I’m playing D&D 3.5 but the following is more or less edition agnostic. Some time back I mentioned that player actions will eventually attract the attention of the gods. I’ve been using the same mechanic to track reputation with factions and other powerful figures in the area.
Typically this would involve items (1), lives (2), settlements (4), favors on the top level (8). These types usually don’t stack, in other words, two objects stolen are not equivalent to a person killed.
In my campaign, if you’ve been raised from the dead, you gain a +2 lives reputation reward from Orcus. If you then kill an elf, that doesn’t increase your bonus any further. If you reclaim an Orcus mace from the village and return it a temple of Orcus, you gain the +1 item reward. If you then betray the elven village to the orcs and help to kill them in the name of Orcus, you gain the +4 settlement reward. Your total reputation is now +7 as far as Orcus is concerned.
This involves a lot of eyeballing, of course. All I care about is ranges and adventure seeds: Fanatical servants who’ve done personal favors to their gods will have a reputation of +15. That also means that as soon as your reputation reachdes +4 the gods and the heads of factions must be showing a personal interest. The leader of the thieves guild, the lord of the castle, the head of the temple will start taking an interest in you, eventually providing you with opportunities to perform the favors you need to transcend into the reaches of +8 and higher.
The reputation acts as a circumstance bonus for Diplomacy & Bluff checks or as a penalty for Sense Motive & Intimidate checks.
For clerics, the reputation also indicates the highest spell level they can cast.
We’ll see how that goes. I’ll try that in my Alder King game. It forces clerics to get involved, and it forces referees to have the movers and shakers react to the player characters. Reputation will often suggest quests to perform: If the reputation of a character is in the range from -1 to +1, then maybe there should be a mission involving the rescue, abduction, escort, or assassination of a person.
I used to have a different mechanic. The following may be a system to return to if players are bored by reputation and need some dice rolling, or if the decisions of the referee seem to arbitrary.
Your reputation with every faction started out with your charisma score. When performing a service, you got to do a reputation check with the DC being your current score. D&D 3.5 example: If you had a charisma of 14 (+2) and performed your first good deed for the village priest, you got to make a check with a +2 bonus and a DC of 15.
Players liked rolling these reputation checks. The problem was that there was no “negative” reputation. I would have to assume that reputation smaller than 10 was a negative reputation. For negative events, I started to use a reputation check to prevent the loss of a reputation point. It was sometimes weird. Did Orcus like low Charisma scores? I had no answer. That’s why I reworked the system a bit.
Follow-up: 2012-07-10 Reputation Revisited