Tea has a magic to manipulate and control the attention of those around him. With this power, he could, for instance, hold or disrupt conversations, influence one's sensory perception to some extent, or possibly become a hitman..

But Tea wants to be a hitman like no other. Imagine yourself walking along a not-so-busy street going about your own business. Now pay attention to the amount of attention you would pay to a piece of stone that lay within your path. It is just so small a thing that enters your field of vision, yet it effortlessly escapes your sphere of attention. Just as how a small line of crack on the outside wall of a grocery store to your left did not escape your vision, yet it is so insignificant to you that you did not even venture to think how significant it is for a slightest moment.
But at that very same moment you are walking along this wonderful street, Tea is also walking right next to you, holding up a handgun to your head at point-blank range, ready to deliver the blow at his convenience. You do in fact see Tea, just as you see that rock, or that crack on the wall. But Tea is able to make you pay as much attention to him as you pay to any of those mundane objects not worthy of your consideration.

For him, what a hitman needs is not distance, but the lack of attention. For when an important person is about to be shot down by a sniper at the top of a nearby building merely knows that he/she is being aimed, he/she could easily duck below the window.
Distance may achieve the lack of attention, but Tea can achieve the lack of attention directly, hence there is no need for distance.


  • If all Tea can do regarding his magic is to manipulate the attention of those around him, can he become a sniper in the fashion that was described in the background?

If so, then there's another subtle point about the extent in which he can manipulate the attention. For instance, if Tea is being treated like a rock beside your feet, should would he still be able to hold this level of (the lack of) attention if he now completely block your vision by covering your eyes with his hands?

If not, then why, and what else could Tea be? An option I could think of at the moment are lecturer and politician.

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    $\begingroup$ A 'sniper' really is a long range marksman using a rifle or similar. I'd use assassin or hitman instead. $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Dec 22, 2015 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ A sniper sits a couple of miles away, nobody knows he's there until it's too late. It sounds like you want him to become an old fashioned assassin of the knife between the ribs type. Somehow the king was assassinated in a room full of people but nobody saw who did it. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Dec 22, 2015 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ In the Wheel of time there are the Grey Man who are similar to Tea and are in fact assassines: wot.wikia.com/wiki/Gray_Man $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2015 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ @"sniper". I am aware of what exactly a sniper is, but I gave it that name not to reflect exactly Tea's profession and his precise operations, but to represent his "title" that might be given to him by the public or otherwise. Much like "The Thing", "Storm", "Moon Rider", etc. At least I thought "sniper" sounds cooler than "hitman" and the connection to his ability is also subtle rather than blunt. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2015 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Only one issue I have with changing the term to hitman is that it will affect the existing answers. I would be more inclined to at least change the key questions to "sniper" with a quotation mark while leaving the rest as hitman. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2015 at 14:30

5 Answers 5


Tea would find being a short-range sniper difficult.

There would be several key limits to his abilities, most of which stem from people being unpredictable

Just as how a small line of crack on the outside wall of a grocery store to your left did not escape your vision, yet it is so insignificant to you that you did not even venture to think how significant it is for a slightest moment.

Perhaps you happen to be a painter or a building inspector and this crack catches your attention? A bouncer at a club or the President's bodyguard, people who are paid to be attentive, may still notice him.

Now pay attention to the amount of attention you would pay to a piece of stone that lay within your path.

There's always a chance that your average Joe will trip on this piece of stone and fall, or by complete accident bump into Tea and come to realise what he's about to do - giving them opportunity to raise the alarm.

Video cameras will still see him

His ability to divert the attention of his targets would work at the time on that target. Somebody watching the CCTV footage from the camera outside the grocery store would assumedly be unaffected - they have a video recording of a man with a gun right in front of them.

Difficulty may scale with number of targets

It may be very challenging to divert the attentions of a great many people at one time, just as it's harder to juggle ten balls than it is to throw and catch just one. He may attempt to walk past a crowd with an openly held weapon and fail to distract them all for long enough to remain unnoticed.

These limitations would combine to make him a poor sniper

He may not be able to carry a weapon into the crowd at a speech, or walk down a busy street to shoot a man. He may have to rely on more traditional stealth and planning to make up for this.

Maybe he could use his magic as a tool to make him an incredible thief or secret agent, where stealth is more traditional a weapon than distance.

  • $\begingroup$ thiefing would be very easy. Just walk into a store wearing a mask so cameras can't see you, take whatever you want, and walk out $\endgroup$
    – womp
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I have accepted this answer because it answers the question directly and pointed out various reasons why. The presentation is also surprisingly straight forward and easy to digest. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2015 at 13:04

Why would Tea even use a gun? It seems to me there are easier and subtler ways to achieve his goals:

  • He could just follow his mark, distract them at the right moment and have them run over by a truck as they walk into the road while studying a strange cloud pattern. Potentially the driver could also be distracted.

Advantages: all his hits will look like accidents, making it a lot easier to escape unnoticed.

Disadvantages: might be a bit more difficult to pull of on someone who is constantly staying indoors, but most people should be around traffic at least sporadically.

  • $\begingroup$ If someone is indoors all the time and lives in an apartment, you can open a window, distract them while they're walking towards it, and watch them fall out. It might require a helping shove though. $\endgroup$
    – Nic
    Dec 22, 2015 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ You mean like this? $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Dec 22, 2015 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer, and it is by far the most humorous and to-the-point. Other indoor alternatives I could think of off the top of my head is to cause untimely slip in the bathroom, or perhaps having the target skip a step and tumble down the staircase. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2015 at 13:07

There are some questions that immediately crop up:

How powerful is this ability? Could Tea walk the streets naked without anyone paying a blind bit of notice, or would he not get away with sneezing in a library without accidentally garnering unwanted attention onto himself?

What sort of proximity can this ability work in? I'd assume pretty close quarters, because if Tea was a sniper, surely he could do the same distracting of targets from long distance through his scope?

Can Tea only direct people's attention towards/ away from tangible things, such as stones or cracks in the pavement? Or could he cause people to focus on, for example, a task they are attempting to complete? Or divert people's attention away from the fear that they are feeling?

Despite these issues, I still think that the best profession would be a Spy.

He could be sat in the corner of a room whilst an incredibly important meeting is going on. So long as he is innocuous enough to not inadvertently draw attention to himself, surely he could just stay out of the way and ensure that nobody notices him whilst listening to an organization's super secret plans.

He could also (possibly) subvert the fears of a contact in giving up information that they hold, or at least distract them enough that they relay additional information to him that they know. Garnering contacts would also be easier, as he could get them to focus on the horrors that a regime commits in order to get them to turn traitor and come over to his side.

Following people to a meet/ drop off location would also be much easier. He could ensure that the target he is following would stay focused on their task, and pay no attention to the person following them, meaning he can discover enemy covert information and hideouts with ease.

In addition, rather than being a hitman himself (I'm guessing once he gets his shot off in a public place no level of his ability would be able to keep people distracted enough to not realize that he has just shot someone in the back of the head), he could easily be a spotter for another sniper.

He could blend into a crowd to get close to an intended high priority target, not necessarily stood next to them, but close enough so that his ability would work. Then he would cause them to lose focus, making them stop in bewilderment, at which point a sniper stationed 300 meters away would take the easy shot at a stationary target.

This way, Tea could slip away unnoticed, whilst the sniper manages to escape from his perch. He could even distract any people who are after his companion, allowing his ally a little more time to escape from their position.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a really good answer and it was really hard to pick which one to accept. What I like about this one is the issues that you have pointed out, and they were the sort of issues that I often what to discuss but found it hard to ask such questions in here. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2015 at 13:10

As already noted in the comments, a Sniper is someone who uses a rifle or other long-range weapon. the point of sniping is to accurately and effectively hit a target from a great distance, hard enough to ensure it stops functioning.

That said, the ability to distract attention would be highly useful - a key part of being an effective sniper is not having your location disclosed. By distracting attention, one is able to effectively remove oneself from your nest - a highly attractive skill for the professional assassin.

With that covered, an assassin with the ability to completely remove attention from one's self is covered already in fiction - so if you want ideas, read Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. Towards the end, using the exact method you've described -

an assassination is carried out on the Patrician of the city in a crowded room. The target notices him, but nobody else does, even when the assassin dispatches two guards effortlessly.

(spoiler protected because it's an awesome book)

It works a bit differently, as its not magic, more knowledge of the peculiarities of how Diskworld works, but the effect is the same. It does differ significantly in how it works as you described, but could be an interesting place to start :)

  • $\begingroup$ I always took that bit as nobody noticed the assassination because no one wanted to notice. He was a petty, suspicious person and no one liked him. Now I'll need to reread that one to make sure my memory is correct, which of course means rereading the series... $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Dec 22, 2015 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ After his behaviour earlier in the book, I felt that the assassination went as it did due to the character's knowledge of how not to be noticed. The fact that the target was an odious, unpleasant, petty, paranoid evil dictator character merely made it that much easier not to be noticed. $\endgroup$
    – Miller86
    Dec 23, 2015 at 9:08

Skills like Tea's are versatile. Hitman? Sure. Sniper? Sure. Butcher? Sure. Elementary school teacher? sure. A general ability to control attention would be valuable for absolutely anything you could possibly ever want to do in your entire life.

While the ability to walk about like you're not even there would be very useful for a sniper avoiding detection, there are many other essential skills for a sniper. Of course there's the question of aiming (and a corresponding question: can Tea control attention of those around him while trying to concentrate on perfectly aiming a gun, and firing between heart beats?). There's also discretion. I don't care how good you are at being undetectable. The soldiers a mile away that you're shooting at will notice a .223 round whizzing over their shoulder and hitting the wall behind them. Sure, he'd get away because people wouldn't pay attention to him, but he may have notified a more important target that there's snipers out there, and he probably shouldn't come outdoors until that's been dealt with.

Could he do it? Sure. Why not. We haven't set any limits for what Tea cannot do. However, he won't be able to simply walk into a store, "borrow" a high power rife and a few boxes of ammo, and go off any target he pleases. Most targets worth sniping are aware that snipers exist, and will have structured their compound to make sniping harder.

Also worth questioning: how powerful is this ability? If you watch documentaries on sniper training, those who spot snipers are aware of the small crack, or the small pebble. They may be particularly hard to fool.


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