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I don't get spirits and the shadow world, not at like a mechanics level, but at like a conceptual level. I don't understand how the shadow world overlaps ours? how the Uratha are able to interact? What motivates more complicated spirits? what they would know? how they interact? when would they interact? how much do they move around? If new or old features are present in the shadow world can werewolves interact with that (can they move throughout a building that no longer exists)?

For example I asked this question and I realize that I haven't a clue what I'll do if they try to contact spirits, nor what kind of spirits would know what at what distance.

My question is what can I read, or watch that will help me understand the spirit world well enough to make it believable in my chronicles?

It has occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons I've never grokked the spirit (non ghost/fae) is I can't think of any movies or other media that I can associate clearly with it. Movies or other media that gives examples of things that would be spirits or the shadow world, in the world of darkness is appreciated.

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I will give my understanding to this and a couple of links that may help you.

Regarding how they overlap:

I have always viewed this as the two worlds (material and shadow) exist in the same place at the same time. So if you Move through the gauntlet either way you end up in the same location you were but in a different place of existence. Therefore in areas where the barrier between them is weak you can have entities interacting with items that are simultaneously in both realms.

Also items that have existed in the material world may still exist in the Shadow. As WOD wiki puts it: "anything of import that happens in the Material Realm may birth a reflection in the Shadow".

I take this to mean any things that have strong emotional or reality changing consequences attached to them. Examples: a child's lost Teddy Bear may still exist in Shadow realms, had strong ties and was of great import to that person, or a declaration of War that lead to the deaths of many and changed world events. Even if destroyed in the material world a spiritual copy may exist in the shadow.

"Thus demolished buildings, ancient trees and extinct animals may all still exist there in spiritual form" http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Shadow_%28WOD%29

how the Uratha are able to interact?

Uratha can speak with spirits, if to a very basic level.

"They [Uratha] also possess an instinctive (if rudimentary) understanding of the First Tongue, the language spoken by their ancestors and still used by spirits (it is possibly also the original language of all humans). Many Uratha learn to speak the First Tongue fluently. " http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Uratha

what motivates more complicated spirits?

The same things that motivate other NPCs in your games: power, wealth, charity, compassion. They are just NPCs living in a slightly different world. They can have motivations as varied as any other group/individual.

what they would know?

This is for you to decide, some may know ancient lore, they may communicate regularly with creature on the material world (How up to you), others may know very little about anything material or shadow, this is for you to flesh out and make appropriate for the plot. Would likely depend on the power/rank of the spirit.

how they interact?

Usually via a point of low strength in the gauntlet, or by forcing through it.

With what each other? I imagine like we would interact in our world. Write a letter and send it by messenger. Meet up in a location and talk or fight or conduct dark rituals to bind the souls of mortals to their eternal servitude? Again up to you. Or conversely do a binding ritual to stop their evil brethren destroying nature. Similar spirits are likely to be found together in 'choirs'.

With your party? At a site of weakness in the gauntlet, or where they have been able to force their way through. Or it could be they cannot get through but have the means to cause a burnt scrap of paper to fall at the feet of a player, or cause the group to hear whispered words in the dark. Or it could be your players that set out to contact a spirit to help them, get a message out to someone else while they are in captivity.

The contact and interaction could be initiated by either side.

when would they interact?

Again really up to the party or you.

how much do they move around?

In the shadow realm, I have always thought of walking or riding spiritual creatures, such as a spirit horse or spirit elephant, in these cases bound to the service of another spirit. It depends on the type of spirit.

An animal spirit would move as that animal moved. A tree spirit would likely be rooted to the spot. You may wish to embody spirits in things that evoke the thing they represent. So a wrath spirit may be a floating ball of bale fire, that levitates, or a spirit of the meadows may move as a swirling cloud of flower petals. This would not mean that the Wrath spirit is necessarily evil and the meadow spirit happy and bright. http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Spirit_%28WOD%29

In the material world? it is up to you if they float as disembodied heads, or the wolf spirit hunts around the shadows. They can only interact with the real world through their powers, so pass through real world objects as if they were air.

Again much of this is up to you but I hope this helps you flesh out how you are going to envisage your spirit world.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ updated the question to include searching for outside whitewolf examples for inspiration. \$\endgroup\$ – xenoterracide Aug 21 '14 at 2:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have yourself a listen through some of the darker days podcasts, the guys throw up some interesting plot ideas and may help you grokking spirits and their interaction in WoD podcast.darker-days.org I can't think of any thing else atm, but will rack my brain a bit more. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr_road Aug 21 '14 at 14:58
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Spirits and realms that exist in the same place at the same time.

I have the impression you are looking for a broad answer to conceptual understanding, I will attempt to provide.

Q: I don't get spirits and the shadow world, not at like a mechanics level, but at like a conceptual level. I don't understand how the shadow world overlaps ours?

A: The Shadow world is one of several worlds that exist in the same place at the same time but are made up of difference essences although they all interact continuously. These include but are not limited to material, shadow, ethereal, astral, to expound the concept, but in WoD shadow is all we are concerned with. The laws of physics are not the same in the two different plains of existence, yet everything that happens in the material plain affects the shadow world. The shadow plain or world has properties that are unique. In the shadow plain there are spirits behind everything. The shadow plain also has shadows of the past, the future and the things that might have been. Passage and interaction between the shadow world and material world is going to be dependent on the mechanics of the game as you are playing it and you will have the explanation for how and why it works, but your players do not need to know all the details.

Q: how the Uratha are able to interact? what motivates more complicated spirits? what they would know? how they interact? when would they interact? how much do they move around? If new or old features are present in the shadow world can werewolves interact with that (can they move throughout a building that no longer exists)?

A: Interactions and motivations can be complex or dealt with in simplicity. Of course certain interaction will be governed by the rules of the game you are playing. Interaction can be governed in part by focus since you can have what was, what is, what might be, and what might have been all present at the same time. The focus of what brought you there or your own focus can be determining factors in what you interact with. For motivation the spirits in the Shadow realms know that they are effected by events in the material world so more complicated shadow spirits will have some interest or motivation in influencing those events, but since the laws governing the Shadow Realms are not the same as those governing the material realms we may not be able to understand their motivations. Not having the same basis for logic what we see as foolish may have sound logic in the shadow realms. As for interacting with features in the shadow realm that do not exist in the material realm, yes, if you are there you can interact, but with caution that which does not exist in the material world may become insubstantial and drop you, or dither into wispiness at the edges and leave you hanging, or take you to places that never have and never will exist getting you lost forever from what is. Imagine for a moment a shadow that answers a call that is a shadow of what could have been, but is not because of actions taken by your adversary.

Q: for example I asked this question and I realize that I haven't a clue what I'll do if they try to contact spirits, nor what kind of spirits would know what at what distance.

A: You can apply mechanics and imagination to determine the types spirits and knowledge they may have. The character does not need to know the power level or knowledge of the spirit they contact. What appears frivolous may actually be powerful and what appears knowledgeable may actually be foolish. Perhaps the spirit appears as a dove, but in fact has the purpose to stir allegiances to create war, only the GM knows for sure.

Q: My question is what can I read that will help me understand the spirit world well enough to make it believable in my chronicles?

A: The links provided by others here are good sources. You can spend years reading literature, but not all concepts will be consistent, not all will agree and in the end you are the one who will determine what rules and consistencies will apply to your world. It will be the consistency you apply that will make it believable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer has potential, but at the moment it's too general. The question is very specific to Werewolf and asks for concrete GMing help. The answer avoids giving that help - "apply mechanics and imagination" is essentially all of GMing. Some concrete examples in this section would do wonders. \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Aug 20 '14 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps I misread the question, but absed on the first statement: "I don't get spirits and the shadow world, not at like a mechanics level, but at like a conceptual level." I understood the mechanics were the the stumbling block, but rather the more esoterical concepts that make the mechanics beleivable. I do not GM Werewolf, so I would behonored if someone wants to enhance the answer with specific application to the game. I will also consult someone who has GM'd the specific game. It seems I may be on a research quest of my own. ~~~~ \$\endgroup\$ – Honorlord Aug 20 '14 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think "I haven't a clue what I'll do if they try to contact spirits, nor what kind of spirits would know what" really cries out for some specific suggestions. While I agree it's the concepts not the mechanics that matter here, the concepts of spirits in Werewolf are relevant. You could also remove the vague "any number of planes" stuff from the first part, since the astral/ethereal stuff is simply not how the WoD works - stick to the Shadow. \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Aug 20 '14 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would agree, that it is my imagination that is lacking, simply put, I'm having trouble being inspired, especially with non essential to plot spirits. updated the question to make a suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ – xenoterracide Aug 21 '14 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Shadow Spirits in the shadow realm can be the spirit behind a simple object or appear as anything and the player never needs to know when or where it originated and as GM you can use that to get across whatever information you want the player to have or limit the knowledge not to exceed what you want the players character to know. That shadow bowl set on the shadow table may have been around for thousands of years relative to the material realm while the material world attachment has not even come into being yet because it is a foreshadow of something yet to come. \$\endgroup\$ – Honorlord Aug 21 '14 at 4:12

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