D&D Experience as Fame?

edited March 2012 in Story Games
A mildly amusing thought.

I've been listening to The Teaching Company's lecture series on The Iliad, and the latest lecture introduced the concepts of Kleos (glory, sort of, pronounced clay-os) and Time (honor, sort of, pronounced tee-may). The thing about Kleos and Time is that they have to be visible to be of any value -- to simplify outrageously, they're glory and honor for a shame culture. It isn't enough that you do great deeds, you must be known to have done them and you must be seen to have been rewarded for them.

Now, the Prince Valiant RPG already had the idea of using Fame instead of experience, along with the concept that it mattered to the fame you got who knew you did your great deeds. Also, you could get fame either for heroic or villainous deeds. But I've never seen it applied to D&D of any variety. (Doesn't mean that someone, somewhere hasn't done it already, of course.)

Now, what happens if you apply the same sort of logic as Kleos and Time/Fame to D&D experience?

Experience for treasure? Sure, getting your share of treasure contributes to your Time. But only if you flaunt it.

Experience for killing monsters? Sure, but the more people who see or hear about you doing it, the more Kleos you earn. Yet another use for hirelings! Also, it makes taking trophies a good idea.

Bards become valuable, too, because they add to your fame/Kleos.

Experience for tricking your way past monsters can work too -- after all, much of Odysseus' Kleos was based on his cleverness after all. But you'd have to tell the story of how you tricked the monsters to get any benefit from it.

I wonder how such a system would modify play? Also, what would be the risks of false boasting and making up victories? Getting caught would probably pretty much permanently crash your fame unless you did something truly spectacular/suicidal to recover it.


  • Earthdawn does this too. XP is called Legend, and characters know that spreading their own legend will make their magic more powerful. So they can hire bards, etc. :) It only works if it's grounded in reality, of course, because that's the way the magic is set up.

    It works pretty great, IMO.
  • (Great for Earthdawn that is, which doesn't feel anything like D&D to me.)
  • It's a possible take. The only particular problem I have with it is that fame is its own reward even without tying experience points to it. It's a reward of fictional positioning, with its own advantages and drawbacks. Very much like wealth in this regard. Not being able to say no to it feels a bit limiting, but if that limit is acknowledged and accepted, then it's of course not going to be a further issue.
  • edited March 2012
    Nikodemus, I didn't know about Earthdawn -- that's fascinating. Thanks!

    Eero, yes fame can be its own reward, but it isn't one without strings attached. Once you're famous, people expect things of you, including people in positions of power. And refusing could be bad for your fame. High fame can also mean that it is hard for you to do anything in secret, without people watching you and noting what you do. That said, if it turns out that fame is both experience and a good thing in itself, it will just mean that the campaign is about fame. Which is not the only way to run a campaign, of course, but stikes me as a perfectly reasonable approach among many.
  • D&D does have some fame- or status-related options that come around at certain levels, at least in principle. Depending on the edition, 9th level fighters quite often become landed nobles at this point, wizards are good enough to get their own towers from a guild or whatever, etc, but it's all very circumstance-dependent. The fame guidelines in D&D are just that; guidelines. And I, for one, am quite happy with that. I don't think I'd like a unified fame-XP system, because tying a character's abilities to his reputation in such a rigid, mechanical way, would be too limiting.

    What if I want to play a hermit-type witch, or a "wandering mystic"-class of some forgotten or shunned humanoid race? Or a thief so sneaky that nobody knows his name or who he is? Let's say my 23rd-level necromancer spends a few thousand years in a phylactery, and comes back in secret? Because he's not famous anymore, does he lose all of his spells and abilities, and go back to 1st level? Alternately, maybe I want to make a Quixotic character, possibly with some great natural abilities, but utterly without talent or virtue. Perhaps of noble birth, and used to showing his face on the parapet and reveling in the roar of the crowd. A real schmuck that isn't really good at anything, but is famous simply because he's rich, and rich because he's famous. Should he then start at 15th level, even though the attendant mechanics reflect a far more powerful character?

    It doesn't jive with the multi-planar, deity-driven mythology, and as Nikodemus said, it can only really work well if it's grounded in reality. Plus, leveling up is a tedious process in D&D. I'd hate to have to level both up and down, erasing and scribbling and scratching out, according to in-story fluctuations in fame. That kind of thing would really kill my suspension of disbelief.

    Having played the devil's advocate, I'll go on to say it's a cool idea, but if I were to implement it in the D&D-verse as a house rule or what-have-you, I'd first review and play some games that actually have implemented it in their original designs, just to see how it's done, and how they balanced it with the other mechanics. Try to imagine Earthdawn with separate Legend and XP, for example. This sort of reverse engineering will probably help.
  • Oh, I know it would rather limit the game to something like Homeric heroes. It's just a thought. I've run Prince Valiant, and I found that aspect interesting.

    An alternate approach that might not fit as well with D&D, is have experience for skills, and fame as the power source superhuman abilities.
  • edited March 2012
  • Posted By: TavisJeff's Gameblog, how do I love thee?lmperishable Fame at the dawn of Indo-European languages, for one.
    That's the same concept!
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