ATE2:36 "Scavenging" plus SE57 "Dame Rumor"
For each location, a querent may roll against an appropriate skill or its default, or listen passively by making a reaction roll (see below), applying the appropriate location modifier. This takes a base 1-hour per query, adjusted for Time Spent (B346). The GM may allow a skill roll specific to the location to complement (ATE2:31) this roll for either case; e.g. Freight Handling when querying workers at a loading dock. If successful, note the margin of success and proceed to Results. Failure wastes time; critical failure also causes a major mishap.
"Does anyone here know about X?"
Any Current Affairs can be used to keep track of rumors on the subject it relates to. Streetwise can pick up the "word on the street." More arcane subjects of rumor may be included in Hidden Lore skills. An entire crowd can be steered onto a topic; an open inquiry can be handled as a reaction roll, or Diplomacy can steer the conversation tactfully to the subject of interest. Fast-Talk can disguise the topic of the inquiry, but a failed roll means the topic was hidden too well, and the respondents never answered the real question. A Carousing roll, which can be aided by paying for drinks or entertainment (B183), may get people in a cooperative mood, or simply inspire them to talk freely.
"I'm just listening for whatever might be interesting."
Instead of rolling against a skill, make a reaction roll, including the usual modifiers (treat this as a Request for Information, SE28).
Each location can be checked once by one individual at full skill, with a cumulative -3 for additional attempts (same or different searchers). Designate a leader - usually the one with the best skill. Everyone else is an assistant. Average Assistants' skills, rounding to the nearest whole number. Roll against this average skill and treat it as a complementary skill to the leader's roll (below). This is an exception to the rule about no skill being able to complement itself. Roll against the leader's skill, with the complementary skill modifier. If there are multiple assistants (not counting the leader), also apply +1 for 2-3 assistants, +2 for 4-7, +3 for 8-15, +4 for 16-29, and +5 for 30 or more. Use the leader's result for all purposes.
A location, for this purpose, is the place(s) where people gather to socialize, and share news and gossip. Small towns might have only one location (the square, the only tavern in town, etc.). Larger towns will be broken up into multiple locations (individual taverns, etc.). The nature of rumors revealed will depend on the type of location being checked (for example, a tavern frequented by sailors will tend to feature rumors related to sailing). Some locations see more social traffic than others, for example, a tavern in a busy port town versus a backwater. The GM will decide the amount of such traffic (or roll randomly—sometimes it's a slow news day, even in the busiest locations):
- Heavy (=Unlooted): -0
- Moderate (=Semi-Looted): -2
- Light (=Looted): -4
Success (or a Good reaction) will reveal one ordinary rumor, and one additional ordinary rumor for every full 3 by which the roll succeeds. For a critical success (or a Very Good reaction), the GM will choose an especially helpful piece of information related to the characters' goals, enemy activities, or some rare Hidden Lore. On a failure, the GM may reveal a useless or unreliable rumor—gossip, fish-stories, etc. A critical failure might result in combat!