The rumor table I am trying to make has the added challenge of including red herrings about a pair of other villages which the PCs or their patrons might suspect are the base of operations for the slave trade that the adventure is all about eradicating. Given these challenges, I decided to go back and revisit some rumor tables from classic modules for inspiration.
The first module I re-read for this purpose was B1:In Search of the Unknown. I was rather shocked at how disappointing this rumor table actually is (because I have a rather large soft spot for the adventure). In particular, I was not very happy with the false rumors about Quasqueton:
- Zelligar had a wizard's workshop in the stronghold where he worked on magic stronger than any known to man.
- Rogahn owned a fantastic gem as big as a man's fist that was worth over 100,000 gold pieces; he kept it hidden in his personal quarters.
- The place is protected by the gods themselves, and one member of any party of intruders is doomed to certain death.
- The treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are safely hidden in a pool of water.
- The entire place is filled with guards left behind by Zelligar and Rogahn.
- An enchanted stone within the stronghold will grant a wish to anyone who chips off a piece of it and places it within their mouth.
- All treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are cursed to bring ill to any who possess them.
- Zelligar and Rogahn have actually returned to their stronghold, and woe be to any unwelcome visitors!
The only rumor that is useful at all is the one about treasure in the pool of water. Given that there is a room of magical pools, this might encourage otherwise cautious players to fiddle with dangerous magic; however, given the potential lethality of such a course of action, I suspect this would lead to frustration on the part of a player.
This made me realize that one thing that I want out of a rumor table is truth. James of Grognardia fame once quoted a piece of wisdom from K&K Alehouse about how every lock should have a key. I would extend that philosophy to rumors — every rumor should have at least a grain of truth.
I say this, because that truth, however small, has the potential for shaping the campaign and therefore create a living, breathing campaign world.
As an example of how to do this, here are some of the false rumors from L1: The Secret of Bone Hill:
- The Baronette is an illusionist who wants the throne of Restenford.
- The captain of the guard of the garrison in Restenford has a magic horn that can cause walls to collapse.
- The Baron has it all hidden under his castle. There is an unguarded fortune down there somewhere.
- That magic-user who calls himself a sorcerer is only an enchanter.
- The Baron of Restenford is really chaotic evil.
- Falco's tavern is run by two assassins.
- One or more of the clerics at the abbey is really an evil devil worshipper.
Note that there are italicized parts of each sentence — these are the false bits of information. Therefore, every one of these statements has a bit of truth, so that when the players come into contact with the whole truth they will be surprised, but not disappointed. Indeed, I foresee the classic trope of one player looking at another and saying, “I thought you said this was unguarded!?"
Besides, imagine how much cooler Quasqueton could be if some of those false rumors were partially true (especially that last one)?
"The best lies always have a bit of the truth woven in."
I too have a soft spot in my gaming heart for B1. I'll have to work it into the next campaign I run. I've always felt Rogahn and Zelligar sited their dungeon on top of some huge secret, just waiting for the GM to figure out what it is.
My little brother has been running a campaign involving the Big Q for several years now; one of the first things he did was make most of the rumors true...
>> Zelligar had a wizard's workshop in the stronghold where he worked on magic stronger than any known to man.
The caverns are on the other side of a dimensional interchange caused by a magical experiment that failed. Time now runs.. oddly inside the caverns
>> The treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are safely hidden in a pool of water.
In an inspired half-hour and a hidden rhyme (on Rogahn's sword..) lies the key: the treasure was split into its elements and scattered over the entire fortress. Gathering the ashes from his room and the water from the pool, then combining them in a basin where the illusory exploding treasure lies, placing the sword within, and tripping another detonation re-fuses them.
>> The entire place is filled with guards left behind by Zelligar and Rogahn.
The slaves used to dig were left as the Humans escaped.
>> An enchanted stone within the stronghold will grant a wish to anyone who chips off a piece of it and places it within their mouth.
It CAN grant a wish. Or turn you into a newt. Or do nothing.
>> Zelligar and Rogahn have actually returned to their stronghold, and woe be to any unwelcome visitors!
Rogahn was bound beside his mistress as the guard for big Z's treasure. Both are pitiless undead trapped in an endless parody of their last hours, manipulated from afar by... something. (one of the characters had goggles, which revealed thin red cords manipulating the pair as though they were puppets.) Zell himself may still be alive in the outside world, and likely displeased
Exactly what I am talking about. It is easy to see that with these creative examples of how the rumors are (mostly) true, that a campaign can be enriched for many years to come.
I'm sorry I missed this when you first posted it. I was disappointed by the classic rumors when I looked at them too, here are my ponderings :) :
I left that post not really knowing what to do. I think your idea to make at least part of all rumors true a good one.
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