When faced with the political need to show action, police forces, Night Watches, City Guards, and Constabulary, etc around the multiverse are given the command "Round up the usual suspects!" Who are these suspects?
They are the habitual criminals and their known associates that the local gendarmes keep tabs on. While individually they are unlikely to have committed offense in question, they're all guilty of something in the eyes of the watch - if not the judge. Even if they didn't do it, maybe they know who did it and hate them enough to rat them out. Plus, they're used to it, so the police can spend some quality time with them, without disturbing the sensibilities of more upstanding citizens.
How does this relate to characters? Along with being murder-hobos themselves; they, like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, tend to associate"with a riff-raff of dubious demons, unfrocked sorcerers and discredited deities." - Fritz Leiber, The Adept's Gambit. In other words, they are some of the known associates and over time may become Usual Suspects themselves, as the Notoriety increases.
Simple Notoriety SystemA character starts with zero Notoriety. Simply a peasant or town kid that the cops and everyone else ignores. Characters gain Notoriety in the following ways
Be seen with a Usual Suspect +1 per occasion. No more than 2 per week.
Be seen receiving something from or giving something to a Usual Suspect +5
Be a witness to a crime +5 (Doesn't matter if a Usual Suspect was involved, you talked to the poice and they have you on file somewhere.)
Be a known associate (henchmen, follower, parishioner, party member) of a Usual Suspect +10
Get arrested for a misdemeanor +10
Get arrested for a felony +25
When the character reaches a Notoriety of 100, they become a Usual Suspect themselves.
Using the Notoriety scoreSimilar to the Law Level in Traveller, the Notoriety score is used to check if the local authorities hassle the character. Roll d100, if equal to or lower than the character's Notoriety score they get picked up for questioning concerning some incident within the community. Make these checks whenever background events indicate a suspicious event has occurred or once a month and when trying to leave a walled town. Questioning will take 1d4-1 days before they are released.
Modifying the Notoriety score.Reduce the score by 1% for each continuous month the character spends outside of a walled community. Also reduce the score for characters with high social status - it takes a special guardsman to try to bring a duke in for questioning after all.
Advanced Social Adjustments for Judges GuildI'm using the City State of the Invincible Overlord currently and Bob Bledsaw's social system provides an extra layer of crunchiness. In the JG universe Social Level (SL) ranges from 1-20 within six distinct social hierarchies( 1- Noble, 2 - Gentleman, 3- Military, 4- Guildsmen, 5 - Merchant and 6 - General). The lowest is SL 1 in the General hierarchy (Slave) and the highest is SL 20 in the Noble hierarchy (any god).
Calculate the Notoriety Level as above, however when checking if the character is hassled by the cops, the roll must be below Notoriety - ((6-Hierarchy) * SL. The General hierarchy therefore gets no reduction, while a Count in the Noble hierarchy (SL 10) has 50% knocked off the target number.
Example: In my current soloplay, the party was seen receiving a box from an Evil Priest who is a Usual Suspect in the City State. That raised all of their Notoriety scores to 6. Since then, the bard has been arrested for Striking a Fool, this raises her Notoriety score to 16.
Modifying Notoriety by Hierarchy and Social Level
The bard is a performer (freeman SL 4) under the General hierarchy.
Notoriety = 16 - ((6-6)*4=16.
The fighter was a gladiator, SL 1 on the Military (3) hierarchy.
Notoriety = 6- ((6-3)*1) = 3
The magic user is an apprentice, SL 3 in the Guildsmen (4) hierarchy.
Notoriety = 6-((6-4)*3) = 0
The cleric starts at SL 4 in the Gentlemen (2) hierarchy.
Notoriety = 6 -((6-2*4) = -10.
So the bard will be hassled occasionally, the fighter rarely and the others never.