Covert Actions in Legends

Version 3, by George Ehrhardt and Aayko
A File from Aayko's The Legends Corner

In this piece, the dark trades of Covert Agents (Thieves, Assassins, Spies) and the skill of Stealth are looked upon, and what victims can do to protect themselves against covert actions. A lot of info was gathered from the MG Updates, the MG Home Notes, Aayko's The Chronicler's Corner, Edi's "O Mentor" column, and The Tome of Legends (Legends I Hints&Tips book).

Contents:

General notes:
* Wounds and curses(!) will reduce your chances of success in doing all offensive covert actions (C1-6,9,11-14). Blesses however do not increase your chances.
* You cannot do any offensive covert actions (C1-6, C9, C11-14) when you (the Sponsor) have a prisoner in your direct control. Also do not forget that prisoners prevent you from Teleporting, so remember that when you want to get away after the deed.
* Broadly speeking, the same skills that are required of the sponsor to do a covert order will offer a certain protection to the target if he owns such skills himself; however, also other covert skills and even some other skills on the target may offer additional protection. See the formulae in the book (p. 196-204).

Stealth

Stealth only comes into play
a) to spot the target (see Covert Sighting below)
b) to avoid getting captured if the covert action goes wrong
So you'll want that skill to get your sorry butt out of a botched attempt, but it will NOT raise your chances of succes when doing a covert crime. It just serves as a modifier to the changes of being sighted and captured afterwards.

Note that Stealth additions supplied by a Familiar do not count if the character himself has no stealth skill!

For a Sponsor, Stealth does have some advantages over Invisibility (that does raise chances of success with covert actions):
- Invisibility (by potion) wears off at production, Stealth is forever.
- Stealth helps you to find others while invisibility does not.
- If you have to rescue someone, high stealth will be very handy.
- Invisibility can be cancelled by a spell (Dispell Invisibility), stealth can not (for stealth there is the Task of Stealth spell but it seems little used).
- You don't need potions or mana for it. It's usually some time in the game that you have plenty of potions.
- The Charm of Stealth spell stacks and has no maximum, so you can have very large amounts of stealth added to the base value.
- Of course also as a Target, having Stealth is very useful: if you have more stealth than the covert targetting you his attempt will automatically fail (he will not see you).

Thieving

Order C12 says that you can steal an item in "any quantity"; if we are nitpicking then we must say that this is not fully true:
-- you must have an empty possession slot to hold the item that you steal.
-- slots for items and crowns have an upper limit of ten million minus one.

A thief may steal more than he can personally carry, in regards to weight. He may not have a prisoner in his charge when stealing. And he cannot steal ships that are assigned (L4) to the combat slots of a fleet (i.e. that are not in the possession slots of a force).

Thieves are helped by high dexterity (for stealing only), by good stealth ratings (for getting away with it), and especially by invisibility (the condition brought about by potion or spell; having the potion in use does not help).

Consider taking Illusionist skill, at a low level, when setting-up as a thief, so as to start out with invisibility. In the early days, invisibility potions may be hard to get (get yourself allies with guilds later). The thief or his sidekicks should also have access to seer spells (scry force, scry guild, read character) so they know what to steal.

Note that the modifiers for ruins and lairs (see Rules Book p. 203) only apply to the possession slots of these forces, not to personal possessions of man and beast inside such a forces (like weapons and armor on monsters in combat slot).

Note that if your character in an army is the target of a thief, all the soldiers of that army (not only of the slot he is assigned to with B8; p. 204 is ambiguous about what is meant with "the soldiers") will protect him; however if the character is an Overall Commander of the army (slot 9) then he will have no soldier protection against thieves, just as if he was a mundane character outside a slot in that force! To get protection, you have to also assign him to a combat slot (1-8). This is a crucial difference with Assassination and Kidnap, in which case the Overall Commander gets protection of his army. Players report that due to this oddity, some Overall Commanders (assigned only to slot 9) have lost important bless items on the eve of war, bits of thievery that had a major impact on the subsequent battles!

Assassination

Assassination is a highly specialized talent. A successful attempt does not automatically result in a corpse, it just gives you a free shot and lets you escape. A bungled assassination may result in a duel. In either case, good combat skills are essential.
If successful, the assassin gets a bonus to his/her free shot, with a modifier to his skills (see p. 199); the combat round is a melee attack - there are no Special Attacks, Magic Spells, or missile rounds.
The Duel following a failed assassination is similar - no Special Attack, no Spells, and no Missile weapons.

The value of poisoned weapons should not be underestimated. An NPC who takes even a flesh-wound from a poison-II weapon may die within four months.

You may not assassinate: prisoners, monsters (race 281+), invisible characters, and dead characters. Prestige and militant/weaponmaster skill levels of the target affect the chances of Assassination in a negative way - these factors only play a role in Assassination and Kidnapping, and not in other covert actions.

An Assassin gets away with it anonymous, unless he gets captured.

Kidnapping

You cannot kidnap prisoners, dead or invisible characters, or monsters (race 281+).

If successfull, the victim becomes a personal prisoner of the kidnapper (not of the force in which the villain is).
All prisoners are weightless.
If you kidnap a character who has a prisoner, then you also get that prisoner.

The kidnapper gets away with it anonymous, and a prisoner cannot reveal to his overlord where he is being held.

The chances of Kidnap are the same as those of Assassination (pp. 199-200).

Kidnapping the overall leader of an attacking army means that you 'steal' away those important tactical bonusses! Vital.

Once a character is kidnapped, he can be stripped (P6) of his belongings and/or executed (P3) or held for ransom (P2/P4)(but I've never seen the latter used - if it is worth kidnapping, it is worth killing).

Sabotage in War

Note that wall size does not effect the chances of sabotage (C1), nor does the dexterity of the saboteur, nor does the Stealth of the army commander or the saboteur.
Basically, a succesfull sabotage will leave the gate open, thus reducing Defense values.

Sabotaging Morale (C2) is another action of how to let a thief participate in battle (next to kidnapping commanders, sabotage food, sabotage gate).

Spy Attempts

Spying has become much more important with the removal of 'suicide scouts' (i.e. lone scouts do not generate a Battle Report anymore).

Strength and dexterity do not play a role in spying.

Some points supplied by Midnight Games Mentor Edi Birsan:
* When Spying on a Guild you do get a report on the possessions of the Guild [not mentioned by Rules Book p. 198; a Spy Guild also gives: guild owner, location (town), entry conditions, message boards, accepting transfers status, guild strenght, Toggle setting, skill learning fees, soldier slots and whether soldiers are required to serve on the city's wall, visiting characters, and facilities present].
* It would appear from practical experience that the distance within the Spy's 5 province range is irrelevant to success. However, some people have reported that they have better success if they are inside a target force.
* When spying on a location, the magic resistance of the location has no effect - which is why in a world with higher MARs, Spies are very useful (if Scry spells fail).

Covert Opportunity Sighting

To achieve a Covert Opportunity sighting:
- If the target is Invisible, not present, or if target's stealth is on and greater than sponsor: Automatic failure to spot
- Otherwise:

Covert skill level of sponsor x 7%
Stealth rating of sponsor x 5%
If sponsor invisible +50%
minus wounds % of sponsor
minus covert skill level of target x 5%
minus stealth rating of target x 5% (if on and less than or equal to that of Sponsor)
sum of sighting value of possessions/armor/race/mount items of target

Random factor: +/-15%

Maximum chance is 95%, Minimum chance is 0%
When an attempt fails because of sighting a covert opportunity, the chances of such sighting will be reported rather than the chance of success of the covert action.

From the "O Mentor" column of Edi Birsan:
Q: I have some very nice statuses in my NIC games that give me a negative sighting value. However when I go invisible it appears that my sighting value is going 'up' to zero. Am I not better off with a negative sighting value?
A: NO. When you are invisible it is recorded as a special condition of the character. When there is sighting needed it first checks to see if you are invisible. If you are invisible it gives the answer 'target not found'. If you are invisible you can not be kidnapped or assassinated unless they first dispel the invisibility. You generally will not be captured if the town you aare in is over run. If you have a negative sighting value, it is used as part of the massive number of modifiers and factors to spot someone so there is a chance you could be spotted and nailed. Additionally, all covert actions check to see if the sponsor is invisible and generally award a flat +50% to their chance of doing anything sneaky and low down for being invisible.
Q: I have a sighting value that is in excess of 2000.0 is this a bug?
A: No, in this particular case the character has a status of Child of Light, is wielding a Flaming Sword and riding in a Fire Chariot. About the only thing you could do to make your sighting value any higher is hire the Mormon Choir to sing The Messiah as you travel by :). Cutting the value down would seem very anti-social and deprive all the locals of a free light show. However, if you really need to try to be unnoticed, then try an invisibility potion to reduce things down to zero...and skip the Choir!

Protection against Coverts

If you are in the unlucky position to be at the receiving end of Covert Actions, what can you do? How can potential targets reduce risk and what can victims do to control damage?
There are several defenses possible against covert actions:

A) Having covert skills
It is much harder to steal from/kidnap/assassin someone with a thief, assassin or spy skill (look in the order rules formulae). From a Mentor question in The Strategic Review, it becomes clear that having Stealth and Invisibility will also reduce the risk of being Assassinated/Kidnapped, in the sense that the Assassin must first spot the target before getting an opportunity )COvert Opportunity Sighting) to attack. In general, Invisibility will make that spotting impossible. Of course, Stealth is also very important for your chances to escape.

B) Having Military/Weaponmaster skills and prestige
The chances of getting Assassinated or Kidnapped are lowered with 1% per point of prestige that one has, with 1% for each level of swordmaster/ axemaster/bowmaster one has, with 2% for each level of Beserker/Knight one has, and with 3% for each level of Ranger one has. So let your Main have one of these skills, to be practiced in those times he really has nothing better to do. Could save your life one day...

C) Assign a character to a combat slot of a force with troops in it
Any characters assigned to a battle slot are considered to be protected by ALL the soldiers in the army (not just the slot). Pay attention to Guard Ratings, and note that complex types inherit the ratings of the simple types of which they are made up of:

normal (no training type) soldier:   1
Knight soldier:   5 (also Mage-Knight, Fey Knight, Sword-Knight, 
                     Axe-Knight, Knight-Archer)     
Guard soldier:   25 (also Sword-Guard, Axe-Guard)
These are well know, but according to certain data on the Net one must add:
Fanatic soldier:  5
Ranger soldier:   2 (also Sword-Ranger, Ranger-Archer)
Bandit soldier:   2 (also Swashbuckler = Sword-Bandit)
Assassin soldier: 2 (also Assassin Archer)
Note that the Assassins are uncertain, and that some give the complex
Knight types (except for Mage-Knights) a rating of 2. 

The guard rating of a force or slot is computed by taking the square root of the sum of the guard ratings. This means that a force with many soldiers is generally much harder to steal from than a guild, which is likely to only have a few soldiers. However, to protect against a real player-operated invisible Assassin (generally level 40), one must have over 1500 guards present to make some difference...

D) Become a monster race, or get a monster status
Monster races (281+) cannot be kidnapped or assassinated, and items that turn you into, e.g., a dragon do exist in most games. Having an Undead or Lycanthrope status reduces the chances of becoming a victim of kidnappers and assassins. However, these options could be wrong roads to take in respect to diplomacy, factions or religions.

E) Assign a Bodyguard
The effectiveness of bodygards against assassination/kidnapping depends on their Personal Combat, and not on their covert skill ratings! A bodyguard reduces the chance of success for covert agents by twice the effective PC (including statusses and blesses) of the bodyguard, with as minimum reduction -25% [the latter is not mentioned in the Rules Books, p.199-200].

F) Use Magic
Put Shells on the forces in which you are to prevent villains from teleporting in. For when teleporting into a force, the entry conditions are ignored and sighting checks are not made. Of course they will be checked when doing a covert action, but then it could well be too late!
And if you are Home Alone, and suspect that someone creepy is lurking at your door, likely not to be stopped by that handful of sloppy guards you have, then casting a preventive Cause Insanity may do miracles...For if you afflict him just before he made his attempt (not yet aware of his new mental condition) than even that handfull of clumsy soldiers will capture him while singing his luny songs.

G) Be inside a Guild
When inside a guild, the guild's soldiers will protect you against covert actions; and you do not need to be assigned to the guild's soldier slot. They will protect you regardless of whether the sponsor of the covert action is also in the guild or is creeping around outside. Who owns the guild is not relevant (NPC, you, another player).

As to the defense by soldiers (point C), it is possible to check your town's protection by having one of your own assassins kidnap one of your own characters.... However, do mind that your troops will try to stop ANY covert action, from whoever it comes; your guards live by the good old "shoot first, ask questions later"-principle. Which could mean that they would simply arrest their own boss (if he was the kidnapper) - how embarrassing!

Players believe that only one of three possible guard situations (being overall commander, being slot commander, being in guild) order) is possible, and that you thus cannot profit from both guild soldiers (G) and location slot soldiers (C). Some players think that if you are in a Guild, you only get the guild's protection (and not the town's slot you are assigned to), others think that check is done the other way round (first overall commander, then slot commander, then guild - only the first hit being valid).

Some relevant bits from the "O Mentor" column of The Strategic Reserve, with answers by Edi Birsan:
Q: If a monster is in a location does he have a guard rating?
A: Technically the character would act as a '1' or a guard rating equal to one soldier. This is the guard rating as used when the force is the target of the covert. If the monster is a target then there is a whole set of problems based on the skill mix of the monster.
Q: So I have this invisible or stealth diseased turkey running around my city. How do I find him?
A: A Scry of the force will reveal all characters with stealth 'on' regardless of the stealth rating of the caster. A character with high stealth on that views the force will also pick up anyone with lesser or equal stealth. The casting of Detect invisible on yourself will allow you to see if anyone in your force is invisible. Now since invisibility wears off at production, a simple Scry may pick up all you need. Caution: characters that are inside guilds need to be viewed from inside the same guild or a Scry done on the guild. A Sneaky Pete method to find such a character is to use a bunch of Influence character orders and thus go surfing for a possible hit.

Escape, Rescue and Release

The C10 Escape order allows you to Escape into a force of your own. If you designate an inactive force of yours then it will be created at the province of escape. The default if there is no force available is to escape into the force of the captor.

It is wise, certainly when there are hostilities with other players, to issue as your first 3 orders three Escape orders for your Main, just in case he/she could be captured in between turns. Since the Escape order is NOT charged a character action if the sponsor is not a prisoner, then there is no effect if he wasn't caught, and the 'normal' orders after the three Escapes will be processed. This method of 'Escape by anticipation' is needed because of the turn deadline/sequence factor. If a player kidnaps you on date 1, then you will only see that on date 2, and even when you try to escape next turn on date 4, his turn will have occured on date 3, in which he will likely have executed you.... and will move away with the body and keeps running. Bye, bye character.
Of course, also thieves will use this "auto-escape order" after each Steal attempt.

Note that with the Escape order, Stealth of the one who is holding the captive, will not play a role in the chances of success for the escape attempt. The rational behind that is that you already know where that villain is - "since he is holding your leash" (Edi Birsan).

Some interesting bits on Escape from Edi Birsan's "O Mentor" column in The Strategic Review:
Q: Is a Thief Skill more efficient than Stealth when it comes to escaping?
A: NO, stealth features in about twice as important as any other covert skill when escaping.
Q: Is having both Thief and Stealth additive when trying to escape?
A: All covert skills of Thief, Stealth, Assassin and Spy add in the chances to escape.[See p. 202]
Q. In SOP an NPC tried to escape from me. Is this normal?
A: Can not discuss the details, but sounds like it was a hated race and falls under the category of 'dynamic background'.

When succesfully Rescueing a prisoner, the rescued person will become a prisoner of the rescuer or be a free man in teh force of the rescuer. The advantage of the first option is that he cannot hinder your party's movement (the prisoner could well be overburdened or wounded!); the disadvantage that you cannot influence him right away or have him do actions if he already was yours or of an ally.

You will have to release a prisoner before you can do much with him, like Influence him if alive, or burry him when dead.
Bits on release of prisoners from The Strategic Reserve (answers of Mentor Edi):
Q: When I turn an NPC character Prisoner loose in my force do I now control his actions? What if I capture a PC? What if I rescue a PC or NPC?
A: The only way you control over a character's actions is by either owning the character or charming/geasing the character. NPC's who are prisoners and are released just hang out in the ultimate force where they are released. That means that if you are a party inside a town and release a prisoner he will hand out in the location's force number not your party. Same applies to NPC's who are rescued and then released. As for player characters,if you release them you should be in some sort of contact with the player that owns the former prisoner so that awkward situations do not arise...like he gets mad and attacks you.
Q: Can a character carry a dead character as a prisoner into a location and then release him, and where does he go?
A: A prisoner that is released will go to the ultimate force that the character is in. So if you are in a party inside a location it goes to the location. If you are in a guild and release a prisoner he goes to the force regardless if dead or not. This is one way of getting diseases into forces...
Q: Can the body be left in the province that the location is in and not the location itself?
A: If you bury the character then the character is in the province; buried characters will not spread their disease unless robbed or dug up. Or you can create a party in the same province as the location and dump the diseased person there; it will not cause disease for the location, unless you just before the running of production slip the party with the diseased character into the location.

Police Harrassment

In the above pieces, we have assumed that it are covert players who are the potential danger to innocent (or dead-guilty) heroes and overlords. However, also NPC locations may try to arrest characters when one of the following events take place.

1. When they issue a military order 31: Arrest character
2. When any covert action against the location fails
3. When any covert action against a character who is assigned to a combat slot fails.
4. When the script/events call for a Purge of your race/religion/gender from the streets.

If you dump on/harass another character in town who is not assigned to combat slots then the location will ignore you...for now.