This Gassy Gnoll has come to the conclusion that when you see the word “fame,” you inevitably see the words “and fortune” beside it. Why you may ask? Because fortune is much easier to track than fame, so why not lump them together?
As player characters (PCs), we as players are typically focused on various goals. There are the meta-game goals such as gaining enough experience points to level up and enough money to acquire that next magic item that will throw the character into overdrive. There are the roleplaying benefits of bonding with a character so you want them to succeed with their friends in this imaginary world you’ve created. And then there’s the character’s actual goals… Let’s focus on those for a moment.
Most PCs have personal goals. My characters have varied from a Malkavian (Vampire: The Masquerade) wanting to write down all the rules for life and follow them to the letter to succeed… To an escaped slave rogue (first in HERO and later in D&D 3.5e) wanting to end slavery in an alternate Roman Empire. And everything in-between. These goals are difficult to measure for the player, which makes them even harder to measure for the gamemaster (GM).
But the bigger question for me is… How do you measure how well known a character is within that world? Sure, experience levels are one way to measure how powerful a character is – but it doesn’t really help with measuring the “star power” of a character. You have to track character growth however, and XP are a well-known way of doing that in various games. You almost need another scale – a “Fame-o-meter” if you will – to track success and failure within particular contexts.
And those contexts may vary by setting and genre. For example, there probably isn’t a thriving magic community in a campaign based in the real world. And there isn’t much of a gun community in your basic Forgotten Realms sort of setting.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself… Let’s try and define a few of these “contexts” for measuring Fame.
- “Little Fish” – Local community. The smaller the better. Small towns or villages pass shared knowledge by word of mouth. So you can quickly become a big fish in a small pond by doing local good deeds and completing quests for known powerful groups outside the town/village.
- “Professional” – Professional community. Again, the smaller the better. For example, the local mage guild (or church, or blacksmith guild, etc.) gains notoriety through your positive actions and will want to remain associated with you to stay on your coat-tails.
- “Big Fish” – Larger communities such as big cities, kingdoms, empires, etc. In these larger ponds, making a big splash (initial appearance/introductions/deeds) gets you noticed and the bigger the deeds, the better the story to be passed through the rumor mill.
A particular character may be a member of multiple contexts, so you’d almost have to track it for each one separately. Not sure of a good mechanic here, but my gut says that you gain a certain number of points each time you complete a task during a campaign. Tasks can simply be delivering goods, protecting cargo or people, slaying monsters, discovering lost ruins, etc. Each would confer some number of points based on the complexity and risk of the task.
So let’s say a group of PCs rescues a local maiden from a band of kobolds. That’s a positive event with an immediate local impact even though (depending on party levels) it may not be all that hard to do. Weighing those criteria, the GM adds 5 points to their local Little Fish “Fame-o-meter” rating.
The same would be true if they fail in a task. They would lose local fame if they failed to rescue that local maiden…
Now let’s go a bit further and say that the same group of PCs helps with multiple other tasks with a variety of difficulty ratings and racks up 50 points. So they’re quite well known in the local area (“Little Fish” fame) and get asked for help quite a bit.
The local affiliations of the group, whether it be professional, political, or familial, get to ride a certain amount of that fame train. So let’s say a character’s “Professional” fame is equal to half of their local fame. So they’re pretty well known in the groups that have some connection back to their local roots.
As far as their fame in the bigger scheme of things, we’ll knock them down one more notch and say their “Big Fish” fame is equal to a quarter of their local fame. In this case, someone may have heard of them with 12 points (round down), but they’re relatively unknown outside their main circles of influence.
Not a perfect system by any stretch, but I think it starts to address how fame can be measured as a result of the party’s actions. Consider this a line in the sand I’m willing to erase and start over if it doesn’t work. The Gassy Gnoll is nothing if not persistent (though in his case it may be the foul odor that persists)…
What do you think? Leave me some comment love and tear it apart or offer some alternate suggestions on how you handle it in your own games. Consider me curious!
- The Gassy Gnoll: Pondering Mage Slavery (gameknightreviews.com)
- The Gassy Gnoll: The End of the World (Happens All The Time) (gameknightreviews.com)
- nervous giggling from Blog of Holding (blogofholding.com)