On the New News

By Gildeneye
A sandbox should be full of Emergent Gameplay.

Over at Dungeon Smashing Empire, there was talk about news and rumors.

Like any good sandbox, rumors are one of the keys to emergent gameplay. Smashing separates these into good, bad, and supernatural. His good and bad rumors contain a lot of local flavor contrasted with my list, which primarily focuses on adventure hooks.

This table designed way back in 2005 or so is actually pretty bad. In my defense, I wrote it in a hurry and before most of my exposure to the OSR.

So how do you make a table like this good? Well, you make it a lot more like Smashing's table. You make it flavorful, named, thematic, and explicit. You also take a hint from my earlier article about Encounters, Rumors, and Foreshadowing.

The Rumor

Let's take a look at improving one of the table entries:
"51. A Powerful Good wizard is dying and is said to be seeking information on lichedom."

Well, let's begin by adding specificity:

Orhartux the Purple-Born is the "Powerful Good Wizard"
The death is from exposure to the magical plant, the Vacum Yerik.
The specific information on lichdom he is seeking are "The Rites of Rakye Foul"

The Improvement

I am not convinced it is necessary to have an additional roll for Good/Bad/Supernatural rumors, so the following rumors are just unclassified rumors.

  1. Orhartux the Purple-Born is having an auction of many of his magical treasures!
  2. Orhartux is called the purple born because his hands are stained purple from working with many magical plants.
  3. The Vacum Yerik is a magical plant that grows outside of the caves in the Ogre's Nail foothills. Careful though, the plant is poisonous and the caves themselves are rarely empty.
  4. Orhartux the Purple-Born has protected the city for many years with his powerful enchantments. 
  5. Several groups of adventurers have been seen visiting the tower of Orhartux the Purple-Born.
  6. Orhartux the Purple-Born leaves his tower much more rarely, and the last time he did, he appeared very ill.
  7. Are you going to ask me about the Rites of Rakye Foul? Cause I don't know anything more than the last time I was asked.

With Research:

  1. Rakye Foul was once a paladin who lost his wife. He took revenge on her killers, and was never able to make peace with his god after that. 
  2. Rakye Foul was a powerful mage and a strong force for good in the world.
  3. Rakye Foul devoted his last years to trying to discover a way to extend his life. There are those that say he succeeded, though nothing of his glory ever passed the foothills of Dormik Kar ever again.
  4. Rakye Foul is said to be buried in Uriks Tomb.

And you add all the sites, and signs and clues to the map or adventure sites in the sandbox. (The Foothills of Dormik Kar, Statues of Rakye Foul, etc.)

You can take as few as 3 entries and have months of play.

Would there be any interest in a regular series of expanded rumors that can be dropped into play?

My Old School Table

My table follows:

1.  A huge dire wolf, apparently immune to magic, is organizing the wolves in the wood.
2.  Evil mercenaries are constructing a fortress not far from the community.
3.  The tomb of a powerful wizard, filled with magic items, has sunk into the swamp.
4.  Mysterious groaning sounds come from a haunted wood at night.
5.  Bugbears are demanding a toll on a well-traveled bridge.
6.  A blackguard is organizing monsters in an area.
7.  An emissary going into a hostile kingdom needs an escort.
8.  A wizard needs a particularly rare spell component found only in the deep jungle.
9.  Gravediggers have discovered a huge, ghoul-filled catacomb under the cemetery.
10. Evil clerics gather in secret to summon a monstrous god to the world.
11. A wizard is buried in a trap-filled tomb with her powerful magic items.
12. Lizardfolk riding dragon turtles sell their services as mercenaries to the highest bidder.
13. Gargoyles are killing giant eagles in the mountains.
14. A druid needs help defending her grove against goblins.
15. All the dwarves in an underground city have disappeared.
16. A fire elemental has escaped from a wizards lab.
17. Undead shadows vex a large library, especially an old storeroom long left undisturbed.
18. A shapechanged mind flayer is gathering mentally controlled servitors.
19. A lonely mountain pass is guarded by a powerful sphinx denying all passage.
20. Burgulers broke in to a wealthy merchants shop, but apparently didn't take anything.
21. The town may be hireing mercenaries to augment the town guard.
22. A new inn is opening in town.
23. The duke has been acting strangely.
24. A rare plant has suddenly boomed in population on a local farm.
25. Various monsters have long preyed upon people from within the sewers of a major city.
26. Local bandits have joined forces with a tribe of ogres.
27. An island at the center of the lake is actually the top of a strange, submerged fortress.
28. A infestation of stirges drives yuan-ti closer to civilized lands.
29. People grow suspicious of half-orc merchants peddling gold dragon parts in the market.
30. A strange green smoke billows out of a cave near a mysterious ruin.
31. Mysterious merchants sell faulty magic items in town and then attempt to slink away.
32. Cultists are kidnapping potential sacrifices.
33. A huge gemstone supposedly lies within an ancient ruined monastery.
34. Barge pirates have made a deal with a covey of hags and exact a high toll to use the river.
35. Ogre magi have torn up a village in a violent rage.
36. A map showing the location of an ancient magic forge is discovered.
37. Two orc tribes wage a bloody war.
38. A recently recovered artifact causes arcane spellcasters? powers to go awry.
39. An enchanter is compelling others to steal for him.
40. A gate to the Lower Planes threatens to bring more demons to the world.
41. A plague brought by wererats threatens a community.
42. Clerics who have resurrected a long-dead hero discovered she?s not what they thought.
43. Colossal vermin are straying out of the desert to attack settlements.
44. The tomb of an old wizard has been discovered.
45. A clutch of wyverns is preying upon sheep as well as shepherds.
46. There is fierce fighting in the northlands.
47. A band of adventures fled into a ruined fortress tower filled with treasure and monsters.
48. The eastern witches and warlocks have discovered a new type of magic.
49. An army of statues in the south has begun to move.
50. A mad witch has been found in the burned remains of her abode, her servants all killed by her hand.
51. A Powerful Good wizard is dying and is said to be seeking information on lichedom.
52. An alchemist has lost a shipment of supplies to hijackers. If she doesn't get them back, she faces bankruptcy.
53. Cultists need to recover an artifact to summon a giant sleeping demon.
54. A wizard in a manse to the north of town is flaunting guild laws.
55. Several daring thefts have been made upon towers in the city.
56. A group of dragons has banded together to increase their power.
57. Demons are possesing monsters and causing havoc.
58. A killer is loose and stuffing bodies into chimneys.
59. A large bridge to the east has been destroyed by unknown forces.
60. Something is preventing huge hordes of humanoids from leaving the Praxer Mountains.
61. A mage's familiar has escaped and been said to have summoned a demon.
62. Reports have come in of a living dungeon.
63. A group of liches has formed an eldrich pact with evil dragons.
64. Rumors of an ogre civil war have been filtering into town.
65. Undead scorpians have been accosting people and robbing them without killing them in the south.
66. Lizard men have recently begun approching human settlements with envoys seeking peace.
67. A powerful angel is hiding in the city performing good deeds unseen.
68. Demons have been taking the shape of men and hiding to escape hell.
69. A new brothel is opening in town, and they are seeking talent.
70. A halfling wizard has discovered a new powerful school of magic.
71. A medusa is said to be the head of a merchant guild.
72. Basilisk's have started appearing in the forest to the north.
73. The Witch Queen has been defeated by a band of adventuerers.
74. The Witch Queen was in contact with the Mountain King in the Praxter Mountains.
75. Dwarven immagrants are arriving in southern cities in droves.
76. Everyone who enters the Praxter Mountains dies.
77. A mages experiement has caused a disaster in a tower to the east.
78. Talking monkeys reside in the forest.
79. There is a Witch in the swamp to the south who brews potions of a legendary efficacy.
80. Primative heathens are throwing parties in the woods.
81. A magical accident has opened a gate that has loosed magic-eating monsters into the world.
82. An ancient evil cult banished long ago is said to be returning.
83. A great treasure was discovered by the dwarves in the Praxter mountains.
84. A Vampire is seeking to release a great evil.
85. Man-Eating Ghouls prowl the swamp for food.
86. Obelisks stand in the mountains that hold the key to great power, None who have sought these have returned.
87. A band of evil gnomlings lives in the forest.
88. There is a wolf pack to the north, they are the pets of a mighty giant.
89. An ancient demonic evil has seized control of giants.
90. The Mountain King is possessed by an evil force.
91. Eye Tyrants are arriving in huge numbers from the realms above.
92. Dragons can sense when their kin are harmed or killed.
93. When an Eye Tyrant is killed, a curse is bestowed that causes all other Eye Tyrants to seek the killers.
94. There are many old ruins in the swamp. They are from a previous Aeon.
95. Many of the old ruins in the swamp contain great and ancient treasure.
96. A palace of pure gold and steel is hidden in the mountains.
97. A mighty pyramid tomb lies to the north, theft-proof, it still contains ancient treasures.
98. A great dragon was slain, the witch queen banished, and the spirit of the ancient barbarian king destroyed by beings from another realm.
99. [Player Character] is said to be a lover of [same sex]
100 When you die, you get turned into a dragon!

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  1. Always loved the idea that some rumours are just that, rumours, and are slipped in to throw the players off the scent. Especially if they are the more believable ones.

    And I really love the last two rumours on your big list. :-)

  2. Consider this a post expressing interest!

  3. I'd love to see that expanded, for sure!

  4. Some of our best sessions came from rumours that generated player interest and improvised play. More rumours would be very welcome!

  5. We could crowd source the rumours, perhaps by topic or location :)

  6. This kind of expansion is something you want to do with a general list of rumors. This is a great and practical exercise to turn a simple, vague rumor into an adventure and story!


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