The value of a good pair of binoculars cannot be overestimated. It may be necessary to see something farther than the human eye allows. Want to see what’s on a computer monitor in the building across the way? Does your character need to keep an eye on the skulking derelict who just wandered into her territory? Anything past 100 yards will incur penalties to any Perception-based Investigation or Composure rolls when made with the naked eye. A pair of binoculars, however, eradicates the majority of such distance-related penalties. A good pair of binoculars can see up to 1,000 yards, though after 500 yards, the character starts to lose detail. Every 100 yards past 500 confers a –1 modifier to any Perception based rolls using the binoculars to a maximum of –5 dice. Night vision binoculars exist, as well. Night vision allows long-range viewing in the dark, but a character begins taking the penalties at 200 yards (–1 for every 100 yards thereafter). Such sighting devices cost •••.
Bugs are small audio devices that transmit sounds, such as conversations, to the user, who is far away. Characters planting bugs may hide them in a room or upon a person’s body in an attempt to hear privileged information. The police use bugs in sting operations, often wiring operatives to obtain proof of ill-doing. Criminals use bugs in sting operations, looking to catch traitors filching cash or giving tips to the other side. Covert listening devices are no longer relegated to the law-enforcement sector. Anybody can buy them from various websites, pawn shops or spy shops. Most bugs are easily concealable. Characters can attach them to or hide them in the ceiling, or stick them in a houseplant or even under a desk with glue or tape. Some bugs are small enough to fit in the end of a pen or on a button, but most of these have wires that must still be concealed on the body, often taped to the skin (“wearing a wire,” in common parlance). Bugs relay the audio to a party via a radio frequency. Most listening devices require the listener be within a quarter-mile. One of the problems with bugs is, if they’re transmitting via a radio frequency, somebody else can listen in on what you’re hearing. If the other character finds the proper frequency with a Wits + Computer or Wits + Crafts roll, then she will be privy to the transmission. Planting a bug requires a Wits + Larceny roll. Anyone attempting to find the device in the future must succeed on a contested Wits + Investigation (or Wits + Composure) roll. If the successes on this roll exceed those achieved on the user’s Larceny roll, the investigator finds the bug. If the successes are lower, the bug remains hidden from view. Assume that the stats above reflect a bug that is one to two inches in diameter. Smaller bugs are available to characters; these bugs can fit into the ends of a pen or be made to look like a button on one’s shirt. Such devices are small enough to confer a –1 penalty to all Wits + Investigation rolls made to find the device. Smaller devices, however, come with a higher price tag (Cost •••). Some bugs are larger, as well, having the approximate dimensions of a cigarette pack. Larger listening devices tend to be older. Their cost remains the same, but they have +1 to Size and, as a result, +1 to Structure. Hiding such a bulky device, which may have wires that need to be hidden as well, is more difficult. The Wits + Larceny roll to conceal the device is made at a –1 penalty.
Bug Sweeper Edit
Paranoid or pragmatic characters may believe that they have been bugged. Maybe somebody is listening in at the office. Maybe a video camera records whatever the character is doing in his bedroom. Maybe his buddies, his wife, even his children can hear what he says to other people because of a bug planted in his shoes or his pocket. Is it true? Probably not. But, as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Bug sweepers help such individuals scan an area for recording devices, whether video or audio. Such a device usually looks something like a small, black walkie-talkie. A character sweeps the device over various parts of the room. If the bug sweeper picks up something emitting radio frequencies or odd electromagnetic radiation, it’ll show it through a series of lights. When looking for bugs, characters can add a +2 modifier to the contested Wits + Investigation roll if using a bug sweeper.
Disguised Camera Edit
Hidden cameras have become easily accessible to the public, often replacing closed-circuit video surveillance. They’re cheap and popular. Parents use them to spy on babysitters, bosses watch employees in offices or break rooms, girlfriends snoop on boyfriends (and vice versa). The monsters of this world find hidden cameras endlessly useful, as well: predators watch the habits of favored prey while surveying the boundaries of their territory, and some sorcerers litter their sanctums and libraries with these cameras as well, monitoring every corner and shelf obsessively. Stationary cameras such as these come in countless forms: clock radios, smoke detectors, air purifiers. All the devices are functional in addition to being cameras. Clock radios still have alarms and tell the time, and desk lamps still illuminate one’s paperwork. Such items must be of Size 2 or greater. Smaller cameras, such as those that might look like a pen, wristwatch or pair of eyeglasses, are more expensive (Cost •••), and have a Size 1 and Structure 2. Hidden cameras don’t usually transmit an image to a monitor as the action happens, but instead require that the captured video be viewed later after hooking it up to a TV’s audio/video inputs. The resultant video is low resolution with washed-out coloring, and only lasts about two hours. Better cameras are available, but come with a bigger price tag. Assume that any bells and whistles (better video, wireless monitoring and playback, longer recording time, submersible up to 30 yards) add +1 to the Cost, up to a maximum of Cost ••••. For a similar price tag, characters can also purchase cameras that do transmit an image wirelessly to a monitor. This monitor must be within a quarter-mile. Characters actively hunting to find such disguised cameras can make a Wits + Investigation roll, with a penalty equal to the Cost of the camera. (The higher the cost, the more authentic the device appears.) These items are designed to be hard to find, and a casual passerby will not be allowed a Wits + Composure roll to accidentally find it.
Tracking Device Edit
Tracking devices are far more prevalent than people think. Some cars come fitted with LoJack or OnStar tracking in case the cars are stolen. Criminals out of jail or potentially going to jail almost always wear electronic tags, usually bound around their ankles, so cops can trace their movements from afar. People can buy tracking devices for their kids, pets, computers or any other goods they want monitored. Many consumer-level tracking devices (car-trackers, child or pet trackers) can be purchased through and tracked by a third party. Some devices allow you to track the item or individual via a website, but most report the location from a phone call. Other devices might track via a GPS handheld. In theory, only police or government officials can monitor law-enforcement private sector tags, but someone savvy enough could reconfigure such a tracking device and trace it himself. Doing so requires 15 successes on an extended Intelligence + Crafts roll, and each roll takes a half-hour. The electronic tags used in the intelligence community (CIA, FBI, Mossad, etc.) are not available to the public sector, but particularly wealthy or crafty individuals might be able to get their hands on such devices. Physically, a tracking device is a tiny microchip. The electronic tag tracking a pet, for instance, is a microchip implanted in the animal’s ear. Some non-standard tracking devices are encased in hard-to-break cases, such as the reinforced plastic collars around a prisoner’s ankle or neck. Reinforced devices have a Durability 2 and a Structure of 3, but, because these devices are less concealable, they do not have a higher Cost. Hiding a standard tracking device requires a Wits + Larceny roll. The small Size of the device grants a +2 bonus. Implanting a microchip tag in a creature living or dead requires an Intelligence + Medicine roll. Making the chip part of an existing device (car, cell phone, laptop) requires a Wits + Crafts roll. Discovering a hidden or implanted electronic tag requires a Wits + Investigation roll, whose successes must exceed those made on the roll to conceal the device in the first place.
Keystroke Logger Edit
This piece of hardware requires physical access to a subject’s computer. A keystroke logger is no bigger than a person’s thumb; to use the logger, a character inserts it between the keyboard plug (USB or PS/2) and the computer port. Anything typed on the keyboard is captured in this device, which can be retrieved by the user by later plugging it into the character’s own PC. Of course, she must find a way to stealthily apply and remove the device, but once done, she can see a text-file transcript of everything the subject typed – BIOS passwords, system logons, emails, letters. Employing and retrieving the small device require separate Wits + Computer rolls.
Reverse Peephole Edit
With this gadget, a character can use a peephole to peer from the outside in. The device looks like a jeweler’s loupe (the small magnifier used to appraise a gem). The reverse peephole fits over the peephole on the outside of the door. A character can then look into the building. The view is limited, of course, as no peephole allows a fully accurate assessment through such a minimal opening. Characters looking for something specific through the peephole can make a Wits + Investigation roll with a –4 penalty, assuming the object is at all visible from the user’s vantage point. While such a device would seem uncommon, many real estate agents carry them on-hand, as do a number of police officers and criminals.
Spyware is usually something one inadvertently downloads when using a computer connected to the Internet. Such accidental installation may occur because of tracking cookies to software that “bombs” your system with advertisements while watching your every move. Some spyware, however, can be installed by a third party in an effort to monitor someone’s computer use. Spyware not only records keystrokes but actually captures every visual movement of the user. The “spy” can see every website the target visited, every document typed, every chat session. The user must install the software upon a subject’s PC. Once installed, the spyware collects all the information, and even transmits this information automatically to the hacker, provided that the infected system is connected to the Internet. Installing the spyware might mean that a character needs physical access to the target computer, but savvy hackers can forcibly push such software over a network connection (wired or wireless), or even through a Trojan attachment via email. Assume that such installation requires a contested hacking attempt (see p. 57, the World of Darkness Rulebook) requiring seven successes. Spyware adds a +2 equipment bonus to this roll.
Wi-Fi Sniffer Edit
A sniffer is generally a keychain-sized device that hunts for wireless. This device doesn’t require a computer to use; the sniffer simply detects wireless networks within 100 yards and identifies their presence and the strength of the frequency with a few green lights. Wireless laptops and handheld devices bought within the last four years can usually perform this function, but are far more conspicuous. A character can monitor the keychain without drawing attention. After finding a wireless network a character can return with a Wi-Fi-capable laptop, handheld or phone and use the network without requiring physical contact with the system. Whether this means he’s looking for free Internet access from some poor fool’s wireless router or whether he’s trying to hack into a major corporation’s financial records, it still requires the appropriate contested Hacking roll (see p.57, the World of Darkness Rulebook).
A wiretap is a variant form of a covert listening device. A character doesn’t use a wiretap to record environmental sounds, but instead conceals it within a phone or upon a phone line. Any conversations spoken over that line are transmitted to the user or an appropriate third party. Some wiretaps are fitted in a phone’s receiver, while others are placed along the phone wire or at the jack in the wall. A rare few phone taps can be placed at the switchboard, such as those located at the bottom floor of many skyscrapers or office buildings, usually found in a locked closet. Placing a phone tap requires an Intelligence + Larceny roll. This is a contested roll against any attempts to find the device (with an appropriate Wits + Investigation roll). These devices are also made to fit inside cell phones.