How to be Honourable and Maybe Dead

“There are nine and sixty ways….”1
But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: —
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!”

In the Neolithic Age, Rudyard Kipling

https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poem/poems_neolithic.htm

– In which the original BWT’s game GM puts forth his thoughts on Honour in Runequest


Honour2not Honor. I will die on this hill if necessary! is a common passion in Runequest, but what it means is less clear. It occurs to me that there are different forms of honour, which may all appear. It seems they can be categorised as external or internal, with external sources of honour anchoring the individual in society, whilst internal honour acts to separate the individual from their society. I will use examples from my campaign, but you will probably be able to find your own:

Varaena is a Vingan Windlord. She has a high Honour, which comprises ‘Face’- how she is viewed by her society, and how that society judges her as standing up to the expectations upon her role. She must be generous, rewarding her tenants, swift to quarrel in defence of her good name, loyal to her liegelady, and a protector of the weak. If her liegelady ordered her to do something dishonourable, she might do it, sacrificing her own honour (itself paradoxically an honourable act) to protect her liegelady, or she might refuse (hurting her honour). Traps of conflicting honour are almost as much of a trap for her as Geasa were for Cuchulain in the Ulster Cycle. Her honour is external, integrating her within her society, which will look to her to judge themselves, just as much as they judge her against them.

Eril is a High Sword of Humakt. He has a high Honour, which consists of how he perceives himself, and how he feels his god views him. He must be proud, reserved and just. He must hold his sword back, until he must use it. Anyone he strikes down must really deserve it. His judgements must be scrupulously fair, regardless of who it offends. He serves his liegelady loyally but will interpret her orders through the prism of his own honour. If ordered to do something dishonourable, he will work out the intent of the order, and go away and achieve that aim, in some fashion he feels will not impugn his personal honour. A samurai might recognise him as a sibling in Bushido. His honour is internal, but runs in line generally with society. He will stand a little aloof, but society will pay attention to him.

Kesten is an Initiate of Humakt, with a high Truth Rune. He has a high Honour, which consists of acting in accord to what he perceives is Humakt’s Truth. He must be reserved and also be just to the point of suicidal bravery. He must ferret out the truth regardless of what effect it has on him in the murderous politics of Nochet noble houses. To steal the phrase of Raymond Chandler, whose gumshoes might know him as one of their own, “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.” His honour is internal, and runs counter to the threads of society. This will probably get him killed, and he knows it.

Berra is an Initiate of Humakt. She has a high Honour, which consists of not compromising her own view of Humakt. She must interrupt anyone if she feels they are not correct, she must be loyal, but a little aloof and separated. She will act fast, and then live with the consequences of her actions. It might also be recognised by a samurai, but one feels perhaps by a rather hotter headed one. Her honour is internal, and runs counter to the threads of society. This will make enemies.

Onjur is a Scimitar of Yanafal Tarnils. He has a high Honour. For him, the Emperor is the font of all Honour. Therefore any act which the Emperor has commanded for the good of the Empire, is by definition highly honourable, even if it is something which elsewhere would be viewed as horrific. He will be patient, thoughtful, calculating, and vengeful. Karla, John le Carre’s villain of the Smiley books would know him, and recognise his ways. His honour is external, and integrates him within his society. It will probably also make both friends and enemies.

What is the point of this? Well, there really isn’t one, other to remark that not every perception of Honour in Runequest is going to be the same. Have a think about what Honour means to your character. Hopefully it will enrich the inner life of your character.

  • 1

    But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came,
    And he told me in a vision of the night: —
    “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
    And every single one of them is right!”

    In the Neolithic Age, Rudyard Kipling

    https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poem/poems_neolithic.htm

  • 2
    not Honor. I will die on this hill if necessary!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.