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Old 02-16-2018, 03:06 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Code of Honor

Code of Honor is a self-imposed mundane mental disadvantage, worth [-5 to -15]. It appeared in the GURPS 3e Basic Set, and hasn’t changed greatly since then. You adhere to principles of “honorable” conduct, even when they cause you considerable risk and difficulty. Opponents can exploit this, although doing so may not be perfectly honourable on their part, because they know you’ll go to great lengths to maintain your honour.

The value of a Code of Honor depends on how widely it applies, and how much it limits your actions. A [-5] code applies to your peers, and is informal, such as a pirate’s or brigand’s code, or is formal but not very limiting, like a professional’s code, or the Hippocratic Oath. A [-10] code is formal and applies to peers, such as a gentleman’s or soldier’s code, or is informal and applies to everyone. A [-15] code is formal and applies to everyone, such as a chivalric code, or requires suicide if broken, like a samurai’s code.

Code of Honor is the first disadvantage covered in this series that’s often considered desirable, in that many professions and almost all military services go to some effort to instil one in their members, and will punish those who clearly fail to act on it. It also tends to build a good reputation, which is always valuable.

The social reason that codes of honor get widely adopted seems to be to control conflict, and keep it from being merely opportunistic dog-eat-dog. This presumably goes back to the days of warrior nobility, who needed to maintain an image of trustworthiness and respectability, even if the source of their power was violence. Professional codes similarly prevent abuse of professional skills. Even formal codes tend to have some room for debate around the edges, over whether something is dishonourable, or if it comes under the code.

There are quite a few Codes of Honor defined, at least loosely, in GURPS supplements. Action has “Stay Bought,” Adaptions “Gentlewoman’s” and “Confucian,” and Aliens: Sparrials “Gentleman Thief’s.” Banestorm has a lot of fully-defined codes: “Arab,” “Elven,” “Halfling,” “Northman’s”, “Sahudese,” “Stays Bought” and “Theatrical” plus an example king’s personal code. Casey and Andy has Satan’s code of honor, and Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout the professional code for reactor operators. DF7 adds “Professional messenger,” and DF9 “Shaman’s.” Fantasy has “Highwayman’s,” “Roman” and “Arena.” Horror indulges in “Cabalistic,” “Oathbound,” “Traditional Secret Society,” and “Vampire Society,” while Madness Dossier mentions “Crimefighter” [-15] along with a Delusion, but Codes of Honor are too abstract for drugs to inflict. Infinite Worlds has setting-specific tweaks to “Professional” and “Soldier’s,” plus “Centrum” and “Infinity Patrol,” and something the SS think is a CoH, although I disagree. Lands Out of Time adds “Caveman” and Magic: Plant Spells has “Forest Protector.”

Martial Arts has a detailed “Bushido,” and “Xia” for Chinese knights-errant, and Gladiators adds a detailed, if rare, code for gladiators. Monster Hunters adds “Angelic” and “The Hunter’s Code” and Mysteries has the detailed versions of “Gentleman P.I.,” “Private Investigator” and “Police.” Power-Ups 6 has some quirk-level codes, and the quirk of lacking an expected code, while Powers explores Code of Honor as a required disadvantage. Psis adds “Psychic’s” and Social Engineering “Prisoner’s.” Space defines several: “Asteroid Miner’s,” “Ethical Psionic’s,” “Hacker’s,” and “Mercenary’s,” and Supers has “Comics Code” and “Costumed Villain.” Tales of the Solar Patrol has the only slightly less four-colour “Solar Patrolman’s” and “Villian’s,” plus “Naturalist’s” and “Trader’s.” Underground Adventures has “Caver’s” and Vorkosigan Saga has the culturally-specific Vor code.

Dipping back into 3e, GURPS WWII went into Soldier’s CoH in some detail, distinguishing between officer and enlisted versions, and normal and extreme versions of both. The extreme version was expected in all the Imperial Japanese services, and some German units, although it was possible in any service.

I use Code of Honor quite a bit, as a player and GM. I tend to feel that if I’m playing a soldier, policeman, or other user of violence, there need to be some rules to restrain that. As a GM, honourable foes are more interesting for the PCs, and less likely to just kill them, given the chance.

How have you used, or abused, this disadvantage?
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

Could a moderator correct my slip with the thread title? Thanks!
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Could a moderator correct my slip with the thread title? Thanks!
Whoa, yeah, I rarely use Clueless, but use Code of Honour at lot.
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Old 02-16-2018, 06:27 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

I don’t think I have ever played a character who didn’t have some form of Code of Honour.

My temple-knight had Soldier’s – he wouldn’t take Chivalry because he saw things like duels as killing someone over calling him names, and he saw fighting fair as being irresponsible to the guys he was defending.

My vampire necromancer has Cabalistic (had Professional when she was alive, and Traditional Secret Society during the early days of her being undead, but her values evolved over time).

My amphibious merchant (specialised in trading goods between the surface and undersea civilisations) had Professional.

The NPC who was a giant glowing wheel covered in wings and eyes had a variant of Xia (he was an Ophanim, it seemed the most fitting I could think of).

The ruthless mercenary officer I played had Professional, he was too cruel to take Soldier’s but his values were to do his job well and to look after his men (Sense of Duty), regardless of how many civilians he had to butcher in the process.

One thing I really liked reading in GURPS Banestorm was how the codes knights lived by were not always Chivalry, and how Pirate’s Code or Soldier’s Code was common among knights who lived by some or most of the values but not all, or who interpreted being a good knight a little differently.

Essentially any character who has consistent values they live by would seem to have some form of Code of Honour. Usually it was a low-cost thing, because the other issue is not following a Code of Honour when expected actually became a very unwise move most of the time. For instance, a merchant who cheats his customers quickly builds a bad Reputation. An enlisted man who doesn’t look out for his buddies and take care of his kit gets recognised as the unreliable one. The officer who doesn’t lead from the front finds his troops would be far less willing to stand by him when the expected fight becomes unfavourable.

Generally I found being seen to have predictable values can get you very far. To quote Paksenarrion, “You know the worth of my word, and I know the worth of yours.” Another example is Gentleman Johnny Marcone from the Dresden Files, tolerated by the police because he is a civilising influence on organised crime who keeps the violence down.

The temple-knight once had troops on a side not-quite-the-enemy but certainly not allies help him deal with a mutiny, because they knew he was the one keeping others in line and making sure there wasn’t collateral damage when the battalion he was with marched through foreign territory. I’m sure the massive reaction bonus from Charisma, Appearance, Born War-Leader & Status probably helped a little… but being predictable got his foot in the door, and offset penalties that would normally apply.
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Old 02-16-2018, 07:16 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

Like Railstar, I very rarely play characters without a Code of Honour — at least a trivial one.

I very often create my own codes for characters. The very most recent I created was for a space opera-ish setting, for an officer in that setting's Starfleet (which has no relation to Star Trek's Starfleet — officially, at least).
As an officer of Starfleet I will maintain myself among the best that humanity has to offer, with a meticulous sense of honour and self-worth, discipline beyond all ambition, avarice, or conceit, respect for the liberties and dignities of all creatures, and an unyielding will to do justice and give mercy.
As an officer in command of a ship of the Starfleet, away from base, I am the last of the absolute monarchs with no one but myself to restrain me; I will always remain cognisant that I go where no other authority reaches, and I myself must embody the rule of reason and law.
As an officer in fellowship of the officers of the Starfleet, I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally sound, shouldering more than my share of any task, whatever it may be, that I shall never fail my peers.
Of my own free will and without reservation, I recognise that I have volunteered to serve the United Nations of Earth, fulling knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, and I will always endeavour to uphold the traditions, prestige, and esprit de corps of the Starfleet. Ten points to any of you grognards who recognise where I adapted this code from.
Another one that I've used for several characters is simply a quotation of the chorus from the Crüxshadows song Sophia:
Do not injustice to another
Defend the weak and innocent
Let truth and honor always guide you
Let courage find a life within
Stand up when no one else is willing
Act not in hatred or in spite
Be to this world as a perfect knight
Even if it means your life
For both of them, I've charged either [-10] or [-15] points, which brings me to an interesting contrast between 3rd and 4th Edition. In GURPS 3e (I distinctly recall this in Special Ops and in WWII), several Codes of Honour could be purchased at the [-10] or the [-15] level depending on how fanatically you pursued them; essentially, you could take either Code of Honour [-10] or Fanaticism (Code of Honour) [-15]. I think that's a very effective distinction that many 4e games could find useful.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Could a moderator correct my slip with the thread title? Thanks!
Actually, this is a pretty good example of clueless.... :p

ETA I almost always take CoH: Soldier just because I’m comfortable playing that kind of character.

I think of Honesty as a code of honor and usually take that, both because I prefer to play that way and because you’d be amazed what isn't technically illegal... especially if it’s a medieval campaign and you have a couple levels of Status.

Last edited by tanksoldier; 02-16-2018 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 02-17-2018, 03:09 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

I often find myself using the lower point CoHs for the previous professions or some generic social mores.

Higher valued ones are almost always external, existing codes. Knighthoods, religous orders etc..
Someone defining their own encompassing and rigid code always struck me as a somewhat old-fashioned literary trope, suitable for the Heinlenian ubermensch, but rarely someone more realistic. Other disadvantages like Pacifism and Honesty seem more innate.
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Old 02-17-2018, 05:23 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

The interesting thing with CoH under 3e was that for a while, the system seemed to get by with just three examples (Pirate’s, Gentleman’s, and Chivalry). I think that China and Japan introduced the obvious culture-specific codes, then I threw in Arabian (because you gotta talk about the Sacred Hospitality thing), and then it all sort of blossomed.

Writing up multiple codes for Banestorm was kind of fun. Actually, from the sourcebook author’s point of view, putting in a cultural Code is quite useful; it puts a marker down for how a culture thinks of itself.
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Old 02-17-2018, 05:46 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

Incidentally, John missed the Plunger’s CoH in Britannica-6, which is a case in point of culture-defining codes. And there’s also the Dark Lord’s Code in Discworld.
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Old 02-17-2018, 06:00 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Clueless

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
The interesting thing with CoH under 3e was that for a while, the system seemed to get by with just three examples (Pirate’s, Gentleman’s, and Chivalry). I think that China and Japan introduced the obvious culture-specific codes, then I threw in Arabian (because you gotta talk about the Sacred Hospitality thing), and then it all sort of blossomed.

Writing up multiple codes for Banestorm was kind of fun. Actually, from the sourcebook author’s point of view, putting in a cultural Code is quite useful; it puts a marker down for how a culture thinks of itself.
I third the idea that [-5] to [-10] in CoH is an excellent excuse to spell out the values that a character lives by, even if the character could not articulate it so well! And conflicts between say CoH and Compulsive Behaviour or Greed can be fun.
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