Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Tavern Ballads as Rumors, Examples, Background

I am constantly looking for ways to give players useful information and embed them in the society of the game. To do this, I create expectations. Players quickly learn what the government structure of one city is, and can use that information for the similarly-structured neighboring city. They can likewise learn simple methods to know what is going on in the surrounding area. The classic method is to walk into the local bar and ask for rumors. I am a fan of asking children what the custom of their country is. Someone wrote a great article about job boards found at local shrines.

For Mesomergos, I have decided to go with songs. Ballads are used to convey news and tales across the country, and the songs of children are seen as prophetic. Thus when PCs spend a night drinking at the tavern, they might hear a handful of songs. The songs below are set on a d8/8 table; you roll a d8 for the tens place and another d8 for the ones place. The first sixteen songs are tailored to the present or adjacent hex. The next eight give warnings specific to my traveling encounter table. The next twenty-four hit on themes and setting history. The next eight serve as hooks for existing dungeons. The final eight are simply good examples for an OSR PC to follow.

d8/8 Songs

  • 11."The Duel," describing the circumstances that led to a treasure being hidden somewhere in this hex.
  • 12. "The Low Lowlands," which warns of the nearest dungeon or monster lair.
  • 13. "Whom the Priest Decried," a somewhat mean-spirited jig warning about the most dangerous person in this hex.
  • 14. "The Honest Words," which immortalizes the most trustworthy and helpful person in this hex.
  • 15. "Hoary Words," listing the purported abilities of the greatest spellcaster in this hex.
  • 16. "North of the Pique," naming the wealthiest person in the area.
  • 17. "Li's Descent", hinting at a secondary entrance to the local dungeon.
  • 18. "A Drink at the Table," praising the best place in this hex to acquire drugs.
  • 21. "Perils Encountered," telling of how a treasure came to be hidden in a neighboring hex.
  • 22. "A Shepherd Vexed," describing a dungeon in a neighboring hex.
  • 23. "Verona," describing someone to watch out for in a neighboring hex.
  • 24. "Disaster Averted," which immortalizes the most trustworthy and helpful person in a neighboring hex.
  • 25. "Blood from the Walls," fearfully describing the most powerful spell-caster in a neighboring hex.
  • 26. "Ducats Enough, describing the wealthiest person in a neighboring hex.
  • 27. "Under the Hill," hinting at a secondary dungeon entrance in a neighboring hex.
  • 28. "A Feast for Two," praising the best place in a neighboring hex to acquire drugs.
  • 31. "For Gold," which describes three wicked men who sold their voices to a demon. Now each can only say one phrase.
  • 32. "The Cruel Bride," a cautionary tale where a man is warned not to let his new bride have too much freedom. She turns into a giant fox and eats his liver. Just goes to show.
  • 33. "The Rash Stroke," in which an ogre is smote with one blow and revived by the finishing blow.
  • 34. "Qilin," a half-nonsense song that described a mythical creature with gem-encrusted skin and a voice like chimes in the wind.
  • 35. "Riddles Wisely Fled," describing a cruel game in which a pack of granouses force a man to answer riddles or lose his fingers and toes. In the end, he escapes by posing them an impossible riddle.
  • 36. "The Widow's Silver," about a man who is given a gift of money by a stranger and told you use it for charity. Instead he wastes the money, but all that he spends it on disappears.
  • 37. "Wen Sworn and the Rogue," about a sworn who is challenged to hit a man as hard as he can with a club, receiving an equivalent blow after. Wen swings to kill, but the man is revealed to be made of rubber, easily absorbing the blow before gloating of how Wen will surely perish when the attack is returned to him.
  • 38. "Li the Giant-killer," a tale set in modernized antiquity describing the first emperor outsmarting a giant.
  • 41. "The Pitcher," about two men who sit down to dine. After drinking from his companion's wine pitcher, he sees that it is fine and kills its owner to steal it. The victim's ghost tells his sister of this inhospitable deed, and she hunts him with twenty-one slingstones in her pack.
  • 42. "The Burnaway Man," about a misogynistic fey who marries women after promising to burn them in ten years.
  • 43. "The Lady's Disguise," a surprisingly queer song about a woman wearing a face covering to reach her lover in an area where women are forbidden.
  • 44. "Brenton's Bride," about how an Oathkeeper almost killed his fiance for infidelity, only to learn that he was his own cuckold.
  • 45. "The Supper," in which two Oathkeepers believe that they cannot leave until the other has done so, so they offer more and more lavish gifts to convince the other to lead the way out of the feast hall.
  • 46. "Sons and Garments," a dark tale about a chieftain who wants to kill his son for impregnating his daughter but cannot because he promised him safety before the crime was revealed.
  • 47. "A Good Gold Rod," about a concubine trying to bribe a harem guard to let her out for the night to visit her illicit lover.
  • 48. "Leery Light," warning about how dangerous fire is.
  • 51. "Good Bu," describing a pilgrim of Xapt who lives in his own soapbox and does good deeds.
  • 52. "Xemin," about two lovers who are reunited in the afterlife.
  • 53. "Conzhoua Sworn,"about a hero who is betrayed and stabbed with iron, destroying his soul.
  • 54. "For Want of a Boat," which warns men away from the distant island of Nuf, said to house an army of warring orcs bringing the wrath of Gnon, unable to threaten us only because they do not know how to sail.
  • 55. "Thin and Icy," which speculates about what the Apocalypse shall be like.
  • 56. "Twenty-Seven Inscrutibles," a somewhat dry description of the laws of the god Sedyf, whose followers know his will inerringly.
  • 57. "Selmat's Banks," describing how the Prophet Elijah is supposed to have drowned the Priests of Iron in the distant land of Holy Selmat.
  • 58. "The Color God's Bride," which tells of how the god Kulwosyf created gremlins in mourning for his human wife.
  • 61. "Enwarc Thul," a nonsense verse about a foolish man who sought the city of Uzay, but was turned away and perished in a bog.
  • 62. "Raindrop or Ember," a romantic tale about a member of the postal brotherhood undergoing many trials to bring news of a lover's death.
  • 63. "Seeds to Flower," about an ancient emperor choosing an heir by giving each member of his family a seed and commanding them to cultivate them. In the end, all have beautiful plants except his youngest son, who has grown nothing. The emperor reveals the seeds were all baked and incapable of growing, showing that his son alone was honest and appointing him as heir.
  • 64. "The Beast Overturned," describing the thrilling slaying of the great aurochs by a the god Pigudix. This event is said to be the start of Mesomergan history.
  • 65. "The Mandate," telling the sorrowful tale of how three imperial artifacts, the Dolorous Regalia, were lost. This is said to be the reason that the land is cursed, that men are fools, and that evil is stronger than honor.
  • 66. "The Taming of the Donkey," a ribald song about how barbarians tamed onagers through marriage.
  • 67. "The Foreign Spear," about a jolly mercenary gnoll who misunderstands local customs but acts with impunity due to his puissance.
  • 68. "Marmud Sworn,"about the three hosts a serset infests to be with his lover. Contains unacknowledged but obvious queer subtext.
  • 71. "Goblin Market," warning of a forested moot where gremlins buy and sell all manner of things in western Mesomergos.
  • 72. "Sun and Snow," describing the idyllic scene of a palace where the emperor wintered in better days along the southern edge of the Ceyannac mountains.
  • 73. "The Three Sisters," describing a terrible tower in the northern Annac mountains where three demons, disguised as beautiful women, torture would-be saviors until a bold sworn banishes them with a sign of Mithras.
  • 74. "In Jushun Orchards," describing the rescue of a maiden trapped in a fortress which encircles evil fruit trees outside Otogdam.
  • 75. "The Cretin's Tower," alleging an artificer lives in a strange tower nestled atop the Ceyannacs.
  • 76. "The Long Road," telling of a towering city of dreams in the far southwest of Mesomergos, where marvels and horrors are performed.
  • 77. "Stone by Stone," which reports an ancient bailey north of Lischon, frequently torn apart to harvest its worked stones.
  • 78. "On Sendem's Fields," describing a victory by a historical emperor against greater forces on the plains of Sendem, outside of Lischon.
  • 81. "Xeuin," telling of a clever adventurer who always knows what items to carry on the road and which to leave home.
  • 82. "The Swagman," about an ambler who won a fight with two strong soldiers through trickery.
  • 83. "Amur Weir," about a travelling sworn who is mocked for cowardice. She flees a giant by running around a waterfall, and when the giant follows it trips and bashes its head on the rocks.
  • 84. "The Stones," about how a man finds his son's killer by carefully inspecting the killer's home and finding a secret space where he is hidden.
  • 85. "Young Hu," about a traveling priest who asks the locals about the nature of their lord. They tell him that he burns priests alive. So forewarned, he flees.
  • 86. "The Byway Treacherous," about a pair of lovers walking through a mountain pass. A hermit warns that the local bandit wears the face of your greatest love, so they create a password and use it to tell when the bandit impersonates them. For killing the bandit, they are given twenty gold coins.
  • 87. "What Saw I," about a band of travelers who each take a watch during the night and thereby fend off disaster.
  • 88. "Good Voss's Gold," about a cunning heroine who bribed first a guard, then a robber, then a priest, and thereby secured great wealth for herself.


  1. These are amazing! I especially like the Green Knight shoutout, the Pitcher, and Seeds to Flower.
    But where are the Greedy Wolf and the Owlsnake Children? :D

    1. The unspoken rule is that as the game goes on, people start writing ballads about the party's exploits.

  2. Love the d88 tables.

    My favorite is "Under the Hill." Nice and simple.