In addition to awarding experience points, you may sometimes need to give some fame points too.
Fame is a character’s recognition level. It’s the public’s awareness, and general consensus opinion, of that character, based on that character’s previous actions. If that character does good deeds, helps others, saves the day, etc — they’ll gain positive Fame among the population as word of their goodness and heroism spreads. In contrast, if they do evil deeds, hurt others, destroy things, etc — they’ll gain negative Fame with the general population.
Fame is only acquired when NPCs and the general public see or at least hear about a character’s actions. If something’s done in secret, or there’s no witnesses left behind to tell the tale, that character won’t gain any fame from it. If there’s one or two witnesses, they’ll gain a tiny bit of fame. If they do something in front of a huge crowd, they’ll gain a lot of fame.
The general guideline is: 1 fame point per 1 NPC witness.
Did a player just save a dozen people on a bus? That’s +12 Fame.
Did a player just mug and rob a romantic couple leaving the movie theater? That’s -2 Fame.
Eventually, a player will begin to accumulate a lot of fame points, either positive or negative. Positive fame means they’re a hero; negative fame makes them a villain. The more fame points they have (either positive or negative), the more famous, recognizable, and well-known they are everywhere they go. But with a low number of fame points, most NPCs probably won’t recognize or remember them, or if recognized at all, feel uncertain about whether they’re good or evil. As you control the NPCs and various population of the world, have them respond accordingly to that character’s fame.
Here’s a recommended guideline:
- Less than 100 Fame: Either anonymous or neutral/undecided. Definitely not anyone noteworthy yet.
- Hundreds of Fame: A low-level hero or villain. Maybe a side-kick or henchman. People might’ve heard their name or saw their picture in passing somewhere.
- Thousands of Fame: This person has probably been in the news. More widely recognized. A significant person of interest.
- Tens of Thousands of Fame: A “real” hero or villain now. Their name comes up in casual conversation. They’re frequently in the news. Other wannabe, lesser-known heroes and villains may approach them offering to be their side-kick or henchman.
- Hundreds of Thousands of Fame: Corporate sponsors are taking interest. They may be guests on TV shows. They might have licensed merchandise (t-shirts, action figures, video games, etc) based on them. Very recognized in public. Whether good or evil, these character definitely have many fans and followers.
- Millions of Fame: Celebrity status. If a hero, everyone knows and loves them and wants an autograph or selfie with them. If a villain, people run and scream in terror for their lives upon sight of them. “Everyone” knows these characters. Their name and reputation precedes them, even in places they’ve never been.
Some other things to consider:
- Remember, Fame is based on the public’s overall perception and opinion of a character, from what they’ve seen or heard. It doesn’t matter if a character’s intentions were actually good or evil. It’s all based on how their actions were perceived and interpreted by any witnesses nearby when it happened.
- With too few or no witnesses around, even the greatest hero or villain will remain anonymous. Or, if anything, they’ll remain a myth and urban legend. If only a few people have ever claimed to see them, does anybody else believe they actually exist?
- Mistaken identity is always possible too. If one character is in disguise to appear like someone else, any fame they accumulate belongs to the character they’re impersonating, not themselves.
At your discretion, if you want, you can slowly move a character’s Fame back closer toward zero/neutral over time, if that character hasn’t been seen by the public for a while. Sometimes a character may have drawn too much attention and gained more Fame than they want. If they lay low for a while and disappear from the public eye, you have the option to remove some or their Fame.
You may also decide to offer special side-quests only available to characters of certain fame levels. Maybe there’s a secret stealth mission that requires a new, unknown face that won’t be recognized. On the other hand, maybe a celebrity hero is needed to help raise funds and awareness for some worthy cause. Or maybe because of their reputation, a well-known villain gets hired by a crime syndicate for a big and important heist.