Having a network of spies, informants and stool-pigeons makes gathering the information the character needs for a particular job easier. A network provides bonuses to Gather Information checks made within a particular community, either geographical (the docks of a particular city) or cultural (the wizards and other spellcasters of that same city). There are limits on what kind of information someone can garner from a particular community, however. One probably would not, for example, go to the mages' guild to find out who is smuggling illegal drugs into the city through the sewers. The DM can assign DCs based on the information the PC wishes to acquire and how reasonable it would be for someone in his network to know it.

Table 1: Gather Information Modifiers
Circumstance Modifier
Members of the network are directly involved with, or have intimate knowledge of, the object of the PC's questions +6
Members of the network know someone who is involved or has information +4
Each 10 gp the PC spends before making a Gather Information check (maximum 100 gp) +1
Members of the network have information, but are unwilling to divulge it1 -4

1 Even if the members of the network are directly involved in something, they might not be willing to give it up easily (or at all), for any of a variety of reasons: they might not trust the PC; greed (having to cut the PC in on a job); or simple consequences of failure (the more people who know a secret increase the chances of it no longer being a secret). The modifier given above is default; the DM can increase it if circumstances warrant.

Building and maintaining a network requires time, money, and Diplomacy. A network can have five levels, representing its size and information capabilities; each level gives a circumstance bonus to Gather Information checks (see Table 2) that stacks with any bonus from the previous table (Table 1). At the lowest level, the PC only needs to put his face around a few evenings a month and buy a few drinks in order to maintain his contacts. At its highest level, he spends a good deal of his time with members of his network, getting to know them, doing favors for them, and getting involved in activities with them, gaining their trust.

Due to time constraints, most guild-bosses and other leaders with a high-level network have a flunky dedicated to public relations and information gathering. However, some of the most powerful and influential organized-crime bosses and guild leaders spend a good deal of time in their neighborhoods, socializing with the flunkies and constantly exercising their power, making sure they know who is in charge. Informants are much less likely to deal with an absentee PC who only sends his flunkies around to do his dirty work – just like employees (or subjects) have a lot less respect for a boss or ruler who does the same. Additionally, an absentee PC might find political maneuvering against him. The rumor mill could be cranked back around to suggest that the PC is a coward, no longer cares about the "the little guy", and has "forgotten the streets" in order to undermine his power.

Table 2: Network Levels

Level Bonus Time Money DC Minimum Time
I +2 10 hours/month 1d4 cp/hour 15 1 month
II +4 15 hours/months 1d4 sp/hour 20 3 months
III +6 20 hours/month 1d4 gp/hour 25 6 months
IV +8 25 hours/month 2d4 gp/hour 30 9 months
V +10 30 hours/month 3d4 gp/hour 35 1 year

Action: Special. If a character wishes to maintain a network at its current level, he just needs to spend the required time, money and make a Diplomacy check at the end of the month (DC for that network level). If he fails a check for a given month, he suffers a -2 penalty to Gather Information checks using that network for the next month. Consecutive failed checks accumulate; three failed checks in a row reduce the network level by one, but the penalty is reset to 0.

If the check fails by 5 or more, the PC has made a bad faux pas and the network level drops by one.

If the PC fails to spend the requisite amount of time to maintain the network that month, the level drops by one. (Alternatively, the DM can increase the DC for that month, if the PC has spent at least some time maintaining it. A good rule of thumb here is to increase it by +1 per hour under the minimum that the PC has not spent maintaining it. For example, spending only 5 hours for a Level I network increases the DC by +5.)

In order to improve a network's level, the PC must have spent the minimum amount of time (listed above on Table 2) maintaining it and must have made successful checks for the last 3 months (or 2 months, if he wishes to go from Level I to Level II). If he wishes to improve the network, he must spend the requisite amount of time and money required for the new level and make a Diplomacy check at the new DC. If the check is successful, the network's level has improved. If the check fails, but is still above the DC for the old level, he can try again next month.

For example: Kurth the rogue has a Level II network of informants that he's been maintaining for six months. He's been doing well with his Diplomacy checks, and decides that it's time to move up in the world and spread his net a little wider. He spends more time with his people, getting to know new faces, spreading a little wealth around, and doing a few favors for people to get them into his good graces. At the end of the month, he makes a DC 25 Diplomacy check to see if his efforts have worked or not.

Special: The PC can choose to push the network, gaining a bonus on a single Gather Information check, but at the expense of his informants. He can reduce the network's level by one or more (to a minimum of Level I), in order to gain a one-time bonus to Gather Information checks equal to twice the number of levels sacrificed. This reduction in level is due to favors called in, intimidation of informants, etc. The PC still uses the base bonus for his network level for this check – he gains a lot of information for this one check, but afterwards, he loses the use of informants.

Whether or not his check succeeds, the network's level remains at the new level; the PC must wait a month at the new level (and make a successful check for that month) before he can attempt to improve the network again. Repeatedly using a network in this manner will have long-term consequences, usually in the form of penalties to further checks or increases to Diplomacy checks to improve the network.

For example: Kurth now has a Level IV network; he gets word of a large shipment of goods coming in, but doesn't know who, when, or what it is. He really wants details, so he pushes his network, sacrificing two levels in order to gain a +4 bonus for a total of +12 to his check to find out anything.

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