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> Reputation, Notoriety and Public Awareness, Or How the Shadows are Like High School
Mercer
post Dec 26 2007, 08:14 AM
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I've been thinking lately about Reputation, Notoriety and Public Awareness. This is not really what I'd consider to be a crucial part of the game, but it’s a slow day in the Mercetarium and sometimes its fun to fixate on a particular part of mechanical minutiae. (Some people build ships-in-a-bottle, I like to fiddle with rules. I'm also relatively new to SR4, but I-- like most of humanity-- like to learn by breaking.)

I dug out my old VHS copy of Snatch the other day, and I suppose that's what started me down this road as much as anything. (That, and I was visited last night by three ghosts of Shadowrun Past, Present and Future. Nice folks.) That movie, like "Lock, Stock" before it, really did a great job of presenting the London underworld as its own insular society. There wasn't that many of them, and people knew people, at least by reputation. When Brick Top walks into the Pawn Shop, the pawn shop guys don't know him, but the thug they brought in to remove the body did and you could see the fear immediately on his face. Brick Top strikes me as a guy with a hefty Notoriety score that does all his "negotiating" with the Intimidation skill. (He basically gets a point every time the pigs eat, though in SR you could switch them out with organleggers and ghouls, even if pigs still seem creepier.)

Another thing the movie gets across well is the feeling that each of these characters (Brick Top, Bullet Tooth Tony, Boris the Bullet Dodger, a lot of B names) fills a certain role in the ecosystem of the criminal underworld. That can be a hard thing to capture in the game, where sometimes it feels like there is an inexhaustible supply of fixers and Johnsons and runners can be located as quickly as archetypes can be pulled out of the book. When I was running my SR3 game, I tried to get out of that mindset by putting down some hard numbers which is something I'd probably do again when I start running SR4. (I used a ratio of 1:10000, runners to general population, and then increased it because Seattle is a hotbed of shadow activity and it made the percentages easier. Going by my original numbers, there were less than 50 street samurai in Seattle rated Competent-- starting Archetype-- or higher. There were a lot more Average and Inferior rated sams, but they also had a high turnover at that level. The higher you went, the less the Big Names changed and the more it was Big News when they did. I'll probably repost my figures when I update them for SR4.)

So, from that perspective, I can buy Reputation (separate from Public Awareness) in the game. There aren't a lot of real runners (as opposed to wannabes) walking around, and they know a lot of the same people (fixers, arms dealers, mob bosses, street docs). And people talk, word gets around; if it didn't no one would ever get hired because no one would know who anybody was. Runners are anonymous, but its a loud sort of anonymous, at least in certain circles.
QUOTE
Marcella: His name is Felix La Poubelle.  Did some odd jobs for the Algerian Separatists and the Bast Nationalists.  Went pro last year with a stunning debut aboard a luxury liner last year in the Caribbean--
Martin Blank:  That's where I know that guy from.  He's an asshole.

But I'm not wild about Reputation adding automatically into Public Awareness, because it tends to penalize the runners who gain karma and don't rack up a lot of Notoriety, which you would think would likely be the more discreet and generate less publicity than the guys (to use my favorite absurd example) who throw the mayor under a bus on live 3v. I think there should be a way for characters to be fairly well known in shadow circles, and relatively unknown in the real world. What I'd like for the Rep, Notoriety and Public Awareness mechanic to do is give that feeling of an insular and atavistic shadow world bubbling right beneath the surface that polite society is often (blissfully) unaware of.

That being my starting point, here are a few wild stabs at some rules:

Reputation and Notoriety would work pretty much the same. Rep would be bonus CHA dice to social tests, Notoriety would be a penalty except where they combine for Intimidate tests. (I'd probably let them add to CHA separately, so that a CHA 4 guy could get 4 bonus dice from Rep and 4 from Notoriety, on the theory crazy professionals are scarier than people that are just crazy or just professional. I've read that section a few times and I'm still not sure if the total bonus from Rep and Notoriety is capped by CHA or if they are capped separately, but that's my take on it.)

Notoriety would be used to calculate Public Awareness, which is essentially your Negative Press. (I am assuming Lone Star isn't tracking your activities because you make a fascinating scrapbooking subject.) As such, it would be calculated off your Lifetime Total of Notoriety; even if you buy your negative press down with Rep, if Lone Star has a file on you, they're always going to have a file. (Unless you hack Lone Star or fake your own death, which is how Public Awareness would be lowered, in-play actions that lower your profile. It isn't something that happens automatically, its something the character has to figure out how to do.) A high Public Awareness doesn't automatically mean Lone Star has a warrant out for your arrest, but it is a leading indicator. They might have a big file but no real hard evidence. That's really more of a story/plot concern than a mechanical issue. (I don't think a high Public Awareness should automatically make a character unplayable, although it might make things more difficult. This might work for a High Chrome game where the PCs are rockers who go on runs and then record songs about it. Johnny Silverhand, anyone?)

Reputation and Notoriety would be used to calculate Street Cred (we don't have to call it that, but it’s late and I'm not going to think of a better term tonight), which is your Shadow Awareness (and I'm not going to think of a better term for that, either). Probably something like Threshold (10-Street Cred) on an appropriate Street Knowledge check to see if you've heard of somebody, with the information increasing with more net hits. In that sense, Street Cred replaces Public Awareness. (It might work like this already, or it did something similar in SR3, but I'm too lazy to look right now.) This too would likely be based off Lifetime Totals. If people know your name, they'll remember it. If a character buys down his Notoriety with Rep, the Street Cred won't change but the bonus dice will. A character with high Street Cred and Public Awareness and low (bought down) Notoriety and Rep might not be getting bonus dice because he's considered washed up. He used to be somebody but he hasn’t done much lately. That's kind of the effect I'm going for. Reputation wouldn't be based solely on Karma either, there would also be fiat points awarded similarly to Notoriety (probably just for opposite reasons).

The Threshold for real people (not runners) to know you would likewise be an appropriate Knowledge check Threshold (10-Public Awareness). It works the same as Street Cred, its just used by different people. If you don't know somebody right off, this would also be the Threshold for "asking around", with something like a base time of a day and every check you make giving the subject (or other interested parties) a roll to find out someone is looking for them. (Asking around would probably be something like Interrogation+Intuition or Charisma, with the subject's detection being a Street Knowledge+INT or something similar. I don't have my heart set on anything just yet, and I like keeping it fluid. Or if you were doing it strictly through Data Search-- who talks to people anymore?-- it'd use those rules.)

How you know people (the result of the Street Knowledge check) would likely be fiat, modified by as much player and GM collusion and creativity can be whipped up on the spot. A crit success might give you a piece of information not a lot of other people know, or you might know them well enough to be on friendly terms. A crit glitch and you have a potentially disastrous misunderstanding (you think he's gay, it turns out he's a ravening homophobe). A glitch could mean you know them, but the information is more of an obstacle than a breakthrough. If a guy has no Street Cred and you manage to beat a Threshold (10), maybe you've seen him outside your street doc, with a sign that says, Will Work for Hand Razors.

This is actually the second version of this post. I got about halfway through the first one and lost it through a computer error (if me hitting the back button can be blamed on the computer, which I think it can. If you give a monkey a gun, who's at fault when people start getting shot, I ask you?), and I'm aware that this redo is a bit muddled in places. But having slogged through it once I don't really have the energy to edit it further (and that "back" button is beckoning to me. I wonder what would happen if I just tapped it once?) I might clean it up a bit later, but I'll probably just post it as is and then refine it if I get any feedback.
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Fortune
post Dec 26 2007, 09:10 AM
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QUOTE (Mercer)
I've read that section a few times and I'm still not sure if the total bonus from Rep and Notoriety is capped by CHA or if they are capped separately, but that's my take on it.

Why would there be a Cap of any type? It is a modifier to a test, which don't fall under the Cap rules for either Skills or Attributes. The Caps only apply to things that directly add to either Attribute or Skill (but not just a single type of test), such as pretty much anything other than Bone Lacing and the like for actual Attribute bonuses, and the Adept Improved Ability or Reflex Recorders (and not much more) for skills.

Other than that, the rest looks quite intriguing. I'll comment more when I've read it again ... or something else pops out at me. :)
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Jack Kain
post Dec 26 2007, 09:29 AM
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The bonus is capped by charisma. As even if you are well known you have to be able to use that in your favor which requires charisma. Such as retelling the tail of how you shot a high ranking Vory lieutenant in the forehead with stick and shock before stripping him named for Knight Errant to find a few minutes later. (that was a fun a day for my guy)

My guess the limit exists so high reputation doesn't do way with the need for a good charisma when dealing in the shadows.
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Riley37
post Dec 26 2007, 10:02 AM
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I dunno that this is a good aspect for mechanical calculation, but I like some of the distinctions. Any time a PC is interacting with one NPC or a group, face-to-face, the GM should be able to figure "what do they know about this PC?", and come up with the following:
- Is the PC known to them as effective
- Is the PC known to them as dangerous
- Is the PC known to them as trustworthy

and add bonus dice or apply penalty as appropriate.

It might be good GMing to make a note any time an NPC observes the PCs in any way that might be gossip, and who might hear that gossip. You might even make notes on which fixers, street docs, talismongers and arms dealers are in contact with each other. You could make a list of less than 10 of each of those, and figure it's all the major players in the local area... so if PC N reneges on a deal with Fixer X, then you check the Fixer X contact list and each of those people is gonna get a message "watch out for PC N, he's a dealbreaker".
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Fortune
post Dec 26 2007, 10:08 AM
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QUOTE (Jack Kain)
The bonus is capped by charisma.

Right. Senile old me forgot that the Reputation system uses a different cap rule.
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Cardul
post Dec 26 2007, 11:09 AM
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Casinos have this whole thing where, when you get banned from one, they circulate your picture to other Casinos, so that you get quickly stopped from entering any Casino in the U.S. if you can count cards. That is a good example, to me, of Public Awareness. Basicly, the more runs you do, the more your face gets circulated around the Corp security, then outside of it. Kind of a "Have you seen this man?" type thing. It is not so much that Joe Sarariman sees Bob the Troll Sam, and goes "Oh! Wow! He is a runner!" It is more a "I know I have seen his face somewhere..he doesn't belong here." and "I heard that that guy is bad news..I better call security and lie low." while security are likely to know something about Bob, and the Johnson that hired him probably has a dossier of his runs..and in the Shadows, they know alot more about Bob then the Corps do. Basicly, I figure there is a dissipation of the information the further you get from the main source with Public Awareness.
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Mercer
post Dec 26 2007, 11:43 AM
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Glancing at the book, I see that I mixed up the terms for Street Cred and Reputation, although at this point it hardly seems to matter. (I'm not going to go back and fix it and since I am scrapping and replacing large swaths of an obscure rule anyway, the terminology seems less important.) The thing is in the book, a Public Awareness of 3 notes "potential Johnsons and even other runners might consider you too high profile to work with", and a Public Awareness of 3 is absurdly easy thing to achieve. About half the pc's I've seen have started play with Public Awarenesses of 1 (and I'm betting the percentage would be higher if more people read which flaws gave you Notoriety).

The part that seems wonky to me is in order to keep your Public Awareness low, you have to continually buy your Notoriety down, which means that characters that earn Notoriety will generally have a lower Public Awareness than characters who earn little or no Notoriety. If Notoriety helps you keep a low profile, they should probably call it something else. (To put another way, you can gain a point of Notoriety from getting arrested, buy that down and end up with a lower Public Awareness. Lone Star suddenly knows less about you because they arrested you.)

I don't mind scrapping the whole mechanic and playing it totally by fiat, although as a GM I like rolling the dice because it takes me in unexpected directions I wouldn't have otherwise thought of. I want the mechanics to work-- I don't always have to use them, but if I do want to use them they shouldn't actively hinder me.
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toturi
post Dec 26 2007, 12:03 PM
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Notoriety without Rep is as detrimental as Rep without Notoriety. Only when you have both Rep and Notoriety can you use Rep to offset your Notoriety. Remember as written, Public Awareness only serves as a dice pool for people outside the shadows. Lone Star suddenly knows less about you because they arrested you because the open files got your name on it got transfered to the case closed section.
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knasser
post Dec 26 2007, 12:33 PM
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I have nothing to add to this thread except to say that it made me realise that whilst I have almost the entirety of the 4th edition core rules committed to memory, I have never, ever, actually read the section on Reputation. Which is amazing given my usual thoroughness.

Using dice to determine what's going on in that facet of my game world has no appeal to me. Everything works fine for me without it. The debate here confirms my own opinion that society is far too complicated and layered to model with a Good Rep / Bad Rep scoring system. IMO.
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Rotbart van Dain...
post Dec 26 2007, 12:53 PM
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QUOTE (Jack Kain)
The bonus is capped by charisma.

The fun thing is - the bonus from negative notoriety isn't.
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Ryu
post Dec 26 2007, 03:11 PM
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What I did when I started our last SR4-campaign was tracking reputation and notoriety by faction (and no, those don´t give any DP boni in our game). Your treatment by the different factions would depend on what they knew about the things you did. The reputation rules as written only fit for shadow organisations like Jackpoint, where implicit knowledge of all factions is possible. The general public should not know about runners, or the runners are dead.

In our next campaign, I will be using qualitative status descriptions. If you perform a certain level of runs for a faction, that faction will give you preferential treatment. On the other hand, too many runs against one target will result in retaliation. I can not imagine a karma-based system to work for this.
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Mercer
post Dec 26 2007, 06:57 PM
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QUOTE (Rotbart van Dainig)
QUOTE (Jack Kain)
The bonus is capped by charisma.

The fun thing is - the bonus from negative notoriety isn't.

I thought the bonus from Notoriety was considered a bonus to Street Cred, with Street Cred being capped by CHA. It seemed kind of vague to me either way, but I came down on the side of capping both separately.

@knasser (and those of a similar view): I respect that, I really do. I think you can scrap the Reputation system and run it totally by fiat and it'll work fine or better than using a mechanic. But, as a player I don't like asking, "I don't like this rule, can we not use it?" and as a GM I like to say, "This is basically how it works."

The bonus dice (based on karma and fiat) are less interesting to me than providing a mechanic for letting people roll the relevant street knowledge to see if they have heard of an underworld figure or fellow shadowrunner. This goes hand in hand with my other post on the shadow population; there are only so many people who do this sort of stuff in a given city, and if you live it that world you'll see a some of the same faces, hear about people through reputation, and know a lot of the same people. That's a big part of what I'm going for. And you can do that by fiat, but it seems like less work for me to have a roll in place. (It gives me a mechanical framework for my flights of fancy.)
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knasser
post Dec 26 2007, 08:03 PM
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QUOTE (Mercer @ Dec 26 2007, 06:57 PM)
@knasser (and those of a similar view):  I respect that, I really do.  I think you can scrap the Reputation system and run it totally by fiat and it'll work fine or better than using a mechanic.  But, as a player I don't like asking, "I don't like this rule, can we not use it?" and as a GM I like to say, "This is basically how it works."


Oh by all means have a mechanic for it if it pleases you. If I came across as dismissive earlier... well I probably was because it doesn't suit me. But in retrospect, I shouldn't try to deny anyone fun where they find it. If it works with your game then it's a good thing.

I personally believe that the path you're on can only logically conclude with a database that tracks the relationships between all separate NPCs in your setting with appropriate weightings for how likely they are to talk about Shadow business, but I wish you luck. ;)

Sorry I can't be of help with this.
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Mercer
post Dec 27 2007, 01:00 AM
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Well, we can say the same thing about the Reputation rules as written. My feeling is that if we're going to have needless rules, they should at least work. :D

Personally, a database that tracks the relationships between all separate NPCs in a setting with appropriate weightings for how likely they are to talk about Shadow business would be awesome. Who wouldn't want that, even if it was just to casually reference every once in awhile? But it sounds like it'd be a lot of work to put together and honestly, probably not much more than occasionally amusing.

What I'm shooting for doesn't seem to be any more work than the Reputation rules as written (although hopefully less wonky, although I should point out that no one has a problem with rules they make up), with a couple of simple add-ons to determine if you've heard of someone by reputation. (The Rep rules currently say you get bonus dice if you're familiar with someone's reputation, but not how to gauge if you are or not, aside from the GM saying yes or no. A simple mechanic is generally less work than fiat, and it has the added benefit of impartiality. Whether or not fiat is a good thing depends entirely on the GM, but mechanics should make sense on the page.)
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Ryu
post Dec 27 2007, 10:43 AM
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There are different qualities of runners (Inferior, Average, Competent, Superior, Ultimate). Each could be assigned a Rep value required to reach that status. A similar system could be used for notoriety. IMO, both should use your approach to notoriety and not be karma-based.

Each status would have assorted boni / mali. Shadow clinics could be available depending on status, your presence is intimidating to mafia thugs when you are merely negotiating... or others. A table similiar to the one on contacts could do.
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