Werewolf the Apocalypse Rage Across St. Louis
Rank is a fundamental part of Garou society, and the fullest manifestation of said race’s hierarchical nature.
Advancing in Rank
A werewolf fresh from its First Change has no rank at all – it is merely a pup or cub. Many such pups go through training and preparation before their Rite of Passage, though the length and quality varies depending on the tribe and individual sept.
After the ordeal of the Rite of Passage, the young werewolf has proven his or her right and worth to join the Garou in their war, and so earns the first rank, that of Cliath. With this success comes a small amount of Renown.
To grow in rank, the werewolf must gain Renown through actions that prove their Wisdom, Honor, and Glory, and have these actions recognized before other Garou, usually at a Moot. The Rite of Recognition is a vital part of this as well. There are certain levels of Renown one must achieve to reach each new rank, and different Auspices must seek certain kinds of Renown in particular to succeed. These levels are an abstraction, mind you; no Garou has ever described another as having “9 points of Wisdom”. The system of points merely is a guideline of exactly how much one must do to even merit a rank.
Just as one faced a great challenge to gain that first rank and enter Garou society – merely having the requisite amount of Renown is not enough. The werewolf must challenge a werewolf of a rank equal to or higher than the rank he is currently seeking. The nature of the challenge is dictated by the challenged one, and it can very greatly depending upon the Breed, Auspice, and tribe of both individuals. The difficulty of reaching the next rank increases dramatically with each one; challenges given to a werewolf seeking to become Elders are arduous tasks indeed, and often very life-threatening. Many a werewolf has earned their rank only post-humously, succeeding in their challenge but losing their life to do so.
Following the first rank of Cliath is the second rank, Fostern. The third rank is that of Adren, the fourth rank is that of Athro, and the fifth rank is that of Elder. On extremely rare occasions a werewolf can reach a sixth rank which is not technically possessed of a specific name, but often described either as Elder or Legend.
Benefits (and Drawbacks) of Rank
The most obvious benefit of a higher rank is the social standing it accords. You are given respect for your achievements, and those of lower rank are expected to defer to you. An Adren or higher is generally well known as well, achieving a level of fame for their acts.
The challenge is a vital part of Garou life, and generally highly ritualistic. Whenever two (or more) werewolves come into conflict, a challenge is often called to determine who is in the right, who will get their way, who will lead, and so on. However, lawfully a werewolf can only challenge a werewolf of their own rank or one higher, and certainly cannot challenge someone of lower rank than they – authority is assumed in that case. The exception is the previously described challenge for rank as that is not so much a true challenge to the higher-ranking individual’s beliefs or authority, but a demand for them to recognize his or her acts and worth. In this case, the werewolf hoping to ascend in rank will often entreat a werewolf of considerably higher rank to recognize their worth.
Another benefit is access to increasingly powerful Gifts. The Spirits can generally sense the rank of a werewolf, and will not teach them gifts they consider to be too powerful for one who has proven themselves too little. The Werewolf Storytellers Handbook Revised contains optional rules for learning gifts of a rank too high for them, generally involving ways of convincing, bribing, misleading, or forcing the spirit into teaching them despite the werewolf’s lower rank. It’s worth noting that in any case a werewolf will have to offer proper Chiminage to convince a spirit to teach them the gift, and this offers extra opportunity for the werewolf to either win the spirit over or let the cat out of the bag. Other werewolves would also be able to perceive a disparity between one’s rank and a gift should it be used publicly, so any werewolf that managed to bend the rules somehow would have to be careful indeed.
Werewolves of substantial rank (Adren and higher) are also less likely to Frenzy, experiencing higher difficulties in their Rage rolls, and at the highest levels (Elder, Legend) even require more successes than usual to do so. This represents a werewolf’s increasing sense of discipline as they ascend in rank.
The great drawback of a high rank is the same drawback that comes with any sort of power or authority – more people are going to notice you, and they’re going to expect much, much more of you than ever before. Acts that would have earned them great increases in Renown at lower ranks are now expected of them, and give little or no reward at all. They must push themselves ever father and harder, enduring the many requests of other Garou along the way. Naturally, there is also the element of jealousy and rivalry, as many werewolves would envy that growing power.