Gossiping Ladies – a house-rule about gossiping

This started out as a Rule of the Day and was afterwards changed to a house rule due to its popularity. The rule is being used in the wizard-campaign:

The scenario takes place in the Principalities of Glantri consisting of several principalities ruled by wizard-princes. Only wizards can become nobles, and they do not tolerate divine spellcasters – they are burned at the stake – but when it comes to arcane magic, no sort is forbidden.

In the capital, Glantri City (formerly Braejr, but when the principalities were formed under Lord Alexander Glantri, it was renamed in his honor), is the Great School of Magic, which is one of the great centers of learning in the Known World (ofcourse this claim is staunchly opposed by Glantri’s rival, The Alphatian Empire).

The campaign takes mostly place in the city of Glantri around The Great School of Magic with a few excursions to other parts of the Principalities or the Outer Planes.

Fashion, status, membership of secret societies, noble rank are all important elements of the modern Glantrian, and therefore it is important for our characters, how their reputation is. Rumors play a role in all of this. So here are the rules:

Gossiping Ladies-rule

  • Each player creates one or more gossiper: housewife, nanny, maid or the equivalent. With creation is ment name, profession and a few words on her background.
  • There can only be two gossipers present in each scene (the same two players can’t play two scenes in row)
  • Each scene must take place in a new place (at the well, the market, by the kitchen door, the sewing room etc.)
  • One or more gossiping-scenes can be played in between the regular scenes
  • In a gossiping-scene the gossipers can talk about an existing rumor, introduce a new rumor or combine two rumors
  • Whenever a scene is played both players earn 50 XP (this rule were only applied during the first session – the characters were 3rd lv at the time)

This is how it works

The players take turns to gossip about what is happening in the city. It is assumed, that whatever they talk about is public knowledge and also knowledge that the main characters posses, even though we don’t know how they exactly got the knowledge (it was picked up off-stage).

GM can introduce rumors in the scenario by using his own gossipers. Usually we do it by me setting a gossiping-scene with one of the players, and then that player often chooses to set the next gossiping-scene right after and continues to gossip about the rumor and so on. News rumors are added, old ones are modified etc.

Most of the time I don’t introduce rumors at all. The scenes are played solely by the players and I don’t interfere at all. It is not uncommon, that three or four gossiping-scenes are played in row. The first at the market, the next outside the butchers, then down by the well etc.

Now here’s the trick

The players use these scenes to comment on the play and what is happening in the fiction. The commenting is useful as a GM since it gives me more tools to challenge the PCs with. Additionally the rumors add to the reality of the characters. So if a rumor runs rampant about one the PCs, it does mean that this is part of how people view that PC and the player needs to practice some rumor-control. Sometimes the players adds rumors about themselves, and at other times they add rumors about the other PCs.

In one case a PC was attacked by a werewolf, while he was barefoot. The fight began inside, but soon continued outside on a frozen channel. The PC chased the werewolf off and returned inside, since it was freezing outside. Later the event was commented upon by the gossipers, but quickly the events were changed from battling the werewolf while barefoot to running about the channels naked. Later the PC had to answer some concerned guilders about these rumors, since they could not use a spokesperson known to run about naked.

To sum up

The players takes turn playing gossiping-scenes (often 1-4 scenes) in between regular play. Each scene is brief and is generally completely under the players control.

The players gossips about what is happening in the fiction. They can introduce new rumors or gossip about existing rumors, and they use this to comment on what is happening in the fiction. They can speculate, add or adjust what happened – or at least is publicly perceived what happened.

Everything gossiped is public knowledge, and sometimes the PCs need to react to the knowledge. For the GM the scenes can be used to introduce specific rumors.

It can be an advantage with some sort reward for the first session to temp the players to use the mechanic.

After out first session the players were so pleased with the rules, that they asked to keep the rules, and so we did. The gossipers sometimes appear in the background of events, where the PCs are present. Some of them might be in the kitchen, where the PCs are dining or among the staff at a galla.

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About Morten Greis

Historiker, etnolog, brygger, fægter, rollespiller, science fiction entusiast History and Ethnology, brewer and fencer, roleplayer and science fiction enthusiast View all posts by Morten Greis

2 responses to “Gossiping Ladies – a house-rule about gossiping

  • wrathofzombie

    Very interesting idea:) lol. I can see the potential here.

    • Morten Greis

      I can assure you, it is quite fun. 🙂

      We also used a variation of the rule, where all the PC’s were at a grand ball, where we interspersed the gossiping-scenes with the events at the ball, where the gossip-scenes took place the day after and reflected what had happened at the ball. Sometimes this also resulted in the players ‘predicting’ events at the ball, which they then tried to bring about with their characters.

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