Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. This week we are going to dive into renown in Dungeons & Dragons. You can find rules for it in Chapter 1 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. You can find additional information in Chapter 2 of the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. Renown gets discussed right in the introduction of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. These three sources alone will give a ton of information and suggestions on how to use renown specifically, which is great for running D&D and using renown in Forgotten Realms or the world of Ravnica. We will explore other options and ideas below from the Nerdarchy team. Remember — just because those are official D&D campaign settings doesn’t mean you can’t pull them apart and reassemble them for your homebrew D&D campaign.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
I’m Your Biggest Fan — An NPC becomes obsessed with one or more of the players, professing they are their biggest fan. This could range from mildly annoying to a serious problem. Maybe the fan takes offense at a slight towards the adventures and will go to extreme lengths to see them vindicated. Perhaps they constantly attempt to follow the adventurers into dangerous situations that makes them a threat to themselves and create an extra layer of complication for the adventuring party. This person is misguided, maybe even annoying, but I’m sure heroes wouldn’t want to see any harm come to them.
You Think You’re a Big Shot — This one is real simple. The player characters just attract trouble. People want to make a name for themselves by taking on those that already have a name for themselves.
Your Teacher’s School and Kung Fu are No Good — This is similar to the one above. The real difference is the player’s have attached their characters to an organization. That organization could have rivals and/or enemies. They will see taking on or out the characters as a way of advancing themselves within their own organization or to advance the agenda of their own organization by eliminating some rivals.
You Got the Job Done — The word of the characters’ exploits are beginning to reach far and wide. Perhaps there was an item or secret chamber they didn’t discover at one of their adventuring locations. They know where this place is but an unknown threat doesn’t. They now need to try to get this information out of the adventurers.
Only the Heart of a Hero Will Do — Hearts are often powerful components to magical rituals. The most dastardly of these rituals will need a heart of a hero. By being successful and doing great deeds the characters have painted a big target on their chests.
Out of Ted’s Head
There is plenty of information to use renown in the Dungeon Master’s Guide as well as Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. Here I present my own guide to help you use renown. Let’s forget about mechanical benefits and just look at the real world and see how it is around us. People who are famous are well known. They get recognized and if they are really famous they can get mobbed asking for autographs, favors or anything people think a celebrity might be willing to do. How can we extrapolate this and use it in D&D?
In the early levels, adventurers are essentially no one. They have no renown and will only be known by people they have interacted with. As they gain levels and do deeds they gain recognition from people of note, and more things can happen. A small town can treat them as massive celebrities because they saved the town or someone important there. Use this and it can be a lot of fun. Have townsfolk ask for advice, or ask for further help, but at the same time offer them rewards like free food and stay. If there are two inns, they could quarrel over which inn is better suited to the heroes.
As their deeds grow and they gain influence over cities they could, in video game words, unlock a new area to explore. They could gain access to the higher echelon of society. They could be invited to parties and functions thus gaining access to new and better quests and plots. As their renown grows so too can the intrigue unfolding around them. This can be useful as they might require expensive baths, clothes and tickets just to get into the function .But these two can be quests. Okay, not the bath really, but perhaps the clothes expected are beyond the coin the party, or some of the party, can actually afford. This means when they go to pay for the obnoxious outfit they might only wear once, the tailor will have to ask them to perform a quest in place of payment.
Wash, rinse, repeat until the characters are before the royalty of worlds, the very gods of the realm and beyond if you so desire. Imagine the outfit required to dine with the gods! Either way the fact is renown can be fun to play with. Allow your heroes to be mobbed once a session by fans of what they have done. Let them use their fame for fun and the amusement of everyone at the table.
I am not saying not to use what is in the books, you can use that too, but these are just simple tools of using the recognition to have fun and in some cases get exploited because of it. Let’s face it, if they are well known it might attract the greedy to them as well, but that is up to you of course.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
Don’t we all yearn to belong?
In our D&D games, renown suggests a way to reward characters who belong to something greater than themselves. Factions, guilds and other organizations in a campaign setting present ways for characters to engage with the setting and enrich the experience for the players. Including benefits as rewards for gaining renown within these groups incentivizes players to explore what this corner of their adventures has to offer.
The fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide sketches out renown using the factions from Adventurers League play — the Harpers, Lord’s Alliance, Emerald Enclave, Order of the Gauntlet and Zhentarim — illustrating how to structure a faction and renown system. Faction renown is an awesome way to include character-specific side quests, downtime, roleplaying and other scenarios to broaden the scope of your campaign. Advancing your faction’s agenda earns a character renown, and with it comes rewards like contacts, followers and a whole lot more.
Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica greatly expands on these concepts, presenting 10 Guilds of Ravnica with comprehensive material for each of them. One of the most incredible facets of these guilds are the special spell lists each offers to any member character. THIS IS AMAZING. The tailor-made guild spell lists break the bonds of class, including a variety of spells embodying what the guild is all about. These spells are added to the spell lists of any character with spellcasting or Pact Magic features.
In the campaign I recently started running for my home group, I modeled their guild on the way GGtR designed them. The characters begin as new members of the Adventurers of Adventure, and as they follow the guidelines in their membership booklets they’ll rise within the guild as they help it grow. And they got cool enamel membership pins that do cool stuff depending on the member’s renown. Right now all they do is pulse when there’s an Adventure Locale nearby, but renowned adventurers’ pins can do things like cast sending or message.
Characters can belong to more than one faction, too, and gain renown with multiple organizations. I imagine this could get a little hairy, and maybe hard to manage if it started getting out of control. Characters who game the system might wind up with all sorts of additional benefits…but there’s Dungeon Master gold to mine in them thar renown too.
Adventurers with high renown in one or more organizations might find themselves playing the role of those renowned NPCs they once hoped to impress and ally with. More junior members of the faction, themselves gaining renown, will want to make bonds and contact with the player characters, and this can lead too all sorts of fantastic roleplaying and encounter opportunities.
Renown is a versatile tool to pull out of the box for DMs. The incentives for player characters to pursue gaining renown opens the window to a platform for presenting adventure hooks, social interactions and downtime activities. To me, this is the juice where D&D happens. In my experience it promotes player engagement, fosters collaboration and scratches that itch for new and more interesting rewards for doing what adventuring parties do best.
Until next time, stay Nerdy
— Nerdarchy team