Wolfen


This humanoid is taller, broader, and more muscular than a human. Thick brown fur covers the creature’s body and the nearly human body is topped by a very wolfish head. Yellow eyes betray a keen intelligence behind the bestial mask and what little clothing it wears is made of crude leather. Clawed hands flex tightly over the bone spear it wields, making it obvious that insult would be a poor use of judgment.

Wolfen are a seemingly primitive race of Wolf-men, but their society is quite complex, involving layers of rank that are bargained, traded, fought, and even killed for. Nearly all of them are instinctive warriors, capable of using their claws and fangs to lethal ends and are known for their strong sense of honor and easily insulted pride. Most live in scattered tribes, some of which are nomadic, but a few choose to live in an urban environment despite their sensitivity to strong smells.

Physical and Mental Traits

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Physical Overview
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Wolfen males average about six and a half feet tall, while the females reach about six. Their most obvious features are their wolf like heads and thick coats of fur. The fur can be of any color between white, tan, dark brown, black, gray, and even silver and gold on rare occasions. Even the smallest of adults can weigh about 200lbs. Eyes typically range from yellow to gold, brown to blue. Older wolfen, particularly warriors, tend to be covered in scars and might even be missing patches of fur, but these malignancies are worn with pride as they represent trials that they’ve been a part of. Their tails are proportionate to their size, similar to that of a wolf’s or dog’s, only reaching a couple feet behind them. Their hands are formed almost like animal paws, but with longer fingers that still end in claws.

Fur
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Fur can be longer or shorter depending on what environment that the Wolfen has adapted to, but most prefer to keep a long mane of sorts that is braided and adorned with beads, skulls, and other assorted baubles. Fur colors and patterns tend to run in a family line, sometimes making it quite clear who in a tribe is related by a strange mark such as a white crest over an eye while the rest of a Wolfen’s fur might be black. Wolfen also tend to decorate their fur by dying it in various patterns and colors. Many choose bright colors that clash with their furs and tend to use sharp, angular patterns such as chevrons or stripes.
In some regions however, some fur colors and patterns bear a stigma or a blessing. Gold and Silver are generally considered lucky as they’re the colors of Dawn Wolf and Fenris, the great spirits that created the Wolfen race. As far as stigmas are considered, a left paw that is covered in white fur when the rest of the Wolfen has no white is said to be one of the worst as it is the trait of Dark Step, their spirit of Death. Even though one with such a mark will be treated with respect, they are usually kept at arm’s length from the rest of the tribe.

Capabilities
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Physically, Wolfen tend to be tougher than humans, and even a tad quicker on their feet when the situation calls for it, but their claws tend to make delicate procedures difficult. Because of this, most Wolfen don’t use such weapons like bows due to the tendency for their claws to snap strings. Their bestial visages to be quite intimidating to those who aren’t used to them, but their savage appearances don’t give their mental abilities credit. While most lack the intellect for advanced sciences, or even difficult ones, they possess an innate cunning tied to their survival and ability to adapt. The trait that sets them apart from most other races however, is their complete lack of psionic or arcane abilities. Their strong connection to the realms of Life and Spirit make it impossible for them to learn such magiks, and despite their affiliation with some of the most powerful spirits in the realms, they rarely show the ability to become clerics since they don’t worship any actual deities.

That said, the same connection that limits most paths of magik allow them to show a special affinity to the spiritual realm, resulting in many Wolfen becoming Shamans for their tribe, letting them meet, bargain with, or even defend against spirits. Every Wolfen is born with a spectacular sense of smell, allowing them to track people and even magik itself through the unnatural scent it leaves behind. Especially skilled Wolfen can even tell when someone is ill, pregnant, or even lying based on their target’s scent if they are familiar enough.


Dietary Needs
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It is quite apparent at a first glance that Wolfen are almost entirely devoted to being carnivores, but they still understand the needs for a “balanced” diet. Most Wolfen prefer to eat what they hunt with the rarer the better, but there’s still a small need for breads, dairy, and sometimes even a favorite sweet fruit or two the individual might like to eat. Larger villages sometimes even learn methods to brew various alcohols, though these are generally mixed with fresh blood before serving. Despite all of this, a Wolfen without any source of fresh meat is likely to waste away quickly.

Growth, Development, and Reproduction
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A typical Wolfen cub is quite large when born; easily weighing seven or eight pounds each and covered in fuzz. Twins are quite common, though triplets are rare and even more per litter are almost unheard of. The cubs are quite hardy and usually free of deformity or disease. They are usually aware of what’s happening around them before they reach six months of age, and learn to walk (be it on two legs or four), by that age as well. Their eyesight tends to be poor until their first year draws to a close, making scent and sound their primary means of gathering information. Despite the complexities of their language, most learn to speak fluently by the time they are two and a half. Cubs grow quickly until they reach their 8th or 9th year, about the time they get to 4.5ft in height, and then they hit their First Shed.

Their First Shed is a period of extremely rapid growth, about six months in length, which tends to be quite painful for Wolfen. They’ll grow another foot or two in height even as all their child fur falls out, and their hunger turns ravenous as their body seeks constant nourishment. In this period it isn’t uncommon for Wolfen to get sick due to their weakened system, but nearly all of them survive it. At the end, the cubs have entered their own form of puberty, leaving them tall, thin, and quite awkward, but muscle mass quickly grows to fit their new extended frames.

By the time they reach their Second Shed, their final one, they’re almost adults. While they’re unable to reproduce when they’re sixteen, their bodies finally prepare themselves for such. This second loss of fur marks the period when their body has finished growing, putting an end to any more sudden spurts of growth as more subtle changes begin to occur. The typical changes are that the Males’ shoulders and chests broaden while Females finally begin to develop secondary sexual characteristics (mammary glands and upward-curled tails), but sometimes such changes don’t occur depending on certain hierarchies in tribes (to be expanded upon later below). They don’t lose all their fur this time around, instead losing an undercoating while males and females both start gaining a mane of much longer fur around their necks. This period only lasts three months, turning them physically into adults, and allowing them to finally reproduce.

Unlike most races, Wolfen females cannot become pregnant whenever they wish. Females can only become pregnant twice a year when they go into a “Heat”, when their bodies produce the hormones needed to allow them to carry a child. The heats are spaced equally apart and last two weeks at a time, while pregnancy itself lasts six to seven months.

Since Wolfen age faster than other races, their lives are much shorter. A Wolfen is considered to be physically an adult at 16-17 years of age, and middle-aged in their early 30s. The average Wolfen’s lifespan has a max of about 60 years, but Shamans and those descended from Dawn Wolf and Fenris can live longer provided they don’t meet a violent end.

One thing to note is that Wolfen are completely incapable of producing half-breeds with other races without direct intervention of either Dawn Wolf or Fenris, and such events occur extremely rarely.

Society and Relationships
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Overview
Wolfen society, while they live in simple tribes and villages, is composed of a complex system of hierarchies of varying degrees of dominance that can be fought for, traded, or even given, but rarely born into. The biggest differences in status are mainly those of pride, but there are still some tangible benefits. Despite all of the difficulties such a society holds however, Wolfen quickly learn to set aside differences when a situation calls for it to be so in order for the greater whole can be served.

Hierarchy
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Hierarchy - Alphas
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The top of the food chain for Wolfen are a pair of Alphas. The Alphas of a tribe are usually selected from one male and one female, and while they can be a mated pair, it isn’t unusual for them to be otherwise. The word of the Alphas’ is practically written in stone as long as it is within reason. This means that while they are capable of making most decisions for the whole of a village or tribe, they must be able to consider the repercussions of making a poor choice or ignoring what the tribe actually wishes for.

Alphas can be selected either through election or through a series of competitions, but it usually tends in the biggest, smartest, or luckiest Wolfen being chosen to lead their pack. Alphas usually choose the largest hut or cave to live in, and get the honor of special seats and meals during celebrations. Not only this, but if the Alpha pair isn’t monogamous, they are sometimes given a selection of possible mates to provide something of a “harem”. Most times, such a harem isn’t built from just the one tribe, instead resulting from the Alpha being gifted with a selection of willing and deserving mates from neighboring tribes, allowing bloodlines to continue to be diverse. Consorts of this manner don’t usually stay for longer than a few years unless they elect to live there permanently.

There is usually a different hierarchy between the Alphas themselves, sometimes leaving a completely Matriarchal or Patriarchal head to the tribe, but no matter how the pair are configured between themselves, they still rule the rest of the tribe until they either step down from their position, die, or are have their authority rightfully challenged by the majority of others. Regardless of the manner in which they leave the position vacant, the election or competitions begin again, starting the cycle anew.

Hierarchy – The Council
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Directly beneath the Alphas is a small Council of tribe members that have distinguished themselves from the rest through either their wisdom or combat prowess. They can be of any age or gender, and enjoy special recognition from the rest of the tribe, being directly below the Alphas. These people are generally chosen by the majority of tribesmen even though the Alphas hold the power to choose the Council for themselves. Most large choices, such as punishments, declarations of war, and movements of the tribe are carefully discussed with The Council before they are given out as the wrong choice can spell death for the tribe, or at the very least a Challenge of Authority.


Hierarchy – Shaman
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The Shaman’s position is held completely apart from the rest of the usual social build of the tribe. He or she isn’t part of the Council and can never be chosen for Alpha, but their teachings and tales are the building blocks for the society itself. The Shaman is the tribe’s direct link to the spirit realm, allowing them to commune with the natural spirits of the world as well as those ancestors who have chosen to remain with the tribe to help guide and protect it from beyond the grave. The Shaman’s role is that of a guide, healer, and storyteller, imparting great wisdom upon those who listen. Most tribes have just one true Shaman at a time, as well as their apprentice, but larger ones can have a small coven of them with their own leader elected between them.

While the Alphas hold final say, and the Council gives the majority of strength to those decisions, the Shaman’s blessings or warnings on a single topic can sway the discussion completely. When they aren’t in meetings with the other leaders, the Shaman acts as a diplomat and teacher. They are sent to other tribes to help improve relations, sometimes being asked to father (or mother) children with the other tribe to seal pacts or in the hopes that they can help produce an heir for the other’s Shaman, should the cub bear signs that they have the Spirit Gift. Even if they have their own mate, it is still quite common for such occurrences to happen. Meanwhile, in their own tribe they entertain children with fables, myths, and other tales while they help teach and guide them towards adulthood. Most importantly, they bestow a grown tribe member with their Adult Name.

A Shaman’s Apprentice is selected at a very young age by the Shaman itself. Some signs of having the Spirit Gift include Dark Step’s Paw, speaking to unseen beings, certain dreams, and other portents. Once chosen, the parents are informed and while they are allowed to keep their child within their family and hut, the Shaman takes a direct hand in the cub’s growth and teaching, attempting to nurture their Gift to fruition.


Hierarchy – Tribesmen
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The rest of the tribes or villages are the common warriors and workers. Most of the time these are one and the same, and even though different ones have different degrees of power, they haven’t been elected into a position of true authority and influence. Even so, this majority of the tribe has its own complex ladder of dominance between individuals. Some more powerful examples could be positions such as a hunting party leader, a master craftsman, or a previous Alpha that’s vacated his or her seat. While they are under most of the elected positions in power, they still can’t be directly ordered into doing something, especially if it is dangerous or risky.

Hierarchy – Outcasts and Exiles
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The lowest member of a tribe is the Ex-Member. Through disgrace, these have been kicked out of a tribe. Such Wolfen are rarely welcome in any other tribe, let alone the original, and sometimes are warned off with the punishment of death should they return unless an extremely good reason is given. This is a common form of punishment for those who continually steal despite numerous warnings, killing another member outside of an Honor Duel, or knowingly and willingly conspiring against the tribe. These Wolfen have no holdings inside the tribe any longer, but are allowed to leave with what they can carry on their back. Depending on circumstances, some tribes will allow others to give them gifts of good luck on their journey. No matter what happened though, Exiles are marked in one way or another to reveal who they are, be it through a brand, plucking of fur, permanently dying fur or skin, or giving them a Cursed Name to wander the world with.

An Exile being able to redeem himself is quite rare, but not impossible. Should one feel great remorse, and are able to prove themselves to the tribe through great risk, it is possible for them to be granted their status once more. Even so, the stigma of being Exiled remains with them for the rest of their lives.

Interpersonal Relationships
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Due to the nature of a Wolfen’s sense of smell, it is quite hard to hide any sign of attraction from one person towards another. Even so, it is commonly considered good taste to either ignore it if you aren’t involved, or talk to the person about it if you are. Attachments can be noticed early on, even before the Second Shed, and even more strangely, can happen quite easily between a Wolfen and a member of another race, despite their inability to produce children.

Monogamy and Polygamy are practically equal in occurrence, with the frequency varying between tribes. One tribe can show that all mating pairs are exclusive, but the next can have it so there’s no real set limit towards the number of mates one can have. Since children are mostly raised by the tribe as a whole, there’s no real need for families to stay together unless they wish to do so. Even so, there are consequences should one member of a monogamous pair choose to dally outside their relationship if they have taken part in a special Mating Ritual that ties the pair together in the eyes of the tribe. Such an event can shatter the made pact and inflict harm on the Wolfen’s personal honor, making others distrust them more often.

In polygamous relationships there is one or two Wolfen, possibly a mated pair, that are the leaders of the group that decide which newcomers may be able to join them in the relationship, and at which level. While rare, it isn’t unheard of for such a group to eventually become large enough to splinter off into their own tribe.

Courtship is a simple affair, involving gifts from one to another, dancing, hunting together, and sometimes the odd risk of danger to try to impress the target of a Wolfen’s affection, but other than that there isn’t much to it. If a relationship is established enough, or should a certain kind of relationship be prevalent in a tribe, the Wolfen’s sensitivity to hormones flying through the air can change them physically. In a situation where the female is both more aggressive as well as socially dominant, they tend to grow slightly larger than average while the males become a hair more slender. The same can occur if one male is subordinate to another for an extended period of time, or with females in the same pattern. To human eyes it may appear that such changes are slight and not meaningful, but it is an easy way for one Wolfen to tell another’s social rank with just a glance or sniff.

As far as intimacy with the same gender goes, Wolfen are surprisingly open with it. As noted before, Wolfen must be honest about attraction as it can hardly be kept a secret. This goes double when a number of females go into a Heat at the same time. The increased amount of hormones in the area tend to cloud minds, drive tempers short, and loosen any reservations many Wolfen have.


Names
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A Wolfen’s Name is perhaps its greatest defining feature in its life. The first name a Wolfen has is its Birth Name, also called a Given Name or Child’s Name. Such names are given to a Wolfen within its first few weeks of life and is based on a physical mark or role in the family should nothing stand out. A black-furred Wolfen with a red foot could be named Red Sock, or the third male cub of an all tan-furred Wolfen family could be named Third Son. All these Names last until Adulthood.
After their Second Shed, when they finally turn into Adults, all Wolfen of that age go under a Naming Ceremony during the Winter Solstice Celebration. One by one, they step up to the Alphas and Shaman, to be bestowed upon an Adult Name. An Adult Name, or True Name, is based off of a particular trait or talent that the Wolfen has. Should Red Sock be a particularly skilled at throwing spears, he could be Granted the Name Spearthrower. It is quite possible for a Wolfen to be given their Child’s Name as their True Name and there is no shame in such. However, some Tribes choose to send those that haven’t Earned their Name yet on a group hunt, letting them roam in a small pack for months at a time until they return and give the Council, Alphas, and Shaman accounts of their travels for a Name to be drawn from for each one.

After they’ve been given their Adult Name, a Wolfen is only required to give that one when asked since they’ve given up their Child’s Name during the ceremony. While a Wolfen family has no family name, some Wolfen choose to identify themselves by their tribe’s or village’s name as well. As they progress through life, it is possible for a Wolfen to earn new Names in addition to their first, but it is usually done so through some act of master craftsmanship, life-threatening risk, or some feat of bravery so great that it becomes one of the most defining moments of their life. Should Spearthrower take down an especially large and dangerous boar that was known for rampaging through villages and even killing Wolfen, he could be granted the name Terrorslayer in addition to his first name, making him Spearthrower Terrorslayer to his peers. Being able to Earn a second Name grants the Wolfen a large amount of respect in their village. It is even possible to earn more than two names, but each successive one is likely to be more and more difficult to gain.

When a Wolfen dies, their Name is honored by the tribe, but it is their belief that once Dark Step meets them in the afterlife, they are required to give up their Names in payment for safe passage and undisturbed rest. The Names are then believed to be granted to someone alive, to be recycled through the ages.


Ceremonies
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There are few Wolfen ceremonies, but the most noteworthy of them is the Winter Festival. The holiday lasts for three days, during the last new moon of the year, and celebrates both the living and the dead with great feasts and other ceremonies. During the first day, every newborn and mothers-soon-to-be are given honor. Mothers who have lost their children are also honored during that time. The second day holds the largest of feasts and the Naming Ceremony for that year’s worthies. The third and final day contains a sacrifice meant to appease the spirits of both nature and their ancestors. A large animal is hunted down and the carcass put on a massive bonfire as a Shaman communes with the spirit of the beast to sanctify it.

The other notable ceremony is the Mating Ceremony. The Ceremony varies from tribe to tribe, but most commonly the Alphas and Shaman give the pair a blessing as some of the older Cubs wrap the pair in blue blankets. Once the blessings are finished, the two blankets are removed and replaced by a larger white one that wraps them together. Finally, the pair are pulled apart by halves of the tribe and taunts thrown. First one mate is released to run as fast and far as they can through the countryside. Afterward, the other mate breaks loose to join the chase, reenacting Fenris’ chase of Dawn Wolf. At the end, when the latter finally catches the former (or vice versa as the case may be), their marriage is consummated.


Honor and Pride

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To insult a Wolfen is to take your life in your hands. Wolfen have a very strong sense of pride and honor, and the slightest insult can lead to them challenging the person to an Honor Duel. Such duels can lead to death quite easily, but are typically resolved till first blood unless the affront is severe. In such situations, the duel is fought with fangs and claws unless it involves other races that lack such natural weaponry, in which case it is appropriate to give them a dagger or two to fight with.
Most times, a Wolfen doesn’t see the use of lying, especially to other Wolfen as their scents tend to change whenever they’re stressed during such times, so when one speaks to other races, most of what they say can be taken at face value, especially when they choose to swear upon their own Name. To do so implies that what they are saying is as truthful as the Name they were given.


Religion and Spirits
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Wolfen don’t have any true religion, but they do pay tribute to Nature itself, their ancestors, and several powerful Spirits. The three primary spirits that they follow are Dawn Wolf, Fenris, and Dark Step. Dawn Wolf, one of the most powerful sky spirits, is the mother of the Wolfen Race as Fenris, a spirit of the earth, is their Father. It is common belief that Dawn Wolf gazed upon Fenris and fell in love. The pair created bodies for one another from their own materials. Dawn Wolf’s was made from gold and diamond, while Fenris’ was made from the very stars themselves. After their first night together, the pair set trials for one another. For centuries their lust and love kept them going as they chased each other across the realm, leaving life and growth in their pawsteps.

Finally, once the Great Chase ended, the pair settled into a long rest before taking pieces of their spiritual essence and imbuing it with Life, creating the first Wolfen in their own image. At this point, when Wolfen died, they rejoined their creators. Several more centuries after this, the pair decided to live a full Wolfen life, appearing to a tribe as a pair of wanderers. In time, they produced their first actual son. His original name has been lost in time, but many refer to him as The First. Tragically, right before his Naming, he went exploring with the female who was destined to become his lover, when he came upon a shard of one of the three Great Spirits that created the world. When he reached out with his paw to take the glittering shard of Darkness, he was stricken ill and his right paw changed to pure white.

The First suffered for many days in high fever and pain before passing, but instead of rejoining his parents, his soul was set adrift in the world. Even though he could commune with Dawn Wolf and Fenris, their sadness continued to be deep. To help console them, The First decided to make himself useful and started to shepherd the souls of dead Wolfen to the Spirit Realm, taking the Name Dark Step in the process. Over time, he learned a way to pass on his gifts to another soul, allowing himself to plant his soul into a new mother to let himself be born anew.

From that point on, every hundred years, the mantle of Dark Step has passed from white paw to white paw with the previous wearer being allowed to be reincarnated. Sometimes they retain some memories of their previous lives, sometimes they don’t. Even though the thought of Dark Step frightens many Wolfen, it is considered an honor to be marked by him or her. Many Dark Steps tend to be children, plucked by fate to die before their Naming to guide the dead to their final resting place.


Wolfen in Combat
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Perhaps it stems from their natural carnivore tendencies, but most Wolfen tend to be natural warriors. All are trained to be adept with their fangs and claws, so they can never be truly unarmed except through great lengths, and most are expected to join in the hunts. There are few ranged weapons that Wolfen use, mostly depending on javelins, slings, and the rare bow. Melee weapons include spears, axes, daggers, clubs, staves, and as always, their claws and fangs. Their weapons are usually made of bone or wood, with few ever using metals as most Wolfen communities lack the ability to mine or smelt metal due to their usually nomadic culture.

As a whole, armor is used rarely by Wolfen since they like to be able to wear their scars with pride. Even the use of simple hide armor is considered to be an affront on one’s pride more times than not. Shields and arm guards are acceptable, but any protection to their chest or head that isn’t of one’s own fur is looked down upon even if they aren’t remarked on.

During a fight, most Wolfen appear to be savage and unskilled, but any of their true warriors are quite capable even when they fall into bloodlust. Since Wolfen live short lives, any warrior that shows many scars has proven him or herself a powerful fighter and should be fought against carefully. They tend to favor reckless and powerful attacks, but can turn out to be surprisingly agile with their weapon when necessary. When in a hunting party or war party, they prefer to strike from ambush or try to bait their targets into one if they must.

When one falls into a Bloodlust or Bloodrage, a Wolfen loses their ability to perceive pain as a normal being would. They can still feel it, but it is unable to distract them from their desire to drain their foe of their life. Wounds that could be considered mortal to them at any other time can hardly slow them, and even the loss of limb is seen as only a minor distraction. There are some legends where Wolfen have even had their heads removed and their bodies kept fighting while their heads howled in the glory of bloodshed. They are constantly pushed beyond their limits in this state, but it comes with a severe cost of energy when it is over. Nearly all Wolfen have the ability to fall into this, but not all of them can do so willingly or have the same triggers. Some Wolfen fall into it at the thought of violence, but some can only enter it when they have been gravely wounded or see their cubs threatened.


Language
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Despite their barbaric lifestyles and savage appearances, their language is quite complex and grants them the ability to get across difficult concepts with just a few sounds and gestures. Their language is composed of three parts: vocal, body language, and olfactory. They speak in little yips, barks, and other rough sounds, but at the same time they gesture with their ears, tails, shoulders, and eyes. As that is going on, their body releases a variety of subtle changes in their scent to finish what they’re saying. Varying degrees of dominance, submission, and even fear are used in their scents and body when they’re speaking, helping to convey across the different ideas. Other races, while very welcome in their tribes, are likely to have great difficulty learning more than broken Wolfen due to a likely lack of scent control and manipulative ears. Because of this, if there’s a large percentage of other races nearby, Wolfen tend to learn the dominant language in the area as well.

The other language that is distinctive to Wolfen is Howl-Speak. It is the special howling techniques that Wolfen Scouts use to convey messages across great distances. Because of a lack of flexibility with howling, it is only used to pass along simple ideas such as a distances, number of creatures, and whether or not they appear to be hostile.

Contrary to popular belief, Wolfen aren’t able to communicate with wolves or dogs at all.