Posts Tagged ‘rumors


Rumors of Dwimmermount

Here is the rumor chart I made to bring events from the inaugural G+ session of the Dwimmermount Kickstarter campaign into the continuity of the game I subsequently ran at the Brooklyn Strategist. The idea is that Locfir having gotten busy with other projects, Locfir’s Man (formerly known as the candlemaker Ungril Ungfarm) escaped from being charmed. Scuttlebutt is now echoing from the tales he brought back from the dungeon expedition he participated in with Pigfoot the Hog (human fighter), Burgoth the Mage (human you-guessed-it), and Locfir the Astrologer (elf). These are a little Locfir-centric because Locfir’s Man is making out like a bandit on his association with the elf and in fact refuses to answer to the name Ungril any more.

Photos by David Ewalt, aka Old Axehandle, from the last Brooklyn Strategist session

  1. Pigfoot discovered material components that make the ventriloquism spell lethal AND merchants are buying up all the fortress-town’s supplies of chain, caltrops, oil, and torches.
  2. Locfir made Burgoth lick a Thulian pillar of submission AND Burgoth is now hemiplegic and enslaved in Locfir’s sanctum.
  3. The party all cast charm person on one another to protect themselves from outside influences AND when they returned from the dungeon one of them had been turned into a gnome nonetheless.
  4. The bearded face of a Man spoke to Locfir AND taught him how to initiate himself and others into Thulian wisdom.
  5. Locfir filled a wineskin with a fluid he found very interesting AND pouring it on Burgoth brought him back to life.
  6. The party was attacked by metal skeletons AND Burgoth controlled them using a lever.
  7. The party found the petrified body of Turms Turmax’s courtesan AND she revealed to them the secrets of the Thulian doors.
  8. The party found a renegade Dwarf AND the others of his kind are searching for a cemetary of their kind that is being desecrated.

All of these are potentially knowable to characters in the Fortress of Muntsburg. I had the players roll a d8 apiece to see which rumor they had heard just because I didn’t want to read them all out at the start of the session, but I don’t think any of these are spoilers at least for my own approach to embracing meta-knowledge. If you read this post and then play in my game that’s awesome you saved some reading rumors aloud time. We’ll work together to imagine the reason that your character is particularly well versed on what’s being talked about in Muntsburg’s taphouses.

Step one of my approach involves acknowledging meta-information the players might have – some of the stuff above you can guess at if you’ve read Zak’s post. The reason the the map of the first level can be seen in the picture to the right is that I placed it in the dungeon as treasure, knowing at least one of those present had seen it in the Dwimmermount teaser in the Adventurer Conqueror King rules we were using.

Step two is then using this to screw with the players. James beautifully set the stage for this by changing the dungeon since the ’09 PbP game, so that the first time Locfir entered after three years away he freaked out that none of his maps were quite right. Part of the reason these aren’t spoilers is that each has two parts, separated by AND. Either part could be true or false. The idea is to give players some ideas about things that might be interesting about the dungeon – in this case, things that our group of players actually was interested in (well OK maybe just me, Locfir was always either running away or having to be dragged away from things only he cared about). Then if and when they do encounter something that might relate to the rumor, their dread and paranoia is entertainingly multiplied by the bad things they’ve heard or the likelihood that I made a false good rumor to trick them into doing something foolish.

The way I figure this works for the Judge is that if the players want to try to investigate the rumors further, they can spend some time (I recommend a week) in town rolling against an ability score or however you like to do this kind of thing. The results are, using an assumption that you’ll wind up with a range like the Apocalypse World-type system where a total failure is a modified 6- on 2d6, total success is 10+, partial success anything in between:

  • Total success: you learn whether both parts of the rumor are true. (If you like to be more stingy with information, decide which part you want to pursue and you confirm or deny that half.)
  • Partial success: you learn one false part of the rumor, Judge’s choice, or that no part is false. (Or maybe you learn it all at a cost or complication.)
  • Total failure: the Judge gets to invent and spread a rumor about the investigating PC. (Or trigger a town adventure, rival party attack, etc. if your group is in the mood, or impose a penalty on the PC’s die rolls due to too much buying of drinks in town means bad hangover but no info.)

Judges, if you haven’t read the adventure yet just decide “true or false” depending on what sounds good to you. Discreetly make a note on the rumor table to help you figure out what you said later when the party finds that thing in the dungeon (if it even exists at all). Likewise if you are about to prep the dungeon, thinking about these rumors as you read should help you keep your eye out for cool stuff (even though James has hit on what is for me just the right level of evocative detail vs. easy to read). And if you think your players know too much about the dungeon, these rumors are meant to be a good guide to which switches to flip to change things up.

Finally, you don’t have to pay any attention to this continuity in your version of Dwimmermount. Pigfoot and Burgoth and Locfir don’t have to be in the setting at all, they are non-canon for sure and I am pretty sure it will make James frown thoughtfully if you start tossing canon around so don’t do it. If the party goes to investigate what’s going on with Burgoth and he exists he can be whatever you want, I recommend secretly a polymorphed dragon living in some kind of polyhedral melting pocket-plane.

Empty Kingdom if you are a home for media artists make it easy for me to credit this painting to Ryan Browning with name and year and stuff the way galleries do.

The one thing you should be sure to respect in your campaign is that if it has a Locfir he is fantastically wealthy but no PC will ever find where it is hidden, and he has like a million hit dice and just started that one HP rumor to tempt fools to disrespect him so he can do weird elf things with your still-beating heart.

I liked the way this worked and will be doing it for the Keep on the Borderlands events we’re doing with ACKS at Gary Con IV.


Knowledge is Power: Inquisitive Players and the Rumor Table

He had found Keshan, which in itself was considered mythical by many northern and western nations, and he had heard enough to confirm the rumors of the treasure that men called the Teeth of Gwahlur. But its hiding place he could not learn, and he was confronted with the necessity of explaining his presence in Keshan. Unattached strangers were not welcome there.

—Robert E. Howard, “Jewels of Gwahlur”

The earliest published D&D modules, B1 (“In Search of the Unknown”) and B2 (“The Keep on the Borderlands”) both contained rumor tables. Players rolled on the tables to see what stories their characters had heard about the dungeon. This information provided both color and context, giving the players something to keep an eye out for. These serve as what Tavis describes as “nudges”, offering the signposts that help keep a sandbox dungeon from being nothing more than a “Hall of 10,000 Identical Doorways.”

Of course, when you give clever players access to a few of these rumors, what do they do? They try and get hold of more rumors. This is only sensible! But what’s the point of rolling on a random table for rumors if the PCs are just going to pick everyone’s brain until they learn everything there is to know?

I’m a firm believer in the importance of meaningful choices in D&D and the consequences thereof. Deciding to track down more information about a dungeon seems like a great opportunity for choices and consequences. This, along with simple verisimilitude, demands that the PCs should be allowed to go to whatever lengths they desire to get more info than a rumor chart allows. But what choices do they have, and what are the consequences?

First, who do they ask?

  • Random bar patrons are cheap and easy sources for information, but they’re unlikely to know much, and what little they know is mixed with liquor and misunderstandings into a potent cocktail of misinformation.
  • Local gossips and rumormongers will know more, but given that their knowledge equals more treasure for the party, they’re likely to charge for the information, either in money or favors. They’ll also spread the word that the party is looking for information on the dungeon, because that’s what gossips do!
  • Scholars and sages are a good source for solid historical data, but they may live some distance away and will charge for their time even if they don’t have the information the party seeks.
  • Other adventurers who’ve been in the dungeon have the most accurate knowledge, but they also have the most to lose, as they’re competing for the dungeon’s resources; any gain on the part of the PCs is the NPC party’s loss. So they’re inclined to be secretive at the very least, and are likely to lie.

Second, what are the consequences?

  • Information may be true, false, misleading or irrelevant. The more carefully the players choose their sources and the more money and favors they shell out, the more likely it is that they’ll get useful, accurate data.
  • The more people the PCs talk to, the more people will know what they’re up to and what they’re looking for. Rival adventurers may well try to beat them to their objectives or ambush them on the way out of the dungeon.
  • Depending on the nature of the dungeon and the town, some NPCs may simply be hostile to the prospect of adventurers digging up the place. Perhaps it’s a holy site, or the locals feel the treasure belongs to them and hope to recover it themselves, or too many farmers’ sons have gone to their deaths as hirelings. This can lead to trouble—even violence—between the party and the locals.
  • Some dungeons’ inhabitants have contact with the outside world. If the monsters’ traders and spies learn about the party’s inquiries, they can take advantage of that knowledge by spreading false rumors or arranging ambuscades inside the dungeon itself.

All of this is off the cuff, so I’m sure I’ve missed some obvious possibilities.

Do you use rumor charts in your dungeons? How have they worked out for you? What other mechanisms do you employ to deal with PC inquiries into the goings-on in the dungeon and in the rest of your milieu?

Past Adventures of the Mule

December 2022

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