Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Reputation

When I started my current D&D campaign, my player characters were lowly little level 3 adventurers. They were sturdy enough that getting sent on the archetypal rat hunting mission was beneath them, but fragile enough to get nervous about a cabin full of giant spiders. Today, they have grown to level 12 out of a total of 20. They are a force to be reckoned with, something akin to the Green Berets or the Navy SEALs of their world.

This is all part of the classic hero arc that resides at the center of the roleplaying genre (both tabletop and videogames). Through the course of their adventures, the heroes gain experience, powerful tools of the hero trade, begin to more fully realize their powers. They also likely begin to gain a bit of a reputation.

Reputation is one thing that many videogames have tried to capture, though I'm not sure any have gotten it quite right. Some, like Mass Effect and Fable incorporate a morality metric that affects peoples' opinion of you based on your past actions. In the Elder Scrolls games, you can move up through the ranks of certain organizations and grow your powers of persuasion, and in the Fallout games, you might even hear radio broadcasts about your antics, but I feel like none of these fully captures the changes that take place as a character's fame or notoriety grows.

Fortunately, in a tabletop game, you are only limited by your imagination, and so there is a much greater capacity for exploring the ramifications of fame and fortune.

Some of these ramifications may be good. As your heroes make a name for themselves, once closed doors may open up. After slaying the giant who was bowling for sheep in the countryside, they may no longer need to deal with the royal seneschal, they might have a direct line to speak with the king. If their reputation is honorable, restrictions on carrying arms or spellcasting within city limits might be waived. They might get discounts at stores, invitations to join guildhalls or even lands and titles.

Wizards traditionally have low fortitude saves

However, as so many celebrities can tell you, fame isn't all wine and roses. It becomes difficult to go out into the world without being noticed. Gathering information about neer-do-wells from the local tavern might require a trip out in disguise. You will likely face petitions for help from strangers in the street (just ask the Three Amigos). Fame also carries with it an assumption of wealth. Rather than offering discounts, some shops might actually jack their prices up. After all, you just took down a dragon, you must be loaded!

Celebrity can also bring resentment. The relatives of vanquished foes may seek you out, and the better known your whereabouts, the harder it will be to hide. Some previously unmet challengers might also seek you out in an effort to prove their own mettle. It is a truly precarious perch at the top of the heap.

Fortunately, for a DM, all of these things represent new and exciting adventure hooks and challenges to throw at players flush with the glow of their accomplishments.

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