I have a half-Orc bard in my group who wants to be a rockstar. He's played in three or four large venues, one of which in Waterdeep where he had a critical success.

So, my question is: How quickly would word spread of an upcoming musician in the Forgotten Realms (5e), and how could I track it mechanically? From an in world point of view, it wouldn't be a direct comparison to the medieval times of our own world as they have several ways of communicating across long distances. And while I am aware that I could easily say "oh you are popular here because you played here", he wants a more realistic way (which I am all for) to track his fame, and since looking at his name on the Realms iTunes chart isn't a thing that can happen, I've turned to asking you all for a fame tracking method appropriate to this use case.


How quickly would word spread of an upcoming musician in the Forgotten Realms (5e)? It wouldn't be a direct comparison to the medieval times of our own world as they have several ways of communicating across long distances.

Depends on the individual location. In general, cities would come to know first, because they have more sophisticated communication infrastructure (more Wizards) and more people travelling there to potentially spread rumors. However, it is unlikely that word would spread quickly unless there was a promotion for the Bard's next performance. So, if your Bard is touring to Neverwinter after Waterdeep, Neverwinter would be abuzz with talk about "the up-and-coming rock star from Waterdeep," but it's unlikely that another city like Luskan or Silverymoon would know, because no one is promoting him there.

If you think that promoting a rock star is only a modern invention, think again; as a landlord or venue owner, there is no point in hosting a musician if you don't promote him so you make more money from the performance. Likewise, if he's not performing anywhere in the city, then nobody would be compelled to promote him. This is kind of a crucial phase in his career because he needs to invest a lot of money initially to get promoted, and this is where the bulk of the cost he needs to pay for his fame would come in. Once he's famous in a region, his name as a Bard will have inherent value due to his popularity and venue owners will want him to perform at their locations, but until then he has to foot the bill for promotion.

Rumors of his performances will spread regardless of promotion later on, but you have to allow time for people to travel and spread those rumors. An unknown musician lives and dies by any promotions he can get from touring, since he can't generate buzz by himself. After he performs in a city, he'd make a lasting impression there -- see also the "Entertainer" background feature "By Popular Demand" (assuming your Bard took this background).

As far as villages and hamlets go, as long as they're near a city where they can actually go and see the Bard perform in a reasonable timeframe, they might well take a liking to him. But settlers of fringe and frontier villages and outposts, such as Noanar's Hold on the edge of the High Forest, probably won't care, even if they do come to know about him. Life in these areas is extremely hard (remember, they have to deal with Orcs, Centaurs, occasionally hostile Elves, etc) and most people don't have the time or means to go see a performance like this. Many of them are dedicated to their hard lives (Rangers, Druids, etc) as well.

So, my question is: how would I track how popular he is? I could easily say "oh you are popular here because you played here", but he wants a more realistic way (which I am all for) to track his fame, and since looking at his name on th iTunes chart isn't a thing that can happen, I've turned to asking you all.

I suggest that you track your Bard's "regional fame" as a broad abstraction. The easiest way to do it while keeping it accurate is probably to do it on a regional basis. For instance, if your Bard plays in Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate, word will probably begin to spread to Amn and other nearby areas along the Sword Coast. Consult a map of Faerun after he performs to gauge what settlements his fame would spread to. In the end, it doesn't matter, as long as it's easy for you. Keep in mind where he's being promoted next, too, when he's unknown in a region. You can use this to see if people know about your Bard before he enters a city; you can either roll a check using the Bard's proficiency, or roll a check for the NPCs to know about him. You could even make the DC easier if he's done more gigs in the region. Think of it as kind of a "plus" version of the Entertainer feature, which only takes effect after you've performed somewhere.

He was thinking about enchanting objects to play his recorded music but I didn't know if Forgotten Realms (or any DnD world) has the capabilities to make a "CD album".

Although RAW spell effects might make this somewhat difficult, this is easily within the power of your average hedge Wizard in the Forgotten Realms in terms of lore or fluff. Consult the DMG for help on making a suitable magic item. A three-to-five minute long audio recording with a permanency effect might be a bit pricey, but it's hardly the magical equivalent of rocket science -- if the RAW spell levels are any precedent. Would definitely be a hit amongst the nobility.


You could adapt the Renown system from the Dungeon Master's Guide (p. 22) to represent your influence on popular culture rather than with a particular organization. The work involved would be:

  • devise five ranks (e.g. wannabe/local act/celebrity/star/idol)
  • grant renown points for successful compositions, performances, and PR stunts (which could tie in to regular adventuring)
  • assign perks to various ranks: the ability to pull a crowd, income from subscribers to your compositions, political influence, etc.

So in my campaign (ad&d and 3.0/3.5) one of the players had a similar request. Elvis wanted everything to go on tour and increase his fame (and potentially fortune). We all decided to dedicate a session or 2 to roleplay Elvis'sd claim to fame- HOWEVER there was one big problem. We discovered pretty quickly that in order to have Elvis' tour caravan to hit 50% of the known taverns, brothels and bars (which we figured would have given him critical mass to be known just about everywhere) would take over 2 years of gametime. This lead to a decision point - adventurer or performer- you'd have to choose because no way is the party going to camp out for 2 years.

5th edition poses a new set of problems. The bard isn't a wandering minstrel type character but a college educated man. "Bard: Each bard is inspired by a college—a loose affiliation of like-minded bards who share lore, stories, and performances. The Player's Handbook presents the College of Lore, which focuses on knowledge and performance, and the College of Valor, which focuses on inspiring bravery on the battlefield." - (from http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/keeping-it-classy)

Its no longer about fame (per se) but meeting up with your fellow bards for a jam session and story swap. (much less Will Scarlet, much more Taliesin). If you're going to morph the character back to the Will Scarlet side you'll face the same time issues Elvis did. Elvis decided to go in a mini tour instead of the full tour in between adventures. While the rest of the party did normal housekeeping, Elvis decided that the smart move would be to pay riders to post about his performances and cheap beer. I invented a notoriety, and likeability statistic and gave that a base percentage as well as kept track of what towns the riders went to . Each town that had at least a 10% turnout got a plus to his base notoriety score and either a plus or minus to his likeability score (based on skill checks). This seemed to be a happy medium however as the notoriety went up, the party began to be plagued by Elvis impersonators that inevitably ended up scamming tavern owners, wenches, etc. that let to unfortunate incidents.


One important consideration is the nature of the audience you are playing to. I am not knowledgeable of the communication systems of Forgotten Realms, but if it is something requiring funds to effectively use, that seriously affects the spread of fame. Although it makes bookkeeping more complicated, I would recommend a two-axis system. One axis corresponds to firsthand knowledge, based on location. So, a bard who performs solely in Waterdeep might find he is famous among all classes there, but his fame shrivels anywhere else. The second axis corresponds to social classes. This is where the system might get complicated. General performances would probably have a lower modifier, but affect everyone equally. Tailored performances (like glorious kings of old for nobles, or benevolent thieves for the poor) would have higher modifiers but only affect a certain portion of the crowd and might actually have a negative effect on opposed classes. Of course, the effects only hold if you actually perform to a crowd, as the huddled masses are unlikely to know about your glorification of their oppressors' ancestors in their squalor.

I imagine these modifiers giving bonuses to attempts to book venues, as well as to the actual performances, and I imagine that it would be the product of the two axes. For an example with a value of 0-5, a bard performs periodically in a Waterdeep inn frequented by merchants and the other middle-class citizens. He might have a 1 for Waterdeep, but a 4 for the merchants. Maybe he gets a gig for one merchant to work a dinner with some nobles attending; he might then get a 1 for the nobles, which lets him actually try to get new gigs without paying for promoting himself. He can then work his way up with the nobility, and he might get up to 2 for his Waterdeep fame. The point of this style of play is that it is hard to break into being famous (otherwise, why wouldn't everyone become bards?), but if you are smart and play the game, you can accelerate your growth.

Returning to the example, the bard has gained quite a following in Waterdeep, but wants a change of scene. A merchant tells him that he knows of a good friend in Caterwaul who is looking for a good bard. Through the middleman, the bard might get half the bonus when trying to break into this new area. If he manages to impress that merchant, he might get a little fame much earlier than he did in the first kingdom. He works up to being famous here as well and hears about a shindig going on in the palace of a third kingdom and he asks a patron noble from Waterdeep for assistance with a recommendation, but the king might also have heard of his prowess from Caterwaul. Thus, he gets a composite bonus from both areas.

The system would be a little complicated and would have to be refined for each system, but it allows for real growth in a semi-realistic manner.


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