|(Last updated 8/5/98)|
|(Last updated 8/13/98)|
|(Last updated 8/5/98)|
|(Last updated 8/13/98)|
|(Last updated 8/5/98)|
The field of espionage has developed a wide range of surveillance devices and an equally diverse range of counter-surveillance devices.
Most bugs will have a small sensor attached via fiber optic cable to a main unit which functions as a recorder/tranmitter. The sensor is placed as needed and the cable is run behind furniture or through holes or cracks in the wall to wherever the recorder can be safely planted. The sensor head will vary with the type of bug, but is generally quite small. The main unit is usually a cube between 1/2 and 1 inch per side and generally includes a basic computer core with built-in storage and a radio transmitter.
It can be set to record continually or only when there are appropriate signals. The main unit can store the data indefinitely until it is physically retrieved, broadcast it via radio live as it is recording, or store it until a pre-designated time and then tranfer the entire recording in a short burst transmission. If the bug is broadcasting live while a bug sweep is being done, the device will definitely be found, so live broadcasts are not recommended.
The main unit requires a power supply. The easiest is a built-in class one battery, but that is also the easiest to be detected by a bug sweep. An integral bug is designed to be attached to an external power cable at the site (on a lamp, wall outlet, etc) and draw its power supply via it. This makes it more difficult to detect, but requires an external power supply and a roll against either Surveillance Systems or Basic Electronics to correctly set it. The best bugs are electrical chameleons which use their own battery but are set on an external building or appliance power cable for extra camouflage. They are very difficult to set, however, because their power signature must be manually modified to exactly blend in with each specific setting, and that requires a Surveillance System roll.
In addition to recording any data on the fiber optic cable, it can actually reroute or modify the data stream. For example, a comm tap on an apartment's connection to the GDN might record any data but otherwise allow the data to be sent without change. Alternatively, it could let most data be sent without change but redirect any vid-calls to or from one terminal to a fake answering machine or even the spy's own datacomp.
A basic comm tap with its own battery will cost 2,000 to 3,000 credits. An integral comm tap costs 2,500 to 4,000 credits. A chameleon comm tap will cost at least 3,000 to 4,000 credits, though for each doubling of the price you can get ones which will impose a further -5% penalty on any bug detectors. For example, an 8,000 credit bug will give a -5% penalty, while a 32,000 credit bug would give a -15% penalty.
A basic recorder with its own battery will cost 500 to 750 credits. An integral recorder costs 750 to 1,000 credits. A chameleon recorder will cost at least 1,000 to 2,000 credits, though for each doubling of the price you can get ones which will impose a further -5% penalty on any bug detectors. For example, a 4,000 credit bug will give a -5% penalty, while a 16,000 credit bug would give a -15% penalty.
Radio scanners are generally hooked up to the computer core that runs the security system, and can be set up to automatically make sweeps at specific times or even run continuously. Since people have many legitimate reasons to make radio transmissions (vid calls on their portable datacomps, etc), only the highest security institutions would run the scanner and trigger alarms full time. More likely, they would run the scanner full time and just log any transmissions for periodic review, or even just run the scanner in periodic sweeps.
If there is a bug transmitting a live signal while the radio scanner is making a sweep, there is a 99% chance the signal will be detected. However, even if the scanner is always monitoring the air waves, it is actually cycling among the frequencies very quickly. This means that a burst transmission from a bug, which only lasts a tiny fraction of a second, may be able to get out without triggering even an active continuous scan. The chance of a radio scanner detecting a burst transmission ranges from 20% to 50%. Assume that the chance of detection is 10% per 1,000 credits of cost for non-portables, or per 3,000 credits for portables.
The sniffer can attempt to detect bugs just based on their electrical fields. It can detect basic, battery powered bugs pretty easily. There is a base 60% chance to detect them, although if the user has the Surveillance Systems skill, he can roll against it with a +30% bonus. Integral bugs that take their power from the buildings power grid are much harder to detect. There is a base 30% chance to detect them, although if the user has the Surveillance Systems skill, he can roll against it with a +10% bonus. The toughest bugs are chameleon bugs, which are designed to actually blend into the building power grid invisibly. The user of the sniffer must have the Surveillance Systems skill to detect chameleon bugs, and must make a successful roll against his normal skill percentage. Particularly expensive chameleon bugs may inflict penalties on the roll, while expensive sniffers may give bonuses.
The second function of the sniffer is to detect radio transmissions. If a radio transmission is made within the sniffer's range, there is a 99% chance to detect it, unless it is a micro-second burst. Due to the very short range of the sniffer and the fact that it can also detect the active electrical field of the transmitter, sniffers can detect even the shortest burst transmissions 80% of the time.
Anyone who records a conversation which took place within the jammer's range will need to try to filter out the jamming before they can hear the conversation. This requires some specialized audio analysis software that generally costs around 20,000 credits and provides a 30% chance of successfully isolating the conversation. Each doubling of the cost will give a +5% bonus.
The tracer can be detected by a sniffer as per an A/V recorder bug with a battery power source. If the tracer is constantly broadcasting its position, it is almost certain to be detected. If it is set to burst transmit periodically, it may still be detected - see the section on bug detectors above.
A typical tracer with a battery power source will have a 5 mile range and will cost 500 credits, although for 1,000 credits the range can be increased to 25 miles. A tracer designed with either integral or chameleon power systems (see the section on bugs above) will cost two to three times as much, and are hard to come by. Tracers are generally intended for quick placement, which means they aren't usually designed as integral or chameleon systems.
A proper receiver with directional capabilities will cost 2,000 credits but can be configured for use with any number of tracers. However, any portable datacomp with a radio can be set up to receive the signal from the tracer, but it cannot tell what direction the signal is coming from, so it can only track the tracer if the signal includes the tracer's GPS position.
There are many varieties of locks, all of which share the general characteristics described here. First, they have some method of validating whether a key is legitimate. Some locks may use electronic codes while others use DNA finger prints, but it will have some mechanism to tell if the key is valid. If so, it sends an electronic trigger to the mechanism that actually opens or closes the lock. In a "dumb" lock, that is all that happens. Intelligent locks cost more, but add a third feature. They are self-monitoring and can trigger an alarm if they are tampered with.
There are just two ways to get around a lock. First, you can use a valid key, whether it is forged or stolen. Depending on the type of lock, this may mean randomly generating pass codes, playing a voice recording taken from someone authorized to open the door, etc. A very useful but difficult way to gain access is to first hack into the security system and add your voice/palm/DNA print to the list of acceptable people, allowing you to "legitimately" use the lock without having to forge someone else's id.
The alternative is to break into the locking mechanism and "hot wire" it, which basically means bypassing the computer which processes and validates the key, and directly manipulating the actual locking mechanism. This requires proper tools. A standard miniature electronics tool kit will have most of them, but not all, so impose a 10% skill penalty. A high-tech thieves kit naturally would have all of the commonly needed items.
As a general rule, it will take 4d4 actions to open the casing around a standard door lock, but it doesn't require a skill roll (unless it is an intelligent lock with alarms - see below). Some more expensive locks will require much more time and uncommon tools to expose. For example, the major difference between a bank vault lock and the lock on an apartment door is that the vault locking mechanisms are protected by an almost-impregnable casing and cannot be exposed without great effort. Basically, if the door and wall are armored, assume the casing is similarly armored too.
Once the internal mechanisms are exposed, roll against your Pick Locks skill (or you can use Basic Electronics but add a penalty of 20% to your roll). Each attempt takes 1 action times your skill roll divided by 10, rounded up. If the roll is successful, you can either lock or unlock it. If your roll is unsuccessful, you still use up the time and then must start over with a new roll.
If the lock is intelligent and self-monitoring, then the alarm will be triggered as soon as you try to use an invalid key. It also monitors the integrity of its housing, so it will go off as soon as you try to open the lock case unless you make a successful roll against Pick Locks to disarm it first. Even if you successfully get inside the lock, you must then roll to open or close the lock as described above, and the alarm will be triggered if you fail that roll.
Finally, even if the lock is self-monitoring, there may be ways to stop the alarm from being sent. If the lock is on a briefcase or some such, it may just generate an audible warning, which cannot easily be stopped since the speaker is inside the lock case. However, if the lock is designed to send the alarm to a remote computer which runs the security system, there are ways to intercept the signal. For example, a jammer (see below) could block a radio transmission, while exposing and cutting the fiber optic cable would block laser transmissions. However, good security systems will include a pulse or "heartbeat", where the lock is supposed to send an all-clear message periodically, usually once per round. The security computer will activate the alarm if it misses two or three of the all-clear messages in a row. The skill and equipment required to forge a heartbeat and fool the system into believing there has been no tampering is what separates a pro from an amateur. In general, it would require a roll against the Locksmith skill to correctly forge the heartbeat, and it obviously requires appropriate tools to generate the signal.
A slow but sure-fire way to bypass a dumb code lock is an illegal code breaker that tries random combinations until it finds the correct one. Cheap code breakers cost 250 to 500 credits on the black market, and take 1d10 x 1d10 minutes. Average ones will cost 1,000 to 2,000 credits and only take 1d8 x 1d8 minutes. The best code breakers go for 5,000 credits or more and only take 1d6 x 1d6 minutes. Any code breaker will trigger an alarm if it is used on an intelligent lock, however.
Forgeries are fairly easy to come by, in one of two forms. First, since the legitimate user of the lock has to say his password out loud, if you can plant a recorder in the vicinity you get both the voice print and the password at the same time. Alternatively, if you can record the voice at some other point, regardless of what it is saying, and somehow learn or guess the password, there are computer programs avialable for only 50 credits that will analyze the non-password voice sample and then mimic the voice while saying the password.
Forgeries are very difficult. It is possible to create a glove of living tissue that matches the victim's palm print, but it requires very unique equipment. Setting up the lab would cost hundreds of thousands of credits, and is illegal without special government certifications. If you can provide a copy of the palm print, however, you can go to the black market to have a glove made to spec. This generally costs around 10,000 to 20,000 credits and takes at least a day, and preferrably several days.
Rumor has it that there is now a device that can beat a genetic scanner. Because the scanner does not actually test a physical sample, like a drop of blood, but relies on a specialized electromagnetic scanner to read the genetic codes at a short distance, it is theoretically possible to come up with a device which would manipulate the EM field to forge the genetic signature. There is no proof that such a device has ever been successfully designed or built, however.
With the prevalence of computers, most private residences and all businesses will employ at least basic sensors in their security plans. The primary purpose of sensors is to alert the security system's master computer to the presence of intruders. What actions it can take after discovering an intruder will be discussed in the next section.
Advanced security systems may include automated weapons to attack intruders, and if that is the case the system will also need to rely on its sensors to locate the targets.
Because sensors are designed to detect the presence of someone at a distance, they are very difficult to defeat, although many super powers will help against at least one type of sensor. And the power of Cloaking is protection against all sensor systems.
The skill Surveillance Systems can be of assistance in dealing with sensors. First and foremost it provides a good understanding of what sensor systems are available and what their strengths and weaknesses are. A roll against Surveillance Systems will let a character determine whether there are sensors present in an area, and if so, what type they are. There may be penalties to the roll if the sensors are deliberately being hidden and the character is relying on just visual evidence. A good spy will always have various devices for detecting sensors available to help detect hidden sensors.
For a much higher cost, the beam can have sufficient power to cause a damage to whatever breaks the beam. Damage counts as a superhuman laser attack, and the beam does either 2d6 at a cost of 10,000 credits, or 4d6 at a cost of 25,000 credits.
The super powers Bend Light, Alter Physical Structure: Smoke, Intangibility and Mass Manipulation will all suffice to avoid triggering both types of sensor beams. Invisibility will not trigger lasers but will trigger IR beams.
Characters with Sonic Absorption and Reflection or Vibration can automatically detect the presence of motion sensors and can actually prevent the sensors from picking up any motion within the area, protecting others as well as themselves. Characters with Heightened Hearing can detect the motion sensors but cannot block it. Intangibility and Mass Manipulation are the only powers that provides automatic immunity, but Alter Physical Structure: Smoke can move slowly and not receive any penalty to the Prowl roll.
Adhesion, Chameleon, Flight, Alter Physical Structure: Smoke, Gravity Manipulation, Mass Manipulation, Shrink, and Intangibility can all bypass pressure sensors.
The powers of Bend Light, Energy Resistance, Energy Absorption, Intangibility, and Mass Manipulation will prevent detection by radar. Characters with the power of Radar can automatically detect the sensor but cannot prevent it from detecting them. Characters with Alter Physical Structure: Smoke are detectable, but with increased difficulty, so they can make a standard Prowl roll to avoid it.
However, a few basic sonic sensor functions can be used without the software. For example, if you are going away it is easy to have your home mini computer core consider any human speech to be an intruder. It is much less useful to do that during the night while you are home, however, for any number of reasons ranging from talking in your sleep to crying out if you stub your toe on the way to the bathroom.
Characters with Sonic Absorption and Reflection can prevent the sensors from working, but other than that the only defense is to not speak and to make Prowl rolls.
Characters using Adapt to Environment, Alter Metabolism, Alter Physical Structures: Liquid, Metal, Smoke, Stone, and Plant, and Create Force Field (by surrounding the sensor with a gas impermeable bubble) will not trigger it. Similarly, characters with Alter Physical Structures: Ice and Energy Absorption may try to carefully control their heat emissions and maintain the temperature, but this requires very careful concentration and control: roll 1d20 under their M.E. to succeed.
The super powers of Invisibility or Bend Light will both suffice to avoid video surveillance, as will any method of disguise that will fool the computer into thinking you belong there. The power Chameleon, or a chameleon suit, will help avoid detection if the character moves slowly enough.
Once a sensor detects an intruder, or an intelligent lock is tampered with, what happens? The answer to that question depends on the master security program in the computer core. At the very least, one or more types of alarm will go off. In all likelihood, the sensors will begin recording everything that happens, if they weren't already. Other security measures may be taken, such as closing and locking all doors in the area, temporarily disabling computer terminals in the area, and restricting computer access from outside sites. Expensive security systems may have defensive traps or limited non-lethal weaponry to attempt to neutralize the intruders. And in some cases, the security system may, legally or illegally, be set up with offensive weapons that provide a more permanent solution to the problem.
The skill Surveillance Systems includes a good understanding of what various security systems are available and what their strengths and weaknesses are. While it is impossible to know what type of alarms may be present (they are just computer software), a roll against Surveillance Systems will let a character determine whether there are any offensive or defensive systems present in an area, and if so, what type they are and what their area of affect might be.
The turret is generally a fairly small target since it locates as much as possible behind the wall and out of sight. It requires a called shot to hit it (strike total of 13+), but with no additional strike penalty, and obviously the turret cannot dodge. Most turrets have at least 50 SDC and take 1/2 dmg from SH, full from SN attacks, but a strike total of 20 or more, after all modifiers, will disable it by taking out either its motivators, the power supply, or some other critical component. For an additional 10,000 credits the turret can be armored, providing a total of 100 SDC and having only a 25% chance of being automatically shut down if the strike roll is 20 or more.
The combat statistics of the turret vary depending on the type of weapon and the quality of the program running it. A basic targeting program, including appropriate friend-or-foe identification routines and the resources needed to work with up to two turrets, costs 20,000. It requires 5,000 credits worth of software and hardware upgrades for each additional turret. Each turret controlled by the program can strike 3 times per round with no bonus to the strike roll. For an extra one-time cost of 5,000 credits, it can be upgraded to 4 actions and counts as having a weapon proficiency so +3 on aimed and +1 on bursts. Each additional 5,000 credits raises the number of actions and the strike bonuses by +1, to a maximum of 8 actions and a strike bonus of +7 on aimed shots and +5 on bursts.
This page is copyright © 1998 by Jim Stoner
Last Modified March 13, 1999