When I wrote the original post about the PCs in my DF game wanting to spread rumors in town I got a lot of feedback, really interesting feedback, too. I ended up having to explain some of the game's ground rules, as well. But I didn't just post it here, but also forwarded the link to my gaming group so they can see what I was thinking as well.
What do my gamers think?
Two of the four guys who've been discussing the rumor-spreading campaign responded (privately) to my concerns.
One pretty much said, if town being a safe base is a groundrule of the game, that's totally fine. He liked the idea of hiring people to listen for rumors for them/provide information, though, so that's probably going forward. I can't see the difference between "pay the sage to research the Lord of Spite" and "pay a bunch of barkeeps to tell me whatever they can find out about those cone-hatted cultists," either. Both fit into the creamy center of gaming goodness of my game - paying money to find out stuff to make fighting the target a lot easier on the PCs. Decide what you want to know, hand over the money, make a roll, the GM tells you what you find out.
To quote New Mike*:
"Every campaign has tropes and rules that everyone just accepts. Since this game is essentially a paper and pencil version of a roguelike, it makes sense that 'Town' is a nebulous place to recharge, buy stuff, and hear stories. We don't have to game out going to the blacksmith and special-ordering a new sword, because that's not the point -- we just roll some dice, get the sword, and move on to killin' orcs."
Old Mike** said he liked the town as safe base rule, and if rumor-mongering might jeopardize that it wasn't worth it. It was just a "I didn't think of it that way, let's not do it" kind of thing, sort of like what happened when I started thinking about how it would work.
What about the other two?
No answer yet, but neither is likely to press it. They'd also need to persuade both Mikes and I can't see that happening.
So in the end, it's not going to be an issue. I do have an idea for a DF-like mechanic for it if they try, but since we're all agreed that's not in the spirit of our game I won't need to roll it out any time soon.
And town can remain a vague base, where good and bad actors alike do whatever stuff allows them to get ready to be in the dungeon at the same time and cross swords. Which is where the real action of the game takes place.
* our game has two Mikes, and two Andys out of seven players. Original Mike brought Original Andy, and New andi brought New Mike. This is not unusual in my life, as I train Kachin Bando with 1d6-2 Kyles. It only tells me we need another couple of Mikes or Andys, that's all.
** Who might be younger than New Mike, just to confuse things.