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I like the idea that the players of my campaign are meddlers. Creatures who have came upon knowledge only by accident or putting their noses where those noses don't belong. The idea that the adventurers are only really along for the ride (until they aren't).

What methods of information delivery work well for this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of information are you trying to deliver? Fun facts about the setting? Critical plot information? Adventure hooks? Additionally, do your characters look for information, or do you have to force it on them? \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Sep 19 '17 at 4:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that this is a pretty difficult illusion to achieve, because the players will always know that any information they have was given to them by you. I have a couple of suggestions if you're willing to off-table/augmented-reality (like a scavenger hunt). If you want it to stay purely in-world, clarifying what type of information you want to give away would be helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – getfugu Sep 19 '17 at 5:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are many, many ways to do that. Maybe you could be more specific? Do you want to make it look realistic? Do you prefer to emphasis on how lucky they get to accidentally got this information? \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Sep 19 '17 at 12:06
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Give them quests and sidequests that are not about your main plotline or quest, but somehow are related to them.

While they're going about their adventurer business in the normal fashion, making cash, earning their reputation, they keep finding small hints. They seem like arbitrary pieces of fluff, until a player links them somehow ("Oh shit… crap… this is what's happening?") or the plot forces it and they get a surprise aha-moment.

Example plot line;

  • After routing the weapon smugglers, the party goes through the crates and finds a smaller box containing some very nice, intricate gems. Little do they know the smugglers got a job on the side to deliver these to a mage who needs them for a ritual. Bonus points if they sell them and have to track down the gems later.
  • After dealing with some enraged owl bears in the woods, at nightfall they find a bandit camping ground. The party overhears them mentioning being able to take it easy for awhile, now that they delivered 'those silly jars of dust to that guy'. Actually the same mage that needed his ritual components.
  • While rescuing some kidnapped children from goblins, they come across another corpse in their lair. While the corpse has little of interest, he carries a small notebook with seemingly boring delivery notes. Actually it's a coded ritual book with instruction said mage needs for his ritual.
  • While searching in the library for the lineage of a notorious noble they need leverage on, they come across a paragraph that mentions an ancestor that performed some kind of evil ritual using a trio of gems and the ashes of a dragon.
  • While they're negotiating some kind of unrelated mission, the party feels a prickly feeling in their neck. They turn around and see a scrying eye close quickly. The mage found something of theirs while looking for the note or gems and is scrying them now.
  • If they haven't figured it out at this point and start investigating more, let the mage catch them at some inopportune moment. They might be defending a duchess on the road from an orc attack, when suddenly the mage appears and demands the notes or gems from them, and takes the duchess hostage. Of course, before the mage takes off, nothing like a fireball in their face to let the party know he's serious.
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Use the Three Clue Rule

Let them gather pieces of information naturally, while exploring locations you've prepared.

To make sure they'll found at least one, use the Three Clue rule of thumb:

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1118/roleplaying-games/three-clue-rule

For instance, they could get a hint while eavesdropping a conversation, or snooping a document, or asking the right man, or finding some kind of artifact (a quest item they are supposed to search anyways). If they are meddlers, they'll probably put their noses to at least one of these clues.

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Acquisition of information itself cannot be accidental. You instinctively observe your surroundings and try to make sense of it. (The only exception I can think of is planting information in someone directly via modify memory.)

What would fit the style you are going for is putting the sources of information in ordinary places, but put the characters in the unique position of being able to acquire it "by happenstance". Either they are in just the right place at the right time ("You go to the outhouse behind the inn and notice through the window of one of the rooms the smith confessing to the noble's daughter. Ooh!") or they are the only ones able to deduce the information based on existing knowledge ("Horrible! People started disappearing from the town. Last week our smith, now the noble's daughter is missing too!").

The point is that the information acquired and their reason to enter the scene should not have much in common. You can even add scenes that you would skip otherwise (like going to the outhouse).

There are two routes possible: it is either truly random or you define an underlying structure. If it is random, you practically roll on a random encounter table whenever it seems appropriate, usually when they enter a new scene (maybe with two tables for abandoned and densely populated places). The other is much harder to pull off. Instead of rolling, the choice of information to give should make sense to you: "if they go up to the rooms in the inn during dinner, they see...". It can help in designing the adventure by forcing you to make sense of it and fill all possible gaps in logic. The problem is that the players by design will not know the difference. So if you are fine with a more narrativist approach, I recommend making the random tables. Going the other way only is much more work, even for seemingly simple plots. Of course a mix of the two approaches is possible too and is what you will end up with most likely.

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