Monday, February 13, 2017

Covert Social Engineering

Precis: A review of the rules for finding a specific criminal, and coming up some rules for doing that while evading authority.

The next session of New Dawn will involve the PCs going into orc controlled territory and trying to find out what happened to the local Resistance movement. I need to go over the rules for that.

Finding Criminals...

Fortunately, GURPS has at least some mechanics in the core rules for finding people, and Social Engineering provides some more details. Finding a particular criminal is a straightforward roll against Streetwise, modified by the size of the search area (its harder to find a specific person in a big city) and the distinctiveness of the person sought. Each attempt takes a day. On a success, you either find the person, or if the person isn't in your search area, determine that. Failure wastes time but the search can be repeated at no penalty.

...While Hiding From the Authorities

New Dawn adds the complication that the PCs are effectively wanted criminals by the local law enforcement, and thus need to keep their heads down. The GURPS rules for hiding from the authority while doing stuff aren't as straightforward, but they can be teased out from the basic set and Action: Exploits. The skill to hide in a crowd is Shadowing (or Stealth, in my games, since I feel Shadowing is a skill tax and roll all its functions into Stealth) and the skill to to detect people doing bad stuff and to detect oncoming guards is Observation. The question is how do they all work together?

I'm going to say that that any PC searching for an informant, and any PC aiding with a complementary skill, needs to make a Stealth roll to avoid being found by the orcs. Stealth rolls are modified by any Holdout penalty for the PC's armor and any Distinctive Features quirks or Forgettable Face perks. Also, any PC can act as a look-out, and provide a complementary bonus to Stealth with an Observation roll. They can also pursue their inquiries more aggressively or circumspectly, trading -2 penalties to Stealth for +1 bonuses to Streetwise or -2 penalties to Streetwise for +1 bonuses to Stealth.

In Summary

Each day, the PCs can search some of the villages and towns for a Resistance Contact. They choose how much area to search:
  • A single farm village (100 people; +3)
  • A small market village and surrounding farm villages (800 people; +2)
  • A single small or large market village (less than 500 people; +2)
  • A large market village and surrounding villages (3000 people; +1)
  • The town of Flostrund (2500 people; +1)
  • The town and the surrounding villages (8000 people: 0)
 Once per day spent searching, a single PC may roll Streetwise to attempt to contact the local Resistance in the search area. The following modifiers apply:
  • Complementary bonuses for any other PC using an Influence skill
  • +1 per -2 penalty to the following Stealth roll
  • -2 per +1 bonus on the following Stealth roll
  • The search area modifier
On success, the PCs find a contact in the local Resistance, if there is one in the area, or determine that there isn't one. On failure, they don't find anyone but can try again. Critical failure means contacting a collaborator who betrays them to the orcs.

Each PC involved in the Streetwise roll, either directly, providing a complementary bonus, or acting as a look-out, must also roll Stealth. The following modifiers apply
  • Complementary bonuses from any PC acting as a lookout with an Observation check. Lookouts can aid in the Streetwise test, but are at -2 on both rolls because they have to split their attention
  • The bonus or penalty from the Streetwise roll as above
  • Any Holdout penalty from the PC's armor (a successful Holdout roll halves the penalty, round down) and for any large weapons
  • Any modifiers from the PC's Distinctive Features, Forgettable Face, or Size Modifiers or other physical traits
  • Half of the search area modifier, as a penalty
  • A -3 penalty if the orcs are on alert.
The first failure puts the orcs on alert; the second failure causes an orc patrol to investigate. Multiple failures on the same day only count as one failure.

If the PCs succeed on a Streetwise check on the same day that a Stealth failure causes the orcs to investigate, the PCs make contact first if their Margin of Success is more than the absolute value of their Margin of Failure and otherwise they make contact after dealing with the orc patrol.

What's the Point

Hopefully, this will be at least a mildly interesting mini-game that will keep all the PCs somewhat involved. They need to decide where to search: smaller areas produce more definite results, but can produce a lot of negative results, which uses up time. Smaller areas are also riskier to search, especially since repeated searches increase the iterative chance of Stealth failure. They also need to decide who conducts the searches, who acts as look-outs, and who is left hiding away from the villages because that PC is too distinctive to be useful. They've already sent Hloomawl off with the army rather than try to have a 8' tall, 600 lb minotaur try to infiltrate orc territory, and they may have to make similar decisions with some of the other PCs.

These rules are a fairly tailored to my game, but they're just an expansion of the existing rules from the Basic Set and Social Engineering. They could be repurposed for other games where the PCs need to find some one while evading the authorities.

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