After surviving a long, dangerous stint in the untamed regions of the world, the PCs find themselves back in civilisation. Upon entering a settlement, the players decide to scope out the area and get a feel for the local goings-on by talking to inhabitants and gathering information. At this point, they ask “so what are the local rumours around here, anyway?” Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town is here to answer just that question, providing the time-pressed GM with hundreds of local rumours suitable for fleshing out the society of almost any borderland settlement.
These rumours can serve as flavour text, adding depth and dimension to your campaign, or can serve as plot hooks, suggesting future paths that PCs may wish to follow.
Extract: Recent Local Events
- The nightshade crops are weak this year. It might be the bad weather, but the herbalists are accusing each other of sabotage.
- Aelfric has always been the local idiot, but he’s been carving messages in the woods. The messages are disjointed and nonsensical, but is it really some kind of code?
- The town gravedigger has been losing at cards, but he never seems to run out of coin. Where is he getting it?
- Small rings of toadstools have been cropping up around town. Are they signs of fae activity, or is that just superstition?
- The smith’s son has disappeared. His father maintains the boy ran away, but is the metalworker’s gruff demeanour hiding his hurt, or something else entirely?
- A figure in a black cloak has been seen moving through the woods, carrying a hooded lantern. He flashes it three times, and then vanishes into the shadows.
- A tiny stone shrine was found in a clearing, black with soot and wet from spilled blood. Who was praying there, and what were they worshipping?
- Farnam Craigs got so drunk he had to be carried home. The guardsman was muttering something about how it wasn’t his fault while he was being carted off, but no one could quite make it out.
- Iboni Darkhair has begun wearing a red silk ribbon around her throat. It means she’s spoken for…but who is her mysterious suitor?
- A man calling himself Saul Strongarm has come to town, and bet a purse of coins no one can defeat him in an arm wrestling match. Thus far that’s been true, but is there more to his strength than meets the eye?
Extract: Recent Regional Events
- Traffic along the river has become dangerous, thanks to increasing number of pirates. Bands of sellswords have seized the opportunity, offering their services to protect travellers and merchants alike. There are some riverfolk who are growing suspicious, though, because the pirate attacks seem to fade into the mist as soon as a mercenary band is given regular employment. Some whisper there are no pirates, but that clever captains created a problem, then showed up to sell the embattled merchants the solution.
- Poachers’ pits, huge holes where the unwanted pieces of carcasses are thrown after they’ve been cleaned, are a common sight in the woods. Human bodies have been found among the cast-off hooves and horns, though, and the bodies are never in one piece. Most of them aren’t even complete. Once-friendly communities have begun barring their gates, and outsiders are being met with increased suspicion.
- Foxes have been considered good luck for centuries, but there’s a rumour the curious little beasts may not be all they appear. Black foxes have been stalking through the town, and watching the caravan trails as if they’re looking for something. They almost seem to be listening to nearby conversations. But why?
- Several small villages have been completely destroyed; their people killed and buildings razed. The loss of life, and disruption of regional trade is bad enough, but people in the surrounding communities have begun to panic. Some blame roving bandits, while others claim only goblin raids could be that savage. A few believe it’s a power grab by orc tribes. Patrols, both of men-at-arms and of volunteer militia, have increased…but no one seems to know what they’re guarding against.
- A new religious sect is bringing the good word of their faith to the land. They seem harmless at a glance, dressing in comfortable, modest clothes and preaching tenets of love and tolerance. Members of the faith are close-mouthed about the rituals expected once you become a believer, and there are whispers their faith is much, much older than it appears.
- Bandits have begun attacking wagon trains and supply caravans. What was once a problem only for merchants and their guards has grown, and shortages are becoming common. Worse, because of these shortages, prices are climbing faster than most can pay. A price has been offered for the most notorious bandit leaders, but there are those profiting from the shortages who’d rather not see them end just yet.
Extract: Local Legends
- The lord who once ruled these lands was a perfect gentleman, both well-bred and well-married. Behind the silent walls of his fortress, though, he indulged in depraved, bloody rituals. Though his castle was razed during a revolt, no one ever found his hidden Screaming Chamber. That’s why the forest around the site is filled with whipporwills; they’re still seeking the souls of his victims, to guide them to their rest.
- The Band of the Red Brand were some of the most infamous local brigands. They were vicious, killing every member of any merchant train they targeted, before vanishing into the woods with their loot. When the band was finally captured, though, none of their spoils were recovered. They were hanged to a man, but the legend says there’s a hidden grotto or forgotten cave somewhere in these woods, rich with the band’s plunder.
- Happy is the home whose hearth bears a cat. The saying is a common one, but there’s an older myth behind it. The grimalkin, a fae cat-like creature, once roamed these woods. It warred against the men who entered its domain, but after years of ill fortune and bloodshed, they reached a truce. Humans could live in its domain, as long as they respected the forest, and opened their homes to the grimalkin’s children. It’s why so many houses have cats and why so many people leave dishes of water or cream out. It’s also why it’s considered ill fortune to kill a cat.
- The Black Rock Inn can’t boast anything too special. The food is good, the fire warm and most nights there are at least a few locals drinking and gaming. There is a room on the second floor, though, the inn keep hasn’t let out since he was a young man. Footsteps can be heard through the door on quiet nights along with the creak of a rope, and whispered words just loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to be understood. The inn keep won’t say what happened in the room, but speculation rages about what haunts the room just above the common room.
- Babies born under the Hero’s Star are destined for great things. The Scarlet Knight, champion of a hundred duels, Arlan Faine, the Fist of the Faith who stood alone against a horde of demons and General Karela Longthorn, who led the Shining Legion to victory a thousand years ago, were all Hero Born. While some townsfolk try to have their children born underneath the red star, others do their best to avoid it. Because, while the heroes are the ones that stand out, people tend to forget great people sometimes do terrible things.
- There’s a huge oak tree in the centre of a grove outside town. Every spring the branches are filled with strips of cloth fluttering in the wind. According to myth, the tree holds the spirit of a powerful dryad, and anyone strong and pure enough to climb the tree, and tie the name of their true love to one of the branches earns the dryad’s blessings in matters of the heart. No few suitors have broken their arms climbing the tree, but many unions come from the tradition.
Praise for Whispers & Rumours: Borderland Town
“Neal Litherland’s collection of rumors, legends and events is amazing – the combination of local color, legends and events can result in truly inspiring environments or adventures. The respective entries are detailed and run the gamut from mundane to magical with panache aplomb.”
–Endzeitgeist (five stars + seal of approval)
Released 29 August 2016; Pages 10
Download a Free Sample Using Whispers & Rumours
Released 29 August 2016; Pages 10