18 Tavern Rumours for your Player Characters to overhear

Players who frequent Taverns and Inn are likely to find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with many faces, races and cultures.

If they’re stopping off in the bustling city of Neverwinter, or lodging in the quiet Stonehill Inn of Phandalin, there’s nearly always something for your player characters to overhear.

With myself and my current players gaining confidence in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition world, I want to start dropping hints, NPC hearsay and comments about what is going on in the wider world around the players. Some of these could form plot hooks for future encounters or story arcs.

Some of them might start appearing on the notice board in the town square, similar to how Dragon of Icespire Peak does it (read my article on the best D&D modules). If your players don’t take too many notes or are quite forgetful about details – maybe use the following rumours but adapt them to be notes, quests and requests for help on a physical notice board. That way your players have something tangible to interact with – plus they look super cool.

Rumours Overheard in the local Tavern

An underground Tavern built over a stream of lava. What could the PCs possibly overhear down here
An underground Tavern built over a stream of lava. What could the PCs possibly overhear down here

Now my players half-way through the Lost Mines of Phandelver, the local tavern is going to start getting a bit busier. With the player’s ears free to pickup some nuggets of information, I was trying to produce a list of potential rumours to dive into.

But what are some good rumours to overhear in a tavern?

I don’t want all of them to lead somewhere (not immediately anyway), but equally they must be worthy of being noticeable. I want the rumours to build and flesh out the world.

So what are some good rumours for D&D characters to hear? Well, I posed this very question over on Twitter.

With the help from many of my awesome followers, we’ve pulled together a great choice of rumours my players (and yours) could overhear.

18 Rumours for Dungeons & Dragons

  1. They’re saying they’ve now found a 5th branded murdered holy man, from a 5th church, in a 5th city! That’s 5 weeks in a row now isn’t it?

  2. The famous and powerful wizard, Vadania Del, is rumoured to be visiting the city of Glimmerhelm soon. The Helm High Council are said to have requested she come at once!

  3. “They say that if you stand out in the centre of Windmaw heath, in the fog at midnight, when the moon is new, a fey creature will appear and grant you your heart’s desire”

  4. I heard the old merchant vessel, The Spray Carver, ran aground on Ellem Beach last night. The soldiers that boarded her say a single piece of cargo was open on the deck, but it’s contents was gone. No sign of the crew or a struggle onboard. More bloody trouble and strangeness going on at sea. That’s why you’ll never see me far from the mud and trees.

  5. Overhearing a group of grumpy peasants who are considering overthrowing the local mayor over taxes

  6. Father Zzellik say’s his graveyard has started to sink! Random holes have started appearing among his buried congregation. (If investigated this could either be enterprising Kobolds, stealing the bodies from underground, or just a natural water cavern that’s eroding the earth)

  7. The ghost of Thorbert Outerbridge, a dead local bard, has begun to haunt Farrier Street. Nobody is sure why his spirit is restless, but he continually sings a song of loss

  8. After working with the metal from a recent meteorite, the local smith of the Burrows has fallen ill with a very mysterious disease. They say the clerics and physicians who visit him leave trembling and never go back.

  9. “It’s not that I think she’s a hag in disguise. It’s that I think she’s not NOT a hag in disguise. That’s all I’m saying.”

  10. I heard that the peace in the market town of Havven was shattered t’other night. Two dozen locals got so drunk they spilled out onto the muddy streets in a brawl! The Splintered Barrel was burnt to the ground in the violence. Several carts and horses were lost as well. The towns guard say none of the locals could say the next day what the fight was about. I reckon it was that old inn keeper mixing up some strange moonshine again.

  11. The lake out on old Lady Hawthorne estate has been drained. A local shepherd said he heard clockwork ticking coming from the centre of the lake. Lady Hawthorne hasn’t been seen by her servants for over a week now either

  12. Old farmer Artin Oxfell says that something has been ravaging his crops again (These actually turn out to be just rabbits)

  13. An old twisted stone tower has been found in the Orion Forest. Shepherds and rangers are all saying they ain’t seen it before. They also say there b’ no door to inside it. Who’d build a tower with no door? Some say it looks like it’s seen the passing of several century too. All very strange.

  14. You didn’t hear this from me, but I heard through a friend that the butcher’s steaks aren’t from no cow. The ones people have started queuing down the alley for, those ones, no beef in those!

  15. Did ya hear? The big Crasmere trial is gonna start over in the courts today. I don’t know ’bout ya but I don’t think that poor servant done it. Nope. killed all those youngin’s? Nah, I heard he loved them kids.

  16. A young Tiefling girl approaches the barkeep looking for a job, only to be turned away. She seems to be carrying all she owns, on one well-packed backpack.

  17. I ‘eard, they’re saying someone’s cursed the city wells in Waystone. The Marlis Guard have sealed the gatehouses and raised both the bridges. I don’t know if the violence was caused by magic or disease… but you won’t catch me buying any more Amethyst Rum from their distillery, no for a good while.

  18. I was labouring on the Prospero vineyard, few weeks back, and they’re getting ready for the big harvest next month.
    They’re all saying, “watch the ninth row, yeah? Watch it. Some kid went missing”.
    Son of the vintner or summat they say.
    Playing hide and seek they said, then poof – gone! They ain’t seen him since

A great choice of rumours I hope you agree. Feel free to drop any of these into your campaigns or fantasy one-shots.

How to use overheard rumours

To pep up a D&D campaign or fantasy world setting, I think its best to make the players feel like they are in a world that doesn’t revolve around them.

While your players are in a tavern, or in fact a market square, blacksmith or even temple, they’re likely to pick up on what is being said around them.

Drop a few rumours into the world and see what sticks. You’re not hoping the players immediately jump from your planned campaign setting to investigate each thing they overhear, but slowly a world of change and stories will build up around them.

I think I’m going to use this going forward by making all the PCs perform a perception check while in the tavern (Inn / Temple / Smithy etc).

For each roll that passes DC15, you’ll drop in a rumour as their night progresses.

Make a note of which rumours you’ve used and which ones they picked up (if any) and discussed among them. If they later bring up the rumour in conversation among themselves, make a note of it, it means they’re likely interested in what was heard. Great for the DM!

Later in the campaign, drop some more rumours, maybe one is related to the first batch somehow.

Use rumours to fight, without fighting…

Author Jim Moreno from the amazing Geek & Sundry site, put together a post about how he is using rumours to battle a corrupt entity in society without physically harming them. It’s an intriguing example of taking rumours further than just plot hooks as I’m discussing here. I think I’ll try and drop something similar into my next D&D campaign.

If you’ve used rumours before and your players lapped them up, maybe what Jim has written will be the next logical step to spice up your RPG adventure – sowing rumours to fight without fighting.

Example of using rumours in D&D

This is roughly how I plan to use *some* of the rumours in my D&D campaign.

Say they overheard this one, among a few others:

The lake out on old Lady Hawthorne estate has been drained. A local shepherd said he heard clockwork ticking coming from the centre of the lake. Lady Hawthorne hasn’t been seen by her servants for over a week now either

Now the next time they’re in a public spot, they could hear one of the following:

  • The Salarkin reservoir has also dried up, despite it being the rainy season.
  • The towns physician says the patients of the local madhouse, Brackenvault, have all stopped speaking. Now they only answer questions by making mechanical ticking noises!
  • Lady Hawthorne has returned but urgently seeks the council of the cities clergymen.

Obviously I’ve made the connection between the original rumour and the next ones quite obvious. You could be more subtle.

If you have a switched on group, it may be worth dropping multiple related rumours over time, but have the last one join previous rumours together. These will be interspersed with unrelated rumours too, to hide their true relation.

Using the above example:

Rumour 1: …Lady Hawthorne hasn’t been seen by her servants for over a week now…

Rumour 2: The old city orphanage out on Montai Pass received a chariot of silver bars! They’re saying they can finally rebuild the buildings, fix all the roofs, and pay for multiple new teachers, clerics and physicians. Their prayers have been answered!

Rumour 3: Lady Hawthorne has returned to her estate but refuses to speak. They’re saying she went mad on the realisation that the estate’s vaults have run dry.

Rumour 4: The annual high-summer banquet at the Greencoast Chateaux has been cancelled for the 1st time in over a hundred years. This is usually a very exclusive event, the epitome of the summer calendar, for the wealthiest members of the Whiteholde Coast, at least.

Rumour 5: An unknown organisation is kidnapping wealthy patrons and ransoming them back to their estate for the exchange of great, selfless deeds. Lords and Ladies alike are becoming increasingly paranoid. No defences, magical or physical, seems to stop the members of this organisation. The well-off have started sealing off their estates and are no longer seen in public. Apparently, the Merchants Guild is looking for people to investigate the matter, while many estates are looking for private security.

It’s just a thread I produced to weave multiple rumours together.

What do you think?

Special Thanks

A big thank you to the following people who contributed and inspired me with these rumours.

I’m definitely going to be using some of them soon, I’m sure others will be too.

Rumours 2, 3 and 7 – @DemonNinjaLlama

Rumour 5 – @TheUrbanScribe

Rumours 6, 8 and 12 – @Nevenge

Rumour 9 – @GhostMouseCast

Rumours 14 and 18 – @michaelrtm

Rumour 16 – @sunwarrior25

If I’ve missed off your name, please let me know in the comments below!

RPG Reading Essentials

Looking for some great RPG resources? Buy one of the following to boost your RPG gaming knowledge:

The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master (Buy now). One of the best supplement books for a new or experienced DM. Not the thickest book on the subject, but its super condensed and I took something useful from every page. Michael Shea has produced a most own book here.

Buy this great classic book by Shea

RPG Journal: Mixed paper: Ruled, graph, hex. Navy Dungeon Master steampunk style cover (Buy now). A beautiful ‘notebook’ that can be filled by your creativeness. Keep notes, draw maps, right bios. Keep everything organised all in one place.

Buy this gorgeous DM’s notebook

Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook: Dungeon Master’s Guide (Buy now). The classic book that started it all for me. The starting place for all D&D dungeon masters out there, a perfect gift for yourself, a mate getting into the role or a loved one.

You can’t go wrong with the official D&D DM’s Guide

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing. A weighty tome of over 550 pages by Keith Ammann, explaining how monsters should react and the strategies that they use on the battlefield (Buy now)

Learn how to use monsters and foes properly

Which is your favourite?

Please drop a comment below saying which is your favourite rumour, it’s likely to affect which one’s my players will hear in upcoming games.

I’d love to hear some more rumours, so please drop one down in the comments before you leave.

Thanks for reading

1 thought on “18 Tavern Rumours for your Player Characters to overhear”

  1. I just dropped a ton of rumors in my players, in the form of a set of prophecies. They’ve learned so far that the are prophetic because they saw one of them happen personally. They’ve also learned that they are not sequential, & they are not clear – more like rhymes using nicknames for the chars. There are several dozen of these 2-6 line prophecies that they’ve found & consolidated.
    The players realized that these are exactly like The Mrin Codex (by David Eddings), so they know they’ll help, but never directly. It also means they know now there is a very large arc that their chars are now involved in.
    Should be fun!


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