Nothing To See Here: City Guard Patrol Shifts for TTRPGs

Be it for a fantasy city, superhero game, or space station, these mechanics will help you flesh out ‘walking the beat’ for your party of law-keepers. Intersperse this with big, landmark cases – murder, heist, kidnappings etc.!

Image: The Siege: Inside Town by Francis Goeltner

The Stats Of A District

First, determine the size of the district and the crime rate. This determines the total number of d6’s we’ll roll in the next step.

District Size

Small district (a city block)+1
Medium district (a few blocks)+2
Large district (a sprawling neighborhood)+3

District Crime Rate

Orderly, upper-class+1
Lower class, slums, ‘bad part of town’+3
The Docks is a sprawling district occupying the entire eastern waterfront side of the city. It is a bad part of town, with many dark alleys and criminal elements. We would roll 5d6 for this area.

Rolling Our Dice Pool

Next, we roll all of our d6’s and check the results!

1-3All’s quiet – or perhaps another patrol has taken care of this particular case. -1 Disorder.
4-5Overt Activity. Roll on the Overt Activity table.
6Covert Activity. Roll on the Covert Activity table.
Optional Rule:
You could tie the District's crime rate into the type of activity taking place.
Upper-class neighborhoods could have Overt Activity occur on a 4 and Covert Activity occur on a 5-6, since there's more law enforcement here to force crime underground. Slums could have no Covert Activity at all, with only Overt Activity happening on a 4-6.

Overt Activity tends to be rather noticeable and loud and could be crimes of passion or vandalism.

1-3Disorderly Conduct – Loud drunks harass passers-by. 1 Disorder.
4-5Robbery – Someone is being held at knifepoint, out in the open. 2 Disorder.
6Assault – An argument has spilled into a brawl or worse. 3 Disorder.

Covert Activity tends to be hard to spot unless you know what you’re looking for.

1-3Pickpocketing – Someone is padding their income with some quick cash. 1 Disorder.
4-5Burglary – A couple of thieves are trying to gain access to somewhere they don’t belong. 2 Disorder.
6Heist – A professional crew is hitting a high-value target, and isn’t afraid to make victims. 3 Disorder.

Working A Shift

Our dice pool has granted us a bunch of results. Let’s check our example again:

We roll 5d6 for the Docks, and get 2x 6: Covert Activity.

We got two burglaries! So, to summarize this shift:

1All’s quiet -1 Disorder
2Burglary +2 Disorder
3All’s quiet -1 Disorder
4Burglary +2 Disorder
5All’s quiet -1 Disorder

On tonight’s patrol, our group of guards must make 5 rolls – but only 2 will matter, at moment 2 and 4.

Each shift, the guards must choose how to patrol. There are 3 options:

  • Fast Patrol: The guards cover a lot of ground and are likely to respond quickly to any public disturbances, but are less likely to spot any subtle suspicious behaviour.
  • Normal Patrol: The guards make their usual rounds.
  • Cautious Patrol: The guards keep their eyes and ears open and move a bit slower, but are more likely to catch wind of hidden activity.

This has the following impact on spotting crimes:

  • A fast patrol has
    • a 1-in-6 chance of spotting Covert Activity.
    • a 5-in-6 chance of spotting Overt Activity.
  • A normal patrol has
    • a 3-in-6 chance of spotting both Overt- and Covert Activity
  • A cautious patrol has
    • a 1-in-6 chance of spotting Overt Activity.
    • a 5-in-6 chance of spotting Covert Activity.

So, our party of guards rolls a d6 for each moment. Let’s say our example guards perform a normal patrol.

The shift would play out as follows:

  1. All clear, you spot no activity.
  2. A burglary takes place, but our guards roll a 5 – that’s higher than our 3-in-6, so they don’t spot it.
  3. All clear, you spot no activity.
  4. A burglary takes place – and our guards catch them red-handed! An encounter takes place: perhaps our guards spot a broken window with the thief still inside, and perhaps the crew chases a fast-footed thief with a comically large bag over his shoulder.
  5. All clear, you spot no activity.


You may have noticed the notion of disorder behind several entries. This is a way to keep track of the general safety and security within a District.

  • Anytime All’s quiet is rolled, Disorder is lowered by 1.
  • Any unnoticed crime that occurs during a shift raises Disorder by the set amount (+2 in the case of our burglary).
  • Any crime that is noticed and properly handled by the party, do not raise Disorder, but lower it by that amount instead.
  • Any crime that is noticed but not properly handled (i.e. the criminals get away), raise Disorder by the crime’s value -1, i.e. +2 Disorder if a Heist is spotted and the guards intervene, but the crew gets away.
  • Landmark events outside of this system can also lower or raise Disorder.

In our example, the net change in Disorder after this shift would be: (-3 for All’s quiet, -2 for a foiled burglary, +2 for a successful burglary) -3.

As for what to do with Disorder? I’d probably use it in conjunction with the Stress/Panic system I spoke about before. Let Disorder quietly tick up, and if a particularly big, shocking event happens, use it as a modifier of public opinion. For instance:

2-6Fizzles Out. Surprisingly, the public calms down a bit. -5 Disorder.
7-14Unrest. The public is clearly restless. Add +1d6 to your dice pool each shift.
15-22Public Panic. Support for public institutions is under a lot of strain. +5 Disorder.
23-30Riots. The streets are filled with angry mobs.
30+Breakdown of society. Jeez, good job.
I haven’t done the math on this compared to how quick the Disorder score can grow, sorry bout that

In Summary

  1. Determine district size and crime rate.
  2. Roll the dice pool: 4+ = crime is afoot.
  3. Roll to determine crimes.
  4. Guards pick a patrol method.
  5. Guards roll to see if they detect the crimes.
  6. Resolve crimes (encounters etc.)
  7. Resolve Disorder.


Leave a Reply