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Aesthetics, Kao, and Piety

The following Extension in designed for a feudal Japan setting and introduces a new primary attribute (KAO) and a new derived attribute (Honor). The new attribute KAO (pronounced "cow," like the bovine) can be added by itself or as part of a new attribute group (e.g., the Spiritual Group, consisting of Kao or "face" (KAO), Piety (PIE) and Aesthetics (AES). Piety and Aesthetics are explained in another Extension.


Aesthetics (abbreviated AES) represents the character's sense of style, appreciation of beauty, and sense of harmony with nature. AES may be used in place of TECH when designing or creating works of art; not from the technical standpoint of making an object, but from the artistic standpoint of creating a work that reflects natural beauty.


Piety (abbreviated PIE) or shinkô is a measure of the character's religious conviction. Whereas everyone in Japan believes in the existence of the kami and Buddhas, PIE measures the strength of the character's belief. PIE is used to call upon the spirits to intervene on behalf of a mortal and to allow a character to take advantage of divine magic (such as heavenly-created magic items and some spells). PIE also plays a role in the mystical abilities of Shintô and Buddhist priests. A character's PIE score reflects how strong his beliefs are for his chosen religion.


All people in Japan wear a face; not the literal meaning of a person's features, but rather the "face" of honor that is seen by others. Japan is a shame-based culture, in that loss of face, not guilt, is the primary factor that influences behavior in Japanese society.

A person with much honor has "great face" in the eyes of his peers, whereas a character who is shamed in some way is said to "lose face." The shamed character "has no face." Shame is gained (and honor lost) by characters who fail to live up to their various obligations and duties.

KAO represents the character's personal honor or face, as seen by others, and may be used in place of PRE for skill rolls made by the character in social situations, at the GM's discretion.

Honor (Derived Attribute)

In a feudal Japanese setting, characters maintain Honor points. A character may have a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 100 Honor points. For every 10 full points of Honor a character has, he gains 1 point of KAO; thus, characters start play with a KAO score equal to 10x their Honor. If a character's Honor points drop below a 10-point threshold the character instantly loses 1 KAO.

For example, a character with 20 Honor has a KAO score of 2. A character with 29 Honor points also has a Kao score of 2. A character with 30 Honor points, however, has a Kao of 3.

Honor may be increased at a cost of 1 CP for each 1 point increase over the base score.

Losing Honor

All Honor loss penalties are expressed as -mX. "X" represents the character's KAO (K), Membership Rank (MR), Skill Level (SL) or a combination (e.g. -2K/ML). Whenever a combination is listed, the penalty is based on the larger of the two numbers.

The base number is then modified by a "severity multiplier" (the "n" in the formula). The larger the multiplier, the more grievous the offense and more significant the loss of Honor. The multiplier will range from 1 (minor embarrassing error) to 5 (major offense). The more important the event or task, and the more witnesses there are, the higher the multiplier will be for failure. A table is provided below for guidelines in assigning Honor loss to the characters.

When Honor is Lost

The gain and loss of Honor points can only come from actions that are publicly known; those that are observed by or known to two or more people other than the character committing the act. Acts known only to the character himself do not qualify, per sé. While the secret commission of a wrongful act may gnaw at the character's soul and torment him, it will not be something that will cause him to lose face (i.e., lose Honor points).

For example: if a character becomes drunk and assaults a young woman, he risks losing Honor if she tells anyone else (like reporting it to her family or the authorities). If she doesn't tell anyone (for fear of losing Honor herself ) or if he kills the girl, then he will not lose any Honor points until such time as someone else becomes aware of the act. The act becomes a secret that the character will likely guard very closely. Note that if he kills her to keep his shameful act a secret, while he will not lose Honor (because no one besides him is aware of is deed), it may well affect his Karma.

Note that even if one is publicly accused of a bad act they did not commit, the accused character will lose Honor unless steps are immediately taken to avenge or correct the insult or otherwise change the public perception of him (inaction is typically associated with guilt).

A KAO score of 0 is possible, and most embarrassing. KAO may not drop below 0, however. A person without Honor and Kao is the lowest kind of person. Measuring below 0 is therefore pointless.

Sample Honor Loss

Situation involves: Lost Honor equals
Use of a skill SL of the skill involved
Intentional insult MR of subject insulted
Unintentional insult K of offender
Failure to meet obligation K/MR (whichever is higher)
Failure to respond to an insult K/MR (whichever is higher)
Situation involves: Multiplier
Incident w/one or no witnesses N/A
Minor embarrassment; one witness x1
Minor social gaffe; few witnesses x2
Serious breach of etiquette; dozens of witnesses x3
Severe breach of protocol; hundreds of witnesses x4
Extreme insult; witnesses very influential x5

Example of Honor/Kao Loss

Jirô has 32 Honor points (for a Kao of 3) and a Membership Level of 2 in his samurai clan. Matashirô has a Membership Level of 1 in his clan, and 14 Honor points (his Kao equals 1). Jirô challenges Matashirô to a duel. They agree to meet at the gate of the Kitobara-ji at noon on the next day.

That next day, Matashirô does not show up at the shrine at the appointed place and time. Initially, Jirô is the only other person aware of Matashirô's deed, so Matashirô loses no Honor. But Jirô posts a sign in the town for all to see: "Matashirô avoided an honorable challenge and is a coward!" Now that Matashirô's actions are known by two or more people (in this case a whole town!), he immediately suffers -5K/ML Honor points, or the larger of 5x his Kao (5) or 5x his ML (also 5). Losing 5 Honor brings his total Honor to 9, which reduces his Kao to 0! The only way for Matashirô to regain face (i.e., to regain his lost Honor points and raise his Kao) now is to have the duel with Jirô. If he doesn't, the Honor loss stays.