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Mastering the hack, Honor

Hobgoblins of Tellene are very honorable creatures. Art used by permission of KenzerCo. Copyright KenzerCo http://www.kenzerco.com/

Honor is a special attribute in Hackmaster Basic rules. It is a measure of the character’s success in his deeds and adventures. It doesn’t reflect if character is morally good or evil. As an example, knights have usually a strict code of honor to follow. Obviously the hobgoblin in the picture is honor bound not to fight an unarmed opponent… Alignment of the character is also important when deciding what is good for character’s personal honor.

Starting honor score is an average of the character’s other abilities. Thus my elf starts with an honor of 12 but his high looks and charisma raise it up to 15. That means he has an average honor for 1st level character. In game mechanics that also means he can add +1 to any one roll per game session. Very low honor (Dishonorable status) causes -1 to every roll and very high honor gives also a single reroll for any die roll during the session. If the honor score drops below zero the characters alignment changes based on his behavior and he also loses some experience.

Honor points can be used during the game to receive rerolls or altering the result of a single die roll. That is something valuable for new players to remember. When hovering at death’s door in the middle of a fight you can always choose death before dishonor or then burn some honor points to alter that damage your enemy just rolled against you. Or vice versa use some dishonorable trick to deal spades of damage against the enemies too.

Honor is gained (and lost) by adhering to character’s alignment and class, defending personal honor and role-playing. Each of these four aspects can alter honor from -3 to +4. So in the very best case a character could receive +16 points of honor after a session! But that is very unlikely.

Let’s say a knight has wow to serve his liege in every way and the liege commands the knight to burn down some village just beyond the border to teach a lesson to that robber baron next to his lands. The knight is however good and compassionate by his heart and refuses to do such a thing. Disobeying his code of honor would easily cost some honor for the knight but in his good heart he knows, killing unarmed and innocent people would be wrong. He might be reprimanded or even punished by his liege and might have a good chance to defend his personal honor during the process and role-playing some of his quirks and flaws on the way also. Then it is up to the DM to judge the situation and how all of it will change the knight’s honor.

I think this mechanic resembles a great deal of gaining and using Artha in the Burning Wheel system. Artha works quite similarly by granting die roll modifiers or rerolls and it is gained by good role-playing and achieving some personal goals of the character. In Burning Wheel, the Artha system is also the very centerpiece or reward mechanism and allows players to make tests that are required to advance their skills or abilities. Hackmaster manages to add this mechanism nicely to the classic old school gaming with honor attribute. Experience points are gained from overcoming enemies and obstacles as well as reaching some points of storyline but good roleplaying is instead awarded by dishing out honor points.

-F-

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