Beyond life and death, beyond good and evil, there is honor. It is the abode of the eternal, which none can take but which can be destroyed through a single rash act. It is a measure of one’s place within a society, a status known to all and sought by many. Whether in a samurai culture, the frozen viking wastes of the northlands, or the dizzying court intrigues of a byzantine kingdom, honor provides an anchor and stable foundations for your life’s work. If you lack honor, others view you as faithless, untrustworthy, disloyal, and unfair. Honor influences reputation, status, and legend, but transcends them all.
Who has honor varies from culture to culture. In some, anyone from the lowliest peasant to the emperor can pursue honor, and a life lived in accordance with honor is the highest achievement. In another land, honor is a game only for nobility, a scoring method in their battles over status. Honor may be purely a warrior’s code or a more primitive, largely unspoken understanding between combatants.
In some lands, the use of poison is an instant blight on one’s honor. In others, its subtle and effective use might be a mark of the truly civilized person who wants to avert war and avoid innocent bloodshed. The general who fights until his last soldier falls is counted as honorable in some realms; in others, it is the general who surrenders, recognizing that sacrificing her soldiers’ lives would be a waste. A criminal’s code of honor is different from a priest’s, and a school of wizards may have different rules for honor than a cabal of sorcerers.
No matter what form it takes, honor is recognition of a code larger than the individual, a willingness to subsume one’s desires in the service of that code. Honor requires self-sacrifice. It is often neither the most reasonable course of action nor the most practical. It comes with a cost, but is its own reward. Your honor must be protected and upheld at all times; allowing another to besmirch it is almost as great an affront as you performing a dishonorable act. A dishonorable person may try to use your honorable code against you, but honor does not equate to stupidity.
This section presents a system for representing honor, as well as examples of various honor codes, including the chivalric code, the criminal code, and the samurai code.
Honor is represented by points on a scale from 0 to 200. A score of 0 represents a person who is seen as completely untrustworthy, willing to sacrifice anything and anyone for even a momentary gain. A score of 200 represents a person of legendary stature whose reputation is without blemish. While a score of 50 is someone not really known to the world at large, they have done little to earn any kind of fame or infamy. Honor is not a measurement of alignment, fame, or goodwill so much as a gauge of loyalty, trustworthiness, and fairness—one could be a kindhearted-but-flighty shogun with 0 honor points, or a cruel-but-stalwart monk with 100 honor points.
Multiple Honor Codes: A character picks one honor code to be the code that they follow, this is the point pool that they draw from to spend points. They also have an honor score for all other honor codes, showing how a person following that path views them.
PC Base Honor Points: Your starting number of honor points is equal 50 + your Charisma modifier + your character level + possible bonuses or negatives from your backstory. For example, a 1st-level Commoner PC following the Chivalric code, with a Charisma score of 13 starts with an honor score of 48. Whenever your experience level or Charisma permanently changes, adjust your honor score accordingly. You can also gain or lose honor points during play.
Gaining and Losing Honor
You gain and lose honor points through events. Some events affect all PCs in the party (such as destroying a demon that’s attacking a village), and others only affect you (such as losing a duel against a less honorable rival). Most of these events require witnesses who spread the word of what happened; if nobody outside sees the event, and nobody in the party speaks of it, it has no effect on your honor. The GM may decide that a delay of 1d6 days or more is appropriate for a change in honor, reflecting the time needed for news to travel.
A single event can earn you honor points for multiple reasons. For example, if you’re a paladin using the chivalric code and your party’s APL is 8, defeating a CR 11 hezrou demon earns everyone in the party 1 honor point for the “party overcomes a challenging encounter” general event and you earn 2 honor points for the “defeat a challenging monster of the opposite alignment” chivalric event.
The tables of honor point adjustments for the various types of codes provide examples of events that would cause you to gain or lose honor points. The honor point values are guidelines; the GM should adjust them as appropriate to the situation and campaign.
You can spend honor points once per game session to gain a temporary advantage for yourself, such as a gift, loan, or introduction to an important person. Each expenditure reduces your honor score by an amount determined by the GM. If you try to spend honor points for an advantage that costs more points than you currently have, your honor score is reduced to 0 and you don’t gain the advantage—by reaching too high, you lose honor and gain nothing. You may only gain a favor, gift, or loan from an individual following your code. Examples of honor point expenditures include the following.
- Favor: You call upon an allied NPC for a favor. Examples include access to private resources (such as a wizard’s library), unhindered passage through enemy territory (such as getting an official to write you a letter of passage), or an audience with an important person (such as a high priest or city governor). Cost: varies, depending on the difficulty of the favor and the NPC’s attitude toward you.
- Gift or Loan: You ask an NPC ally to give or loan you something of value. The gift or loan must be in the form of wealth or a single item. The GM may rule that an NPC refuses to give away a particularly rare or expensive item. The item must be something the NPC can actually grant—you can’t ask a peasant for a suit of armor or a ronin for the emperor’s personal sword. A gift is permanent, but a loan lasts only for the game session in which it is granted. Cost: 2d4 honor points per 2,000 gp value of the gift. If the request is a loan instead of a gift, the honor point cost is halved, but if you do not return the item at the end of the session, you must pay this honor point cost at the start of each session until the item is returned. This counts as your one opportunity to spend honor points that session; you can’t spend honor on anything else until you return the item.
- Skill Bonus: Choose Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate. You gain a +5 honor bonus on checks for that skill for the rest of the game session, but only when speaking to an individual following your code. Cost: 1d6+4 honor points.
Consequences of Losing Honor
If your honor score reaches 0, you take a —2 penalty on Will saving throws and Charisma-based checks, representing your sense of shame. If you are part of an honor-bound institution, your lack of honor may bring shame upon the institution, and cause its leaders to punish you.
You may renounce your code of honor at any time. You lose all honor points and benefits from honor, but do not take the penalty for having 0 honor points (not having a code is not the same as flaunting your code). Any characters who believe in that code refuse to speak or deal with you any more than they must. Your NPC allies avoid you. Your honorable institution declares you an enemy. Even those who have no association with your former code may steer clear of you, fearing retribution from your honorable institution.
You must choose another code of honor when renouncing your old one.
General Honor Events
These events are appropriate for most honor codes, including the individual codes listed below.
General Honor Events
|Complete a CR-appropriate Main Quest||+10||Complete a CR-appropriate side quest||+5||Complete a noble task for an honorable NPC (50+ honor points) and tell no one||+2||Roll 40 or higher on a Craft check to create a work of art or masterwork item#||+2||Roll 40 or higher on a Diplomacy or Intimidate check#||+2||Roll 40 or higher on a Perform check#||+2||Complete a CR-appropriate Minor quest||+1||Craft a powerful magic item||+1^||Destroy an evil or dangerous magic item||+1@||Party overcomes a challenging encounter (CR 3 or more higher than APL)||+1||Slander a person with a higher honor score||-2||Party flees an easy combat challenge (CR lower than APL)||-3||Willingly break one of the tenets of your code of honor||-4||Party loses an easy combat challenge (CR lower than APL)||-5||Commit an act of treason or betray an honorable lord||-15!||Be directly responsible for the death of an honorable ally or loved one under your protection||-20$|
# You can gain honor points this way once per month.
^ Per 40,000 gp of the item’s price.
@ Per 40,000 gp of the item’s price. Artifacts with no price grant 5 honor points for this purpose.
! +20 for certain individuals.
$ +10 for certain individuals.
Sample Codes of Honor
You’re perfectly fine to work with the GM to create your own unique code of honor. These are just for those who’re lazy or find that the pre-built one works well enough.
Bushido Code-Honor — Samurai
Chivalric Code-Honor — Knight/Cavalier
Wu Jen Code-Honor
Dökkálfar Code-Honor — Norse Dark Elves
Draconian Code-Honor — Draconian
Dravun Code-Honor — Shield Dwarves
Svartálfar Code-Honor — Norse Dwarves
Tylaern Code-Honor — High Elves
Bushido Code-Honor — Okakune Honor
Carthaginian Code-Honor — Carthage Empire
Chivalric Code-Honor — Albion, Lejan, Kadaien, Talar, Tholland, Veishan
Dragothian Flame Code-Honor — The provinces of Dragothi
Frostfellian Code-Honor — Frostfellian Humans and Thorrin
Kiekan Plains Code-Honor — Gao, Casablanca, and Rabat peoples
Grecian Code-Honor — Greek Free States
Roman Dignitas Code-Honor — Roman Empire
Zulu Code-Honor — Tribal peoples of Kiek
Zwelik Code-Honor — Zwelikude And Juleidah peoples