posted Wednesday, September 9th 2009 by
One of the elements that I love about the Eberron campaign setting is the existence of newspapers. Newspapers make a great way to bring in adventure hooks, to provide clues and directions when the PCs are lost, or to provide a bit of color and flavor to the campaign world.
The characters may scan the headlines to catch up on current events they may have missed while they were out exploring, and because the papers are published weekly, thereâ€™s a good chance theyâ€™ll be able to stay abreast of events.
The beauty of newspaper is that depending on your needs you can apply the same headline to any or all of the above uses. Using the newspaper to provide clues to an ongoing adventure should be done carefullyâ€”you donâ€™t want the PCs to feel as though they are being led by the nose through the story. Including the clue among several other headlines can increase their sense of accomplishment when they notice it, provide depth to your setting through the flavor of other headlines, and even set up future story developments in advance.
Newspapers are, of course, a convenient form for the dissemination of information, but if theyâ€™re out of place in your campaign setting, that doesnâ€™t have to render the ideas here unusable. Before newspapers, town criers performed a similar service; gossip and rumors are a great alternative as well, albeit with less catchy headlines. Be sure not to dole out everything at once, though. Spread the information out across several days or adventures, for maximum effect.
Stumped for ideas on what kinds of headlines you can use? Hereâ€™s one to get you started.
Headline: NEW THEATER MAKES WAVES WITH ALL-WARFORGED PLAY
Details: A new theater has opened in Sharn, with a twistâ€”all the actors are warforged. The productions, also written by a warforged playwright, feature themes of romance, tragedy, and dignity. Reviews are mixed, with some critics calling performances â€œwoodenâ€ and the plot â€œpredictableâ€, while others applaud the direct nature of the material and the bold move of having only warforged actors.
Developments: It is soon discovered that one of the lead actors is not actually a warforged at all, but a half-elf actor of some small infamy wearing a magical disguise. Many warforged are angered by this, feeling that they have been exploited, and others are angry that they have been lied to or marginalized. The theater is vandalized and the owner and actors receive threats of violence, but tickets continue to sell, largely thanks to the controversy. Ultimately, the erstwhile â€œwarforgedâ€ vanishes without a trace, leaving the play to proceed with an understudy taking over the role. After that the news about the theater dies down, replaced by other stories.
Involving your characters: A number of hooks might involve the characters in this news story. Perhaps the theater hires them on as additional security after the initial controversy; they might be hired to protect the half-elf actor, or find out what became of him after his mysterious disappearance. They might be hired to investigate the disappearance by other parties, like the criminal organization to whom the half-elf owed a large gambling debtâ€”or perhaps they are the ones who are asked to arrange the disappearance in the first place. More tangentally, perhaps the half elf is hiding out for other reasons, or has some tidbit of information the party requires for something completely unrelated. You could also involve the theater as a meeting place for a contact, and simply have it be a convenient backdrop.
Adapting it for other settings: You could run something like this in just about any city with a theater culture. If the warforged arenâ€™t appropriate to your campaign world, you could use any fringe raceâ€”half-orcs, hobgoblins, bugbears, or any race that hangs around the edges of civilization without full acceptance.
Coming up with new ideas for headlines is pretty simple. Think of the sorts of things that get news coverage in the real world, in tabloids as well as respectable papers. Politics, scandals, entertainment news, missing persons or violent crimes, war, or just plain bizarre stories are all great sources for headlines or rumors, and with just a bit of development they can add a lot of depth to your campaign.