Things GM's Do Right: Newspapers

Okay, I'm totally poking at the "Things GM's Do Wrong" meme by instead talking about things that many GM's do (including myself on occasion) that work well and make sense.  Let's start with an easy one: newspapers.

Or television reports, or blog posts, or Newsnet feeds, or whatever your genre wants to call them.  Having a media outlet in your game is a great way to accomplish several things at once.

  1. It creates a fun "recap"of previous adventures.  My experience is that players are often fuzzy on what happened even in their own campaign.  An accounting of last session's activities helps get players, especially those who were absent last time, onto the same page without taking up game time.
  2. It provides an outsider's perspective.  Since a newspaper isn't a strict campaign chronicle, the players get a glimpse of how their activities are viewed by the outside world.  Villains & Vigilantes had a great mechanism for tracking a superhero PC's popularity with public--a major trope in comic books, and a helpful way for players to anticipate how eager the police might be to help them, for example.
  3. It can introduce storylines.  There's an exhibit of a rare diamond at the museum.  The leader of a foreign nation is coming to visit.  The new particle accelerator is coming online tomorrow.  All of these obvious "MacGuffins" can be introduced to the players without seeming heavy-handed.
  4. It is a way to work NPC's into the campaign.  J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Lois Lane, and Eddie Brock were all side-characters to the two biggest reporter/superheroes out there.  Like so much about Marvel and DC, the distinctions between the interactions of the side-characters and the main character reflected the ethos of the comic book publishers.  Clark Kent is a star reporter while Peter Parker peddles photographs for rent money.  Maybe the "newspaper" is a blog written by an opponent of masked vigilantes, or to flip the hackneyed plot device, a superhero groupie who enthusiasm will eventually end up placing them in harm (and if the PC's rebuff the blogger, an eventual villain ala The Incredibles).  In a superhero campaign, it can also be the background for a hero's secret identity: reporter, technician, corporate honcho, etc.
So if you're planning on running a superhero campaign (or any other kind of campaign for that matter), a media outlet can serve a lot of functions at once with little work.  You can create a fake blog using existing free blog outlets (like the one this blog is using) or simple word processing software to make up a newspaper.  You can go as complex as doing columns and photos, or just have the headlines typed up.

Easy and simple, and a good way to do something right.


  1. Damnit, somebody else just wrote the exact same article:


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