While L5R doesn’t necessarily have social combat mechanics per se, my experiences with the game have led me to believe that it is perhaps one of the most interesting settings to play a political game in. And now with the Hearts and Souls campaign kicking off on the weekend, I’ve turned my attention towards the individual components of the game that might serve to help me in running a game with a diminished focus on combat.
Today, we’re looking at some of the social mechanics that the game has in place and we’ll try to figure out ways to use them best and possibly even tack on some mechanical advantages or disadvantages.
L5R has three primary social attributes: Honor, Glory and Status.
Honor is the closest thing to a “morality” stat in the game and measures a character’s personal ability to adhere to the tenets of Bushido. Mechanically, Honor is used for Honor rolls, and the character’s Honor rank is added to the total of any roll made to resist Intimidation, Temptation and Fear.
While Honor is a personal stat, it is actually quite possible to discern another’s Honor with a successful Lore: Bushido / Awareness roll at TN 30. This can lead to interesting interactions as low Honor characters might find themselves being distrusted and high Honor characters can bank on their Honor to win credibility and trust.
Glory is a measure of the character’s fame throughout the Empire as a result of personal accomplishments. Glory is the most variable of attributes and can go up and down depending on a situation. Warriors can gain glory in combat or dueling, builidng their legend in the process. Certain courtier schools have techniques that build Glory at an accelerated pace, winning the kind of prestige that opens doors for the characters.
It’s interesting to note that Glory is a strange stat as it means that the character is more easily recognized by his deed, but doesn’t necessarily gain any tangible benefits from it.
I plan to use Glory for something else though, but more on that later.
Status is the measure of an individual’s role and influence in society. One can liken it to a military Rank, as those with higher Status can command more resources and authority over those with lower Status. This is also perhaps the hardest Stat to increase as it requires someone of higher status to recognize the character and promote them to their new position.
These three stats are a crucial part of the game, but you can tell that Glory is perhaps one of the “weaker” ones. Sure you get popular, but how does that help a character?
Let’s start by addressing that with a slight tweak. I’m looking at using Glory as a sort of insulation for characters. Much in the same way that fame can insulate celebrities in modern society from the repercussions of doing some outrageous or questionable deeds, I’m guessing that individuals of sufficient Glory can pull off some audacious act and manage to avoid some (or even all) of the fallout.
Mechanically, what I’m thinking about is tha Glory points (not ranks) can be used to reduce Honor Losses gained from a Breach of etiquette (major, minor, blasphemous)
Likewise, Glory points may also be spent to temporarily bolster Status for a scene as long as the situation is one that would recognize the character’s Glory.
All Glory points spent in this manner are considered gone.
Matsu Koji is a famous Bushi of the Lion Clan, whose courage and skill in the battlefield has earned him a glory rank of 3.4. During a session in court, a Scorpion courtier has insulted him. Rather than challenge the Courtier to a duel or reply in kind with fancy words, Koji lashes out with his fist and knocks the courtier out with a single punch.
This counts for a major breach of etiquette that would have cost Koji (who has an Honor Rank of 7.0) 6 points of honor. However his Glory as a combatant is such that he can choose to knock his Glory rank down to 2.8 and nullify the Honor Loss.
This doesn’t insulate him from the repercussions of his actions though, as the nearby Scorpion Yojimbo issues a challenge to a duel.
I’m still debating as to how much and how often such a use of Glory can be conducted, but having a once per session limit might be a good way to insure that players are careful not to abuse this priviledge.
What do you guys think? Is this a good way to make Glory more useful, or is it too powerful?