Saturday, February 29, 2020

Don't Believe Everything You Hear - Rumors in Traveller

Encounters are a staple of role-playing activity. As the PCs move about from place to place they naturally meet up with NPCs and interact with them.

Traveller has a mechanism for a type of encounter I've seen in almost no other RPG. In the Encounters section there are tables for encountering Rumors. Here's some of what the rules say about them (TTB, p.99):
Information is a valuable commodity to travellers, and rumors are the source of much useful information.
In any case the idea of the rumor allows the player characters to learn of new exciting an potentially rewarding (or potentially deadly) situations. In many Traveller situations, a rumor is simply information leading to a patron, a job or a potential treasure; . . . 
Rumors are valuable, and once player characters know of their potential, they will seek them out. 
I have no idea what kind of information this gathers.

I admit that over the years of playing, I've struggled to know what to do with the Rumor table. The main difficulty was always what is this Rumor about? An important clue? To what?  An Obvious clue? Why is it obvious?

It occurred to me that one solution to this is to create a list of rumors to match the table, all relating to one thing.

When the players inquire about a thing or a person, or when the Referee gets an idea about something that the players would find interesting, start brainstorming. Decide what the facts of the matter are. Use the Rumor descriptions in the table as a guide and create the tidbits that will reel in the players.

Example: rumors about a treasure on Worosha.

The Facts:
The treasure is a load of coins, minted but never circulated. The official story at the time was the shipment was lost in a plane crash at sea. The truth is that they were stolen en route to a government vault by sky pirates, and hidden away in a cave on one of the less-populated major islands of Worosha. Originally the coinage was valued at 100,000 credits (Imperial) but now could be worth 5-10 times that much. The coinage is of a type no longer in circulation, but is valued on the coin collector and historical item markets. The pirates were captured and executed but did not reveal the location of the cache.

Refer to the Rumor Table in The Traveller Book for the random selection of letters. 
  1. The coins were minted before Dekalb gained control of Worosha
  2. The cave was constructed, not a natural cave
  3. The pirates said it was 'hard to get to'
  4. The LTP might be hiring folk to find the treasure
  5. None of the captured pirates divulged the location of the treasure
  6. A low-town information broker is paying well for information about the treasure
  7. Most likely it is on Rhyza island
  8. There's a coin collector's market on Dekalb even bigger than on Worosha
  9. The treasury department has never seen the serial #s for that block of coins in circulation
  10. the treasure is old coins pulled from circulation to be destroyed
  11. the old currency was in Florins
  12. An illustration of what the coins looked like
  13. The Sky Raiders is what the pirates were called
  14. The treasure is hidden in a mountain cave
  15. The coin market could go into a buying frenzy over this find
  16. The set probably weighs 1-2 metric tons
  17. the shipment was stolen by pirates
  18. the pirates claimed to have hidden the money
  19. The LTP has a trading outpost on Rhyza island
  20. The pirates operated out of Dinka island

This took me less than ten minutes to dream up. None of this will lead the PCs directly to the treasure, but it sure will encourage them to go looking. Random encounters can also be turned towards this objective.

The same process could be used for a significant NPC/NPC Group, a location, or anything else the PC's might encounter on their travels.

How often do Rumors make an appearance in your game?  Have you ever had a single Rumor turn into the basis for an adventure or campaign? Tell about it in the comments.

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