Tongues Wag In Rethmar

I’ve been adding depth and colour to the Realms for decades, and from 1986 on, have been joined by an army of talented folk making the Realms richer and deeper. Sometimes we’re guided by a big, overarching story or adventure we’re telling, and sometimes we’re filling in little spots on the map by hanging adventure hooks on them, like an angler adding hooks and lures to his or her hat, to have ready. Rethmar is one of the latter, and it’s time to beef up Rethmar’s share of one of the best ways of imparting adventure hooks to roleplayers: its Current Clack (local current news, rumors, and gossip).

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Last time, I mentioned two ‘big’ external rumors (that is, widespread stuff happening across the Realms outside Rethmar, that Rethmarri believe is about to descend on their heads soon). So this time, let’s add the smaller, closer-to-home stuff: local gossip.

Warning: piling all of these rumors up in a heap will make any place sound like a throbbing soap opera sin-sex-and-sedition cesspit (which Rethmar may well be, but every place has a veneer of public “Oh, such things can’t happen here!” respectability, no matter how thin or fictitious).

  • There’s some sort of furious family feud unfolding behind closed doors in the Tashur family, owners of Tashur’s Bakery and the popular sunup-to-sundown eatery Full Platters. It seems fat and amiable patriarch Wundras Tashur has discovered his young and vivacious wife Raedaerla is still consorting with three lovers (and who are they, exactly? All successful local shopkeepers or traders married to others, but which three?) she had before marriage—and Raedaerla has discovered that Wundras has been cooking the books to conceal the costs of paying for his drinking problem. And may have even sold a secretly share of the bakery to a mysterious outlander in return for a bailout that seems to have come with strings attached. As in, Wundras is being blackmailed by his new silent business partner to hide this contraband and that fugitive from justice in some of the local homes he’s quietly been buying, renovating, and renting out to gain a stable side income. All members of the large four-generation family are taking sides, and shifting sides as they learn more and more of what’s been going on, and the hurled objects and snarling fights are becoming more frequent, not tailing off.
  • A dead body was recently discovered at the bottom of a well belonging to a local business (which one? Have we all unwittingly been drinking from it?), but the whole thing was hushed up, and the body moved, before the Marmaces found it. It was a recent murder, the victim having been bashed over the head and tossed down the well to drown with their hands tied behind their back, and the victim was a wealthy woman from Sembia traveling with a caravan. Her family departed Rethmar without a word and without her, so they were obviously in on it, but who were they? Does anyone remember? And some are saying she was a Rethmar girl, who left Rethmar for Sembia decades ago—so what was her name when she lived here? And did the owners of the well have a hand in her demise? (How could they not, with the well being in their cellar, under their busy home?)
  • Somewhere in town, there’s a fortune in gold, well hidden. How? Well, it’s been melted and pressed into thin sheets stuck to walls (and then plastered over), or is it floors (then covered with flagstones or tiles or boards)? No, I’ve heard it’s a roof (and then shingled or tiled or thatched over). But where? I’ve heard it’s that house. No, no, it’s that one, over there! But Shalus swears it’s the tall house with the sharp-pitched roof, where the three streets meet. But wherever it is, there’s definitely wagonloads of stolen Sembian gold (no, it was from Cormyr) hidden somewhere here in Rethmar.
  • The true King of Cormyr is living right here in Rethmar! But, mind you, he knows not his heritage. Long, long ago, when the Turcassan noble family saw things darkening for them, some of them foresaw their exile and being stripped of all lands and titles, and schemed ahead of time for a revenge and hopefully a way back into Cormyr and to power (as regents): they arranged for the kidnapping of an infant royal, with a lookalike babe of common birth swapped into its place, and spirited the stolen Obarskyr away…to here! Generations have passed since then, and if any Turcassans are still dwelling amongst us, they’re well hidden indeed under other names and lowly everyday occupations, and the babe raised as one of their own and ignorant of his royal blood has married and had children and died, and they’ve had children, and so on—but the royal bloodline has continued unbroken, though those through whose veins it runs know not! That’s why we get so many odd-looking and too-curious visitors to our town, wandering about asking questions; they’re agents sent by the War Wizards of Cormyr—or various scheming noble houses; scheming is all nobles seem to know how to do!—to either bring home the royal heir, or make sure the hidden royal line has died out.
  • Years ago, the priests of Gond created a mechanical Wardragon, a great serpent-like construct of metal scales, with a lashing many-spiked bludgeoning tail, a head that could breathe fire, and eyes and talons that incorporated deadly magic items that could lash out in battle with all manner of beams and conical rays and explosive bursts. But before they could deploy it in battle to demonstrate what Gond’s Faithful could do, so they could hire it out to kings and would-be usurpers to wage war while swelling the holy coffers of Gond, the Wardragon was stolen in a daring raid, and pieces of it scattered all over Faerûn and hidden. The priests of Gond have been trying to find them ever since. Well, a dozen of the strangest magic items that were fitted into the talons were hidden here in Rethmar. And they’re still here, though adventurers sent by the priests of Gond, and more often daring young priests of Gond themselves, wanting to impress their superiors and be rewarded by higher temple rank, come here often to try to find them. And after all this time, they must be getting pretty close…
Those are a beginning. If I was to DM a campaign set in Rethmar, I’d add another eight smaller, sillier, and false bits of juicy ongoing gossip to add ‘noise’ to them, before play got going.

Over the more than fifty years I’ve been working on the Realms (pretty much daily), this is one of the many, many ways Realmslore has been created. You might call this the “a perceived need in my lap, dealt with more or less intuitively” method, and it’s what I’ve settled into for most on-the-fly Dungeon Mastering lore needs, as opposed to sitting down to design a formal, official Realms release. I’m just one Dungeon Master among hundreds of thousands, who do the same for their play groups.

It is, I firmly assert, among the noblest of callings.
 
Ed Greenwood

Comments

I always thought the "Current Clack" was among the most fun features of any Realms article or product -- along with the list of rumors from the original Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet modules.

It's a technique I use in my own typically sandbox campaigns: start in a small place, seed with some rumors (some wild, some mundane, some true, some false), see where the PCs follow and drop a few breadcrumbs of rumors every few sessions. I generally have three adventure options "behind the curtain" fed by the rumors, and several intersect, so no matter what rumors the PCs follow up I know what direction to build in.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Rethmar, eh? I believe that's one of the suggested settings of the excellent d20 Red Hand minicampaign.

(Didn't the area also inspire the 4E Nethir Valley geography?)
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Back in the day, new supplements consisted primarily of lore and hooks like these. Although they have scaled back a bit from the 3e/4e heyday, the idea that new publications (other than adventures) have to be full of new mechanics continues in 5e.

Current Clack was a perfect example of something that would never grow old, and yet also not alter the nature of the setting itself, unlike the constant addition of new races, classes, and mechanics. I much prefer the idea that the game itself shouldn't change as much as the stories we tell within it.

Variations in races/classes were much better suited for helping to define the different settings, and is something that has been lost in the homogonization approach of the last couple of decades.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
I always thought the "Current Clack" was among the most fun features of any Realms article or product -- along with the list of rumors from the original Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet modules.

It's a technique I use in my own typically sandbox campaigns: start in a small place, seed with some rumors (some wild, some mundane, some true, some false), see where the PCs follow and drop a few breadcrumbs of rumors every few sessions. I generally have three adventure options "behind the curtain" fed by the rumors, and several intersect, so no matter what rumors the PCs follow up I know what direction to build in.
Same. I always start with a big list of rumours, many seeded from the several possible upcoming adventures, others just about the starting place, etc. I even have characters start knowing some and hand them out along with PC sheets. Sometimes they get opposing views of same rumour. Lots of fun. I usually do something like a Streetwise (CHA) roll and they start with 1 + another for every 5 on the roll ;)
 

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