During the Middle Ages, criers – people so named for walking through a settlement, ringing a hand bell and shouting information – were a primary method of telling time and making announcements. While larger bells, such as those located in churches and large civic buildings, would sound for such events as masses, the start and end of business, evening curfews, or an attack on the settlement, it was the town crier who brought the townsfolk their news and spoke with the voice of local authorities.
The messages they called out covered the same sort of topics that interest modern citizens: proclamations from the government, upcoming criminal trials, religious edicts, people of note who are expected to visit the settlement, and so forth. In some communities, they would solicit prayers for the ill or deceased, and some even shouted whatever they were paid to say.
In a fantasy setting, criers can be employed for all of the historical functions just described, but they can also be hired for game-related purposes, such as spreading court gossip, praising a person or organization (some villains will even hire criers to portray them as community benefactors), summoning heroes to audiences with ruling authorities, and anything else the DM can imagine. In one campaign, I had one hero’s nemesis use a crier to challenge that hero to a duel in a large city square at an appointed time. The nemesis sent his minions to detain the hero on the day of the duel, hoping that the hero would not attend the duel and be publicly branded a coward. Fortunately, the hero overcame the minions and arrived jut in time to give his nemesis a sound drubbing before a crowd of hundreds.