Can a drift engine be tracked


Rules Questions


My question is does a drift engine leave a trail, does it leave a 'drift' signature, can it be tracked?


I can't answer this with any definite authority, but my inclination is no, based on one or two scenarios where the party loses would be pursuers by entering the drift. That's not definitive though, as it could simply have been that their pursuers were tiny ships/ 1 or 2 man fighters and did not possess a drift engine.

Sczarni

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This was probably meant to be posted in the Rules Questions Forum?

I am not aware of any rules that cover this, however there is at least one adventure where the PCs have a tracking device hidden on their ship that the BBEG uses to follow them out into the Vast.

My particular gripe is that, theoretically, such a beacon would still be subject to the Xd6 days of sending a signal through space, but said trackers catch up to the PCs after as little as one day.

I had to explain it away as "Plot is faster than the speed of light".

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As Nefreet stated there's at least one example of this happening yes. There are no hard rules though, it's narrative.

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Moved to Rules.


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My own ruling is that, it is *possible* to track a ship through the Drift, *but*. The "but" is, the signature fades very, very quickly. Realistically speaking, in order to follow a ship into and through the Drift, you need to be nearby when the ship jumps, and willing to follow immediately. If you scan their departure point within minutes, you can plot a jump that will not only take you to the same destination, you will at least probably be "nearby" in the Drift too. An hour later? The best you could manage is to narrow down a vague region of space as their probable destination ( note: said region may well be larger than a single star system ). A day later? You need to make skill rolls just to identify that someone actually entered the Drift nearby, period.

Naturally, all of these can be modified by circumstance. A tracker beacon could, of course, provide a reliable set of coordinates. If the ship is especially big or has an especially powerful Drift drive, it could make the tracking checks easier for longer. Conversely, if the region of space has tons of traffic, attempting to trace a single ship might be even more difficult or outright impossible, even mere minutes after its departure.


Dead suns #4 has an article on drift travel, but the summary would be that if you see a ship charging their drift drive and you immediately start charging yours, you might, maybe end up nearly the same range from them when you enter the drift after them.

Other than that, the drift has mostly the same physics as the material plane, if you could track a ship on the material, you can track it in the drift.


Rules - not many.

Generally, I think the needs of the plot will govern.

Also, it depends what you mean by "tracked".

Is there an "emissions" trail where the pursuing ship can follow with their sensors an hour later? I'd say certainly not. Always in motion is the drift, and the general mechanics of drift travel mean that following physical things would, to me, be impossible.

Could you attach a tracking beacon to a ship and follow? Again, probably not.

Could you attach a tracking beacon, and have it relay the target ship's location when it comes back into real space? That depends what there is to connect to? Within the pact worlds system? Sure. Out in the vast? Probably not.

All that said, things like divination magic can circumvent a lot of things.


One of the issues is that even small distances in real space wind up in drastically different places in drift space. Unless you had some hack on their system to get a feel of where they were trying to go I think what we know of the physics of drift space makes tracking where a ship that leaves real space to enter drift space highly problematic.

Its one of the things that makes even fleet travel for navy's challenging. They basically need gigantic drift carriers and or have every ship linked up to guarantee they all travel together at the same time to the same destination. Otherwise they all come out at random times and semi random exit points.


Wingblaze wrote:

Could you attach a tracking beacon to a ship and follow? Again, probably not.

Could you attach a tracking beacon, and have it relay the target ship's location when it comes back into real space? That depends what there is to connect to? Within the pact worlds system? Sure. Out in the vast? Probably not.

Interstellar communications use the drift, and take the same amount of time to arrive at the receiver as a ship does to travel. A tracking beacon is a viable method of tracking a ship through the drift, but is also likely easily detected, and the delay of 5-30 days of getting a location means it's not a great method of catching up to said ship.


Garretmander wrote:
Wingblaze wrote:

Could you attach a tracking beacon to a ship and follow? Again, probably not.

Could you attach a tracking beacon, and have it relay the target ship's location when it comes back into real space? That depends what there is to connect to? Within the pact worlds system? Sure. Out in the vast? Probably not.

Interstellar communications use the drift, and take the same amount of time to arrive at the receiver as a ship does to travel. A tracking beacon is a viable method of tracking a ship through the drift, but is also likely easily detected, and the delay of 5-30 days of getting a location means it's not a great method of catching up to said ship.

I was thinking the same. You can at least tell where they have been and may eventually catch up to them but not really useful for real time tracking.


If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.


The first AP did seem to have tracking chips on the players ship but they seemed less like tracking through the drift and more what somebody else mentioned once you get back to real space sending a message through the drift. If you kept moving it would be ineffective but if you don't realize this is happening you can catch up to your targets if they stay in one system long enough.


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i'm of the opinion that 'it depends on the DM'

for 'my drift' ships might enter together, but they travel through it independently, arriving 'somewhere' in that infinite plane, and exiting 'somewhere else' within it, even though they departed the prime at the same point, traveled the same amount of time, and arrived at the same time in the same place.

but that's just me.


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Ixal wrote:
If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.

That would only be the case if the "terrain" were fixed. In the real world, you can know the exact position of two ports, and it will still take a variable amount of time to sail between them, due to variance in the currents and weather. The analogous properties of the Drift, as described and implied, are similar but *much* more extreme.


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Metaphysician wrote:
Ixal wrote:
If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.
That would only be the case if the "terrain" were fixed. In the real world, you can know the exact position of two ports, and it will still take a variable amount of time to sail between them, due to variance in the currents and weather. The analogous properties of the Drift, as described and implied, are similar but *much* more extreme.

i would argue that they are not analogous.

starships in the real world, navigate by viewing the starfields. there are no starfields in the drift. perhaps they navigate by viewing planar objects which were sucked into the Drift? But that would imply that they are at least fixed positionally relative to one another, and there's no evidence of that.

now, it's possible that you could track a ship vis a vis its position in the drift by use of the drift beacons... but since those exist in real space... quite a quandry...


Yakman wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:
Ixal wrote:
If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.
That would only be the case if the "terrain" were fixed. In the real world, you can know the exact position of two ports, and it will still take a variable amount of time to sail between them, due to variance in the currents and weather. The analogous properties of the Drift, as described and implied, are similar but *much* more extreme.

i would argue that they are not analogous.

starships in the real world, navigate by viewing the starfields. there are no starfields in the drift. perhaps they navigate by viewing planar objects which were sucked into the Drift? But that would imply that they are at least fixed positionally relative to one another, and there's no evidence of that.

now, it's possible that you could track a ship vis a vis its position in the drift by use of the drift beacons... but since those exist in real space... quite a quandry...

You navigate in the drift via drift beacons, which exist in real space, but transmit in the drift.

Purely by the rules, you can track a ship by having something on that ship sending you it's location constantly through an unlimited range communication device, or it needs to be in sensor range just like it does in the material plane.


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Garretmander wrote:
Yakman wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:
Ixal wrote:
If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.
That would only be the case if the "terrain" were fixed. In the real world, you can know the exact position of two ports, and it will still take a variable amount of time to sail between them, due to variance in the currents and weather. The analogous properties of the Drift, as described and implied, are similar but *much* more extreme.

i would argue that they are not analogous.

starships in the real world, navigate by viewing the starfields. there are no starfields in the drift. perhaps they navigate by viewing planar objects which were sucked into the Drift? But that would imply that they are at least fixed positionally relative to one another, and there's no evidence of that.

now, it's possible that you could track a ship vis a vis its position in the drift by use of the drift beacons... but since those exist in real space... quite a quandry...

You navigate in the drift via drift beacons, which exist in real space, but transmit in the drift.

Purely by the rules, you can track a ship by having something on that ship sending you it's location constantly through an unlimited range communication device, or it needs to be in sensor range just like it does in the material plane.

but the question is - does the device know its location?

you might be able to navigate by the drift beacons, but that doesn't necessarily translate into having 3 dimensional coordinates of a space ship.


Yakman wrote:

but the question is - does the device know its location?

you might be able to navigate by the drift beacons, but that doesn't necessarily translate into having 3 dimensional coordinates of a space ship.

I'm inclined to say yes because knowing your ship's location seems a pretty important part of navigating, but... in the drift you might just know your destination and it just takes you however long it takes you to get there.


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Yakman wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:
Ixal wrote:
If you could track things through the drift you could also map out routes and not have several days of variance between arriving at your destination.
That would only be the case if the "terrain" were fixed. In the real world, you can know the exact position of two ports, and it will still take a variable amount of time to sail between them, due to variance in the currents and weather. The analogous properties of the Drift, as described and implied, are similar but *much* more extreme.

i would argue that they are not analogous.

starships in the real world, navigate by viewing the starfields. there are no starfields in the drift. perhaps they navigate by viewing planar objects which were sucked into the Drift? But that would imply that they are at least fixed positionally relative to one another, and there's no evidence of that.

now, it's possible that you could track a ship vis a vis its position in the drift by use of the drift beacons... but since those exist in real space... quite a quandry...

. . . this is a complete non-sequitur. Please, point to the part of my post where I was talking about stars, or any particular means of determining one location. Hint: there is none. I was talking about the *actual terrain itself*, in both the real world of seas, and the fantasy world of Drift physics.

It doesn't matter so much if you can see stars to determine position, *if the space you are located in and moving through is itself changing*. When the fabric of reality itself is malleable, that matters far more for travel times.


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Garretmander wrote:
Yakman wrote:

but the question is - does the device know its location?

you might be able to navigate by the drift beacons, but that doesn't necessarily translate into having 3 dimensional coordinates of a space ship.

I'm inclined to say yes because knowing your ship's location seems a pretty important part of navigating, but... in the drift you might just know your destination and it just takes you however long it takes you to get there.

My own read is that, you use the signals from Drift Beacons to establish your "trajectory" through the Drift, but once you are in the Drift? You basically have no idea where your current location corresponds to in normal space. I can't remember if the rules actually allow you to leave the Drift early, but if you did, I certainly would have this result in the ship being *utterly* lost and potentially anywhere in the galaxy.


Metaphysician wrote:
Garretmander wrote:
Yakman wrote:

but the question is - does the device know its location?

you might be able to navigate by the drift beacons, but that doesn't necessarily translate into having 3 dimensional coordinates of a space ship.

I'm inclined to say yes because knowing your ship's location seems a pretty important part of navigating, but... in the drift you might just know your destination and it just takes you however long it takes you to get there.
My own read is that, you use the signals from Drift Beacons to establish your "trajectory" through the Drift, but once you are in the Drift? You basically have no idea where your current location corresponds to in normal space. I can't remember if the rules actually allow you to leave the Drift early, but if you did, I certainly would have this result in the ship being *utterly* lost and potentially anywhere in the galaxy.

My understanding was that you can still see the beacons in the drift, you can even go completely off course to go explore some random chunk of plane, then get back on course to your destination later, run into another ship and follow them somewhere else, that sort of thing.

So, as long as you navigated to the beacon signals you're looking for you can change your mind mid-drift and go somewhere else.

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