As long as there has been humans, there has been distrust. And as long as there has been distrust, people have resorted to spying on one another to find out what’s really going on. When humans built their kingdoms and empires, spying became an art practiced at a high level by a dedicated few. Steeped in the depths of human distrust and deceit, these truth-finders ironically gained a reputation for being untrustworthy. Captured spies are not afforded the dignity of captured soldiers, and spies who learn too much are easily disposed of by nervous masters. Knowing when to abandon your post and strike out on your own is perhaps the spy’s most important skill.
Spies are a sort of non-magical divination class. They advance as Specialists in most respects. Their hit dice, saves, and experience progression is identical.
They have two skills, Listen and Stealth. Both of these begin with a 2-in-6 chance, and advance by 1 each level, reaching the full 6-in-6 chance at level 5. Stealth works as normal, but savvy readers might note that LotFP does not have a listen skill. Particularly dedicated readers may even recall that I have a personal distaste for the skill myself. The skill possessed here by the Spy is a kind of “Super Listen.”
The spy presses their ear to the floor, or wall, and does not need to make any stealth checks that this activity might normally call for. If the check succeeds, the referee must give them some piece of information about their environment. The referee is free to give them any information seems relevant. However, if no information comes to mind, this table may be useful:
- Roll a monster from your encounter table. The spy hears this creature some distance away, allowing them either to avoid it, or gain a bonus in attempting to surprise it. This creature is the next random encounter the players would have faced, and if they avoid or kill it, then the next time the encounter die indicates that a monster should be rolled, don’t. That monster was already dealt with. This remains true even if you don’t roll an encounter until the players are in a vastly different place at a different time. Dealing with a monster in this way is a sort of “get out of one encounter free” card.
- The Spy identifies the location of a nearby trap by hearing the clicking of gears, the straining of wood, or the subtle wobbling of a loose pressure plate. They know precisely where the trap is located and how to activate it, but do not necessarily know how to avoid it or deactivate it.
- Something, somewhere brushes against a piece of treasure. Perhaps a rat, or just a gust of wind. There is a barely audible clink of precious metal on precious metal. Even if it’s just a handful of copper coins, the Spy knows precisely where to find it. They don’t necessarily know how to get there, or how to access it.
- With listening skills so refined they approach echolocation, the spy is able to determine the layout of the nearest unexplored room. It should be described to them as though it were brightly lit, and they were standing in the center of it. Color may be omitted if the referee thinks it is relevant to do so.
- With a less focused variation of the same echolocation-like ability described above, the spy gains knowledge of the layout of the surrounding area. The referee should sketch a rough map of the corridors, rooms, stairways, and doors nearby. Out to a roughly 300′ radius.
- The spy overhears someone speaking. What they’re talking about is completely unrelated to anything the players are currently doing, but it sounds as though it might be worth a look…
In addition to their two skills, Spies have two other notable abilities: Scout, and Disguise.
Disguise: If the spy is being pursued, and they manage to get out of sight of their pursuer, then they can disguise themselves. Doing so requires that they remain out of sight for a full round as they frantically modify their appearance using whatever is handy. If there is time, they may also attempt to disguise any companions who might be fleeing with them. Each companion requires 2 rounds of attention to be fully disguised. Once the job is done, disguised characters can wander out of hiding without being noticed at all. Any prolonged interaction with their pursuer will cause the disguise to fail, but it will otherwise stand up to casual inspection.
Disguise has no effect against pursuers who track primarily by scent. Nor will it prevent a creature who attacks all living things from attacking this ‘new’ living thing, simply because they don’t recognize it. Disguise is effective enough to fool pursuers in unpopulated environments. If the Spy is fleeing from a band of orcs in a dungeon corridor, they won’t see through the disguise simply because there’s no one else around.
Scout: By spending 8 hours away from the party, the Spy can find out a lot that they’d never have learned while burdened by their less subtle companions. Due to the time required, scouting may require the Spy to sacrifice some sleep. Additionally, scouting must be done as part of play, rather than between sessions.
When a Spy returns from scouting, they may opt either to ask the referee 3 yes-or-no questions, or ask a single question with a full sentence as an answer. The spy is entitled to ask anything they like, and they are entitled to the truth.
The referee should strive to provide good, useful information after a scouting run. Yes-or-no questions should never be answered with ‘maybe.’ Full-sentence questions should be answered with information that would not otherwise have been available at this point in the game. Scouting should not be used as a vehicle to deliver quest hooks players would have gotten anyway. For example, if a Spy asks “How do we kill the Gigalich?” telling them “Gregory the Wise Man knows” would probably be a bad answer. That’s the sort of information any player would be able to find out if they went into town and asked the tavern keeper. It wouldn’t require 8 hours, or the expertise of a professional Spy.
A better answer might be the exact location of the Lich’s phylactery. They’ll still need to adventure to reach the phylactery, and may even need to adventure still further to destroy it after it’s found. Another good option would be to provide them with red herring information in conjunction with the real information. The Spy might learn that the Gigalich is weak against either fire, water, or stale baguettes. Under no circumstances should you lie to your players, but there’s no problem with obfuscating the truth.
In rare circumstances, the referee might tell a player that they should ask a different question. This should be resorted to only in the rarest circumstance, as it devalues the player’s choice of class. However, if the player is being a twat, asking increasingly specific, contract-with-the-devil style questions, it may be warranted. It may also be called for if the player persists along a single line of questioning with repeated scouting. There is a limit to how much can be learned about a single subject. If the Gigalich is weak against either fire, water, or stale baguettes, then that is what is known. The Spy can’t narrow it down by scouting again to ask a yes-or-no question about each of those possibilities.
(Thanks to master diviner Mad Bill Danger for sharing expertise. )