Friday, February 15, 2013

Rumors by bonus

I was thinking today about rumors and folk knowledge, particularly as how they would apply to mystical beasts and abandoned places in games where all bits of knowledge are not immediately available to PCs.  It seems that given enough time and experience, a certain number of "facts" might be collected about an object.  You could of course role play this out, by having the players interrogate inn keepers or whatever, but possibly you want them to just have a certain amount of knowledge (hopefully limited, deadly, and wrong) about a particular subject, including one that they did not know that they wanted to know about beforehand, but would have reasonably learned just from being in town or life experience.  

How to handle that?

With a sufficiently large rumor table, you could just have the player roll their Wisdom or Intelligence bonus number of times on the target specific rumor table, and thereby learn something about the monster/location/ruin/villain.  This preserves the mystery about the target item, but still provides some (possibly true) information about the target.  (could also work with Charisma, if it is knowledge gained from being around town)

Rangers get +1 roll on the table for monsters, wizards +1 for magical items, clerics +1 for gods, and so on.  Bards (if they exist in your game) get to know if one rumor is true or false (being that they collect knowledge).

Could also be used for generic rumors for town without having to have the players say "are there any rumors?" or some such cliche.

Here is an example, using some information from Hack & Slash about the Cockatrice.

Rolf, the 3rd level Cleric of St. Cuthburt has a +2 Wisdom bonus.  When presented with the question "what is a cockatrice", he, like everyone of his culture, knows the following: it is a monster, like a bird, can turn you to stone.  However, what else does he know?  Since he has a +2 Wisdom bonus, he may roll twice on the d20 cockatrice rumor chart below.
  1. They can fly short distances
  2. Their gaze or touch can petrify people, even after death
  3. They lay eggs
  4. The weasel is immune to their petrifaction
  5. It doesn't actually petrify, but withers plants, scotches grass, and bursts stone from heat and its deadly breath
  6. The beak and claws of a cockatrice are made of iron
  7. The feathers are quite magical, and useful for arrows, quills, etc., but they must be used quickly
  8. A cockatrice grinds the stone it eats using hard diamonds stored in its stomach.
  9. Cockatrices are actually very wise and know many profound and secret thoughts of the origin of things, learned from the earth itself 
  10. They are not natural creatures, they are created from a rooster of superior chickens and a still living snake plucked from the head of a medusa 
  11. They are used to herd stone giant children and keep them safe 
  12. They were designed by the wizard Vora Elgath, a wizard and friend of the stone giants who found them peaceful company 
  13. The flesh of a cockatrice is quite delicious 
  14. They love to line their nests with shiny sparkly items. The more shiny their nest, the higher the status among cockatrices 
  15. They grow a crowstone inside their vestigial gizzards ranging in size from a grain of sand to marble size. This cloudy colorless gem is a potent cure for poisons and venom Swallowing the rank tasting stone is the most effective application. The larger the crowstone the more effective it will be 
  16. Cockatrice feathers are useful as magical quills because of their durability against caustic substances 
  17. The saliva of a cockatrice can turn stone back to flesh 
  18. It is about the size of a goose
  19. They are impossible to kill by stabbing. Perhaps this is due to poison or perhaps their skin is resistance to piercing weapons
  20. The cockatrice is actually a passive grazing animal and not a predator at all. Their deadly gaze is for insects, not man
Rolf rolls 19 and 13 on the chart above, so the party proceeds to arm themselves with clubs, the better to damage the beast resistant to piercing weapons, and not to damage the valuable meat.  Hilarity ensues.


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