Counter-tracking (sage ability)
Counter-tracking is an authority-status sage ability in the study of Scouting. An advanced skill similar to evasion, counter-tracking provides 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.