Okay, so we now have a comprehensive list of Main Rumours and Background Rumours in Baldur’s Gate. Yet how can we get these into the players hands?
Well, you can do so literally by making props / handouts!
Baldur’s Mouth is a canonical newspaper printed and distributed in Baldur’s Gate. You can find a full write up on pages 186-187 of Descent into Avernus, but essentially it is a widespread distribution carried out by lantern bearers throughout the city.
You can find my issues of Baldur’s Mouth above, as well as the templates to create your own. These templates come from PresentationMagazine.com that I edited.
There is no direct mention of how frequently the newspaper is published. Realistically it is likely not a daily paper, simply because of the logistical and technological demands that would require. However, for our purposes a daily printing makes sense. The player characters aren’t likely to be in Baldur’s Gate for more than a couple of tendays at the most, with some groups maybe not even reaching a full tenday. As such a daily schedule lets you get these into the players’ hands every session.
Initially I gave the players their first issue after their arrival at Basilisk Gate (end of the Journey to Baldur’s Gate). This worked well because they read it during the denouement of the session, but I got the feeling most of it was forgotten other than the broad strokes.
The second I gave at the start of the next session. This totally flopped! They wanted to get back into the game, not spend time reading a newspaper. Plus they hadn’t even played since they read the last one.
The third I gave out during the break we have for dinner in the middle of the session. This I feel worked the best, as the players were still invested in the game, but had time to read it without cutting into the actual session time.
As of writing this article the group are still in Baldur’s Gate, so I am sure there will be some more to come. You can bet I’ll be trying to get them into the players hands for our mid-session break though. I’ll also be trying to change up the content to include more background rumours (see next section).
My suggestion with these newspapers is to combine both Main Rumours and Background Rumours in roughly a 1:2 ratio. This is because the background rumours can take up a lot less space, so you can separate out the rather lengthy main rumours with them. It is also few enough that you aren’t inundating the players with so many background evens that they lose track of what is even happening in the city.
I didn’t do this for my first two issues of the newspaper. I hadn’t really looked into the background rumours yet and just focused on the main rumours instead. This had the downside of there just being large columns of text on the same topic.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the players aren’t likely to remember all, or even most of what you write. They’ll remember the headlines, the broad topics, but not the details. Yet this matters less than you think!
As long as the players remember the key information, they will always have the handouts to look back over. This is one of the key advantages to props and handouts compared to giving out information via in character dialogue, exposition or narration.
Tailor the newspaper to your campaign
I cannot stress enough how much better these newspapers will be if you base their content on what happens in your campaign. Did your players do something heroic (or horrific) in Baldur’s Gate? Put it in Baldur’s Mouth!
The obvious beats to hit on are;
- Helping or hindering the relations between Elturian refugees and the Baldurians.
- Solving the Murders in Outer and Lower City and stopping the Dead Three Cultists in Hamhock Slaughterhouse, the Poisoned Poseidon and the Bathhouse.
- Helping Liara Portyr’s claim on the title of Marshal of the Flaming Fists.
- Attempting to prevent Duke Portyr’s assassination.
- Dealing with the Vanthampur’s.
- The events at Stormshore Warehouse (Upcoming article 1.6 Assault on Stormshore Warehouse)
- Helping Duke Stelmane with her ‘stalker’ (Upcoming article 1.7 The Struggles of Stelmane)
So think about what the player characters actually did and how the people of Baldur’s Gate would view that.
Make sure you consider how it appears from the outside as well… just because the characters struggled and nearly died 3 times in the Dungeon of the Dead Three no one else would know that. As far as everyone else is concerned they went down there and defeated an an entire cult in a single day, emerging as mighty heroes.
Conversely their attempts to scout out the Vanthampur Manor might be mistaken for nefarious agents (of the Guild, Elturgard, Amn or elsewhere) canvassing the place.
Using Baldur’s Mouth as extra content
You may consider having the Baldur’s Mouth play a larger part in your campaign. I’ve not done so yet (the party is still in Baldur’s Gate however…) but here are some ideas on how to integrate the newspaper into the narrative;
- Someone might stop them to ask for a quote for the paper.
- A reporter from the newspaper wants to set up a full interview with the adventurers, or just a single one of them.
- A reporter sees them either in the middle of, or just after, a newsworthy act.
- The reporter might follow from a distance, which might mistakenly come across as a tail or stalking.
- The owner, Ettvard Needle, approaches them to help him gain evidence for a major story as “investigative reporters”
- You may want to have him point them at Main Rumours if the group is struggling to know what to do next, or Background Rumours if you want to integrate them into your campaign.
I know you posted this long ago and may not see this at all, but before I even knew there was a Baldur’s Mouth, I started my own, more underground broadsheet for my players. Basically, everything you say above is spot on. I should point out that in my paper, the Gazetteer, the author is not at all a talented journalist, and it’s more a tabloid than news. Plus, I have a fair amount of space in each issue devoted to ads – many of which are paid for by some minor villains, and so the paper won’t honestly report on them when they, say, burn an orphanage.
It’s a really cool, engaging tool to not only give information and hints (and red herrings), but it’s fun. I don’t print physical copies – the issues come out in PDF form on our Discord channel, so there’s no worries about distraction or interrupting gameplay.