Thursday, January 23, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 08: Doctrine 03 - Information Gathering

Lets have a quick review of some key concepts.

Let's Review

  • Magery (B66) is a Binary Answer: Magical or Non-Magical. Since there is no Extra-Perception Stimuli I'm actually puzzled how to describe it consitently without falling into a Meta-game description: "magical". Exception Mana Enhancer (B68).
  • Quick Contests (B348). Ties is Both Lose. Funny that Quick Contests are only covered in Basic Set Campaigns. 
  • Information Spells (B241 & M13). Secret Rolls! Only in Critical Failure and Success does the GM say anything. Otherwise the GM says "404 error" lolz.
  • The Rule of 16 (B349). this may affect Sense Observation... MAY, note that Sense Observation is not an Attack Spell. Its ability to Trace back the source of Observation becomes very hard to use with the Rule of 16 since the Trace back attempt is always at a -5 penalty.    

Hostile Intent (rule this out early)

Sense Foes (M44) and Pentagram (M124) talk about Hostile Spells and Hostile Intent. Note that these are very poor descriptors and the GM should consider the repercussions. 

Example is that Sense Foes should not be able to discriminate Zombies and various kinds of Automata Intelligence Creatures. Digging a hole to Automata is as "hostile" to the ground as it is to Cut up the Target Mage. Mages can employ various kinds of delusions to its targets, Obscene Fascination or Obsessions may not be considered hostile and the GM should rule these things out early. 

Personally I rule that players use something unambiguous and provable than intent. Any strong emotion is general enough but very clear, if their attention is locked on my person is something that is also less ambiguous but general, etc.. 

Now lets go to Pentagram and Hostile Spells. Information Gathering are not hostile but all Social Engineering activities begin with Information gathering. Permission to be known was part of basic etiquette and is part of basic security in some cultures, you do not just give away your contacts information to just anyone and people want to know if you do give away their information because they want to know where a threat can come from. So in such a case, Information Gathering Spells falls under hostile spells. 

So what happens is that Pentagram can hide someone who doesnt want to be found. That's a powerful and dangerous circumstance. With Sense Observation, it becomes a multi-layered defense of privacy. 

Sense Foes can be made more specific using strong emotion or attention or violent urges as a way to determine Hostility but not so broad and exacting as hostility. So the sense foes can be used in such a way, the mage eliminates factors and tries to narrow down possible intent. 

Scryguard (M121)

In Doctrine 01 we learned that Scryguard is one spell everyone casts everyday because: its fairly easy to maintain, and some masters cast it multiple times a day since it costs nothing for them to maintain it for Allies.

Things the GM must Rule ahead of time
  • How it Affects History Spell? I like a good puzzle so I'm making Scry Guard distort History Spells. 
  • How it Affects Impressions?  This is fairly complicated but can be simplified. While under the influence of Scryguard what happens to the impressions left on objects? If you let it distort history, it acts like an emissions or signature negater, then it may also distort the impressions left items (of course biological remains are a different story). for WBH I'm ruling it distorts impressions, (they are unreliable and subject to GM misinformation). 
  • How it affects Sense Observation? Wording wise you have be observed in order for Sense Observation to work.  But there are many legal ways to interpret this that allows even a failed Seeker/Magical Observation/Observation skill roll attempt to Trigger Sense Observation because the Act of spying and scrying is all that is needed not the SUCCESS of the action. I like my game to be a bit cloak and dagger/cat and mouse, so I'll allow just the mere act of Trying to observe (successful or not) enough to trigger Sense Observation. Often we gather information that does not make sense, but the act of gathering information has used up time, effort and resources (its tangible). 
  • Tracer? (M106) This bypasses Scry Guard BUT it does not bypass Sense Observation only when The Mage concentrates to locate the Tracer. Tricky eh, so "tagging" someone with a Tracer and only activating later on will require fore-thought and planning. Something I want in my games.   

Sense Observation (M167) and the Surveillance State (GM Ruling)

The GM has to rule if Passive Observation, one that does not target someone specifically Triggers a response. Because of how tricky this matter is, in WBH I rule that the spell is triggered anytime information about the character can be collected. That means that a character will find himself being "Pinged" by his cellphone as it sends data to a cell tower. Character must rely on very low tech means of sending information or Comm/Empathy spells for communicating.

The spells identifies many threats, so a character will be wise to get Expertise: Security or Electronics Operation: Security skill to identify and judge the threats. Even an NPC just taking smart phone pictures of his comrades with the mage in view can Trigger the Sense Observation for the character to look away from the camera. If someone does that Dark Knight trick where all cellphones are hacked to gather information, Sense Observation will notice.

Characters who have this spell on will immediately notice if their phones' power-down state is a sleep state or truly an Off-state (unless a RFID switch triggers and powers the "on" state with a radio signal of the phone, the Sense Observation will only be triggered when the RFID is activated).  If they are on a Computer, the spell will trigger if they are Online and if they don't have enough computer savy, it will alert them of basic keylogger programs that are used for debugging (which the character has to use a Computer Operations Roll -2 to turn off lolz). Suffice to say, a character has to make Computer Operation Rolls to customize his OS to gather less inforamtion about him/her. Paranoid Mages only use Linux Lolz (there is a Distro for Mages lolz! which is the same used by the paranoid)

Seeker One Try Per Week (GM Ruling)

my Search Fu has poor results. I'm going to give a Hard once per Week limit to Seeker (M105-106) per Caster and spells like it. When we consider scrolls and magic Items that replicate the spell, the person who is gaining the information can only attempt the Seeker once per week. The only way to circumvent this is to Buy Scrolls of Seeker and have someone else use the scroll (like a Novice or Initiate). Making Seeker scrolls also count as Casting Seeker. Since its precast, if all the penalties exceed the Scroll Power Level then the spell fails. 

Sense Observation and Scry Guard

Someone trying to use Seeker will trigger both Sense Observation and Scry Guard (despite scry guard interrupting). Its like make a "search querry" , when you hit enter the signal is out there. Scryguard is just a Blocker, and Sense Observation gathers information on the Querry. Note that these are all contests,  a Seeker can still find out information if they Bypass the Scry Guard but will have a problem against Sense Observation (which is Against the Seekers IQ not his Spell Skill).  

The GM has to make ruling as how these interact. The ruling has many potential consequences, so feel free to use my ruling as a guideline to how you want certain consequences to play out.

Sense Observation in a crowded street? You feel everyones gaze as they walk by but you know it when one gaze lingers longer than the rest. 

Killian has a Scryfool-30 (Scroll, cast after all the prep spells; +5 from High mana mana enhancer 2) on Osman, Scry Guard-26 on himself (first spell cast) and Sense Observation-23 (2nd spell cast; -1 penalty) Set up on himself, and he is guarding Osman.
An Adept casts a Seeker-29 (Scroll cast ceremonially; double energy cost for +4, x20 the time) on Osman. The Adept has set up Scryguard-24 (1st spell cast) and has Sense Observation-22 (2nd spell cast; -1 penalty) 
The Adept rolls a 11 with a margin of 18 success with Seeker-29 vs Killian's Scryfool of 30 rolling 12 (18 margin of success), they Tie in a Quick Contest and "Both Fail". The Adept cannot seem to gather any information and is frustrated. Still the Act Triggers Sense Observation-23 vs IQ Adepts IQ10. The adept Rolls 12, failing by 2, and Killian rolls 9 succeeding by 14, for a Total Success of 16.
Killian can make a Seeker roll at +16 - 5 for unfamiliar at his Seeker-18 for a total of 29. Killian rolls a 10  for a margin of 19 vs the Adepts rolls 9 for a margin of 15! Killian is able to penetrate the Adept's Scryguard and able to see the Adept's Whereabouts (he probably makes an Observation Check and cast Memorize to get all the details). 
The Adept gets a chance to detect Killian with his one Sense Observation (a quick contest). Killian rolls vs his IQ12, a 13 (failed by 1), and the Adept rolls his Sense Observation-22 with a 8. He has a +15 to detect Killian with a Seeker BUT alas Seeker can only be attempted 1 per Week! 

Counter Intelligence Traps

Because of Security Concerns, its common that someone intentionally leaves an "Impression" items as Bait. Mages act on their Patrons behalf and leaders can break the connection between themselves and their patron in order to protect the patron. This is a muddy issue and professional try to always find out more before closing the noose, unless their hands are tied and they have to act. 

This kind of expectations helps create the kind of problem solving and strategic mindset you may want out of an Espionage Mastermind Game (one of the faces of the Ware Beneath Heaven Campaign). 

Illusions Surveillance Machines

Garbage In Garbage Out. Surveillance Devices only detect what they are designed to detect, you can use details to Infer certain things but an illusion disguise is recorded on a camera as is. An invisibility spell wont be picked up by a visual camera, of course other devices like heat detection can pick up an invisible character.

Alternate Identities (GM ruling)

A mage can have an alter ego, creating a Fake Face and Fake Identity (get the Alternate Identify advantage B39) to begin with... not exactly. It takes time to cultivate an Identity, some mages can create Fake Identities for sell it anonymously. It should cost about $20,000 per year of traceable history (modified by fame) and given how Haven attracts so many migrats and expats, there are a lot of missing and dead people to harvest their identities.

This will really screw with Seeker Spells. Of course there are limits to Alternate Identities, and Patricians and Dynasts may alter their features slightly to make it harder for Seekers spells to be used to gather information about them. 

GM has to rule is Seeker's Visualization requirement Kicks in with characters with multiple faces. In WBH the Visualization only works with the face, if an Illusion copies the face then the spell will return with an Error. Thats why name, Impression component and face is needed. The more details the better. 

What Happens Next?

Once you know the Identity and Location (through Trace) of who you are looking for, you have the foot in the door. When its Large Organizations vs Large Organizations (symmetric warfare), things can be porous because they will both use social engineering against each other weakest link.

Large Versus Small (asymmetric warfare), unless Small has the initiative it is pretty much a straight forward rub-out. If Small has the initiative, then guerrilla tactics/shadow warfare and exploiting the weakest Link of the larger organization.

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