Karma Rules

Copyright Claudio Butticè © 2004

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Using karma a player can buy hero levels, which reflect increasing levels of status, achievement and importance."

Karma is an optional rule that serves many purposes. One is to mechanize the Fate Point rules, allowing a player to buy them during the course of his adventures, rather than forcing the GM to give them as a "gift" here and there. The main objective of karma is to allow a player to build their character's fame and prestige, giving them a reason to select challenges for reasons other than material reward. Karma provides a tangible objective beyond the usual "search for magical items." It is a measure of how important the character is based on how much the world has been changed by his actions and his role in the unfolding story. Using karma a player can buy hero levels, which reflect increasing levels of status, achievement and importance. People like Napoleon, Caesar, Ghandi, Mandela, Plato, da Vinci, Confucius, Buddha, Mao Tse Tung and many others could be considered the great heroes of our world, because their actions (good or not) profoundly changed our world, and allowed them to be seen as unique individuals gifted by destiny to do things normal people cannot. But let's talk about numbers now!

Karma points (KP) are divided into good karma (+) and bad karma (-). During character creation you must choose if you want your character to become famous for his good deeds (by gaining good KP) or his evil deeds (by gaining bad KP). Mormegil would be a -200 KP hero, while Frodo would be a +300 KP hero. Some actions generate unaligned KP (e.g., defeating foes), but gaining good or bad KP often depends on the character's chosen path. Certain actions are linked to a specific type of karma type (e.g., killing a child is always a -10 KP action). This is a simplification since the definitions of "good" and "evil" depend on the setting. The main purpose for distinguishing between good and bad karma is to differentiate between two classes of heroes (which you could call A and B if you do not like good and evil). Guidelines for gaining good and bad karma are deliberately general; the GM must adapt these recommendations to his setting.

An evil hero that performs good actions gains +KP, which is bad for him. Similarly, a good hero can lose karma by causing too many "collateral deaths." You can lose karma by performing actions associated with the opposing path, or by failing to be larger than life (e.g., a fighter behaving cowardly).

You gain unaligned KP for:

1) Defeating a foe generates KP equal to its bonus EP, so a type C monster generates 3 KP. This value is doubled for creatures aligned with an opposing path (such as a good hero killing an undead, or an evil one killing a unicorn). A KP penalty is assessed for killing creatures of the same alignment (this is doubled for good heroes because being good has more stringent expectations). For example, an evil hero kills a unicorn (type E) and gains -10 KP, then kills an undead (type B) and loses +2 KP; a good hero kills an orc (type B and unaligned) and gains +2 KP, then kills a unicorn (type E) and loses -10 KP. In most settings at least 75% of the total population should be unaligned. Only certain magical creatures and very specific individuals (e.g., the pope or the high priest of an evil cult) should be aligned with a path.

2) Acting archetypically is worth 1 to 5 KP. This means behaving in a manner suitable to your heroic idiom. If you are a do-goody paladin you gain +KP every time you do something brave or that increases your self-esteem, while if you're a silver-tongued evil thief, you gain -KP every time you deceive someone in a clever manner to gain power or riches. If you behave contrary to your idiom, you may lose KP. Thus, some heroes may lose KP for cowardice, while others may gain KP.

3) Completing a goal is worth 3 to 20 KP depending on its scope (very minor to lifelong). This is similar to the rules for major/minor goals found in HARP.

4) An (in)famous action is worth 2 to 15 KP depending on the number of people aware of the action (ranging from a small village to an entire realm).

Aligned actions include:

1) Saving lives is worth from +5 KP (for a small group) to +15 KP (for a small village) to +100 KP for a whole realm. Genocide is worth a corresponding number of -KP.

2) Improving the quality of life for the poor and indigent generates +KP depending on the number of people and extent to which their lives are improved. Giving some gold pieces to a peasant family may give you +3 KP, while building an aqueduct in a large city that would increase hygienic conditions and spare hundreds of lives over the course of many years may award you +30 KP. Conversely, -KP is generated by helping the rich get rich and rewarding greed. The award generally ranges from -1 to -10 KP.

3) Sparing your enemies multiplies any +KP for defeating foes by 1.5 provided you intentionally give them a "second chance." This only applies to unaligned foes.

4) Collateral deaths generate -KP equal to two (for guards, soldiers, etc.) or three (for innocents) times the number of people who die. This multiplier is reduced by one for severe (non-fatal) injuries. For example, dropping a fireball in a marketplace, killing 5 innocent bystanders and wounding 3 will net -21 KP.

What can you do with all your KP? You can use KP to:

1) Gain a bonus to one action. You gain a +1 to any action for every KP you spend (e.g., +15 to OB for one attack costs 15 KP), but you must declare prior to rolling. This can also be used for RRs.

2) Buy a fate points for 50 KP.

3) Reduce the PP cost of a spell. Each KP provides one PP, but half of the cost of the spell must come from real PPs. For example, you can cast a 10th level spell for only 5 PPs at the expense of 5 KP.

4) Reduce damage. Each KP prevents a single point of damage.

5) Reduce corruption (see RMSR section A-9.3.2). Two +KP can be used to remove one point of corruption.

6) Gain a hero level. This is the primary objective of karma. There are 5 classes of heroism. Even a single hero level causes the hero to be treated as "of light" or "of dark" in all respects (e.g., detection spells, susceptibility to Holy crits, etc.). Each hero level must be bought separately, so if you want to become a Class II hero, you must buy Class I hero first, for a total KP cost of 100 + 150 = 250 KP. All bonuses are cumulative (e.g., a Hero Level III receives a +15 DB).

Hero Level I (100 KP):
- +5 to DB and RRs vs. attacks from creatures of the opposite alignment
- +5 to Influence maneuvers.
- +/-3 to Appearance.
- +5 to Fear RRs.
- +7.5 Talent Points. You can purchase new Talents, or eliminate Flaws. You need GM approval, and if a new Talent is chosen, it should be worked into the archetype (e.g., if you buy "Natural Horseman" you should become a cavalier or black knight hero).
- Mortal races increase their lifespan by a factor of three. For example, if you would normally die by age 70, you will now live for up to 210 years. You age accordingly.
- +10 to RRs vs. Undead Co-draining (only for evil heroes).

Hero Level II (150 KP):
- +5 to DB and RRs vs. attacks from creatures of the opposite alignment.
- +/-3 to Appearance.
- +5 to Fear RRs.
- +7.5 Talent Points.
- Mortal races became impervious to aging. You will never die of old age, nor will your body age. If you are already old, you will slowly become spryer (over a period of 2d5 years). You also become more resistant to diseases (+15 to disease RRs).
- +10 to RRs vs. Undead Co-draining (only for evil heroes).

Hero Level III (250 KP):
- +5 to DB and RRs vs. attacks from creatures of the opposite alignment
- +5 to Influence maneuvers.
- +/-3 to Appearance.
- +5 to Fear RRs.
- +7.5 Talent Points.
- +10 to RRs vs. Undead Co-draining (only for evil heroes).
- Increase your highest stat to the smallest value that provides a larger bonus. For example, a 96 will become a 98, an 85 will become a 90, etc.
- If you die for any reason, you will reincarnate (with 0 KP and no hero levels). This takes 100-300 years, and you won't have any past memories until you attain 1/2 of your previous level (e.g., if you died at 12th level, you must reach 6th level to gain back your memories) and see something from your past life. Once both conditions have been met, you will start to have flashbacks, slowly regaining your past memories. You regain your previous level (with the minimum possible EP), skills and talents. Your KP are reduced to 0, but you regain your previous hero level. If your reincarnation is significantly different from the previous incarnation, you may choose not to regain your memories. If you die before recovering your memories, you won't reincarnate again (unless the new incarnation has independently attained hero level III).
- You are on your way to becoming a minor god; your blood grants you increased resistance against harmful agents (an additional +15 vs. Disease and +10 vs. Poison).

Hero Class IV (400 KP):
- +5 to DB and RRs vs. attacks from creatures of the opposite alignment
- +/-3 to Appearance.
- +7.5 Talent Points.
- +10 to RRs vs. Undead Co-draining (only for evil heroes).
- You become impervious to one element (fire, cold, electricity, etc.). You ignore all A, B and C crits from that element and reduce all other crits by 3 levels. You also halve all hits taken, and gain a +30 to DB vs. all attacks involving the element.
- You are a minor god (or similar entity). You're nearly impervious to harmful agents (+20 vs. Poison and Disease) and gain +1 to your Body Development progression (e.g., 6⋅4⋅2⋅1 becomes 7⋅5⋅3⋅2).
- Your soul is now made of the purest (or vilest) energy, granting you a +10 to all RRs vs. magic, and +1 to Power Point Development progression.
- Your corporeal matter is in tune with the matter of the universe and is thereby strengthened. You reduce all crits by one (i.e., type I crit reduction).
- Your mind is now focused on your purpose, and your will becomes hard as high steel. You gain +35 vs. Fear and +20 vs. all "m" type spells.
- Your presence inspires awe and respect (or terror and anguish). Any servants (henchmen, pets, etc.) able to see you (and within 50') gain a bonus of +10 to OB and +25 to morale maneuvers.

Hero Class V (600 KP):
- +5 to DB and RRs vs. attacks from creatures of the opposite alignment
- +5 to Influence maneuvers.
- +/-3 to Appearance.
- +5 to Fear RRs.
- +10 Talent Points.
- +10 to RRs vs. Undead Co-draining (only for evil heroes).
- All your stats increase to the next bonus (as above).
- You become immune to your element. All crits are ignored, and you suffer only 1/4 concussion damage.
- You are a major god (or similar entity).You gain +50 vs. Disease and +20 vs. Poison. You gain an additional +1 to Body Development progression.
- Magic resistance increases by +10. You gain an additional +1 to Power Point Development progression.
- Your critical reduction is increased to LA.
- Your Fear RR bonus increases by +50 and bonus vs. "m" spells increases by +30.
- Your inspiration range is now based solely on line-of-sight, and the benefits are doubled.
- You gain the ability to cast spells from one spell list (GM choice). You can cast these spells "at will" (i.e., as a 10% action), and 7 PPs per level (for spells on this list). This list is not developed using DP; you simply know all spells up to your level. Normal casting limitations aren't applied (such as armor or weight).