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Honor is a measuring stick that reflects a person's worth in society, trustworthiness, decency, and loyalty.
Honor can be used as a tool, similar to alignment, for defining characters. In extreme cases, it can replace alignment. A game that defines a character's outlook based on his honor rather than his alignment can still feature conflicts between good and evil, or law and chaos; however these concepts are ideals rather than phenomena detectable by spells.
You may choose to use honor as an actual game mechanic, tracking numbers that change according to the character's individual accomplishments. Alternatively, you may choose to avoid mechanics, just as the alignment system in the Player's Handbook avoids them.
Using honor in your game requires a campaign with understood codes of behaviour. Individuals who act within the proper codes are considered honorable by others. Those who act outside their code are considered dishonorable, and not to be trusted. As the DM, you are responsible for creating these codes of honor. Several examples appear later in this section.
This system proposes a way to determine starting honor for each character, and how a character's actions affect his honor score thereafter.
A character's alignment determines his starting honor score, with lawful alignments tending to have higher scores than chaotic or neutral, and good alignments tending to have higher scores than evil or neutral.
|Alignment||Starting Honor Score|
Honor comes from action, not inaction. While a character can lose honor by not acting, he cannot gain honor by refusing to act. Actions that increase one's honor score vary, depending on the individual character's code (see Sample Codes of Honor, below). Some examples of actions and their impact on a character's honor score appear below.
|Action||Increase in Honor Score|
|Avenging murder of a family member||+5|
|Completing an assigned task||+3|
|Completing a great deed||+5|
|Defeating an archenemy||+2|
|Defeating a superior opponent of the same class||+1|
|Defeating monsters||+1/CR above character level|
|Fulfilling an oath||+2|
|Fulfilling a family debt||+7|
|Giving a valuable gift to an NPC||+1|
|Granting a favour to an NPC||+1|
|Healing, curing, or restoring NPCs||+ 1|
|Leading a force to victory||+5|
|Making a masterwork item||+1|
|Saving the life of another at the risk of the character's life||+5|
|Serving a powerful person||+2|
|Pulling a humiliating prank on an enemy||+1|
|Removing a curse||+1|
|Showing mercy to the fallen||+1|
|Winning a contest||+1|
Depending on the character's code of honor, dishonorable actions - those that reduce one's honor score - may include any of the examples below.
|Action||Decrease in Honor Score|
|Accused of a crime||-4|
|Breaking an oath||-4|
|Convicted of a crime||-10|
|Failing an assigned task||-3|
|Killing unarmed or helpless foes||-3|
|Losing a contest||-1|
|Losing a masterwork or magic item||-1|
|Losing to an inferior opponent of the same class||-2|
|Murder of a family member||-3|
|Overindulgence in food or drink||-2|
|Ownership of a dishonorable weapon or item||-4|
|Rash or improper social behaviour||-2|
|Refusing a contest||-2|
|Refusing your master||-3|
|Requesting a favour||-2|
|Taking a bribe||-1|
Benefits of Honor
It is important to remember that the benefits of honor only apply when interacting with someone who shares the same or similar honor code. Refer to the following table, using the row that relates to your honor score, when you interact with someone of that sort.
When an honorable paladin interacts with an assassin or rogue, no matter how honorable, the benefits change to penalties.
|Honor -1 to -4||A +2 circumstance bonus on Bluff checks when the target is behaving honorable.|
|Honor -5 to -9||The previous effect and a -1 penalty on Will saves when the consequence of failing the save would bring dishonor on the character.|
|Honor -10 to -19||The previous two effects and a +2 circumstance bonus on Intimidate checks.|
|Honor -20 or less||The previous three effects and a -2 Leadership score modifier for cruelty (see page 106 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).|
|Honor 0||No benefit or penalty.|
|Honor +1 to +4||A +2 circumstance bonus on Sense Motive checks when the target is behaving dishonorably.|
|Honor +5 to +9||Previous benefit and a +1 circumstance bonus on Will saves when the consequence of failing the save would bring dishonor to the character.|
|Honor +10 to +19||Previous two benefits and a +2 circumstance bonus on Diplomacy checks.|
|Honor +20 or more||Previous three benefits and a +2 Leadership score modifier for great renown (see page 106 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).|
Here are some guidelines for determining a character's honor according to the character's actions or according to alignment.
Measuring Free-Form Honor
No game mechanic measures or tracks a character's honor in this system, just as no game mechanic measures or tracks a character's alignment. Honor functions as a tool for developing a character's identity, not as a straitjacket. As part of creating a character, a player should decide whether he intends to play the character as a paragon of virtue, a dishonorable scoundrel, or something in between - perhaps someone who struggles to live honorable but too often succumbs to temptation. As a general guideline, consider these five "ranks" of honor.
Honorless: An honorless character does not adhere to any code, and mocks such codes as irrelevant ideals. Such a character cannot be trusted, for betrayal comes as naturally to this person as breathing. An honorless character is usually both chaotic and evil.
Untrustworthy: Codes are an inconvenience to untrustworthy characters, who see them as tools best used to manipulate others. Such a person would betray almost anyone in the right circumstances, but can usually be relied on to come to the aid of his guild, clan, club, or association. With self-interest taking precedence above all, such characters are usually chaotic or neutral, and often evil.
Honorable in Action: A character may act according to a code of honor even though his heart and mind are not in it. Subordinating one's own interests to those of a group is difficult for such a character, and living up to the ideals of his code is a constant struggle. With each successful bout against temptation, however, the character's resolve grows stronger. This minimum standard of honor usually represents the neutral alignment, with leanings toward law.
Honorable in Thought: A highly honorable character does not doubt his code or its demands. Such a person, while not free from temptation, easily overcomes it. The difficulty comes when the character is forced to bend rules, however slightly - because this is a challenge for the highly honorable character. Such characters are usually lawful neutral.
Honorable in Soul: A paragon of honor cannot be swayed from the call of duty to family, clan, guild, or other association. To even question the honor of such a character is unthinkable. Characters so immersed in honor are selfless, completely devoted to their association, and willing to give up their lives for the safety and security of others. They are usually lawful neutral or lawful good.
Benefits of Honor
Under a free-form system, the DM must determine how much a character benefits from honor. A character who is honorable in soul should benefid more than an untrustworthy or honorless character, for example. someone with an opposing code of honor reacts differently to a character than one with a similar code. Potential benefits of honor include the following.
- A +1 Leadership score modifier for fairness and generosity (see page 106 of the Dungeon Master's Guide).
- A +2 circumstance bonus on Diplomacy checks.
- A +2 circumstance bonus on Sense Motive checks when the target is behaving dishonorably.
- A +1 circumstance bonus on Will saves when the consequences of failing the save would bring dishonor on the character.
At the DM's discretion, other known associates of a character with a reputation for honorable behavior may also receive the bonus.
If you're also using the reputation rules, you can apply a bonus on reputation checks based on a character's status as an honorable or dishonorable person.