Rokugan: Return of the Jade Raven
Honor and Alignment
Alignment plays a much more subdued role in Rokugan than in many campaign worlds. In fact, one could easily remove the concept of Alignment entirely from a Rokugani campaign and exclusively use the more prevalent measure of one’s worth: honor.
Honor is an all-important trait in Rokugan. It is the means by which samurai fulfill their role in the Celestial Order, the heavenly-mandated tiers of society which characterize an individual’s station and status in the mortal world. Those who possess honor know their role and execute it well. Those without honor fail to meet the expectations of their class, or worse, attempt to usurp the places of those above them in the Celestial Order.
Even the Ninja and demon-warriors of the Shadowlands have honor, for though they don’t adhere to the code of bushido, they are governed by their own ethics and tokens of respect.
Honor as a system is an internal measure of a character’s devotion to the code of bushido. Those of deviant cultures such as the ninja may have honor among their own people, but are still considered dishonorable in regards to Rokugani society and the divine blessings of the Celestial Order. Those who forsake the bushido code or apply it only when necessary have low honor rank, while those who use the code to determine every action have a high honor rank.
Honor has a creat deal to do with how an individual is treated in Rokugan. A samurai known for dishonorable conduct will be given mediocre assignments at best, and may never be entrusted with any important duties, ensuring that he will never eise in the ranks of his clan. Samurai with high honor, however, will be given pretigious and important duties that can result in their rapid ascension to command within their family or clan’s ranks.
A character’s adherence to his principles and the tenets of bushido is measured by his honor rank. Honor ranks range from 0 (the lowest, most dishonorable individuals) to 5 (the embodiment of bushido).
Rank 0 — Honorless: An honor rank of 0 indicates that the character does not follow the code of bushido. This usually indicates that the character is either foriegn to Rokugan’s culture (i.e. Ikimono, Naga or Vanara) or simply has ne recard whatsoever for society’s laws (bandits, some ronin, etc.). It is not unheard of for samurai to be without honor, but it is uncommon. Those with an honor rank of 0 tend to have alignments of chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, or neutral evil.
Rank 1 — Untrustworthy: Those with an honor rank of 1 pay lip service to the code of bushido, but readily abandon it to achieve their own goals. They may put on an honorable facade around others in order to avoid condemnation, but they see little wrong in indulging in vice, lying, cheating, or even killing in order to further their private agenda. characters with this honor rank are typically neutral evil or chaotic good.
Rank 2 — Average: An honor rank of 2 is the mean in Rokugan, the level of devotion that can be expected from the average samurai one encounters while traveling. Those with an honor rank of 2 believe in the code of bushido and follow it when possible. They understand, however, that there are occasions when reality makes absolute adherence impossible. Samurai with an honor of 2 occasionally enjoy a night of revelry of the company of a geisha, but do not allow such things to interfere with their duty. Alignments of all types are found among those with this rank, but the most common are chaotic good, neutral, and neutral good.
Rank 3 — Exceptional: A character with an honor rank of 3 stands out among his fellow samurai. They believe that the code of bushido is the guiding principle that governs their lives, and would never voluntarily violate it. If circumstances arise when the samurai must violate the code in order to fulfill a mission or comply with his lord’s orders, it causes him great anguish, and some even request seppuku. Characters of this rank are almost always lawful, although there are a few neutral good characters that achieve this state of discipline.
Rank 4 — A Soul Above Reproach: It is rate that a character achieves honor rank 4. This implies an absolute devotion to bushido, allowing nothing to come between the samurai and the values in which he believes so firmly. Characters of this rank are almost always lawful.
Rank 5 — Strength of a Thousand Ancestors: Achieving honor rank 5 is no mean feat. Such a character is completely selfless, thinking only of his family and clan and never of his own needs or wants. He treats everyone he encounters with the same dignity and courage that he expects to receive from others, and never mistreats others unless they have proven themselves to be dishonorable. Characters with an honor rank of 5 are almost exclusively of the lawful good alignment.
Honor is not an absolute. Samurai often increase or decrease in honor as their outlooks and actions change over time. Each honor rank is composed of 5 honor points. When a character accrues a total of 5 honor points, his honor rank increases to the next level. For example, a samurai of honor rank 1 who performs a long series of honorable tasks for his lord over time will accumulate 5 honor points and change his honor rank to 2. Similarly, a samurai who has an honor rank of 3 with no surplus points who incurs an honor loss will drop down to an honor rank of 2.
Beginning Honor Rank: Every character has a beginning honor rank. Most nonhumans, and those who hail from banished or dishonorable clans, begin at Rank 0 with no honor points. Human characters of other clans have an honor rank designated by their clan, with no surplus points.
Gaining Honor Points: There are several ways in which a character can gain honor.
Honorable Class. Each human Family has a class or two that it considers more admirable than the others. By gaining a level in this class, including the first level if you begin with it, garners you an honor point.
Clan Honor. Each human clan also has varying views of what constitutes the proper adherence to bushido. By performing any of these tenets, you gain 1 honor point.
Adherence to Bushido. A samurai is always expected to follow the code of bushido but the GM may, at their discretion, grant 1 rank point for exemplary demonstrations of the 6 tenets of Bushido:
(ex. Giving a truthful report that will result in serious repercussions for oneself.)
(ex. Facing a clearly superior foe to preserve one’s family honor.)
(ex. Aiding a wounded foe.)
(ex. Hosting samurai from a family with whom one’s own is at war.)
(ex. Fulfilling a promise despite great cost.)
(ex. Following the daimyo’s orders when one’s personal feelings call for a different course of action.)
Losing Honor Points: Losing honor is far easier than gaining it, which makes it that much more difficult to reach higher ranks. By performing any of the dishonorable acts listed below, you lost a number of honor points equal to your current honor rank. For example, a samurai rank of honor rank 3 would lose three points, even if it would drop him to rank 2 thereafter.
Clan Dishonor. Each human clan also has an act, or series of acts, that brings shame upon the individual or entire clan. Performing any of these deeds results in a loss of honor points.
Deception. Lying, trickery or magical illusions intended to fool an adversary are all considered cowardly, and result in the loss of honor points.
Cowardice. Hiding from an opponent, placing blame on another, or worst of all fleeing from battle, all bring dishonor to a samurai.
Instigating Violence. While samurai do not run from conflict, only the lowliest thug would incite combat when it is unwarranted or unexpected.
Breach of Etiquette. At the GM’s discretion, any act which violates social calm or respect may be deemed dishonorable – but should be discussed before penalties are granted.