Ridicule kills: scattered notes toward a reputation system for Bollymecha Tartary
So first Jason Kielbasa tweaked my nose about the effects of reputation on the princely Bollymecha pilots of Tartary – I’m looking forward to hosting his list of spells reworked for a set-piece singing and dancing + battletech fighting social wrestling game – and that made me think seriously about what’s going to happen when the players finally get into the giant Bollymecha wrestling ring for fame, fortune and the attention of scantily clad royals of whatever orientation. Jason’s idea, which I’m stealing shamelessly, is that reputation is the fundamental coin of political Tartary, and that it can be won or lost as easily on the palace dance floor as on the battlefield or the arena. In fact (of course), the greatest prince must be a triple threat.
Then Erik Jensen blogged about “it gets worse” – his ingenious alternative to the hard reset of PC death, where if the whole party is overcome by ogres, the next step is to wake up in the cook pot, not roll up a successor party.
And then I remembered the GURPS Goblins rules that Chris Hogan swiped for Small But Vicious Dog, and Zzarchov‘s social combat rules and Chris Kutalik’s CHA rules, and it all seems great but just not quite right for me. But I don’t have anything like a complete system, so I thought I’d just share my thinking and see if it sparks anything…
1. There may not be clean water, basic hygiene or reliable cure light wounds but Tartary gets television, piped straight from the Flailsnails multiverse. So your exploits, wherever they may happen, under whatever circumstances, are being watched on primetime across the smoking wastes and teeming souks of my setting. And so when you bring an FPC to Tartary I want to know their greatest high and lowest low to date, and you can be sure that somebody somewhere has seen them both. Especially if they’re above 1st level. How is this achieved? You’ll have to come to Tartary to find out.
2. Your level is basically a quick-and-dirty number for your reputation, but there’s also a separate reputation score, called REP. If you would’ve died but you get saved by It Gets Worse, you immediately take a cut in your REP. If you do something amazing (and I’m thinking here of rescuing princesses and achieving goals, not just rolling massive crits) then your REP goes up.
3. REP directly affects all your rolls for charisma and charisma-based magic. It also affects how people react to you in general, whether they’ll be willing to lend you stuff should you find yourself momentarily without weapons, an entourage, or clothes, or whether they’ll cower in a properly abject manner should you threaten to lose your patience with their cheering or jeering.
4. REP also acts as a cap on your level – you can come in with a higher level than your REP, or you can lose REP and have it be lower than your current level, but then (a) you can’t level up until you increase your REP accordingly, and (b) you wear the mark of a doomed man – you’re seen as “mouthy” – a sin beyond the pale of the wrestling morality of faces and heels; someone who pretends to a better station than they deserve. This means (somehow) you are cursed by a tragic arc (which is probably just a penalty on saving throws or something) UNTIL you can fix your REP, at which point the crowd will love or hate you properly again (and no more curse).
5. Outrageous REP is the only mechanically-encoded method in my rules through which you can break through the hard cap of 8th level. All other methods involve some sort of cheating.
What I totally was not looking for while writing this post: Giant scantily clad dancing robots.
What I’m delighted by but which SO IS NOT Tartary-style Bollymecha: Kabutom Beetle Mech; Suiobashi basher. I’m slowly coming round to the fact that if I want art to show people what these mecha are supposed to be, I’m probably going to have to draw it myself (and I vowed never to go back there). For now, the Authentick Spirit of Bollymechs is somewhere inside this triangle:
and here, have some more Theyyam dancers just because: