Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Familial Glory (Part 1)

Okay...so after some thought on the subject, I think I've got the Glory-thing hammered out as far as Crowns of Blood is concerned. It actually won't be straying too far from the Pendragon system on which it's based, but there are some important tweaks. First, some foundational information:

In Pendragon, a knight begins with a random amount of Glory...Glory which is inherited from his father (I'm using the masculine pronoun because default Pendragon requires all PCs to be male). This  random Glory is 6D6+150 plus additional Glory based on the events that befell your father and grandfather in the forty years prior to commencement of the campaign.

Inherited Glory is 10% of the father's total amount. Your grandfather begins with 2500 (a not quite "notable knight," which would require 3000), and with fortunate dice rolls can end his career (and life) with a little more than 4000 points of Glory. Your father can thus begin with a maximum of 400 Glory (10% of grandpa) and with good dice rolls, can ring that up to a bit more than 5800. Even if you roll poorly for both your grandfather and father, the worst possibly result could be your father dying with 1570 in accumulated glory (this assumes he only received 250 from a grandfather who died ignominiously after accomplishing nothing more than his starting 2500).

1570 to 5800. This means your character starts with from 307 to 730 plus the result of a 6D6 dice roll (the random events only pertains to exemplary events, the 150+6D6 is supposed to cover the 10% of other "father accumulated Glory;" for example, getting married, holding a castle, exceptional traits/passions, random acts of heroism, etc.) for a maximum possible range of 322 to 766. Working backwards, we can see your character's father was either a "notable knight" (in the 3000+ range) or a "famous knight" (in the 6000+ range). Your character claims only a fraction of that amount, but hopefully he'll ring up a few thousand more in the course of his career/life. I say "hopefully" because 90% of the family Glory dies with the patriarch.

[this is important...we'll come back to it]

Family Glory. It IS family Glory, because in Pendragon you only track the accumulation of Glory for the active PCs, even though "any character, whether peasant of king, may gain Glory" (page 56 of the 3rd edition). Certainly all characters have and receive Glory...when a PC knight takes a wife, he receives Glory equal to that of his new spouse (and she receives Glory equal to his) up to a maximum of 1000 points (no single Glory award may exceed 1000 points)...but thereafter, there's little need to track the wife's Glory. She's not the one going on adventures and accumulating more Glory points.

The player character knight, as head of his household holds the bulk of his family's Glory; for all intents and purposes, his Glory IS the family Glory. But then, Pendragon is a game about personal Glory, and the accumulation of that Glory through individual knightly adventure. Indeed, the reward mechanic encourages players to showboat and accumulate Glory individually as A) there is a maximum amount of Glory to be received from any event/encounter, and B) Glory is divided amongst all participants. Since Glory is not just a measure of the PCs' success, but the method by which one achieves extraordinary abilities (each 1000 Glory accumulated gives a PC a +1 bonus to stats, skills, or traits that can exceed normal human maximums), it behooves PCs to find their Glory in ways that exclude other participants (i.e. the other PCs). There can only be one knight that wins the tournament, you know?

But while that's Pendragon's bag, it doesn't really equate with A Song of Ice and Fire's setting, as I wrote previously. Eddard Stark may be worried about his personal honor (well...until it interferes with his love for his family), but not his personal Glory. Otherwise, he'd be jumping at the chance to become Hand of the King, marry his children to the King's heirs, and fight in whatever tournaments become available. Honor is personal...but Glory takes a backseat to duty, a common theme of Martin's books.

Being dutiful is more important than Glory; one might argue that it's the failure to do one's duty (because of its inconvenience to a person's life) that leads to all the pain and suffering in the saga. Robert Baratheon allows his passions to get in the way of doing his duty to his wife and kingdom...it results in the shaky status of the realm, the lack of a legitimate heir to the throne, and (ultimately) his early demise. Cersei's lack of duty to her king (because of her hatred for him and lust for her brother), leads to civil war which creates the suffering of her children (whom she loves), up to and including their untimely deaths. Eddard Stark fails to do his duty to his king (being "merciful" by giving Cersei a chance to flee with her illegitimate children) which leads to his betrayal and ultimate death. Robb's failure to honor his commitment to his promised bride-to-be provides the opening for his betrayal and death. Theon allows his ambitions to get the best of him, and it ends up costing him limb and liberty...well, you get the point. I think it's fair to say there's a theme here of "karma's a bitch" and one's karma being ultimately reaped from how well folks fulfill their dharma (i.e. their duties/responsibilities). It's a very non-Western way of looking at life and very "new and unusual" for those of us more familiar with the Western/American/Hollywood form of heroism. You know what I'm talking about: it's the guy who pushes the boundaries of what's acceptable (or who goes "outside the box") that ends up being rewarded by winning the day, or the girl, or whatever. It's the police procedural according to Die Hard.

This "romanticism of the individual" (i.e. the dude who goes out and grabs personal Glory for himself) doesn't fly in Martin's world. Really. Look at Tywin Lannister...he talks a good game about doing one's duty, but ultimately he's brought down by his own selfishness, too. Tywin's not so much interested in doing his duty as he is in having duty looking the way he wants it to...he has a son (Tyrion) that could carry on the family line, but his hatred for this son (because he is a dwarf, because he's a lecherous an lush, because his birth resulted in the death of his beloved wife) causes him to engineer all manner of machinations, hoping to bring his "true son" (Jaime) back to become his heir...this includes even perverting justice (rigging a court system to frame his son for murder, rather than finding the true regicide). In the end, he fails in his duty as a father, as a vassal (to the throne), and as a liege (to his own people). And he suffers an ignominious and untimely death because of it.

"I am a terrible person and must die."
Now there's a very good reason why things hit the shitter so often in Martin's books, and it has less to do with "because it makes for good drama." The fact is that...just as in real life...it's hard to do one's duty all the time. Humans do have passions (hates, fears, loves, consciences, compassions) and a sorry lack of enlightened perspective that tends to get in the way of doing what we're supposed to do. And all that stuff gets amped up and exaggerated when you're talking about the warrior class of a feudal system...people who have been taught from birth to be active and direct...to fight...not to sit back and let shit happen. These are folks that are supposed to lead...at court and on the battlefield...and so when they are slighted or their passions are touched off, they are unlikely to respond with apathy. "Oh, well, that's just how life goes," is NOT the response of people whose God-given birthright is sticking people with swords and spears (and that applies to the non-fighting women-folk who are raised to marry these barbarians). Duty (dharma) gets stepped on and/or forgotten when humans give in to their ego...and people with big egos mess that up more than others.

[to be continued...because this is getting REAL long]


  1. Hope your family is feeling better. As much as I'm looking forward to hearing more about your space opera book, I like what I see so far with Crowns of Blood as well!

  2. @ Chris:

    Thanks! Everyone seems to be feeling better (and the doctor yesterday confirmed this).
    : )