I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently GMing a Kingmaker game for my players. A while ago, one of my players (occupying the position of the kingdom’s Spymaster) indicated that he wanted to set up an intelligence network in their nascent kingdom; in his words “the CIA/FBI of the game world.”
I’ve neglected that up until now, largely because all of the sourcebooks I’ve consulted on the issue weren’t very helpful with trying to build an organization from the top down. Almost all of them were concerned with joining a pre-existing group and working your way up the ranks. The few that weren’t were too tightly-focused (e.g. a thieves’ guild in a city) to be applied to an entire kingdom.
They say that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Hence, I’ve generated my own set of rules for setting up networks to gather intelligence both foreign and domestic.
A kingdom may come up with an intelligence-gathering service to keep tabs and monitor activities occurring within its borders. This organization has no power to police the citizenry or fight battles – the people who make up such an organization are ordinary citizens, working ordinary jobs, who’ve agreed to keep their eyes and ears open for relevant information and pass it on.
An Intelligence network is purchased per hex of farmland, or per city district within cities. Each such purchase increases the kingdom’s consumption by 1. Within this hex/district, the kingdom gains a number of loyal informants equal to the Spymaster’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1). Each informant has a total number of character levels equal to 1/3rd the Spymaster’s level, and uses the basic ability array for their attributes (13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8). The GM determines the specifics of the NPC’s statistics.
For example, a Spymaster that was a 7th-level rogue with a Charisma of 15 would have two informants in a city district. The GM determines that one is Borrus the Begger (N male human commoner 2/Str 10, Dex 12, Con 9, Int 11, Wis 13, Cha 8/Diplomacy +2, Perception +6, Stealth +3) and Irvus Stratheim, the third son of local noble Baron Stratheim (LN male human aristrocrat 2/Str 8, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 13/Bluff +6, Diplomacy +6, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (nobility) +5, Linguistics +5, Sense Motive +4).
Informants always have a starting attitude of Friendly towards characters who occupy a leadership position within the kingdom. If a kingdom leader makes a Diplomacy check to gather information while in a district/hex with informants, the amount of time to needed to perform the check is halved. When using informants in this manner, they cannot aid another on the Diplomacy check (in a sense, they’re already providing aid by cutting down on the time necessary to make the check).
For example, the kingdom’s Warden has entered a city district to make a Diplomacy check to gather information about a recent crime spree in the area. Putting the word out to the local informants, his Diplomacy check takes 1d4 hours, rolling a 3. Since this is halved thanks to his informants, he gets the results of his Diplomacy check in an hour and a half.
Alternately, a kingdom leader may remotely make a Diplomacy check to gather information regarding a district/hex that has informants; that is, they may make such a check without actually being there. The character makes a Diplomacy check like normal, but the time to complete the check takes 1d4 hours +1 hour per district between the leader’s location in the same city and the district being checked, or +6 hours per hex between the leader and the hex being checked. A Diplomacy check made in this way cannot have any aid another actions used to improve it, and takes a -2 circumstance penalty due to having proxies investigate on the character’s behalf.
A Diplomacy check to gather information cannot be made remotely if the leader making the check is not currently within the kingdom.
For example, the kingdom’s General wants to make a Diplomacy check to gather information regarding an outlying farm in their kingdom (6 hexes away from her current location in the capital city) that was recently raided. However, she doesn’t want to travel all the way out to investigate personally. Luckily, that farmland hex has informants there. She makes a remote Diplomacy check, which takes 1d4+36 hours and suffers a -2 circumstance penalty.
Informants will also make skill checks and provide other services if requested by the kingdom’s leaders so long as doing so does not require them to spend money or enter combat (if the PCs supply the money, the character will perform the relevant service). They’ll always provide the “aid another” action for free (though they won’t enter combat to do so).
In order to found an intelligence network the kingdom must have the Spymaster position occupied. If the Spymaster position becomes vacant, for every month of vacancy another hex or city district’s worth of informants abandon this service, lowering the kingdom’s consumption by 1 but increasing Unrest by 1.
Of course, this only applies to domestic intelligence-gathering. The above allows the PC leaders to keep their eyes and ears open for things going on inside their own kingdom. This covers internal intrigue…but what about external? The following rules deal with how to send spies into other kingdoms.
Spying on other nations is a delicate, and difficult, process. It requires skilled agents (whether foreign nationals who can be turned, or domestic agents sent abroad) who must be exceptionally well-compensated for their actions, as they face severe punishments if they’re discovered. Worse, a captured spy can be turned against their nation, providing disinformation or even casus belli – cause for war.
Having a spy in another nation increases a kingdom’s consumption by 4. A kingdom may have any number of spies in any number of nations, but each such spy increases a kingdom’s consumption by 4. A spy has a number of character levels equal to the 1/2 the Spymaster’s level, and uses the heroic ability array for their attributes (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8). The GM determines the specifics of the NPC’s statistics.
Whenever a spy performs espionage, the kingdom they’re spying on behalf of makes a Loyalty check against its Control DC. The GM should perform this check in secret rather than letting the players roll it. On a success, the clandestine activity is successfully performed without discovery, finding relevant information. For every 5 by which this check beats the Control DC, another piece of relevant information is found. If the check fails by less than 5, no relevant information is discovered, but the spy is not caught. On a failure of 5 or more – or on a natural 1 – the spy is caught. Whether they’re executed, used to send disinformation, or something else is up to the GM.
Spies tend to perform espionage of their own accord, sending information they think is relevant (e.g. at the GM’s discretion). However, a kingdom’s Spymaster can order a spy to look for specific information. This allows the Spymaster to direct the spy to seek out information on a single topic; what information they find is up to the GM (note that some information may not be discovered even on a successful check). Receiving information typically takes 1d4 weeks, but for distant countries may require up to 1d6 months. Only one such directive can be issued per spy per month.
Spies and Mass Combat: A spy may attempt to locate plans regarding an enemy army. Military plans are closely guarded, however, and the Loyalty check for this takes a -8 penalty. On a success, however, the spy is able to relay one piece of information about an enemy army, such as the tactic it will use in the next battle, one resource that it’s outfitted with, or a special ability that it has. For every 5 by which this check exceeds the Control DC, another piece of information is learned (e.g. one resource that the army has and what tactic it will use in the next battle, or the tactics that two armies controlled by that nation will use in their next battle, etc.). Because all spies understand the timeliness of military espionage, such information typically takes 1d6+1 days to arrive (though for distant kingdoms, this may be increased to 1d6+1 weeks).
Locating Spies: While most spies are caught in the act, a kingdom may deliberately set up counter-intelligence operations. Each such attempt costs 2 BP to undertake and increases Unrest by 2. Only one attempt may be made per month.
Counter-intelligence is made as a Stability check versus your kingdom’s Control DC. On a success, you locate a number of individuals who may or may not be spies equal to the amount by which your Stability check beat the Control DC +1 (on a natural 20, treat the check result as normal, or as if you got a score 20 above the Control DC, whichever is higher). On a failure, you do not locate any possible spies. This check may be made by the players.
The people caught as a result of this check are possible foreign agents. Whether or not they are actually spies must be determined individually, person by person (as a rule of thumb for the GM, there’s usually one actual spy for every five people rounded up in this manner). This can be role-played, or handled as opposed skill checks, with the players making Sense Motive checks against an NPC’s Bluff (for spies) or Diplomacy (for innocents) checks. Presume that NPCs have skill bonuses of +10 (for low-level character; e.g. 1-5), +15 (for mid-level characters; e.g. 6-12) or +20 (for high-level characters; e.g. 13+).
Spies can only be commissioned, directed, or searched for if the kingdom has a Spymaster. If the Spymaster position becomes vacant, the kingdom loses 1 foreign spy per month (this happens concurrently with losing domestic informants) lowering the kingdom’s consumption by 4 but increasing Unrest by 2.
So, what do you think? Do these add a new level of intrigue and international drama to your Kingmaker game? Or are they clunky and impractical in what they bring to the table? I’m going to playtest these with my group soon enough, but if you’re putting these rules to use also, please let me know! Until next time, put your best cloak and dagger forward!