, and Moon Phases in the UmbraEdit
Garou, the moon (and eclipses), and danger levels in the umbra can be summed up neatly in one phrase: "The less moon, the more dangerous." During the day, the entire umbra is crawling with Weaver spirits. There are various theories as to why this happens, none of which I'll explain here. Garou caught in the umbra during the day hopefully have their will up to date, because they're probably going to be dead or encased forever in weaver webs--if they're lucky. During the night, the Weaver spirits largely retreat back to their strongholds in the cities, though they're still out and about. Night is when the Wyld and Wyrm spirits are out, generally depending on the moon's phase. There are more Wyld spirits out during a full moon and more Wyrm spirits out during a new moon. Why? Depends on who you ask. Garou going umbral during a full moon is fine--but never, ever safe. Garou going umbral during a new moon is extremely dangerous, expect a really bad fight or death. Generally, most Garou will not go umbral between a new moon and a half-moon-that's-almost-a-crescent-moon unless there is an absolutely dire or desperate need to do so.
What a spirit actually is is the subject of a lot of debate and interpretation. I'll be skipping over all that. Spirits are, however, of a very alien mindset than garou, wolves, or humanity. The spirits in a given area are a lot like the Garou living in the same area--very diverse and each is an individual with a variety of goals and motivations. Think of them as another foil-type character, or a person that may or may not help out the Garou--depending on how they are treated, if what is being asked of them is dangerous or not, how much energy/time it will take, sacrifices of freedom, if it jives with their own moral guidelines, and if it serves their incarna (the Biggest, Head Cougar Spirit from which all Cougar spirits spring from, etc.) or not. Spirits can also be very clever, tricking, misleading, or using Garou to their own ends. A garou that believes everything any Wyld spirit says is a walking sucker waiting to be used. And spirits may break deals too as many spirits, particularly Wyld spirits (though Weaver spirits tend to be much better about keeping oaths/contracts), are not always inclined to respect agreements or care about the Garou's conception of Honor. Wyld spirits are not necessarily allies of the Garou, but, on average, they are certainly "less an enemy" than everything else out there. Usually.
Unlike Garou, spirits cannot peek through the umbra nor can they naturally go to and from the physical and spiritual worlds. In order to appear in a physical form, a spirit must have the Materialize charm. Materializing in a shape roughly equivalent in strength to an average human will cost approximately 10 points of power (about half what the average spirit has in total.) Materializing in a form about as tough and damaging as an average claith crinos Garou will cost approximately 25 power points--well above what most spirits have at their disposal. Spirits also do not have social skills to interact with humanity in a normal fashion, unless they're spirits of Man.
Because of this, Garou are extremely valuable allies to spirits who wish to accomplish something in the physical world. They can go places most spirits can't, and are far more powerful than those few spirits that canMaterialize.
Reaching: crossing into and out of the umbraEdit
Reaching or sidestepping is how the Garou move between the physical and the spiritual worlds. In order to reach, a Garou must have a smooth, reflective surface--on whatever side they happen to be on at the time. This also means that unless a Garou is conscious enough to stare at their own reflection, they cannot cross over the Gauntlet--the barrier between the physical and spiritual worlds. Unconscious (or dead) Garou cannot be carried across by packmates. For instance, if a Garou carries a pocket mirror (about the smallest size of a reflective surface for reaching) with them decides, while out in the woods, to go to the umbra, they can do so. However, unless that mirror is Dedicated, the mirror gets left in the physical world and the Garou, now mirrorless, is going to have to hunt down a new reflective surface. A garou that does such a thing in the dry, wide-open midwestern plains may be frantically running around hoping that the sun doesn't rise before they get lucky and find something reflective. Reaching is a dangerous process and should not be taken lightly. A lone Garou with a low Gnosis score that reaches, particularly in an urban setting, is all but asking to be trapped in the guantlet and killed by the first spirit that happens by. Reaching through the gauntlet is by no means a quick escape route. Use the following table as a guideline for how long it takes to get through the gauntlet:
|Gnosis||Caern||Deep Woods or Glade||Park||Suburb/Village||City||"Banal" area of a city|
|1||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes|
|2||3 minutes||4 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes||5 minutes|
|3||1 minute||2 minutes||3 minutes||4 minutes||4 minutes||5 minutes|
|4||45 seconds||1 minute||1.5 minutes||2 minutes||3 minutes||4 minutes|
|5||30 seconds||40 seconds||50 seconds||60 seconds||1.5 minutes||3 minutes|
|6||15 seconds||20 seconds||25 seconds||30 seconds||45 seconds||2 minutes|
|7||5 seconds||10 seconds||15 seconds||20 seconds||30 seconds||1 minute|
|8||3 seconds||5 seconds||10 seconds||15 seconds||20 seconds||45 seconds|
|9||instant||3 seconds||5 seconds||10 seconds||15 seconds||30 seconds|
|10||instant||instant||3 seconds||5 seconds||10 seconds||15 seconds|
(Optimized for the wiki from: http://garoumush.wikia.com/wiki/Image:GnosisGauntletChart.jpg)
A Garou with a gnosis of 1 or 2 will be unable to cross the gauntlet at all about 25-50% of the time, and has about a 1 in 10 chance of getting trapped in the gauntlet. Other Garou have about a 1 in 20-30 chance of getting trapped.
Many, if not most, Garou will spend willpower when crossing the Gauntlet to avoid getting stuck between worlds. Garou who spend willpower can decrease their time spent crossing by an appropriate step up on the table above.
Obviously, "jumping through to the umbra" or "jumping out of the umbra" is simply impossible for the overwhelming majority of Garou, even when spending willpower to that effect.
Also, the gauntlet is harder and easier to cross in some areas than others--generally depending on the amount of Weaver in the area. Reaching in the city is about twice as hard to do as reaching in the woods. Reaching in a science lab is about four times harder than reaching at a caern.
While in the process of reaching, Garou cannot move or attack. They are frozen in place, staring at their reflection, existing in two worlds at one time and open to attack and detection at both places. If a Garou is trapped in the gauntlet, he or she must be pulled through (in one way or the other) by another Garou, a spirit, or whatever--on the side that the puller is on. Thus, a Garou that was trapped while reaching from realm to umbra can be pulled back into the realm by a human or into the umbra by a bane. Whatever comes along first. Or the human or bane can simply choose to slay the immobilized Garou, or, my personal preference, use it as a hat rack. (Pulling a Garou to one side of the Gauntlet or the other is a willfull act on the puller's part . A garou that is frozen in place while reaching can be attacked repeatedly by an umbral spirit without the contact drawing the Garou back into the spirit world or expelling it into the realm.)
Obviously, reaching when you're alone or as a means of escape is a very, very, very bad idea--one that will eventually kill the garou that does this. (Garou form packs for a reason, and this is one.)
Much like Garou have no idea what is happening in the spirit world when they are in the realm, spirits have no idea what is happening in the realm when they are in the spirit world. Asking a spirit if they saw something happen yesterday in the realm is akin to asking a Garou who never went umbral the day before if they noticed something in the umbra. It just ain't gonna happen. You might want to consider Rite Of Spirit Awakening.