Development Credit: Faith
The collection of information is only the beginning of Intelligence. Intelligence is the collection, collation and use of information to see patterns and it is used, fundamentally, to facilitate decision making. The word intelligence can have three distinct meanings:
Intelligence as a process: the gathering of information by an individual or group. The process of intelligence gathering involves identifying all information relevant to a situation, key people, places and events and then sifting through all the available information to determine what is relevant and what is not. This might involve careful consideration and investigation of an area, interviewing all witnesses or those near to an event or all sorts of information-gathering. It might also be carried out on a much more informal way.
Intelligence as a product: this is what has been produced following analysis of all available information, following careful and detailed analysis of as many aspects as possible. This might be as formal as sifting through reams of paper, or it might be identifying a key guard to observe in order to find out who is selling out your organisation. The product of intelligence gathering is information which is then tested to see if it is the 'correct' intelligence.
Intelligence as an organisation: this might be an elite special ops unit within the city militia, or it might be a trusted few within the thieves' guild. An intelligence organisation is one dedicated to collecting knowledge. These are worth mentioning separately as they collect all available information and pass it on either to a specific other person / group they work for - or sometimes to the highest bidder.
Types of Intelligence
There are a number of types of intelligence which may be gathered. These are largely determined by the needs of the individual or organisation who is in charge of gathering them.
General Intelligence: this is the very general gathering of knowledge for the sake of knowing. An organisation which gathers general intelligence, or an individual who does, might know the general patrol areas for the guard, their shift rotation, when the baker leaves his bakery to pop to visit his mistress; all sorts of things. The more general the intelligence, the broader it is likely to be, by definition.
Specific Intelligence: People - this is the focused gathering and collation of intelligence about one person. The intelligence gatherer focuses on the habits and routines of an individual, usually over the course of many many trials. Gathering of this intelligence allows patterns to be determined in behaviour, places which are visited regularly or people regularly visited.
Specific Intelligence: Places - this is intelligence gathered about a particular place. The intelligence gatherer focuses on who is where and when within the place in question. It looks for patterns, often being used for breaking in to or overcoming defences in the specific place or even identifying weaknesses or flaws in defence.
There are a myriad of reasons for intelligence gathering, and the individuals who gather intelligence are as diverse as the intelligence itself. The military, mages, thieves and politicians throughout Idalos use intelligence differently and, yet, they all use it. In a war military intelligence is vital, for the guard it is equally important that they know where the pockets of dissatisfaction are, the criminal underground need to know which guards can be bribed, which can and will not. All of these organisations use intelligence to further their own ends. Alongside these organisations, there are individuals up and down Idalos who gather intelligence for their own means. Whether because they understand that knowledge is power or because they choose to gather that information for selling to the highest bidder, these individuals walk a dangerous fine line. What is undoubtedly true is that those who possess this skill to any significant level have to have a network of contacts in order to provide them with the knowledge they need.
The novice has entered into the field of intelligence gathering and is starting to draw on a regular group of contacts. They might well be focused on one or two type of intelligence but even with that restriction they have difficulty in identifying patterns once they have gathered the information. Namely, the product of their intelligence gathering process is slow in coming and is often missing vital bits of intel. They might start to notice obvious misinformation, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
The individual who is competent in Intelligence is likely to either be part of a larger intelligence organisation or to have their own growing network of contacts. They are able to gather more specific intelligence now, both in terms of people and places and they are able to analyse the intelligence gathered into a lucid product the majority of the time. At this level, the individual still has to seek out their information, they are not yet likely to have a 'bank' of information that they can simply draw on. They can start to see misinformation about 50% of the time, although they can not yet sort it into patterns or identify whether it might be coming from a specific individual or group, or whether it is for a specific purpose.
An Intelligence expert is an individual who epitomises the phrase 'knowledge is power'. This person is able to provide general intelligence information easily and, usually, without having to seek it out. They have a large network of trusted information-gatherers (either who work for them or as part of the organisation they work for) and are able to see the patterns in the information gathered almost all the time. They are still, however, a specialist in their field and so know an awful lot about the generals and specifics of the criminal underground, for example, or mages in Idalos. They are much better now at spotting misinformation and are starting to be much more adept at identifying whether this is a general thing or whether it is a specific attempt at misdirection and if so, by whom.
At this level of skill an individual knows a seemingly impossible amount of information; and not just about one area of information. They have a vast network of contacts and they are able to see patterns and links between and within different types of intelligence. Chances are, they will have immediate access to both general and specific intelligence on a vast range of subjects from the Pirate Lords of Scalvoris to the Iron Hand of Andaris. At this level, the individual can spot false information easily, and can even use it to their advantage by identifying patterns and so on, leading them even closer to their goal.