View Full Version : So I'm a Hero. What do I do now?

10-13-2010, 10:49 AM
I'm looking to flesh out the place in my campaign for mid to high level PCs. The reason this is difficult, is that the majority of my NPCs don't get to 4th level. So by the time PCs get their Leadership feat, or a warrior gets his second attack in a round, or a druid starts shapechanging - PCs are creating legends.

Which means that PCs are attracting a lot of attention when they go from low to mid level. They're obviously quite special - favored by the gods. How do rulers deal with this? How do generals deal with this? Sure, the fame makes it easy for PCs to run a political campaign, but legendary adventurers don't get legendary by sitting on thrones.

Example: that hermit who lives on the top of the mountain and can rip your arm off from 30 feet away? Level 12 Monk. His place in the world is the top of a massive rock.

So how do PCs fit in the world at level 10? 15? Twent...no. I won't go there!

10-14-2010, 08:46 AM
Interesting problem you got there mike; By the time they are already 5th level your players are better than most of all your npcs.

With out knowing allot about your game world here are some generic Ideas I had.

Politics: The PC's aren't likely to want to sit around governing all day (if they say they do run a few sessions, focusing on the non stop bills and other legislative and logistic proplems that plague a country) which your local and regional governments will pick up on. This opens the door for the politicians of your world to attempt to use the pc's. Having them go do what seems like benign quests only to reveal that the politician is furthering his career on the backs of the players. This gets even more interesting when they are receiving quests from two different NPCs.

The Wilds: With most of your NPCs not getting above 4th level I would look to your unsettled areas for adventure, the suggestion stems from the relative safety the settled areas obviously have. You could start hinting at this as they start nearing 7-10th level. A small border city would allow you to give them a base of operations for their adventures.

Alternate realms: You could trap your PCs in an alternate world (much like the Greek rendition of hates); just have them wake up there, falsely placed they must now find there way out. The over riding story can include numerous plot twists, side tracks, and mini-adventures (think anime) that take them through there mid levels. THe alternate reality allows you to place higher level creatures and higher level npc with out breaking consistency.

Under Dark: yeah I know cliche but it works

Other: you can also have them abducted by an evil sorcerer to another world, abducted by aliens, called on by the gods, or have them make their own adventure(discussed later)

Followers: Followers are always a tricky thing to keep balanced. you could just have it that any follower gained starts at 1-4 level and that the PC must increase their level through action and adventure, or you could start looking at adding in some monstrous followers. Either way as there old followers advance up the ladder they leave way for new followers to join at the entry position.

Make your own adventure: You can always sit down one session and over snacks and drinks, have a group discussion on what the pc's might want to do next. If you have a world map or even a large coverage area map; let them look at it and brainstorm what might be lurking in the off treaded places at its edge. As the players want an enjoyable game they could give you some good ideas. You then can take them and mold them to fit your style of gaming as well as your world while still giving your players the suspense and excitement of not knowing whats coming. This is a great way to grow a world a bit more organically as you would have more than just yourself fleshing out the story of your world (though you retain overriding control of content)

Hope this gives you some Ideas.

10-14-2010, 01:23 PM
Thanks R-

That would make for a cool mini-adventure, complete with subsystems: get a bill passed. With exciting tasks like: coerce the intern (page), ditch the royal guard to meet the secret contact, appease the opposition leader, and sway the masses.

Having opposing politician tasks could work too, but I keep seeing Achilles as played by Brad Pitt. "Eh, who cares what the rulers want me to do?"

Definitely a source of challenges. Since my Druids are downright mean, and not always humanoid, they make things extra interesting.

Alternate Realms:
I'll probably stick to Ravenlofts or Dark Suns for this - since it can get hard to maintain consistency in planar travel.

One of the bigger problems. Even if PCs don't take Leadership, they'll have cults start forming to worship them (at 6th level and higher). But, without Leadership, these cults will act on their own. Possibly hindering the PCs inadvertently.

But my question is more of a social one: how does a person fit into society when he has the ability to kill 10 people in about six seconds with an axe? Or to raise the dead (when other top clerics are lucky to remove disease)? Or to raise the dead (creating a fully-disgusting undead hamlet)?

There's obviously the option of taking state leadership, in order to control an army to protect you from other armies. What if PCs get sick of all the attention (ask a celebrity or politician how they feel about attention)?

How does society treat the PCs once being attacked by armies is no longer a threat to the PCs?

Aha...maybe the PCs get treated like gods. Gods amongst men. Cool part about this is that the real gods won't take it too kindly.

Full disclosure: another reason to flesh this out is that if any NPCs exist above 6th level, they're already dealing with these issues. So I need to know what the issues are.

10-14-2010, 02:51 PM
Most rulers have a couple standard ways to react:

1.Ignore the PC. To the ruler they just don't exist. Even when they need to deal with them, they only exist for as long as they are in sight. Then they don't exist again.

2.Ride the coat tails. This is where the ruler will attach their star to the PC's and try to get some credit. Sure the PC's killed the dragon, but the ruler told them where the sword of dragon slaying was located.

3.Put the PC's up on the pedestal. Normally, as just figure heads. Everyone likes the meet and see the hero. But it's all for show.

4.The ruler tries to diminish the PCs. They might just dismiss them('That group of long haired weirdos) or even go as far as to try to kill them.

5.The partnership. This is where the ruler makes a deal with the PC. The ruler gets the politics and the PCs get the heroics.

10-17-2010, 12:01 PM
Maybe, your world is just too small if the players are 'big time' when they have reached 6th level. Sure, better than your average backwater hick or peasant, but there should always be bigger, stronger, richer, more powerful, and better.

Look at the real world. Take a great famous athlete, somebody like Bret Farve. He is rich and famous. At least a tenth level quarterback, :hand:, far beyond the average commoner. Of course there are far more powerful people in the world, far richer, more famous, and maybe even better quarterbacks (especially the hungry up and comers). Oh yes, we like to build them up, but really love to tear them down. Wow, people really love to bring celebrities down a peg!

If your king is just a 4th level aristocrat weenie, would he really be in power? I would say he is at least a 10th level fighter/ 5th level aristocrat who has an 18th level court mage handy and plenty of powerful friends. If your magic shop clerk is a 3rd level hedge wizard, would he really be around long? I would say he is a powerful mage who can actually make incredible magic items who has a slew of lower level clerks and thugs on the payroll. ETC...

In my worlds you may get a little taste of the fame and power at lower levels, but don't dare think you are 'big time' until you reach the epic standings.

10-17-2010, 07:27 PM
Rabkala, my intent with keeping NPC levels low is to keep the world predictable. If your NPCs exceed fourth level, they can go into a sword fight, unarmored, and have realistic expectations of surviving the first cut. And the second. And probably the third. Besides the fact that mortal combat now needs a new definition, this also casts doubt on the effective use of weaponry in general. When most people have low hit points, or are low level, this isn't an issue.

Now the 4th Level Aristocrat Weenie can still be bigger, stronger, and richer than the PCs. What he cannot do is achieve heroic feats that PCs can, since he cannot become inherently more powerful than them. Would he be in power? That's up to the heroes and villains. 4LAW got power the same way any normal human does: he was born into it. That's predictable, so the PCs can believe it. Now if they want his position, they have heroic traits that allow them to take it.

For the record, Brett Favre has Skill Focus (Football), Profession (Football), ability scores in the 14s, and 3 levels (expert) or 4 (leader). This gives his football rolls a modifier of +12. So if he rolls a 20 on his football check, he can hit a near-impossible 32. If he's lucky. :third:

10-20-2010, 12:35 AM
general comment: i've never agreed with the low level npc theory of world design. i could get into why, but i don't think that will be constructive or useful for your purposes.

i suggest working in more normal encounters with advanced animals and other "normal" threats. break up the fantastical with the mundane every now and again. if an hd advanced dire lion is plaguing the town's herds, that is a serious issue for that region. failure to respond or deal with it, would cause the price of meat to go up at a minimum for the next year or two.

i also suggest keeping track of notoriety. the city of skulls adventure had a great system for it. i apply something similar to the campaign world, the score has a region, a radius, and a value. as the pcs move from region to region their notoriety score adjusts for that region based on what actions they take, and how discreet they were about it. adjoining regions have a mild bonus effect on each other. over time these scores impact a wider area (radius). something about how fast bards can travel to spread tales.

just some thoughts. =D

10-20-2010, 01:31 AM
What about villians? Do your human NPC villians cap out at 4th level? Or do you have a 12th level witch out there who could decide she wants a go at ruling the kingdom?

10-20-2010, 12:06 PM
@ninji: I'm totally on board with the real consequences, i.e. the economic effects of a dire lion visitor. Notoriety is tough, since the higher level an enemy or monster is, the more widely known its presence will be. Does this mean that every 20th level NPC should be known world-wide? Do I have to sketch up every 20th level NPC on the planet, because if I don't, and the PCs learn about an unknown NPC, their response might be, "well where did HE come from?"

@uthgard: I expect living humanoid villains to cap out around 10th level. Undead humanoid villains are welcome to go to 20th. But in order to keep them from ruling the world with all that power, they're probably sealed/fettered by ancient abjurations.

The plan is for villains to face the same problems that PCs do at high level. Once you can cast Circle of Death, or Chain Lightning, or once you can shapeshift into a dire lion, people are going to love you, or want you dead. Kings will fear for their kingdoms, and grand wizards will fear for their spellbooks (and research teams). This makes it less and less likely that loose cannons will survive into high levels. (Rogues might be an exception to this rule - they tend to avoid the spotlight)

10-20-2010, 03:38 PM
High Level NPC's can work out, and keep the 'balance' of your game.

The easy way is....to not mix/max and optimize them.

Take the 14th level fighter king. He did not take the power attack feat, he took Skill Focus(Diplomacy). And for skills he took a lost more in cross class for Knowledge(royalty) and took none in Spot. So in the end, he does not have the skills and feats of even an 'average' fighter. Also, as he is NOT a 'super hero', he only has a strength of 9, and a dexterity of 10, but he has a charisma of 18.(in other words he is the type of character that when rolled up randomly is tossed out. As no player would be a fighter with less then 10 in strength.) And to top it off, the king rolled 1 and 2's for hit points. So his hit points at 14th level are only 19. A bit more then common folk, but he can't take much of a hit.

The same goes for magic items. Sure the classic story says the king has a sword+10 of awesomeness. But he does not have too.... What if the legendary weapon of the kingdom was a Spiked Chain? Then the 'sword fighter king' could not even use it. The same is true for other magic items. And if you need too, you could even say the items were stolen(they stole the crown jewels of England once upon a time, two guys even stole the Mona Lisa) or even just sold for gold.

The other nice way to 'balance' is to add some magic to the story. The king can't leave the kingdom as he is under a curse. Or maybe he has a curse to 'never draw blood in anger'. Or so forth.

10-22-2010, 06:38 PM
I look at it like your neighborhood when you were a kid.

When you were ten, who were the "heroes" and "villains" of which you were aware? Wasn't it Timmy, the 16-year-old hoodlum down the block that everyone knew? Wasn't it Sarah, the 15-year-old track star that everyone wanted to emulate?

It works the same way for D&D.

A standard, just-starting-out adventurer is just as heroic and well-known as Sergeant Jim Johnson that just got out of the military... really the only people that know of him/them are their families and friends.

Then the adventuring starts.

Bob the farmer isn't going to know who Roy Benevidez might be, but he knows that goblins attacked the village last year, and one guy stood up on top of the temple with his bow, drawing fire and protecting the villagers inside. SOME folks may know... and when Roy comes to town, there will be lots of, "Hey, that looks like the Temple Hero!" The local noble may want to have him in for dinner to show everyone that he has a hero as a friend (whether it's true or not!). Old Widow Johnson down the road may be pushing her teenage daughter down the road to "meet" the young, dashing hero.

When Roy goes to the next village, he's just going to be "Adventurer X" and has no real fame or reputation... until he does something there.

And after 20 levels, after he slays the dragon at the Bridge to Tarabithi and goes home again, everyone will KNOW there was a dragon slain at that weird-named bridge over in AlbequerqNewarSanDiegotownberg... but old ROY?!?! No WAY! He's OUR hero - he ain't no LEGEND!!! (Oh, by the way, would you like to meet my niece?)

Remember when you were a kid - and someone spoke about the President? The Pres is some mythological person that lives in some huge, white mansion off in a far-away land... he wasn't REAL, like Roy is. To hear some visiting minstrel say that Roy met the King is preposterous!! The King is the KING! He is more of a CONCEPT than a real person! NOBODY meets the king!

Just go back to when you were a kid. Maybe it's easier for me, because I grew up before this interweb, and CNN (half the news, all the time), and stuff like that.

Now, regarding your problem about the 4th level Roy Benevidez... I think you are giving them too much credit. 4th level isn't all that high - and there's no real reason for a high-ranking person to want them to visit. Think about it like the modern military and a visiting E-6 comes to visit. Sure, in their unit they are pretty powerful - but on YOUR post/base, they are just one of hundreds. Some minor officer or senior NCO may want to meet with them - but no Colonel/Captain or General/Admiral! Just ratchet back the reputation points some, and all your problems will go away.

10-24-2010, 12:16 AM
it all depends on the trade routes. notoriety is based on where the information travels. merchants and bards/minstrels are the most likely sources of news. if the party has not hung out in inns along the right road, then they might not have heard about such and so an npc. that's what gather information checks are for, among other things. ^^

10-24-2010, 01:40 PM
Nijineko has it right.

Imagine when you go to hear a wandering minstrel that has supposedly played for the KING(!!) that is in your village for tonight only. The minstrel is an old, distinguished man with a huge mustachio and a flamboyant attitude. He begins a ballad about a hero that slew a powerful orc shaman in a great battle some 40 years ago, that allowed the army to push back the invading monsters. As the applause winds down afterward, the minstrel tells the audience that the story was true, and in the final battle, the shaman used vile magic to twist the shield arm of the hero - a hero that supposedly came from around these parts.

You turn around to see the look of amazement on your fellow villager's faces, only to see your grandfather wipe a tear from his face - as he quietly hides his withered left arm behind him. You recall your father telling you that grandpa served in the army, and the money he brought back enabled him to buy a small farm with his own grist mill. You know... come to think of it, everyone seems to call your family "upper crusters" and you've had more copper than the next family down the lane. But, of course, that hero could NEVER be your Grand-poo, because he's just an old man with a twisted arm that sometimes has nightmares at night, and always wears charms to ward off evil spirits. Everyone "knows" that he was born with the withered arm...

The minstrel goes on to say that even with a twisted arm, the hero finally impaled the shaman through the heart, and yet, in his last dying gasp the shaman tried to rip the hero's heart out - through his chest - failing at the last moment as his own heart stopped beating, but the attack left the hero with five bloody wounds in his chest. He knows because he saw them himself, because he was there himself as a bannerman for one of the knights, and he was friends with this nameless hero.

With your mouth agape, you look back as your Grand-poo slumps with his right hand over his heart, massaging the muscle there... in that same location that you saw when you walked in on him in the bath... where you saw the five, fiery red dots arranged in a hand-wide arc... No, it couldn't be your grandfather - he's old and superstitious, with that stupid blob of dried something on the thong that hangs from the corner of the painting he had commissioned of your grandmother.

The minstrel continues, "And the hero left his sword in the shaman's chest, but as he rose, he grabbed the orcs ear and ripped it off, holding up the bloody trophy as he gave a mighty victory cry. Nobody knows what happened with this great hero, but it is said that he kept that ear as he disappeared into the fray. Nobody knows where he went, or if he even survived."

You turn to look at your grandfather again, and are shocked to see him walking toward the minstrel, tears falling freely down his face.

The minstrel sets his lute aside as your grandfather approaches - wait, is that a tear on the minstrel's cheek? With his good arm wide, your grandfather embraces the minstrel warmly. "Hello again, old friend."

The whole audience erupts in confusion.

Yeah, nijineko has it right - you only really "know" about stuff that happens locally - if you live in a backwater, country town, you know about your town, and only rumors about the next town down the line... and "legends" about the "big city" down the way (they say that they have buildings made of brick there that have FOUR stories!!! We know it's not true, because nothing can be built that tall!). Nobody will know if you are a hero if your deeds happened far away - just like they will never know if you were a craven coward. The fact that you were exiled from a faraway land will probably never be known.

10-25-2010, 09:05 PM
Good points folks - but they seem to be from the perspectives of terribly inconsequential people. What about PCs in the middle or upper classes, whose pre-adventure careers involved intercity trade, sea travel, state level politics... or even collecting rare and magical oddities?

I guess a convenient feature of medieval settings is slow travel and communication. A 20th level character won't get a lot of global attention if his miracles don't happen outside his hamlet. Or his city. Or sparsely populated geographical region.

(Note to self: delete the Giant Eagle Courier Service)

10-25-2010, 10:55 PM
Your dilemma with upper-crusties is due to rarity. VERY few people in the higher society would either allow their kids to go gallivanting off to adventure - and fewer would want to take the RISK. How many Presidents have we had that could be classified as "heroes"? Washington, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike, Eisenhower... six of 44. Look at other nations... even fewer. When you look at Medieval England, considering the numbers of Lords, and Gentry, there are VERY few that could be considered "heroes". Granted, some were quite well known, but all in all, the numbers are still very few.

All in all, the huge majority of heroes are "local" heroes. I lived upstairs from a guy that had Vietnam Vet license plates on his car. Since I had served in the Army, we had a little in common - and he drank at the same local bar I did - so we shared quite a few beers. It wasn't until I re-joined the Army that I ran across a little piece of paper (http://www.homeofheroes.com/moh/citations_living/vn_a_herda.html) on display in the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, KY. Nobody knew in Cleveland, OH, some 22 years later.

Without a monster media machine (or Giant Eagle Courier Services), very few people will know, and even that memory will fade. Another problem with word of mouth stories is that stuff changes all the time. A "forgotten" story about Damm Michael, Angel of Pennon Payper Empire is nigh unintelligible... and some dude named DMMike will certainly be overlooked.

11-01-2010, 10:38 PM
I have to wonder about the changing of oral history Mal. After all, Christianity wasn't written down until 400 AD or so (is what I hear). I'm sure the important parts - like which poisonous plants to avoid - don't change much.

One nice feature of my notoriety system: everyone past 5th level is legendary. Which means that a 20th level character doesn't have to be any better known than a 6th level character.

Also, I'm thinking that divine intervention will be a likely contender for weeding out most of the legendary folk. As in, anyone who creates a following, but doesn't conveniently "travel to Valhalla" once he's too powerful, has a pretty good chance of being taken out by a mere peasant (whose rock-throw was probably guided by a god).

12-18-2010, 05:44 PM
One nice feature of my notoriety system: everyone past 5th level is legendary. Which means that a 20th level character doesn't have to be any better known than a 6th level character.

Well I think thereinlies your problem. 5th level is NOT legendary in any RPG setting I have ever been apart of or heard of. That is setting the bar extremely low. Being a level 6 PC in a world of lvl 4 npc's may be slightly impressive but it is far from legendary.

Every block of every neighborhood has that one family that is known by all. The mom is hot as hell.. the dad is handsome, successful and has a badass car, maybe he was the star QB in his high school and holds records at the high school to this day. The kids are in the popular clique at school. It's safe to assume that relative to a character sheet, they would have higher stats than their level 4 next door neighbor. Are they legendary? Not hardly.

If you ask me, you need to raise the legendary bar a lil higher... if you watch How I Met Your Mother, Barny thinks everything he does is legendary, but he is wrong. Is it cool yea, but that is all it hopes to be. So, maybe raise the bar to lvl 10 being heroic, lvl 15 being legendary and lvl 20 somethings being godly. If that means your typical shop owner has to be a lvl 10, its like someone in this post said before.. the lvl 4 mage magic shop owner wouldn't last long since his skill and products would be nothing more than trinkits.

A level 1 PC can become level 4 or 5 in one or 2 quests, so making them legendary amongst the average is premature since he really hasn't done all that much to earn the recognition.

12-20-2010, 09:06 PM
So, since Baurdale resurrected this topic, doesn't it stink something like dues ex machina. Don't people play to be heroes? Or maybe not just heroes, but HEROES WITH A HEROIC AND MAGNIFICENT STORY. How many would walk from your game after thy were fell by said peasant with divine throw bonuses? How many would feel they were in the realm of Monty Haul after they reached big time at 6th level and could simply take countries at a whim? Not a lot of room to work with... Could it be done, maybe. It just sounds like you want to put artificial limits on the game to keep control, instead of just having fun.
P.S. Oral history is all lies after 10 years (sometimes less), but sometimes the story might get lessened instead of magnified.

12-25-2010, 08:07 PM
"Legendary" is a sort of DM guideline for me. When I want to decide what level an NPC should be, I decide how good they are at what they do:

1 is amateur, 2 is professional, 3 is an expert professional, 4 is a leader of the trade, 5 is heroic and 6 or higher is legendary.

Obviously, since "legendary" encompasses 15 levels, there's going to be a gray area. Some legends are more interesting than others, and some get spread further than others. So you have to look at the abilities of the classes at a given level to decide just how legendary it is. And sure, I could limit my NPCs to NPC classes - but even then they're capable of fantastic feats at mid to high levels, because they continue to get hit points, and continue to get skill ranks.

These guidelines, by the way, apply only to NPCs. PCs don't have to stop gaining levels, and they're welcome to take countries on a whim - if their class powers make that feasible.

12-27-2010, 04:10 AM
Level 6 is never Legendary.

12-27-2010, 10:25 AM
I have to follow that. Legendary is and legendary does. Plenty of people hit level 6 and are never heard of outside their own community. Go to Hell and back, that will get someone attention. Fame and fortune are not necessarily connected. On my world there are Century Mages that no one has every heard of, and they like it that way. There are level 5 hacks with a good PR campaign that people thing are marvelous. Level 1 Kings, level 15 religious brothers with lives of quiet prayer. Level and fame are not in lockstep.

12-28-2010, 03:27 PM
Level and fame are not in lockstep.

I don't disagree. Fame and legendary, though, aren't the same. Brad Pitt is famous.. George Washington and Adolph Hitler are legendary. In 50 years, no one will care who Brad Pitt is. But George Washington will always be the founder, on the dollar bill, on the quarter and in every history book. Hitler will always be infamously evil. There will never be a time when the holocaust isn't spoken of in history books. Brad Pitt is famous but will fade away. Level 6 can be famous, but will fade away. Level 15 in the terms that DMMike calls Legendary or Famous.. will likely be unforgotten. A level 15 that saved the world from the evil dark lord will be remembered. The guy that beat up the thieves in the castle won't.

12-28-2010, 04:15 PM
And the level 15 that didn't make himself known, but still did great works, even legendary works, might never be known. Not all that do great good seek fame. Some will murder it in the darkness to keep it away.

12-30-2010, 02:35 AM
For the record, my PHB Legend Lore spell sez that level 11 is officially legendary.

And don't forget about local legends. I believe Saint Nicholas didn't do much more than bring gifts here and there on a sleigh. Look what THAT turned into. (I get the feeling someone's about to Wikipedia me into incorrectness...)

12-30-2010, 02:42 AM
Legends are what people make of them usually, and by the time they are done have only the vaguest resemblance to the truth. Personally I don't care what the book says. Level is a meta game concept and determines nothing about fame in my game. Recall the brave little tailor. "Seven in One Blow". Flies of course but that is not the tale that was told. One of the various tales of the small and powerless that used wit to win and become famous.

Decouple the two in your mind. The game can only improve.

01-03-2011, 09:45 PM
I don't disagree. Fame and legendary, though, aren't the same. Brad Pitt is famous.. George Washington and Adolph Hitler are legendary. In 50 years, no one will care who Brad Pitt is. But George Washington will always be the founder, on the dollar bill, on the quarter and in every history book. Hitler will always be infamously evil. There will never be a time when the holocaust isn't spoken of in history books. Brad Pitt is famous but will fade away. Level 6 can be famous, but will fade away. Level 15 in the terms that DMMike calls Legendary or Famous.. will likely be unforgotten. A level 15 that saved the world from the evil dark lord will be remembered. The guy that beat up the thieves in the castle won't.
I'll argue this point.

Che' Guavara... he was a despicable despot that attempted several coups in several countries - and failed, always getting his men slaughtered. Now he is a cult hero.

George Washington was a famous person - but is losing his shine in those history books - for his womanizing and several failures as a general. And many of the great stories attributed to him (Cherry tree? Heroically riding across that ice-covered river? Puh-lease!) are nothing more than fabrications.

There are a great many people that don't know who Sal Guipta is - and even fewer that know who Frank Herda is. Fame is fleeting - and fickle.

I homeschooled my kids for a year, and in the History/social studies curriculum, the Holocaust wasn't even mentioned. They talked about Germany and Hitler and the Nazi party rising to power - and then being spanked by the Allies - but no genocide. And this was a Nationally recognized curriculum!

Consider the Jay Leno intro bit - the "Jay-Walking" sketch. The number of people that don't know who Robert Oppenheimer or John Glenn is truly astounding! Heck, more people know who Justin Bieber is than know who that Joe Biden fellow is.

Many know who Mother Theresa is - but when little "Sister" Theresa was nearly excommunicated for her heresy of opening the convent to beggars, does anyone know who the Pope was that made the threats?

01-04-2011, 02:36 PM
Maybe some definitions are in order?

Fame: the quality of being known by more people than one encounters on a local level.
Legendary: being the subject of inflated historical or fictional tales that get passed to future generations.

But this is really digressing from the point of the thread: how do you treat PCs who are hardly threatened by the rest of demihumankind?

01-04-2011, 04:10 PM
Two things. Really big monsters, or their own kind.

01-04-2011, 07:37 PM
Well it doesnt really stray from the point... if at lvl 6 they "hardly threatened by the rest of demihumankind? " , then something is wrong. And no offense, but, the DM is the cause. Humankind and Demihumankind need to be stronger in your world if a level 6 is unthreatened by even demihumankind.

01-05-2011, 07:19 PM
Use a swarm of tiny monks all using grapple and aid another! You can stack up like 16 tiny creatures in one square with the right build. Stack up all those aid anothers and add flanking. Once the character is surrounded by this sea of tiny weaklings, she is literally swarmed. Even a superpower character can't handle this! The oposition doesn't have to be bigger and badder!

I think of one of the first characters I had that reached 9th level. It was so awesome. Then the weanie DM decided to ascend the character so he could restart the group at first level. What a disappointment!!!!! Don't be a weanie.

01-05-2011, 08:36 PM
Well, if it helps Baurdale, imagine my Legendary level is 19. Does that change your perspective?

Rabkala, you raise an important issue about challenging higher level characters: hit 'em where they're weak. They have a high AC? Some swarms do automatic damage. They have a low Charisma? Hit 'em with a Charisma-draining undead.

But then for the campaign's sake, address what keeps those swarms in check, or what keeps the undead in check.

01-17-2011, 12:01 PM
Well, the 1e manual says that a 0 level prince still gives level 9 people orders. Remember that NPCs don't see numbers and levels. So that would help out in your question about the rulers.

Think about Gandalf from the first movie. When he comes to town everyone has a feast and celebrates (he's well known and loved) but then they go about their daily lives after the celebration.

Also how remote is this place? Have the people even heard of these adventurers? Just because your well known on the west or east coast doesn't hold true for the opposite side.
For example what if Kylie Minough (spelling?) (popular girl from UK) came to small town USA. A lot of in towns like this don't listed to pop music, let alone foreigners, would random church member from small town who owns a local grocery store know about her??

Hope this helps.

01-18-2011, 09:49 AM
Gandalf's an interesting perspective. He was at least mid level. One problem he didn't have was being human, so his power didn't corrupt him like the Nine. Famous? Well he was known as far away as the Riddermark. Maybe only by the king? Anyway, all he did in the movies was hang out with hobbits, smoke their weed, and check up on evil forces every once in a while.

But then there was Saruman, who had some degree of fame too. Probably more than Gandalf, since he was the ruler of Isengard. Maybe being mid-high level meant that he sought fame in line with his power? He was seemingly unchallenged by other powers of middle-earth, so between his personal power and the power of his state/home, he was kept in check to some degree by other nations.

I can't help but think of Conan at the end of one of his movies - sitting slumped over on his dark throne, looking miserable.

01-19-2011, 08:11 PM
When I was in Korea with the Army, a buddy of mine used to head WAY off the beaten path to drink - no bar girls there, just a "drinking man's bar". He met an older White guy he knew as "Gary" and they would drink several nights a week. I went with him on the last night they drank together... we're just sitting around sucking on bottles of OB (Korean beer) when a HUGE entourage of guys showed up, and Gary looked like a mass murderer who was looking at a posse that had gotten the drop on him.

"Well, boys, that's it. It was nice drinking with you."

Gary was whisked away... and that was when we found out that he was Gary LUCK... Major General Gary Luck. He went on to be a full four-star general later in his career, but for a while, he was just "Gary".

And two Privates shared drinks with him - never knowing that he was not only HUGELY powerful, a Division Commander - but that he was our DANGED BOSS!

Fame and such is fickle. Gary escaped his entourage so he could find solace with soldiers... until his entourage found him.

I won't discuss an autographed pic I have of Cindy Crawford that I got after spending a night talking about guys and relationships... or the shame of knowing that I talked her into marrying Richard Gere and thereby taking her off the market. I didn't know it was her until after she was gone.

01-30-2011, 03:08 PM
Looking back at the original question, and using the demographics from my own campaign, here is how it works out:

1st-4th level characters are local heroes. They are the ones the mayor calls on if something is taking sheep or threatening the farmers.

5th-8th level characters are the champions. The setting has "judges" about this level with parties of about this level going between the towns to handle things the mayors can't handle. PCs of this level will start to come to the attention of the barons who may seek to hire them for tasks that they don't have the manpower to handle. After all, a baron won't want to risk his personal guard to investigate everything strange that happens.

9th-12 level characters are "master level". They may be known throughout the kingdom. Major problems that the champions can't deal with are brought to their attention. They may be granted the title of "knight".

higher level characters will be well known unless they keep a low profile, at least well known among their own type: for example, if a Fighter encounters a 16th level Fighter, there is a good chance that he would be able to recognize her as one of the best Fighters in the kingdom.

Characters above 16th level may be "world known". Baba Yaga, Prester John, Hercules, these are names well known to all.

(Of course, at any level, a character may be keeping a low profile. Also, not everybody knows about everybody. Have you ever heard of Cheyne, Dave Komonen, or Samuel H. Friedman? In my own game, I allow players to roll 1d20 + int mod + 1/2 class level as a "knowledge - your class" skill, or of course they could use other knowledge checks. Thus you can always introduce a new high level NPC by saying "You've heard stories about Anerola the Ravenborn. The Kosaka tribesmen whisper stories of her magic and witchcraft around their campfires."

01-31-2011, 08:03 PM
I think we can agree that information doesn't flow perfectly in a fantasy world. Maybe even in the Internet age. Heck, not even gods will be recognized equally from region to region.

But renown doesn't stop a tyrant from oppressing. And legends don't diminish a dragon's appetite. Checks and balances aren't just for "federal" governments, they're for ecosystems too. The powerful PC druid who really loves Pink Puffs could grow her flock until it decides to devour the countryside. The lich that "lives" in the decrepit tower on the hill? Well, why hasn't he taken a stroll down into the city to, well, destroy everything? The focus of this thread should be - what happens when the PCs are on top of the food chain? And - if they're not on top of the food chain, what's been keeping the top of the food chain in check?

For the record, a mob of angry humans is CR 8, as a swarm. You might say that angry soldiers are CR 9, which means your party level should be CR 9 when they can start taking out armies without too much trouble.

01-31-2011, 10:49 PM
There is always a bigger fish. Even if as suggested it's a swarm of smaller fish.

01-31-2011, 11:09 PM
A swarm of humans is 20-30ish... certainly much smaller than an "army".

If you are the top dog, you are also the TOP TARGET. Like the "fastest gun in the West" - every two-bit gun slinger will want to challenge them. Even if it's a poison-arrow sniper attack, hey, Bob the Barbarian would have bragging rights for having taken out the heroes.

If you don't think a party could take them out, then what about Grogtar the Orc Chief. If he thinks the group is a threat, then waves of assassins or family member abductions and such will be sure to follow. If they need to, an entire army can be mobilized. If they defeat THOUSANDS of orcs, then perhaps the gnolls will feel threatened. If they are defeated, then perhaps the giants will feel threatened.

I think you may be making the party into an unstoppable force. Have you EVER had the party see an enemy and run away because they knew they were outmatched? There is ALWAYS someone higher on the food chain that can act against the party.

If the orcs are really all that threatened, then perhaps they can appeal to the gods. All they need to do is get a godling to take out the party. If you let the party take out the godling (or full god) at these levels, then this whole thing is your fault.

Or, alternatively, perhaps the party is victorious... and the world is now the land of milk and honey and there is no more reason to have heroes and they can retire. This is YOUR world - why don't you put your foot down and take control of it? The party is NOT the DM - YOU are. If you can't challenge a party, then you aren't playing the monsters appropriately.

02-07-2011, 10:17 PM
I just watched the Beowulf movie and it had a very interesting take on this hero idea. I'm not sure how to hide spoilers on this thread, so you can look up the movie on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf_(2007_film)) to see a discussion of the idea.

02-11-2011, 01:40 PM
Ut - your link goes to the main page for Beowulf. Is there a more specific part we should be seeking?

Mahl - the fastest-gun analogy is a good one, but I suspect that it only applies to the real-world food chains. The power differential (physical, not economic or political) in the real world is significantly smaller than in a fantasy world. As in, a 10th level fighter is almost impervious to hordes of 1st level fighters. Higher levels for the fighter seal the deal. Whereas in the real world, the top gunfighter might be able to outdraw every single enemy, but vs. 2 or 3 enemies, he's dogmeat.

Now the obvious solution to this is to make sure there's something threatening the 10th level fighter besides 1st level fighters. Like level 9 fighters. Which is fine for most campaigns, but I don't populate my game world with superhuman heroes. Most people are normal, and there are precious few hero/villains out there. For everyone to be sufficiently kept in check, you'd need a more or less continuous dispersion of character levels.

I like the appeal to the gods idea. I think it got mentioned earlier in the thread.

02-11-2011, 06:34 PM
I have played in several groups with the 'auto kill' rule, which would uphold the gunslinger analogy. The auto kill is when somebody rolls 3 20's in a row. A peasant could take out a hero with one well placed pitch fork or a David could take out a Goliath with one well placed stone. I have also played in a group with an unlimited success rule. This rule was that when you rolled the max on a die, you kept rolling and adding until you didn't roll max. (I once rolled a listen check of 109) Yes, Conan could fall off his bar stool and die if the damage die kept coming up max. You could take out a Tarrasque with a dagger as long as you rolled a couple hundred 4's in a row with your damage die!

These groups did it for realism. I guess that could hold some 6th level god like heroes back from wanton destruction. But in a fantasy realm there is always somebody bigger, even if it must be the gods.

02-12-2011, 12:47 PM
Lessee...odds of getting two 20s in a row: 1 in 400. Odds of getting three in a row: 1 in 8000. Not very generous with the auto-kills, were they?

I'll stick to the massive damage rule (fort save or die when you take 50+ damage) and keep most people's hit points (NPCs) around 6 (2 hit dice with d6 being an average die) to maintain realism.

Although I do like Action Points, which could behave similarly to those repeating dice.