The principal theme governing pack formation is trust. Garou find themselves in battle with the forces of the Wyrm almost every day of their adult lives. Thus, they know it's is vital to be able to trust completely Garou who stand wwith them against this tide of corruption. Of course, trust is far different from friendship. Werewolves don't always form packs with their friends. Everyone has a friend who is always late or who constantly forgets to do what he said he would do. No matter how much you may like such a friend, he isn't the type of individual you'd want watching your back when a situation's potentially fatal. Garou do not always get along well with their packmates. In many cases, members of a pack develop strong competitive relationships, which can lead to disagreements, confrontation and petty bickering. But Garou trust, respect and defend their packmates. Packmates rarely allow their relationships with one another to deteriorate beyond "occasionally hostile" or "coldly professional." If a relationship degenerates further, both individuals involved typically agree that they shouldn't work together. If the two don't reach an agreement, one of them — often the loser of a challenge or duel — leaves the pack.
Because trust is essential to a pack's survival, sept leaders rarely interfere in the formation of a pack beyond placing recently Changed Garou together for the Rite of Passage. These young Garou often choose to continue functioning as a pack after bonding together over the course of the rite.
Traditionally, Garou formed packs exclusively along tribal lines. But as the wilderness shrinks, tribes must come together and associate more freely with one another. As a result, modern packs usually contain members of several different tribes. The membership and size of a pack often depends on the purpose for the pack's existence. Every pack has a purpose: It could be as broad as "fighting the Wyrm," "defending Gaia," or "destroying Pentex"; or as narrow as "killing Sargrash Thief-of-Eyes." If the purpose is broad, nearly anyone is eligible for membership, but if the purpose is specific, each member has a reason for joining the pack. Occasionally, specific problems that arise can defy the skills of existing packs. In such instances, sept leaders form temporary packs by recruiting members who have the abilities needed to take action. Recruiting strategies vary, depending on the pack's purpose and the wishes of the present members. Occasionally, the pack's alpha makes a general announcement during a moot and evaluates volunteers, but usually pack membership is by invitation only. Garou are never forced to join a pack — however, rumors inevitably surface about werewolves who refuse an invitation to join. After a pack forms, a totem spirit is almost always bound to it. This spirit guides, teaches, protects and serves as a unifying force for a pack. Pack totems leave when a pack disbands.
The purpose for a pack's creation ultimately determines how long the pack remains together. The pack's goal may take only a few days to achieve, or it may require a lifetime. Once a pack accomplishes its purpose, its members either disband or choose another goal. Although Garou can join temporary packs without disbanding their current ones, they consider their "true" pack dominant in all cases, and they usually join other packs for no more than a month.
Occasionally, there comes a time when a pack's members no longer tolerate the actions of one of their own, and they cast him out. If the offense is great enough, the pack may turn on the former member and kill him. Such severity usually follows only if the offender has betrayed his pack to the forces of the Wyrm. Sept leaders advise the preservation of Garou life, but when the offense is so awful, they gladly allow a pack to tear apart a traitor. It is better that one should die at the hands of many, than that many should die because of one's misdeeds. If a pack deems a member unworthy through repeated cowardice, dishonorable conduct, excessive abuse of other pack members or similar crimes, they usually choose simply to have nothing further to do with the offender. Naturally, because of the very nature of packs, Garou never take lightly the decision to ostracize a packmate. A pack banishes a member only if all of the other packmates agree that the offender represents a clear and present danger to the group as a whole or to the accomplishment of its purpose. Sometimes the pack appoints another member as the offender's warden; this warden oversees a "grace period" and is ultimately responsible for the violator's actions. And many packs aren't above giving a troublesome member a thorough beating to express displeasure with her actions. If a Garou's pack deems her untrustworthy and refuses to associate with her, she finds it very difficult to gain membership in another pack. Such a stigma often forces a Garou exiled from her pack to leave her sept also, in order to find a pack that will take her. Frequently, such banished Garou become Ronin.
Packs and Sept Laws
Garou who violate the laws of a sept generally have their pack called to stand with them before the elders. There are two reasons for this practice: First, the pack as a whole is responsible for the conduct of its individual members. If a member of a pack commits a crime, then the entire pack is guilty to some extent, if only by association.
The punishment for packmates depends on the degree, if any, to which they participated in the crime. Usually, the punishment for a criminal's packmates is the humiliation of forever being associated with the deed (typically it means a loss of Renown). Although not as severely punished as their renegade packmate, the other members of the pack are always remembered as guilty for not having prevented the transgression, if nothing more. Second, sept elders always carefully consider the words of an accused Garou's packmates. No one knows a Garou better than her packmates. In many cases, a pack may explain the necessity of the offense and persuade the elders to be lenient when punishing its errant member. Often, when the individual's crime is not severe, packs volunteer to share the punishment collectively.
Alphas and Pack Leadership
Leadership is often a source of contention within a pack. Intense competition can develop among packmates as they struggle for dominance over one another. These rivalries and the constant vying for leadership can provide excellent opportunities for roleplaying. However, you should realize that, during times of crisis, all of the characters in a true pack band together and obey the current alpha's orders, unless she is clearly incompetent. The most common means of establishing a hierarchy is designating one member as alpha when the pack is formed. The alpha may be chosen by a number of means — rank, Renown, mutual agreement of the pack, challenges between members, contests of skill, etc. Traditionally, this Garou remains the alpha until a packmate usurps her position by defeating her in a duel or other contest. The Litany states that "the leader may be challenged at any time during peace" because an alpha must always be worthy, which constant
Alphas can come and go frequently in such packs, thus allowing anyone who wishes (and is worthy) a reasonable chance of obtaining the position. In other packs, the position of alpha passes to whomever the pack feels is best suited for the job during a particular situation — combat, Umbral quests or whatever. This method has proven to be effective for governing a pack, but it sometimes gives rise to subversion within the pack, as members try to undermine and discredit one another's abilities. Members of such packs are not as openly aggressive toward their packmates as individuals who challenge for leadership, but the former tend to harbor greater resentment.
There are even a few democratic packs that have no alpha. Members of these packs strive to put behind them the prejudices and squabbling of their respective tribes, along with their own ambitions for authority, in an effort to achieve greater unity with their packmates. Unfortunately, these packs may be difficult to manage during a crisis, as there is no clear voice of authority. What's more, the lack of an alpha goes against lupine instinct. Consequently, democracy proves successful only in packs that are truly unified.