The Vugoa really started as an expy for Traveller’s Vargr in my old Solar Union milieu, they’ve changed quite a bit since then. The Vugoa still have a largely canid appearance, and live in a similar ecological niche, but I haven’t decided yet if they are actually derived from Terran canines. Not uplifted in any case, but the World of the UNSEO does contain Echoes of Earth. On the other hand the Vugoa could be no more related to dogs than Aslan or Kzinti are to cats.
The Vugoa inhabit the planet Asdakseghzan, the planet previously partially mapped in Projecting a Map From Imagery: Photoshop and Flexify. I’ll deal with further details of the planet in a future post.
The social aspect of the Vargr was the strongest draw that led to the adoption of the Vugoa into my imaginary universe. I liked the idea of highly social(even, in GURPS terms, Chummy) intelligent people who find it very difficult or even nearly impossible to organize into large social groups. I’ve played around a bit with the notion of Vargr ‘Charisma’ in order both to enhance the alienness of the Vugoa and also to drive the formation of interesting cultures.
Pheromonal signals are universal among the Vugoa. There are essentially four social states among the Vugoa: alpha male, beta male, gamma male and female.
There’s a single alpha male leading each pack. All other males in the pack are betas, who follow the alpha and have essentially equal status(there is a small non-persistent variation based on the current reputation or esteem of each individual and his degree of confidence; even in a particular individual this will vary significantly with time).
The alpha male is the core of the Vugoa pack. The pheromone-driven ‘charisma’ of that alpha male is the cement that brings and holds the little group together. Hormonal changes that take place when a male accepts an alpha as his superior reduce the effectiveness of his own pheromones. This has hampered attempts to create more layered ‘packs of packs’. An alpha ‘baron’ that gives fealty to a higher alpha ‘king’ will find his ability to maintain cohesiveness in the pack will falter. Most likely he will simply become a beta in the pack of such a would-be king and most of his pack would simply wander off as gammas and free females to find or create a new pack.
Males who are not currently part of a pack(adolescents who chose not to join their parent pack and former members of a pack which has broken up) are considered gamma. Gamma males, sometimes referred to, very impolitely, by humans, as “lone wolf” Vugoa are continually in search of a compatible pack. If they fail to find a compatible pack, they will often form a new pack, with an alpha gathering a coterie of gammas with his charisma who will become the betas of the new pack. Even a highly charismatic gamma will only rarely challenge the alpha of an established pack as, in the event of a victory by the gamma, the members of the pack will seldom stay together under the gamma, but most will instead wander off as gammas themselves. A victory over an alpha will, however increase the charisma of the gamma in question, thus increasing his chances of becoming an alpha in a new pack. The most likely situation is that the gamma finds a pack with an alpha more charismatic than himself and joins that pack as a new beta.
Although packs typically disperse if the alpha is defeated or disgraced, packs can survive the death or willing abdication of their alpha. There is usually a transition period, during which the males are considered deltas(a temporary, transitional state, thus not really considered a fifth social status), the males vie among themselves to determine the most charismatic who shall become the new alpha. Thus have some packs persisted for many lifetimes. This is also one of the very rare opportunities for an outsider gamma to become the alpha of an established pack.
The female is generally something of a free agent within the pack structure. Females have far more traditional and legalistic social hierarchies. Females also tend to gather in larger, more geographically-structured social constructs. Females are also only loosely bound into the pack to which they ostensibly “belong”. Frequently, when the alpha male of a pack decides to move on to a different location, while the beta males will follow along, the females will frequently disperse to other packs in the area rather than leave.
Due in part to anatomical differences, males and females inhabit different, but parallel cultural models. While Vugoa females are receptive to pheromonal signals, and in fact produce pheromones of their own to communicate mood, sexual receptivity and the like, pheromones confer no persistent hierarchical status to individual females. The social order among females is both more fluid and more legalistic than among males. While females retain a sense of identity with their pack and its alpha male, they are much more capable of forming bonds with other females outside their pack. As the male order very much travels with the pack and its alpha male, the female order is far more territorial. This has proven significant in forming larger social conglomerations among the Vugoa.
Another structure that has been significant in the formation of larger social structures in Vugoa culture, is the pair bonding. Alpha males never pair bond, instead forming loose, temporary relationships with a small harem of typically young females who are generally considered as the pack’s females. Although formally the members of this harem are considered to be the alpha’s mates, they are, outside of the alpha’s immediate attention, available to any beta male of the pack who is not otherwise pair bonded. Older or more successful betas will eventually become pair bonded with one member of the harem, effectively removing that female from the alpha’s harem and creating an exclusive mating relationship between the beta male and the female in question. If the pack’s alpha chooses to migrate and the pair bonded female refuses to follow, the beta male must stay with the female and become a gamma until or unless he can find a new pack in the area. This creates one of the strongest bonds between male and female Vugoa society as pair bonded males must stay under local female laws and alphas of older, well-established packs risk losing a significant part of their beta following if they choose to relocate, perhaps in protest to dictates of the local female legal structure.
The packlord structure in Vugoa society is based on a voluntary and conditional cooperation between multiple packs. “Packlord” is the term for an alpha male in this structure. Although packs are only weakly bound to a geographical area, the loose packlord confederacies are almost always geographically contiguous. Otherwise, packlord confederacies are very fluid geographically. Individual packs will frequently leave confederacies to join neighboring ones they find more conducive to their short-term interests or migrate to more hospitable realms. Such confederacies can often be found intertwined with more geographically-oriented polities. Areas considered to be ruled by ‘packlord governments’ are usually possessed of a highly fractious or tribalized female hierarchy. In these cases, even the female culture is nomadic in nature. Typically, this is found in marginal environments such as heavy jungles, high mountains or arid regions or in areas with primitive hunter-gatherer economies.
The monarchies of Asdakseghzan are exclusively led by one or more queens, no kings. The parallel female social structure has driven the creation of most large-scale political structures among the Vugoa, particularly the monarchies. In addition to packlord confederacies and monarchies, some areas of Asdakseghzan are under the control of city-states or even a few republics. Among geographical hierarchies, republics have the most male integration. While alpha males are loathe to subordinate themselves to the rule of a majority, fewer still would willingly abdicate voting power to other males. Thus male participation in republican governance is fairly common. This is unusual, as for the most part, unless faced with some kind of Lysistrata Gambit, most alpha males treat the feminine geographic states as little more than a formality.
The Vugoa, with their footloose males structured into small mobile pack groups and settled females structured into larger geographical societies, present an interesting challenge to the development and maintenance of persistently organized civilizations. The existence and success of such civilizations on Asdakseghzan is a tribute to the resourcefulness and intelligence of these canid alien beings.