Sunday, September 14, 2014

Background Events and Rumors

   In the last two posts, Zadok and the Grocery Boy and A Modest Proposal, I mentioned that Rear Echelon NPCs are usually interested in, and want to talk about something other than the dungeon.    Normally, these conversations are irrelevant to the party and are often skipped in play.  But these are prime opportunities for the DM to inject background material that make the campaign more than a painted backdrop for the theater of the dungeon.  Often there will be little no effect on the party from learning something about the world outside the dungeon, but they may also spark players interest in the broader campaign world.  I'll let you know how it works out.

In the table below the jump, percentile dice are used to generate a Background Event.  These background events may happen locally, in the immediate region of the dungeon or somewhere else in the world.  Local events are the most likely to have an immediate impact on the players and are the only 'true' events.  When these events happen in the province or somewhere in the world at large, they should be treated as rumors.  And the further away an event took place, the more the rumor grows.  Look at the examples for War

          Local - A large force of humanoids is approaching, all free men are required to muster at the East Gate in two days.  Here we have a consequence for the party, they'll either need to go hide out in the dungeon for a couple of days until it blows over, or expend some resources in defending their base.

          Regional - Rumor of war in the province. The governor is hiring mercenaries, the Scythians are going to attack or a coalition of Illyrian tribes.  No real consequences for the party, although some players may decide they'd like to recruit a troop of warriors and get paid in gold and loot.  That's up to the campaign, how it will work out.

         World - Rumor of war in a far away land. Not just the Seleucids and Ptolomey are fighting, but the Seleucids have replaced their elephants with dragons or Ptolomey has resurrected Alexander to lead his army.  Note how the much more fantastic the rumor is than the more prosiac Local and Regional events.  Is it true? That is completely in the DM's hands.

My intention is to roll d100 for the event, then d6 to determine if it is local (-3), regional (4-5) or world (6).  That gives me a rough distribution making far away events less common.  That too may change in play as I get a better feel for how those odds work out.

Background Event & Rumor Table

Roll Description Examples
01-02 Birth of an Heir to a Major NPC Local – birth of a daughter to Lactitius, Basilius of Scodra. He will hold a banquet for all the rich and powerful of the town and declare a holiday. Perhaps some of the well to do will leave some valuables behind in their less than adequately guarded homes?

Regional – Perseus, tyrant of Epidamnos has a new son. Those bringing birth gifts may ask a favor and gain a powerful patron.

World – It is said that Seleucid Emperor has a new son, whose mother is a succubus.
03-04 Building Collapse Local - A tenement collapsed killing two.

Regional – The new Temple of Zeus being constructed a Dodona collapsed, killing the high priest. Zeus is angry and all should tithe at the nearest temple.

World – It is said a great wyrm erupted from under the Sphinx and collapsed it into rubble.
05-06 Death of a Major NPC Local – Red Jayn, Mage of The Fellowship of the Last Cup perished under the castle. The mage's friends are re-equipping for an expedition to recover the body for resurrection.

Regional - The proconsul Gaius Egnatius was poisoned in Macedonia, the Romans will be decimating the province.

World – The Consul G. Claudius Pulcher was killed fighting the Salassi. This shows that we can defeat the Romans.
07-08 Disappearance of a Major NPC Local – The merchant Jansilius has not returned from his latest trip to the silver mines. His creditors are happy, his wife needs him or at least his treasure to be recovered.

Regional – Aurelius Paileos, Archon of Apollonia has disappeared. They surprised and slew his doppelganger during a meeting of the Boule.

World – Mithridates of Parthia was snatched from his saddle by a roc and borne away towards Antioch.
09-10 Earthquake Local – The earth trembles and shakes. an important building/section of the town wall collapses or is damaged

Regional - Rumor of an earthquake in the province. Heavy damage to a major town, fortification or temple

World - Rumor of an earthquake in a far away land. A major city such as Antioch, Rome or Alexandria has been completely leveled.
11-14 Embassy Arrives Local – Lactitius, the petty king of Scodra has received an embassy from the Pannonians. The Roman proconsul would pay much gold to know what is discussed at the banquet.

Regional – The Bosporan cities have sent an embassy to the proconsul asking for an alliance against the Scythians. A new legion will be raised and vast numbers of auxiliaries will be conscripted and forced to fight.

World – Menander of Bactria has offered a force of 1000 elephants to the Romans for a war on the Seleucids.
15-16 Epidemic Local - Food animals are dying by the score. A witches curse is suspected or the plague carts rumble through the streets to the cry of "Bring out your dead!"

Regional - Rumor of epidemic in province. The siege of the rebel fortress had to be abandoned due to half the army having running bowels

World - Rumor of epidemic in far away land. sailors report that the dead lie in heaps on the docks of Syracuse.
17-18 Famine Local/Regional – No rain for weeks has dried up the crops. Food prices double.

World – The Nile failed to flood this year. The Egyptian's dead from starvation clog the Canoptic mouth of the Delta.
19-22 Fire Local - A fire breaks out in the inn the party is staying at or in the temple they need to get healing from.

Regional - Rumor of a fire in the province. Half the capital was destroyed or the governor's house was set on fire by parties unknown.

World - Rumor of fire in a far away land. The library in Alexandria was burned or Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
23-28 Flights of Birds Local – A flock of crows flew three times between the castle and the forest, a sure sign that hill giants will be attacking.

Regional – Seven black swans were seen on Lake Ohrid, just before the plague struck in Lychidnus

World – A white roc was seen circling Csetiphon indicating Zeus's approal for the new emperor.
29-30 Flooding Local – Flood. Heavy rains have submerged local fords, all traffic must cross by the bridge and they've increased the toll.

Regional - The Aous flooded, destroying half a dozen ships in the harbor at Apollonia.

World – a great flood on the Euphrates has destroyed Babylon.
31-36 Introduction of a New NPC Local – A new mage has appeared, calling herself Frongurisis She is staying at the Key and Bolt.

Regional – The proconsul has been recalled for corruption, The new proconsul is M. Caecillius Luscinus.

World – A man calling himself Philip Alexander claims that Alexander IV went into hiding after Roxana's assassination and that Alexander IV was his direct ancestor; therefore he is Alexander the Great's true heir. He is in Pergamum trying to raise support to claim his inheritance
37-38 Landslide Local - A landslide blocked the trail to the dwarf mines. A notable merchant was caught in it, at least a 1000 GP worth of goods has been buried.

Regional – A landslide destroyed a section of the Via Egnatia in the mountains, hundreds of slaves were killed.

World – The Oracle at Didymas has been buried by a landslide at Miletas
39-42 Major Theft Local – A jeweled torque was stolen from the palace. The gates have been locked until it is found, known and suspected thieves are being put to the question.

Regional – A magical mirror used by Romans to observe the province has been stolen. A large reward has been offered.

World – Alexander's mummy has been stolen from the Ptolomey's.
43-46 Major Treasure Found Local - “The Free Roamers” adventuring party returned with almost 4000 in gold from their last foray.

Regional – The Miridita Dwarves claim to have uncovered a load of mithril ore.

World – A mercenary in the Troad claims to have found the Spear of Achilles
47-50 Meteor/Lightning Strike Local -The gods are furious at our turning to foreign gods. A meteor struck a noted landmark. All foreigners must pay 10% of their wealth or be expelled for a week.

Regional – Lightning struck a ship entering the harbor at Corcyra. The crew threw the captain overboard immediately, rather than face Zeus' wrath. The captain managed to swim to land.

World – A seaman tells the tale that when approaching Alexandria in a storm, the rain had put out the light of Pharos, but the crew prayed and made a sacrifice. The gods responded by sending a thunderbolt down to rekindle Pharos.
51-58 Meteorite Found Local/Regional – a farmer found the still smoking remains of a thunderbolt in his field and will be selling it to the highest bidder in Epidamnus next week. Any weapon made from it is sure to be magical.

World – A huge thunderbolt was found in Syria, Didotus Tryphon is having weapons and armor made out of it for an entire legion.
59-64 Monster Appears Local – A group of ogres has taken up residence near the falls and are charging tolls on merchants.

Regional – Merchants from Lissus report hunters have found many animals turned to stone on Mons Uscania. A basilisk is suspected.

World – The Gauls have made a pact with a great dragon who will lead them on a war of conquest.
65-70 Mutant Birth Local – A five legged goat was born to a flock. A local hermit woman has been charged and will be stoned as a witch.

Regional – A black two headed calf has been found and is being taken to the Necromanteion to be sacrificed to Hades.

World – One of the wives of the Scythian king has given birth to a child with the head of a viper that they are worshipping as a god.
71-73 Partial Lunar Eclipse Local /Regional – A shadow crosses the moon. Hecate is roaming the lands and must be sacrificed to, donate 5% of your wealth.

World – A shadow crossed the moon in Sicily and all of the grain stores filled with rats.
74-76 Partial Solar Eclipse Local/Regional – A shadow crossed the sun. The Basilius decrees that no music may be played for one week until Apollo is propitiated.

World – A shadow crossed the sun during a battle between Ptolomey and Didotus Tryphon in Coleo-Syria, all the soldiers threw down their arms and ran on both sides.
77-84 Shooting Stars/Meteor Shower Local/Regional – Shooting stars were seen in the area. They are the passage of the gods assuming avatars to walk among us. If you can identify one these avatars, they will give you the key to immortality.

World – A meteor shower was seen in Rome, they expelled all astrologers from Italy, many of whom have taken refuge in Epirus Nova
85-92 Strange Object Found Local – A hunter brings in a strange circular device with a needle that always point in one direction, no matter how you turn it. He'll sell it for a price.

Regional – A traveler showed up in Apollonia bearing a set of strange frog like statues with octopus like heads.

World – The library at Alexandria has a strange suit of armor with an unbreakable crystal helmet.
93-94 Total Eclipse of the Sun Local/Regional – The sky darkens and the stars appear. The gods are displeased. The Basilieus orders all foreigners to tithe 25% of their possessions or be expelled from town for a month.

World – The sun was blotted from the sky on Rome, showing that the gods have turned away and the Republic will soon fall.
95-96 Total Lunar Eclipse Local/Regional – Artemis blots out the light of the moon completely. No hunting is allowed until she is propitiated. Donate 5% of your wealth.

World – The moon was blotted from the sky in Alexandria. The inhabitants lit torches to bring it back. The resulting fire burned half the city and ships in the harbors.
97-100 War Local - A large force of humanoids is approaching, all free men are required to muster at the East Gate in two days.

Regional - Rumor of war in the province. The governor is hiring mercenaries, the Scythians are going to attack or a coalition of Illyrian tribes

World - Rumor of war in a far away land. Not just the Seleucids and Ptolomey are fighting, but the Seleucids have replaced their elephants with dragons or Ptolomey has resurrected Alexander to lead the army.

Now, I'm ready to start solo play.

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