The players in most table top RPGs end up doing some crazy things. I mean, the classic game is a group of adventurers who go dungeon delving, fight ancient and inexplicable evil, triumph, and then loot the place to become super rich and even more powerful. Yet, how often do we let the world react to this? How often does the world stand up and recognize the actions that have been done? Maybe we should give that a shot, no? Today I want to talk about making your PCs feel like heroes.
What Has Been Done?
The first thing that you need to know before you choose how to have the world react is what exactly have the players done on both the small and the large scale. Now, a lot of PCs are notorious for being dicks in the areas they help, but those stories rarely travel so keep that in mind. If a group of players are royal pains in the ass to the small town under the control of an evil wizard, but they kill the evil wizard; tales of their heroics will likely outstrip tales of the time they robbed the merchant for 3 apples or accidentally burned down the inn because one of the players decided he didn't want to pay for his spiced potatoes.
At the same time, sometimes the place the adventurers went is less well known. Sure, it was a dungeon and cave of unimaginable evil, but if no one knew about it - or dismissed it as just myth - then there may be a lot less fame to go around. In these cases, the players are just rich and well armed. But that in and of itself can work for you.
Someone, Somewhere Knows
No matter what has been done though, odds are that someone somewhere will know what has been done. Everyone has friends. Everyone has enemies. This is especially true in fantasy universes. That evil wizard likely had allies, and enemies, who have now noticed that the players have defeated him. That cave of ancient but unknown evil probably had someone who knew about it. Maybe someone who was planning on looting it themselves. The point is, someone, somewhere will know what has happened and those people rarely have reason to keep quiet about things. Which means that the next time the players enter a town they may receive...
A Little Recognition
Ever wonder in console RPGs why people don't react to the very heavily armed travelers that just walked into their room/store/location? In Mass Effect Shepard was carrying a small arsenal at almost all times, but no one seemed particularly worried by this, nor particularly interested despite the fact that they often needed armed assistance right away. The same can be said for the players in your game. Even if their deeds aren't known, someone will probably recognize that they're the "fight it out and loot the bodies" type and that person will probably need help. Why not have them ask?
This is more than just an adventure seed though. This is a form of recognition. The player gets recognized as someone who can help, and is asked for help. Maybe they turn it down. Maybe they don't. The point is they just got recognized and it sews the seeds for what could come later.
A Hero's Arrival
Enough of the small stuff though, the title of this article is making them feel like a hero. So, the players have done a good deed. Nay, a great deed. They slew the evil lich, looted his tower, and now they're back in town with packs full of valuables looking to make some cash and relax after the adventure. This probably isn't an every day occurrence for wherever they are, so don't treat it as such.
If the deed is known, have people cheer and thank the players for their help. Have people ask for signatures. Have people offer to buy them drinks in the local tavern. Treat them like celebrities in the town, and see where it goes. They have just done a great deed, so play into it. There are plenty of examples in fiction to show how hero worship works, so do it. Maybe they get a little fat headed. That's fine, it'll just make other adventures more fun. For now though, let them enjoy the fame.
I mean it. That is it. Once the story is spread, you can make your players feel like the heroes they are playing simply by having the world recognize it. How many times after clearing a dungeon have the PCs gone to town, got an inn room, and then haggled to sell their loot with the city basically not even knowing they were there? Yeah, that is fairly normal. How many times have they cleared a dungeon, gone to a city, and have people who know the story - or heard the story from them - come and listen in? Buy them drinks? Thank them for their deeds? Marvel at their strength? Perhaps invite them to dinner with local nobility who also want to hear the story?
Essentially, what you are doing is the celebrity treatment. But it will make the players feel good. It will show them that their actions have consequence and that those consequences can be very nice. So, maybe give it a shot?