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Ruins illustration by Erol Otus, Copyright TSR

Ruins illustration by Erol Otus, Copyright TSR

The rumourmill is a personal favourite of mine. It brings a bit of background to every character even if the player only sees the 6 ability scores and equipment list on his sheet. They can seriously change the way an adventure “feels” if you know the right or wrong rumours. In our own Temple of Illhan adventures, we operated until the very end in fear of the nearby halfling village because we had heard the rumours that they were the home to a cult of assassins who defend the razed temple, as well as a cult of Illhan who still use the temple to this day.

So here are the top 5 rumours that changed the way we played the game.

5. Man-eating ghouls prowl The Hill for food.

After hearing this rumour at Guido’s Fort, we blew all our remaining funds on holy water and recruited a second level 2 cleric to be able to cast cure light wounds (to remove ghoul paralysis). In the end, the rumour may have been true, but we managed to never encounter a single ghoul during the adventure. There was a thoul deep in the dungeon levels, and some skeletons, but we never saw the dreaded man-eating ghouls. We figure that they remain prowling The Hill to this night, trying to figure out where those tasty adventurers went.

4. There are obelisks in the desert that speak of greatness, but they are evil places where death awaits. None who have gone forth to study those ancient stones have ever returned.

This one had us running around for weeks in game-time. In the end we had to discount the rumour as false because every set of stones (large or small) just didn’t cut it as the source of this rumour. We explored the desert avidly searching for these obelisks, and even six levels and a dozen adventures later we pulled out this rumour when we *did* find some obelisks as part of another adventure that had nothing to do with the rumour in question. These obelisks were the “grove” of some desert druids key to our new adventure – but we didn’t trust the druids properly because we knew that they were guarding an “evil place where death awaits” instead of a typical pleasant druid grove.  Turns out the GM of the game in question didn’t have the later modules in the adventure path in question and this rumour referenced stuff from the second or third module.

3. A band of evil gnomes lives in the Dweomer Forest.

Another completely false rumour – but in this case it lead us to constantly looking for the gnomes behind the problems. Four of the party had heard this rumour so we treated it as fact. Every time we ran into anything (typically birds and other wildlife, often running right up to us to beg for food) in the Dweomer Forest, we disbelieved the obvious gnomish illusions and looked for the evil gnomish masterminds who were obviously watching us. Once we actually moved on to Bone Hill we were still looking for the evil diminutive illusionist masterminds behind the villains.

2. The Fortunes of Ravenloft.

By the time we played Ravenloft (for the first time), we had all learned our lesson. Don’t trust the rumourmill – at least not too far. So it was a complete shock to us that the random fortune-tellings of the crazy old gypsie kept being right on the money. And this was after watching her pull them out truly randomly – the DM was drawing actual cards as our fortunes. It was only when I bought a copy of the module to run for a group myself that I discovered the true genius of the module – that the random fortunes actually modify the module itself, changing the goals of the villain, the placement of major treasures and so on. Brilliant. And of course that meant that for years afterwards, whenever characters had their fortunes told, those “rumours” were accepted as the gospel truth, instead of being taken with a grain of salt like the other rumours.

1. “Bree-Yark!” is goblin-language for “we surrender!”

Until we added an elf to our retinue, we believed this. Of course, we met the goblins before we added the elf to our retinue. We also nearly got our entire party killed because we believed this rumour, thus requiring an elf to help us out to re-enter the caves of chaos and kill off the goblin tribe in question. To this day several of us still use this in conversation, and it has become a code for “fake surrender tactics!” This rumour also makes a re-appearance in a Goodman Games module – this time as the supposed name of the Goblin King according to the rumourmill.

Rumour Sources: 1 – B2 “Keep on the Borderlands”, 2 – I6 “Ravenloft”, 3 – L1 “The Secret of Bone Hill”, 4 – I3 “Pharoah”, 5- B5 “Horror on The Hill”