View Full Version : Appellations, Epithets, and Sobriquets

Gorbash Kazdar
2005-08-21, 08:16 PM
I've recently been reading George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, as well as checking out some kings of England, and a certain thing struck me. Many of the famous and heroic characters of Martin's series have appellations attached to their names for deeds both great and ill, as well as for certain famous matters of happenstance. There's Daenerys Stormborn (also called the Mother of Dragons), Jaime Kingslayer, Robb the Young Wolf, Loras Tyrell who is called the Knight of Flowers, Gregor Clegane called the Mountain that Rides, his brother Sandor called the Hound, and others besides.

In history, there's William the Conqueror, Rollo the Walker, Eric the Red, Ivan the Terrible, and hundreds more. Even the semi-mythical King Arthur may have come from an appellation like this; the name is very similar to the word for "bear" in the language of the Britons. It's quite possible that a hero of the time was called the Bear and this eventually morphed into the name Arthur.

Anyways, it struck me that this could work as an interesting concept for character improvement in D&D. The idea is that, if a character earns an appelation via a role-playing situation (as awarded by the DM), they get a minor benefit for it, and then they can gain more by taking certain feats.

Pulled the original version of the feat, cause it needs more work. The idea is that the feat will be awarded as a free bonus feat whenever the DM feels that the character has earned a sobriquet. It would work similarly to the reputation bonus (http://www.12tomidnight.com/d20modernsrd/Reputation.php) from d20 modern, except the intitial bonus to skills would be +2, which would increase by +1 for each additional sobriquet, if any.

Additional feats in the tree would stem from exactly why you won the appellation - for example, "Name of Glory" would grant a bonus to those who won their name from some heroic deed, while "Ill-named" would benefit those famed for a crime or betrayal. Other ideas I have currently are for "Name of Mercy," "Name of Wisdom," "Accursed Name" (for those connect to a negative event or being named for a disfigurement), "Blessed Name" (the opposite of Accursed Name), and so forth. The benefits would be more powerful than Sobriquet and standard feats, since it should be hard to earn an appellation.

I was also considering requiring some sort of ritualistic expenditure of wealth to balance the concept, in the same manner of the Weapons of Legacy rules (that is, in order to unlock the full power of the weapons, you have to take on certain rituals and tasks that also require ritual goods, and thus a gold cost).

To note, I love the idea of using appellations with or without any real in game benefit, and I don't think you need to include a statistical benefit to make it worthwhile to include them. It just struck me as an excellent basis for a game mechanic that hadn't been explored, to my knowledge.

Your thoughts & suggestions?

2005-08-21, 08:29 PM
Sounds good actually, it REALLY makes sense for characters who have "survived" more than one campaign. If they've somehow saved a kingdom or brought doom to thousands (depending on alignment), people are going to hear about it and probably call him something special, sometimes whether said character likes it or not. May not even have to give a real bonus, but an RP situation change, in that people who know about his story might have an auto change in their feelings towards him (some may revere them, some may hate them, some may be scared *bleep*less of them). It really does make a lot of sense, I like it

2005-08-21, 08:31 PM
While I like the idea, I think that it is easily reasoned that the Leadership feat, as well as ranks in either Diplomacy or Intimidate, are sort of a taciturn system of the same type.

Sure, Diplomacy is textbook defined as 'your ability to interact and convince others,' but reputation probably factors into diplomacy and intimidation more than nearly anything else. I mean no matter how charismatic you are, being known as The Thresher of Souls, Murderer of One Thousand Sons is probably going to help your intimidate check a lot more than your stern gaze.

I think this may just be one of those RP things that don't need to be written into the rules (though, optionally, they could be). As a DM, you can alter the intimidate checks at your option.

Also, the way the feat is written, if you yourself know of your appelation, you get a +2 to Use Magic Device. I'm sure that's not an intended meaning, but when you're dealing with munchkins you can never be sure. :)

2005-08-21, 08:41 PM
I seem to remember one of the d20 games I've played actually had "fame" as a number on your character sheet, to be adjusted based on the things you had done, and the higher it got the more likely it was people had heard of you, etc. I was going to suggest "titles" could work like this, but now I can't remember where on earth it was I saw this.

2005-08-21, 09:10 PM
I seem to remember one of the d20 games I've played actually had "fame" as a number on your character sheet, to be adjusted based on the things you had done, and the higher it got the more likely it was people had heard of you, etc. I was going to suggest "titles" could work like this, but now I can't remember where on earth it was I saw this.
d20 Modern has it as part of it's class features - CHA and INT chars get high fame from memory...

2005-08-21, 09:27 PM
Hmm, interesting concept. Reminds me of the 'Registered Device' feat in Relics & Rituals, where a character gets a heraldic device of his/her own that everyone from the king to the peasantry recognizes. Depending on what your character's been up to, this can be a good thing or a bad thing ;) At the very least, it says that the PC is a warrior to be reckoned with. (I can't remember offhand if spellcasters can be awarded Registered Device, but it wouldn't be very common if so.)

As for sobriquets, I'm quite fond of using them with my PCs. ::points to signature:: Not only do they add flavor, it's easier to come up with an appropriate sobriquet than a last name!

2005-08-21, 09:30 PM
I love it personally

Can't really see how it can go wrong to tell the truth, however it does require that the DM actually actively try to use it(either that or the player should try), but apart from that, sounds awesome, and encourages creativity in the naming process

But as said, I would limit it to only social interactions, not the Use Magic Device Skill

2005-08-21, 10:10 PM
If I was to adopt that for my games, I would make them a DM-awarded bonus, not a feat.

Rokugan has some things about that, Status and Glory. I use it.

2005-08-21, 10:46 PM
I think to avoid having it used for UMD, it should apply to Diplomacy checks instead of charisma checks.

I've used appellations before, but basically given them myself. In a game of all monsters, when we had a crazy tough battle with a naga, my cohort was cowering the whole time, then finally got in the battle, scored a natural 20 throwing a sword he found on a corpse and beheaded it. He started calling himself "the Naga Killer" and promptly died two sessions later.

I'm not sure where that story goes.

Gorbash Kazdar
2005-08-21, 11:32 PM
I always forget that UMD is based off of Cha. Oversight on my part, I'll fix it in a moment.

Umrael - It's written as a feat in order to fit it into the d20 system quickly and simply, but you can't actually just chose to take it or spend a feat slot on it - the DM awards it as a bonus feat as he or she sees fit ;)

d20 Modern and Star Wars use a reputation system that I like (dunno why I didn't think of them). A basic sobriquet will just get you a reputation bonus, in essence, which works very well. In most games, I'd just use reputation straight up and have sobriquets add a bonus to it, or just sobriquets for pure flavor.

But I'd also like to have some things that build off of the idea as a game mechanic. Ill-named, for example, could add an additional bonus to Intimidate and maybe a fearsome presence type ability (probably penalize some other things, of course), while Name of Glory could grant a bonus to allies in a manner similar to that of bless a few times a day.

2005-08-22, 01:00 AM
Hmmm, cool, but here's a thought. To go down in history with an epithet or sobriquet, first people have to hear your story, so how about it becomes a special ability of bards? In celtic legends, bards were feared for their ability to satire a person, and permanently ruin his reputation and even luck, and the praise of a great bard could conceivably help a character achieve a better (or at least more heroically tragic) wyrd, though I can't think of an example of that second thing happening off of the top of my head.

D&D bards already have strange magic powers, maybe they could get a spell called, I dunno, "Naming Song?" "Weave Wyrd?" anyway, about fourth or fifth level, and it would be able to permanently add a bonus or penalty to some narrow ability, like a skill check or attacks againt a certain enemy type, based on a song or poem written about the past behavior of the character.

I'm not sure how balanced it would be, though it would be happening about the same time as the permanency spell and other small permanent buffs become an option, and flavorwise it would only fit into some settings/games. Still, it might be rewarding for a bard to witness the BBEG getting mauled by dire weasels, then write a vicious satire about how scared he was, and weasels are his bane, and it could magically and permanently lower the BBEG's AC vs Weasels after the bard sings "The Ballad of Rexnor the Weaselbitten" in a few towns and it sinks into the mass unconscious.

Gosh, that turned into a long post. Anyway, just a thought.

2006-08-27, 03:52 PM
I like the idea. I think it would be nice to have some crunchy stuff on names, besides, it is pretty darn cool.

I like the whole bard thing, but I don't really see it as being an actual class feature. I do, however like the idea that you could get your own tune depending on what you did.