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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, there’s a good chance they’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 carefully—you don’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 they’re out of place in your campaign setting, that doesn’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? Here’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 twist—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 “wooden” and the plot “predictable”, 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 “warforged” 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 debt—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 aren’t appropriate to your campaign world, you could use any fringe race—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.


Comments (6)

Daniel Hill (September 9th, 2009)

I am currently using this in my campaign in a slightly different manner. The party complained about never getting back to town. Mysteriously, one of their characters starts prophesying adventure hooks for the next section. Cryptic messages and the discussion about the larger context of their actions can substitute for a night at the bar or trip to the blacksmith.

Spam (September 9th, 2009)

That is a great thing about good ideas, you can take them to ANY setting…even Dark Sun could have a few papers…

Saragon (September 9th, 2009)

They’re a couple of years old (not that it matters), but WotC actually used to have a series of ‘articles’ from the Sharn Inquisitive. They’re still archived on their website and are a great resource for me — I keep going back to them.

DandDGuy (September 9th, 2009)

That is very interesting I will included it in my campaign and use it for dramatic effect as well as plot hooks and to inform players of adventure information. This is very useful and will create many adventure ideas for all.

Toord (September 9th, 2009)

This is very interesting indeed. Never thought of newspapers in Eberron that way. However, I can see the hazards of leading or misleading your players as well as players constantly wanting to read the papers for clues in tough quest that takes place in the city.

Tetsubo (September 9th, 2009)

When I ran a long term Gamma World campaign (heavily modified 3rd edition) I would do a weekly ‘headline news’ bit each session. Some where actual plot points of course while others where pure fluff. But I let the players pursue whichever thing struck their fancy. They liked it and I found it a great idea generator.

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