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Old 05-30-2016, 10:34 PM   #1
Dragondog
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Default Questions on Tracking

I've just reread the Tracking skill and have a couple of questions.

In an urban setting, you roll at -6 every minute, which is fine. But if you are tracking a group of men, you get a +6 bonus which completely obliterates the penalty for urban tracking. I'm not a tracker, but that seems wrong to me. You still need to roll every minute, but do you use that modifier as is in urban settings?

Secondly, you only get this bonus from tracking men, not animals. What about fantasy settings. Do all sapient races count as people in regards to these rules? What about a shapeshifter in wolf form? Or in other words, what is it that's inherent in people, but not animals, that make them easier to track?
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Old 05-30-2016, 11:59 PM   #2
Boomerang
 
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Default Re: QUestions on Tracking

In my opinion this is the type of skill that works best when the GM makes an on the spot call on the difficulty based on the circumstances.

Some of the things I consider when deciding on the modifier are:

Cinematic vs realistic
Darkness penalties
Age of tracks
Softness of the ground
Other possible signs besides foot prints e.g. broken sticks, dropped equipment.
How quickly the environment restores itself e.g. wind blowing a beach clean.
Special abilities e.g. Discriminatory Smell.
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Old 05-31-2016, 12:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: QUestions on Tracking

I have always put the break point for the human penalty to be if the trackee is wearing/carrying anything.
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Old 05-31-2016, 12:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: QUestions on Tracking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragondog View Post
I've just reread the Tracking skill and have a couple of questions.

In an urban setting, you roll at -6 every minute, which is fine. But if you are tracking a group of men, you get a +6 bonus which completely obliterates the penalty for urban tracking. I'm not a tracker, but that seems wrong to me. You still need to roll every minute, but do you use that modifier as is in urban settings?

Secondly, you only get this bonus from tracking men, not animals. What about fantasy settings. Do all sapient races count as people in regards to these rules? What about a shapeshifter in wolf form? Or in other words, what is it that's inherent in people, but not animals, that make them easier to track?
The Basic Set rules for Tracking are impressively lousy, looking at them.

Certainly, by those rules, there's no reason you wouldn't get the +6 bonus when doing urban tracking. That does not obliterate the penalty - the penalty is canceling out the +6 bonus, and you're rolling 5 times as often as the next-worst environment and 15-30 times as often as the more reasonable environments, so you'll lose the trail much sooner.

For some reason, the baseline of tracking appears to be a wild animal native to the environment. Most such animals are easier to track than most people are. Obviously not all people (especially for extended concepts of 'people') are equally easy to track, nor are all sizes of groups, nor are all animals, and groups of animals are easier to track than single animals. Basic Set doesn't seem to care.

I hoped I'd be able to find some improvement in other books. No success. There are some rules in DF #2 and #16, but they don't really address any of the issues.
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Old 05-31-2016, 12:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: QUestions on Tracking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dragondog
I've just reread the Tracking skill and have a couple of questions.

In an urban setting, you roll at -6 every minute, which is fine. But if you are tracking a group of men, you get a +6 bonus which completely obliterates the penalty for urban tracking. I'm not a tracker, but that seems wrong to me. You still need to roll every minute, but do you use that modifier as is in urban settings?

Secondly, you only get this bonus from tracking men, not animals. What about fantasy settings. Do all sapient races count as people in regards to these rules? What about a shapeshifter in wolf form? Or in other words, what is it that's inherent in people, but not animals, that make them easier to track?
You often have to take everything a skill write-up says in order to tease out what is supposed to be going on with the skill. First, you're not necessarily following tracks, at least not in the sense of following the prey by spoor alone, although you can do that with Tracking. The bonuses for superior senses specifically call out Discriminatory Smell, so Tracking is also about following a scent trail and, by extension, we can readily think of it as being a bit more like trailing than purely tracking. It involves noticing other indicators as well, such as broken branches, drops of blood, warmth of stools, bits of hair or fur and odd bits like nutshells, tire tracks from bicycles and wheelbarrows, and cigarette butts.

A classic example was a set of tracks sketched by Baden-Powell in Scouting for Boys along with the story they told him. In essence, two friends met, one pushing a wheelbarrow, the other riding a bicycle. They stopped to talk for a fairly long while, indicated by the bicycle rider having left footprints where he rested astride his bicycle accompanied by a half-dozen cigarette butts indicating that they both stayed there long enough to smoke three cigarettes each before moving on, the fellow with the bike moving off first since the wheelbarrow track overlaid the bicycle track where they crossed.

The +6 bonus for following a group of men applies in all environments, including urban. As to what makes men easier to track than animals, consider that you get a +3 bonus if you are following a man as opposed to a group of men. I'd say the rules plainly assume that people are inherently less careful about leaving a trail than are animals, particularly prey animals. Apex predators may approach human carelessness in that they don't need to fear most animals they encounter but against that, they need to get their next meal, so they don't want to tip off their prey that they're in the immediate vicinity. If you think about it, during your average day, how often do you actually think about the trail you've left since the last time you thought about it? A person can attempt to cover their tracks (trail) by making an opposing Tracking skill roll, which probably gives them a better chance of causing you to lose the trail than an animal would have, but they do have to think of it.

Generally speaking, people do tend to be careless and a group of people is worse since you have multiple people being careless. Even if they're trying to be careful, the chances that somebody muffs up and leaves a clue is increased in a group.

Another consideration that a number of books on tracking mention is trying to reestablish a trail once it's been lost. In addition to little tricks like scanning in arcs and matching the prey's pace, most books also recommend that the tracker put himself in the prey's situation and try to determine where the prey would be making for and that's a lot easier when the prey is another human, just because we know so much about ourselves.

The penalties for different environments are an indication of how long a trail is likely to persist before it stands a good chance of having been obliterated, so although urban trails fade fairly rapidly, we can assume that the bonus for a man or group of men indicates that it's somewhat easier to trail men than animals in an urban setting, which does make sense. You aren't following these men when they are in full or partial view of you, since that would be Shadowing skill.

It's somewhat easier to trail men in an urban environment for a couple of reasons. First, the tracker is less likely to end up on the wrong trail when he asks about a tallish, stout man wearing a black cloth patch over one eye, dark brown hair, a Van Dyke beard that's brown shot with red and no mustache than he is when he asks about a black Arabian horse with a white stocking. Second, people are more likely to take note of other people, a bit less likely to take particular notice of an individual horse and really, who can tell mice apart, even if they happened to notice them?

As for fantasy races, while they might be subject to the +3/+6 bonus for men, it isn't a given and may well vary from race to race. Essentially, it's a GM call based on how he envisions a given race. Each race might very well have its own set of bonuses or penalties which are different from every other race.

Last edited by Curmudgeon; 05-31-2016 at 12:41 AM.
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Old 05-31-2016, 06:49 AM   #6
evileeyore
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Default Re: QUestions on Tracking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
If you think about it, during your average day, how often do you actually think about the trail you've left since the last time you thought about it?
In the city? Almost never since the only trail I'm leaving is scent and digital.

I think that is the confusion over the -6 for urban being completely covered by the +6 for a group. A group in an urban* environment don't leave much trail that traditional Tracking can uncover.




* Depending on your urban environment.
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:55 AM   #7
Dragondog
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Default Re: Questions on Tracking

I'm aware of the other modifiers to the roll, but I was on

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomerang View Post
In my opinion this is the type of skill that works best when the GM makes an on the spot call on the difficulty based on the circumstances.
Which is basically what I was looking for, hoping that others already had figured something out that I could use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
Certainly, by those rules, there's no reason you wouldn't get the +6 bonus when doing urban tracking. That does not obliterate the penalty - the penalty is canceling out the +6 bonus,
Obliterate, cancel, the effect is the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
You often have to take everything a skill write-up says in order to tease out what is supposed to be going on with the skill. First, you're not necessarily following tracks, at least not in the sense of following the prey by spoor alone, although you can do that with Tracking. The bonuses for superior senses specifically call out Discriminatory Smell, so Tracking is also about following a scent trail and, by extension, we can readily think of it as being a bit more like trailing than purely tracking. It involves noticing other indicators as well, such as broken branches, drops of blood, warmth of stools, bits of hair or fur and odd bits like nutshells, tire tracks from bicycles and wheelbarrows, and cigarette butts.
I am well aware.

Quote:

First, the tracker is less likely to end up on the wrong trail when he asks about a tallish, stout man wearing a black cloth patch over one eye, dark brown hair, a Van Dyke beard that's brown shot with red and no mustache than he is when he asks about a black Arabian horse with a white stocking.
That's not Tracking. Or at least, I wouldn't consider it as such.
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