LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST starting out in the business of adventuring always ask me the same question, “Tal,” they say, “How do you find so many fabulous adventures?” Well, the answer is a fairly simple one, before dragons can be slain, princess’s can be rescued, or ancient temples explored, before all of these things can begin you have to be open to gathering information. Going into a tavern and sitting with your back against the wall is not gathering intelligence, if this were the case then everybody would be an adventurer. Finding the adventure actually half of the adventure. Forming a network of information is just as important to me as my broad sword. The difference between a successful adventurer and a loser is relying on more then just luck alone to find jobs.
JOINING A GUILD
Many cities have different guilds which do require membership dues and a percentage of the profits. These are helpful, but you are working for someone else. Typically adventurers are seen only as employees and grunts, they will be given orders that they must fulfill to the letter and not be distracted by even bigger riches. The bonus, of course, is that you don’t need to finance an expedition with your own coin.
Of course before you can try your luck at adventuring, you must first possess the skills, which typically means that you are already a part of a guild! Soldiers were trained by other soldiers, wizards learned from a master, thieves mastered their trade by other professionals. One must be careful never to burn any bridges, even fellow students can help form this information network. Naturally, if we want to be an adventurer then we must quit our previous employer who most likely taught us these skills, again, don’t burn the bridge.
Sadly, most adventurers will fail, adventuring is a business just as coopering or shop-owning, there will typically be times which are slow and we’ll need to return to our previous employer for simple jobs so that we can gather some money to finance an expedition once it comes our way.
Well, this is how soldiering is, I am sure that simply leaving the dangerous profession of the thief is a different matter entirely. Quitting a thieving guild is the equivalent of committing suicide, and the same can be said about the Priesthood, thankfully with both professions one’s presence is not required all of the time, as long as we pay our dues on time.
A wise man once said that all is fair in love and war, well, he left out adventuring. This is a cut-throat business that we are in, and typically, the biggest dog gets all of the glory. The greatest riches are not stumbled upon, we must find the information from several different sources. Your competitors are not stupid, and typically don’t tell henchmen the entire story until they are ready to go out themselves, and even then they won’t tell them the whole story.
Now we could hire spies, and in some cases this is the best option, but under most circumstances it is both cheaper and smarter to just do your own gathering. Thankfully, henchmen aren’t hard to spot, keep in mind that this includes your own.
People talk, and we want to hear the things that they have to say. Thieves are the most skilled at listening in, I have even seen a friend of mine, whom shall remain nameless, gather great intelligence just by reading the lips of two people talking. Of course, I have done this myself, all you have to do is get close enough to two henchman talking. From there we can figure out what else we can use these people for.
If a henchman has something that you want to know, then usually you can follow him into a dark corner and beat him until he tells you what you want to know. Thankfully, as long as we keep it civil, and keep to using fisticuffs, then the city guards will leave us alone. Of course, after we get what we want to know from these gentlemen, then we have to make a judgment call based on the chances of this guy telling your competitor that he talked. If we don’t want that happening, it is sometimes best to just tie up the loose end right then and there.
I personally am no good at this, however I have a friend that comes in handy. Sometimes a henchman will have something that we don’t want to risk destroying when we are beating them, like maps and letters. Many times it is just easier to have a thief pick pocket a guard for a key then it is to fight the entire garrison. Never make light the power of subtlety. Naturally you’ll want to be able to trust the thief in question, else it is all for not.
Bribery is a handy tool that can’t be underestimated. I always keep a coin-purse full for just this occasion. As a soldier myself, I know how hard it can be to make ends meet on a soldiers wage. Naturally we don’t want to ask a fellow to risk to much, but a bribe can make all the difference in the world! Bribes can keep people loyal for as long as the money lasts. It can also allow those we depend upon to work just that much harder, tipping an inn-keeper a little something can make all the difference if somebody comes to the inn unannounced. It can also loosen the lips of barmaids, guards, and other professionals who disappear into the woodwork.
A large part of any information network is forming alliances and friendships. If somebody requires your skills, a trade can be made for information. Keeping friendships is just as important as sharpening and oiling ones weapons. Allies are more powerful then steel when it comes to adventuring. We all have our favorite shops, and shop-keepers; Use them! If you take care of a shop, then the shop will take care of you.
Taking care of a shop can be a chore, but think of it as an investment. I recall a rather lengthy favor we did for Old Man Sedrik who supplies us with our foodstuff. His supplier had died and his son had taken over the business and doubled the cost. Investigating the reason, a band of pirates had taken advantage of the new businessman, once this was resolved we were able to restore the trade-route and get a better deal from the supplier, which made Old Man Sedrik really happy!
BEING A HERO
Adventuring is a cut-throat business, and we ourselves need to be cut-throat, however we must be professional about it. We need to keep public opinion in our favor, if the public is against us, then they will only hinder our ability to gather work. If the public sees us as heroes then we have them in our pockets! Sometimes we want to keep ourselves anonymous for as long as possible, especially if we are in the territory of a major competitor, but sometimes we can get more information if those around us know of our fame. A name means something! The most important ally in your quest for riches is making a name for yourself. The more your name is out there, the more that it is synonymous with heroic deeds, righteousness, and honor, the easier it is for you to gather information that you need to keep in business.
Take my main competitor, Felix the Horrible is what they call him, a title that he has earned. He is a highly skilled adventurer, but he doesn’t care what people think of him. He is just as ruthless and underhanded as I am, but he lets it show to much. He has failed at appearing to be a hero, and I can gather more intelligence about a rumor then he can because people just give it to me. Of course, part of this is because of my friend Shamus, and as we all know, Shamus can smooth talk a troll. I dare say that if it weren’t for the charisma of Shamus, I myself would share an unflattering title with Felix.
WHAT IS GOOD INFORMATION?
A successful adventurer needs to know what to look for. Maps are helpful, as is intercepting notes and letters to competitors and other people of interest. Rarely will we find the whole story from one person, but it is a clue as to what jobs are out there. We also must gather enough intelligence together so that we can spot true information from what is untrue. When dealing with secrets, one finds many inconsistencies to the story, and if we follow these false leads, it will usually cost us money down the road.
Good intelligence can make our jobs easier, take manhunting jobs as an example. If we are looking for a specific person, we want to know as much as we can about him or her well before we actually apprehend them. We want to find out about how they protect themselves, who they know and depend upon, any objects that they may own that can make them more dangerous then what they would normally be. Where they are most vulnerable at. Who hates them and who loves them. As much info as we can gather!
Gathering information is a skill in itself, and if you can master this skill then you will be a formidable adventurer indeed!
Information brokering can be difficult, but, like all things that are time consuming, it can be rewarding as well. We’ll divide up the information which you are willing to give up based on the skills of your adventuring party. There should be at least 3 opportunities per party member. People to help, pockets to pick, rooms to sneak into, villains to beat up, and allies to bribe. Now keep in mind that sometimes a member will fail in his mini-quest, so we shouldn’t have the map in an NPC’s pocket to be a necessary part of the adventure. The map should be helpful, and not the adventure itself. Perhaps it is a quick map of a secret entrance to were they want to go? Information found should be extremely helpful to the party, but not always necessary to complete the quest. If the object is a key, there has to be another way to get around not having one.
Often, a CHARISMA check dictates if an NPC talks or not, especially 0th level NPCs. There is a reaction chart in the DMG which was designed for just this thing. The rules governing the Reaction Chart are simple. We can only make 1 check per day, thus if a player fails his reaction check, then that NPC will not talk to them that day for whatever reason, usually he is scared or doesn’t trust the PC.
A random chart of information can be made by you during your prep. As an example I’ll use one that came from a fabulous adventure Night of the Walking Dead. This featured a murder mysteries and the following table was supplied to tell us what an NPC knew, or said to the PCs depending upon a d20 roll.
- In the past three weeks, the villagers know of nine “sudden” deaths that have occurred. (True. This is Marcel’s work.)
- Of the nine who died suddenly, seven were buried in sealed coffins, and two escaped into the night as zombies. (True.)
- Six villagers are missing. (True. This is Jean’s doing.)
- Red licorice pieces were found along with articles belonging to four of the missing people. (True. This is Jean’s work.)
- Lady Grissim, one of the missing, was seen walking in the cemetery. (False.)
- Besides licorice, there is always lots of blood at the scene of a murder or disappearance. (True.)
- Three weeks ao, Hogarth the field worker fell dead, quickly decayed, and rose as a zombie. (True.)
- Just over three weeks ago, Marcel Tarascon died. Some say he was killed by the undead, too. (True.)
- If Marcel was given a funeral, none of the villagers attended. (True.)
- Jean Tarascon has taken full control of the family business. (True.)
- Cultists loyal to the Lord of the Dead are operating in the village. (False.)
- The old cemetery is haunted by wraiths. (False.)
- The constable’s son was the second to die, simply falling to the ground inexplicably. (True.)
- The Vistani told Old Fiora that the night of the dead was fast approaching. (True. The night is night.)
- Shaman Brucian worships the Lord of the Dead. (False.)
- The night Marcel died, villagers saw Jean carry him to the church. (True.)
- Shaman Brucian has gone into the swamp frequently since Marcel died. (True.)
- A vampire has been stalking the village streets. (False.)
- Many people are missing. (True.)
- The Old Cemetery was sealed long ago, and no one has entered it in decades. (True, until Luc and Marcel found the secret entrance.)
This is a very simple tool, but it can be an effective way to giving good information out quickly.
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