Monday, February 23, 2009

Mask of the Emperor - rules for honor


- You get your first Honor die at character creation, if your PC is Honorable. This counts as both a temporary and a permanent Honor die. Your effective Honor rating at any time is equal to the number of temporary Honor dice you have left, and as you spend or lose them (see below), they can be restored at the end of each session or at the end of the tale (series of sessions).

- For Honor to be used in play (gains, losses, and dice pools), you must have a Respectful Audience, i.e. observers who agree with and/or are living under the Emperor’s rule. A Boorish Audience, one of hardened criminals in some hidden lair, or backward foreigners, or monks, or in the absence of observation, precludes the chance to do anything worthy of gaining or losing Honor. In addition, you cannot use your Honor dice in this situation. I know, harsh, right? Take an observer with you, if you must; that’ll be enough, but don’t get him killed. Otherwise, who will witness your greatness?

- You can lose Honor dice temporarily by being trounced in a Simple Challenge in front of a Respectful Audience (bystanders who are in thrall to conventional mores); this can happen regardless of the Honor/Dishonor/Aloof status of the person who kicks your ass; if you’re Honorable, you’re supposed to be the be-all and end-all, so the Audience are thinking “Why’d you lose?”.

- You can lose Honor dice permanently through Dishonor Challenges: if you are caught out doing some shameful thing, and someone wants to make it stick, follow the rules for a To the Death! challenge, except that the person who “dies” is subject to the loss of a permanent Honor die instead of actually being killed by shame. The loss of your last permanent Honor die reduces you to zero-Honor status (see below), which is a very vulnerable state; the last few shreds of your credibility could be swept away, or they could be woven together to form a whole new fabric. Only play can determine what happens next!

- Gaining temporary Honor: at the end of each session, starting with the youngest player’s character, vote on each PC as a group to determine if that PC did something (before a Respectful Audience) to firmly prove his respectability and/or strongly serve the Empire’s goals. Each vote that passes unanimously (only the players vote; the GM facilitates) grants that PC a temporary Honor die. PCs who do not get a favorable vote don’t lose anything, as this could reflect neutral or unremarkable behavior, but if they’ve done anything to deserve to lose Honor, this fact should be considered in play next session.

- A Dishonorable or Aloof character can be moved to Honorable status by a favorable Honor vote, but only with a) that player’s specific desire and consent and b) some rethinking of the character concept (meh, this could be an intentional move. Who am I to judge?). When at “zero Honor”, a PC can gain and lose temporary Honor dice, but if he loses a single Dishonor Challenge, he goes back to Dishonorable status again. Try not to do anything too scandalous until you’ve won another Honor Vote, which will give you an actual Honor die.

- You can spend a temporary Honor die to add two dice to your current dice pool. The upshot of this is that you do something fairly reprehensible to get what you're after; if you're so desperate as to spend multiple temporary Honor on a Challenge, you're going to look like a pretty terrible person when the dust settles. This happens even if you fail, and drives play into a new direction as a result of your ruthlessness. If you're doing something like Craft, where it's not readily apparent how you could fold a paper crane dishonorably, then consider two things: 1) maybe you're shockingly rude to others during the project, or 2) in a longer-term project, there are bits of downtime in which you're a jerk to all and sundry. Or you build the new "thunder weapon" using human blood as lubricant, or something. Be horrible. Speaking of which, a zero-Honor character could throw away his last shred of respectability for two more dice on a roll, if he really wants to. Go for the gusto!

- Heralds: every Noble House has at least one. They're psychic slaves, right? What does that mean? Well, no one is allowed to approach the Emperor or get anywhere near him, except for the Heralds, who are mystically incapable of violence. If you want to try and get past that with a little Sorcery, consider that the Emperor Himself created the mystic pact that affects the Heralds in this way, and good luck (no, really, try it. Who am I to stop you from doing something crazy and awesome?).

In game terms, whenever a Dishonor Challenge is called, it takes place before the Emperor, because it's the Glorious Godlike One who gives the go-ahead on major things like permanent loss of Honor. At this point, the PCs (or PC and NPC) involved in the Challenge tap into their House Heralds (if they have them), and the Herald's minds open up like blooming flowers to the will of their masters. They are incapable of independent action or speech (though they can still think, presumably, and the master might be able to hear that), becoming empty shells for their masters to fill with their words. They literally speak their masters' minds during the back-and-forth of a Dishonor Challenge, using the social/mental skills and stats of their masters to see who triumphs. Yes, this is a little creepy.

- Dishonor Challenge: works just like a To the Death! Challenge, except the individual who runs out of dice first doesn't die; he loses a permanent Honor die. If this reduces someone's permanent Honor to zero, then he's at zero-Honor, obviously (see above) and had better not do anything else to disgrace himself, lest he slip into Dishonor. Dishonor is never permanent, but you have to be really commendable for two sessions in a row (well, no major screw-ups, anyway) to pull yourself out of it again, and if you got here through play (as opposed to it being your opening status), I can see it being quite a challenge indeed. But hey, maybe you don't care at this point.

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