Shadow Wolves


by Hans-Christian Vortisch

"In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight, for I am the Shadow Wolf."
? Motto of the Shadow Wolves

The Shadow Wolves are a unique unit of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Formed in 1972 as part of the U.S. Customs Service, the Shadow Wolves are exclusively Native Americans with an exceptionally specialized skill set: the 21 members (two supervisors and 19 agents, two of them women) are expert trackers. The unit is headquartered in Sells, Arizona.

Their main job is to track smugglers transporting contraband (mostly drugs such as marijuana) over the U.S.-Mexican border on the Tohono O'odham Nation Indian Reservation (the second largest reservation) a few miles west of Tuscon, Arizona. The Shadow Wolves originally all came from the Tohono O'odham tribe (p. OW61), but today they include Chicasaw, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Lakota, Navajo, Oglala Sioux, Omaha, Pima, and Yorock.

The trackers learned their skills from their elders and while hunting or herding free-roaming farm animals. They refer to tracking as "cutting sign" or "checking spore," and are exceedingly adept at it. They are reported to "hear" things that are silent and to "see" things that are invisible -- at least to urbanites. While usually tracking in pairs, they work like a pack of wolves; once one finds a trail, he will call in the others. Backup is also available in the form of tribal police, border agents, and customs officers. They are exceedingly effective; the Shadow Wolves net an average of 60,000 lbs. of drugs every year, more than a third of the entire amount of confiscated illegal drugs in the whole of Arizona.

Since 2001, Shadow Wolves have also been to several countries in South America and the former Soviet Union (including Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan) to train local border agents and police to prevent smuggling -- not the least of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Typical monthly pay of a Customs Patrol Officer is $3,300.

Customs Patrol Officer "Shadow Wolf"


75 points

Attributes [10]: ST 10 [0], DX 10 [0], IQ 11 [10], HT 10 [0]

Advantages [35]: Alertness +2 [10]; Code of Honor (Police) [0]; Legal Enforcement Powers [5]; and 20 additional points in Acute Hearing [2/level], Acute Taste/Smell [2/level], Acute Vision [2/level], Alertness [5/level], Animal Empathy [5], Combat Reflexes [15], Contacts [varies], Fit [5], Patrons [varies], Police Rank 0 to 2 [5/level], or Strong Will [4/level].

Disadvantages [-30]: Duty (15 or less) [-15]; and 15 additional points from Addiction (Tobacco) [-5], Alcoholism [-15], Bad Temper [-10], Bully [-10], Cannot Harm Innocents [-10], Insomnia [-10 to -15], Intolerance [-5 to -10], Overconfidence [-10], Overweight [-5], Secret [varies], Sense of Duty [-5 to -10], or Stubborness [-5].

Primary Skills [42]: Area Knowledge (Tohono O'odham Nation Indian Reservation) IQ-2 [2]-10; Brawling (P/E) DX+1 [2]-11; Criminology (M/A) IQ [1]-11; Driving (Automobile) (P/A) DX [2]-10; First Aid (M/E) IQ [1]-11; Guns (Light Auto) (P/E) DX+1 [2]-12*; Guns (Pistol) (P/E) DX+1 [2]-12*, Guns (Rifle) (P/E) DX+2 [4]-13*; Hiking (P/A) HT [2]-10; Law Enforcement (M/A) IQ [1]-11; Orienteering (M/A) IQ+3 [8]-14; Stealth (P/A) DX [2]-10; Survival (Desert) (M/A) IQ [2]-11; Tracking (M/A) IQ+4 [10]-15; Writing (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-10.

* Includes +1 bonus for IQ

Secondary Skills [13]: Camouflage (M/A) IQ [1]-11; Climbing (P/A) DX [2]-10; Fast-Talk (M/A) IQ [1]-10; Holdout (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-10; Intimidation (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-10; Running (P/H) HT [4]-10; Streetwise (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-10; and either Motorcycle (P/E) DX+1 [2]-11 or Riding (P/A) DX [2]-10.

Background Skills [5]: A total of 5 points in Administration (M/A), Animal Handling (M/A), Computer Operation (M/E), Guns (Shotgun) (P/E), Handcuffing (A), Language (Spanish or a Native American language), Psychology (M/H), Scrounging (M/E), Spray (A), or Traps (M/A).

Equipment: Camouflage uniform with a gray feather on one shoulder (silent reminder of a dead officer and the dangerous nature of the job), tropical boots, and a floppy bush hat (see p. SO103 for these items).

Weapons include a 9×19mm Glock 17 pistol (p. HT108) with two spare magazines and either a 9×19mm H&K MP5A5 submachine gun (pp. C64, HT116, SO117, and SW00) or 5.56×45mm Colt M16A2 (pp. C64, MF22) or Steyr AUG A1 assault rifle (pp. HT115, SO115) with three or more spare magazines -- officers have been shot at by both drug smugglers, fugitives, and the Mexican army. All shoulder arms fire single shots or three-round limited bursts only (p. MF19).

Other equipment includes a loadbearing vest (p. SO105), 3-quart Camelbak hydration system (p. SO105), binoculars (p. CV40), flashlight (pp. C67, SO108), night vision scope (pp. CV45-46, MF14, and SO110), global positioning system (pp. CV35, SO108), handcuffs (pp. C67-68), latex gloves, and portable radio (pp. C62, CV39).

Vehicles include pickup trucks and Polaris 4×4 ATVs (the latter having almost completely replaced the horses used previously). Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters (p. SO124) of the CBP Special Aviation Unit in Tuscon are available for support.

Campaign Ideas

The Shadow Wolves can be used in a fairly straight-forward Cops campaign, either on their own or coordinated with DEA or FBI agents on some special case. Such cases can even be unrelated to their primary task of preventing smuggling, but require their specific skills. They have safely recovered children who wandered in the desert, and might do similar things with murderous fugitives or Things from Outer Space that crash-landed somewhere in the border area . . .

However, what if the Shadow Wolves have more in common with wolves than just the name, the way they operate in a "pack," and their excellent tracking abilities?

Here are some variations on the theme:

Wolf Inside

The most obvious avenue would be to make the Shadow Wolves shapeshifting werewolves of the "good" type. They would simply be officers with more options -- more powerful, less vulnerable, and especially more adept at tracking prey . . . of course, in such a campaign, the stakes should be higher. Instead of Mexicans smuggling marijuna or illegal immigrants, the Shadow Wolves could be matched by supernatural foes. See the Benandanti in GURPS Shapeshifters for an example of such a race of werewolves in the service of good. Sergeant Angua von Überwald (p. DI79) of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpok, despite the difference in tone and setting, is a pretty good example for a werewolf wearing a police badge.

Wolf Totem

They can hear a cloud pass overhead, the rhythm of your blood. They can track you by yesterday's shadow. They can tear the scream from your throat.
-- Poster blurb for Wolfen

Wolf has always been one of the more powerful totems in Native American legend and lore (p. OW71). Wolf is the hunter. Wolf is the warrior. In a Horror campaign, the Shadow Wolves could be in league with the wolfen, wolf spirits in the form of large wolves preying upon the weak and defenseless. Depending on the campaign, the stats of normal wolves (p. BE82) or certain werewolves (p. H00) could be used for the wolfen.

In an essentially "good" campaign, their CBP superiors could know of this connection, the Native American agents harnessing the wild spirits in the interest of law and order, helping them to track down criminals (and, perhaps, getting the occasional bite . . .). However, due to the likely unwillingness of the wolfen to openly cooperate with "The Man," their superiors probably have no clue who they are working with. The Shadow Wolves might still have harnessed their wild soul mates, preying on "evil men" in order to protect their pack (their tribe, their nation).

Alternatively, either the Shadow Wolves or the wolfen might have a secret agenda, perhaps to bring back the old ways (like the Wendigo werewolves in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, p. WTA106), or simply to survive.

For a darker atmosphere, the wolfen could be mai-coh (p. SH9), evil wolf spirits that use the Shadow Wolves as a cover for their evil deeds against humans.

Homo Sapiens Lupus

In Technomancer, the Shadow Wolves could be Homo Sapiens Lupus, one of the rarer chimeras. In fact, considering that the reservation lies within Trinity's Shadow (p. TM6), it is very likely. The Shadow Wolves would not only benefit from the unique abilities bestowed on their race by the unleashing of mana by the Hellstorm (especially their markedly improved senses), but almost certainly also attract the odd wizard into their ranks.

Relevant spells would include Find Direction, History, Pathfinder, Plant Sense, See Invisible, See Secrets, Seeker, Seek and Create Water (to survive in the desert), Sense Life, and Trace.

Homo Sapiens Lupus


25 points

"Wolf people" are humanoid with distinctive canine features, such as a muzzle, sharp teeth, pointed ears, a furry body, and a tail. They are stronger, larger, and far less common than Coyote chimeras (p. TM53).

Attributes: ST +1 [10], HT +1 [10].

Advantages: Acute Hearing +2 [4]; Discriminatory Smell [15]; Fur (Very thin) [0]; Magery 1 [15]; Penetrating Call [5]; Sharp Teeth [5]; Speak with Animals (Canines and Wolves, -30%) [11]; Ultrahearing [5].

Disadvantages: Dependency (Mana, common, constantly) [-25]; Lunacy [-10]; Social Stigma (Minority Group) [-10]; Vulnerability (2d from silver and DN) [-10].

Cowboys and Indians

The thinly populated area of the Tohono O'odham Nation Indian Reservation has been used for illegal border crossings ever since the creation of the U.S.-Mexican border by the Gadsden Treaty in 1853. Consequently, with some tweaking (mainly concerning the official attitude towards Indians, who historically were not granted U.S. citizenship until 1906), the creation of the Shadow Wolves could be pushed back in history.

In an Old West campaign set in the 1890s, the trackers could try to prevent Chinese immigrants from entering the USA. In a Cops or Cliffhangers campaign in the 1920s or early 1930s, they might be employed to enforce the prohibition (p. C11) and prevent smugglers from transporting tequila over the border . . .


Customs Trackers.

Wheeler, Mark. "Shadow Wolves." In: Smithsonian Magazine, January 2003.

Wolfen (Michael Wadleigh, 1981).

Article publication date: December 5, 2003

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