Great Houses Mechanic

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The Game of Houses

Houses of the Arcade are defined by four stats. Major houses have non-zero stats for all four. Minor houses can have a zero in one stat without penalty. This stat will be immune to attack. A house with a zero in more than one stat is vulnerable, as only one stat can be immune and thus the house is susceptible to constant attack in its other zero stat. Stats range from 0 to 9.

(Ezokin suggests that the great houses worried about Li Merit are trying to get him promoted before he can support three stats so he can be defeated. This is apparently a common tactic.)

House Stats

The four stats are:


Mostly wealth, this can also refer to art holdings, wine inventories, etc.


House Status, number of house lords, favors owed to the house, etc.


House guards, mercenaries, bodyguards, etc.


House sorcerers, geomancers, magical items, etc. Arcade houses often under-emphasize this stat.

Turns Types

Houses get two turns a month, an offensive turn and a defensive turn. Each month, one of two different stats must be delegated to each turn. Turns can be taken in either order, although which turn is first affects whether the turn is static or dynamic (see below). Stats receive bonuses based upon the type of turn it is used in and other factors.

                              Offensive Turn  Defensive Turn
House is targeted this turn     -1              +2
House is not targeted this turn +2              -1
Turn is inwardly directed       -1              +1
Turn is static                  -1              +2
Turn is dynamic                 +1              -1
Intent corresponds to month     +1              +1
Intent opposes month            -1              -1

If a turn is in the same week, type, intent, and stat as it was last month (standing orders) the turn is considered static. If any of these four factors are different, the turn is considered dynamic.

Turn Mechanics

For each week of the month, you designate a turn type, intent, and stat. Your intent is a simple statement of what you want to accomplish "Increase western trade routes." "Destroy House Foo's Military", "Gather influence with the king."

You then compare your stat to a d10. The difference between your stat and your die roll (stat - die (min 0)) is the number of successes you get in achieving your intent. Intents attacking another house tends to require a number of successes equivalent to the other house's relevant stat. Other effects will have successes needed assigned by the GM. If the successes is greater than the target, the intent probably succeeds, with the actual outcome determined by the GM. If not, the successes are saved and added to future successes until success is achieved. Successes do not expire, and generating and storing partial credit in successes towards offensive goals for future use is a common tactic. You can't save more successes than the size of your stat, so it is impossible to execute any intent that requires more than 2*stat successes without getting allies. Successes can be cancelled at any time in response to agreements and treaties, but once cancelled must be generated anew if you change your mind.

Two houses with identical intents can add success together (largest house, +second house/2 + third house/3, etc. with each house adding a minimum of one success, assuming they've generated one).

Intra-Turn Mechanics

Houses may use their stats for effects outside of their main turn draw. For instance, a house may roll against its Influence to get a meeting with the king, or roll against its Military to reassign a house unit elsewhere. This use of the stat, whether it succeeds or fails temporarily reduces the stat by one. The stat recovers one point of temporary expenditure immediately after the next time it is used to resolve a full turn. Multiple stats can be in debt this way, and each stat can be multiply depressed requiring several turns to regenerate.

Intra-Turn rolls generally need to generate only one success to succeed and should be scaled accordingly.

Increasing Stats

The one thing both intra-turn mechanics and turn mechanics can not do is raise a house's own stats. Turn mechanics can alter the stats of other houses, and intra-turn mechanics can temporarily lower the stats of the drawing house, but only non-stat based actions can increase the stats of a house.

To increase the stat of a house,

  • 1) Declare which stat the house is working on
  • 2) Outline some plan to increase that stat
  • 3) Execute the plan successfully without using any house stat rolls.

Note that house turns can (and often are) be used to make a plan easier to execute or more effective if successful. If your plan to raise your Influence requires a giant plot making your Horse into the greatest horse ever, you can take turns with intents that make horses more valuable, or make other houses respect horses more, or other such side effects, you just can't take any turns that directly affect your horse.

Great House Stats (current max values)

                      Resources       Influence       Military        Chi
Benevolent Oversight    8               9               8               6
Judicious Increase      9               6               5               3
Beneficent Travel       6               8               6               5
Gainful Protection      5               7               9               4
Resplendent Decoration  7               6               5               2
Enticing Vintage        6               7               5               2
Quiet Concordance       3               2               2               6

At the end of Krakenology:

Temporary stat adjustments aren't public, but some things you think are true:

  • EV is at -4 Influence due to the primacy battle.
  • QC is at -1 Military due to having just moved a chariot
  • GP is *not* at -1 Military for having moved a chariot, because it just succeeded in a Military action against Continuing Sustenance, and it probably rolled Military to move its own chariot.

There could well be other temporary decreases for things that haven't been on camera.

The House of Exuberant Interference

As of The Second Sign, paperwork was filed by parties unknown to bring the House into existence on our behalf. Assuming that we do not reverse the paperwork, for the House to have stats, we have to declare some resources, and get people to either join or associate themselves with the House. (For example, Takanata and Kuan-Xi are nobles in other countries; they clearly can't join the House, but publicly announcing as allies of the House are similarly useful.)

As noted above, it's hard to increase a House's stats after it is formed, so the easiest opportunity for improving stats is right now, during the formation stage.

Things put into stats don't add linearly. For reference, the House of Judicious Increase has a 10 Resources stat (as of The Second Sign) based on having "effectively limitless wealth". 100 Tael might be 2 Resources alone, but it doesn't add 2 resources if the first 3 were the Merit Trading Company. Like character stat dice, stats get more expensive, but it's clearly a worse curve than character stats.

Some things that would convert to stats:

  • Resources:
    • The Merit Trading Company is about 3 points
    • 100 tael of cold hard cash would be 1-2 points
  • Influence
    • The Cup Of Five Virtues might be a point or more
    • A batch of favors from six different houses is about a point
    • Other things that would move the needle: Blackmail on the King, PCs with Reputation shticks, the Gate of Shen Council, possibly mobs of urchins.
  • Military
    • We're weak here, since we have no armies or mercenary companies
    • Strike teams of powerful NPCs working for us might move the needle
    • The general combat prowess of the PCs moves the needle, but we haven't asked "what stat would we get if the whole party joined".
  • Chi
    • General magic/sorcery/chi-like abilities of PCs
    • Spending spirit points (Bear and Horse Points) would get us 1 for spending 8. (or 2 for 27, but I'm sure we're not going to do that.)
    • Troves of magic items, or perhaps particularly spiffy magic items, count.
    • Talismans might count, but we're probably afraid to declare them.

"Declaring" something for the mechanic means different things in different cases. Cold Hard Cash probably mostly disappears into the mechanic. Institutions like the Merit Trade Company or the Cup Of Five Virtues remain institutions that can still do things; they just have the benefits and disads of being associated with the House. If we had an army that was declared as part of the House, it would still be an army that we could have do things (but doing things with it might temporarily suppress the House's stat). Some things can be stealthily declared; it depends on the situation. Having an epic entertainer secretly commit to the House probably doesn't do much for Influence, but having an epic spy agency secretly commit to the House probably would mostly work. It all kind of depends, and because stats aren't linear, it's going to end up being a GM call.