Reputation

A bad reputation's a hard thing to bear
Mothers pour scorn and children they stare
But he found consolation in flash company
And life ain't so bad with a girl on your knee

They called him the Kid, and by twenty-one
All that he knew was the power of the gun
And by twenty-three, he'd shot five men down
Who got in his way as he rambled around

(from) Slip-jigs and reels Steve Tilson

Basic Information

Reputation is how a person, group of people, or organization is perceived by other people or society at large.

The important questions to consider about anyone's reputation for anything are: What is it a reputation for? Who knows about it and how will they react? It should also be considered that a good reputation amongst one group, may lead to a bad reputation amongst others.

Therefore a good reputation in the criminal underworld might make you a wanted man in mainstream society. Likewise, a reputation for excessive, unpredictable violence, although unquestionably bad, might lead to people treating you with a wary deference rather than open hostility.

Even an apparently good reputation may be troublesome - someone known to be generous will be the target of every moocher that hears about it, wheras the fastest gun in the West is likely to attract a stream of challengers eager to try and out-draw him.

A reputation may also be blown out of all proportion1, hard to explain without background knowledge2 or culturally bound3. It may also be plain wrong - either due to deliberate propagandising (either by the subject or his enemies), misunderstanding or simple ignorance.

Generally, in any given context, a good repuation is easy to build and hard to lose, and a bad one more or less the reverse.

See Also

Sources

Bibliography

Game and Story Use

  • Once the PCs complete some adventures in which they haven't been able to stay anonymous, they will soon acquire a reputation of their own. The GM should make sure that every deed of the PC - for good and for ill - affects how others react to them, and in this way can make reputation into one of the most powerful reward mechanisms beyond experience points.
    • A good reputation will cause others to be friendly to the PCs - give them goods and services at low prices or even for free, render minor assistance, giving them access to higher levels of society and otherwise provide all sorts of minor or even major benefits. On the other hand, a good reputation also means that all sorts of people will come and ask them for favors, which can become a major nuisance.
    • A bad reputation will often help them with intimidating others to get what they want. But it also means that people not immediately threatened by them will react hostilely, harassing them and possibly even sending people to attack them (such as bounty hunters).
    • A lack of reputation makes the PCs harder to recognize, with them not being as likely to be attached to anything unsavory they do as long as they're not distinctive and can manage a frame-up. On the other hand, it's a lot like not having a credit history - no one's willing to lend to them without guarantors or collateral, they're the "suspicious outsider" no one trusts, and in cases like compurgation their word is worthless.
  • Some game systems provide game mechanical benefits for reputation. In those cases, consider adjusting the reputation of the player characters independently of experience points. If the players have to choose between a "Good Reputation" advantage and some combat-related power, most will choose the latter since it is something inherent to the character that can't be lost as easily.
    • Consider making acquiring a good reputation a major campaign goal. For example, the PCs might have to acquire a certain "reputation level" to have a possibility of attaining a noble title from the King. Give some rough guidelines for how to increase their "reputation points", and then leave it up to the PCs just how they want to reach that level…
      • If you want to make it somewhat more complex, write up all sorts of social and political groups in the relevant region, and determine what the PCs can do to influence each of them positively or negatively.
  • In Twenty Minutes Into The Future settings where Internet-based social networking tools are prevalent, there might actually be systems in place to track one's reputation numerically, with other members of the same network being able to vote on particular individuals at all time.
    • Trying to get a high "reputation score" in such networks might be a major activity of many people.
  • Long lived (or time travelling) PCs may be "amused" by what happens to the reputations of themselves - and others - over the centuries. ("There was a fight - I killed a couple of guys. Six hundred years later and I find that I fought in an epic battle lasting three days and killed a thousand men single handed.")
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