Saturday, April 9, 2016

Freehold: Glory

In the earliest stages of writing up Freehold I showed the first draft of the wounds/fumbles mechanics to Samhaine and he recommended mechanics that rewarded players for putting themselves in situations where they have to take wounds, sacrifice equipment, etc to survive. Narratively there can should be rewards for this, such as standing in the face of overwhelming odds to defend your village, but a continually relevant mechanical reason for biting off more than you can chew seemed a good idea. His initial idea was something like the Glory system from Pendragon, which I liked for that game (despite its many, many flaws), but wanted to do something different. Being a lover of David Gemmel-esque heroic last stands and just wrapping up the Spartacus television show (again lots of doomed last stands) I came up with what I see as my own version of Glory, as described below. Hopefully it will encourage players put themselves into harms way more than simple treasure of experience points.

Through actions in game characters can earn Glory, which measures the character’s heroic accomplishments in the world. You do not get Glory for defeating a random bandit in combat; you get experience points and loot. You get Glory for fighting off a squad of soldiers in single-handedly, saving a village from a flood, or destroying a relic of an enemy pantheon. Epic, large scale actions earn Glory, not fighting reasonable foes, looting the dead, or stealing from those who cannot defend themselves. All PCs begin with 1 Glory representing past deeds of note, but most characters in the world do not accumulate Glory. They are boring and doomed to mediocrity. Part of the random character creation process determines what event earned the character their first point of Glory, awakening their legendary potential.

Glory is hard to earn and only comes through deeds of great risk, thus driving players to use the Wound and Fumble system to push their luck in fighting foes they would normally avoid in the hopes of securing Glory. During each session the character keeps a running tally of all the actions that have earned them Glory during the session. At the end of the session they compare the highest single Glory reward during the session to their current Glory; if this number is higher than your current Glory it becomes your new Glory. Thus you cannot achieve the heights of Glory with lots of small deeds, you must go large or go home. Hopefully this will drive some competition among players over who can do the most glorious deeds, and help newer characters catch up to older ones as many deeds take character level into account when calculating Glory. What is glorious for a farmer's apprentice may be old hat to a seasoned veteran. Each player should write down their most glorious deed from each session to keep a track of their legend.

The Glory record from each adventure resets. Adventures stop when your characters return to a safe location and rest for multiple days. This will hopefully encourage players not to head back to the tavern and rest for a week every time they get injured.

Glory can be lost through actions of cowardice or dishonor as determined by your culture and religion. If you commit an act that would lose you Glory, it is counted as a penalty to all individual Glory awards earned during that adventure. So if you committed a glorious deed worth 6 Glory but committed a crime that costs you -2 Glory, your highest Glory deed for the adventure is treated as a 4 Glory deed rather than 6 Glory. Like with earning Glory, only the largest negative Glory penalty for each adventure is counted. One inglorious deed can taint an entire quest.

If a character goes three sessions without a deed as glorious as their greatest deed, their Glory will lower to the highest level achieved in the last adventure. Thus if you do not continually work to achieve great things, your legend will eventually fade.

Glory is passed down within a family or clan, so if you retire a character or the character dies, your new character inherits half your previous character’s Glory, assuming they have some manner of link (family, master/apprentice, adoption, etc). This is the character’s base Glory and their Glory will not drop below this level without dishonorable deeds coming into play. If you come from a great family you can bring your lineage to bear, but if you dishonor your family name you will suffer for it.

Most characters should have Glory roughly equal to their level, though at lower levels most characters will have more than this average and at higher level they will have less. I’m imagining something like 4 Glory being average for up to fourth level, while being above 10 will be rare. Over successive generations of characters this average is likely to go up as characters inherit their previous generation’s Glory.
Some classes and feats can alter Glory rewards:

  • Bards can increase the Glory earned by a limited number of other characters a small amount after each adventure. This represents the Bard spreading word of their deeds far and wide and is a class ability. The Glory of a bard never drops below the average of the companions he travels with. Bards can also work to undermine the Glory of others, limiting their Glory over time by spreading tales of their defeats and failures. 
  • Rogues automatically reduce any negative Glory incurred during a session by a limited amount. Thieves gonna thieve. 

Glory can be invested in a number of ways. The first point of Glory that players begin with is always invested in getting the PC +10 hit points. Additional Glory can be:
  • Invested in relics to increase their level (must be a member of the same faith). Each point of Glory increases the relic’s level by one. If the relic is destroyed the invested Glory is lost. 
  • Invested in places of power to increase their level. Each point of Glory increases the place of power’s level by one. If the place of power is destroyed the invested Glory is lost. 
  • Invested in a weapon or suit of armor, giving it a magical bonus. Creating a +1 item requires 1 Glory, while upgrading that item to a +2 item requires 2 Glory, and upgrading it further to +3 requires 3 Glory. So making a +3 piece of equipment requires 6 Glory. If the item is destroyed the Glory is lost. 
  • Getting Blessings of Glory, that are long term minor boosts. 
  • Invest it in a title suitable to the achievements that earned you the Glory. This title will be known far and wide, but how far and wide is dependent on how much Glory is invested. 
  • Invested in the village to improve its defenses or reputation. 
  • Glory may be spent and lost, each point of Glory allowing the player to reroll any one die roll.

Glory Rewards

All combat rewards are given to all the characters that took part in the combat.  Each race, background, class, faith, and culture has its own list of deeds for earning and losing Glory, meaning a character from one culture may lose Glory for an action that earns Glory for a character of another culture.  

Generic Actions That Reward Glory
Glory Reward
Winning a Battle at 2:1 odds
Winning a Battle at 3:1 odds
Winning a Battle at 4:1 odds or better
Winning a battle at 1:2 odds
Winning a battle at 1:3 odds
Winning a battle at 1:4 odds or worse
Every +1 CR your opponent is over your level
Being convicted of a crime against your own people (committing crimes against other social groups is fine a long as the act is not particularly offensive to your own people)
-1 to -3

Defended the traditions of your people at great cost

Destroying a Relic of an Enemy Pantheon
Cleric or Paladin
1 per relic level
Researching a new spell/finding a previously lost spell
1 per spell level
Defeat an enemy in a declared duel of honor
Fighter or Paladin
+1 to a battle’s Glory total
Suffer a wound to protect others or turn the tide
Barbarian, Fighter, or Paladin
+1 to a battle’s Glory total
Fleeing a battle after it is joined
Fighter or Paladin
-1 to a battle’s Glory total
Refusing an honor duel
Fighter or Paladin
-1 to a battle’s Glory total

Defend the Common People
Folk Hero
+1 to a battle’s Glory total

I like this system on a number of levels aside from incentivizing players to use some of the other mechanics I've introduced.  
  1. It mechanically enforces racial and cultural expectations on the player, helping convey a sense of setting.
  2. It helps transform Freehold from being merely gritty low fantasy to being heroic low fantasy where characters accomplish amazing things but pay for it with scars and pain.  
  3. It gives players some self driving goals that relate to their race, class, background, and culture.  Clerics, paladins, and druids may well change an entire session's goal if they find out there is a high level relic of an enemy faith nearby they can destroy.  

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