Friday, November 7, 2014

Campaign Rumors

I wanted to run my new Land of Azurth campaign as more of a sandbox than my Weird Adventurs campaign (which tended to be more "mission style" as it was mystery oriented). I still intend for their to be mysteries in the current campaign, but they be more of an "easter egg" variety, by which I mean something cool if the players figure it out, but probably never essential to an adventure.

To this end, I borrowed a technique from Chris Kutalik over at the Hill Cantons, who runs the best sandbox campaign I've had the pleasure to play in: use of rumors, both as an adventure menu for players and to provide a window into ongoing background events in the setting. (Chris has a lot of other useful and stealable ideas of running this sort of campaign. Just check out this recent post.)

Anyway, here's the first set of rumors I gave the players at the end of the first session. This establishes the existence of the Publick Observator, which can serve both an in-game and metagame purpose:


In games where I have the time, I like to have the characters meet. It gives them a chance to get warmed up for roleplaying (and shows me how much they want to roleplay--which has implications for how I handle later sessions) and it gives them a chance to make up some background material that may be good grist for future adventures. I had asked each player prior to the first session to come up with a reason (or what they would give to others as the reason) they might be coming to Rivertown to seek an audience with Clockwork Princess Viola. One of the players suggest her ranger was coming to discuss a poaching problem--dovetailing nicely with one of the rumors I had thought of but not yet told the PCs about, of course!


This gave the them a good reason to select what they wanted to do next session. Of course, the other goings-on they chose not to investigate may not just go away. Some will have longterm consequences or will show up again, maybe with more dire connotations, next week. Over time, of course, these pre-session rumors will compete with goals and plans completely generated by the players.

9 comments:

Justin S. Davis said...

My longest-running campaign was a Champions game set in a homemade, Astro City-esque, um, city founded on classic funnybook tropes. (You know, giant prop museums and a spooky asylum and the like).

Anyhow, to distribute rumors in my game, I published a monthly list of about a dozen "upcoming comic solicitations" done in the old Marvel house-ad style. Like this:

Tales To Flabbergast #48: What's this?!!! It's bad enough that the Mighty Man-Frog and Black Hercules find themselves trapped in the jivin' jungle jail of the world's greatest hunter, Nero "The Stalker" Steelgrave!!! But it's far worse when they have to tackle not just that madman's lions and tigers, but also the bearish brutality of a brainwashed King Kodiak! (On Sale 11/05/14)

All those lists had tons of adventure hooks, potential team-ups, villain plots, etc. Everyone got a huge kick out of it.

Trey said...

Man! That's an awesome idea. I'm definitely stealing that for my next supers campaign.

Chris Kutalik said...

That is pretty excellent Justin.

Trey, the presentation with the early modern graphical elements is just great and that adds that little extra bit of verisimilitude that kicks it up a notch.

Tim Shorts said...

When are you planning to start? And what days are you thinking of running? And... And...

garrisonjames said...

This is a great idea. We've discussed doing something like this for Wermspittle, especially now that we're about to get things rolling for the home game again. Rumors are always fun things to add into a game, but to have a regularly scheduled source of gossip and misinformation, scandal and insinuation...that just sounds like a lot of fun.

Trey said...

@Chris - Thanks. I actually looked at whatever 1600-1700s broadsheets I could find only for style inspiration.

@Tim - It's started as a face to face game. I've had some requests to run it on G+, and I might once I get Strange Stars put to bed. If you're interested, just let me know.

@garrisonjames - Good thoughts. I'd love to see what you guys will come up with for Wermspittle. I'm sure the rumors there get decidedly weird.

Jon Bupp said...

One of my best sandbox campaigns was completely rumor driven. At the end of each adventure, I would hand out slips of paper to each player with several rumors of things they have heard or come across. Some were false leads, others variations on rumors that other players received. From there, the players decided what to do.

Jim Shelley said...

I agree with Chris the presentation off the rumors looks perfect for the setting

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