Being a murder hobo, looting graves, causing property damage; these are fun things to do. But robbing the grave of a national hero or burning the house of a harmless old lady should not be without consequences. Consequences create a sense of a real, reactive world, and negative reputations are particularly great for generating plot points. The trick is to make a system that is reactive to player actions, but is unpredictable enough to be not gameable. It should also be something where improving reputation becomes harder as your reputation gets better, so that players don't become famous heroes or get on the national Most Wanted list before they hit level 3. So, here's a reputation mechanic that keeps that in mind. With thanks to +Courtney Campbell and the bond system in his On the NPC book, which this is partially based on. It's a good book both for the rules it introduces, and for helping to think about player-NPC interactions generally.
|A reputation for bad grammar.|
A party's reputation should be by faction. This can be factions in a dungeon, or villages, or races, or whole nations. Reputation by default starts at a 7, with plus or minus up to 2 for circumstantial factors. If you're playing a LOTR game and your party is all elves, your reputation with the dwarves is probably a 5. Unless there's a total party wipe, reputation should be by party, not by individual character.
Any time you complete an adventure (not single session) that impacts on a faction in some way, consider whether the impact was positive or negative, and roll 2d6. If the impact was positive, your reputation improves by 1 if you roll higher than your current reputation. If negative, your reputation decreases by 1 if you roll lower than your current reputation. Snake eyes and boxcars always result in a -1 or +1 reputation shift, respectively. This means it's possible to get a +/- 2 modifier on a single roll, or even have your reputation improve or be harmed by doing a bad/good act (hey, sometimes people misunderstand). Obviously you can add situational modifiers (or just change reputation) if the players' conduct was particularly impactful. Murdering Lolth will make drow hate you, period.
Reputation effects are as follows:
2: The military/town guard knows your face. Any combat-capable faction members will attempt to kill or capture the party on sight, and others will Merchants will refuse to sell anything to you.
3: Outright hostility. 100% penalty to purchase/sale prices, lose any charisma bonus to reaction rolls, any witnessed (or suspected) illegal activity by the players will lead to attempts to arrest or detain the party. Faction hirelings will refuse to work for you.
4: 50% penalty to purchase/sale prices, -3 to reaction rolls, -3 to morale for faction hirelings. Faction members are more likely to lie to the party about information being sought.
5: 15% penalty to purchase/sale prices, -1 to reaction rolls, -1 to morale for faction hirelings
6: 5% penalty to purchase/sale prices, -1 to reaction rolls
7: No effects
8: 5% bonus to purchase/sale prices
9: 10% bonus to purchase/sale prices, +1 to reaction rolls, +1 to morale for faction hirelings.
10: 15% bonus to purchase/sale prices, +2 to reaction rolls, +2 to morale for faction hirelings. Members of faction happy to offer faction-specific training (farming skills in a farming community, h2h combat skills from monks) at heavily discounted rates. Faction members are likely to view the party as part of the faction, and share appropriate information as such.
11: 25% bonus to purchase/sale prices, +3 to reaction rolls, +3 to morale for faction hirelings. Faction militia/guards are likely to turn a blind eye or give a slap on the wrist for low-impact wrongdoing, at least once or twice.
12: 50% bonus to purchase/sale prices, +3 to reaction rolls, +3 to morale for faction hirelings. Party may request a single audience/favor from the faction leader. Town square named in party's honor.