Welcome back to Under the Hood. This time I’ll be going over three non-combat systems in Mu: Age of Adventure that are designed to give the players more ways to interact with the story and world than whether or not they can hit something.
First it is important to go over Renown and how it interacts with the game, as the Rumors and Reputation systems play directly with and offer rewards for Renown. As the name implies, a character’s Renown is what above all else they are known for. Renown represents more than just fame in Mu, it represents the beliefs that everyone, even the world itself, have in what the characters can do. Characters with Renown are important and interesting, and the world itself wants to see what will happen.
Mechanically, Renown is the true form of a character’s growth in the story. It exists alongside a character’s level, but represents the great things you are known for, rather than simply what level of monster you should be fighting. At character creation you pick a thing you are renowned for, as well as the deed you did in order for everyone to recognize you and grant you your starting Renown. Over the course of the game your character performs additional Deeds of Renown – powerful, dramatic accomplishments outside the bounds of the normal rules – totally at least eleven before finally performing a Legendary Deed. This is to be the capstone of that character’s story. However, unlike a character’s level which increases at the end of an adventure in a very regular interval, Renown and Deeds of Renown are left up to the player to perform over the course of a campaign. To keep players from simply trying over and over, attempting Deeds costs Renown Points. A small amount are rewarded upon leveling up, but the vast majority of these points are earned through the Rumors and Reputation systems.
Rumors, as the name implies, are things that are heard on the wind by the characters about themselves. They might be possible theories on secret identities, rude gossip, dangerous hearsay, or any myriad of things. They are also given to the players by the other players in the group (assuming everyone is agreeable on what the rumors are). This accomplishes two main things: for one it gives the players an immediate connection to the other characters. You get to see where someone takes an idea you gave them, and you can even help them deal with the strange occurrences that are sure to come from the Rumor. And two, it gives the GM plenty of ready-and-waiting ideas for characters, plot beats, and story twists. The Rumors system is part “create-a-side-quest” and “part ideas from a hat”. It lets players fill in the small gaps in the running plot with things they want to see, while also giving the GM enough time to roll the various disparate parts together in a way that won’t feel forced.
Mechanically, the system is very simple: once a rumor is agreed upon the players can then work to either disprove or play up the rumor about them. For each session where a player spends some time working on their rumor – either seeking out individuals related to it, working on personal aspects of it in their spare time, or otherwise interacting with the world in a suitable fashion – they gain 1 Renown Point and move their Rumor track closer to it either being played up or down. The track itself starts at 0 and goes either to -3 or 3. This gives the GM and the player three sessions of work to craft a suitable interesting side story with an introduction, a build up, and a climax. Once complete, a Rumor then also turns into a new Renown, as a way to show the character’s continued involvement with the world.
How one completes these Rumors is also important. Which brings me to the final system, and while the least involved it is also important. Depending on how a character goes about completing their Rumors, or if they end a session having been acting especially characterful, they can earn Face or Rudos points to represent how they carry themselves and how they are viewed by the world at large. Face points are accrued at the end of a session where the character overcame a significant story beat or worked on their Rumor using their own personal strengths and skills, or humbly accepting help, or if they selflessly help their friends. Face points do not represent “good” acts, although good characters would almost certainly have them. They represent the character being loyal, humble, and competent – all aspects a villain could easily possess. In the other direction, Rudos points are awarded when a character accomplishes their goals while being self aggrandizing, underhanded, and opportunistic. Rudos points also come with a great deal of bonus Renown to represent the personal power the character is generating for themselves. In this sense, Rudos represents hubris and unchecked ambition more than “evil”. Once a character has accrued enough of Face or Rudos points they can choose to align themselves with the side of their choosing.
In game terms this is a choice between a quick influx of personal power with a looming downfall on the horizon (Rudos), or a rough and slow build up to an eventual shining moment of clarity (Face). Players can even make dramatic Turnabouts, shifting from Face to Rudos or vice-verse, if they find themselves stuck in a place they don’t want their character to be. While the Reputation system can affect interactions between the players and some NPCs, the biggest part is how Reputation affects Renown.
Face and Rudos are at their peak when characters begin performing greater and greater Deeds of Renown. With Face characters striving towards their big breakthrough, and Rudos characters attempting to keep their house of cards from crumbling. This cycle of systems is designed to reward players for investing time and effort into the setting and world, but also the game itself. The systems also help the GM by having the players constantly feed them information on what they want to see without having to break immersion. They help form a skeletal outline for the campaign’s story that the GM can then mold into a sensible story that everyone is happy with.
The Rumors, Renown, and Reputation systems are in a step into a more narrative focused style of game. They tie the world together not with numbers but with plot hooks and character arcs. But they don’t quite fully push Mu: Age of Adventure away from its crunchier roots. Phew! This was a long one this week, but I wanted to really get into some of the more story and narrative focused systems in Mu, and how they can help players and GMs alike have a better game experience. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!