Reputation (Part 2)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 9, 2009

As a PC, your reputation is in your own hands. The choices you make during your adventuring career will have a direct impact on your PC’s reputation. The jobs you accept, the method you employ and even the company you keep all factor in to the bigger picture, which defines your reputation.

This is the second of three articles examining reputation. Reputation (part 1) appeared on The Core Mechanic a few days ago. It was aimed at the DM and provided him with direction for using reputation as a campaign tool. Reputation (part 2) and Reputation (part 3) are aimed at the players and provides insight on how PCs can shape their own reputation and gain the most benefit from doing so.

PCs in 4e D&D are heroes, the points of light in a world of darkness. You’ve got powers and abilities that typical people don’t have. And for this reason you start play with an instant reputation. It will most likely be small and extremely limited, and your initial reputation will hinge on the outcome of your first adventure.

Local Heroes

“Barkeep!” roars Braddoc the Fighter “How about a round for me and my friends?”
The barkeep does a double take as he looks up. “Hey, you’re Braddoc,” he exclaims with recognition. “I heard how you defeated all those Bugbears. You’re a hero, and heroes don’t pay for their own drinks in my bar!”

Being famous definitely has an upside. If you’ve earned a positive reputation then you’ll most likely have the advantages that fame brings with it. Merchants may offer free goods and services, people want to meet you and everybody knows your name.

With fame comes clout and privilege. People are more likely to talk to you or welcome you into their home, business or church. Requests that would normally seem too outrageous may suddenly seem reasonable. People often just want to be associated with anyone famous. This could include the local clergy, the rulers of the town or local merchants. Often they seek to share in your fame, and perhaps become famous through association. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you shouldn’t be deluded into believing that everyone wants to be your friend without getting something in return.

It’s important to remember that fame is affected by perspective. The very deeds that won you fame in one town or country may earn you equal infamy in a neighbouring town or country. This is especially true if you’re a war hero or if your fame was earned from defeating a local enemy. Anyone who admired the defeated will surely feel hatred and animosity towards you.

In the end just remember that fame is fleeting. Fame earned from one successful adventure will surely be forgotten or lose some of its intrigue if you don’t follow it up with something else. You’re only as famous as your last success. If you don’t give people anything new to clamour over then you have to accept that your fame will be a short term phenomenon.

Unsung Heroes

“Barkeep!” roars Braddoc the Fighter “How about a round for me and my friends?”
“Sure thing,” he says. “That’ll be 5 coppers a piece.”
“WHAT!” Braddoc exclaims with outrage. “We’re the adventurers who defeated all those Bugbears. You’re going to make us buy our own drinks?”
“I’ve never heard of you, so you pay full price just like everybody else.”

Sometimes you just can’t get a break. You do all kinds of heroic deeds but your accomplishments go unsung. Nobody’s heard of you, and you’re treated the same as everybody else.

If you want to actively promote yourself and spread your own reputation then you need to be creative. The easiest way for you to accomplish this is to start singing your own praises. If there’s a Bard in the party then he should make a point of recounting your tales through compelling oratory and song. This can also be accomplished by hiring a Bard if there isn’t already one in the party.

Don’t overlook the idea of short-term pain for long term gain. Perhaps you agree to take on a mission for little or no money. If you succeed this will surely be something your employer will talk about. Or you could choose to take your reward and give it to those less fortunate. You could buy food for the hungry and make sizable donations to the churches and other organizations that help those in need.

One reason that you may not have received proper credit for your successes is because no one can positively credit them to you. If this is the case, consider leaving a calling card. You could leave a note with your adventuring company’s name on it, burn your symbol somewhere at the scene, place the bodies in a specific pattern or remove trophies like teeth or claws from slain monsters. The more unique your signature, the more likely you are to get credit for your work.

Until you have a reputation you may even try to fabricate one for yourself. This can carry negative long-term consequences, but if you’ve got nothing to lose then it shouldn’t be dismissed without some consideration.

Anonymous Heroes

“The Bugbears were slaughtered,” explains the barkeep to anyone who will listen. “A group of adventurers set a trap and killed all the monsters. Our town doesn’t have to worry about that threat anymore. I wish those adventurers had come back to celebrate. I, for one, would like to thank them by buying them a round.”
The locals cheer and applaud the unknown heroes. Meanwhile Braddoc and his companions quietly enjoy their ales, happy to remain anonymous.

Being famous can have its own drawbacks. Once you’re famous, everything you do is watched and talked about. Your privacy is non-existent. As word of your exploits spreads you may start to attract the wrong kind of attention.

If you’ve been attacking caravans that belong to the corrupt Baron, then you may decide it’s safer not to take credit for your deeds. After all, your intentions are good but technically you’re breaking the law. The benefit of being loved by the local peasants does not outweigh the chance of being arrested and hanged for your crimes.

There are circumstances where you may want to take deliberate steps to avoid earning any reputation at all. This will become more and more difficult as you gain XP. If reasons exist for discovering your identity, then you need to be extra vigilant when hiding your tracks.

The weapons you wield, the tools you use and the tactics you employ all leave tell-tale signs of your identity. The more often you use the same methods to overcome your foes, the more likely it is for someone to draw conclusions about who you are. So if anonymity is your objective then change your tactics regularly or spend more time covering your tracks.

To Be Continued

In the third and final part of this series on reputation in D&D, we’ll explore these aspects of reputation.

False Heroes

  • You’ve been credited with someone else’s deeds, what do you do?

Anything But Heroes

  • Your misfortunes and failures precede you. How do you make things right again?

Larger Than Life Heroes

  • Can you live up to a reputation run amok?

Visit Dungeon’s Master next week when we conclude this series on reputation.

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