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A Dozen Troubling Rumors
A Dozen
Requires the use of the
Dungeons & Dragons ®
Player’s Handbook
Troubling Rumors
by Philip Reed
A roleplaying session, to be truly interesting and enjoyable,
requires the DM be ready to drop the smallest detail into place
just as if it had always been there and the campaign world were
a real, living place. While I consider many of my PDFs well-
suited to providing DMs with lots of fine details that go a long
way toward bringing a campaign alive there is one area I feel
has been neglected by myself and other publishers: background
By background noise I am referring to inconsequential
events, characters, and locations that all work together to add
another layer of depth to any campaign. In short, anything that
can be used in descriptive text – and in discussions between
PCs and NPCs – so that the players get the sense that the cam-
paign is larger than them; while the adventurers may have
recently vanquished the horrible minotaur of the southern caves
a nobleman was accosted by thieves on the north road and One-
Thumb Arnold – the local rat catcher – took ill with cackle fever
and the area now faces a growing rat problem.
With this in mind I present A Dozen Troubling Rumors. I
hope that you find a way to work at least a few of these rumors
into your D20 System fantasy campaign.
long as they follow the open game license (see the end of this
About the Author
Philip Reed has been working professionally in the roleplay-
ing game industry since 1995. In that time he has worked for
such companies as West End Games, Privateer Press, and spent
almost five years as an employee of Steve Jackson Games.
Today Philip spends his days at home running Ronin Arts, writ-
ing and designing new games, and reading whatever books
interest him at the time. To learn more about Philip Reed –
and Ronin Arts – please visit w w w. p h i l i p j re e d . c o m
a n d
www.roninarts.com .
This PDF is intended solely for the DM. Players who suspect
that their DM may have a copy of this PDF would do best to
close this file now and find something else to peruse.
F o r m o re PDFs please visit www. p h i l i p j re e d . c o m
and www. r p g n o w. c o m .
Open Game Content
All of the text of this free PDF is presented as open game
content. While this means absolutely nothing to your campaign
it does give other publishers permission to use this material as
A Dozen Troubling Rumors is copyright © 2004 Philip Reed. All text in this
book is designated as open game content. You may not distribute this PDF
without permission of the author. Dungeons & Dragons® and Wizards of the
Coast® are Registered Trademarks of Wizards of the Coast and are used with
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A Dozen Troubling Rumors
The rumors in this PDF may be sprinkled liberally in a cam-
paign either as written or modified by the DM. DMs should
always be prepared for the situations, characters, and locations
discussed in any rumor to leap to the forefront of the game ses-
sion; you never know what bit of information the players will
grab and run with.
When in any tavern, inn, coffeehouse, or similar establish-
ment where men and women gather, select a rumor (or two or
three) from this PDF and have each player make a Gather
Information check and then check the roll against the chosen
Each rumor follows the format:
for a week.”
Source: Edgar Ellis [male human, Com1, 2 hp], a young
dock worker who walks with a limp and is bald. Ellis dresses in
filthy breeches and tunic and wears wooden clogs.
Successful Gather Information Check: “What I’ve heard is
that Lord Marlborough was tricked by those filthy dwarven
traders that were terrorizing the market last week. Marlborough
says that he’ll pay 50 gold to any man brave enough to confront
the dwarves and take his father’s sword from those foul
Source: Harold Bonelli [male human, Exp 3, 10 hp], owner
of Bonelli’s Wine Shop. Harold Bonelli dresses in a threadbare
supertunic that was, at one time, quite elegant and dark breech-
es with leather-soled booties.
Follow Up: The dwarven caravan consists of 20 dwarves – a
mixture of merchants and guards (exact strength should be
determined based on the strength of the PCs) – assorted pack
mules, and a wagon. The dwarves recognized Marlborough’s
sword as one forged hundreds of years ago in their own kingdom
and offered Marlborough 100 gp for the weapon (which is easi-
ly worth 500 gp). Marlborough foolishly accepted the proposal
and just yesterday learned of the sword’s true worth. The
dwarves are not willing to give up the sword without a fight but
if they appear to be losing the battle – or the minute any of their
number is slain – they will surrender and attempt to escape with
their lives.
Rumor Heading (Gather Information DC)
Failed Gather Information C h e c k : If the check is failed this is
what the PCs hear. Asection of this entry is to be read aloud to the
players though many DMs will choose to paraphrase the informa-
tion (especially if any of it needs to be tweaked to better fit the
campaign). This entry also discloses the source of the rumor.
Successful Gather Information C h e c k : If the check succeeds
this is what the PCs hear. Again, this entry is intended to be read
aloud and gives the source of the rumor.
Follow Up: If the PCs choose to investigate the rumor this
information will help the DM to prepare for what could happen.
And now, with introductory text and instructions out of the
way, let us dive into the meat of this short PDF.
A Handsome Reward is Offered for . . .
(DC 10)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Didja hear, mate? Old
man Marlborough’s lost his dad’s sword and is offerin’ 100 gold
to any man that can return it. I hear Marlborough’s went and sold
it to them dwarves that were tradin’ in the market last week and
now ‘es tryin’ ta fool his insurance men. I reckon ain’t a one a
us gonna get no reward for a sword that’s been in dwarf hands
The Platinum Tower Serves Warm, Foul
Tasting Ale that Tastes like Piss (DC 11)
Failed Gather Information Check: “You don’t wanta go in
there, lad. That joint serves nothing but the worst drinks and
their ale is no better than warm dog piss. No, a wealthy fella
such as you would be a lot happier at The Serpent’s Tongue and
it’s not too far a walk. You’ve never been? Well, for a few cop-
per I could lead ya there meself.”
Source: Button Hughes (male human, Com3, 6 hp], a man in
his 50s wearing an old robe and sandals.
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A Dozen Troubling Rumors
Successful Gather Information Check: “Be wary of any
man or woman directing you to an establishment known as
“The Serpent’s Tongue.” No such place exists in the city and
many a fine man has found himself surrounded by a gang of
thieves after following a lonely beggar to this imagined tavern.”
Source: Any member of the city watch.
Follow Up: PCs that fail their Gather Information check and
choose to follow Button Hughes will find themselves surround-
ed by a gang of thieves (3 for each member of the party). The
thieves are not brave and will run at the first sign of blood on
any of their own.
Follow Up: One-Thumb Arnold is, in fact, hiding in his sis-
t e r’s cellar. Hundreds of rats are loose in the city and the “rat
catcher” is afraid he’ll be identified as a coward if it gets out
that he’s too scared to face such a large number of rats. W h i l e
these are simply ordinary rats, many of them are carrying dis-
ease and if they’re not wiped out quickly the city will face a
horrible epidemic.
Fighter Coming out of Retirement (DC 12)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Rochester’s gonna
fight Cain! I seen the han’bill meself just yesterday when I was
at the Goose and Gallop. Whata fight it’s gonna be! I’m headed
out to beg me a few coppers so I can see the fight. Or maybe
one so noble as yerself might give this old soldier a handful of
coppers so he can see the fight and have a bowlful ‘a beer?”
Source: Johnson [male human, War6, 33 hp], a one-armed
beggar. Years ago Karl Johnson was an elite soldier in the army
of a neighboring country. An unfortunate accident lost Karl his
arm and his will to fight. For over 30 years now Karl has moved
from city to town to village, all the while begging for his scraps
of bread and the occasional drink.
Successful Gather Information Check: “I’ve already got
my ticket. Cost 2 gold but it’s worth it to see Cain come out of
retirement and whoop this young upstart Rochester. I seen Cain
fight a decade ago when he was in his prime and it was an
excellent battle. If you hurry over to Evans’ Tavern you can get
in on the wagering; Evans is giving 10:1 odds on Cain.”
Source: Rynn Acha [male dwarf, Exp5, 18 hp], a weapon-
smith well respected and admired in the city.
Follow Up: The fight takes place and as long as there is no
interference or foul play Cain does, indeed, win the bout. Of
course, several unsavory individuals will go out of their way to
influence the fight so it may just be up to the PCs to halt any
wrongdoing (or, if I know players, it’s just as likely they’ll have
their own wrongdoings to orchestrate).
One-Thumb Arnold is Sick (DC 12)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Arnold got them
shakes from spendin’ too much time with the rats. Now we’re
all a gonna pay for it since them rats are buggerin’ each other
so fast that there’s a million of ‘em under us right now. Tr u t h !
Me “friend” Jacob, he’s the one works in the sewers, barely
escaped from them last night.”
S o u rce: Harriet (the Whore) [female human, Com 1, 1 hp],
an ugly young woman that gets by in ways best not mentioned
in the presence of one of such noble stature as yourself.
Successful Gather Information Check: “ O n e - T h u m b
A r n o l d ’s been a plague on this city ever since he took up the
rat catcher practice five years ago. He’s as dishonest as they
come and the rats he catches are his very own! See, he trains
‘em and sets ‘em loose in a shop then comes along and “catch-
es” them. Now A r n o l d ’s gone and bred too many of them rats
and they’re out of his control. I hear he’s hiding in the cellar of
his sister’s house and letting on some story that he’s sick. A i n ’t
so. He’s just scared to face the mess he’s made.”
S o u rce: Michael the Bloodless [male half-elf, Clr2, 11 hp],
adventurous cleric of war. Reddish hair, fair complexion,
dressed in robes and armed with a mace.
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A Dozen Troubling Rumors
The Gentleman Bryce has been
Assaulted by Thieves (DC 12)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Hatcher took it on his-
self to check his lands north a the city last week and got what
was comin’ to him. Dirty thief has been robbin’us common man
blind every day for two score years and it’s time someone laid
inta him. Hell, I’ve thought a doin’the same thing to him meself
ever since my pap lost the horse to that “gentleman.”
Source: Nathan Skrogs [male human, Com2, 5 hp], a middle-
aged man with a receding hairline and dressed in tattered robes.
Skrogs is barefoot, armed with a club, and sometimes works in
Smithfield’s Chocolate House (see A Dozen Documents and
Papers or www.philipjreed.com ) as a rough.
Successful Gather Information Check: “Yes, I heard gen-
tleman Martin was attacked a few weeks ago. What my sister
told me – and she’s a friend of Miriam Martin – is that the good
gentleman was returning from his cottage in the country when a
gang of roughs ambushed him and his bodyguard. Both barely
escaped with their lives and now Martin’s looking for some gen-
tlemen to accompany him on an expedition to exact revenge on
those terrible thugs.”
Source: Green Robinson [male human, Exp4, 15 hp], a
wealthy draper (a draper is a merchant that specializes in cloth)
who frequently sells his wares from the back of a well-kept
Follow Up: Hatcher Martin is indeed looking to hire men so
that he may punish those who attacked him. Martin will pay 10
gold to any man that will ride with him early next week. The
thieves – six in total – have already heard that Martin is looking
to punish them and have fled to a nearby city or large town.
Once Martin determines that the rogues have fled the area he’ll
offer a reward of 100 gold to any man who brings him the leader
of the thieves – dead or alive.
That Whore’s Got What’s Coming to Her
(DC 14)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Mary sure was a pretty
whore but she and Jack Hall were up to no good running that
buttock and twang. The only sad thing is she’s gonna swing from
a rope before anyone gets the secret of where her and Jack had
their booty hid. My wife – she’s a maid for that scoundrel mon-
eylender Matthews – heard Matthews talking about the hun-
dreds of gold and jewels Mary and Jack had hidden away.”
NOTE: A “buttock and twang” is an old practice in which a
prostitute and thug would work together to lure unsuspecting
gentlemen to dark alleys where they would relieve the man of
his possessions.
Source: Ageb Brown [male human, Com3, 6 hp], a pawn-
broker dressed in clean tunic and breeches. Brown is a fanatic
when it comes to cleanliness.
Successful Gather Information Check: “Yeah, I’ve heard
the talk about that whore and her man having wealth hidden
somewhere in the city. What I heard, from Jack Hall’s mum no
less, is that the pair didn’t have a cent to their name. Everything
the stole went to Jack’s habit with the drugs and it’s that awful
addiction that got him killed.”
S o u rce: Roger Hunt [male human, Exp6, 21 hp], c h a n d l e r
(a candle maker) who runs The Moon’s Candles, a small shop
just outside of the common market. Hunt is tall, lean, and in his
40s. He dresses well for a man of middle class and is a
w i d o w e r.
Follow Up: There is no money or riches to be found. Player
characters that investigate the matter will learn that Jack was
killed when one of their marks got the best of him and Mary
nearly died in the struggle. She was grabbed by the town watch
and instantly sentenced to death.
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A Dozen Troubling Rumors
A Nearby Dungeon (DC 14)
Failed Gather Information Check: “It’s just a day to the
south by foot, seen it with me own eyes. We were there doing
some mining for the city when we uncovered the entrance. Some
of our boys went into the dungeon but me and the others would-
n’t have anything to do with it and we fled just as fast as we
could when we heard screams inside the dungeon. You look like
a strong enough warrior. How about I draw you a map to the
dungeon and you give me enough coin for a bottle?”
Source: Wilson the Dirty [male halfing, Com2, 4 hp], a mid-
dle-aged halfing who makes his living digging trenches, out-
houses, cellars – anything that needs dug.
Successful Gather Information Check: “It appears to be a
long-forgotten tomb, probably a few thousand years old. Those
men who were lost inside should have never entered a freshly
uncovered dungeon. The city leaders are just now trying to
decide if they should send men in to investigate the tomb or just
cover it back up with earth and rock. If you’re a man in search
of treasure I’d say you’ve probably got a week before the city
makes their decision and does something. Though who knows
what course of action those fools will decide on.”
Source: Clark Turner [male human, Com5, 10 hp], a barber
who owns a small stall in the common market. Turner has
friends on the city council and is well connected to local events.
Follow Up: If the player characters learn of the dungeon
from Wilson and choose to investigate they’ll quickly find that
their map is worthless. It isn’t that the halfling was trying to
cheat them; just that he isn’t very educated and doesn’t have a
clear idea of where he was working. If the PCs decide to descend
into the dungeon you’ll need a map and the area planned. Any
one or two-level dungeon would do though there’s no reason the
DM couldn’t decide that this is the entrance to some vast, cam-
paign-shattering dungeon complex.
The Dock Laborers will Strike (DC 14)
Failed Gather Information Check: “Strike? That’s a bloody
lie! Me dad’s a dockman and he told me there’s no way they’ll
be strikin’. What I heard is some troublemaker’s goin’ round
tellin’ these strike rumors so the captains will take their ships
and cargo to the south and leave us without.”
Source: Keyhole [male human, Com1, 1 hp] , a boy of about
12. If pressed, Keyhole lets on that his given name is Joshua and
he’s called Keyhole because of his skill opening locked doors.
Successful Gather Information Check: “I can guarantee
there will be a strike in less than a week. For too long the tobac-
co and coffee merchants have been taking advantage of us men
and we’ve had enough. Why, just last month they cut our wages
in half. We’ll see how fat those lousy merchants get when their
merchandise is left rotting on a boat.”
Source: Webb [male human, Com3, 6 hp] , a man in his 30s
dressed in worn clothes and quite sunburned. Webb works as a
dock laborer.
Follow Up: Sure enough, in one week the dock laborers go
on strike. Within days the strike turns bloody as the dock work-
ers clash with scabs and the town watch are called in to put
down the resulting riots. The price of most goods in the city
slowly begins rising, at first by a few copper pieces and then a
few silver pieces. The violence and escalating prices will con-
tinue until the strike is resolved in some manner. Perhaps the
player characters are called upon to assist one side or the other
or, perhaps, by the city council that need men willing to do what
must be done to end the strike.
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