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Old 10-21-2016, 02:04 PM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Shadowing

Shadowing is the IQ/Average ability to shadow someone: to follow them through an urban environment, including crowds, without being spotted. In a non-urban environment, you use Tracking and Stealth. The defaults are IQ-5, Observation-5, or Stealth -4 if you're on foot. If you're travelling some other way, roll at -2, and you can't use the Stealth default. The only skill with a default to Shadowing is Observation. The skill appeared at GURPS 1e.

To shadow someone, roll a Quick Contest every ten minutes between Shadowing and the target's Vision. If you win, you keep shadowing him. If you lose, you lose the target; if you lose by a margin of 5+, you are spotted (but presumably have not lost the target). Once you are spotted, roll a Quick Contest every five minutes between Shadowing and the target's Shadowing or Stealth. If you lose, you lose the target. If you win by a margin of 5+, the target thinks they've lost you. If you critically fail, you lose the target and follow someone else.

Presumably, the target's Vision could be replaced by some other long-range and precise sense if they had it. Shadowing someone who has such a sense, if you don't have it, sounds pretty hopeless, -10 to your skill. Presumably, a target who has spotted you doesn't have to try to get away: they may be happy to just lead you somewhere.

There are lots of modifiers, mostly connected with the ease of the target recognising you. You're at -3 if they actually know you, and there are penalties for being Skinny, Overweight or (Very) Fat, for Dwarfism, Gigantism, Unnatural Features, and Hunchback, and conditional bonuses for Discriminatory Hearing. Several of these penalties become bonuses if the target has them. The target gets bonuses to detect Shadowing from 360-degree vision, and Peripheral Vision.

It seems plausible that you could get equipment bonuses to shadowing, for things like swiftly reversible coats, a selection of different crushable hats and other things that let you change obvious features of your appearance very quickly. This does have the downside that the target will be certain they're being shadowed once you are spotted.

Shadowing is a significant skill on templates for spies, counter-spies, investigators, thieves and assassins. Action gives an extra use to Shadowing, for merging into a crowd, and clarifies the rules on Shadowing someone in a car, and on getting close enough for watching, or listening. AtE warns that Freakishness is bad for this skill. DF scouts and thieves use Shadowing, for trailing monsters back to lairs, and ninja and assassins for more conventional purposes; manuals are available at high prices. Fantasy has templates that treat Shadowing as an alternative to Stealth, and Horror has journalists and slayers that use it. Mysteries reckons that Shadowing works best using a team, but doesn't give rules apart from "Roll once, for the worst skill". There are perks, talents, quirks and wildcard skills for Shadowing in the Power-Ups series. Powers gives bonuses for use of Warp, and Enhanced Senses and The Weird have several abilities that boost the skill, or help counter it. Social Engineering reminds us that social skills can create invaluable distractions, and Tactical Shooting lets you use it for ambushes. Ritual Path Magic has a ritual that makes your nature obvious, giving -3 to Shadowing, Ultra-Tech has hearing boosters that help with the skill ... and moaning Zombies are easy to Shadow.

Fredrick Forsyth's novel The Fourth Protocol has some fine examples of team shadowing, by a fictional MI5's "Watchers." The Mysteries rules do simplify things, but that book is from 2008, and we have a few more tools these days. To make a group of people into a team, we could have a "Shadowing Team" perk, a bit like Battle Drills or Teamwork. That lets them work in a coordinated way without a need for much communication. With that, you could use something like the abstract rules for Tactics on p60 of Martial Arts, with the leader of the shadowing team using Leadership in place of Tactics, in a contest against whatever skill (if any) the target is using for evasion. If the shadowing leader wins, they get rerolls equal to their margin of success to be used by the team. This mostly represents assigning the right team members to brief periods of shadowing, usually peeling off within 10-20 minutes to be replaced by someone else. Does that make sense?

My main encounter with this skill was as a victim -- at the start. In the Elizabethan M:tA campaign, my character noticed he was being followed while out on his own in London. Hmm ... I'm a fairly dangerous target. I bet that shadow has another man following him to report back if he has problems. Let's lead them round a few blocks and see if I can catch No.2. It worked. I have no idea if No.2 existed before I mentioned him to the GM, but it made sense, and he was there. If we were followed after that, it must have been by someone much more skilful.

Where has this skill led you?
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