RUMORS FOR D&D
is a great little RPG. As I once wrote in a review, "UA
is, I'll be the first to admit, possessed of some flaws -- but it
such creativity, originality, potential, and brilliance that it
those flaws." Unfortunately, it never caught on in the way it probably
deserved to. (And it probably never will: Too many other games have
stepped in and stolen its stuff over the past decade.)
of the (many) great things about Unknown
Armies, however, was the "What You Hear" section. In the
world of Unknown Armies
all the half-crazed conspiracies and crack-pot theories and urban
legends you've ever heard are true at one level or another, but in a
completely alien to anything you might have expected. "What You Hear"
was basically a rapid-fire conglomeration of one- or two-sentence
rumors that peeled back the mundanities of the world and revealed them
to be something horribly different. They were a distorted lens through
the world could be viewed and used.
The great thing about them was that they
could be used in any number of ways: Disinformation. Intriguing
background detail. Full-fledged adventure seed. Idle chit-chat from a
nervous underworld contact. All kinds of stuff. And all of it
mysterious and enigmatic and awesome.
Circa 2004, a guy named RemyBuron started a thread
on RPGNet for people to post UA-style rumors. Here a couple
no state of Wyoming. I mean, have you ever met anyone from there?
you had been crucified would you ever want to see a cross ever again?
The common symbol of a crucifix actually wards off the power of Christ
rather than invoking it. That most people believe differently is one of
Satan's greatest successes, just above killing a carpenter by nailing
him to a wooden structure.
A few months later I started a thread for UA-Style
Rumors: Dungeons & Dragons.
Recent free-associating resulted in memories of the thread surfacing
out of the deep murk of my brain, and I thought it would be fun to
track the thread down and loot the stuff I had posted in it. When I
did, I was pleasantly pleased to discover that the thread has been
periodically revived over the past several years -- with the most
recent spurt of activity coming just a few weeks ago (and including
someone describing it as the "best
further ado, here are my UA-style rumors for D&D (including a
couple of new ones that never appeared in the thread). Check out the original
thread for lots of good stuff from other people.
Mages were all born centuries ago. In
they're not even human. No, seriously, think about it: Have you ever
known a kid who grew up to be a mage? Nope. All the mages you've ever
known are already adults, and most of them are old. Apprentices? Most
of them are duped slaves. The few who can actually cast spells are
actually archmages. They're just putting on an act to keep up
Dragons aren't really that impressive.
fact, even the biggest of 'em don't grow any bigger than a large dog.
The rest are just bullshit spun by would-be heroes trying to look
Why are there are only nine towns in Ten Towns?
You ever notice how the king is never
without the queen? That's because he's really a living mannequin. The
real king died years ago. If you watch closely, you can see the queen's
fingers twitching the invisible strings.
There's no such thing. The dark elves just live on the other side of
the planet. (Although it's true that you can get there through the
dungeons -- some of them go deep enough, although you have to watch out
for the gravity shift.) And they're not evil. That's just racist elven
propaganda. They don't like anybody without pointy ears and alabaster
skin. They think we're all orcs.
All those monsters who prowl the
They were put there by the king. The court wizard makes 'em, and most
of them are mutated from prisoners. You can see the lights in the
wizard's tower every night from the rituals. Why does he do it? To keep
us commonfolk stuck in the cities and the villages. If we were able to
travel safely and talk
to each other we'd be free of him soon enough.
The gods are a sham. A couple hundred
ago some powerful elven spellcasters set themselves up as "gods". Now
the elves effectively rule the world, and their duped priests don't
even know they're doing it. The dragons know the truth. That's why
Somewhere in the Duchy of Colbane
village. Everybody there is a mind-slave controlled completely by a
Bags of Devouring don't actually
anything. They just transport it to another bag. The most powerful
person in the whole multiverse is the guy who owns the bag all the Bags
of Devouring empty into. I only know this because a friend of mine told
me. I've never seen him again.
Look, you've gotta stop casting fireballs. They're
dangerous. No, seriously, stop laughing. I mean they're dangerous.
There's this dungeon you can't go to any more. It's full of
All the time. Some wizard cast three fireballs in quick
succession and they all kind of... collapsed into each other. Ripped
open a vortice to the Plane of Fire. I used to go delving with a wizard
who was scrying on them at the time. He told me that if it had happened
on the surface it would have wiped out the whole world. Seriously.
Liches? Not really undead. In fact,
them aren't even that powerful. They're posers. I heard that a bunch of
apprentices who couldn't master more than basic weavings cooked up the
whole "lich" thing as a secret society. They used a couple of simple
illusion spells to wow a couple of hick villages and build a rep. Some
adventurers managed to take out a couple and, hyped up on their own
egos, built up the rep of the Liches even more. But now things are
changing: The group is attracting more powerful members. And my friend
Jacob heard some nasty rumors about that coup in Covartain last year.
Something about "lich-ghouls"...
you ever noticed how there are always exactly 6 members in every
adventuring party? That's the number of the Beast. Think about it.
Tell me about it. My friend got hooked
those things. This would have been back before I lost my eye. It got to
the point where he couldn't get through a day without drinking one.
Then it got worse. He had to use more and more powerful cure wounds potions
to get the same kick. He was downing two or three potions every hour.
And then they stopped working altogether. That's when he switched to inflict
wounds. Gods, that's an ugly way to die...
find designing these rumors for D&D particularly interesting:
UA you can just look a the world around you and add a spice of oddness
or magic. But D&D is innately strange and magical. You can't
say, "There's a dungeon with weird stuff in it." Dungeons are supposed to be
filled with weird stuff. Shapeshifters and covens and illusions are all
part of the package. In
order to get that full UA-style punch, therefore, you need to look a
the typical expectations of a D&D campaign and then
invert those expectations. Force 'em to look twice and re-evaluate their preconceptions.
Got an idea for your own UA-style rumor? Hit