During a typical campaign of Conan the Roleplaying Game, characters will amass fewer tangible rewards for their efforts (such as gold, land and magical items) than characters in most fantasy settings. They are more likely to flee a country after an adventure than receive a land grant, unless perhaps at high levels they seize control of an entire nation as Conan himself did. Gold, if they ever gain it, will slip through their fingers in the taverns, gaminghouses and bordellos of the nearest city within a matter of a few weeks. Magical items are few and far between; unless a character is a sorcerer, he would be well advised to steer clear of these items , for most come with a price few would be prepared to pay.
Adventurers in the Hyborean Age must rely on their own skills over and above expensive equipment or magical weaponry. Their experience and combat prowess are paramount, though their reputation can also be of enormous benefit. A character’s reputation, though, is always with him, even when he is a penniless wanderer or a captured prisoner. For example, in the Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon, Conan is able to use his reputation as a chief of the black corsairs to cause a slave revolt, allowing him to defeat an entire shipload of Argossean sailors.
The following rules provide a mechanic to reflect the effects of reputation in day-to-day situations. These rules should never be regarded as a substitute for roleplaying but can make minor encounters run much more smoothly.
Reputation works a little like the Charisma ability score. It helps characters influence situations through the use of skills such as Bluff, Intimidate and Streetwise, as well as helping them recruit mercenaries and followers. The nature of a character’s Reputation affects the way it may be used. For example, a lowly Zamboulan street thug known for his bloodthirsty behaviour is likely to get a very different response when negotiating with another thief than with a virtuous priest of Mitra. In addition, this section permits characters to cultivate different Reputations in several different cities or nations. For example, King Conan is loved in Aquilonia for deposing the old, repressive dynasty and ruling wisely and justly, yet among the black corsairs he is Amra, the lion, the most bloodthirsty and successful pirate leader they have ever had.
While Reputation works much like an ability score, it rises and falls frequently, often after each scenario a character completes.
The Reputation score measures how well known a character is among the general population of a region or town. A high Reputation means that many people have heard impressive things about the character, such as tales of his exploits in escaping the law or his theft of a heavily guarded and incredibly expensive artefact. A low Reputation shows that either few people have heard of the character’s exploits or that they have heard terrible things about him, such as his propensity to murder innocents at whim or his defeat at the hands of a lone peasant. However, Reputation is not always an honest assessment of a character’s skills or exploits. As word travels of his accomplishments, some bending of the truth takes place as rumour builds upon rumour. Despite this, unless someone deliberately spreads misleading lies, a character’s Reputation is largely based on his actual actions.
A character applies Reputation to:
- Attempts to see whether a person knows who the character is.
Average Reputation Scores
|A young, inexperienced thief||1|
|A newly recruited guardsman||2|
|A bookish but well-thought-of scholar||3|
|A priest who has worked among the people of the area||4–5|
|A person known to be a thief or thug||6–7|
|An old soldier in a local lord’s retinue||8–9|
|A scarred and battle-tested mercenary||10–15|
|A person who averted a major disaster||26–35|
|A gifted assassin||36–55|
|A priest renowned for his successful and active opposition to the worshippers of Set||56–75|
|A nomad chieftain at the head of a powerful horde that has plundered several settlements||76–90|
|An evil wizard who has returned from the dead to topple kingdoms and slay the living||90+|
A character’s base Reputation score equals his character level plus his Charisma modifier, though it can never drop below one. Thus, each time a character gains a level, his Reputation usually goes up by one, though a low level character with a negative Charisma modifier may have to work hard before his Reputation can increase above one. A character’s Base Reputation score never changes.
Actions a character undertakes also modify his Reputation. Defeating enemies, overthrowing tyrants, slaying evil sorcerers and completing other difficult or heroic tasks all help boost a character’s Reputation. On the other hand, a character who temporarily retires from adventuring or who departs to a distant city for many years loses Reputation.
Truly legendary characters’ stories may continue to live on as popular songs and myths but the exploits of most fade with time.
A character may choose one deed per level that adds to his Reputation. This deed is rated from +1 to +5, and is added to his total Reputation score. Dealing with bandits might only be only a +1 deed, while slaying the king of Aquilonia and seizing the throne is definitely worth +5. In general, the level of deeds a character is capable of is proportional to his level – beginning characters will only get +1 Reputation per level on average, while a 10th level character might do a deed worth of a +3 or even +4 ranking. (As a rule of thumb, divide a character’s level by four to get the measure of their average deeds.)
The more famous a deed is, the more Reputation it gives. Finding the lost Gem of the Prophets will win a character no renown if no-one knows he has it. For example, some of Conan’s deeds include:
- Rogues in the House, The Frost Giant’s Daughter: +1 (local tales, victories with few witnesses)
- Red Nails: +2 (again, few witnesses and few survive to tell the tale, but a great victory)
- The Tower of the Elephant: +3 (cosmic horrors, a famous landmark crashing into dust and a fine prize)
- The Queen of the Black Coast: +4 (Conan’s pillaging won him the enmity of the Stygians)
- The Hour of the Dragon: +5 (massive battles and high sorcery across all Aquilonia)
Each deed has a type and a location associated with it. The location is simply the region where the deed is done – Tarantia, the Bossonian Marches, Purple Lotus Swamp and so forth. The type is the type of story that will be told of the deed, the impression that people will get of the character from the deeds. Common types include: Heroic, Dangerous, Mighty Sorcerer, Noble, Unholy, Rich, Treacherous, Brave, Enemy of the Picts, Friend of Aquilonia, Traitorous, Demon-Worshipper and so forth – whatever the dominant element of the character’s actions was.
A character’s social position also affects his Reputation.
|–2||Those of a distant or hated race|
|+0||Barbarian, peasant, commoner|
|+1||Notable barbarian warrior, local landowner, craftsman, acolyte|
|+2||Priest, man-at-arms, guild member|
|+3||Guild master, important priest|
|+4||Knight, respected adventurer|
|+5||Baron, barbarian chieftain|
|+7||Duke, high priest.|
|+9||King of a lesser country|
|+10||Emperor or mighty king|
A character cannot get a social standing of +5 or higher without getting a noble title, or at least pretending to have a noble title and having the wealth and finery to back up such a claim!
Both Social Standing and deeds are affected by distance. The further a character travels, the less important his title and the more remote his deeds become. A character’s Standing and all his deeds are affected by distance as follows:
Distance and Reputation
|Different region of the world (Nordheim, the Hyborian kingdoms, the Black Coast, the desert kingdoms and so on)||–2|
|Very different region (the far East, beyond the Vilayet sea and so on)||–4|
A deed cannot be reduced below zero. Standing, however, can be reduced to a negative level.
For example, when young Conan travels from Zamora to Cimmeria, the deed of The Tower of the Elephant is reduced by –2, so it only increases his Reputation by +1. The sullen barbarians of the north have little interest in his wild tales of magic jewels and elephantine demons. By contrast, his deed of The Frost Giant’s Daughter would be dismissed as nothing but a tall tale in the inns of spider-haunted Zamora, but would carry its full Reputation bonus in the cold north, where the name of Ymir has power.
Reputation over Time
Deeds can be forgotten over time. A deed’s Reputation bonus decreases by one after a number of years equal to the current bonus have elapsed. So, a deed worth only +1 is forgotten after a year, while a deed worth +5 is reduced to +4 after five years, +3 after another four years, +2 after three more years, +1 after another two years. It is finally forgotten another year after that, having lasted fifteen years in all! Only deeds are affected in this fashion.
A character’s Reputation can be a tremendous asset among mercenaries, nomads and thieves. When a character encounters a person for the first time, the character should make a Reputation check to determine if the person has heard of him. To make a Reputation check, roll 1d20 and add the character’s Reputation score. If this matches or equals the check’s DC, the person has heard of the character. The standard DC for a Reputation check is 25. If a person has heard of the character, the character may use his Reputation score to provide a bonus when using the following skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perform and Streetwise. The bonus gained from Reputation is based on its overall score and is shown on the table below. Generally, any skill used in social situations may use Reputation as a bonus, so long as those who the character is trying to impress those who recognise him.
A character’s deeds affect his Reputation. Only those deeds that actually reflect what he is trying to accomplish will aid him and others may even hinder him, reducing his Reputation. For example, if a character is trying to convince a noble lord that he is trustworthy and honourable, his +5 betrayed his king and code of honour by turning traitor will obviously be of no benefit! This means that a character may be recognised and have his reputation work against him. At the Games Master’s discretion, the penalty to Disguise Checks in the table above is applied whenever a character disguises himself in a location where he is well known. It may be reduced if he is popularly believed to be dead or far away.
|Reputation Score||Modifier to Skill Checks||Penalty to Disguise Checks|
An alias acquires its own Reputation, generated separately from a character’s true identity. When travelling under an alias, any bonuses earned to Reputation apply only to the alias’s Reputation score. If a character gains a level because of actions taken while under his alias, or if he earns the majority of the experience points he needs for a level whilst using it, his alias earns the Reputation bonus. Thus, while a character’s true personality is barely known by anyone, his alias could be the leading villain (or hero) in the city.
If a character’s alias is ever revealed, the higher of his own and his alias’s Reputation becomes his true Reputation score. In addition, he gains half of his lower score as a one-time bonus to his new Reputation, reflecting the uproar and interest surrounding the revelation of his identity. However, the character only modifies his Reputation score in this way if the general populace learns of his alias. If only a few close friends or a very limited number of people are in on the secret, his alias is secure.
Aliases work best as a roleplaying tool. The heroic outlaw who dons a disguise and struggles against a corrupt and autocratic priest, or the common thief who desperately tries to keep his activities hidden from the local lords or police are two examples of how aliases may be used. Aliases add depth to a character’s background and supply some interesting roleplaying opportunities. If a player feels an alias is appropriate to his character, he should consult with the Games Master about adopting one.