In the Shadowrun 5th edition core rulebook, reputation is split into three categories: Street Cred, Notoriety, and Public Awareness. In those rules, Street Cred acts as a beneficial dice pool modifier on social tests where your reputation would be known. However, because Street Cred grows at the rate of one for every ten karma earned and because the average karma gained per week is five, after two months of play, it’s easy to have achieved a +4 to social tests.
Eventually, this becomes problematic when a player with 200+ karma character (roughly one year of play) would have a +20 to those rolls. On the one hand, the a character’s social limit mitigates that bonus, but in so doing it also cheapens high street cred; after a certain point, you’re very likely to hit your limit and any more cred just seems like empty bookkeeping.
As such, the following are the reputation rules for my table:
Street cred remains somewhat as-is. It’s earned in the same way, so as a character gains karma, they also gain street cred at a rate of 1 cred to 10 karma. It still acts as a beneficial modifier to your social tests, but it has a cap; like Teamwork Tests, the bonus you add to your rolls from street cred cannot exceed the rating of your skill.
Even the book refers to street cred as a pool of points to be spent; in the book, this is done only to reduce one’s Notoriety. But, at my table, there are additional uses of this pool:
- If someone relies too much on their reputation, eventually people think they’re all talk. So, every time you enhance a roll by your street cred, it reduces your street cred pool by one.
- As in the book, 2 points of cred can reduce a character’s Notoriety by one, but additionally, 2 points may also be spent to reduce a character’s Public Awareness by one. This represents a character’s effort to obfuscate or otherwise confuse people about their activities.
- Finally, 1 point of street cred can be spent to increase a Contact’s Connection or Loyalty rating. In other words, your efforts on the street may help boost your network of friends, informants, and business associates when you speak for them.
If street cred doesn’t grow fast enough to facilitate these uses, we will adjust the rate at which it is earned.
Notoriety represents the accumulation of negative reputation. Street cred is largely a positive thing; people know of you and about your actions and they either respect you, fear you, or both for those actions. Notoriety, on the other hand, is a sense of others’ disgust at your heinous acts. Killing sprees, failing to complete a contracted run, working for a dragon, betrayals, etc. all add to Notoriety. Certain qualities may do so as well (see p. 368, SR5) at character generation or after. For example, someone with a prejudice may not start out the game notorious, but if their bias leads them to behave in a way that would alter others’ understanding of their character, it may gain them a point of Notoriety during play. Similarly, going berserk as per a Mentor Spirit’s negative effect may be problematic over time for a character.
Notoriety acts as a bonus to thresholds and to the dice pools of other characters (PCs and NPCs) that may need to defend against your character in a social test. For a contact, it is offset by Loyalty. So, a character with a Notoriety of 3 working with a Contact who has a Loyalty of 4 has an effective Loyalty in that situation of 1.
As the book describes, a character’s public awareness is how much the media, the authorities, and the average person knows about the character’s actions. Some small level of public awareness is probably not too bad. In fact, it might help a team find some work from time to time. But, if it gets too high, it might be a bit too easy to find or track down that character.
Public awareness grows at the discretion of the GM. It’s an imperfect system, but any activity that would make the news, is witnessed by the average person, includes the media or law enforcement, or other ways of making a public name for yourself would increase a character’s public awareness. Even leaving evidence of your identity behind during a run or burning a fake SIN may do so.
Public awareness acts as a dice pool modifier for others when attempting to track, find, search for, or otherwise know more about your character. It does not impact Astral Tracking directly, but initial steps a mage may need in order to begin the tracking might be made easier by a character’s public awareness.