Author Topic: Rank, Status, and Dominance  (Read 487 times)

Offline Southern

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Rank, Status, and Dominance
« on: January 20, 2018, 08:07:05 PM »
   Rank, Status, and Dominance

Face it, everybody wants their own way, and werewolves are no exception. The fact that with their raw power and inner Rage Changers have more temptation to take what they want makes them especially dangerous. This is why having social structure and rules of society are important. If  Garou (or wolves or humans for that matter) fought every time two individuals wanted the same thing, the Nation would have exhausted itself long ago.


   The basic concept of rank is innate to Garou. After the Change, an observant cub will pick up on the cues of rank without necessarily understand what they mean. Bother before and after the Rite of Passage, a Garou has the rules of rank explained, bother verbally and by more direct means as necessary. In this regard lupus have the advantage over most homid cubs, as they are both more adept at reading body language and more used to the notion of hierarchy.
   At its basic level, rank is synonymous with one's rung on the social ladder; the higher rank you are, the sooner you get to the trough, as it were. In reality, the system is more complex. For one thing, there are many more Garou than there are levels of rank, and in a mass of fosterns someone has to rise above.

   As the Garou are themselves, rank is both physical and spiritual. The physical signs of rank are often subtle but instinctive, involving changes in bearing. For example, an adren will have a tendency to raise his head a fraction and rock his shoulders back a notch when approached by another Garou, noticing the almost imperceptible changes to the other's stance. Should the adren rise in rank, his chin will instinctively rise a fraction higher, his shoulders thrown back a bit more. Sometimes, a lower-ranked Garou will stand with his body squarely towards his senior with his body, but not look directly at her. Where the difference in rank is greater, the subordinate will turn his head even farther, exposing his throat to indicate submission (be cautious, however; this sort of rank stance can sometimes be confused with pack status. Even the scent of a Garou shifts with the rise in rank, though it is detectable on a conscious level only to the most senstive lupus. In addition, many Garou will mark themselves with tattoos or ritual scarring to make their rank clear, so no one can mistake what they've attained. Rank manifests spiritually as well as physically, though the precise form varies greatly. To spirits (and other Garou in the Umbra, at Storyteller discretion), rank may appear as a glowing sigil, a change in the aura surrounding the werewolf or some other distinction appropriate to the individual. However rank manifests, spirits easily recognize it, and thus know whether a supplicant is worthy to learn a new Gift (the spirit may not reveal its knowledge immediately, as some conniving Garou discove their detriment).

Sensing Rank

   During formal introductions, a Garou will always reveal her rank. There will be other times when a Garou will need to know a stranger's rank in relation to her own. This is especially important when some cliath or fostern visits another sept or attends a grand moot or concolation. Roleplaying should of course enter into this process, but if a system is desired the player rolles Perception + Primal Urge, target 6. Success determines the relative standing (equal to, above or beneath the character's rank.) Three successes reveal the precise rank, while a botch makes a social faux pas almost inevitable.

   A Garou can pretend to be another rank. This can be useful when intimidating youngsters ("Young Guardian, does your sept leader know you make a habit of asking impertinent questions of busy adren?") or intimidating elders. On the other hand, some veterans might pretend to be low in rank to avoid notice or to test the mettle of youngsters. This is a contested roll; the player rolls Manipulation + Subterfuge, difficult of 5 + the difference between true Rank and assumed Rank; the target to be fooled rolls Perception + Primal Urge, target 6. Storytellers should feel free to modify the observer's difficulty depending on circumstances. A cliath acting like a fostern before a cub will have an easier time pulling off the deception than if he tried to pass as an elder to a well-known Galliard; ("Hmm, I could have sword I knew all the rank Ahroun in this protectorate; what battles did you say you were in?") Also, certain Gifts (or the testimony of a spirit) will render the deception transparent. This is a dangerous game to play; pretenders caught usually suffer a thrashing on spot by superiors, loss of renown, and (if a repeat offender) a hotseat in front of the Council of Elders.


   Alpha. Pack Leader. It's a title most young cubs aspire to, and fewer seasoned veterans desire. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

   What makes a pack leader? In the simplest terms, the leader is the most capable. What this means varies from tribe to tribe, sept to sept, and even between packs. In lupus-dominated packs, "capable" means the strongest physically will be the leader, although skill in combat is also helpful. More often than not, alphas-by-strength are eventually replaces by the Garou with the sharpest wits, for brawn is only useful if effectively applied. In septs where co mbat is a daily affair, the pack leader may be the one with the most kills or survived the most battles. The choice of Silver Fang sept leader might be based in large part on lineage, while an Uktena leader is chosen based on age, experience, and demonstrated wisdom. In particularly warlike packs, the leader is the one who forces others to acknowledge her supremacy, while in most other cases the members confer status upon the new leader.

A leader should, as the name implies, lead.  The impulse of the wolf-born alpha (and brasher homids and metis) is to always be in front. If an object looks suspicious, the alpha is the first one to investigate. In the charge against a gang of fomori, the alpha leads the vanguard. For those alphas that survive, most learn to temper their instinct with homid techniques of leadership such as delegation. Though the alpha wants to know the layout of an enemy's camp, he sends the Ragabash scout who stands a better chance at bringing back the information without tipping off the foe. Finding the balance between personal leadership and delegation is one of the skills that separate pack leaders from sept leaders.

The Best Alphas
A stable pack hierarchy is crucial. If pack members constantly view for dominance, they will likely be unable to respond fast enough to succeed or even survive in a crisis. Yet, a completely static structure where all decisions must be run through the alpha cripples a pack just as easily; individuals who have to play "leader may I?" miss opportunities. Initiative dies and morale suffers.
   By far the more common model of a pack involves a leader who takes advantage of personal initiative, who uses the strengths of the individuals to augment the pack while using the pack to shield each other's weaknesses. Respect for each other's abilities is a big part of why packmembers trust each other with their lives.

Sensing Pack Status

   Pack status is a subtler, more fluid and altogether fuzzier concept than rank, and depending on the nature of a given pack may be easy or difficult to pinpoint. When two pack members meet, an observer may determine which one is dominant -- or whether they are essentially equal (gammas). When a pack is assembled, watchers can pick out the alpha, omega (if any) and beta. Bearing and stance is part of it -- an alpha is apt to hold his head a little higher -- but action are more telling. For example, the ranking pack members stands straighter than the others, raising his head slightly while the rest lowers theirs almost imperceptibly -- but dip his chin momentarily to the alpha. As a pack gathers, members will welcome newcomers, but will surround the alpha. In a larger pack, a perceptive watcher can even gauge the relative standing of each individual by the amount of hubbub surrounding her arrival or departure. Not that at the next meeting the dynamic may be quite different.
The Determination of Dominance

   Given that the alpha position -- or any position on the hierarchical ladder -- can be fairly fluid, let's look at the three points that help determine dominance.

  • Rank

   It should be clear by now that rank plays a major part in sept and tribal politics; no fostern will rule multiple packs if there are healthy elders available. However, rank is seldom the important factor in intrapack dominance struggles, or at least not as frequently as one might suppose. This is because the typical pack starts out as the same rank (usually cliath). The first to rise in Rank soon realizes that those she lords her new status over will soon catch up -- and may surpass her in short order. That said, a packmate two or more steps above his fellows tends to be alpha, not by a virtue of rank but rather by the experiences and skills represented by his rank.

  • Auspice

   Each auspice has particular strengths. As the strong rule, it follows that the strongest auspice for a given situation call the shots. Often, the werewolf will assert her authority on the gamble that others will recognize her lead.
   For example, a pack in negotiation with some spirits realize they were set up. The ranking Ahroun leaps up and begins giving shouted orders. The alpha, a Philodox, doesn't contest this. The pack gives better than it gets, but they are sorely outnumbers. Then the Ragabash shouts "I've found a way! Follow me!" and bolts. Those who can afford to look away from their opponents glance at the Ahroun, who hesitates as he tries to decide what to do: keep doing what he knows best, or trust the trickster. Finally, he shouts, "I'm on rearguard. Follow him!" and the pack obeys.

  • Renown

   A final deciding factor between prospective leaders is experience. A Ragabash with serveral successful Umbral quests under his nelt will likely be tapped to lead another Umbral sortie, and not the same-ranked Theurge who is better known for making talens within the confines of his caern. Likewise, when the mission is to invite some new Kinfolk to meet the sept, the pack will follow a Galliard who is known for his honorable behavior, though his rival has a higher body count of Wyrm minions. Lastly, reputation may trump rank on occasion. For example, in a dispute pitting the word of an athro gloryhound against that of an adren known far and wide as the paragon of honor, the elder council will be apt to side with the lower-ranked Garou.

   If the combination of rank, auspice or Renown doesn't suggest an uncontestable leader for a situation, challenges between contenders results.

   When an elder eyes a tender venison backstrap, the athro steps back and politely says, "After you." When an athro asks a fostern to run an errand across the caern, the proper answer should run along the lines of "Yes, sir." Yes, rank has its privileges, no question -- even the Litany says so. Exactly what privileges those are can vary from tribe tp tribe and sept to sept. The impertinent behavior of youth that the elder Child of Gaia may let slide would be grounds for a throating by a Fenrir elder. Still, if a Garou has taken the risks made the sacrifices to attain high standing, they have every right to expect all which Garou society promises. And those with rank seldom neglect their privileges, whether they care for them or no. If Twice-Struck the adren is owed the haunch, but isn't hungry, he'll still take the first bite or two before passing it on to another. If a fostern wins a fetish which is more in Twice-Struck's league level wise, the younger werewolf had best hand it over. On receiving the honored item, Twice-Struck is within his rights to hand it right back if he thinks the yougster earned the right to bear it. Generally, the lesser-in-station are wise to at least offer the ranking Garou her due. Showing such respect will earn the respect of Garou and spirit alike.

   A good rule of thumb for any young Garou is to err on the side of deference, but it is a rule that many homids, used to rebelling against authority in these modern times, learn only after getting knocked about a few times. This means anything up to and including the following: speak when to (and always add on "-rhya" or a similar honorific), but always listen. Stop horsing around with your packmates when elders approach. The best food, drink or place at the moot will go to those with rank. When an elder needs something, from messages delivered to the caern heart to a door opened, you do it happily, and volunteer if you can. With time, the young Changer will learn what is expected (and where the boundaries are) in her sept. When meeting Garou from other septs, the youngster must be extra-careful; she represents her sept and her tribe, and if she offends an honored elder both will learn of it.

   The rules get a little more flexible within the bounds of a pack. Pack members become closer than family. They work and play together becoming familiar with each other's temperaments and moods. In many packs, formal displays of deference are muted, to be replaced by deeds. A packmate may fail to address his alpha as "-rhya" or occasionally make jibes that would get an outsider throated; he would show special consideration for his leader in other ways, like going out of his way to help his leader without being asked (or throating a stranger who forgets to address the alpha as "-rhya"). Some packs are more strictly formal in deference to the chain of command, but as a rule the pack leader who insists on all the courtesies of rank soon receives only resentment... and possibly challenges.

For those new to Garou society and role play, I would highly advise reading the section "Deference."

Faux Pas - an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.

"-rhya" - “greater in station”; a suffix appended to a name ( Ex: Kenneth Vallonrhya).

Offline Skeeper0

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Re: Rank, Status, and Dominance
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 08:19:43 PM »
useful guide

Offline Heller

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Re: Rank, Status, and Dominance
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2018, 12:21:40 AM »
Great guide.
"In psytrance we trust."

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Yeah. I know aaall about your 'blood fights' with Heather.

Offline Southern

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Re: Rank, Status, and Dominance
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 04:15:12 AM »
I recommend everyone role playing Garou read this guide thoroughly, it'll prevent consequences from being dealt IC when it comes to status and the hierarchy.

Offline Mustard_xP07

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Re: Rank, Status, and Dominance
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 06:09:09 AM »
This will help a lot of players.