Is the concept of "unvirtuous behaviour" preventing play?

Hi, so I know that the virtues are designed OOC to encourage people going out and doing things, which is good. But I also feel like there almost a witch hunt for unvirtuous behaviour, as such playing a miser, coward, fool, unattentive, disloyal etc seems to provide far greater punishment than what those features would normally bring. Playing a trader without scruples, a warrior that leaves his friends to die on the battlefield to save his own skin and such seem like good concepts. Just wondering if I’m overestimating the reach and power of the synod, or if perhaps the virtues have misfired slightly.


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I have a somewhat limited view of this as I only see what comes through the Synod officially, but I’ve not personally seen anything like you describe.

(On a side note, you could will argue that the 9 Inquisitors are supposed to be engaging in witch hunts!)

Looking back over the Sanctions for last event, we have:

  • 6 Vindications (this person’s alright)
  • 0 Castigations (this person did a bad, boo)
  • 0 Condemnations (this person did a big bad religious crime)
  • 4 Penances (this person did a bad, here’s what they need to do better/to atone)

Looking into those Penances:

  • Zephaniah’s Lament are bad because they screwed over the League by trashing half their cities, they need to do stuff for the League
  • Nessetta had a ring that someone else hallowed to Vengeance, it’s not her fault
  • The Withering Gaze didn’t make Vengeance auras, but they didn’t so anything to get rid of them, which is bad
  • Brat has strong opinions about briars, but he’s not completely wrong, so he should go around and explain his point of view

Two of those are about things that could have been overt religious crimes (creating Vengeance auras), one is about large-scale PvP which was featured in Winds of Fortune, and the last was about a very controversial Judgement.

And notably, in those four cases, the Synod whinged about people’s behaviour, but had no direct power to enforce the Penance short of pulling out another power like Condemnation or Revocation.

There may be a fair amount of religious pressure outside of the Synod itself to punish unvirtuous behaviour, but social influence is the Synod’s main power - it can’t punish people directly without expending quite a lot of effort.

What sort of punishments are you seeing handed out for unvirtuous behaviour? I’m quite interested in this topic for a number of reasons!


I don’t think the field has any shortage of fools, misers, and cowards, they just try not to go crowing about it.


It depends from whose point of view in a lot of cases too.
The warrior who ran from their mates could be displaying Courage because he saw a chance to kill an enemy general, or Wisdom in going for additional help instead of just becoming another dead imperial.
The trader without scruples could be trying to raise funds for a big imperial project, so yes she’s sitting on a lot of money but has plans for great Ambition, or she’s trying to teach others a lesson in Vigilance, to make better trades in future.
As long as you or your friendly priest can argue your case you can get away with all sorts in the name of Virtue!

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The concepts you mention can be interesting but only because they cause meaningful conflict. If everyone played them, the game would be rubbish. If nobody played them, the game would have no IC cautionary tales.

  • If you can effortlessly get away without judgement for playing an antagonistic PC, then your PC is not interesting either to play or interact with. Playing a cowardly warrior or dodgy trader is choosing to wear a KICK ME sign and spend your IC effort and ill-gotten gains on avoiding kicks.

  • Getting judged IC is fun, because it means you’ve played your concept hard enough someone’s actually noticed it and wants to pick a fight. Spending a couple of years as a PC who’s a bit shit is nowhere near as fun as being notorious and having people gossip behind your back or denounce you to your face.

  • The Virtues are good because they provide clear ways to socially condemn antagonistic PCs other than just “that’s illegal” “that’s antisocial” or “That’s not nice”.

  • They are good because they provide reasons to praise people for reasons you might not immediately go for OC. They are a philosophy that is more important than the law if an illegal action is a big enough display of Virtue.

  • You can play an antagonistic PC who is ruthlessly dedicated to a Virtue and can prove it. For reference, see some of the characters who have held Synod Titles.


I don’t think the virtues prevent good roleplay, but I think people being wrong about them does. My pet hate is people who think Wisdom and Vigilance say “avoid danger”, when they don’t. I have a much longer rant on this I might publish at some point, because every virtue has something which is actually designed to create game but some players use it to stomp on game.


Hard agree with Penny

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Its also worth mentioning a fair few of those types have things like “accidents” or getting “tragically cut off” too so the Synod isnt the be all and end all :wink:

Jim and Penny are also 100% correct :slight_smile:

Part of me thinks a lot of it is people mapping the real world concepts of wisdom, loyalty etc onto the Virtues which are not necessarily the same thing. I think this is also at the route of the honour thing that’s going on in Wintermark. In that the Jotun concept of Honour isn’t necessarily what we call honour irl

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Social pressure is a wonderful thing, and that is what the Synod has for the most part, imposing social pressure on particular behaviour.
However as already mentioned the act of “Sanction” save Condemnation is a verbal effectively.
Their are clever things you do with it (I wrote it that way) but that requires cooperation with other people.
The primary problem with people thinking “Unvirtuous” is an issue, is down to a few things - 1) people (including priests) not reading the brief for Virtues, 2) People perverting the Virtues for their own ends. I love number 2, and cannot stand number 1.
Another major thing that is never mentioned is that it’s perfectly reasonable to be Virtuous in the context of one Virtue and a complete scumbag in another. There are elements of each Virtue that are dramatically in opposition to each other.
I mean, it’s perfectly reasonable to be a miser, if your Ambitionis to be the richest person in the Empire, hell there are multiple Auras of Ambition that could easily be in opposition to not being a “miser” or a coward, or any other of the things that the other Virtues rave about being bad, because not doing those things could be in the way of your Ambition (whatever it may be) and nothing must stand in the way of your ambition.
Similarly, Wisdom says hate the fool, it leaves out what a fool is, if a character assumes a fool is someone not following Wisdom then there are a lot of fools, particularly the Courage Dedicants, who specifically have Auras to not listen or be dissuaded from others whereas Wisdom has Auras specifically to shut up and listen when someone knows what they are talking about. There are lots of areas of conflict where Assembly’s could (and should IMO) be arguing over someones Virtue and getting all angry about others.
Then add on top Schools of Thought, for example, one says that you have to not only have to be good at your dedicated Virtue but not be deficit in others, however that seems to go against the above about how Virtue works, so that’s areas for conflict for priests and lay characters.

Basically, there isn’t a problem in the game at all, the only problem is peoples fear of sticking their neck out and playing a more openly antagonistic person. Which is sad, because often the most memorable characters are in one way or another, someones antagonist and anothers hero.