[Blood & Honor] experiences?

edited December 2013 in Story Games
I picked up John Wick's "Blood & Honor" the other day. It looks neat, but I'm kind of curious about how it works out in play. Apparently it's a reworking or tightening of "Houses of the Blooded" designed for samurai tragedy, and I'm wondering how well it delivers.

(Even a few basic things elude me: for example, it's unclear to me if NPC's have any stats or scores, if the GM-figure ever rolls any dice and if so how many, and so on.)


  • My Blood and Honor book is with a friend, so I can't get too far into rules discussions, but does it deliver, it absolutely does. Especially if you play for at least two in-character years (8 Seasons). You really start to see what War is about, especially if you're not going to war.

    And yes, NPCs do indeed have stats if they're important enough to be directly contesting with the player characters, see p.137 for how to do this. The exception, combat, is on p.57. If they're not named or not samurai you just kill as many of them as you can wager. The GM rolls for all characters not played by other players. It's a regular ole RPG with a GM and players playing characters.
  • Yeah, I can see that NPC's exist, and that the concept begins with Three Things True about the NPC. But I dont' see anything in my version of the PDF (bought a couple days ago, with some Q&A in the back) about calibrating an NPC's dice pool.

    Like, let's say the sample PC (Hayate the Courtier, page 24) is trying to persuade his Daimyo that an NPC geisha is really a shameless witch and seductress. The geisha, who isn't really a witch because I don't wanna get into the magic rules, is arguing that Hayate is a jealous, spiteful wretch who should be banished from court. Classic social conflict.

    It's clear how many dice Hayate can roll: he's a PC, with Virtues, and Aspects, and a Courtly Function, and maybe a Reputation or whatever. He builds a dice pool, and secretly sets a few dice aside before rolling to act as wagers later on.

    But are NPC's built in the same way? The geisha, does she have a Virtues? Aspects? Reputations? Gear? (I ask because in a game like Apocalypse World, NPC's exist in a role-playing sense--this character is an element of the fiction--but in a mechanical sense primarily exists as part of a Front, and perhaps as some custom moves imposed on the player: "When you try to draw Hamburglar's blood, roll Weird, and ...")

    Does the GM-Narrator person set aside dice for wagers before rolling? I ask because it seems like the Narrator doesn't have to sweat wagers the same way that PC's do.

    I apologize if all of this is answered in "Houses of the Blooded," but it wasn't made explicit in the text of "Blood & Honor," at least not on a quick read.
  • edited December 2013
    She might have all those things? With the caveat that since a certain number of Aspects come from the clan, she wouldn't have those.

    And yes, Narrators must set aside wagers if they want to win them.

    (It's not really answered in Houses of the Blooded, that I remember anyway.)

    In terms of "calibrating" NPC stats, I think it's fair to say that just "thinking about what they would be" will work, since Houses of the Blooded is not a game that expects the characters to have a particular chance of winning. A spiteful geisha with a high Beauty sure as hell can get you drummed out of court, go and die in the snow if you can't make the rolls.

    Edit: Or, as I say, tell the GM you kill her.
  • @James_Nostack - I played about 4-5 sessions of Blood&Honor and it was frustrating experience. Any time we as a group had any troubles how the rules work, there were no clarifications in the rulebook. Yes, you wouldn't find the rules for creating NPCs nor whether you NPCs are created same as PCs or not (aside of three truths). The same with war: what if there's no PC character with specific Giri (Duty), and a few similar problems (like ties in contested risks).

    The Rules were for us a bit clumsy, writing was messy; game could use some clarifications.

    PS. Hi everyone, it's my first post. I'm not a native english speaker, I apologize for any mistakes.
  • If you thought Blood and Honor was messy, waitil ya see Houses of the Blooded! :D
  • My group experiences were the same as Bloodymess. We got really excited to try the game but after 2 tries gave up on it because the lack of rules and confusing text. Our verdict was that the game was pretty much incomplete at that point. Dont know if any errata or expansion came out since.

    For samurai drama I recommend Mountain Witch or the old Bushido over this. Less headaches.
  • Can you (or Bloodymess) tell me a little more about the areas where it fell down for you? The design of the game seems to be full of some holes, but it also looks like a lot of the feedback loops, particularly regarding honor, wagers, and glory, are reasonably well fleshed out and you could probably just throw some dice around to fix it.

    "Just throw some dice around" is anathema to my personality, and likely to the sensibilities of anyone who's on this site, but it seems like it wouldn't hurt the game especially...
  • I couldn't see what is the connection between building the province (dollhousing) and drama. There were no rules for NPC's, no rules for ties in normal conflicts. There are rules for aging, but you had to play about 30 (sic!) sessions to change age category and almost any fight could kill the character. The text says the game should be dramatic (that's why a player may choose succes or failure for her character), but the rules drove us to play very cautiously. It was very confusing.
  • edited December 2013
    Thanks, Bloodymess! It's interesting you said that about caution in narration. It looks like once someone has won the privilege to narrate the outcome of a conflict, there is no way for another player to say "No, but...". In fact, explicitly all you can say is "Yes, but" or "Yes, and" if you have a wager left. In this respect, Blood & Honor somewhat resembles the 2005 superhero game Capes, which at base had a similar granting of trust. IME Capes proved very difficult to play because it became very easy to narrate extreme results, one after the other, until the fiction got so stretched that it kind of broke apart. Blood & Honor solves part of this problem by trying its best to orient its players in the samurai tragedy aesthetic, but either it's in you or it isn't. (And also, I have found it's much easier to narrate extreme results when under time/social pressure to be creative, than to come up with something very powerful but subtle.)

    I think there are rules for ties--whoever rolled the larger number of dice wins, right? But I can totally see how someone might overlook this rule when table-time is ticking away. EDITED TO ADD: Nope, that rule ain't in there. Must have seen it on a FAQ or something. Yikes, that is a big omission!
  • It's sort of a common failure point for people who come to B&H from, say, Primetime Adventures or Fiasco that people think that getting privilege in Blood & Honor means that they get to "narrate". That's not quite right. What they get is to do answer the question of the conflict. They "describe the outcome of the risk." They don't just get to say whatever they want. (I don't think I ever played Capes' full rules so I can't comment on whether it was a problem there too.) You can't just narrate extreme results one after another unless you are getting into more and more extreme conflicts, unless you are intentionally provoking extreme/insane risks, in which case the system absolutely should help you resolve those.

    I always just said "the GM gets privilege on a tie, but can't use it to establish an NPC win", but yep that's a problem.

    The drama from province creation comes from war. Play a game where you meet samurai from at least 3 other provinces, then do absolutely nothing with those other provinces and watch what war does.

    Yes, the game has mechanics that don't activate until you've played 30+ sessions, and few characters will last that long. That is 100% a feature and not a bug and is absolutely, completely a good thing.
  • edited December 2013
    Yes, the game has mechanics that don't activate until you've played 30+ sessions, and few characters will last that long. That is 100% a feature and not a bug and is absolutely, completely a good thing.
    Care to explain your thoughts there?

    (Nota bene: I have not read Blood & Honor, but I did play Houses of the Blooded for about a year, which shares every single problem people mention in this thread, including aging rules that basically don't come into effect for dozens of sessions. Which I thought was not only pointless but actively contradicting the text in the book about how time was always creeping up on your characters and there was a constant scramble to achieve their goals before feebleness and the immortal-elf version of death set in. The HotB aging rules are actually my go-to example of why I think John Wick is much better at describing games than actually designing them)
  • We managed to play this! The overall experience was fun for me as the "Narrator" (GM), but we only had two players and I only supplied one basic situation, namely that the Courtier's brother--under the spell of a demonic saxophone--had been singing ribald and indeed openly treasonous songs about the clan's daimyo, and thus was imperiled by the Executioner's blade. The two players ended up working the problem out, confronting an angry mob of peasants along the way. (And setting in motion some long-term stuff with the yakuza, conspiracies, spies, and so on.) At the end, the Courtier persuaded the daimyo that the song was the result of a demonic influence, and that the Courtier should not be castrated. Oh, and in this season's espionage action, enemy spies are poisoning the River Dragon.

    The system worked relatively smoothly although:
    * A target number of 10 is awfully low. You can beat that 90% of the time with 4 dice, 98% of the time with 5 dice. Most of the dice pools in the game were at least 6+, so that's a little weird--it's a world where PC's cannot fail (or rather, where they will always be able to narrate success or failure).

    * It's improv-heavy. Naturally. But somehow I'd not spotted this or realized the consequences. I hadn't prepped anything beyond a ribald, demon-addled brother, so when that business wrapped up, I ended the game (before risking drawing a huge blank on stuff). But you don't want to prep a ton because the players will narrate all over your stuff anyway. So you gotta be ready to go with loose stuff and if something pops into your head as a joke or a cool bit of bad-assery, just narrate that in.
  • Yeah, you are going to overwhelmingly succeed unless you're in a situation where you're dealing with your Weakness. The whole point of that is so that you throw more Risks in rather than worry about beating a 10. Or maybe you really desperately need to get privilege this time so you can't throw many Risks in.

    Sorry I didn't reply before, but the aging rules are along the same principle as high-level play in BECMI D&D - you want to have stuff like Immortals and having a keep and such even though overwhelmingly few characters will reach those levels because 1) it shows you what the "end" of your character will be even if you don't reach it, and 2) when you do reach it, it will be a big, big deal. When your guy retires due to age and passes his sword to his son, or (!!) his only daughter (?!?) that will be a big deal everyone remembers. If it happened to everyone, meh, who cares.
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