Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Social Subsystems

 Continuing material from Chapter 3: Basic Mechanics.

Making Friends & Enemies

Rolls, no matter their TN types, can be classed as different kinds of rolls depending on their effects (physical rolls, mental rolls, combat rolls, prayer rolls, etc.). What kind of roll it might be in addition to its TN type is highly contextual and fairly common sense: trying to climb a wall is a physical roll, firing an arrow at a foe is both a physical and combat roll, etc.

Sidebar: That Good ol' Golden Rule

Throughout the book you're bound to find rules you don't like or think you can make better. Fix'em. Chuck'em. I won't tell on you.

The “Social” subsystems presented here are the most likely targets; they'll probably be ignored by a lot of players; you may choose to just let alliances, blackmail, romance, etc. be purely roleplaying choices. On the whole, choosing to do so isn't disruptive to the rest of the game; it is a largely compartmentalized portion. However, remember that the Disciplines of the Teishein Dharma are typically designed to take advantage of the social rolls and metagame aspects, including the Ada-uchi and other Season Actions. Just make sure you aren't taking anything away from players who want to excel in those areas.

A social roll, however, might need a bit more clarification. Sometimes you want to influence your interaction with another by taking a risk; what you want and what they want are in conflict. Of course, this is the essence of any roll with a passive or active TN. You want to hide and they want to find you, or you want to cut them with your sword and they would rather you miss. A social roll, however, involves a risk where the conflict is couched in words and behavior not overtly violent. Thus, attempts to manipulate, persuade, negotiate, intimidate, seduce, interrogate, etc. someone against their wishes is a social roll. Attempting to influence someone with a performance (outside of combat, of course) would also be a social roll. Of course, the degree of their resistance may differ between having a passive or active TN. Questioning local residents about local murders might be a social roll with a passive TN, but if they are themselves the murderers, it would be a social roll with an active TN.

The samurai of Hachigoku follow strict, hierarchic social customs, thus the importance in distinguishing between a social roll and any other kind. When you try to influence another, it's not merely a crass case of force of personality, but a back and forth game of forcing the other into a corner where their face, honor, and reputation are at stake. The upside of these regulated interactions, and their translations into game mechanics, are a variety of advantages making special use of Skills and abilities typical of social rolls. Power and social skill allow you to engage in Alliances, Romances, Blackmail, gain a Nemesis, or commit to an Ada-uchi over the course of Seasons. Those that create relationships are mutually exclusive, even if they are not contradictory; you cannot have someone both as lover (Romance) and Nemesis, nor as both lover and ally (Alliance). Each of these rules options follows a Challenge-Focus-Strike format similar to a suggested Story outline; Judgment replaces Challenge in this scheme. Most also include a special type of Fortune; more rules on Fortunes can be found in Chapter 4.

In the ritualistic society of Hachigoku court life is a battlefield, and a samurai slow of wit or unable to control their emotions walks into a social fight dangerously unarmed.

Sidebar: Social Fortunes

The benefits of Alliances, Romances, Blackmail, and having a Nemesis are governed by special Social Fortunes. The general Fortunes and their particular rules are described in Chapter 4: Character, but these Fortunes each have additional elements. Each has a Boon and Curse as normal, but they are neither Minor nor Major. Instead they have Ranks like Elements and Skills. What governs the Ranks and how they change over the Seasons is particular to each Social Fortune.

Sidebar: Social Rolls & Duels

Since social rolls often pit you against individuals and are considered “courtly combat,” are they considered duels? Strictly speaking, no. A duel requires a certain degree of formal ceremony and ritual most social conflict doesn't require.

Well, what about the more complex social rules: Alliance, Blackmail, Nemesis, and Vendetta? No, since their outcomes are not momentary victories but attempts at lasting (sometimes negative) relationships. Even though they are constructed similarly to duels, they are not duels; they can instead be considered negotiations, tests, etc.

Romance is an exception; it is considered a duel, and rolls made involving the Romance are both social and dueling rolls.


The factions of Hachigoku, be they uji, otokodate, secret societies, or any other group, realize that simply offering and demanding fealty from others is no sure road to power. Forming alliances is the vital function of diplomats sent as embassies of peace and prosperity, although they might also sometimes be sent to break alliances or begin wars. Individual samurai are no less aware of the value in personal alliances beyond personal oaths and obligations. While two factions might enter into an alliance by treaty or secret agreement, these rules specifically cover relationships between individuals.

In an Alliance between two individual samurai, you and your ally are connected, signified by the special Alliance Fortune. This ally has some measure of influence and wealth, such as a samurai with land or a significant political position, or even a wealthy merchant. They would be willing to risk their honor to aid you, but only in secret. It is expected for you to do the same. Yet you are only in an Alliance, a shrewd compact for both your benefit, and neither would go so far as to publicly put themselves in danger. More would require a true friend, and there's no simple mechanic for that.

An Alliance, although it functions as a Fortune, is earned; you cannot purchase an Alliance Fortune at character creation or as a Season Action. A diplomat may be order to befriend another faction's samurai by their daimyo, but you can't just stomp off and make it happen. Through persistence, luck, and mayhaps a bit of courtly intrigue, you patiently wait until an opportunity presents itself. Then you perform an exceptionable favor for the other samurai.

After you perform an exceptionable favor worthy of Honor for a member of another faction, you may attempt to turn the recipient of your help into a reliable ally. This potential ally cannot be a family member or Wa comrade, but must be a Namae character; a Kaonashi simply doesn't have the narrative clout. First, you forego the Honor Point award; if you could not have actually gained any Honor Points for some other reason, you cannot initiate the Alliance. Once you initiate the attempt, the two of you have entered a negotiation.

Judgment: First you must assess the other's Glory. If you do not already know their Glory, you ask around indirectly; it would be impolite to ask your intended ally to trumpet their own successes. This is a judgment roll using your Influence/Wind (TN 5 x their Glory); the higher the Glory of the potential ally, the more false rumors and embellishment accumulate in their name, and the more difficult it is to both know their true worth and leverage your personal knowledge. If you fail you wave off the attempt, intimidated by their fame. You cannot try again until either you raise your Glory or the Skill used.

Focus: Once you have assessed their Glory, the two of you begin gauging the potential of your Alliance. First, you may choose to impose a difficulty modifier of 1 step on the following strike roll; if you do not, you pass. Whether you do or do not impose the modifier, the potential ally now has the same option; each imposed modifier penalty is cumulative. If each of you pass consecutively, it is time for the Strike. You can only impose a number of modifiers up to your Glory.

Strike: Once you both of you pass, you each make a strike roll. The active TN is your Influence/Wind roll against the other's Etiquette/Glory, and both rolls have the accumulated difficulty modifiers applied. If it is unsuccessful, you have not only failed to earn their favor, but overstayed your welcome for the Season. For the rest of the Season any social rolls you make against the disgruntled object of your courtesy have Hard difficulty. If it successful, you have gained an Alliance, represented by an Alliance Fortune specific to the new ally.

Alliance: Name of Ally (Granted) (Potential Rank: Difficulty Modifiers; Starting Actual Rank: Lowest Glory)

Every Alliance begins as a matter of convenience, a transactional affair. Through requests and favors performed each of you gather more influence with the other. The cycle of exchanging requests is integral to the life of the Alliance, and the Alliance's strength is measured as a Fortune with Ranks (just like Elements or Skills); both allies gain a single Alliance Fortune, shared between them. The Alliance Fortune has a pair of Ranks: Actual and Potential. The Potential is the maximum strength of the Fortune, equal to the total number of difficulty modifiers made during the Focus. The Actual strength begins equal to the lowest Glory Rank between the two allies. As each Season passes, the Actual increases by 1 Rank, as long as requests have been fulfilled. If a request is denied or otherwise stymied, the Actual decreases by 1 Rank. While requests may be assumed to take place during a Story, an ally can spend a Season Action to determine the send a simple, legal request and assume it reasonably performed sometime during the Season, outside the Story. If a request is then fulfilled during a Story after spending a Season Action, this merely means more interaction occurred, but the Actual does not increase by 2 Ranks, just the normal 1 Rank. Once the Alliance reaches its Potential maximum, it can no longer be increased.

  •  Boon: Whenever the ally makes a roll directly for or against their ally (such as defending or attacking them), they can spend an Honor Point to gain a +Xk0 bonus to the roll, where X is the Actual Rank of the Alliance. This also applies to any roll directly involved in fulfilling a request from their ally. Also, you gain the Boon of the Small Favors Fortune when in your ally's homeland, and you do not gain the Curse. These benefits end if the Alliance is broken.
  • Curse: An Alliance can end before its time. Every time a request goes unfulfilled for a Season, the Alliance loses a Rank at the end of the Season. If the Alliance reaches 0, the utility of the Alliance regretfully fades into obscurity, and the Fortune vanishes. The bonds of the mortal realm arise like a wave, then wash away like foam. You can also end an Alliance more formally, with commensurate risk. Perhaps your daimyo no longer approves of your relationship, or it's just not politically feasible to remain close. Or your enemies are closing in, and distance is the only shield you can offer your old compatriot. Doing so requires an Etiquette/Wind roll (TN 5 x the Potential Rank). If you are successful, you politely go your own ways with some warm words. If you fail, though, you offend the ally and inadvertently declare a Vendetta. For all their simple utilitarian benefits, an Alliance quickly reveals itself as a thin veneer of civility, steel wrapped in silk. Be careful not to grasp the wrong end.


Love among samurai can be a perilous affair. Yet it occurs with disturbing frequency, as it exemplifies the virtues of Courtesy, Compassion, and even Courage. Samurai worth their honor cannot allow themselves to fear such a glorious passion as love, of course. Any more than they can resist any other kind of opportunity for honor or glory, any other kind of duel. Thus, Romance becomes a competition where every lover is a fierce duelist.

Even if Romance invariably leads to Doom.

One Romance: You can only have one Romance active at a time, unless some ability says otherwise. And that's Romance, not marriage nor affair. Do not assume that in Hachigoku marriage, concubinage, or Romance are at all the same thing. You can certainly have a Romance with your spouse, but that's not necessarily so by any means. A Romance must be a Namae character, and you may not have any Alliance or Blackmail between you.

Judgment: Attraction and flirtation begins the Romance, a subtle test of wits meant to assess both the interest and worth of both parties. In Hachigoku, brazen public displays of emotion are considered reckless... but for some that might be expected. By engaging in some flirtatious banter, or even attempting an impressive use of a Jutsugaku or Bugei Skill, one lover makes an advance. The other chooses whether to express interest and make their own advance. If they don't, that's the end of the Romance. It never gets off the ground.

Focus: Now that both lovers are interested, the two of you begin gauging the potential of your Romance. First, you may choose to impose a difficulty modifier of 1 step on the following strike roll; if you do not, you pass. Whether you do or do not impose the modifier, the potential lover now has the same option; each imposed modifier penalty is cumulative. If each of you pass consecutively, it is time for the Strike. Each of you can only impose a number of modifiers up to their own Fire.

Each imposition of a modifier step represents an escalating courtship, a back and forth game of teasing, endearments, poetry, compliments, small gifts. Feel free to get creative. This need not happen in a moment, but can actually extend the length of a Story, but no longer.

Strike: When both potential lovers have passed, you make a Sincerity/Fire roll with an active TN of the other lover's Sincerity/Fire, with cumulative difficulty modifiers applied to both rolls; the roll also has a passive TN of 5 x the lowest Virtue between the two potential lovers. It's important to note that the Seduction Aspect has no role here; such a seduction is a transactional affair, and has no place in starting a true Romance. If you are successful, the Romance begins, the Potential Rank equals the higher of the lovers' Fire, and you have the Favor. If you fail, the Romance still begins, but its Potential is the lower of the lovers' fire, and the other lover holds the Favor. The Potential also has the number of difficulty modifiers added to its Rank.

However, if both fail the roll (they don't meet the passive TN), the Romance never begins. The interest may exist, but the chemistry is all wrong. Neither party may again attempt to initiate a Romance with the other until the Dharma Ranks of both parties change.

The Favor: The Romance becomes almost a skirmish between lovers, as each proves their love and garners a reward in turn. The lover holding Favor issues a challenge, tasks that begin as small things and progress: compliments, honorable favors (lessons, permissions, gifts, etc.), dangerous favors (dueling challenges, quests, etc.). The most passionate lovers may even request dishonorable favors. Assassinations. Poison. Betrayal.

All for love.

Each time a lover completes a challenge, they gain the Favor in the form a reward. Like the challenges, the reward progresses from small things to more grand or intimate gestures: a smile, a compliment, a gift, a touch on the sleeve, a touch, a caress, a kiss on the nape, more...

Romance: Name of Lover (Granted) (Potential Rank: Lower or Higher of Lovers' Fire; Actual Rank: 1 + Difficulty Modifiers)

The Romance sparks, flames, peaks, then fades into ashes over time, and the cycle of exchanging the Favor is integral to the life of the Romance. Both lovers gain a single Romance Fortune, shared between them. The Potential Rank is the maximum strength of the Fortune, equal to the lower or higher of the lovers' Fire based on the outcome of the strike roll. The Actual strength begins at 1, plus the cumulative number of difficulty modifiers applied to the strike roll. As each Season passes, the Actual increases by 1 Rank, as long as Favor has been exchanged. If Favor has not been exchanged at least once during the Season, the Actual decreases by 1 Rank. While it is assumed Favor should be exchanged during a Story, a lover can spend a Season Action to determine the exchange occurs sometime during the Season, outside the Story. If the Favor is still exchanged during a Story after spending a Season Action, this merely means that an additional exchange happened, but the Actual does not increase by 2 Ranks, just the normal 1 Rank.

Once the Romance reaches its Potential maximum, its Actual begins to fade at the rate of 1 Rank per Season, despite the ongoing exchange of Favors. If Favor fails to be exchanged, the Romance loses 2 Ranks that Season. Once a Romance reaches 0 Actual Ranks, it is finished and done. The ashes of Romance hold no power.

  • Boon: Whenever the lover makes a roll directly involved in answering a challenge issued by their love, or a roll directly for or against their lover (such as defending or attacking them), they can spend an Honor Point to gain a +Xk0 bonus to the roll, where X is the Actual Rank of the Romance.Also, whenever their love is in sight and about to suffer Wounds, the lover can spend an Honor Point to push their way through the Scene to come to the defense. They take the Wounds on themselves, in full. Nothing stands in the lover's way. Not samurai. Not monsters, nor Fortunes. Nothing. Not even honor. 
  • Curse: A Romance can end before it's time. There are two honorable ways to end a Romance: a lover can complete a challenge and ask for no Favor, signaling the Romance's end, or a lover can gain the Favor and then decline to issue a new challenge, signaling they lost interest in the Romance. At the end of the Season, the Romance Fortune vanishes.There are, of course, other ways to end the Romance. Dangerous ways. Dishonorable ways. A lover could fail to complete a challenge, and earn a lover's scorn instead of forgiveness, or a lover could refuse Favor after a challenge's completion. Either of these could because of a whim or as revenge against some wrong. Or, a lover could invoke their love's Doom. At any time during the Romance, the lover can shout “Doom!” whenever their love makes a roll. Whatever the result, it fails. Utterly. Spectacularly. If it's an opposed roll, the other highest roller gains the effect of Raises equal to the Romance's Potential Rank. The Romance is over.

If a Romance ends with in a dishonorable way, the Romance Fortune becomes the Heartbroken Fortune for the lover wronged. All social rolls for the dishonorable lover have a Moderate difficulty for the rest of the Season as rumors of infidelity and savagery drown out their every word, and their Glory becomes Infamy at the end of the Season.

Heartbroken: Name of Former Lover (Granted) (Ranks equal to original Romance's Potential)

Heartbroken has Ranks equal to the original Romance's Potential. Every Season it loses a Rank as the heart's wound slowly heals, vanishing when it reaches 0 Ranks.

  • Boon: The heartbroken may spend an Honor Point to gain a +Xk0 bonus when making a roll directly against the lover (as in, not towards the lover's benefit), where X is equal to the Fortune's Rank. The lover can also opt to spend a Season Action and replace the Fortune with the Lost Love Fortune permanently as they work through the pain and lessen the loss into a long, stable ache.
  • Curse: While active, whenever the lover's heartbreak is present or mentioned by name the lover suffers a -Xk0 to all rolls for attempting actions. This lasts for the rest of the Scene, but can be negated for the entire Scene by spending an Honor Point.

The Glory of Romance: Does Romance gain the lovers Glory and Honor? Not directly. Engaging in Romance does grant Honor Points as usual for a duel in terms of challenges and victory, but not in terms of Favor. However, the activities that result from chasing and giving Favor often do produce Glory and Honor. Or more often cost Glory and Honor as duty to the Romance and duty to one's superior conflict. Because of the potential danger of Romance interfering with a samurai's duty, public revelation of the Romance loses each lover Honor Points equal to the Romance's Actual Rank. Yet, the temptation to announce one's passion is strong, and living in denial would be discourteous and cruel to the Romance. Thus, samurai often attempt to reveal their love through obscure comments or poems that are performed publicly to announce their involvement in a Romance, but veil the name of their lover. Doing so successfully is an Act of Virtue.

Liaison: Romance for samurai, it should be stressed, is not usually marriage. It is not usually sanctified, but merely tolerated. Up to a point. By the definition, adultery is engaging in activity that could produce an illegitimate heir. Until such "mistakes" are made, most samurai consider the whole affair fairly harmless, as long as all parties are discreet and do not endanger their duty.


Lines are forever being crossed, though, and when it happens, a Romance becomes a Liaison. The Romance becomes a danger to a marriage. And thus a danger to your daimyo as marriage contracts stand in breach, or perhaps vows of celibacy violated. Most samurai understand this and end a Romance before it goes too far.


Others will risk anything to keep the passion alive. The Romance Fortune is replaced with the Liaison Fortune, if the Romance has reached its Potential already. There is only so much satisfaction to be gained from flirtation. The Liaison functions as a Romance for all intents and purposes—including ending it—except its Rank no longer decreases regardless of Favor or Seasons. As long as both lovers spend a Season Action and acquire a separate Shelter for their trysts, the Liaison continues to exist at its maximum potential. If this condition isn't met, the Liaison once again fades into being a Romance.

Just so we're clear: Sex. The two lovers are having sex. If this bothers your samurai, don't get involved in a Romance. Good luck with that.

Of course, being discovered in a Liaison is dangerous. So dangerous, it's definitely considered an Act of Vice if discovered. So dangerous, it could mean a duel of honor. A duel to the death. From the lover's spouse. From their family. From their daimyo.

Think of the children.

Not all Alliances are by mutual agreement. You might uncover information or evidence to hold over the head of your “ally”—or you might fabricate it. Blackmail. It's similar to engaging an Alliance, but far more dangerous, and less public; a person blackmailed is more willing to do more terrible, dishonorable things than a normal ally would.

Judgment: To begin, you either must have testimony or evidence implicating the person in an illegal act, or you must be willing to trick the other into thinking you do. This requires an Investigation/Void roll or a Sincerity/Wind roll with a passive TN of 5 x the target's Virtue.

Focus: Once you have implicating material in your control (or they think you do), you can impose a difficulty modifier of 1 step on the following strike roll. If you choose not to, you pass. Then the potential victim can impose a modifier or pass. Each of you can only impose modifiers up to their own Virtue. Once both consecutively pass, the strike roll takes place.

Strike: Once both pass, make the strike roll. You roll Sincerity/Wind with an active TN of the potential victim's Etiquette/Virtue. If you succeed, you both gain the Blackmail Fortune, you as the Blackmailer and the other as the Victim. If you fail, all future social rolls with your target have a permanent Hard difficulty.

There may also be worse consequences, depending on the power and status of your target. Step wisely, especially if you actually do hold damning proof of their dishonor.

Blackmail: Name of Blackmailer/Victim (Granted) (Virtue of Victim + Difficulty Modifiers)

Unlike an Alliance, Blackmail is decidedly, disastrously one-sided. You gain all the benefits. The victim takes (almost) all the risks. There is no cycle: you make a request, it is fulfilled or you unleash your vengeance. The Blackmail's strength is measured as a Fortune with Ranks; both of you gain a single Blackmail Fortune, shared between you. The Rank of the Fortune equals the Virtue of the Victim, plus the number of modifiers imposed during the Focus. If a request is denied or otherwise stymied, you immediately begin an Ada-uchi against the victim, ignoring all normal restrictions against engaging in one until the end of the next Season. While requests may be assumed to take place during a Story, you can spend a Season Action to send a simple, legal request and assume it reasonably performed sometime during the Season, outside the Story. More dangerous requests require a meeting. If a request is then fulfilled during a Story after spending a Season Action, this merely means more interaction occurred.

The Blackmail Fortune grants both of you (but mostly you) certain benefits.

  • Boon: Whenever the Victim makes a roll directly involved in fulfilling a request from you, they can spend an Honor Point to gain a +Xk0 bonus to the roll, where X is the Blackmail Rank. Joining in a Battle or Vendetta is often “requested.” Whenever the Blackmailer makes a roll directly for or against the Victim (such as defending or attacking them), they can spend an Honor Point to gain a +Xk0 bonus to the roll, where X is the Blackmail Rank. The Blackmailer also gains the Boon of the Small Favors Fortune when in their Victim's homeland, and does not gain the Curse.

  • Curse: Blackmail rarely lasts forever. Every time a request goes unfulfilled for a Season, the Blackmail loses a Rank at the end of the Season, assuming you choose not to publicly reveal the illicit information. If you tricked the victim into Blackmail, that's rather difficult. If the Blackmail reaches 0, the victim's fear of dishonor erodes into a grudging reluctance to have anything to do with you, and the Blackmail ends. You can also end a Blackmail arrangement more explosively, with commensurate risk. Perhaps your daimyo has discovered your predatory arrangement and disapproves (or no longer approves), or it's just not politically feasible to remain in contact. Or your enemies are closing in, and it's time to do as much damage as possible before you bow out. You reveal the information publicly, and must make an Etiquette/Wind or Sincerity/Wind roll, TN 5 x the victim's Glory. If you succeed, you reveal the information without revealing your own extortion. If you fail, the entire affair becomes public and your Glory becomes Infamy. You can voluntarily choose to fail. Blackmail rarely ends quietly. Swords are drawn, fans snap shut, and blood oaths are sworn. Duels. Battles. Ada-uchi. Have fun.


Allies, lovers, and even victims all have their pleasures and pains. But the ambitious samurai knows a simple truth: no other pushes you to your limits, heightens your abilities, or treats you with true sincerity more than a praiseworthy rival. A Nemesis. An ally may hold your sword or a lover sheathe it, but only an enemy sharpens.

A foe worthy of your true ire must have bested you and cost you significantly, whether they conquered you in a duel, battle, or social conflict where you lost Glory, Virtue, or Honor. They may also have cost you someone close to you, like kindred, comrades, or a lover, through death. They need not have done the killing themselves. They must also be a Namae character.

A Nemesis is not necessarily a dire enemy; they might only be a worthy rival. There's a certain respect between the two of you that may even grow into a friendship, although as long as you remain each other's Nemesis it's a decidedly antagonistic relationship.

One Nemesis: You can only have one Nemesis at a time, unless some ability says otherwise. You can have as many enemies, rivals, and nuisances as you want, but only a single Nemesis. This person consumes your thoughts when they're around, or even just mentioned, sets your teeth on edge, and acts as the overriding measuring stick of your own achievement. While the Nemesis may be someone close to you, even a superior, this may well make your life a living hell. Attempting to turn any relationship (Alliance, Romance, Blackmail) into a Nemesis immediately destroys the former relationship in the worst way possible, even if you do not succeed.

Turning any Wa comrade into a Nemesis destroys the entire Wa. You've been warned.

Judgment: Unlike some other social relationships, you don't need to spend time trying to uncover the Glory or Virtue of your Nemesis. Instead, assuming the foe is worthy (they've done you grievous harm, as described earlier), you need to confront them and trumpet your own honor, making a challenge to their honor. If you are able to do so in person, you need make no roll. They may accept or decline your challenge at your whim; if they have a Nemesis of their own already, of course, they must decline, unless they want to immediately abandon a previous Nemesis. You may make as many enemies you want, but an enemy who takes no notice of you cannot be a Nemesis. If they accept, that's it; skip ahead to the Focus.

If you cannot confront them directly, you may use a Skill to get their attention. You may seek an intermediary (Influence), perform publicly (Performance), send them a challenging letter or poem (Oratory), or even bring formal charges (Law); you may come up with more clever methods, as well. Roll the appropriate Skill, keep your Glory, at a passive TN equal to the Glory x 5 of the challenged individual. If you succeed, the potential Nemesis has taken notice of your claim of injustice and has the opportunity to accept or decline. There are no guarantees over bad blood.

Focus: Assuming the Nemesis is impressed by your anger and ability, the two of you must feel each other out. This requires a Season Action to properly nurture animosity, spent by you, the offended party. You can choose to impose a difficulty modifier of 1 step on the following strike roll, or pass. Then the potential Nemesis can impose a modifier or pass. Each of you can only impose modifiers up to their Void. Once both consecutively pass, the strike roll takes place.

Strike: Once both pass, it's time to make the strike roll. You roll Oratory/Fire with an active TN of the other's Etiquette/Void. If you fail, there just isn't enough mixture of respect and animosity between you two. You cannot attempt to become enemies again until both your Dharma Ranks change.

If succeed, you both gain the Nemesis Fortune with 1 Rank, plus a Rank for each cumulative difficulty modifier in the focus, and the new Nemesis gains the Hate.

The Hate: If you succeed, your target gains the Hate first, the fuel of just vengeance. A constant state of war exists between the two, but the one with the Hate has the upper hand. But a Hate held within for too long eventually consumes the bearer, and so the upper hand passes between each Nemesis. The one with the Hate seeks to challenge or thwart any desire their Nemesis attempts to fulfill. They may spend an Honor Point at any time to make any roll made by the Nemesis an opposed roll, barging in on any risk taken; even if they do not share a Scene with the Nemesis but with someone working on behalf of their Nemesis, they may still spend the Honor Point to complicate the risk. If the bearer of Hate succeeds on the roll, then at the end of the Scene the fires of Hate dim and the Hate passes on to the foiled Nemesis. The cycle begins anew.

If the Hate is not exchanged at least once during the Season, the holder of the Hate loses either a Virtue or Glory Rank (their choice) as the Hate eats them up inside, or they take out their frustration on those around them. If they have no Virtue or Glory Ranks, they gain Infamy. There is no other penalty.

Nemesis: Name of Nemesis (Granted) (Beginning Rank 1 + Difficulty Modifiers)

The cycle of exchanging Hate is integral to being a Nemesis, and the rivalry's strength is measured as a Fortune with Rank; each Nemesis gains a single Nemesis Fortune shared between them. The Fortune's Rank is 1 to begin with, but it can be raised by the Nemesis holding Hate spending a Season Action; this immediately moves the Hate to the other Nemesis. Each Season Action spent raises the Rank by 1, up to a maximum of the highest Glory + Virtue between them. If the Fortune's Rank is already higher than this, it cannot be raised for now, but it is not reduced in any way.

  • Boon: Whenever you make a roll to help or thwart the desire of your Nemesis, you may spend an Honor Point to gain +Xk0 to the roll, where X is the Fortune's Rank. At the beginning of each Season, each Nemesis gains bonus Season Actions equal to the Fortune's Rank; these Season Actions can only be spent to purchase Elements, Skills, Fortunes, or other abilities (like Okuden) possessed by your Nemesis. They can also be spent on Ada-uchi actions against your Nemesis. Finally, whenever your Nemesis is in sight during a Skirmish, you may spend an Honor Point to push your way through the Scene to attack your Nemesis and deliver automatic Wounds equal to the Fortune's Rank. Nothing stands in your way. Not samurai. Not monsters, nor Fortunes. Nothing. Not even honor. Alternatively, you may interrupt and cancel an attack made against your Nemesis with your own attack. No one draws their blood except you. No one else deserves the honor.

  • Curse: There is no honorable way to surrender your Hate except through the death of a Nemesis. Of course, once a Nemesis is dead, you lose the benefits. An emptiness creeps into your soul and you gain no Season Actions during the following Season, nor may your Virtue or Glory be raised until the end of the following Season. You do, however, immediately gain Honor Points equal to the Fortune's Rank.

Neither honorable nor dishonorable is the path of enlightenment, and you may spend a Season Action to request retirement from your superior and renounce your samurai status. Doing so immediately ends any bond between you and your Nemesis, with no other ill effects. Except, of course, the end of your career as a samurai. You are considered an inkyo now.

You may, finally, attempt to shame your Nemesis by renouncing your rivalry. You must hold the Hate and spend a Season Action, losing all Virtue, Glory, and the Nemesis Fortune; your (former) Nemesis also loses the Fortune and gains Infamy. More than one embittered samurai has made the sacrifice as their only real weapon against such an enemy.


The courts of Hachigoku, where daimyo rule and their whim is law, where secrets kill, where the only true armor you keep is your honor and wits, are as dangerous as any battlefield. Here a campaign of whispers and insinuations may test the loyalty of your staunchest allies and puts those closest to you in danger. This occurs when simple disagreement, argument, and political maneuvering gives way to a ruthless quest for the ruination of another's reputation, or worse. The target finds himself enmeshed within an Ada-uchi.

And they might succumb to a lust for vengeance themselves.

Much like a Battle, an Ada-uchi (Goshimago for a vendetta) is an overarching conflict, bigger than a single Scene or even Story. Unlike a Battle, most of the action takes place offstage, before, between, and after the Stories themselves. While a Battle tests the physical and strategic might of small or large forces, the Ada-uchi tests the wits and reputation of its contestants and those closest to them. Some Ada-uchi occur at the instigation of a wronged or cruel samurai intent on destroying something more important than a samurai's life. The enemy is out to destroy their honor and sense of duty. Most occur at the behest of a superior, using the vengeance as yet another weapon in their faction's arsenal to protect itself or further its aims. Untangling the various strands of an Ada-uchi to discover the true face of your enemy is a demanding task.

Some players may not wish to engage in such an abstract form of social combat. If vengeance or orders to take down their daimyo's enemy demand such tasks, they would prefer to micromanage the operation and engage the target directly. That's perfectly fine. They may just want to walk up to the object of their ire, challenge them, and finish them in a duel. Or manipulate someone else into doing so. Again, perfectly fine. They might want to consider, however, the chance that the target is a better duelist than themselves or a surrogate. They might want to consider the dangers of so openly involving themselves in a quest for vengeance, in terms of reputation and retribution.

And if it's at the daimyo's request, the consequences of revealing the daimyo's hand. Of allowing others to see you barreling through enemies to achieve his goals. That might fit some uji. It definitely would anger others.

More importantly, if you micromanage the vengeance yourself, you will be either waiting for chance opportunity or demanding the spotlight of the game for your vengeance. One isn't much fun for you; the other may not be fun for everybody else.

“Certainly, no samurai fears death. But all men fear suffering.” So said the Pilgrim. The dead do not suffer in this life, and the Ada-uchi is about suffering. If a pound of flesh is taken, your vengence demands a soul as payment.

As a samurai loses friends, lovers, family, duties, and finally reputation... then they will know pain. Then they will suffer.

When you no longer fear tarnishing your Honor, keeping your hands clean is simple. Refined. Cultured. Civilized.

Here's how Hachigoku carries out an Ada-uchi.


First you must select a target. You can only target characters with Namae status; there's no point wasting your vengeance and ruthlessness on unnamed Kaonashi.

This may be a personal enmity, or merely business. If it's business, your superior requested you make the target's life miserable, for whatever reason. He may or may not reveal that reason to you, trusting you to serve your faction to your utmost. If it's personal, you'll need to ask your superior for permission with an Influence/Wind roll (TN 5 x the Glory of the target). If you succeed, the Ada-uchi can progress as normal.

If you fail the roll your superior denies your petition, but you can still embark upon the Ada-uchi. Doing so in defiance of your superior costs you a Virtue Rank. After all, going against the wishes of your superior is highly dishonorable.

If you do not have a superior, then engaging in the Ada-uchi is a highly personal and costly affair. You're committing to engage in underhanded dealing, with no restraint and for purely selfish ends. You lose a Virtue Rank in this case, too.

There is a way to negate the loss: declare to your target you're coming after him. This doesn't have to be an upfront, personal conversation. It doesn't even have to be public. In fact, declaring it publicly would be shameful, and certainly violate the tenet of Courtesy at the very least. The Ada-uchi is about cloaking your steel in silk, as the Asano say. Be subtle, but clear. Write a letter. Perform a play, with obvious allusions to the target. Beat them in a duel, but refuse to draw blood, letting them know quietly that your victory will be much, much more costly than to them than mere blood.

The important thing is that the target know they're embroiled in an Ada-uchi. If there's any doubt, you have not negated the Virtue loss.

A target who knows their peril may choose to retaliate by announcing their own Ada-uchi. In this case, they do not need to convince their superior or lose Virtue to initiate their vengeance.

All of this needs to be done during a Story or at the start of the next Season. If at the start of the next Season, you must spend a Season Action, nursing your grudge, gathering conspirators, perhaps negotiating with your superior, and even cleverly revealing your intentions to the victim.

One more thing: an Ada-uchi is a consuming exercise, even if it remains at the fringes of your activity during a Story. You cannot pursue more than a single Ada-uchi at any one time.

Vengeance begins.

Gather Your Force

At the beginning of the Season, you first need to gather your conspirators in the Ada-uchi together. There's no need to prosecute your vengeance all alone. However, there are limitations on who can assist you. There are two broad categories of who can join your Ada-uchi “force.”

The first are your close associates. These can only be characters of Namae status as well, and are limited to immediate family members, a lover, an ally, blackmail victim, or a member of your Wa. Those who participate in your vengeance cannot draft others into actively participating as well; an ally of an ally cannot help out, nor can the lover of a Wa comrade.

The second group may be Namae or Kaonashi. These are your subordinates, up to and including anyone who owes you their direct fealty. There must be a direct line of subordination, however. These cannot just be samurai “on loan” to your service by another, although they may be personally assigned to aid you, such as a yojimbo or political advisor. The subordinates of your Namae conspirators cannot involve themselves either, unless they too are yours.

Yes, any subordinate. Those who wish to embark on an Ada-uchi against a daimyo are either brave or foolhardy in the extreme.

The size of your force is limited by your Glory + Wind.

All those who participate in your vengeance are also legitimate targets for any retaliation by the target.

Gather Your Spies

Once you gather your force, it's time to start digging up the details of your target's life. You probably already know certain facts about the target, but this is a chance to know more, and how to best utilize that information. Even how to defend yourself from retaliation. In a testimony-based culture, other people are the best source of information, of course.

At the beginning of the Season you must spend Season Actions to employ spies. These spies are not just hired hands. They represent the various types of contacts and correspondence gained by meetings, conversations, gifts, favors traded, or other less honorable methods you may have at your disposal.

They probably don't include ninja. Probably.

Each member of your force must spend at least 1 Season Action procuring one of the Five Spies, although they can spend more. You are required to spend at least 1 Season Action, of course, and any one who declines to spend a Season Action is no longer part of the force.

If your target is aware of your Ada-uchi against them and engages in their own against you, then all known members of their force become legitimate targets as well. Even if not engaged, any known member's of an enemy's Wa are considered enemies as well. It's only a matter of time, really, before the Wa becomes involved.

The Local Spy: Local spies know the home territory of the target. These are often lower caste citizens of an area, who are more attentive to their surroundings than their samurai masters assume. The information they transmit it broad but still helpful.

Each local spy lowers the difficulty by 1 step of the Vengeance roll at the end of the Season.

The Inside Spy: Inside spies are close to the target, including everyone from household servants and yojimbo to close friends and family members. They follow the web of interactions that compose the target's life.

Each inside spy grants you the name and description of a target's Ally, Lover, Dependent, Loyal Retainer, Blackmail Victim, or Wa comrade.

The Reverse Spy: The reverse spy is not originally yours. This spy was sent by your enemy, but through bribery, coercion, or overwhelming humanity has been brought to your side, unbeknownst to their original employer. Spending a Season Action to recruit a reverse spy does not automatically grant you one; it only changes a spy sent by the enemy into one of yours. Thus you spending a Season Action for one at the beginning of the Season reserves a spot for a reverse spy at the end of the season, a spot only filled if someone else (likely the target) has initiated an Ada-uchi against you. The order in which the spot fills is determined by the importance of the enemy spy in the following order: local spy, inside spy, dead spy, then finally living spy. Once the enemy spy becomes a reverse spy you gain their original benefit for yourself.

In addition, any reverse spy reveals whether or not the enemy is aware of your Vendetta and has launched one of his own against you and your force. They reveal the name of every member of the enemy's force. If your target is aware of your vengeance against them and engages in their own, then all the members of their force become legitimate targets for Vengeance Actions.

If no one sent any spies against you, the Season Action spent reserving this becomes a Free Raise on your Vengeance roll. You cannot, it should be noted, attempt to recruit reverse spies outside of Ada-uchi activity, holding them in reserve as a possible defense against the unknown.

The Dead Spy: It takes a particularly ruthless person to recruit a dead spy. These spies do not return. They feed false information to the enemy at the cost of their own life, or are otherwise sent to gather information or commit sabotage with little to no hope of rescue or escape.

Each dead spy grants you the name and rank of any one Obligation the target can leverage.

The Living Spy: Living spies are those who are sent out by you, loyal to you, and return with the most sensitive information. Their dedication and skill at ferreting out the enemy's most hidden faults and darkest secrets is uncanny. While any spy can be recruited by your force, only you can recruit living spies.

Each living spy grants an additional Vengeance Action on a successful Vengeance roll.

Story Effects

Now you go on about your business, enjoying your Stories. There's no guarantee you will come into contact with your enemy. In fact, for several reasons it might be best you manage to avoid each other.

But the Fortunes are fickle.

If you do encounter your enemy (or enemies) in the course of the Story, and they are aware of your activities against them, they gain a Free Raise on all contested rolls involving you. Whether they are aware or not, the trickle of information flowing in about them grants you a Free Raise in all contested rolls involving them.

If either of you die during the course of the Story, or are otherwise incapacitated, the vengeance doesn't end immediately. Schemes have been set in motion that will run their course without your direct guidance, or even the need for a definite target.

Vengeance Actions

At the end of the Season, after all other Season Actions have resolved, the fruits of your vengeance are harvested. Yes, even if you or the enemy are dead. An Ada-uchi does not respect the grave.

You make a Vengeance roll. This is a contested roll against the enemy, using your Influence/Wind versus their Etiquette/Wind. You may make Raises, with each Raise granting you an additional Vengeance Action.

If you win the roll, you can execute a number of Vengeance Actions against the enemy. You can also attempt to disguise your involvement (and your conspirators) by making a contested Sincerity/Water roll versus their Investigation/Fire. If you win that, the enemy is aware of the effects of the Vengeance Actions, but remains unaware of their true source, although they may suspect an Ada-uchi was launched against them. If you lose the second roll, your machinations are revealed, and you lose 1 Glory.

If you fail the Vengeance roll, you gain no Vengeance Actions. The information you gained is still yours to keep, however, and you can still make the contested roll to conceal your involvement.

Vengeance Actions include:

  • Bonus Effect: You can establish facts about an enemy equal to your Awareness as if they were bonus effects created by Raises.
  • Change Blackmail to Alliance: You can free one individual the enemy has power over through the Blackmail Fortune from their insidious influence. The document is lost, the damning witness silenced, the fraudulent claim exposed... any number of ways out of dishonor and insult are discovered. In thanks, the former victim of blackmail becomes your Ally; your new Alliance Fortune has Ranks equal to the former Blackmail.
  • Destroy Ally's Trust: You can sow dissension between the enemy and a comrade they have through the Alliance. This Alliance is lost, and while the relationship may later be mended, they can never be made allies again. You have twisted the dagger too deep.
  • Destroy a Romance: Not all love can survive meddling. You lay enough hints of disinterest or infidelity, if not outright bribery or other enticement, to cause the enemy's Lover abandon the relationship. If only one Vengeance Action is spent, the Romance ends honorably. If two Vengeance Actions are spent on this effect, the Romance ends dishonorably.
  • Kill or Steal Dependent: You can choose to arrange the death of an enemy's Dependent, or instead bring them into your control, either as a hostage or, if you're truly cruel, by enticing them into your protection and poisoning them against their former defender.
  • Kill or Steal Loyal Retainer: You can choose to arrange the death of an enemy's Loyal Retainer, or instead bring them into your service through bribery, charisma, or even seduction.
  • Lower Glory or Infamy: You directly attack the Glory or Infamy of your enemy, spreading tales of cowardice and dishonor (which may or may not be true), lowering their Glory by 1.
  • Lower Obligation: This can only be done if you have sent a dead spy. Target an Obligation that the enemy can leverage and lower its Rank by 1.

The Vicious Cycle of Vengeance

The Ada-uchi has ended for the Season. But of course, this may not be the end. The enemy may not have suffered enough, either by your own estimation or the judgment of your superior. Or the enemy may have discovered your role in their misfortunes, and vowed to repay you in kind.

If your superior orders you to end the Ada-uchi, for whatever reason, but you continue, you face the same dilemma as before the whole affair began, and the same consequences for your choice. Whether or not you continue your vengeance likewise places no limitation on the enemy engaging in one against you.

If you refuse to engage or continue in an Ada-uchi as ordered, lose 1 Virtue. Any competent daimyo will not waste his time pressing the issue. Any competent daimyo, at least.

Finally, the most important aspect of the Ada-uchi may be its flexibility. It may not necessarily represent a bitter cycle of vengeance. It can also approximate a long-running criminal investigation or accusation, an intense trade war between rival merchants, or even tense, drawn-out diplomatic negotiations between warring factions. Each act of damage and each relationship fundamentally altered is another koku laid down at the high stakes game of dice being played between samurai over Glory in Hachigoku.

Play your game. Play your opponent. Play to win.

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