"No you jackasses! Kleos; not campness..."
As Tim of Gothridge Manor argued some time back, adventurers can be seen as the big-spending, high-living, tall-tale-telling rockstars of the fantasy world. Kids play out their adventures; swains and maidens have woodcuts of them on their hovel walls; bards sing of their loves, losses and achievements; innkeepers give thanks to the gods when they see them walk through the door. So why not have that social stature reflected in the game? All too often I've seen mid-high level adventurers treated as no-account bums by vendors and functionaries who, by rights, should be licking boots and sucking up.
The K.A.Pendragon game uses Glory (the sum of a knight's personal accomplishments) as its XP equivalent. The more Glory you have, the status you will have among your peers. Why not adapt this, or something like it, to D&D?
Ok, here's a table. Whenever the party first saunter into a new burg roll a level check (d*, equal or less than level = success) to if their reputations precede them (for good or ill). What size die is rolled depends on how big and busy the locale is, and on how far the characters are from home.
Hometown - d6
Other town - d8
Local City - d10
Distant City - d12
'Overseas' - d20
Offworld/Other plane - d30
- If the character is a regular patron of bards, or a big man on the local social scene; shift the die down a size.
- If the character lives abstemiously or anonymously (like, for example, a lot of thieves); shift the die up a size.
Why scale the dice? Because being 'hometown famous' likely doesn't mean a thing in a big, jaded city like Viridia, but almost everyone in the Wilds has heard at least a few stories about the Heptarchs of Aftane or the Emperoress of Throx (high-level doodz with lotsa kills and big rep). Someone/thing like Demogorgon? He's famous all across the planes.
If the level check is a success the character is recognised as noteworthy. Roll, or choose (as appropriate) public reaction to his presence:
1-3 Positive impression (brave, learned, generous, etc.)
4-5 Negative impression (cowardly, cheapstake, braggard, etc.)
6 False impression (mistaken identity, mis-attributed deeds or scandal, etc.)
Positive and Negative impressions modify NPC reactions by moving them up by one band on the NPC Reaction Table (Unfriendly to Neutral, Indifferent to Friendly, etc.) for Positive reactions; down by one band for Negative.
- Positive impressions might get you exclusive invitations, discounts, free stuff, convivial company, etc. All as the GM decides.
- Negative impressions will get you barred from entry (to the baths/palace/city...), sudden outbreaks of "Sorry sir, out of stock/price went up.", surly service, hired thugs gunning for you, and/or the traditional urchins throwning clods of dirt.
- False impressions should involve any hilarious, farcical complications the GM can devise ("Why are they cheering us/smiling in that sickly manner/chasing us with pitchforks and torches?") Claiming credit for things you haven't actuallt done (or not correcting misattributions from others) can result in unearned gifts and adulation, but expect Lord Slashstab to be more than a little angry when word gets out that a bunch of no-account punks are getting props for supposedly killing a dragon he slew/unhorsing him in battle/cuckolding him...
This last tweak ain't crazy innovation for the sake of it; there was actually something similar in Gygax & Perren's "Chainmail" (see page 30, under the entry for Superhero). Lowly 1HD oiks had to make a morale check if a Superhero even ambled within charge distance of them. Totally reasonable IMO. I mean, you've heard stories about that wild-eyed albino guy with the burning runesword and the bat-winged helm; do you really want to be the first one to go up against him today?
Header pic from What's On TV?