Reputation (Part 3)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 13, 2009

Your deeds define your reputation. Basking in your success is the easy part, but what happens when things don’t go quite as expected? Your reputation is easily tarnished by a few bad outings, and now you’ve got to live with the consequences.

This is the third 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.

In Reputation (part 2) we explored these aspects of reputation.

Local Heroes

  • You’re famous for all the right reasons. People love you and you take full advantage of having a reputation that was hard earned and well deserved.

Unsung Heroes

  • Try as you might, you just haven’t had any luck gaining praise for your deeds. You’ve done everything right but people haven’t heard of you.

Anonymous Heroes

  • You’ve chosen not to take credit for your deeds. You’re not in it for fame, and you’ve taken steps to avoid unnecessary recognition.

Now we’ll look at three more aspects of reputation.

False Heroes

“Barkeep, how about a round for me and my friends?” asks Braddoc in an uncharacteristically quiet voice.
The barkeep does a double take as he looked up. “Hey, you’re Rendar,” 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!”
“My name’s Braddoc, not Rendar, and I haven’t fought Bugbears in years. How much for the ales?”
“Modest to a fault. Seriously, Rendar, your money’s no good here. These are on the house.”

Adventurers often use similar weapons, wear similar attire and share a similar outlook on life. In the eyes of regular people, you all look alike. As such, there is always the possibility that you are mistaken for someone that they’re not. In this circumstance it’s up to you to decide how to handle the situation.

Do you accept the benefits that may accompany an unearned reputation? Do you risk offending a thankful admirer by claiming that you’re not who they think you are? It’s up to you to make your own choice. But be mindful of the consequences.

One of the up sides of a false reputation is that you may suddenly find various resources at your disposal. If your actual reason for visiting this town is to gain information or acquire an item, doing so in the guise of someone else may make the task easier.

On the down side, you probably don’t know anything about the person you’re assumed to be. Getting a few free drinks by claiming to be someone you’re not is one thing, but what happens when you learn that this person is a wanted criminal or has an outstanding debt that you may now be expected to pay? Worse yet, what happens if the real person you’ve been claiming to be shows up and challenges your claim on his reputation?

Accepting a reputation that you haven’t earned may seem like a good idea at the time, but always take a second to think of the long-term ramifications before you jump into a role you may not want to play after the drinks are done.

Anything But 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 scowls with recognition. “I heard how your bungling resulted in all those Bugbears getting away. The raids on the outlying community have increased since you and your friends started stirring up trouble. You’re lucky I don’t charge you double for these drinks.”

When everything goes right you are showered with praise, and when you screw up you’re scorned and criticized just as relentlessly. Good intentions don’t always ensure victory. In some cases you’ll know when you screw up. Some of the monsters may flee before you can defeat them, you may be unable to find the treasure you’ve promised to recover, or there may be collateral damage to property as a battle rages on. You are defined by your deeds and in these scenarios the picture is bleak. But in these scenarios the failure is immediately apparent and you can try to take steps to fix things.

In some circumstances the negative consequences won’t be immediately apparent. Recovering a lost artifact form a nearby dungeon may have been a relatively easy task, but it’s not until months later you learn that by removing the artifact, undead imprisoned within the dungeon were freed. The town that hired you in the first place has since been overrun with undead and the inhabitants forced to flee. Every survivor scorns you and tells anyone who will listen about how you were the cause of their misfortune.

Larger Than Life Heroes

“There were at least 20 Bugbears and 50 Goblins and they were all slaughtered,” explains the barkeep to anyone who will listen. “Braddoc and his friends set a trap and killed all the monsters.” The locals cheer and applaud.
“Barkeep!” roars Braddoc the Fighter “How about a round for me and my friends?”
As the barkeep pours the ales, Braddoc says “Thanks for sharing the news of my handiwork.” The barkeep looked at Braddoc with a puzzled gaze. “I’m Braddoc.”
“Sure you are,” chuckles the barkeep. “I’ve heard the tales and believe me, you’re not Braddoc.”

What happens if you choose to ignore your reputation? You go about your adventuring career and choose not to look for fame in the process. You don’t actively share news of your deeds but don’t shy away from praise if it’s offered. This may sound like a perfect balance, but it can get ugly in a hurry. If you don’t set the record straight then people will fill in the blanks themselves.

It begins innocently enough, the local Bard adds a few more Bugbears in the retelling of your recent exploits, and then he adds a few more, and then he adds a dozen goblins, and then he adds a few hundred goblins. Before long, the story has reached epic proportions. You can try to correct the tale or let it keep growing. It’s your choice.

You will be expected to live up to your reputation. If it’s full of lies and inconsistencies then you will never be as large as your legend. This can eliminate any benefit you may have hoped to gain from being recognized. It can also draw attention from the wrong kind of people. Someone vying for power in the region may suddenly feel you are a threat to his plans and he may choose to have you dealt with before he put his plan in motion.


Reputation can be a strong force in your D&D game, if you want it to be. The importance of reputation at your game table is up to you and your DM. It can certainly add a level of colour and complexity to the game as well as providing rich opportunities for role-playing that may not otherwise exist. Reputation is just another facet of your PC. If you want to work on it, that’s great. But it’s not mandatory and it shouldn’t have any adverse affects if you choose not to use it.

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