Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Have a Bad Reputation

A long time ago, I once played a game called, The Atlantean Trilogy. It was a product by Bard Games. It was vaguely D&D-like, but it had it’s own unique twists. One of these items was a little rule where each player would have a renown percentage. Players would start off with a value from one to four percent. The idea is that each adventure would give the characters one or two additional points. When players would meet someone, the game master could make a rule to see if the NPCs had ever heard of the players’ characters before.  Overall, I’ve always thought it was a great idea.

Sadly, it was just a little rule. I’m not sure how well it worked. A player could get numbers over one hundred percent. The reasoning was that there were penalties for being outside your home region. Think of it as your legendary figure of England and some people have heard about you in Japan. You could even get a really high renown score by doing something infamous. Basically you did something bad and now everyone knows about it. Needless to say, it had a few flaws in it.

Even with it’s flaws, I’ve often wondered if it or something similar could be used with other games? After all it was a fairly general rule that had no other system specifics attached to it. It also allowed for you to give a reward to your players without actually giving them a monetary reward.

If one wanted to apply something like it to a game, you may need to think a bit like a game designer for a bit. Do you want it to be some sort or number stat or ability score? There are good reasons for going that route. There are distinct values or levels of renown that you can track. You can use the number to influence die roll modifies. Do you want it to be some sort of trait that you have or don’t have? There are good reasons go that route as well.

In general, I like the idea of an attribute. Now it can be used as a comparison value at the very least. I am thinking of having both a fame and infamy stats. Fame for all the heroic things and infamy for all the non-good things. What I like about this is that both the good and bad can follow you around.

Since I’m currently playing Pathfinder, We need a way to make the rules work under those rules. Here is what I currently have. Each player gets 1d4 worth of fame or infamy points. They can split it up between the two stats. It make it more d20-like for every divide the points by five that’s now the modifier to a DC of 10 + target’s WIS or CHR bonus + target’s fame/infamy modifier. The DC can go higher if they are in foreign land. You can make one roll for fame and one for Infamy. Depending on the situation the players could get  a +2 bonus to Diplomacy, Intimidate, or other interpersonal skills. I think this has the desired effect of allowing a person’s fame or infamy effect people without getting too powerful.

This concept is still a work in progress but I would sure love to hear what people think about it.


Greg Christopher said...

Seems to me like if you are going to have two stats, you should have "reknown" and "affect". Reknown measuring the likelihood of someone recognizing you and Affect measuring the likelihood of them having positive feelings towards you (or not). And you cannot make Affect rolls unless Reknown succeeds.

So you meet someone new, you roll Reknown, they recognize you. Then you roll Affect, they feel positive towards you.

That way, you could alter Affect up and down by individual, so that Robin Hood is likely to fail the roll vs a king's soldier but succeed vs a peasant.

Carlson793 said...

I think I would go with a single Renown stat, with it fluctuating between positive (Fame) and negative (Infamy). Keep it a numerically low stat so it can be used directly as a modifier for various skill/reaction rolls (Diplomacy, for example or, in it's inverse, Intimidate). That way, you're keeping the die rolling to a minimum - you're not adding one roll to modify another.

Bonemaster said...

Thank you both for you input. As I noted this is a rough concept. It just been one that I always thought had a place somewhere.

Greg Christopher said...

You may want to chart it on three dimensions, like this morality model I developed for Cascade Failure:


Just with reputational concepts instead of moral ones.

steelcaress said...

I remember the Atlantean Trilogy fondly. I even have a blog post about it, but I digress...

Renown I've always used as less of a numerical stat than a roleplaying one.

I've always felt that, by the time you're 7th or 8th level, you've acquired quite a rep and many people will have heard of you. At those levels, you're close to being able to set up some sort of HQ and attract followers. How quickly and how far the word has spread will affect renown (a low-magic world might have very little in the way of outside news), and the nature of the work. A political figure nets quite a bit of fame, but a covert operative would be far less well-known.

I've always figured big deeds net you quite a bit of acclaim, and small deeds less so.

sirlarkins said...

Reminds me of Pendragon, which handles renown with two numbers: Glory and Honor. Glory is a little like how you describe renown, a little like XP. Certain skills are modified by Glory (either your own or the other person's) and there are qualitative levels that come into effect as your Glory increases.

Honor is one of the game's Passions, and it can fluctuate based on your actions. A villainous knight, therefore, might have high Glory but a low Honor.

Didn't Cyberpunk 2020 also have a Reputation score? I think renown/reputation systems are always a good idea.

Teebs Timil said...

The ancient James Bond 007 game had something similar, but the more exposure you got, the worse off it was for you since you're supposed to be a secret agent.

I created something like what you describe for a Palladium Fantasy-based campaign I ran. I built specialty OCC's and one was an entertainer who accumulated "fame" points. At different tiers his fame would extend from his hometown, to the neighboring lands, to the entire kingdom, to the surrounding kingdoms, and eventually the entire world.

He also got an agent (NPC) when a certain amount of Fame points were accumulated along with a certain level reached.

anyway, if you make it a stat or attribute, would it ever go higher?

Anonymous said...

I haven't met too many people who have played the Bard Games...I loved the alchemy section and the VERY comprehensive list of ingredients...I used those list for decades in my d&d games...your post cheered me up, thanks


fewilcox said...

Both editions of HackMaster have a stat called "Honor" that serves two functions. The first is what you describe: it's a measure of what NPCs think of you.

Its second function is similar to Fate Points, Bennies, etc in other games: you can spend your honor to affect dice rolls or make rerolls. The balance comes in how much Honor to spend. Too much, and NPCs start reacting badly so that merchants tip you off, you get suspected of crimes you didn't commit, and whatever else the GM can think of.

It's a great system overall and was vastly improved in fifth edition.

Zak S said...

I like that. I like that it's simple, too, and automatic.

Haven't read the comments but in D&D I could imagine a simple "roll under your PC's level on a d20" mechanic.

Or d100 if you don't want them to get famous that fast.

Andreas Davour said...

I have played in a game, an Old West one, that used a system like X/Y.

50/0 was what you started with. X was your reputation, and Y how famous you were. Both values were percentages. 50/0 is middle of the road guy who is unknown.

Rolling Y - 50% was the change of being recognized. For each county away from "home base" you subtracted another 50%. I kind of liked that. A guy like 20/120 was known as a monster in two counties and even had a reputation in a third. Kind of cool. Imagine you PC having 100/0 and you clearly wasn't legendary material ever how nice. :)

Percentile dice are cool...

Swordgleam said...

Having fame and infamy be independent is a problem because you could roll so that an NPC both adores and fears you (possible, but not likely to happen all that often unless it's an affect you're deliberately shooting for).

But having them as opposite also doesn't work because if you're famous, committing evil acts doesn't make you less famous on the way towards eventual infamy.

I think the first idea suggested, of renown and affect, is probably the least likely to contradict itself.

Scrofulous Nerd said...

I love the idea of renown (or honour, or whatever you chooses to call it), but I find it a really difficult factor to codify (and thereby quantify) into a rule system. AFAICS any system is so open to both abuse (if you have that sort of player) or rule fatigue where the rule is in danger of being over-used.
Questions that always seem to be a blocker to the use of this sort of rule is:
1. How does a character hide their renown?
2. How does a character fake more (or less) renown.
3. Is renown linked to physical recognisability or simply a name?
4. Am I stressing way too much over a simple rule?

In my multiverse system I have used Recog (physical recognisability) and Honour. The honour rule only really works because some of the races of the world actually use honour and value it so the rule has a natural get out clause for characters who dont want to use it - dont play those sorts of races.


Victor Von Dave said...

The 2e Complete Bard's Handbook had a set of rules for fame that we had a lot of fun with back in the day.
The main thing I remember about them was that if your fame was high enough, random events could happen - like getting a crazed fan who would follow you wherever you went (even into dangerous dungeons).
In our game the bard got such a fan and when the bard died later in the campaign that fan took up the mantle and replaced his former idol.

JB said...

You might check out the 2nd edition Gamma World rules, which used "Status" much the way D&D uses XP.

It might be easiest just to link the stat to XP.

Kindros said...

I love this idea. I might actually try to apply something like this to the Pathfinder game I'm starting up. Thanks for sharing this. :)

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Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this post and it's comments. I'm working on recompiling notes and rules for Rolemaster 2nd Edition, with the intention of starting a campaign at some point. The issue of reputation always made me think, and some of the suggestions here gave me some additional ideas. There are a lot of interlocking "attributes" and external variables which would effect reactions based on one's reputation, IMHO.
Recognition (Attribute)
Renown (Attribute)
Honor/Infamy (Attribute)
Self Worth (Attribute)
Behavior (Factor)
Witnesses (Factor)
"Tales" (Factor)

I'm working on the cross-talk of all these. Again, thanks for the discussion!


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