Campaign of the Month: June 2012
With this system, every character gains a reputation of one sort or another as his career progresses, expressed as a reputation bonus. While a character might try to take advantage of his reputation from time to time, usually the character’s reputation precedes him—whether he wants it to or not.
Reputation enhances noncombatant interaction between characters by providing bonuses to certain skill checks. Those who recognize a character are more likely to help him or to do what he asks, provided the character’s reputation is a positive influence on the NPC or monster that recognizes him. A high reputation bonus makes it difficult for a character to mask his identity, which can be a problem if he’s trying not to be noticed.
FAME OR INFAMY
What a character’s reputation represents lies in the character’s interaction with the NPCs or monsters. Most characters with a high reputation bonus (+4 or higher) are considered well known within their profession or social circle. Whether this notoriety has a positive or negative effect depends on the point of view of the person who recognizes the character.
Nom de Plumes and Secret Identities
If a character successfully uses a Disguise skill or illusion magic to mask his identity, then what he accomplishes while disguised doesn’t affect his reputation score for good or ill. A character may adopt a nom de plume or wear a mask or other costume during his adventures. If so, the character tracks reputation separately for his true identity and his alter ego (much as comic-book heroes do). If the Crimson Cavalier needs to sneak out of town after embarrassing the captain of the guard, what better way to do so than by simply removing his mask, hiding his weapons in an oxcart, and departing while the secret identity of a dung merchant?
Most of the time, a character doesn’t decide to use his reputation. The GM decides when a character’s reputation is relevant to a scene or encounter. At the moment it becomes pertinent, the GM makes a reputation check for an NPC or monster that might be influenced in some fashion due to the character’s notoriety.
A reputation check is equal to 1d20 + the character’s reputation bonus + the NPC or monster’s Int modifier. The GM may substitute a Knowledge skill bonus for the Int modifier if he decides the character’s past activities apply to a particular field. For example, if the character were a cleric, Knowledge (religion) might be appropriate. Additional modifiers that might apply include the following:
Character is famous, known far and wide with either a positive or negative connotation +10
NPC or monster is part of character’s profession of social circle +5
Character has some small amount of fame or notoriety +2
The standard DC of a reputation check is 25. If the NPC or monster succeeds on the reputation check, he or she recognizes the character. That recognition grants a bonus or penalty, on certain subsequent skill checks, depending on how the NPC or monster reacts to the character.
When an NPC or monster with an intelligence Score of 5 or higher has a positive opinion of a characters reputation, the character gains a bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Perform checks equal to his reputation bonus.
When an NPC or monster with an intelligence Score of 5 or higher has a negative opinion of a characters reputation, the character gains a penalty on Bluff and Intimidate checks equal to his reputation bonus. The bonus or penalty on these skill checks applies only when a character is interacting with an NPC or monster that recognizes the character. Others present in the encounter are unaffected by the character’s reputation.
Players decide how their characters act. Sometimes, however, it’s appropriate for a GM to call for a skill check using an interaction skill affected by reputation. For example, an NPC might use Bluff to lie to a player character that, in turn, uses Sense Motive to detect the lie. If an NPC tries to intimidate a player character, the GM can use the NPC’s Intimidation check to determine which characters see the NPC as intimidating and which don’t. Similarly, a Diplomacy check can tell the GM which characters find an NPC persuasive and which do not. At other times, players may want to know if their characters recognize a particular NPC or monster. A reputation check can help DMs in these situations.
The reputation checks to see if a character recognizes an NPC or monster is the same as described above. However, the GM should make the skill check privately and keep the actual result secret. Doing this prevents players from using reputation checks as a form of radar for measuring the importance of every NPC they encounter. Modify the results of NPCs’ and monsters’ interaction skill checks by their reputation bonuses when they interact with characters that recognize them.
A player character has a reputation score based on his class levels (see Reputation Scores table below, which includes PC and NPC classes). A multiclass character has a reputation score according to class level in each of his classes, regardless of what his character level is. For example, an 8th-level barbarian/6th-level cleric has a reputation score of 2 from his barbarian levels, +1 from his cleric levels). His score increases to +4 when he reaches 15th level if he takes 7th level in cleric but not if he takes 9th level in barbarian.
For a class not mentioned on this table, determine the associated reputation score by assigning the class to a column with classes of a similar sort. (For instance, the assassin class probably has the same reputation score as the rogue, and the blackguard would be equivalent to the paladin.)
|Level||A1||B 2||C 3||D 4|
1 Use column A for commoner levels
2 Use column B for barbarian, druid, monk, ranger, rogue, and warrior levels
3 Use column C for cleric, fighter, sorcerer, wizard, adept, and expert levels
4 Use column D for bard, paladin, and aristocrat levels
BEHIND THE CURTAIN: WHO’S AFFECTED BY REPUTATION?
Hard and fast rules for how fast a character’s reputation spreads are more trouble than they’re worth; whether reputation applies in any situation is best left up to the DM. But in general, the “radius” of a character’s reputation slowly increases as she attains higher levels.
For example, a low-level character’s reputation score might apply only in her small town and the immediate surrounding countryside. Perhaps, by the time she reaches around 10th level, everyone in the province might have heard of her exploits. When she gets to 15th level or thereabouts, anyone in the country or region might know of her. But what happens if she then visits a city on another plane of existence? She’s never been to the place before, and most of the residents have never been to the Material Plane, so her reputation doesn’t follow her there. But once she accomplishes something (often an adventure) that earns her a measure of fame on that other plane, her reputation “radius” expands to encompass that area of the other plane (perhaps, the whole plane if it is not too extensive). Not only do the residents tell tales of her most recent adventure, some might be curious enough to find out what she accomplished on the Material Plane before arriving there.
With the event-based reputation variant (read below), a character who is a newcomer to her location has a reputation score of 0 until she earns at least a 1/2-point increase by succeeding on an adventure in that location. Once she has done so, she gains the benefit of her full reputation score. (Don’t track a character’s reputation separately for different areas—people have either heard of her, or they haven’t.)
When using level-based reputation increases (read below), a character is entitled to benefit from her full reputation score once she has been in her new location for at least one level’s worth of adventuring, even if the adventures themselves didn’t bring her any reputation increases.
The following feats can modify reputation bonuses.
Low Profile (General)
You are less famous than others of your class and level, or you wish to maintain a less visible presence than others of your station.
Benefit: Reduce your reputation bonus by 3 points.
Special: You can’t select both the Low Profile feat and the Renown feat. You’re either famous or you’re not.
You have a better chance of being recognized.
Benefit: Increase your reputation bonus by 3 points.
Special: You can’t select both the Low Profile feat and the Renown feat. You’re either famous or you’re not.
Rather than determining reputation increases purely by class levels, the GM can enhance characters’ reputations based on the characters’ actual adventures. At an adventure’s conclusion, he can hand out awards to the characters who were known to have participated, representing how much more famous (or Infamous) their recent actions have made them. This variant doesn’t change much about the game (beyond what the reputation variant does in general). Characters have a slight incentive to choose adventures that earn them more fame, because their later social interactions will be more likely to succeed. But reputation is a double-edged sword in a Medieval or Fantasy game, because it can turn into notoriety with a simple twist of the plot. The same peasants who buy the PCs drinks at the tavern one night might try to turn them in for a reward a week later after the sheriff frames the PCs for murder. If the characters earned public acclaim for ending a threat to the community’s safety, award each PC a 1-point increase in his or her reputation score at the adventure’s conclusion. If the accolades came from a narrower circle of people, such as the merchants of a particular guild or the druids of a regional forest, then each character gets a 1/2-point increase. (A single 1/2-point increase has no effect on reputation-related skill checks, but two such Increases combine to provide a full 1-point increase.) If what the characters accomplished in the adventure directly affected, or came to the attention of only a few (or no) other people, the PCs don’t get a reputation boost.
Adventures that affect only a few people likewise don’t earn reputation awards, unless the people in question are themselves celebrities. But adventures that affect an entire town or small region are usually worth 1/2 point, and adventures that affect a large city or nation are worth a full 1 point.
The nature of the danger that is overcome is important, too. Merely annoying or mysterious dangers don’t enhance PC reputations as much as dangers that create widespread panic and mayhem.
Also, regardless of the severity of the danger, if those who benefited from the PCs success weren’t aware of the peril from which the PCs saved them, then the characters’ reputation award is 1/2 point apiece, at best.