Recently I was thinking (for no reason that I can recall) about that now-famous statement Johnny Depp made about his character, Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Depp stated that he portrayed the character in the manner of a rock star (specifically Keith Richards) because pirates were the rock stars of their time; that is, their fame preceded them.
This is significant, I think, because the same thing is true for adventurers in a fantasy game. Think about it, the most excitement your typical commoner gets is hoping for a natural 20 on his weekly Profession check. For that poor schlub, hearing the exploits of that group of adventurers that slew a deadly dragon, rescued a pulchritudinous princess, and took its heaping hoard for themselves is the closest thing he can get to attending a rock concert or seeing a blockbuster action movie.
Given that, and given that people are people wherever you go, you can predict how the inhabitants of some sleepy little hamlet will react when these living legends show up in their town (presuming that it’s not because some really bad shit is going down). Young people – who still dream of maybe living that life one day – will go completely crazy, trying to sleep with the heroes, steal a souvenir off of them, convincing them to take them on as an apprentice, etc. Others will try to pull off some sort of scheme (from diabolical to hare-brained) in hopes of parting the party from their money. A few will sternly preach that these loose cannons are corrupting the youth and contributing to the social breakdown.
Now, it goes without saying that this is usually more trouble than it’s worth for the adventurers. Oh, it’s nice having people fawn all over you, your choice of the local girls (or boys), and generally being treated like royalty. But it makes it impossible to arrive in a place, or investigate, covertly. Scandal and gossip follow them endlessly. And there are legions of fans and hangers-on who all want something from them. There’s no peace to be had when you’re on a pedestal.
Now ask yourself, when’s the last time your PC dealt with that in your Pathfinder game?
I didn’t think so. As such, here’s a defect to simulate having to deal with this problem on a regular basis. Originally this was posted over on the Skirmisher Publishing forums, but I’m tweaking it a little for its re-release here.
DEFECT: GROUPIE MAGNET [GENERAL]
Adventurers are the rock stars of a fantasy world, and this character is one of the most famous.
Prerequisites: Character level 6+, Charisma 14+.
Detriment: As a result of being a famous adventurer, a character with this Defect is so well-known that whenever he enters a populated area he’s surrounded by (character level)d4 groupies (75% of which are of the opposite gender of the character) after (30 minus character level) minutes. These groupies follow the character wherever he goes in the local area, usually necessitating a disguise in order to escape them.
Groupies are all low-level NPCs. Unlike followers and cohorts, they don’t take orders from a character with this Defect, but rather just crowd around him and gawk, shriek, make shameless advances, and try to steal his stuff for souvenirs (treat this as a Sleight of Hand check made to steal from the character each round, with a bonus equal to one-half the character’s level).
A character may request a favor from one of their groupies (DC 5 Diplomacy check), but this rarely turns out well. Groupies cannot keep a secret in regards to the object of their affection, and word about the favor rapidly spreads, becoming common knowledge after 1d4-1 days (DC 10 Diplomacy check to gather information about it). This “news” is often embellished wildly; a groupie who lent their idol money will boast about how the character now owes them a favor, whereas a groupie who slept with her idol will talk about how she’s now pregnant with his “love child,” etc.
Now, most of the specifics here have been left deliberately vague. There’s no set level for the NPC groupies, for instance, and how asking them for favors comes back to bite the PC in the ass is left up to the GM (though, as a general guideline, the more the PC asks their groupie for, the worse it comes back around).
The most obvious problem this will pose for a PC with this defect is that they’ll be swarmed anytime they’re in public, forcing them to adopt a disguise (ranks in the Disguise skill will likely follow taking this defect). Obviously, this might not happen in every town the PC ever sets foot in, but the GM should err on the side of overstating this effect; think of how people in your town would react if they suddenly realized that [insert mega-famous celebrity’s name here] was right there among them.
Still, if you want a character who’s a celebrity among the populace of the game world, this will give you that fame…with all it entails.