Drones in GUMSHOE

Unmanned vehicles (commonly called "drones") are a crucial tool in the modern intelligence arsenal. Drones can gather still or video images, track targets from tens of thousands of feet in the air, and carry deadly payloads for when force is unavoidable.

In the right GUMSHOE games—mainly Night's Black Agents, though GMs may make them available in Esoterrorists or more cinematic Mutant City Blues campaigns—a drone serves as a source of clues for investigative abilities like Electronic Surveillance, Military Science, Photography, and even Traffic Analysis. Information from a drone can be downloaded and analyzed in nearly real-time, making an unmanned vehicle a potential source of tactical fact-finding and tag-team tactical benefits.

Eventually, an agent may want to take more active control of a drone. The most important general ability is obviously Piloting (or Driving for ground drones), which works exactly as if the agent were flying in person. (Double Tap notes that mastering a type drone takes up one Piloting vehicle slot or a Driving slot for remote ground vehicles.) An armed drone allows the use of Shooting, and may carry the equivalent of a submachine gun (+1 damage) all the way up to Hellfire missiles (class 5 explosives). Drones can also be a platform for Surveillance tests to observe or track distant targets.

In spy thrillers, most drones are sophisticated enough to operate for long periods of time without direct control by a human operator. Crafty agents can piece together such expert systems with Mechanics and Digital Intrusion tests, letting them transfer points from those abilities into a pool the drone can use in place of an operator's Piloting and Shooting.

Military drones, like the apex Predator of the war on terror, should be hard to come by. GMs are justified in assessing Preparedness difficulties of 8+ in addition to requiring appropriate Cover or Network spends. Or run an entire operation with the goal of procuring a drone, using the thriller digital intrusion or infiltration rules from Double Tap.


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