In the heroes we trust

Modeling reputation of a party in any role playing game is tricky. You can give it a number, and use it for interaction with any faction, but then it is not the same a good reputation or a bad reputation, being famous or unknown, being known for your strength feats or for your magical skills. When all is said and done, we DMs need a stat to track the reaction of NPCs, or set a standard for the effects of the party fame in the village they just arrived to.

So how could we handle it? A good option is tracking trust. Apart from the difficult social interaction trust involves, the neurobiological structure of the brain and the chemicals inside may also play an important part. So modeling trust into a role playing game seems like a terrible idea, a cumbersome bookkeeping work with little benefit… let’s give it a try!

Guluk and Treb were exhausted. The two barbarians had finally found a nomadic settlement after several days wandering through the dessert. They didn’t really expect to be welcomed as heroes, although killing that nasty chaos beast which ate shamans for dinner certainly had made them famous in the region. Those goat riders however seemed to be in a less than friendly mood…

You can obviously simplify trust to the minimum (following the KISS principle), and treat it like any other ranked stat. This approach seems to have pleased many readers of ENWorld (http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?825-Steal-This-Rule-Trust), and it has some ideas worth mentioning. The article is very weak, the ideas being the usual ones for a reputation system, but I will try to squeeze some juice from them.

Circus man throwing knives at a tied woman
Trust me!

A goal in itself: Trust is a bidirectional relationship, so you just need to keep track of the trust of each NPC or organization. Before meeting, any NPC will have a standard trust rating according to the reputation of the party, higher if it is in line with the NPC moral, or lower if it is against it. In addition, if the party does not show trust to a NPC, that NPC will lower its trust rating towards the party.

Guluk and Treb were sated. Their god Orlanth should be really pleased to treat them with those servile nomads. Scaring a few predators of the dessert was the job of the day, got their unfair part of the share, and now they were sleeping with all their belongings tied to their bodies, just in case…

Stay where you are trusted: There are some benefits to a trusted hero. You know… discounts, free meals, friendly guides, and those kind of things. Getting trust may be a goal itself for the party, but after all the effort it takes, the party will be willing to get some return on their investment. This helps the DM to develop a community and recurring NPCs to give more depth to the campaign.

With a great trust comes a great responsibility: People who trust the party will ask them for help, try to get their services, or even choose them to rule their organizations! If they refuse, they will lose part of that trust…

Guluk and Treb were exhausted once again. Those ungrateful goat riders on their hideous mounts were hunting them! Did they really thought the two barbarians could take on a full broo raiding party? What if a couple of tirbesmen were killed, Guluk and Treb had saved all of them several times!

Well, I know, you can obviously do all this without a trust rating. As the good DMs all of you are, I’m sure you have already implemented some of these ideas. So what’s the point of this article? For me, the key part is to remember all the things that make the villagers begin to think in hiring some trolls to fight the adventurers out of their home.

Distrust generates distrust, ignoring people needs generates distrust, and boredom in small villages generates huge amounts of distrust towards everybody else… Players are usually do-gooders and expect everybody to love them. Offer them the benefits of trust, and begin to turn it against them if they grow too comfortable.

The shaman sat in silence. His people trusted him, his spirits would haunt the barbarians, their cries of pain would be heard from miles of distance, they would pay. Fair or not, it is what the tribe trusted him to do, and he knew trust is a dangerous thing to test…

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One thought on “In the heroes we trust”

  1. Finally I got to read this.

    I would not rate it. It is part of the role playing.

    – If the same DM and the same party have played several adventures in the same area, the outcome of their reputation should be easy to play and understand.

    – The further the group goes, the less known their previous reputation should be. Players should understand this.

    – The DM should keep the flexibility to use trust to set the starting point of any adventure. In the same way that we do not know in real life what people trust or prefer, this can happen also in an adventure. If suddenly people starts not trusting a party or a character, then there is something behind to be researched…

    – Rating trust also depends on the characters and their unique characteristics – mainly charisma. Not everyone in a party should be trusted in the same degree by NPCs. Similarly, characters within a party do (should) not trust each other in the same degree. Good DMs should be able to control this, but good players should be able to PLAY their characters in a consistent way. Whether or not this guy is my friend in real life, his or her character has a clear open conflict with mine: Either because of their personality, according to past actions… so my character will work with their, but it will keep a very wary attitude. The same apply for NPCs

    How do you rate that? That is playing.

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