- Raven Magill
Instant Roleplay, Just Add Rumors
As a DM I know that there are a lot of satisfying things about cooperative storytelling, but near the top of that list is finding ways for an adventuring party to connect with each other. Backstory and pre-established connections can be a great place to start, but if you've got a little chaos goblin pulling the strings in your brain, and a craving for light-hearted drama, then might I suggest rumor-mongering?
Step 1: Have your players write down 3 (or 4, or 5) rumors that might be heard about them along the grapevine. You can speculate that one or more must be true, or one or more must be completely false - whatever you like.
Step 2: Re-distribute those rumors to the adventuring party. Some characters will receive true rumors, others will receive false, but all the players will have some preconceived notion about the other people in their party.
Step 3: Enjoy!
What I like about this trick is that it's not only a fun way to get some interesting roleplay started between players, it's also a great way to breathe more life into a character and force your players to think about how the world sees them, and how they present themselves to the world.
Let's say that you're not the DM, but you're a player, and you're starting to work on your character's backstory. When you're fresh out of ideas, pick a rumor from one of the tables below - or grab a trusty d10 and keep it random - then start building from there. Many of the rumors below require you to fill in a few blanks, so you can weave this new information into whatever backstory you have already started, or tend the new seed and see what grows.
You'll find two tables below. One populated with "serious" rumors, intended for mature gaming tables (i.e. no kids) - while the other leans toward sillier rumors, and are intended to be appropriate for people of all ages, but especially for younger adventuring parties. Which rumors are ultimately true and false for your character is entirely up to you, though some will be easier than others to designate as false.
Rumors of the Serious Variety
The fall of your family's good name and standing was entirely your fault
You died once
You saved (insert town name here) from destruction
You were born with wings, and still bear the scars of their removal
You survived an encounter with (insert fearsome creature here - ex. pit fiend, illithid, dracolich, etc.)
You foiled an assassination attempt on (insert famous figure here)
There's a bounty on your head in (insert obscure town/city here)
You created (or discovered) the hallucinogen/stimulant that's currently very popular on the streets
You were raised in a doomsday cult
None of the children born in your last marriage were your own
You once belonged to a dragon's hoard, prized for your (insert gift here - ex. voice, wit, physique, etc.)
One of your parents was an infamous necromancer
A precious and powerful artifact is in your posession
You're the illegitimate child of (insert person of interest here - ex, a monarch, a devil, a demi-god, etc.)
You were blessed by a god when you experienced a miracle within the bounds of their temple
You inherited a great fortune from a distant relative
You're connected to a political conspiracy (work with your DM on this one)
You betrayed your last employer (maybe you worked for a baker, maybe you worked for the Queen of Thieves)
You're a spy for an opposing/untrusted faction (work with your DM on this one, too)
You have a history of raking up debts, skpping town, raking up more debts, skipping town, wash, rinse, repeat
Rumors of the Silly Variety
You were abducted as a child by the fey, but promptly returned. They still send a nice gift to you each year on your abduction day.
You have an identical twin who has been doing incredible (or terrible) deeds around the world, and they're giving you all the credit
You're the "chosen one" according to the psychic goat from your village
You're the heir to a very successful empire of shops that sell magical pets
You're worshipped by a village of kobolds (or goblins, gnolls, etc.)
You're an undefeated competitive eater
In the past, you were the proprietor of a famous mimic farm
You and your family belong to one side of a ferasome amusement park rivalry
You've never paid full price for anything
You've won the local chilli cook-off the past 3 years in a row
You were raised by owlbears
You're immortal. Timeless. Like Keanu Reeves or Taliesin Jaffe
You won a private island in a card game with a famous pirate
You have a phobia of (insert rare race or creature here - ex. Tieflings, Faeries, Genasi, etc)
You founded a failed school for highly intelligent (insert creature here - ex. oozes)
You're able to transform into any fruit at will
You have an encyclopedic knowledge of all items that are not usable as spell components.
You keep bees. Classic beekeeper.
You once had a flourishing career as a pet portrait artist
You are 3x the age people think you are.
If you happen to know where this trick first originated, please let me know so I can properly credit the brilliant person. I can't remember where I saw it first, and a bit of googling revealed no clear source, but here are some other sightings:
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