Werewolves use tests of dominance to settle disputes between themselves when the disagreeing parties are of equal rank. This is how leadership changes in tribes, septs, and packs, although it is fairly common for a leader to step down if the group is facing a problem that would be better handled by another werewolf. The werewolf’s moon sign helps to determine the ability to lead depending on circumstances: Ahroun are the first choice to lead battles, but a Philodox is usually necessary for complex negotiations.
There are two important considerations regarding werewolf challenges. The first is relatively straightforward and refers to the Litany: The Leader May Not Be Challenged During Wartime, but The Leader May Challenged At Any Time During Peace. This refers to all levels of werewolf society, from pack to Tribe, but there is some legal latitude in the definition of peace and war. Secondly, the challenged werewolf decides the type of test of dominance used to settle the dispute, unless the group is facing a crisis. In the latter case, then the type of crisis faced determines the type of challenge that will be appropriate. In practice, determining whether a pack or sept is in the middle of a crisis has often been a lot more difficult than determing whether they are at war.
These three types of test of dominance are almost always used to settle disputes after millennia of tradition.
- Facedown: this is a contest of wills where the two challengers stare unblinking at each other while snarling and growling. The first werewolf to back down or lose their cool forfeits the contest. There is the very real danger of one or both werewolves entering a frenzy during a facedown, so the packmates of both challengers will watch the contest close by, ready to intervene. A werewolf who initiates violence during a facedown will lose Renown as well as the dominance challenge.
- Gamecraft: A test of skill, cunning, knowledge, or wits. It is usually resolved by a riddle contest or a literal game, such as chess or poker. In the modern age, it can be a video game contest, the first to DDOS a Wyrm-tainted server, or the first to finish a computer program with an acceptable level of bugs.
- The Duel: combat. This is what most Cubs think of when they first learn of tests of dominance. The challenged werewolf determines which weapons may be used, if any. Most duels are supposed to be non-lethal, but Klaive duels are always to the death.
When defeated, the loser must show some sign of submission to the winner, like baring the throat, kneeling, knocking over your king in chess, etc…