So, I like to read the guest Blogger articles that are featured on the Obsidian Portal main page, and I wish there was a way to post responses and generate discussion directly on the articles. I am also kind of surprised that I haven't seen forum topics relating to them either.
Well, I want to change that! Let's talk about the current article, "My Dearest Emma: Letters from home and abroad.":http://www.obsidianportal.com/guest-bloggers/December2309 .
Do you use letters to generate intrigue in your campaign? If so, what sort?
My particular favorite from "my own campaign":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/the-westerlands/wikis/main-page was a love-letter written from a middle-aged, balding captain of a military outpost to my group's paladin of Ehlonna. Early on in our campaign, she slept with him in order to seduce him into lending the group a pack horse. (I allowed it, because her goddess deals in fertility.) The incident became a favorite subject of banter and ribbing between the paladin and the group's ranger.
Well, a couple months down the line, the party is in an entirely different part of the kingdom when one of their contacts showed up bearing a package addressed to the paladin. The package contained the love letter and a bunch of dead flowers... It had originally been delivered to the group's last known location, which they had long-since left.
All of my players thought the situation was fantastic. The paladin still keeps it as a treasured memento, and the ranger had his fuel for making fun of the paladin's promiscuity revitalized. While the impetus for the letter was purely to add a bit of color to a session dominated by research and shopping trips, in story terms, this simple letter set up a number of possibilities for later plot developments... future stalker? ally? hostage for an enemy of the group?
I've been meaning to upload the text of the letter to my site for a while. I'll be sure to link it to this post when I do.
My personal favorite is in my most recent campaign, "Requiem":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/requiem . My character, being the only female, caught the interest of a psychopath shadow artist. He was meant to be the first villain in the campaign and had a history of being obsessed with women with special abilities and then killing them. My character became subject to this, and often she would find letters and random notes in places she'd least expect. Loving letters, with a hint of sinister intentions gave a real creepy dynamic to the campaign for me and my character. She would have to know that -some how- that letter got to her (such as under her pillow or waiting in her car with a rose), by his own means of planting it there.
As time wore on, the nature of the messages and letters changed to demonstrate the psychological obsession growing in the writer (the villain's name was Jericho).
It was just a really neat twist that added to the setting and brought to life the psychological "creepiness" of the setting.
We've also had that same PC write a letter on behalf of another (who is an illiterate barbarian) to another NPC (another illiterate barbarian). The NPC then had to ask a friend to write his "response":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/rubies/adventure-log/between-weeks-4 - which in turn foreshadowed another NPC (the amanuensis) who did not make his own "on-screen appearance":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/rubies/adventure-log/boeden-3 until almost a year later in the game time (four months in "real time").
Also, on a side note... your illiterate barbarians episode reminds me of a recent development in a campaign in which I'm currently playing a wizard. Our group's barbarian has asked me to teach her how to read. I have agreed, but the only books I have on hand are a collection of spellbooks and a journal written by the leader of a mindflayer expedition!
I actually laughed at that one.
Well, it's not quite so bad now. During our last session I acquired a book of lovely orcish poetry that should work just fine for instruction.
Check 'em out if you get the time.
More on topic, I love writing letters as NPCs for the players, and some players get in to writing letters back. Unfortunately, now that I've got three campaigns going at once, my time for this is declining...