In the new version of Hackmaster, it suggests that you award -12 to +16 honor to each character over the course of a level. It suggests doing this by rating the character as per the 1-10 rating and the chart for Adherence to Alignment, Adherence to Class, Defense of Personal Honor, and General Roleplaying, as per Chapter 6.

However, the problem is that I don't know of a good way to do this when those guidelines reflect the amount that should be handled out over the course of an entire character level, while the honor awards are suggested to be given out at the end of every session. Since I never know exactly how many sessions it will take the party to level up, I don't have a good way to know how much to give out at the end of a given session to make sure I end up at the appropriate per-level amount.

I care about this and it is important to make sure I'm not over-awarding or under-awarding honor per level because the higher honor levels, such as Great Honor and Legendary Honor, have very tight windows and some classes such as Knight and Paladin tie into those levels. I don't want to make it too easy or too hard to play such a class due to my mismanagement of honor rewards.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When I read the book recently I understood it to be -12-16 a session, which sounded like a lot, but at least made sense with the per category rating per session. Looking at it again, it is -12 to 16 per level. Good question. I'm lacking actual play experience to help craft an answer though! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 21:32

4 Answers 4


The per-level guideline is just that: a guideline. It's a self-check after the fact to make sure that something hasn't gone wrong.

Just award honour after each session as you deem appropriate, according to the guidelines in the chart. If after a level you find that the amount of honour given out is totally out of line and you've noticed that it's been causing problems, then it's time to think back and figure out what the problem is and how it can be corrected. But before there's a problem? Don't worry about it.

However, if you are running into problems, there are two different, relatively easy fixes:

  1. Don't give out honour each session, saving it for when they level up.

    This is a fairly strict way to run the game, since players will have no honour replenishment between levels, if they're choosing to spend it. They also get play feedback all in a chunk instead of incrementally. However, it's by-the-rules and neatly solves the problem. It makes it impossible to award too little or too much honour, since the charts can produce a maximum of 16 and a minimum of −12.

  2. Track honour awards, using your record to impose an hard ceiling or floor on incremental honour awards during the course of a level.

    This method allows you to award honour every session, giving players quick mechanical feedback about how they're portraying their characters and a more fluid reflection of the character group's moral character. This does require keeping precise records, however:

    • Award honour (positive or negative) each session according to your best judgement, taking the 1-10 scale as a rough guideline. The rules are not written with this in mind (absurdly so, given the text's assumption of doing this), so you'll have to eyeball it.

    • With every award and deduction, keep a running tally for each character of how much honour you've given them this level. A single running total with the appropriate + or − for each character is all that is necessary.

    • If you would award honour to a character or deduct honour from a character that would push the "Honour this level" running tally above +16 or below −12, do not award/deduct honour.

    This will result in keeping with the guidelines ("Characters generally should not be gaining more than 16 points of Honor per level (nor losing more than 12 points)!", Hackmaster Basic, p. 27). However, it's makes the awarding and deducting more fluid, which means that you can award more points if you are also deducting more points, which allows you to provide quite a bit of instantaneous feedback. It's also implied by the wording on page 27 that docking honour can be done at the moment of transgression, not just at the end of the session.

    Keeping your own tally instead of relying on the number on the character sheet insulates your record of awards and deductions from the player choosing to spend honour for rerolls or bonuses. This is important to make sure the awards and deductions for the level is within +16 and −12, as this is not meant to include such spending of honour. A Knight will have to be especially honourable in order to have leftovers for spending on rerolls.

Either method should work if keeping within the +/− guidelines is challenging in your game. The first is recommended if you have a group who are generally good at playing true to their class, alignment, and defending their personal honour – at level-up, there will be few to no surprises. (In such a game, honour is a reward, not a feedback mechanism.) The second method is recommended if you have a group of Murder Hobos or a mixed group with nefarious and honourable characters, who will have to resolve their differences in creative ways to maintain their individual honours at the desired levels. In such a game, quick honour feedback is paramount for players to tell if they're being led astray by circumstances and their fellows' questionable moral fortitude.


Actually if I have a group of regulars, i.e. everyone usually makes every session, then I typically wait until they go up a level to award Honor. However, sometimes you have to award it per session. When I do that a good rule of thumb that I've found is to do it by a method that someone suggested over at the K&Co forums. You figure out a ratio based on how many EPs they need to go up a level. For example;

A 1st Level Character needs 400 EP to go up to Level 2. If the player has been in the "Average" Honor in all Categories then that character would earn 10 pts of Honor. So that means that a 1st Level character in that Average Honor category should be earning approxiately 1 Honor Point per 40 EPs gained. Just make sure that you don't go over the Max, which for a 1st Level Character would be 1 Honor Point per 25 EPs.

That seems like it might be a bit of math, but you can make up a chart and keep it in your GM notes. For example:

Current    Added EPs    EPs per 1 Honour
Character  Needed to    ────────────────
Level      Advance      Average     Max
1                400         40     25
2                800         80     50
3               1000        100     62½
4               1200        120     75

One approach I've tried running through the per-level honor award charts at the end of each session and then dividing the number I come up with there by whatever fraction of a level's worth of experience they earned that session, and keeping tracks of fractions when awarding, since they'll probably be relevant unless they earn large portions of a level each session!.

This at least makes sure that I'm giving it out at the right rate, but I'm not very happy with this approach. It feels odd to me to tie it so directly to experience gain, since some of the best role-playing opportunities are in non-combat situations, and honor seems largely tied to role-playing rather than combat. Honor is largely a measure of how well the player plays their character, and breaking down the honor in this matter and tying it to experience makes it appear to be more a matter of how many things they kill. If I have a heavy RP session where little experience is earned, their honor score will barely budge. If I have a 3 hour non-stop hackfest session where they just work their way through a cave of goblins, with little time to talk or RP, it feels weird that the bulk of that level's honor, which again is largely based on RP, will be given out during a RP-light session.

So, this method at least makes sure I'm not giving out too much or too little, but it seems often divorced from the actual activities that cause the gain or loss of honor.


It might be odd to start off with the notion that I've not played Hackmaster, but it sounds like the basic concept of what I do with keeping track of alignments and other bonus points based on rping(Influence, Action Points, ect.) . The way I do it is to simply keep a piece of paper (Or preferably a whiteboard) and simply keep track of good vs bad influences. If someone did something honourable, give them a point, if they did something really outstanding, give them a couple, if they did something that would be a negative influence, add points to a separate tracker. At the end of the session, look at the two. If a lot of points are in the good area and none are in the bad, award high. If there aren't many in the good or bad, it might be for a lack of opportunity, or for a lack of their seeking opportunities. On the other hand, big in both can be from testing it too often, (or often a chaotic player).

It is also a good idea to keep track of it over a level, and compare to how the character advanced with their honour. If most sessions they had high honour, and somehow ended up with less than impressive honour, it might be worth your time to talk to the player and correct it (Especially if it affects their classes). On the other hand, if they have a higher honour than you think they deserved, consider taking a closer look at how much you awarded them, and keep a closer eye on their awards for the next level.


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