Thursday, May 23, 2019

Evasion & Counter-tracking

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I'm afraid I don't have proper tracking rules as yet to compliment this work, but who does?  After the research that led me to create the sketch below, I have a better idea now of how I would design those tracking rules.  These are two sage abilities that would be found under the sage study, Scouting.

EVASION (sage ability)

Provides the character with skill at consciously avoiding detection by others who may be actively hunting the character, or in a position to witness traces left by the character. The measures taken will not fool another who has tracking ability, nor monsters with tracking abilities, but it will be sufficient to conceal the character’s movements with other beings, particularly humanoids.

The ability grants no benefits to others associated with the character, who will unavoidably make obvious tracks on trails, stamp vegetation, mark soft wet places as they walk, etcetera, even if counselled to do otherwise. For the possessor of the skill, however, evasion will include actively choosing routes that won’t reveal footprints, bending back grass and vegetation, selecting hard surface entry and exits onto trails, roads and river banks, the wisdom not to sit down upon halts, to listen automatically for movement of others who may be moving in the area, a heightened awareness of wet environments, knowledge not to cross open spaces, how to maintain one’s equipment to leave the least scent, the presence of scent with regards to air movement and wind direction, etc. All of these things provide a negligible chance that the character, acting alone in the wilderness, will leave any track that will be noticed or remotely followed by a creature other than than those gifted in tracking.

The skill does not offer any special benefits to not being seen or improvement in the character’s stealth ability.

See Scouting

COUNTER-TRACKING (sage ability)

An advanced skill similar to evasion, providing the character with techniques that will mislead or delay those with tracking ability, particularly confounding tracking monsters and animals such as dogs or familiars. These measures have the potential for shaking off pursuit by enabling the tracked character to outdistance a tracker; or, in certain conditions, to obscure the trail so that it cannot be followed at all.

The ability will grant some benefit to others associated with the counter-tracking character, in that false tracks can be created so that up to four others besides the skilled character can be potentially shepherded away from trackers. The ability does not allow the number of those in flight to be hidden, but by directing others to take specific actions and movements, the counter-tracker can have the tracker moving in circles that will waste time.

This technique includes laying false trails and backtracking around objects, having a group “jump off” a trail at different points, creating deception tracks, shepherding groups to enter stream banks and exit in ways that will leave confusing evidence of movement, various use of water to break tracks, creating boxes and figure eights with movement both on land and in water, leading trackers to probable spot-points for the best effects from snares and traps, varying direction of march and using vegetation to foul leashed animals and their handlers, forcing them to untangle themselves before continuing pursuit.

Speed of Flight

Laying false tracks requires time and careful effort ~ others with a minimum 13 intelligence and 14 wisdom can give aid. Note that enemy trackers can anticipate counter efforts if a team’s movements are sloppy, allowing them to leapfrog the apparent tracks and close distance with the pursued.

Counter-tracking reduces forward movement for the pursued by 25% and for the pursuers by 30-35% (d6+29). A leashed dog adds +4% movement speed to the pursuers. An unleashed dog will move faster, gaining a +5/6% benefit, depending on the training of the dog. Shepherded characters with less than 13 intelligence should make an intelligence check each hour. Each failure will “speed up” the pursuer by 3%.

The DM should determine the actual distance separating the pursued from their pursuers, then keep track of this distance accordingly.

Pursued characters should decide each hour if they intend to move their best normal movement or if they wish to counter-track. Normal movement, during which the pursued will move at 100% speed in that environment, will leave blatant tracks that can be followed. The delay of the enemy tracker to begin moving at full speed as well may count as distance gained, but that distance will be lost again if the character acts again to counter-track.

Any of the following will add 1-2% to the speed of pursuers who are employing an animal to track:
A pleasant or warm day.
A wind speed of calm or light air.
Flat open ground under a canopy of trees, slowing evaporation and wind dispersal of scent.
Any member of the pursued has less than a 11 constitution, meaning they’ve gained a heavy body odour from sweating while in flight.
Frozen or thawing ground, which retains scent better and longer.
Two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset.
Items dropped or left on the trail, including pepper and like products, which in fact will not affect a animal trained to track. These items confirm the pursuer’s belief of being on the right track.

Any of the following will allow the tracks of a counter-tracker to eliminate further pursuit:
Rainfall equal to 30 mm over a three-hour period.
Any rainfall followed by a warm or hotter temperature.
A wind force of 6 or greater.
Populated, crowded areas where foot traffic will obscure sign and scent.
Fast running water.
Moving at night.


Note that trackers and pursued may, if coming close enough, gain a visual sight of each other, not only across open ground but perhaps for brief moments as elevation allows line of sight into a valley, up at higher ground or potentially across a large body of water. A wisdom check is needed to determine if either group catches sight of the other; the lowest roll against wisdom determines who sees first. If the d20 rolls are equal, both pursued and pursuer see each other at approximately the same time.

See Scouting

Post Script:

Most of the material above was extracted from this linked document on military counter-tracking techniques.  A very interesting read.


Agravain said...

I have a question :

"Any of the following will add 1-2% to the speed of pursuers who are employing an animal to track"

Let's suppose pursued and trackers have the same movement speed.

If there is no counter - tracking and the pursuers have animals, they will eventually catch up on the fugitives, moving at above 100% speed?

And also, will counter tracking at night and through fast running water, always and inevitably allow an escape?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ah, yes. I'll put a note that no one can move faster than 100% speed.

As far as the night and fast running water rule goes, I like sage abilities without a die roll. To get the counter-tracking skill, only a very lucky ranger would get it as early as 3rd level, and then only if scouting was their primary specialty; 5th level would be average. If a ranger had it in their field but not as their specialty, it would take 9 levels on average. If a ranger took some other field, the average would be 20th level to get this ability.

Thing is, whatever value this particular skill provides, every character is giving up a whole lot of other skills until they're much higher level. This is the goal. I don't mind that the players know that if they can keep on the run until dark falls, they're "safe." Of course, that won't protect them against a familiar with night vision, like an owl, or a mage with an ultravision spell. There are no absolute guarantees.

Agravain said...

I agree on the "not rolling" part, it makes A LOT more sense than "I rolled a 20 I can do whatever".

I just wanted a few clarification on the mechanics.