Those who operate in the shadowy world of intrigue know that rumors often hold more power than truth. Devious agents spread tales to discredit their foes, pass word of rulers’ weaknesses to their allies, and plant falsehoods designed to lure tyrants into carefully laid traps.
Planting a rumor requires carefully spreading and cultivating it. A PC can plant a rumor in a settlement by spending 1 week (or 1d4 days if the settlement is smaller than a town) and succeeding at a Propaganda check. This check can be a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Perform (act, oratory, or sing) check, or another skill check at the GM’s discretion (see Spreading Propaganda). The base DC of a Propaganda check is 15. If a true rumor is particularly believable or unbelievable, the DC may decrease by up to 5 or increase by up to 20, respectively. If a rumor is false, the PC must succeed at an additional Bluff check to avoid being caught in a lie, applying plausibility modifiers as normal. If a PC fails that Bluff check by 5 or more, she takes a –4 penalty on all Bluff and Diplomacy checks she attempts in the settlement for 1d4 weeks.
Because rumors are difficult to plant in large settlements, PCs should apply the modifier based on settlement size listed in the table below to all Propaganda checks as well as to Bluff checks to avoid being caught in a lie. In a large settlement, such as a city, a PC can instead plant a rumor in a single district. In this case, use the modifier for a settlement with approximately the same population as the district. If the GM is using settlement modifiers, the settlement’s Lore modifier applies to Propaganda checks and the settlement’s Corruption modifier applies to Bluff checks to avoid being caught in a lie.
|Settlement Type||Propaganda and Bluff Check
|Village or smaller||+0|
Multiple characters can work together to plant a rumor. Choose one character to attempt the Propaganda check. Each character who wishes to assist can attempt a separate skill check whose DC is 10 less than the Propaganda check’s DC. A character who knows that the rumor is false must also succeed at a DC 15 Bluff check. Each character who successfully assists provides a +2 bonus (up to a maximum bonus equal to 4 + the settlement’s Propaganda modifier). A character with a class feature, feat, or other ability that grants her followers gains a +5 bonus on Propaganda checks and checks to assist in spreading rumors.
If a PC succeeds at the Propaganda check (and the Bluff check, if necessary), her rumor takes hold as an obscure rumor. If she exceeds the Propaganda check’s DC by 5 or more, the rumor is more prevalent, as indicated on the table below. A character with the rumormonger advanced rogue talent creates a common rumor if she succeeds at the Propaganda check, and a widely known rumor if she succeeds by 5 or more. Anyone who gathers information related to a rumor learns the rumor if she succeeds at a Diplomacy check at the listed DC.
|Propaganda Check Result||Rumor Prevalence||Diplomacy DC to Learn|
|Success by less than 5||Obscure rumor||25|
|Success by 5 or more||Recurring rumor||20|
|Success by 10 or more||Common rumor||15|
|Success by 15 or more||Widely known rumor||10|
The PCs can spread or quell an existing rumor by succeeding at a Propaganda check that takes the same amount of time and uses the same base DC as creating a new rumor. This check is modified based on the rumor’s prevalence, as listed in the table below. The DC of the Propaganda check to quell an existing rumor increases by 5 if the PCs do not provide evidence against the rumor.
|Current Rumor Prevalence||Bonus to Spread||Penalty to Quell|
|Widely known rumor||+8||–8|
Common rumors can grow without any intentional encouragement, particularly if they align with locals’ previously held beliefs. At the GM’s discretion, other rumors may spread on their own as well. In this case, the GM attempts a Propaganda check each week. The base DC is 15 for its current settlement and any neighboring settlements (or current district and the surrounding ones), plus any modifiers based on their sizes as above. The GM applies a modifier to the Propaganda check based on the rumor’s prevalence, as listed in the table above. If the Propaganda check is successful, the rumor either takes root or increases in prevalence by one step.
Rumors are most often used to alter a character’s overall reputation in a community. In general, a positive rumor that becomes common improves the attitude of most NPCs toward the character by one step, while an unflattering rumor worsens it by one step. In encounters using the individual influence system, a common rumor about a character provides between a –4 penalty and a +4 bonus on the character’s checks to influence NPCs. In a campaign using the organizational influence system, treat the PCs as if common rumors about them were true for the purpose of determining whether they gain or lose influence points with an organization.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Intrigue © 2016, Paizo Inc.; Authors: David N. Ross, with Ross Byers.