Often players will want to gather intelligence about something during downtime from other people. This can take many forms, from gossiping over drinks, to the use of stool pigeons, or casing a joint, or more daring activities like spying or going undercover. The DM has a strong interest in enabling this activity, because good intelligence is an opportunity to introduce hooks that interest players, and also allows meaningful player choices.
These downtime activities takes inspiration from Robert Parker's masterful Savage World of Krül rules, with which Robert ran one of the legendary games of G+. I will have more to say about that game on another occasion. For now I just want to let you know that the basic idea (although not the details) of these rules came from Robert's wonderful system of downtime activities.
Gathering Intelligence (Rumormongering)
- Add 1 for each relevant relation (at the level of acquaintance or higher) you have who might help you chase down information with the relevant community
- Add 1 for each relevant fictional advantage you have, for example, being well-loved by a given faction you are gathering information from, or having some juicy gossip they'll love to hear.
- Add 1 for each additional 100 GP you spend to grease palms.
On a 6-: no useful intelligence gathered.
On a 7-9: the player turns up real information, but the DM has the option of inserting some sketchy material, either by making the information somewhat ambiguous or misleading, or by mixing truth with a bit of outright falsehood. The DM shouldn't say whether they have or have not exercised this opiton.
On a 10+ solid intelligence.
One problem you might have with this system is that the players will know from their roll when the intel might be shaky. But I like the idea that players have a sense when there might be something dubious about the information they got.
- Add disguise skill modifier if relying on a false identity.
- Add culture skill if relying on high society, etiquette, or specific cultural knowledge.
- Add 1/2 your assassin level (rounded up)
- Add 1/3 your thief level (rounded up)
- Add +1 for each relevant contact
- Add +1 for each fictional edge you would have given the details of your plan and your capabilities
Spy Troubles 1d10
- Bad reputation. Other people have seen you with the organization, and you are starting to get a bad rep with factions that don't like it. This may be hard to shake.
- Mixed up with the wrong people. You learn that someone you know or love is somehow mixed up with this organization in a way that troubles you and may, possibly, threaten your cover.
- Expensive proposition. Owing to a looming disaster, you suddenly need to come up with a lot of funds to keep the operation going. 1d6 x 100 GP or no further progress is possible on the tracker.
- All the wrong friends. Someone from the organization is getting too close for comfort. Maybe like an affectionate puppy they followed you home and now know something about you, or maybe they romantically propositioned you. Whatever it is, they are trying to insert themselves into your life in a way that is risky. The DM may bring them in during a session to introduce complications.
- They are getting suspicious. You slipped somehow and someone is harboring suspicions. Unless you take care of the problem, for example by doing something to prove your loyalty, or discredit the suspicious person, a second spy troubles result will result in serious trouble (50% frozen out, 50% cover blown).
- Moral quandary. To prove you bona fides you must do something your character would rather not do. The DM will tell you the choice you face. If you choose not to do it, no further progress on the tracker is possible. The DM may or may not allow clever workarounds.
- You're not the only one! You and another spy have made each other. Their purpose is not the same as yours. This is a delicate situation that may need to be addressed. Until it is resolved, further spy troubles involve the DM picking a result that is produced by the rival spy.
- Blackmail. Someone knows what you are doing, and is trying to shake you down. Pay your level x 100 GP per session until the tracker is completed. Or maybe they want something more interesting.
- Frozen out. Someone got suspicious and you are now frozen out. Ghosted. No further progress possible.
- Cover Blown. You've been made! The group stages a confrontation. This could be anything from a kidnapping to a bitter discussion. You can play this out, or make a second custom 2d6 roll to see what the result is, given the nature of the organization.
Procuring a Spy
- Acquaintance -1
- Associate +0
- Friend +1
- Intimate +2
- Dangerous Mission -1
- Very dangerous mission -2
- Double pay +1