As the question says, how do you establish a spy network in a medieval world?

Magic is also included.

  • 10% of the population in the world are magicians.
  • There are existing magic universities.
  • Magics are restricted to 4 elements. (fire,water,earth,wind)
  • No healing magic.
  • Magic emission is detectable depending on how sensitive a magician. 3 meters is the absolute Sphere of detection.
  • theres no silencing magic but it can be achieve by noise eating potion from alchemy.
  • no direct magic can be used to send messages quick but alchemic homunculus built birds can be used instead. (Only the merchant knew this kind of way of passing message everyone needs a messenger to pass message or mail birds who are not as fast or enduring as homunculus birds.)

The leader of the spy network is a merchant whom not many knew but very well established in and outside the country with huge wealth backing him up.

The use of the spy network is the following:

  • Find blackmail materials against nobles/senators in and outside the country.
  • Information about troop movements of each noble/politicians including navy of the country and neighboring countries.
  • Trade information.
  • Map information.
  • Neighboring country situation.
  • Spread of rumors.
  • Spread of propaganda.
  • Ignite rebellion/civil war outside the country.
  • Scouting of notable people to join the network or be recruited in a certain political faction.
  • Spread dissent among the populace and army.
  • Assassination contracts.

So how will I create a spy network to achieve all of the above, at the same time no one will know that the merchant is the head of that spy network?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Spy networks existed before the Middle Ages. Look for example discussions about spies in Rome. Why would you think it would be different? $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2016 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ Agree with bilbo_pingouin -- just look at historical examples. If you want a 'novel' way to create a spy network that both uses and has to circumvent magic-protected targets, you should describe a bit more about how common your magic is, what its capabilities are, how it works, how detectable it is by other mages, etc. $\endgroup$
    – subrunner
    Apr 1, 2016 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Just how 'realistic' is this 'spy network' should be? Permanent, professional intelligence agencies did not exist until modern times (I'm talking about 19th-20th century here). Before that spies were amateur adventurers, traders, diplomats, or soldiers. Military intelligence existed, yes, but were limited to the campaigns it fought, or analysis of future enemy capabilities (usually naval). Nothing at all like their modern counterpart. $\endgroup$
    – WarPorcus
    Apr 1, 2016 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ @WarPorcus enough to gather and relay information in europe/asia like continent $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2016 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ @micro villena Game of Thrones could probably answer your questions they have several good examples of spie networks in the book $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2016 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


At a first glance, the inclusion of magic (fire, water, earth, wind) does not necessarily alter the espionage game. What good is a fire or water spell to a spy? Perhaps destroying documents when he is caught, but then it is too late, anyway. Earth might help to create and conceal dead letter drops, and air might include flying-carpet-style spells, but even that is not necessary.

It might come down to this:

  • Insert or recruit agents. Insertion would be helped by a medieval lack of literacy and paperwork and the lack of national identity. Perhaps a journeyman stonemason shows up in the capital one day, with good references by a craft master in the borderlands, and asks for a job. Ten years later, he accepts a statistically unlikely number of apprentices from the borderlands, but nobody does that kind of statistics.
  • Establish communication networks. Is there are postal service, and if so do they dare to use it? Or would they hand letters to a merchant traveling in the right direction, for a few coins? If the latter is common, perhaps some of the merchants are actually couriers. If they carry genuine letters as well, even better.
  • $\begingroup$ The Dai Li disagree with your dismissal of earth magic $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Apr 1, 2016 at 13:44

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