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Old 12-13-2014, 07:36 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

Counterfeiting and Forgery are related IQ/H skills: one is for forging currency and the other documents, such as ID cards and passports, and they default to each other at -2. Both skills are only taught by the underworld, and government agencies. The rules for success and failure, and for detection of the fakes, are slightly different between the skills, and could use tidying up, but I haven't found a way to do this without adding far too much complexity.

For Counterfeiting, roll for each batch of fakes. Critical success means they're as good as the real thing. I presume that banknotes might be detected by having serial numbers that duplicate other notes, or which haven't been issued yet, but there's nothing about the notes themselves that gives any clue that they are fake. Failure on the initial roll means that the fakes will be recognised automatically, when you attempt to pass them. For ordinary success on the initial roll, you need to re-make that initial roll, at the same target number, when you try to pass the money, and any failure means it's spotted. If someone is suspicious, the passing roll is a Quick Contest vs. the best of his Forensics, Merchant, or Perception. Critical failure on a manufacture or passing roll means that you got unlucky, and there are worse consequences than just refusal of the money.

For Forgery, there's no manufacture roll for the batch, because it's assumed documents are forged individually. Instead, the forger's skill roll is made each time the document is used, unless the first roll was a critical success, which seems to mean the document is as good as a real one. Circumstances may affect this roll: a routine border check gives +5 to the forger's roll, for example. Any failure means the document is not accepted, the consequences of which vary widely by circumstances.

There are lots more things to forge at various TLs, from document seals to death certificates. Fake financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds, seem to be Counterfeiting, as per Action. Dungeon Fantasy has Forgery as the skill for detecting fake artefacts, which seems odd. Mysteries has clever ways to commit crimes with forgeries.

Both skills take equipment modifiers. Counterfeiting takes modifiers of +1 to +10 for genuine materials and requires a sample of the real thing. Forgery gives +3 for altering a genuine document, -5 for no sample of the real thing, plus modifiers for the severity of the check. Action has equipment for both skills at TL8, and High-Tech has much more detail, making it clear that Forgery is also the skill for faking handwriting, including in front of witnesses. Low-Tech has the details for TL1-4, and Ultra-Tech some very powerful devices for high TLs.

Magic has the Duplicate Object spell, which can be very handy for counterfeiting. Social Engineering has uses for both skills with assorted forms of deception. Thaumatology: Magical Styles points out the uses of Forgery with the Illusion college, and Ritual Path Magic has an example of forged credentials.

I'd feel tempted to change "critical success" for "as good as real" to "critical success or any success by 10+", since when large resources are thrown at these problems, the results get very good. During WWII, the British secret services found that most German printing firms used Monotype typesetting machines, and had custom Fraktur typefaces for them, all slightly different. This would have been a nightmare if those typefaces hadn't been mastered by the UK branch of Monotype (a US company), which still had all the masters. Suddenly, the combination of that and the ability to get paper made to precise specification - hard for criminals, easy for a government - was producing large bonuses to Forgery. The Germans returned the compliment in the well-known Operation Bernhard.

Counterfeiting and/or Forgery appear on templates in Action, Bio-Tech, Dungeon Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror, Infinite Worlds, Monster Hunters, Psis, Reign of Steel: Will to Live, Space, Tales of the Solar Patrol and Supers. PU7 has examples that include both skills.

I don't think I've ever used Counterfeiting in any RPG. It's difficult and risky, but terribly unexciting, far more so than staying at home building magic items. I've seen Forgery used, but not often: while I've played a fair bit of secret-agent GURPS, there have generally been backers or NPCs who provided forged documents, although their quality was sometimes open to doubt. The Honest Face perk can be really, really worthwhile at times. The one time I recall a PC using Forgery was when a group of agents were attempting to reverse a foreign takeover of their agency, and had technically gone rogue. We'd also recruited a new PC from a criminal background, and she had enough Forgery to customise some genuine security passes.

What outrageous fakes have you managed with these skills?
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Old 12-13-2014, 07:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

During Agency 17, Tobias produced forgeries a few times to convince NPCs the players were government agents from whatever agency seemed appropriate at the time.

Considering how grossly specialized Tobias was at anything technological, he succeeded.
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Old 12-14-2014, 02:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

A duo of PCs used Forgery to fake a document once in my current campaign, posing as freelance consultants for a certain police department (I'm a bit fuzzy on the details by now).
I don't remember anyone ever using Counterfeiting.

----

I'm especially interested in use of Counterfeiting and Forgery at TL9, where all money and documents are digital, and faking those requires forging digital certificates and faking transactions. That probably takes Cryptology as a prerequisite? Anyone got stories about that?
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Old 12-15-2014, 10:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

Looking at my archives, I see no character with Counterfeiting who doesn't also have Forgery. I don't believe Counterfeiting has ever come up in a game.

In GURPS 3e, Forgery included banknotes, and I think having two separate skills doesn't necessarily make a great deal of sense. I know Goblins introduced Uttering of Base Coin, and I'm guessing that its presence in Compendium I is why we got Counterfeiting as a distinct skill, but the idea that you use different skills for money and everything else is kind of strange. Surely "currency" ought to be an optional specialisation of Forgery, the same way "passports" or "bearer bonds" would be? I will probably house-rule this in future games that I run.

Using the same skill to create the fake currency and to pass it as real (which is what Uttering actually meant) just seems downright wrong to me: getting people to accept your fakes without question is surely Fast-Talk or some other interpersonal-related task, and in real criminal circles is often done by completely different people from the actual counterfeiters.
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:04 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

It's been a few weeks. I'm still hoping for some answers on ultra-tech counterfeiting and forgery, including forging non-banknote forms of currencies.
I see that the Desktop Doc-Fab (TL9) is a tool that grants +2 to Forgery and Counterfeiting of its own TL. That should be good for something.

High-Tech also mentions forging credit (and, I suppose, implicitly, debit) cards, but is rather vague about the details. Not having a price of a generator program is bad for when a character involved is supposed to start with it, or even have it as Signature Gear.

Transhuman Space - one of the more detailed ultra-tech settings of GURPS, seems to lack any mention of counterfeinting (or Uttering of Base Coin), based on my search attempt (which might be a failure at Computer Operation on my part).

Anyone got experience with those? Or anything else to add?
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

My default for this sort of thing is that Forgery/Counterfeiting is all about the painstakingly accurate physical object (banknote, document, etc.), but if you're in a world where people check that stuff against databases you need some sort of computer intrusion skills as well.

"Faking a digital certificate" is something that basically doesn't happen in realistic worlds: if they can plausibly be faked by someone, they aren't trustworthy for anyone, and so they don't get used. Getting a dodgy registrar, domain and cert (like using a Unicode Cyrillic о rather than a Latin o) is basically a combination of criminal knowledge (where to go) and computer skills. I think it would be fair to argue that this doesn't really come under Forgery/Counterfeiting at all.

So what is Forgery or Counterfeiting/TL9 useful for? Things that aren't digital or can't readily be checked. "My mother died and left me these pre-ban banknotes. I can't go to a dealer because (spurious reasons), but I'll sell them to you for half the redemption value."
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Old 12-26-2014, 07:49 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
My default for this sort of thing is that Forgery/Counterfeiting is all about the painstakingly accurate physical object (banknote, document, etc.), but if you're in a world where people check that stuff against databases you need some sort of computer intrusion skills as well.
That seems to be in houserule territory:
GURPS assumes that skills are about doing things the way they're done at a given TL. E.g. Forward-Observer at lower TL is mostly about working with smokes, mirrors and semaphores, while at higher TL it involves using target-designating LASERs and other such stuff. Mathematics/TL0 works with stones and beads, TL1 with the abacus, TL7 with a sliderule, TL9 with an implanted calculator. Traps is Traps whether it works with pits with spikes, or setting up proximity-detection monowire spool quick-spreaders in closets. It's what a skill does, not how.
For Counterfeiting, 'what' seems to be 'make fake currency'.

Also, Soldier covers the soldierly aspects of lots of skills; it seems the intent was for Counterfeinting (and Forgery) to also cover fakerish aspects of relevant skills, such as Artist or Electronics Operation (Card readers/editors).

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
"Faking a digital certificate" is something that basically doesn't happen in realistic worlds: if they can plausibly be faked by someone, they aren't trustworthy for anyone, and so they don't get used. Getting a dodgy registrar, domain and cert (like using a Unicode Cyrillic о rather than a Latin o) is basically a combination of criminal knowledge (where to go) and computer skills. I think it would be fair to argue that this doesn't really come under Forgery/Counterfeiting at all.
Well, fake credit cards are apparently something from the real world.
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Old 12-26-2014, 12:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
That seems to be in houserule territory
Yeah, as I said earlier, I'm planning to replace Counterfeiting with an optional specialisation on Forgery anyway. So my concept of Forgery/TL9 is about using TL9 tools to forge things: paintings, manuscripts, passports, and currency. I think that knowing what to forge, whether it's the sort of paint and brush stroke Rembrandt would have used or the numbers to put on your fake share certificate, can legitimately require other skills.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Traps is Traps whether it works with pits with spikes, or setting up proximity-detection monowire spool quick-spreaders in closets.
But Lockpicking covers mechanical locks, and Electronic Ops (Security) covers electronic locks. There is still a TL9 mechanical lock, after all. Probably with lots of MEMS springs and tiny vials of mercury. Even the most cunning electronic lock eventually has to decide whether to withdraw a bolt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Well, fake credit cards are apparently something from the real world.
But they'll generally carry the number and name off a real (stolen) one, because nearly every merchant who takes cards can now do an immediate verification by phone or internet. (And the ones who can't pay a lot more for the privilege.)
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Old 12-26-2014, 01:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
Yeah, as I said earlier, I'm planning to replace Counterfeiting with an optional specialisation on Forgery anyway. So my concept of Forgery/TL9 is about using TL9 tools to forge things: paintings, manuscripts, passports, and currency. I think that knowing what to forge, whether it's the sort of paint and brush stroke Rembrandt would have used or the numbers to put on your fake share certificate, can legitimately require other skills.
Well, yeah, I'm all for unifying Counterfeiting and Forgery into a single skill. But still, making forging TL9-TL12 documents/currency covered by a different skill or pair of skills seems wrong (see below).

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
But Lockpicking covers mechanical locks, and Electronic Ops (Security) covers electronic locks. There is still a TL9 mechanical lock, after all. Probably with lots of MEMS springs and tiny vials of mercury. Even the most cunning electronic lock eventually has to decide whether to withdraw a bolt.
Sure, Lockpicking covers mechanical locks, but also electronic ones:
Quote:
Originally Posted by FAQ 3.3.6 What is the difference between Electronic Ops (Security), Lockpicking and Traps? How do I determine which one to use?
  • Electronics Operation (Security)*:
    • Operating Electronic Security Equipment. This includes not just alarm systems but also "airport" and "police" electronics such as chemical sniffers, mass specs., metal detectors, and x-rays.
    • Circumventing Electronic Security Equipment:
      • Disarming Electronic "Traps." These are alarm systems tripped by moving through or over an area, or by touching or tampering with something, much as for mechanical traps; e.g., capacitance switches, infrared or ultrasonic beams, and pressure pads.
      • Opening Electronic Locks/Safes. This includes keypad, biometric, and RFID devices. It does not include primarily magnetic and electromechanical locks where merely the controls are electronic. (You tamper with those controls, you drop a very mechanical lock into place.)
  • Lockpicking:
    • Opening Electronic Locks/Safes. As for Electronics Operation (Security), above.
    • Opening Mechanical/Electromechanical Locks/Safes. In addition to all the usual combination locks, key locks, safes, etc., this includes jimmying windows, popping vehicle doors, and releasing security bulkheads, vault doots, and pressure doors, as appropriate for your TL.

Again, the skill is all about what it does, and is adjusted in details and tools to its TL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
But they'll generally carry the number and name off a real (stolen) one, because nearly every merchant who takes cards can now do an immediate verification by phone or internet. (And the ones who can't pay a lot more for the privilege.)
And yet card 'generators' for Internet purchases are apparently a thing. Sure, the details change with TL, but that's natural for all skills.
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Old 12-26-2014, 02:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Counterfeiting and Forgery

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
And yet card 'generators' for Internet purchases are apparently a thing.
That doesn't mean they work. There is a simple checksum built into credit card numbers, and a generator program for that is trivial, and may get you past some checks. But buying tools whose only purpose is criminal doesn't tend to involve good after-sales service: preying on wannabees who will get arrested if they go to the police is good criminal business.
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