No, I’m not talking about the classic Fleetwood Mac album from 1977, but the use of rumours in roleplaying adventures.
The first time I saw rumours built into an adventure in an organised and consistent way was Twilight:2000. For those of you who weren’t roleplaying in the dim and distant days of the 1980s, Twilight:2000 was a game set in the year 2000 following a war – including a limited nuclear exchange – between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In the basic game and accompanying scenarios the player characters were soldiers trying to survive in a hostile, post-apocalyptic Poland and make their way back to the United States (it was largely assumed that the player characters would be American, although it was possible to play other nationalities). Later scenarios were set in the United States, the Middle East, and parts of Europe.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, each published scenario used the same format and that format included a gazetteer covering the various broad areas that made up the setting for the adventure, invariably called ‘Lay of the Land, Part 1/2/3, etc. Each area contained a description of the important settlements (villages, towns, cities, etc.), possible events and encounters (including NPCs), plot links, and the all-important rumours.
Throughout the adventure the characters could get information or hear rumours through certain encounters, events or situations. In addition, rumours could be acquired randomly as a result of rolls made by the referee on the rumour tables listed for each important location within an area. As in real life, these rumours could be true, an exaggeration of the truth, or completely false.
What I like about rumours is that they breathe an element of real life into games. In too many adventures characters invariably receive only information that is relevant to the successful conclusion of the adventure (go there; watch out for that; don’t do that; etc.). What rumours in Twilight:2000 did was to encourage players to sift and sort the information that they’d acquired in order to help them to complete the adventure. Unfortunately, there was a lot about Twilight:2000 that wasn’t good, but that’s a post for another day….
What other games or adventures have you refereed or played that use rumours? What do you think about the concept? I’d love to hear your thoughts.