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Honor and ambushes


Scorus

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I started a discussion on Facebook hoping to get an official response, now hoping I might get one here.

Ambushes are an important Orlanthi culture tactic, especially among the resistance, but seem to run directly afoul of the Orlanthi concept of honor. So my question is when an ambush would result in a loss of honor. Two examples:

1) A group of archers in hiding waiting to shoot an enemy group as they come walking along.

2) A fighter that sneaks up behind an enemy that is not yet engaged in the battle and kills them unaware.

Items in Well of Daliath that have been cited in the discussion:
https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com/home/catalogue/websites/facebook/runequest-on-facebook-january-2021-highlights/?fbclid=IwAR1jFibTpZkJHwYrcSt4RsXDTGkI0lXeqbXjOLwvu4KARJiVDFs4eYnGZgE#ib-toc-anchor-6

https://wellofdaliath.chaosium.com/home/catalogue/websites/facebook/2021-11-jeff-on-facebook/?fbclid=IwAR2BiwvDFjgtZSUyORGK5KmnuK-eWbSU-oYnEQzPEDvH1u9jilbQb_iXVZA#ib-toc-anchor-6

Opinions (and canon) most welcome!

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11 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Ambushes are not dishonorable.  Breaches of hospitality etc. are.  A Humakti may be forbidden by his god to be part of an ambush but that's his problem rather than a general view that ambushes are dishonorable.

YGMV, but as per Jeff in the links above: The buildup and formation of battle lines is done with the full knowledge of the other side and no surprise attacks are made.

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Last two paragraphs of the second link.

Like all Passions, most people are not fanatics about Honor and can make pragmatic compromises. But if your Honor passion starts getting in the 80%+ range, then you are a fanatic. So that Sword Lord with a 90% Honor is going to tell you that an ambush is not proper and he won’t participate in it. And those Humakti are going to say that civilians are outside the scope of combat and are not going to be harmed or else. Same with people who surrender.And most Orlanthi are going to agree with the Humakti in principle, but they still might decide that ambushing those Lunars is worth a little dishonour.

For many war leaders, having access to Humakt cult warriors is worth obeying the Rules of Honorable Combat.

I would doubt that a Humakti that's trying to attain Sword level would participate.

However,  they might stand in the middle of the road, and casually announced that the Lunar regiment is surrounded,  and they should all disarm.

Also However... others might just have the opinion that Lunars = Chaos, so it's not dishonourable to ambush them.

Killing on a cattle raid is *always* bad!

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In the RW people agree (since ancient times) that the rules are different in war, which opens the question of when you are at war.

So you can do in war actions that are dishonorable in peace, such as poison wells, kill civilians to keep them from raising an alarm or helping the enemy or secret murder your enemies, because that is what ambushing a Lunar patrol in an inn is.

If both sides agree you are at war, certainly you are and rules change. But what happens if only one of the sides does, such as an insurgence? Then you have conflict and emotion, and tough moral choices. Most Humakti see only one set of rules, so they apply always. In a way the choices for Humakti are easy, though the consequences of the choices are hard. 

I see Yanafal Tarnils as more sophisticated, so I suspect they keep different sets of rules for different conditions, possibly even more than the simple two, War and Peace.

I am sure there are formal declarations of war, even if they do not use the term war, between Orlanthi clans or tribes, though it is a last resource as that may destroy one or both combatants. 

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2 hours ago, JRE said:

Most Humakti see only one set of rules, so they apply always. In a way the choices for Humakti are easy, though the consequences of the choices are hard.  

There is only one set of rules, of course they always apply.

The rules say you can ambush to your heart's content unless the lord of death geases you not to; you see, geases make you a better humakti, but try not become too holy, or else you may find yourself at our god's company.

Now get back to prayer young initiate!

"This is My Sword. There are many like it, but this one is Mine..." 🤪😂

Edited by icebrand
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"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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31 minutes ago, Scorus said:

An ambush is not a surprise attack?

For the record, they are literally synonyms, as are ambuscade, bushwhack, dry gulch, and trap, amongst others.  I totally agree.

16 hours ago, Scorus said:

YGMV, but as per Jeff in the links above: The buildup and formation of battle lines is done with the full knowledge of the other side and no surprise attacks are made.

So what happened at the Battle of the Queens when that party of Lunar assassins bushwhacked Kallyr and killed her then?

3 hours ago, icebrand said:

The rules say you can ambush to your heart's content unless the lord of death geases you not to; you see, geases make you a better humakti, but try not become too holy, or else you may find yourself at our god's company.

We are in accord on this point icebrand.  If Humakt hasn't specifically geased you not to ambush, you are completely allowed to try that tactic.

17 hours ago, Scorus said:

Ambushes are an important Orlanthi culture tactic, especially among the resistance, but seem to run directly afoul of the Orlanthi concept of honor. So my question is when an ambush would result in a loss of honor. Two examples:

1) A group of archers in hiding waiting to shoot an enemy group as they come walking along.

2) A fighter that sneaks up behind an enemy that is not yet engaged in the battle and kills them unaware.

The honor rules on RQG p234 don't include any mention of losing honor for surprise attacks.  This would change if you broke hospitality to surprise attack a guest, obviously.  The Red Wedding in GoT would be a major loss for the Frey family by Orlanthi standards, as an example.

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The Sartarites, during the Lunar Occupation, often resorted to dishonourable tactics in order to fight against the Lunar Army. This was a classic case of the Loyalty Sartar or Hate Lunar Empire passion being pitted against Honor. There's a reason the Humakt cult was not deeply involved in the rebellion. One gains no honour in attacking a foe from an ambush!

Killing prisoners is viewed as deeply dishonourable.

But the Liberation of Boldhome, Dangerford, Battle of the Queens, Sword Hill, and of course Battle of Heroes were not ambush battles. As we enter the Hero Wars, the Sartarites are far more likely to attack a Lunar army force with a barrage of spells and spirits, followed by a cavalry charge, than with a militia ambush.

Edited by Jeff
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17 hours ago, Scorus said:

The buildup and formation of battle lines is done with the full knowledge of the other side and no surprise attacks are made.

I already commented on this line elsewhere (possibly the Discord server) but my personal interpretation is that it's important to remember this line is in the context of war battles. So IMHO this is about, basically, not having one tribe or kingdom attack another by surprise without a formal declaration of war and other usual parleys between representatives happening in the days and weeks prior. However, once the war is ongoing, of course one side is going to outflank and surprise the other (and vice versa), using all the usual battle tactics you can think of. Plus, there might be a particularly dishonourable commander on one side that does a particularly dishonourable thing to try and win a battle (history is full of these kinds of guys!)

The guerilla warfare that the Sartarite rebellion did for years is, of course, not very honourable. But Kallyr and her companions would say it's necessary. And that's one reason Kallyr is such a divisive figure (compared to, say, Argrath who "properly" marches in with an army). The whole Lunar occupation era is a test of everybody's Passions. Some people and clans lean toward "the Lunars are Chaos-worshippers, so forget your honour and your rules" while others lean towards "we can't lose our way and ourselves, we'll endure this" (and yet others embrace the Lunar way and accept the new illuminated overlords). This is the classic trope of how far your Sartarite is willing to go for what they think is a greater good.

17 hours ago, Scorus said:

1) A group of archers in hiding waiting to shoot an enemy group as they come walking along.

2) A fighter that sneaks up behind an enemy that is not yet engaged in the battle and kills them unaware.

So you see, IMHO, it depends. Is this a situation where a war or feud has been declared between faction A and faction B?  Then unless you have the "never ambush" geas (or some other rigid code of honour), sure, go ahead and ambush troop movements, capture scouts, stop supply convoys, and so on. That's just warfare as usual. I don't see why you wouldn't do these things. Or maybe you're cattle-raiding in raiding season? If you stay within the rules of engagement (some bloody noses but no dismemberment or death) then that's also expected -- people have been raiding their neighbours for generations, so everybody expects it at some point.

On the other hand, is this happening in relative peace time? Are you ambushing someone travelling from Jonstown to Boldhome? Surprise-attacking some bored guards posted at the Clearwine gates? Then you might not be much more than a bunch of bandits, i.e. mostly dishonourable.

Most importantly: it always depends. It's a matter of perspective! And a matter of who can win the argument! It doesn't matter who's right or wrong -- you can argue that something was honourable or not until you're red in the face, but the one who wins the argument is the one who got support from the people, the backing of the chieftain, half the tribal ring vouching for them, some ancestors agreeing with them, or a combination of all those things. When in doubt, turn it into the next chapter of the story!

Edited by lordabdul
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37 minutes ago, Jeff said:

The Sartarites, during the Lunar Occupation, often resulted to dishonourable tactics in order to fight against the Lunar Army. This was a classic case of the Loyalty Sartar or Hate Lunar Empire passion being pitted against Honor. There's a reason the Humakt cult was not deeply involved in the rebellion. One gains no honour in attacking a foe from an ambush!

Killing prisoners is viewed as deeply dishonourable.

But the Liberation of Boldhome, Dangerford, Battle of the Queens, Sword Hill, and of course Battle of Heroes were not ambush battles. As we enter the Hero Wars, the Sartarites are far more likely to attack a Lunar army force with a barrage of spells and spirits, followed by a cavalry charge, than with a militia ambush.

Yeah, this is pretty cool. Nothing to add or disagree with, except to mention really liking the malus of how it would be hard to win honour in ambush!

... remember, with a TARDIS, one is never late for breakfast!

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17 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

Most importantly: it always depends. It's a matter of perspective! And a matter of who can win the argument! It doesn't matter who's right or wrong -- you can argue that something was honourable or not until you're red in the face

I fully agree.

However I have a little concern about the rules: there is only one honor definition (at least in the setting) for all the people (from prax to esrolia to tarsh)

So considering the answer « it depends on the situation » is, if I understand well the rules, a house background

A rule I follow but seems to me important to note 🙂 our glorantha may vary, for our best

 

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13 hours ago, Shiningbrow said:

Also However... others might just have the opinion that Lunars = Chaos, so it's not dishonourable to ambush them.

Honor doesn't stop being a factor even when your opponent is clearly tainted with chaos, and fighting chaos foes dishonorably will still carry the usual penalties. Some Orlanthi will break the rules of honorable engagement in order to kill chaos, but they aren't saying "it isn't dishonorable," they're saying "it's too important not to do."

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2 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

However I have a little concern about the rules: there is only one honor definition (at least in the setting) for all the people (from prax to esrolia to tarsh)

So considering the answer « it depends on the situation » is, if I understand well the rules, a house background

A rule I follow but seems to me important to note 🙂 our glorantha may vary, for our best

That's a fair point.

So when I say "it depends", it's not about the act in isolation, but the act in context: "it depends if it matters." Sure, the scary Babeester Gor lady decapitated a dinner guest, but then she retrieved the tiara that belonged to a recently murdered priestess from the dead man's pocket. Everybody (including her) understands what she did was "bad", but her vow to serve the Earth temple was greater (or whatever Passion/Rune rolls showed). I'm sure a Humakti bodyguard in attendance would be absolutely outraged because he has different priorities ("nothing should outweigh matters of honour!"). The Humakti might have never done it (or suffered a -35% to his Honor Passion), and it's not like the scary axe lady doesn't think it wasn't dishonourable (it was), but she thought it wasn't as important as catching the murderer-thief and avenging her dead boss. So "it depends" whether it matters given the broader context, like @Dr. Device says.

Note 1: the cults with a "favored" (i.e. "recommended") Honor Passion are Humakt (required for Rune Lord), Orlanth, Yelm, and Yelmalio (not absolutely required). There are several warrior cults without any particular penchant for honour... I'm sure Maran Gori will laugh at you for bringing up the subject, and most Babeester Gori might go to "whatever lengths necessary" to catch their target.

Note 2: how do people handle the losses of honour? (p234)   I haven't had to use that table yet, but it might happen at some point given that one of my players is playing a young Yelmalion with a Honor Passion. I'm tempted to not just apply it automatically. Instead, I'm tempted to ask the player why their character feels compelled to break their personal code, pit that Passion or Rune against the Honor Passion, and apply the Honor loss only if Honor wins.

 

 

Edited by lordabdul

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the situation you are describing is not about "what is honor" but "is honor more important than other loyalties/oaths/passions when you are facing this situation/context"

 

what I mean about "honor depends on"

for some people, irl, "honor killing" is perceived as honorable, for others killing his daugther because she loved someone is a shame.

this kind of difference is not possible in RAW glorantha (well I think)

 

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7 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

what I mean about "honor depends on"

for some people, irl, "honor killing" is perceived as honorable, for others killing his daugther because she loved someone is a shame.

this kind of difference is not possible in RAW glorantha (well I think)

Right. Well by RAW, the Dishonor Table is valid for "all humans of Dragon Pass". So you can still have varying concepts of honour between humans and non-humans, and between Dragon Pass and elsewhere.

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On 5/12/2022 at 11:18 PM, Scorus said:

I started a discussion on Facebook hoping to get an official response, now hoping I might get one here.

ask in the Q&A.

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1 hour ago, coffeemancer said:

wasnt there a battle irl where some army caught another army in a seamp and could have rained arrows at them risk free but the general refused such a dishonorable tactic? and once the enemy army came out of the swamp they crushed the honorable army

There may have been.  But what is the standard of honor is being used here?  Why would firing on army stuck in a swamp be dishonorable for the Orlanthi?  Does this mean that attacking somebody held in place by a Glue spell is dishonorable?  Or how about Befuddle?

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15 hours ago, Dr. Device said:

Honor doesn't stop being a factor even when your opponent is clearly tainted with chaos, and fighting chaos foes dishonorably will still carry the usual penalties. Some Orlanthi will break the rules of honorable engagement in order to kill chaos, but they aren't saying "it isn't dishonorable," they're saying "it's too important not to do."

I disagree (except for the fanatics).

You give honour and act honourably to honourable folks. Those without honour don't deserve that.

Similar to CA cultists can Befuddle, and those under their care are protected - unless they're Chaos creatures.

 

Obviously, this will be contentious - and I imagine that the Orlanthi would have this argument over dinner as well.

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17 hours ago, Jeff said:

Killing prisoners is viewed as deeply dishonourable.

Killing prisoners amounts to a -5% Honor penalty for "attacking an unarmed foe" (RQG p234).  This may well be cumulative per prisoner killed.  Obviously having them killed by torture should carry a higher honor penalty.  So the question becomes, is handing your prisoners over to someone you know will likely mistreat or kill them going to invoke the same penalty? You know, like an axe-happy BBG who has never had any honor.  Remember that a prisoner is in no way a guest and is not due any hospitality.

I would also point out that it is extremely difficult for a resistance movement to keep any but the most valuable prisoners, given that they are normally hiding in an improvised fieldwork without proper jails or reliable supply.  In times of war irl, just because an enemy surrenders doesn't mean the other side have to accept that surrender.  In Glorantha, the normal way to surrender is to shout out how much your ransom is worth, but nobody is obliged to take you up on it.  Anyone who takes that offer of ransom becomes responsible for the prisoner.  Now this is where a guerilla operation like the Orlanthi may need to employ a ransom broker to act as a middle-man between themselves and the Lunars, but really, the risk to the resistance is just too high as they will need to visit the broker and then they can be followed back to their hideout.  In effect, resistance movements are not in a position where they can afford to keep prisoners alive, even if they would like to.

Edited by Darius West
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15 hours ago, lordabdul said:

Note 2: how do people handle the losses of honour? (p234)   I haven't had to use that table yet, but it might happen at some point given that one of my players is playing a young Yelmalion with a Honor Passion. I'm tempted to not just apply it automatically. Instead, I'm tempted to ask the player why their character feels compelled to break their personal code, pit that Passion or Rune against the Honor Passion, and apply the Honor loss only if Honor wins.

If you do the dishonourable act, you lose Honour. It doesn't matter if you don't think it was dishonourable; it doesn't matter if there were no witnesses; it doesn't matter if you play semantic games beforehand or afterwards to "rationalise" your dishonourable act. You did it: your Honour takes the hit. You didn't do it: you're fine and clear. No other Runes or Passions are involved.

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