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Author Topic: [Musha Shugyo] Honor mechanics  (Read 13276 times)
coxcomb
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« on: February 23, 2005, 02:17:38 PM »

(For a high-level overview of Musha Shugyo,  see this thread.)

An integral part of Musha Shugyo is the notion that characters can lose their honor. The struggle of the ronin is to survive while holding on to his honor.

However, I have not come up with any clever rules for measuring honor in the game. Other games that I have played with an honor system (notably L5R) have not handled it properly.

My initial thoughts were that, because honor is as much internal as it is social, the honor level of a PC would dictate the number of defined relationships he could have. But that would seem to mean that positive relationships would be handled differently than negative relationships, whic I don't like so much.

I had established in early rules ideas that a character could lose honor through failing to fulfill an obligation. It also occured to me that a character could sacrifice honor to make progress toward a goal. But none of this defines how honor is regained.

Does anyone have any ideas about a way to handle honor that is useful during actual play?
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Jay Loomis
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2005, 04:26:43 PM »

One note of interest too-
Suppose a corrupt individual places one of your ronin in a situation where their own personal honor is upheld, but to the face of the socioty or important individual that honor is some how degraded?

And how is honor normally obtained? Usually through accomplishing great feats, which is defined by the culture of course. Dis-honored ronin who wanted to (because lets face it, some who become dishonorable do so by choice) could perform great deeds of public service, pledge themselves to one they have wronged etc. to recover lost honor. Or, you could somehow define a "Repentence Rite", a quest or monumental deed neccesary for the ronin to be redeemed. This could be defined based on the person by the GM or by the player, a family rite (as families and ancestors figure largely into this kind of atmosphere and culture), a rite decreed by one whom the ronin wronged, etc.
Or, one could simply let the ronin know "what he has to do" and let tradition (aka seppuku-ritual suicide) run its course.
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
JMendes
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2005, 05:07:51 PM »

Ahey, :)

Quote from: coxcomb
I had established in early rules ideas that a character could lose honor through failing to fulfill an obligation. It also occured to me that a character could sacrifice honor to make progress toward a goal. But none of this defines how honor is regained.
~

Well, not to be overly obvious, but perhaps a character might gain honor upon fulfilling an obligation, or sacrifice progress towards a goal in order to gain honor.

Which is to say, you need to define carefully what constitutes a goal and/or an obligation.

Also, this may create a mechanic whereby a player will be "managing" his character's honor, in a very gamist sense. I don't know if this is what you were shooting for, didn't seem like it from your posts.

Anyway, it may get you started. :)

Cheers,

J.
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url=http://lisbongamer.mc-two.com/]Lisbon Gamer[/urlLisbon Gamer
Stickman
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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2005, 05:51:56 AM »

I loved L5R but the honour rules never really worked for me too well. Something that might be considered is that honour is a two stage thing. Society views the ronin one way, but the ronin himself may have a different interpretation. For example, a ronin who has blamed for this lords death and shamed, but was not truly guilty, would have two honour ratings. One (society) is in the mud, the other (personal) is sky high, as he continues to serve his lords family even after they cast him out.

I'm not sure if a heirachy would work, eg all, family, self or if these scores should be kept per group.

At the end of the day, it may be that the ronin can never reach any kind of redemption (or if they do, they pass beyond the scope of the game). In this case the society honour score can be reformed into some kind of respect score. Sure, they all think the ronin is an honourless curr, but they respect his blade, fear his anger, mock his hygene and so on. Conversely it might be that regardless of whatever honour a ronin truly possesses, the only thing that matters is how he is viewed externally, in which case his 'face' becomes incredibly important.

An alternative might be to rate the ronin in all those areas that a true samurai would never have .. like Lies, Grace, Manners, Presentation.

As to handing honour during gameplay, a Capes-like mechanic might work, whereby a ronin stakes honour on task (say, swearing a vow to complete a job, or taking offense when dishonoured). should that task resolve in the ronins favour they gain honour / loose dishonour, if they fail then the reverse. In all cases though I would think that the players would have to buy into the penalty, as it's a pretty subjective area. Having a dualistic system where the ronin wishes to have a low score in thier 'Anger' trait, but knows that a higher Anger score will work for them in combat might work well?
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Dave
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2005, 06:11:14 AM »

Hi Jay,

Some useful thoughts on honor can be found in [Sorcerer] Favorite Humanity definitions?

Best,
Ron
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timfire
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2005, 06:52:40 AM »

Quote from: Stickman
Something that might be considered is that honour is a two stage thing.

This is totally what I was going to bring up. BTW, I personally don't like the term 'honor', I think it's misused too often. The real issue in samurai movies is the conflict between giri (duty) and ninjo (human will/ moral instincts). At its core this conflict is between doing what you think needs to be done, versus what you feel should be done.

As such, I think it's apprpriate to have a 2-layer system. Have one stat for reputation/ social-standing/ etc, and one for moral standing. I would give mechanical advantages to both. Then, make the player choose. Give him a situation where he can either gain reputation & lose moral standing, or vice versa.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2005, 06:55:21 AM »

Hello,

Three, actually, not two - Face, Duty, and Passion, as outlined in the thread I referenced.

Best,
Ron
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coxcomb
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2005, 10:50:57 AM »

Thanks for the input, all. Thanks especially, Ron, for the linkage.

So part of my problem is that I made the decision that when a player starts a conflict, he gets to state with authority what the accomplishment is -- and there is no question that it will happen. That coupled with player control over what happens to the character means that there isn't much tension. That is, the "game" aspects of the system are very weak. Not sure if this is a bad thing, just a thing.

Now I'm thinking that maybe a situation that affects an aspect of honor means that the player can be forced to take honor loss as one of his three risk categories for the conflict.

<example>
Katsumi has formed a relationship with an old woman in the village. She invites him over to tea every day and he is reminded of his mother who is long dead. Meanwhile he sets a goal to expose the local merchant of criminal acvtivity. Later on one of the merchant's thugs tries to kidnap the old woman, but ends up killing her.

The next conflict that Katsumi establishes with the thug (or even just any of the people associated with the merchant) another player can say that Katsumi runs the risk of acting out of anger. This makes Katsumi's player choose Honor Loss as one of his three risk categories for the conflict.
</example>

It might even be cool to track the forbidden emotions. So Katsumi would be building up anger points. Then there would need to be a way to bleed them off (perhaps the player could add to the challenge total of a conflict to remove points). But if the total of any one got too great, honor loss would have to be staked on the next appropriate conflict.

Do these ideas sound like they would provide a tension in the game?

Is it important to enumerate the different emotions? Or would one emotion score to cover them all be good?

Are there such things as good and allowable emotions in the samurai code? Or should all emotions be equally dangerous?
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Jay Loomis
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Dauntless
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2005, 03:51:16 PM »

In Japanese society, there's really two kinds of honor...your Face (Kao), and your own internal honor.  

Have you ever heard of the  historical tale of the 47 Ronin?  If not, you can google it I'm sure for more detail (as I may get some details wrong here, please forgive me), but I can give you a rough outline.  

Once upon a time, a Samurai Lord was tricked by a rival Lord into bringing weapons into one of the noble houses (it may have been in Kyoto, Edo, the Bakufu, or where I don't recall exactly).  For doing this, the Lord was required to committ seppuku to retain his honor for committing this error.  Since the samurai were all Lordless because the Lord had no heir, the rival expected all the retainers to disperse, find other Lords, or go the way of Ronin.  

Now the rival was leery of vengeance, so he kept an eye out on the now masterless Ronin to make sure they weren't hatching a plot to get revenge.  But to his surprise, all the samurai turned to brigandry, became drunks and frequented brothels, or just plain old stopped having anything to do with the bugei caste.  These former samurai were spat upon by other samurai and talked behind their backs by the bonge and peasant castes for forgetting their duty in avenging their fallen Lord and turning their backs on Bushido.  They were disgraced, disheveled and dishonored.

So the rival forgot about the Ronin.  But one year after their Lord had been tricked, the 47 faithful Ronin exacted their revenge upon the rival Lord and killed him.  They then committed seppuku for the crime they had committed.  They had never forgotten their duty, and they placed it higher than their Face.  And even though they essentially committed a crime by killing the rival Lord, they were honored by the emperor for their selfless devotion and rememberance of honor.

Moral of the story?  No one can take away your honor but you.  Honor is internal.  But people can take away your Face, how other people consider how honorable you are.

Eastern society is a shame based society rather than a guilt based one.  It's not so much a matter of whether what you do is good or bad, but rather if it was a correct action or incorrect action.  The Japanese also don't prioritize duties the way we do.  The Japanese have On, which loosely translates as carrying a debt, of Giri which means temporary duty, and Gimu which means a duty you must always fulfill.  In the Japanese mindset, you carry Gimu to your Lord, your parents, your Emperor and your teacher (not necessarily in that order).  You will never be able to repay these people.  When Giri and Ninpo come into conflict, often the samurai has to pay for his actions with his life, because they don't tell themselves that one duty has a higher priority than another.  So if they fail in being able to fulfill one duty because of obligations of another, often the consequences are very dire.

Honor was unfortunately used as a brainwashing and manipulation tool during the 1930's by Japan.  Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido had fought in Mongolia in the early part of the 20th century and learned some lessons there about war.  When WWII came along, the Japanese government wanted him to train their men for combat, but he'd have nothing of it.  Honor became less about doing the correct thing, and more about glory and blind obedience to your superior.  In Japan's prior history, duty was a two way street...the samurai owed the Lord, but the Lord also the samurai.  But by WWII, it had become very lopsided and the result was tragic.
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coxcomb
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2005, 10:54:31 PM »

Thanks, Dauntless, I am familiar with the 47 ronin--but it's always good to be reminded.

I think perhaps I was not clear enough in my last post, or too quickly spouted off an idea that was half formed.

First of all, I should be clear that this game is about ronin, and only ronin. The obvious implication of that is that face (Kao? Is that right folks who have more scholarship than I?) is not cut and dried so much as for an employed samurai. That is, the default face for the ronin is likely to be quite low (filthy ronin after all) but people who know him will have varying opinions. I'm not yet sure how I want to handle this...probably by means of reputation and relationships.

So the focus of this discussion is on the ronin's own inner sense of honor. The difficulty here is that each ronin will have parts of the code of the samurai that he clings to while letting some other parts go. Mostly, I want to deal with Ninjo (let's call it compassion for simplicity) and Giri. Gimu, obligations that cannot ever be fully repaid, are less important in the game. A true ronin still feels his obligation to the Emperor, the Shogun, his School (or Teacher) of swordsmanship, and whatever family he may have. But I think in game terms this is just something that all ronin have if they still walk the honorable path.

I had already thought about obligations with implications to honor--these are easily expanded slightly to encompass  all debts of honor (Giri).

Ninjo I'm not sure about. It may be best to have a numerical value for it that fluctuates during play depending upon how the player has the ronin behave.

The stuff I was talking about in my last post was taking some aspects of proper samurai behavior and making them part of the mechanics. For example, the idea that a samurai should never strike in anger. Maybe this isn't needed, or maybe it can tie in with one of the other aspects. In any case, I like the idea that a player can (and might be forced to) wager some loss of honor as part of an action.

Is this clear enough for folks to comment on? Do you get where I am coming from and what I am trying to accomplish?
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Jay Loomis
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2005, 05:34:26 AM »

Hi Jay,

I think I'm seeing where you're coming from, and a little bit of what you're going for.

Your next decision is which features you want to be quantified or otherwise explicit, and which features you want to leave as relational effects among the former.

As an example, in My Life with Master: Fear, Reason, Love, Weariness, and Self-Loathing are quantified. However, "defiance" and "self-worth" are not. Similarly, although "More than human" and "Less than human" are verbally defined for each character, basic "Human" is not.

However, the game revolves entirely around defiance, self-worth, and humanity. Paul very sensibly chose to let these effects rely on the interplay among the named elements (most of which are inhuman, depressing, and weird except for Reason and Love), rather than name and quantify them.

Similarly, in Sorcerer, Humanity is quantified ... but ruthlessness, ambition, and arrogance are not. They are given features of the character based on the interplay of Binding and certain other features of character creation. Or to put it another way, because of what's there on the sheet, arrogance has to be there.

So in your case (just as an example), you might leave "compassion" completely out of the mechanics, and quantify other features tightly (who knows what, Duty maybe, in terms of short-term ronin-like jobs; or hell, even "dirtiness"). In this case, compassion would be the "missing piece" which people need to play, or else the existing mechanics make no sense or yield no satisfaction.

Alternately, to clarify this example, you might quantify "compassion" much like Sorcerer's Humanity, and then have stuff like the ronin's general shabbiness or economic desperation be the "fill-ins," arising from how the compassion interacts with other features of the system.

Neither of these are actual recommendations, but rather intended to show that the most important part of a role-playing system is not what's written, but what's necessary to do given what's written.

Best,
Ron
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