The gradual chipping away at mysteries both big and small is one of the central running themes of the Hill Cantons campaign. I am a big believer in the notion that every dungeon or adventure site really should have at least one or three nagging questions about why it is there or what is going on with its residents (both historical and present).
Just to complicate it further I also have a self-rule that each site's mystery or theme has to have a connection with either another site's or a larger setting one. Since I tend toward designing and introducing lots of small and medium-sized dungeons of 1-3 levels rather than mega or large ones, that means alongside the campaign news round up that I have had a pretty good working method to keep the layers of mystery dynamic and sustainable even after seven years of weekly campaign play.
That said, I feel like I have always been challenged as a GM in how to present layers of mystery players without it just being “hunh that's weird and inexplicable.” In other words how to achieve that sweet spot between keeping your cards close to your chest and giving players enough information and access points to make meaningful choices in the sandbox—and to have actual value to their advantage.
Early on in the Google Plus campaign, the players started using a term coined by Robert Parker (a player): “info-treasure.” Simply that coming along some piece or another in exploration is valuable in itself.
Classic D&D has a couple long-standing examples of this: the rumor table and treasure map. Rumors are like starting magic item equipment, small random items that can help a party (or be “cursed” and hinder with misinformation). Treasure maps naturally are straightforward as being directly tied into the reward system of well-aged D&D.
Punchline: Why not just treat Info-Treasure as a literal treasure type?
Here's a system that I started to work on that incorporates Info-Treasure into the time-honored B/X d6 dungeon stocking rolls.
|Treasure only (roll on Treasure Tables as usual)
|1d2 Info-Treasure roll (1-2 on d6 chance of Treasure Table roll too)
|Full Monty Exposition
Info-Treasure delivery ideas:
Lost Journal (savor that cliché)
Friendly or Neutral NPC/monster
Hostile but Captive NPC/monster
Players Map (level of detail dependent on type)
Red Herring/Misinformation. There is a single muletrack that leads from the woods to the Lost City of the Angels. Also the Gopherman saying for “I surrender” is “Bree-Yark.”
Only roads beneath the ground lead to the Lost City of the Angels.
Underground roads exist from all the local dungeons to the Lost City of the Angels.
An entrance to an underground highway exists in the eastern part of the basement of the Hall of the Ancient Hyperboreans.
Full Monty ExpositionHere are all the ways you can get to that damned Lost City of the Angels, also this is what's going on there.