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HMHVV Hunter
I've always wondered something about totems - specifically, why the shamans that follow them act the way they do.

In the Shadowrun rulebook, it says that "a totem is not a religion, though it gets close." I take this to mean that a shaman doesn't follow the totem's rules of behavior out of a sense of "following the rules" like people of most religions do.

So why does a shaman follow his totem's restrictions? Is it just the way he's always acted, and the totem merely latched onto that? Or is it something else entirely?

For instance, take a Cat shaman. He's secretive, curious, keeps few friends, and all that. Is he a cat totem because he's always acted that way even before getting his magic and the totem just latched onto him because of that, or does he act that way because the totem chose him to be Cat?
I think it's a case of the person either having those qualities or, after taking a totem, gaining those qualities through their magical connection.
Kanada Ten
I see it as a combination of both, really. Cat is the ideal of a Cat Shaman, their spirit guide, and something they're always striving to achieve. It's not a written set of rules, but instinct and the knowledge of your ideal self gained through spirit quests, dreams, and the intimate connection through magic to the totem.
Herald of Verjigorm
The totem meets a majority of the psychology of the person. So, a Cat shaman may begin secretive, curious and sociable, but progressively drop the aquantances in favor of the reliable friends. Eagle won't meet a 1.01 essense thug who is content with his metal, but may meet one who is beginning to regret it.
Ah...the darker side of Totems.

We all think of them as this nice thing that helps out our loved shamans.

But...let's look at some points in the text with a spin gained from your quesiton.

Why do shamans follow their totem's ideals and act accordingly?

Well, Kanda Ten hit it basically by the book, but...looky here.

SR3, p162, Magic/Totems:
"A totem is a powerful spirit that gives the shaman magical power and knowledge. The shaman, in turn, follows the ideals represented by the totem."

First, we have now established that there is indeed a trade system present but the phrase, "in turn".
That's fairly harmless enough by itself. Services are often traded for something in this world, and in our own history, to ask someone to follow a standard (like the army) for a trade of benifits (like the army) is pretty common.

"At some point in a neophyte shaman's life comes the call of a totem, in the form of a dream or vision."

So, the totem is the one entity that approches the table with the bargain, and not the other way around. There is another mythical creature that is said to aproach those they aid in this manner.
Mafesto, Lucifer, the Devil.
(no I'm not saying that the totems are evil. I'm pointing out their comparitive mythical relation in actions. Put away the bible for a minute and look at the devil as mytholigy. In mytholigy, the devil or a devil is not evil but rather a trickster who fools people into bad bargains so that they can rise in power from something they gain from the person. Not much different from the mafia really.)

"...dream or vision. Often, a traumatic event brings the call, like a serious illness, sudden shock, or near-death experience."

So, the totem waits until the shaman is weak and needing someone to lean on before approaching them to offer their assistence.
This isn't really too diferent from how many people turn to religions that they follow.
Most people are not converted easily when things are going well in their life. Usually their ears are only open when they can't find answers or comfort in a form of certainty that offers them some form of power over their situation that they presently have none.
In most religions, especially western, the person gains the power of asking an all present, master of existence, providential power for things that they need or would like to see done.
In exchange, devote worship is usually requested.

SR3, p162, Magic/Totems/Ideals:
"Each totem embodies an ideal, a mythic image or archetype. By seeking to embody the same ideal, the shaman gains magical power. To maintain their magic, shamans must follow their totem's ideals."

So, while they may not have been someone who acted like CAT before, they strive to be like it after the encounter so that they will grow stonger.
The more they act like their totem, the stronger their magic gets.
The more they pull away, the weaker they get.

Most religions have the followers try to be like their prophetic leader that embodies the ideals of the religion. This is fairly common.
The more like them you are, the better you are.
In reality, it's belief.
In Shadowrun, it's power of magic.

As well, how many convicts turned born-again-christian do we know who weren't trying to live up to the ideals of Jesus, but after their conversion, began to.
A change of character from a traumatic experience through a basic change in moral philosophy.

An interesting idea that I've actually never seen that could be real juicy.
What happens when a shaman tells their totem, "No" and that they won't follow them anymore?

And even better.
What happens when a shaman gets jealous of their totem and secretly tries to become better than their totem so that they can "replace" them and take their totems seat of power? (even if it's not physically possible...but could strive.)

Like I said...the darker side.
What happens when a shaman tells their totem, "No" and that they won't follow them anymore?

I see two possibilities, dependent on where you want to rule magic comes from.

A) The Shaman is, to put it bluntly, screwed. He was nothing more than a Mundane before the giant spirit of the Totem decided to use him and gift him with magic. Without the totem he will never touch magic again.

B) The Shaman has the X factor (be it mystical, meta-genetic, born under the right star, etc) that allows him to use magic that the Totem picked up on. Following the Totem is no more than a crutch or an inner morality play that hides his true attunement with mana; the Hermetics are right. In this case the shaman loses his abilities temporarily, than can go have a voyage of self-discovery to possibly follow anothering Totem, or (in a nihilistic epiphany) abandon his spirituality in place of Hermeticism.

What happens when a shaman gets jealous of their totem and secretly tries to become better than their totem so that they can "replace" them and take their totems seat of power?

Why not? Stranger things on Heaven and Earth.

Off the top of my head, the most likely result would be a Metaplanar quest of epic scope which causes the character's death if he succeeds: his essence merges with that of the plane and his body becomes nothing more than a husk. If there is no actual giant Totem Spirit running around, he may become a free spirit with a lot of Totemic symbology. If there is, he is consumed by the spirit, perhaps mildly affecting its temperment by the integration of his tiny, human needs and drives into the huge astral form.
Kanada Ten
What happens when a shaman gets jealous of their totem and secretly tries to become better than their totem so that they can "replace" them and take their totems seat of power?

I doubt shamans can keep serects from their totem, however, some totems may encourage it, and I suggest Insect totems as an example of what happens: the Totem goes insane, or the shaman does.
I like those answers...good possibilities.
Not the only ones I'm sure, but those are good ones.

As to teh secrets...well, wink.gif I'm sure if one was considering keeping things from ones totem, one would be smart enough to look at all the possibilities given in the arcane to accomplish such a task.
Kanada Ten
I'm sure if one was considering keeping things from one's totem, one would be smart enough to look at all the possibilities given in the arcane to accomplish such a task.

Wouldn't you have to be thinking about it first anyway? I think most shamans will not find this desirable because they don't see the totem as something that can be replaced or even as a person, but an ideal. If you seek to replace the ideal you are thinking of betrayal unless constant ideal evolution is part of the ideal. Mostly these are toxics (like the Sterile Shaman), for which there exists a separate ideal.
Speaking of what happens when a shaman denies his totem, I would point you to Sterility Shamans from Target: Wastelands.
I've always considered shamans as being born under a totem. They were chosen from birth even if they only get to realize it after years. Sooner or later you will take the path that leads you to the acceptance of what you are: a shaman.
You are what you are because you belong to the totem. It's not even a conscious choice. It's a little bit as astrology : your personnality is supposed to be dictated by the stars and planets that were visible at your birth (or something like that, sorry, I'm not an astrology buff).
So whether you believe in your Totem or not is not an issue, the fact is your totem believes in you. You may stray from the path you are supposed to tread but your totem will be waiting for you...
Unless totems are just psychological constructs, frames to rationalize your magical abilities hence the penalties associated in violating totem strictures, because in a sense you're essentially denying your very nature...
That, my friend, is a belief that is entirely up to the Ideals that surround a certain totem.

Some totems may very well think that way and so your shaman would as well.
Other totems do not think that way at all.
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