General Purpose Scanner

I’m running the EotE Beginner Game’s sequel adventure, “The Long Arm of the Hutt”. It has more or less morphed into using the regular rules instead of the rules-light version from the Beginner Game box. My question is about the General Purpose Scanner which the party picked up recently. Is there nothing that it cannot do?!?

More specifically: there do not seem to be many limits placed on what a General Purpose Scanner can detect. (At least according to the CRBs for FaD and EotE; I have only intermittent access to the CRB for AoR, so I haven’t checked the item’s description there yet.)

One example given in the EotE CRB, the Cryoncorp EnhanceScan, “… is a typical example of this. Small enough to be carried by a single scout, the scanner has life-form tracking, motion sensing, metal detection, and the ability to intercept standard frequency comlink transmissions. The motion sensing operates up to half a kilometer, while the remaining systems can detect targets up to a kilometer and a half, and the comlink interceptor can catch signals from much further.” (EotE p. 175.) All this for merely 500 credits, 2 Encumbrance, and Rarity 3.

Theoretically, there are ways around all of that: life-forms who are shielded in some manner - due to a species trait, or special armour and/or gadgets, or because they are hidden in shielded vehicles/rooms/other locations. Maybe due to some forms of hibernation or stasis.

Maybe I could ask for either a Computers or a Vigilance skill check if the user keeps it running constantly? Possibly a Computers skill check to switch from one form of scanning to another?

Or just let it give the user some Boost dice on a Perception or Vigilance check?

How have other GMs dealt with this versatile piece of equipment?

I’m not a GM, but a player with a general Purpose scanner in my possession and as a player I don’t use it constantly.

Firstly at Encumberance 2 I feel that while it’s described as small and handeheld it’s at least a bit bulky and unwieldy. A handheld comlink has encumberance 0, which is what I picture a modern smartphone having. A datapad has encumberance 1 and in my mind that’s the size of an iPad.

So at encumberance 2 I picture the scanner beeing about the size of a laptop. So I generally (hehe) use the scanner when I’m activly looking for something specific (movement, metals, radiation). But I don’t walk around with it constantly.

Also, a handheld device with motion tracking up to half a kilometer would either not be super detailed, or you’d need to scroll around a map a lot.

Depending on where you are the motion sensors are more or less useful as well. In a jungle movement from animals and other creatures would make it very hard to distinguish which life signs/movements are relevant for you. In a city there would also be a lot of movement and life signs. But in a vast empty desert, it might be very useful.

If I was the GM and a player used the scanner at the right moment I would add one or a few boost die for checks.
But if a character wants to constantly monitor the device it would be hard to do anything else.

Let’s break it down by feature:

Motion Sensor: I picture “motion sensor” like an old-timey radar display from back in the days when I was state-of-the-art, and would treat it as such. So you see blips when something moves (within certain parameters), but it isn’t super-defined.
You can set minimum/maximum size, adjust sensitivity, etc, but it’s generally passive. You’d have to make Perception or Vigilance checks to monitor it, possibly Discipline if you had to keep at it for a long time.

Life-Form Tracking: Likewise, this feature can be configured for size, sensitivity, and range so you aren’t picking up every gnat in the jungle. You can use it to give you a general scan of number of contacts (“oh look, there are fifteen life-forms in that abandoned building”), or you can watch it to track the contacts. I’d require a Computers check to get the number, with the difficulty based on any atmospheric interference, structure walls, etc. A military base with five-inch-thick durasteel walls with an integrated scanner-baffle might be a Formidable check with 3 Setback, while scanning in the middle of the desert would probably be Simple difficulty.

Metal Detection: This could be used to scan for mines, droids, rare-earth metals, or jewelry lost on the beach. While it can reach out to 1.5 km, that doesn’t mean it’ll be useful at that distance. There’s a whole lot of metal, just about everywhere.
Like with the life-form scanner, it could be calibrated for sensitivity and range. The longer the range, the more difficult I’d make the check and, depending on the surroundings, the more Setback I’d add.
If you’re in a city, it’s going to be practically impossible to use at anything past Short range. It’d be most useful for scanning for weapons or the like, but even then, it isn’t specialized for that role and some weapons would completely avoid detection.
However, if you’re in the middle of a desert, 1.5 km detection radius could be very helpful in detecting approaching military vehicles or droids. I’m still operating under the assumption that it’d look like radar, meaning very indistinct readings. You’d see blips, and if you’re in the middle of a city, you’d see one big white screen as it’s set off by a couple million contacts.
Computers, Perception, and Vigilance would be the skills of choice again, and it would have to be carefully calibrated to prevent a bunch of useless readings.

Comlink Interception: This would have a difficulty based on how well the comlinks are encrypted. Simple handheld comlinks might have a difficulty of Easy since you just have to calibrate to their frequency, while a Shockhold Hardened Comlink would be Hard and add 2 automatic Failure.
Additionally, point-to-point (PtP) comlinks are much harder to intercept since they aren’t broadcast. You’d have to triangulate their location and get right in the path of the transmission in order to intercept it.

I’d prefer to make its operation interesting and an actual action point rather than being a simple bonus (especially if it gives detailed information. Make them work for it!). Sometimes you can just leave it running passively to track motion, for example, but usually you’ll have to have an operator.

It’s also worth noting that there are specialized scanners or other pieces of equipment for pretty much everything the general purpose scanner can do, and they do them better. Make the general purpose scanner just that; general purpose. Jack of all trades, master of none.