SPYMASTER: "The Good Rumor Man"

The Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood allow their members access to a Spymaster. Many players (myself included) tend to pooh-pooh the usefulness of this master of the rumor mill most of the time. But we're also among the first to go talk to him when we can't get a lead on what we're supposed to be doing. Novice players will find the Spymaster an invaluable tool for dealing with many of the Merchant and Noble quests.

In order to understand the importance of the Spymaster, the player needs to understand the rumor system in Daggerfall. Many quests, especially Merchant and Noble quests, require the player to ask around town to pick up clues in order to complete the quests. This can be good because it provides the player with an excuse to develop the Streetwise skill, but can be bad because there is a lot of bad information floating around. Bad information causes you to chase red herrings and waste time.

When you're trying to pick up clues, you use the "Ask About..." option on the dialogue screen. If the person likes you, he/she will tell you a rumor. If they don't like you, they'll tell you to "Bugger off" or something similar. There are two bad things about getting your information from people on the street. The first is that you usually only get one shot at asking for rumors. The next topic you ask about will almost always draw a blank. The second problem is that there are incorrect rumors out there and getting incorrect information causes you to waste time.

Here is where the Spymaster becomes important. There are three major benefits to using the Spymaster. First, the Spymaster will always talk to you (you have to be a certain rank to use the "Spymaster" option, but he'll almost always "Talk" to you). Second, the Spymaster will talk to you for as long as you want. You can ask about dozens of things without drawing a blank (careful with the "Polite" and "Blunt" options, though). Third, the rumors you get from the Spymaster are ALWAYS the ones with the correct information.

The downside to the Spymaster is (1) you don't get to develop your Streetwise skill as much as with people on the street; and (2) by the time you're of sufficient rank to officially access him, you probably don't need his services very much.

In my not-so-humble opinion, Bethesda dropped the ball with the Spymaster. The concept is good, but the execution was so-so. The Spymaster would have been more useful if a couple of changes had been made. First, more bad rumors should have been included with the quests. This would have made the Spymaster's information more valuable. Second, access should have been provided at a lower rank. The Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood are probably the two most worthless guilds as far as game usefulness goes. Their major attraction is from a role-playing standpoint, from the fact that they offer training in some skills that are hard to develop on your own, and (for the DB) access to a potion maker at a much lower rank than the temples offer. Perhaps these problems will be corrected or improved by the time Morrowind hits the stores.