What is Legwork?
Legwork is, at its base, the act of searching out information via the Matrix, contacts, magical means, or any other method that comes up. Regardless of the methods, the overall goals are the same.
What do I need?
In order to do legwork you need a +sheet. Really, that's it. Oh, Etiquette is a great starting place, but it isn't the end of the discussion. Virtually any knowledge skill could come into play, and perhaps even some Active skills or at worst, defaulting to Attributes.'
Etiquette is the main skill, however, so let's start there. Etiquette is a Charisma-Linked skill, which means most players are screwed as it is the first stat to get sacrificed in the name of power if you aren't a Face or Summoner. Still, you can get by with a less-than-steller stat or Etiquette skill if you know how to work it.
Etiquette allows you to understand the basics of whatever culture you may be interacting with. It is the little voice in your head that tells you that calling the Don a fat wop is a bad idea, the training to know that certain orgs and gangs have differing methods of showing respect, knowing that the deckers in St. Louis hate leetspeak. Many GMs will have you +roll Etiquette versus a Targe Number in order to gain information from a contact, and as usual more successes yeild better or more detailed information.
Your other skills, usually knowskills, may come into play for detective work or figuring out clues and intricate details. ANY skill may come into play, from Street Gangs to Underwater Basket Weaving, depending on the plot, the clues, and the way things are going. Your GM will often ask you if you have X, Y, or Z skill. Do not be afraid to try to offer another similar skill that they may not have thought of. However, not every skill can shoehorn into figuring out a problem. A clue requiring Street Gangs or similar skills will not find results if you apply Gardening.
The next link in the chain is Contacts. 9 out of 10 times you are doing legwork, you'll be dealing with a Contact. (Yes, there are those that deal exclusively in Matrix- or spirit-based legwork. They are a separate chapter).
The most common Contact that you'll run across is a variation of Fixer, be it a standard fixer, an information broker, a fence, rumormonger, or other person that makes a living selling dribs and drabs of information to those that are interested. Not all information is worth the same amount, mind you, and the cost may be based on how 'hot' the information is, how fast you need it, and so on. See Section C for more details on cost.
For legwork purposes, you'll reach out to your contact in some way, be it a personal meeting, a phone call, a matrix drop, a telepathic burst, or what have you. You'll give them what you are looking for and they'll look into it for you. The Target Number to find the information may vary depending on the type of contact, when you need it, how hot it is, how close to their specialty it is, etc.
Not all contacts can find the same information, and TNs will vary wildly between types. Your fixer and your smuggler may have access to information on who is blockading the local smuggling routes, but your Warrens Squatter may stare at you like you grew an extra head if you ask them. It is a good idea to have several contacts; they can be worth more than a clip of APDS if you use them correctly. Cultivate relationships much like you would with other PCS. While they won't often go on runs with you, knowing the right person at the right juncture can mean the difference between a prolonged combat at 4AM with the Ute Border Patrol or breezing through the checkpoint with a smile.
Information and favors cost money. Sure, you paid for a contact, but that doesn't mean that they'll do things for free just because you look purty. Money is the usual way to motivate your contacts, though some playes have used sex, traded favors, blackmailed, or otherwise manipulated contacts for their own benefit.
The amount you pay depends on your GM, who may weigh the speed you need the information, how 'hot' it is (this means if the police/feds/contract killers/bug shaman are looking into it too). If you shortchange your contacts, you can find yourself having their level downgraded or having them removed entirely! Yes, you can actually cheat your way out of a contact, or abuse them in such a way that they are killed or take a strong dislike to you, thereby dropping their level or removing them as well.
Information gathering takes time, it's a sad fact. The more esoteric the information, the longer it often takes, with times averaging in the range of hours and ranging into days or weeks.
Money/favors can often speed things up, but there is a limit to that unless you get incredibly lucky and touch the right person with the right information at the right time. Do not wait until an hour before the run to try to get your contact to get you the guard rotation or an invitation to the Black Tie event .. you will likely be a very sad player when you spend money only to be told it will take 2 days.
You are the last and most important link in the Legwork Chain. You have to be willing to think about the problem and plot and apply yourself to solving a puzzle or tracking down clues. It isn't always easy and direct, and often can be very frustrating. You don't often get to roll dice/get solution in one easy step, and could spend half your paycheck tracking down information that ends up being about something not even related to what is going on.
It is very common for other players in the plot to let one or two people handle the legwork with the cry of 'I don't have the right skills/contacts/ whatever, I cannot/won't help'. By doing that, you are not only perpetrating the myth that you cannot do it, you are setting yourself up for a very boring time unless you have a dedicated legwork person feeding you plot hooks.
Yes, being able to do legwork virtually guarantees that you will have things to do. You'll be able to get into any plot that comes up, from a PRP to the mightiest staff plot. All you have to do is ask questions.
Example OneBarry the Newbie Samurai wants to find out who is leading the army of ghouls out of the Warrens. He has an Etiquette of 2 and two contacts, his Fixer Phil and a gunsmith George. Pretty sure that George won't be able to help, Barry hits up Phil to see what is going on. The GM has him roll his Etiqutte vs a TN of 4, yeilding 1 3. Phil is too busy to answer the call and Barry is out of luck.
Determined not to stop there, Barry looks over his knowskills and sees Denver Warrens 4. Taking a chance, he asks the GM if he can try to track down the ghoul movements via his intimate knowledge of the Warrens. It is a long shot, but the GM lets him have a TN 8 test to see if he can run anything down.
Barry rolls and gets 1 3 6 9 on the dice, yielding 1 success. A few secret die rolls and the GM tells Barry that it will take him about 8 hours of detective work and 200 nuyen in bribes to find out that the ghouls come down Smokey Hill Road on their way towards the city. Barry now has a better idea of where to concentrate his searches, and goes to get a team. It's asskicking time.
Example TwoSilk wants to find out the floorplans for the local Ares R&D facility, and she needs it tonight! The premier fixer hits her Rolodex and sets loose her fixer Ocean, the decker Sexyguy069, and Jeffery Smithers, a local Ares scientist on the case. The GM has her roll Etiquette 9 versus a TN of 6, 6, and 8 to see what her contacts can tell her. She rolls and gets 1 2 4 7 8 9 10 13 21. This is 6 successes for two of the contacts and 5 for the last. Since it is a hurry, Silk tells the GM she's paying her contacts four times their usual rate for the information. The GM cusses under his breath and sets out typing up multiple paragraphs of information and giving up the web link to his drawing of the floorplans. Silk is out 35,000¥ but has the intel for her run that evening.