Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: rumors

Numbers: the good, the bad, and the too darn many

I’m prone to over-thinking and over-complicating things. This isn’t news. Sometimes, it backfires on me worse than others.

For example, my grand plan of using wandering monster rolls to help re-stock the dungeon has fallen apart. My plan was, I would keep track of which areas the party has explored, and make a wandering monster check for each area, between sessions. If the check came up, I would roll the usual “empty/monster/trap/special” stocking roll; if not, the room would remain in play for the next round of checks. As it worked out, it was just too troublesome to keep track of the list of rooms needing rolls. Too much overhead, too much laziness, not enough return for the investment. And, in hindsight, not enough flexibility.

The way it has turned out, in actual play, the party is moving a lot slower than I had anticipated. Don’t take this the wrong way! I’m not trying to say that the PCs or the players are in any way performing poorly. Quite the opposite. I think it’s a question of dungeon design, more than anything. I feel that the first level, especially, is too tightly constrained. The party keeps passing by that same pit trap. I can’t say why, for sure, but I suspect it might simply be because it’s the only entrance they know. (They actually know of at least five, that I can think of, but a couple of those are just alternate ways on to the same highway.)

My fear is, if I mindlessly apply a simple rule for re-stocking, they’ll have to slog through a never-ending horde of reeks, rust monsters, and half-crazed goblins. Maybe they’ll grow in power and proficiency, until they can just brush off such things without breaking stride, but maybe not. More likely, it seems to me, they’ll just get bogged down.

Therefore, I’m chucking the entirely-random re-stocking idea. Rather than faithfully rolling lots and lots of dice between every session — or, more honestly, rather than coming up with excuses not to roll lots of dice — I’m going to go to an “as seems appropriate” basis. Every couple of sessions, as opportunity and motivation allows, I’ll go through the dungeon and make updates as needed. If the party doesn’t turn over some rock for a while, something might grow under it. If there’s a lot of traffic on a certain hall, it’s unlikely that anyone will set up camp in the middle of it. I’ll still be depending on the dice for decisions, I’ll just be doing it on a more forgiving schedule and with an eye towards plausibility, rather than unseen objective consistency.

On the other hand, my grand plan for hundreds of rumors seems to be working well. Before the last session, I put together a huge master list of 120 rumors:  thirty rumors for each of four information-gathering skills. I made the task easier on myself by having several rumors all based on the same root piece of information, but it was still a steep slope to climb. It’s like stocking the dungeon, though: lots of upfront work, then a comparatively small amount of maintenance.

But was it worth it? I think so. One of the goals of this campaign is to take me, the GM, out of the story as much as possible. When I overheard “I can’t wait to see how the GM is going to get us out of this one” remarks, in a previous campaign, I knew I had drank entirely too much of the story-driven Kool-Aid. This game is meant to be a sandbox. The hand of the GM shouldn’t be apparent. If I’m caught for a rumor, if I have to make up something on the spot, there’s a temptation to influence the story, to put my hands directly on the plot. I want to set up systems to avoid that. To keep me at arm’s length, you might say.

In my story-driven games, if the party heard about something twice, they could bet it was going to impact their lives before too long. The rumors were foreshadowing. I chose them for their influence on the story. With the Big Book O’ Rumors, it’s the other way around. If the party hears about something twice, it’s because the dice handed it to them that way. If they follow up on those rumors, they turn into foreshadowing. If the party decides to ignore them, they’re just background noise that improves the simulation of reality. The story comes out of the players’ choices and the PCs’ actions, rather than the action coming from the GM-driven story.

Finally, while I was stocking some of the lower levels, I came to the realization that I had entirely too many numbered areas. For example, I had one area about the size of my living room, surrounded by many smaller spaces, perhaps the size of a walk-in closet. In that one tiny area, for some reason, I had numbered all the individual rooms. By the averages, the “empty/monster/trap/special” rolls would have populated a couple of monsters, and a couple of traps, in a space about the size of a decent apartment. It’s a Dungeon Fantasy sit-com. Visions of the otyugh (literally) hogging the bathroom. The troll and the umber hulk arguing over the bill for the crystal ball.

Really, the whole little knot of rooms should be considered a single location. By crowding my numbered locations, I’ve lost the necessary buffer of empty space between spots of interest. The levels on Diablo 3 are pretty tightly packed, but even so, you find some quiet space between encounters. So, I need to go back and do some erasing. Thankfully, these are all areas far from anywhere the party is likely to reach anytime soon.



More and Deeper Rumors?

Among the feedback from the last session was one remark that stood out to me. I was told that the rumors the party’s getting are improving. The word “actionable” was used, with an apparent lack of irony.  (At that, I felt the cold hand of the Agile methodology touch me in an uncomfortable spot. If you know what I mean.) That pleased me, because that’s exactly the direction I was wanting to follow.

Rumors provide background, but background should be a side-effect. The main aim with the rumors is to give the players enough information to go on, so they can make their own decisions. To do that, the rumor has to provide a good, meaty clue as to what to do about it. What action to take, in light of that information.

Too often, I think, I’ve assumed the action to take was to research further. I like the scenes where the wizard has three dusty old books open on the desk and puts various passages together into a full-fledged clue.  In the old swords-and-sorcery stories, like the Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories, you’d find mention of rogues scouring libraries for pointers towards lost treasure. It just makes sense to me, that the information needed to recover Big Treasure #576 would be scattered about in various obscure locations, not lying right out in the open, in the words to the song that’s the hot request at the inn one night.

At it happens, that’s a mistake.  Expecting that a rumor will lead to research which will lead to a plan, I mean. That might be how it works for the Gray Mouser, but he’s got Fritz Leiber running the universe for him. I’ve got players to entertain.  From what I’ve seen, if they’re going to research a question, that question will be “How do we kill an X?” and it’ll be posed shortly after everybody heals up from being whupped by an X.  That’s reasonable. This is Dungeon Fantasy, not Liches & Libraries.  The party has only ever had one member at a time who has been notably literate. Seems like when one nerd falls, they hire another one, mainly for map-making skill rather than sage work.

I’ve been allowing rumor rolls on Current Affairs and Carousing, as indicated on page 4 of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons. I’ll allow a PC a roll for both skills, and I’ll allow rolls against defaults.  (TKotBO only gets rumors from defaults, for example. He often won’t even bother going in to the inn to pick up the Carousing roll, though.) Even though there are two different skills involved, I still have the players roll on a single list of rumors.

What I ought to do, I think, if I were more ambitious, is set up more than one rumor list. The lists should be tailored to the skill.  The one for Carousing would be full of songs and stories and tall tales, with lots of “friend of a friend” anecdotes. The Current Affairs list would be more gossip and announcements by the town crier, and the rumors on it would be more time-sensitive.

Then, I should allow a Research roll to those who want to try it, and give them a clue pulled from the old, dusty scrolls. This would be the place to stick all the mysterious poetry and cryptic puzzles, the old legends and the forgotten myths.

Of course, that still leaves Jed as the total rumormonger among the party members. He’s the only one with points in all three skills. He’ll be the only one with a town life that’s as busy as his dungeon life.

Then, there’s the obvious down side.  I would have to maintain three lists.  At least three, and maybe more:  if I’m going that far, why not throw in a list for Streetwise, full of opportunities for crime, murder contracts, questionable treasure maps, and so forth? I’ve been using a 30 item list, mainly because it’s an excuse to keep a d30 around. If I keep the same size list, I’ll be vastly increasing the number of rumors I need to generate and keep track of.

It might be manageable, if I reduced the sheer number of rumors involved. I could just give up on the d30 and drop back to a d10.  That’s still pretty exotic dice, for a GURPS game, and there’s enough of a list that a couple of people can roll on the same list without too much worry over collisions. With three lists, I would still be handling 30 items at a time.

Another thing I could do is to have multiple rumors pointing towards the same underlying story. Like, maybe the Current Affairs event is that Bruno the Cloth Merchant’s boat was recently robbed, the Carousing event is running in to an off-duty watchman who saw goblins fleeing the area of the docks while carrying a heavy load, a Streetwise roll turns up talk of someone looking for a fence for a lot of cloth, and a Research roll finds a passage explaining how the savage goblinoid tribes prize fine cloth and gaudy jewelry. (More likely, I would leave off the Research version and have something entirely unrelated on that list. No need to force it.) Underneath them all, there’s the same unvarnished fact:  “A bunch of goblins are sitting on a bunch of cloth, and Bruno will pay to get it back.”

Not sure if I’ll actually implement it or not, but it’s something to think about.


Some thoughts on session #8, plus missed details

When the swarm of rats engulfed Gabby, I had her roll a Fright Check. It came out successful, which is why it didn’t make much of an appearance in the narrative. I don’t usually call for many Fright Checks in the DF game, figuring that anybody who’s ready to crawl into a dungeon, knowing it’s full of hostile monsters and traps, probably possesses a certain cold-bloodedness that most folks lack. They might be frightened by the same stuff as normal folks, but it’s not going to stop them in their tracks unless it’s supernatural. As far as telling the tale after the fact, sure, Conan’s “blood ran cold” when he heard the howl of the wolves behind him… but he doesn’t panic, he doesn’t pause, Conan just keeps doing what Conan needs to do.

But in this case, I made an exception. Exhausted, trapped, crawling through a damp sewer pipe with a house afire behind you and nothing but darkness in front of you, while a horde of rats crawl over you, biting as you go?  Nah, that’s worth at least an unmodified check. Even Conan might go pale at a prospect like that.

* * *

I clearly need to get a better handle on the contents of GURPS Magic, starting with what’s in Jed’s spellbook. As a group, we’re not all that familiar with the standard magic system. Back in the Old Weird West game that borrowed heavily from Deadlands, we had one huckster, but huckster magic isn’t really compatible with the standard stuff.

I wouldn’t want to go so far as to look up each spell at the time it’s cast, for fear of slowing things down too much, but I think it may come to that. Maybe the first time or two that we see a spell?  I think we’ve finally internalized the important details of Jed’s favorite missile, Concussion. It only took a couple of repetitions.

* * *

One important detail that I just plain forgot to include in the synopsis:  While the party was on the Great Bridge, when they switched from “exhausted resting” to “healing mode”, Jed realized that Kadabra had been unconscious for a surprisingly long time, and gave him a poke with his baton. Turned out, somewhere along the way, Kadabra had managed to sneak off and replace himself with an illusion.  It probably happened between the exit from the tunnel and the move over to the bridge.

Another forgotten bit:  From the top of the cliff, the climbers could get a good, clear look at the tower on the other side of the river. This is the same tower that Gabby spotted when she went climbing along the side of the Great Bridge. It’s hidden behind the mountainside when looking from the road atop the bridge. Needles pointed it out, connecting it to the rumors they have heard in the past of a dwarven watchtower containing a source of magical power. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went to take a closer look at it, after crossing a couple of other items off their to-do list.

* * *

Speaking of, I need to nag the guys s’more about those to-do lists. 😉  It’s a happy thing for me, hearing the guys talking over their next mission, because they have competing goals. Not just “the pilot wants to run, the gunner wants to fight” goals, but wider, more realistic goals:  “We need to follow up on that rumor. We should hit those guys before they get a chance to reinforce. We need to explore over here and build up a nest egg to equip so we can survive over there long enough to open the door into that place….”  That’s getting into planning, that is.

It’s quite a shift from last year’s “I wonder how the GM is going to get us out of this one”. I rather like it.  🙂

So, I’ve been asking them, every so often, about where they’re headed, what they want to do, where their interests lie. I think we’re finally entering the stage of the game where there are enough loose ends, there’s no one clear, obvious next step. This is where you get your competing priorities.

* * *

Another thing that’s happening for this game, that I’m not so much used to from previous:  folks are spending their experience. Oh, yeah, they would spend points in the past, some. Once the piles got so high, they started to become embarrassing. I was tight with points in the Space Cowboys game:  my rule of thumb was one, one single stinking measly point, per session. Even so (or perhaps for that reason), folks piled up unspent points.

For DF, I’m more-or-less following the suggestions from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level, just ignoring the parts that don’t apply to megadungeon-style play.  (I don’t know if the dungeon has an honest claim to the “mega-” prefix or not, but it’s clearly big enough that they’re not going to clear it before it re-populates. Truth be told, they’ve only touched the equivalent of two sheets of graph paper, so far. I’ve got individual levels mapped out that are bigger than that…)  I’m also being consciously liberal with experience, even while ruthlessly enforcing the requirements. (There was debate, at one point, about the merits of keeping the magic crossbow rather than turning it in to The Church as a quest object. They decided they’d rather have the experience for fulfilling Rho’s quest.)  The end result is, I’m throwing around experience by the handful, from the feel of it.

Yet, there’s been more interest in using those points than I’ve ever seen before. Just before session #7, Needles made a big investment in himself. At the beginning of session #8, there were two people saving up for big purchases:  Gabby wants to pick up Enhanced Time Sense and go completely “Neo” on everybody, and TKotBO was saving up to finish multi-classing into Knight. At the end, Alric announced his intention to multi-class into Swashbuckler (and pick up that nasty Weapon Master damage bonus — I think his master plan is to do enough damage with a great axe as to be able to split an atom) and TKotBO was able to pay off the last of his lens.

For the first time ever, I had someone update their GCA character sheet with what they wanted to buy before I got around to entering the points to pay for it.

* * *

It’s funny. Sometimes, my group will meta-game all over the place.  (They use their powers for good, mostly.  I don’t mean the meta-gaming that has a PC move away from a successful feint or check for a trap because they talked to somebody who played a character who was killed by that trap… I mean the kind that doesn’t push for “screen time” in town, after hearing that “town” is meant to be more like the main menu on Diablo than any actual human settlement, the kind that doesn’t lead to one PC avoiding the other PCs just because they’re a bunch of weirdos.)

And then other times, they’ll beat themselves bloody trying to avoid meta-gaming themselves into a reward that I’m actively trying to press on them.

The halfling — his name is Doughal in my notes, and even though he never got a chance to mention it in actual conversation, I’m going to claim that he did, because it’s getting old to talk about “the halfling” like he’s some sort of unique creature — Doughal, then, was fated to tell the party about the opportunity to pursue the granting of wishes. He was all set and ready, literally offering them directions if they would let him go. For that matter, they didn’t even have to actually let him go, just say that they were going to in a convincing manner. (Well, OK, TKotBO would probably get snippy about breaking promises if they actually tried to go back on the deal, but that would be after the fact.)

Then they decided to try to scare the directions out of him, rather than just saying “Sure, we’ll let ya go. Draw a map and cough up your wallet. And Alric thinks those pants would look good on Dobby, so off with ’em.”

What happened behind the screen, so to speak, was that the intimidation attempt worked. Doughal became convinced that diplomacy wasn’t going to work, so he tried his pickpocket attempt. When TKotBO rapped him across the skull with a gauntlet-wearing hand, he started thinking he was in deep trouble, even if he did offer valuable information. When Gabby turned invisible, he realized he wasn’t going to be getting his ring back, and that this might be his last chance to cut his losses and flee.

Still, at least the party knows something is out there. There’s a casino, and big winners can get a wish granted. That’s a target to quest for, even without a map. And there was a general murmur of approval at the idea of a granted wish, so I’m sure it’ll come up again…

* * *

Then, there’s Strang’s quest. They kinda blew it, in that they’re coming away empty-handed.  They did gather some valuable recon, in that they confirmed Strang’s suspicion that the Flame Lords held a couple of pieces of interesting orichalcum. The plan is to report their findings, with Jed putting a good spin on the news, and TKotBO issuing a personal apology for the failure of his men.

We’ll see how Strang takes it. These guys have recovered more pieces of his puzzle, faster, than any other scruffy group of adventurers, but that was one expensive amulet that they gave away.

* * *

Another win for advanced prep. Going in, I could not have predicted anything that happened after the first ten minutes. With all the maps and notes I’ve put together, it wasn’t bad at all, reacting to unexpected PC actions. And now, I get a chance to do some re-stocking!


Throwback Thursday, Supplemental: Newspapers from the Space Cowboys game

Since we’re between seasons in the Space Cowboys game, I figured I would mention the newspapers.

In-game, the idea was that every port would offer news service to incoming ships. The specific news services varied, according to what the ships’ crews were interested in. In the case of the Cabra, since the ship was registered out of the Jupiter Corporate Sector, they got the Jupiter Free Press (motto: “All the news, by Jove!”), and since Osolo liked his tabloids, they also received The Daily Humm (“Everything THEY Don’t Want You To Know!”).

In a meta-game sense, they allowed me to spread background detail without giving any infodump monologues. I could foreshadow events that would impact the crew’s lives. Finally, I could slip in cheap in-jokes, which is always a personal favorite.

I used OpenOffice to make the newspapers. I found a couple of free templates for newspaper-style documents and modified them for my own needs. When the time came to generate a new edition, I would fill in the stories and “borrow” images from around the ‘net (which is why I don’t just post the papers themselves and be done with it), then print off a couple of copies to hand around at the appropriate time. More often than not, the ship would arrive at the beginning of a session, so the players could pass around the sheets while everybody got themselves organized and spent their experience.

Some example articles…

Session #1, The Daily Humm:


Sources on the Antarctic Natural Reserve report that they have solid evidence of a conspiracy to cover up the existence of nanotech-powered cyborg penguin armies being built as pawns by an unholy alliance of corporate interests and the Evil Robotic Overlords Of Earth!

As shocking as it may seem, in the not-quite 70 years since terraforming was completed on the Trans-Neptunian Object now known as the Antarctic Natural Reserve, the penguins have mutated and evolved intelligence, under the influence of radiation levels they were never meant to encounter. Our sources say the so-called “caretaker population” sent to colonize the world was replaced by military trainers and cybernetics experts within the past 3 years.

The purpose of an army of superintelligent penguins remains murky. Given the long-standing tendency of megacorporations to ally themselves with the forces which destroyed Earth-That-Was, however, our experts here at the Daily Humm point towards rumors that humanity never entirely left our homeworld.

“There are documented reports of radio contact with people living in Antarctica as late as  2150,” said Dr.Mathias Zune, professor of Earth
history. “It’s not too much to speculate that perhaps some element of humanity is still hanging on there to this day. Perhaps they believe an army of penguins can accomplish what hordes of robots can’t?”

* * *

Episode #1, Jupiter Free Press:


21 May 2517 – New Vatican Space Station – Pope James Brown IX called for a crackdown on piracy around Miranda, in addition to his usual call for a New Crusade to reclaim Earth for humanity.

The Pope spoke at a press conference held in New Vatican Space Station, in geosynchronous orbit over the site of the lost city of Rome. He spoke of the crew and passengers of the Wheel Of Fire, a ship carrying Catholic missionaries to the moon of Uranus which was recently attacked and scuttled by pirates.

He also renewed his call to fund a “grand crusade” to take back the Holy Land, claiming to have new sources of monetary support for the effort.

* * *

Episode #2, Daily Humm:


Ceres  Zombies have been positively identified by the crew of a space tug working salvage in orbit around Ceres, and our experts say they are using interplanetary tramp freighter traffic to spread their unholy grasp!

The crew of the Rhodan, all men of good reputation and sober habits*, have gone on record regarding their narrow escape. They say zombies in
vacc suits attempted to break in through the airlocks while the tug was on a salvage mission.

Only the quick thinking of the captain saved the crew from certain brain-eating. Our zombie experts say that this may point to a spread of the zombie plague from Earth-That-Was to the rest of the system.

They say that zombies with experience in ziggy could hitch rides on the outside of passing ships, like the barnacles of more ancient times.

Some went on to observe that the lax security precautions of tramp freighters would make them the likely vector for such an exodus of undead. The recent traffic due to the favorable conjunction of Ceres and the Ag’, for instance, could have been a superhighway for zombies spreading from Earth.

* * *

Episode #2, Jupiter Free Press.  The justice system of the Ag’ was on the rough side. One of their rules was that a sentence of exile gave the judges “the option” of a quick exile, out the nearest airlock.


ABA Extends Indenture Limits
The Asteroid Belt Alliance amended its charter today, to allow indentures of up to 7 years period, with up to two renewals, an expansion of its previous 5 year, one extension policy. Pg 5

JCS Q2 Earnings Report Due Soon
Markets expect Q2 reports for the Jupiter Corporate Sector within a few days, leading some to hedge their bets. Pg 2

GCC Posts Crimes Statistics: All-Time Low!
The Greek Camp Coalition published its compiled crime statistics for 2515, showing an all-time low in corruption and material crimes. Pg 17

The Isolationist leaders recently captured on the Ag’ were treated to swift justice earlier this week.

The Supreme Court of Agamemnon delivered a guilty verdict after only three hours of deliberation. The rebel leaders had been charged with treason against the citizens of Agamemnon.

The mandatory sentence for treason is exile, but the Court Justices exercised the option.**

* * *

Episode #3, Jupiter Free Press. “Kwee Deek” is a corruption of “Quidditch”. It’s a form of water polo, but played without water, in zero gravity, using muscle-powered wings to move about.

Kwee Deek

  • Botony Bay Griffins … 3
  • New Perth Comets … 1


  • Dampier S’ Stars … 2
  • Fremantle Supers … 0

Ziggy Wrestling

  • Haystacks Calhoun defeats Crusher Creel
  • Mascarita Sagrada defeats Don Hornswaggle
  • Baron von Kampf defeats Tito Satayana

Network Outage Kills 3

A twenty minute network outage caused the death of three Fremantle citizens this week. Con’t pg 7

* When the story was read aloud, Bubba injected, “Meaning, drunks.”

Prophecy vs. Rumor

I was a really big fan of David Eddings’ Belgariad when I was a kid. That’s where I lay the blame.

When the time came for me to run fantasy, I leaned heavily on the prophecy as a way to kick-start the action. When I started a fantasy game, you could guarantee, you would meet a mysterious guy, likely wearing a hood, in a tavern. Half the time, he’d hire you, and half the time, he’d lay some prophecy on you.

Of course, the prophecy-driven campaign is nothing but a plot railroad. Just by having a prophecy, you’re asserting that the future is set, to some degree, and cannot be changed. If these four scruffy adventurers are destined to meet Darth Hostile on the summit of Mount Craggy on the first full moon after the Festival Of The Ice Weasel, then those four adventurers must be protected by fate until that time. Whatever happens, it can’t keep them from their date with destiny… even if they decide to ride as hard as they can in the opposite direction and take up careers as wandering mendicants.

There’s ways around it. You can phrase your prophecy so as to allow some latitude. They say that’s how the Oracle at Delphi did the trick. It’s also hard work and heavy thinking, and doesn’t solve the root problem: the players feel like their characters are going to end up on the spot marked “X”, no matter what they try to do.

If you want the drama and stage dressing of prophecy, without the railroad plot, I would recommend GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, where it talks about using Destiny Points to buy favors from fate.  Designate your “Chosen One”, and make up gibberish as needed. The character with the destiny gets free will, but with the little extra boost that assures that whatever the situation, that character will be extraordinary. Then again, if you don’t want the hassle, you could just give the Chosen One an appropriate level of Luck.

I think it’s all too much trouble, myself. At least in this game.

In point of fact, part of Rho’s back-story was that he was some kind of reincarnated Chosen One for a sect of the cult of Anubis. He had a couple of odd traits for a cleric, since he wasn’t so much a part of the organized temple, as he was a hero of the common folk. None of it really had much time to come out in play before he slipped and died at the bottom of a pit trap.

Dungeon Fantasy isn’t a genre where you can count on having a long time for the subtle points of a character’s personality and history to shine through.

Instead, I’ve been leaning hard on rumors as a driver of action. I was tentative to start, but since then, I’ve come around to be a believer.

See, I remembered reading a published adventure, back in the day, that had a table of rumors. Some were true, others were false. The true ones didn’t strike me as terribly helpful, but I can’t say if that’s because they weren’t, or because I was too young to put them together… but the false ones just seemed like dirty tricks. I didn’t care for that, so I ditched the entire idea of organized rumors.

Then, it seems like, for a long time, I had troubles with players who expected everything spoken by the GM to be the truth. Including the words of NPCs. If they ran across a liar, or an unreliable narrator, they became quite upset. If I had tried to use rumors then, the way I’m using them now, I would have faced a rebellion the first time they ran into a rumor that was only mostly true. (There, at least, is one way in which my current group of suspicious paranoids excels. They never expect the truth from an NPC without a really good reason.)

This time around, I was consciously trying something different. Before the DF campaign came up, I had been reading a lot of blogs and such about the Old School Renaissance, mega-dungeons, player agency, all that sort of thing. When I ran into the rules suggestions for rumors in DF, I was primed to give it a try. I put together a short list of rumors while stocking the first level of the dungeon.

Then, by pure blind luck, the events of actual play came together with one of the rumors that the PCs picked up for that same session. The party heard the rumor about the lost priest of Anubis, and then found a holy book carried by that priest in their first foray into the ruins. Since then, they’ve been really attentive towards the stories they hear in the tavern.

Thus, the players get to decide what direction they head in first, what goals they give priority, which stories to research and look in to further. The PCs become actors upon the campaign world, rather than responding to events. Paradoxically, tailoring the world to the characters might make them important to that world, but it took away their actual power… while a world that ignores the PCs entirely gives them more power to affect the flow of events.


What I Would Do With A d100

I might use it to expand the rumor table. I started off with a d20-based table, but felt like there were too many repeated numbers. These days, it’s a d30-based table, one story per number, and it feels like there’s a better chance of avoiding double hits. On the down side, it’s apparently possible for rumors to hang out in the table for a long time before they’re heard. I’ve removed a couple of rumors from the table because the party ran into the truth behind them.  (In hindsight, I think it would have been better to leave them in. It might be fun to have them hear the stories after the fact.)

If I had a d100, I might be tempted to tinker with the table. I wouldn’t try to continue with the “one per number” arrangement. That way lies madness. Instead, I would cut the 100 possibilities into bands of probability.  For example — just spitballing, really — but I might set up a table with five “common” slots of 10% each, eight “uncommon” slots of 5% each, and 10 “rare” slots of 1% each. Thus, if the player rolls 01-10, they get the first common rumor on the list. If they roll over 50, they get the more obscure stuff. Anything in the 91-00 area is obscure stuff.

Over all, that’s only 23 rumors, so I’m cutting the number of subjects to talk about by 7, from the current d30-based system.  That looks like it would increase the number of double hits. However… within each rumor, I might have slightly different information for each number.

For example, let’s say 01-10 is the band for “Goblinoid raiding”.  The PCs know that the local goblinoids go raiding, because they’ve heard how Bruno’s cloth shipment was stolen, and then recovered the goods, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there would be talk about the raids. Within that band, though, I can offer ten different takes on the same information. Perhaps one thread of information concerns Bruno offering a reward for the return of his stolen goods and appears on 01-05, a couple of others are stories told by different farmers who saw the raiders leaving the scene, with one story keyed to 06-07 and the other 08-09, and finally, rolling a 10 gets a garbled, drunken confession from a goblin who managed to talk his way into town and tavern.

Or, let’s say that the over-arching rumor category is about the return of Ancient Evil Dude and how he’s looking for his favorite lost magic item.  There could easily be ten different clues for that story, without any overlap at all:  rangers on the move in the wilderness; dragon-mounted patrols flying out of the ruins of A.E.D.’s old stronghold; chatter among the orc tribes; undead on the move; ominous omens from cleric, wizard, and druid.

Obviously, I could do all of this with the traditional d100 of two d10’s… but then we’d lose the pure joy of rolling the weird dice. The whole point would be to adapt the mechanics to give folks the chance to throw the golf ball.

(Oh, and: 100th post. La!)


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