The FASA material relating to espionage is scattered throughout the material and occasionally inconsistent. I’m attempting to gather all the pieces together into one place and make them easily usable for those Mission Impossible runs.
Stealth is treated in different ways throughout Shadowrun products. (It gets handled two different ways in Super Tuesday alone.) Here’s the house rule for Stealth:
|Strongly varied lighting, excellent cover; shag rug||2|
|; office carpet, concrete slab||3|
|Uneven lighting, moderate cover; linoleum tiles||4|
|; creaky wooden floor||6|
|Tall grass; “nightingale” floor, underbrush||8|
|Uniform lighting, no cover; dry leaves||10|
Note that the amount of lighting does not make a difference on the table. The target number modifiers for observers are handled on the Visibility Table (SR2 p89). It is just as hard to sneak unseen across an empty, uniformly lit room in the dark as well as in broad daylight; it’s just that the observers may have difficulty with the lighting. (Strongly varied lighting could be in a box-filled warehouse with a few lamps in the middle, or a jungle with strong visual contrasts. City streets with large dim patches between the illumination of streetlights qualifies as uneven.) I’m structuring this table so it’s quite easy to spot someone standing nearby or to listen to someone speaking to you, and modifying it from there. Dwarfs get a natural advantage in sneaking, just as Trolls get a natural penalty, due to size. (Their target numbers to sneak are the same, but those to spot them change.)
|Very small object, person under 75% cover; sound is floors away||+6|
|Object camouflaged, action very subtle, person under 50% cover; sound on the same floor||+4|
|Object partially hidden, person under 25% cover, outside normal line of sight (“People never look up!”); whisper, sound rooms away||+2|
|Object shoebox sized; quiet voice, silenced single gunshot||0|
|Object Dwarf sized; speaking voice||–1|
|Object brightly colored/inappropriately camouflaged, human sized; gunshot, yell, sound-suppressed burst fire||–2|
|Object Troll sized||–3|
|Action very obvious (walking); burst fire, sound-suppressed autofire||–4|
|Action blatant (running); full autofire, shotgun blast||–6|
|Flashbulb; grenade blast||–8|
Make your players declare that they’re glancing up and down when they want to avoid those target number penalties for things outside their normal line of sight. It might change their habits in the real world.
|Minimal light (starlight)||+6||+4/+2||+4/+2|
|Partial light (city streets)||+4||+1/0||+2/+1|
Invisibility spells give a +2 penalty to Perception rolls to spot the invisible character for each success scored on the spellcasting roll. In cases where a person would not normally need to roll (you walk up to them and wave), the person now needs to roll against a base TN of 4, modified by the person’s size, the distane to the target, and ambient lighting. Invisibility is never perfect, but the optical distortion involved can be made so small that a person is virtually undetectable.
One of the runs you don’t hear much about is pure information-gathering. Avoiding combat is no fun in a module, after all. :-) Since surveillance is exactly the sort of job shadowrunners can get hired for, I’d like to develop the task a bit more.
The two main senses to work with on surveillance are sight and sound. Other senses can provide valuable information, but take a back seat to the top two that humans use on a daily basis. Surveillance is about putting your eyes and ears places that other people don’t want them, and countersurveillance is about keeping other people from sticking their sensory organs in your business.
One of the easier barriers to overcome is distance. Telescopic sights (10×), goggles (20×, 1500¥), binoculars (50×, 100¥), and telescopes (100× and up) can directly extend vision, and shotgun microphones (1k¥ × Rating) can catch sounds from a long way away as long as the local ambient noise doesn’t drown the distant sources out. Condor drones, being transparent gasbags with small sensor packages, are a hard-to-spot way to get a view from above; they get 50× magnification for each level of sensor rating. Micro-camcorders, at 3×5×cm and 2500¥ a pop can be spread out to keep an eye on things. Devices the size of an in-the-ear-canal hearing aid can provide a great deal of hearing amplification, almost as good as actual cybernetic enhancement.
Getting through physical barriers is another matter. A laser microphone can pick up sounds from a window by bouncing the beam off a window and watching how the little spot changes as the window vibrates. Dataline taps at 5k¥ per rating point can get expensive, but will allow eavesdropping on their telcom calls (and, for enterprising deckers, on their activities near their telcom, as you switch it into receive mode). The new insectile drones from Rigger 2 can get a camera into places that were once much more difficult; fiber optic scopes can go places even drones can’t.
At the very high end, there’s a reason that Tempest
hardening is on the market. In the UK, vans drive around looking
for houses operating televisions without a license, since people
are supposed to pay taxes to support the BBC; equipment even exists
to see what’s on a computer monitor from outside the building it’s
Bug detectors work on several principles. One of the easiest is to look for sources of radio-frequency transmissions: any simple bug that is broadcasting continuously will be vulnerable to that, but the SOTA race has developed those that broadcast pulses every now and then rather than continuously. (One particular trick is to sweep the airwaves, playing them as sounds, and see when you get feedback between the bug and the speaker on the bug detector.) Line tap detectors check the electrical characteristics of your telephone line for anomalies introduced by adding a tap; these are not helpful if someone has just plugged in via fiber optics.
Bugs can be fouled by screwing up their input. White noise generators simply provide random input to the bugs; because it is random, it cannot be predicted and filtered out. Rushing water is a fairly good source of white noise, so many expensive white noise generators are disguised as ornamental waterfalls. There’s a fine market for white noise generators that are silent in a room, but are sending vibrations through a surface: laser microphones can listen to your windows even if no one can see through them, and a wall contact microphone can pick up conversations through a foot of concrete.
The voice masks that you attach to your throat to change your speaking voice are useful when you have to go out in public. Options available when you have the luxury of electronic processing can make a voice utterly unrecognizable— anything from changing fundamentals of the voice to performing voice recognition and having a cheap piece of artificial personality speak the lines with completely different intonation.
A great deal of the work of getting into a place that doesn’t want visiting shadowrunners to drop in is a matter of passing an ID scanner. ID scanners range from a simple keypad used as internal security on a room in an already secure building to cellular scanners used to verify multi-million-nuyen transactions involving ebony credsticks.
Maglocks come with room for mounting a scanner, and generally any maglock will have a scanner of the same rating as a lock. There are three basic ways to get past one.
The most effective way to get past a scanner is to give it what it wants. Nuyen payments, blackmail, or Control Thoughts and Possession spells can do a splendid job of getting someone to punch in the right codes on a keypad, offer their palm up for cellular scans, and speak passphrases.
Another means of subversion can happen via the Matrix. Most ID scanner systems have their own memory and a battery backup along with their connection to a central computer; this makes it possible for them to be opened when the computer is offline or there is a power failure. ID systems that can be updated from a central location can simply be programmed with appropriate codes by a decker.
Spoofing is the act of going in and bypassing the lock in hardware. If the lock has decided that a person passed their scan, then everything is fine.
The first step in spoofing is opening up the casing of the maglock. This requires an Electronics (B/R) test against a target number of the Barrier Rating of the maglock (which is usually the rating of the maglock), plus the rating of any anti-tamper circuitry installed. This test is unopposed, and has a base time of 60 seconds. A single success gets the job done without alerting anyone; failure will usually trigger an alarm. PC’s using especially innovative means of breaking in (such as combinations of X-Ray Vision and Magic Fingers) may have their target numbers lowered.
The next step is convincing the lock, whose circuitry you have now exposed, that you’ve made a successful ID check. (Note that there are some models of hardware that do not perform the check in the lock; instead, they send the data they’ve read to a central computer, which does the check. In this case, you should be using subversion rather than spoofing.) This requires an Electronics test against the rating of the scanner, plus its Spoof modifier. (E.g.: magnetic card scanners have a +2 Spoof modifier, so the target number to spoof a rating 5 magcard scanner is 7.) Like the test to open up the case, this roll is unopposed with a base time of 60 seconds, a single success being sufficient and a failure triggering an alarm.
Deception is a matter of fooling the scanner into thinking you’ve got the right identity. In the case of a keypad scanner, it means opening it up (as in spoofing) and wiring up a sequencer to try lots of combinations until it gets one right. For all other deception methods, the case doesn’t even need to be opened. Deception is always an opposed roll between the rating of the scanning system and the rating of the deception method. In this case, any successes by the scanning system means that it detects a subversion attempt and triggers an alarm; a stalemate means that the system has flashed its TRY AGAIN light; and any successes for the deceiver means the system has accepted the method. Generous gamemasters may wish to allow their players to use karma to reroll their side of these tests.
Most deception devices are considered tangible proof of intent to commit a felony.
|Keypad||0–10||100¥||Sequencer||1–6||Rating² × 500¥|
|Magcard||1–10||100¥||+2||Maglock passkey||1–10||Rating² × 10k¥|
|Fingerprint||1–10||200¥||+4||Phony print||1–8||Rating × 200¥|
|Palmprint||1–10||300¥||+4||Phony print||1–8||Rating × 200¥|
|Palmprint/microchip||1–10||350¥||+4||Phony print and chip||—||—|
|Voiceprint||1–10||500¥||+4||Voice synthesis system||1–10||(Rating+4) × 10k¥|
|Retina print||1–10||1000¥||+4||Fake eyeball||1–8||(Rating+1) × 15k¥|
A sequencer is a small electronic box that tests keypad combinations at high speed. Many keypads are designed to report cases of too many attempts at key entry in a given interval, and hence sequencers are not very popular among runners. It requires opening up the case of the keypad, so you might as well spoof it while you’re in there.
A maglock passkey is a sequencer for magnetic card systems; unlike the keypad sequencer, it does not require opening up the case. It has similar risks to a sequencer for paranoid devices.
Phony prints can be made from fingerprints (though their Rating should be limited by the quality of the print) or from actual hands (which have an arbitrarily good Rating for taking the print from, assuming you’ve cleaned them off). Fake eyeballs are custom-designed to look like a real eye to a scanner, and are extremely expensive and very illegal. They’re not as expensive as getting an equivalent setup installed in your head, but they’re still quite pricy.
A technology developed in the late Twentieth Century is used in recognition systems in the Shadowrun era. Small microchips that respond to varying magnetic fields are encased in a biologically inactive plastic and implanted in a person’s flesh, often between the bones of the palm of the hand. (This technology is in use in the 1990’s for tracking pet animals.) A palmprint/microchip scanner reads the microchip in a person’s hand while scanning their palm. A microchip is equivalent to a very small magcard, and palmprint/microchip scanners are defeated by the combination of a palmprint and a maglock passkey. Magcard scanners alone can also read microchips.
Voiceprint systems are not the same as the voice recognition system in the main Shadowrun book; voiceprints are designed to recognize a particular person au natural while a voice recognition system is meant to get past voice distorters. The voice synthesis system is a cousin to the cybernetic voice modulator: it is a small box with high-quality speakers, microphones, and analysis software, designed to replicate a person’s vocal patterns.
To “train” a voice synthesis system’s, roll the rating of the voice synthesis system against the quality of input available for it. Assume 5 minutes of recording of continuous speaking (like a speech) or 10 minutes of conversation qualifies as TN 10. For each additional unit, drop the TN by one to a minimum of 2. Modify for audio quality: trideo should be normal, a radio broadcast +1, a Low lifestyle phone system as bad as +4, or a Luxury one the same as trideo. Recording from a high-quality studio mike could be as low as –2. A single success means the system has been trained to imitate that person’s voice.
It can be preprogrammed with phrases triggered by macro buttons; alternatively, anyone with a datajack can jack in and supply the words to be spoken through cybernetic commands.
Why risk your life running the shadows when you can build the systems that other shadowrunners will pay good nuyen for? Invent systems for creating all the black market goodies— which may include countersurveillance gear in some nations!—, including having the components you use traced and Lone Star busting down your door.
Demolitions are not well defined in Shadowrun. We have rules about plastic explosives and the damage they do, and those for blasting holes in barriers, but nothing about taking down buildings or using shaped charges. My thanks to Dare for insight into the world of blowing things up.
The only treatment of demolitions I’ve been able to find on the Web is in the Plastic Warriors Project 3 book. It mentions that a foot-thick tree can be toppled with 375 grams of C-4 done right, but it takes almost 3kg if you just tie it next to the trunk... and that 30kg was all that was needed to bring down a 10-story hotel, making it topple safely in upon itself. This is the virtue of the Demolitions skill: it allows you to figure out what to put where.
Another aspect of the Demolitions skill is the design of shaped charges. A shaped charge–s job is to concentrate the power of an explosive, focussing the damage to a certain place, rather than doing general area effect damage. A shaped charge mine can be used for piercing armor, but such things can also be used for making holes in static barriers. Efficiency makes a big difference in the amount of explosive needed for a given task.
Demolitions should have the following concentrations: Forensic analysis, target analysis, [explosive type], ...
|House||4 / 10 sec.|
|Security door||6 / 1 min.|
|Office building||8 / 5 min.|
|Security bunker||10 / 30 min.|
Target analysis is figuring out where to put your explosives for a given effect, like opening a door or destroying a building. One success tells you where to strap the explosive on; multiple successes reduce the base time for figuring out how to perform the demolitions, and assume access to architectural plans. (Destroying a building without knowing where the supports are is very difficult indeed.) The usual result should correlate with the rules on blasting through Barriers (SR2 p??).
Shaping charges is the art of configuring your explosives to expend their effort in the right places, minimizing the amount of external blast. A side effect of this is that you don’t need to be as far from the blast when it goes off. The appropriate Concentration for a given shaped charge is the one for the particular kind of explosive you’re working with. Following up a target analysis roll with a roll for shaping charges is helpful. Each success increases the Power of your explosive by two for purposes of blowing something up, and decreases it by two for purposes of figuring explosion size, backblast, and so on.
Forensic analysis is figuring out how someone else did the dirty deed after the fact, and works with the same rules on number of successes as Perception, including the usual target number of 4. One success tells you someone used explosives, and four will give you exact details down to the tagging chemicals in the explosives. (This is assuming you have appropriate gear for analysis— a demolitions kit will do.)
Demolitions should have a new concentration, “by hand”, for Physical Adepts possessing the Smashing Blow power. Here are two new powers for the stealth and surveillance jocks:
This enhanced sense power costs half a magic point, and enables the Physical Adept to pick out sounds from a hubbub, using their Intelligence rating as a Select Sound Filter. The action is much more instinctual for Physical Adepts, and does not require that they explicitly tune anything in or out. While it allows them to hear subtle things beneath ambient noise, it does not allow them to render themselves selectively deaf to nagging mates or hypnotic sounds.
This enhanced sense costs a quarter magic point, and provides an effective power of magnification equal to the Adept’s Intelligence. (To compare to cybereyes, note that level 1 scopes provide 3× magnification, level 2 scopes 6×, and level 3 scopes 10×.) It can be purchased multiple times. The Adept simply becomes more aware of events happening in the center of their field of vision, as that area focusses details to a preternatural sharpness. It does not provide actual magnification— the Adept does not lose peripheral vision— but the level of detail available gives the same effect. Like the cybernetic enhancement, this power only negates distance penalties when the Adept knows to look at something.
Start with Eye Tech’s page on Surveillance Information. The InterGalactic Spy Shop has a number of interesting toys. DielectroKinetic Libraries LLC has a fascinating little human locator that they claim can distinguish humans from orangutangs and gorillas through ultra-low-frequency electromagnetic fields produced by the heart— frequencies which pass through “concrete, steel, water, heavy foliage, bank vaults, secure rooms, and every other obstacle against which the LifeGuard has been tested.” Eagle Eye Technologies has a wristwatch-sized satellite communicator that can function as a GPS locator and can broadcast its location (wouldn’t your runners rather be implanted with a cortex bomb?). Spysite’s covert surveillance section will make you think twice about ordinary furniture from now on. Electronic Security Warehouse has fiber-optic scopes. Check Yahoo! for an ever-changing list.