Reputation as a matter of system

I believe that as a reward for saving the kingdom the heroic characters should receive a bump in reputation. There’s little more rewarding than rolling into town and being recognized as a famous dragon slayer, given free drinks, and getting an instant audience with the duke. It’s also fun when you introduce yourself to a knight and he says something like “You can’t be William Wallace, he’s seven feet tall!” What I’m getting at is that if your character survives long enough he should get some renown, and for gain or ill, his reputation will proceed him.

I like the idea of a mechanical reputation system. If it’s tangible and measurable, then I get a sense of accomplishment every time my “reputation stat” gets bumped up. In some games you add a reputation bonus to social skills like diplomacy or intimidate. I recall there are even games where the reputation system was a little broader, and you could apply reputation bonuses to almost every type of roll.

The thing I don’t like is having to keep track of yet another modifier; there’s already too much to keep track of. So then I started thinking of what I a simple reputation system might look like. In 4e, you add 1/2 the character’s level to practically everything. For a reputation system, character level is a pretty good approximation for reputation if the kinds of things the party does for experience is helping out others. Take the Elder Scrolls series of CRPGs, where your character can earn fame and infamy by completing quests. The more quests you complete the more XP you get and the higher your level. It’s not linear like the 1/2 level score, but that’s okay. We’re only dealing with an approximation.

I think I like the level model of reputation. It’s not something that has to ever be kept track of since you add 1/2 level to diplomacy score anyway. It’s an easy way for the GM to figure out how new NPCs might react to your character. By the time you reach 20th level, practically everybody on the plane should have heard of you.

Are there any D&D-compatible reputation systems out there? I seem to remember some stuff to add on from the 2E splat books and the Birthright campaign setting….

2 thoughts on “Reputation as a matter of system

  1. I’m not sure I buy into the idea. I see your argument in terms of how likely someone is to have heard of you, although I would argue that there could very well be exceptions depending on the social structure and geography of a particular area.

    Likewise, many campaigns might have rival factions and your reputation with each one would probably have nothing at all to do with your level and everything to do with your actions in the game and the motivations of the NPCs. Kill the leaders of the local populist movement and you’re likely to be labeled as establishment. The king might love you but the lower levels of society might just not tell you that there is a bounty on your head.

    I guess in the end, I don’t think reputation is the sort of thing players should ever keep track of but something the DM should be thinking about every session when role-playing the NPCs and determining the difficultly of skill checks.

    As a final note, some artifacts in 4e have a reputation system of sorts. The actions of the player can change the artifact’s mood towards that player. Similar concordances could probably be produced for NPC characters as well, most generic with a few for the most important NPCs in a campaign.

  2. You’re right. I purposesly conflated reputation with renown. It would be more realistic, and for my personal style nicer to have a reputation-by-faction system. After all the kinds of things that get you liked by the guards probably won’t help you with the thieves guild. And working with either is unlikely to help when dealing a gnomish mage guild on a different continent. The only problem with a mechanical system to represent that is then that’s one more stat to keep track of. I’d prefer the GM take past dealing into account when setting DCs, or gauging the NPC responses.

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