Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pravda and Krivda

I've been thinking about introducing an ethical mechanic rooted in Russian folk culture for some time, and this week, I finally wrote one up. The mechanic will invoke the twin concepts of pravda and krivda. As linked traits,  the two would function somewhat analogously to the Inspiration mechanic. Pravda means truth, justice, and the righteous path, where as krivda denotes crookedness, lies, and injustice. The two ideals are sometimes personified in the popular imagination. Aside from the holiest of saints and the wickedest of sinners, most people survive by trying to walk a fine line between the two, though they will lean toward one or the other at different times in their life.

When a character commits a particularly righteous act - defending the weak, telling the truth when it is disadvantageous, or goes without so that another may enjoy an advantage, the GM may grant the character a point of Pravda. Conversely, when a character commits a particularly heinous act - tells a lie that has an especially deleterious impact on someone, backstabs an ally, or forces another to suffer so that he or she can benefit, the GM awards the character a point of Krivda.
As with Inspiration, points of Krivda and Pravda can be used to grant advantage on rolls, but with the following differences:
  •  Points of Pravda can only be used to help other people. They cannot be used toward evil ends, nor when the character is trying to benefit only themselves. They cannot be used in neutral situations, ethic (e.g. if a character is trying to recall a bit of lore or information).
  • Points of Krivda, conversely, can only be used toward evil or selfish ends - deceiving and betraying others, and benefitting at their expense. They cannot be used to give aid, or in neutral situations.
  • Unlike inspiration, points of Krivda and Pravda can be accumulated.
  • However, Pravda and Krivda cancel each other out. For example, if a character with three points of Pravda has accrued one point of Krivda, the point of Krivda cancels a point of Pravda, and the character now has two points of Pravda to use toward righteous ends.
  • It is possible to recoup points of Pravda or Krivda by using them, but not every usage has that result.

Note that accumulating too much Krivda can have significant drawbacks. A character who has more effective points of Krivda than their Charisma modifier will be making all Charisma checks vis-à-vis anyone aware of the character's behavior with disadvantage.
The Pravda-Krivda mechanic may be thought of as a replacement for alignment. Rather than defining themselves by adherence to an ethical or moral dogma, most characters struggle to live up to their higher ideals, and are defined more by what they *do*, not what they believe.

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