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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:55 pm 
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The thread on roles got us into a debate over the nature of the Decker as a "single-class" character. I got the impression that Kage thinks that the only "single-class" Deckers should be Otaku, which in some ways made me sad, because it seems so obvious to me that a decker should be part of any four-man or five+ man Shadowrunning team, and we seem to be moving away from that.

Then I got to thinking: what, exactly, should a Decker be able to do, exactly? I mean, we have the obvious: they should be able to do things with the Matrix that nobody else knows how to do, but what does that mean, in a practical sense? Note that these questions apply equally to Otaku, but should also apply to a non-headcase too.

1) What can they do that can't practically be done by anyone else? The Rigger is basically the only one who can do real-world C&C from a multiple viewpoint angle; the Mage is the only one who can view the Astral and deal with threats from that realm; the Point Man is an obvious need for any runner group; a Face can recognize and warn of the sudden inevitably betrayal of the Johnson, etc. Why should you need a Decker at all?

2) What other things can a Decker do that makes them unique, things that aren't bare-metal requirements but are incredibly useful to have? The Rigger has heavy combat support and MIJI; the Mage has spells and spirits; the Point Man has the potential for advanced combat and B&E capabilities; the Face can does a lot of the more subtle social engineering work. Why do you want a Decker on your team, rather than just some "dual-class" who can cover the basics for 1)?

3) What can the Decker do in combat? It's obvious what the other big-name roles do when bullets start flying; what unique thing/things can the Decker do?

We need to answer all three of these questions if we're going to keep Deckers in the game as a real class; otherwise they devolve into Kage's notion of just giving the Rigger a deck and having him do everything on the Matrix, in which case there's really little reason to have a Matrix at all, and just have it be a few tests the Rigger throws as part of his C&C work.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:48 pm 
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I really would like to reimagine the decker as he is in SR4 - actively manipulating individual items in the world to change the tactical and strategic layout of the run. Right now he's basically the D&D rogue - if you don't have a rogue, no one can roll for 'detect traps'. That sort of sucks. If we aren't going to move the decker beyond 'beat locks' and 'data search', I agree that maybe we should consider eliminating it as a stand-alone role.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:47 am 
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That idea makes me a little nervous, as the only way to have that really make sense, or at least not trivially easy to shut down, and give deckers enough interesting things to do is to do something like what FrankTrollman did with the SR4 wireless Matrix: everything can be hacked wirelessly, even if it is not wireless-enabled, including human brains. Basically we're talking TEMPEST taken to a sci-fi extreme: antenna arrays so advanced that you can read/write to hardware and wetware from a distance at all times, and the only thing keeping nearby super-wireless decks from pwning everyone's brains all the time is essentially an encryption routine run on your own brainwaves.

Now, that's actually a pretty cool concept, and I do love the flavor of Frank's rules, but it's the biggest departure from canon we've entertained so far.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:34 am 
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I guess I don't see the argument. But part of the assumption seems to be the character is 'decker' and nothing else. We don't have rules for specialized medics, so why deckers? If decking is a support role, shifting the DECKING to support and make the DECKER a character who does that plus something else.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:10 pm 
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Well, yes, that's the alternative: we make Decking into a secondary skill, like the medic, and roll it into another role (probably the Rigger). This is what SR4 does, by rolling the Decker skillset into the Rigger; it's certainly a viable route to take, but we end up with two problems:

1) It makes Otaku worthless, unless we make them into Technomancers (the key difference is that Technomancers can control drones, and "compile" sprites which can work like drone pilots). After all, if Decking isn't a complete role, then a character type who can't do anything else isn't a complete character.

2) It will probably go to the Rigger, and give him too much to do. The Rigger is already managing a stable of drones (and apparently monitoring communications, because for some reason that falls under the Rigger's purview more than the Decker); this means he'll be decking the security system at the same time? Ugh.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:28 pm 
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I don't think we need to attach decker to an existing archetype. There's no reason it couldn't go to the reaction-heavy gunslinger, the brainy mage, the sharp face, or the jack-of-all-trades. SR4 combined them by actually combining skills and equipment, but no one has suggested that here. Anyone with Computer Skill and a big deck can be a decker - we don't need to change that.

I personally am inclined to do a few things:
1) Reduce the cost of becoming a decker (specifically the monetary cost). This doesn't preclude increasing the cost of being a GOOD decker, but if you only need 6 skill points to crack the maglock and decrypt the file, that's fine.

2) Increase the number of things deckers can hack

3) Integrate decking more with the real world (this may be the toughest part, since it may require an additional paradigm - the matrix by its nature separates the decker from the physical).

4) Create simplified decking rules for people who still want deckers just 'on the sidelines', comparable to what appeared in the Johnson's Little Black Book.

Right now deckers require a heavy investment in resources and game time for relatively little payoff in the actual fun part of the run. In my experience, most deckers have thusly been jack-of-all-trades, or taken decking on as a secondary duty anyway. It sucks to be on overwatch while everyone else is having the fun.

I've been thinking a lot about the matrix layout. We've had a lot of very creative suggestions, but increasingly I just feel like it's broken. It's too abstract. Unless you want to roll hacking back to 80s movies, where the hacker can dial in and change the coffee pot into a bomb, it just isn't very fun either.

Thinking about it, there is one other option I don't think anyone has brought up - actually making decking realistic.

You have one guy with programming skills. He sinks a lot of time in casing the system, bringing his tools to bear, setting backdoors and so on. He embeds everything before the run. Then when the run actually starts, he isn't sitting there banging on the keyboard, trying to improvise code. He's setting off those embedded programs, to do things like loop security software, override the elevators or whatever.

This gets us points for realism, since hackers do 90% of their work before the actual 'run'. If you're programming while your mates are getting shot at, they're probably out of luck, right? It eliminates the decker playing deckerrun on the side. He does all the crazy 'find vulnerabilities', 'craft tools', 'program contingencies' and so on beforehand, with the input of the whole group and with just a few dice rolls. After that, he or anyone else can send the trigger commands to those embedded programs. It simplifies the rules, so you don't need to learn a whole new system. The only problem is, the decker really does become a party asset, so those costs do need to be either kept very low, or distributed among several fields (so you have a Research skill, also common with mages, make the face's Etiquette:Deckers skill actually useful and maybe letting one guy take Programming and the other guy take Computer Infiltration).


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:41 pm 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
The thread on roles got us into a debate over the nature of the Decker as a "single-class" character. I got the impression that Kage thinks that the only "single-class" Deckers should be Otaku, which in some ways made me sad, because it seems so obvious to me that a decker should be part of any four-man or five+ man Shadowrunning team, and we seem to be moving away from that.

I wouldn't agree with that characterization as such, and I think it comes from (understandably) conflating two of my positions: first, that in SR3 as it stands, that the only single-class Deckers should be Otaku (since non-Otaku suffer such significant diminishing returns that it's really throwing points/nuyen away); and second, that I would like some fundamental core of Deckering to be doable by a character or combination of characters whose primary roles are Rigger, Mage, or Point-Man, as I'd like to keep the ability to have three-man teams cover all bases (even if they're stretched a little thin doing so).

Quote:
Then I got to thinking: what, exactly, should a Decker be able to do, exactly? I mean, we have the obvious: they should be able to do things with the Matrix that nobody else knows how to do, but what does that mean, in a practical sense? Note that these questions apply equally to Otaku, but should also apply to a non-headcase too.

1) What can they do that can't practically be done by anyone else? […] Why should you need a Decker at all?

The two preexisting fundamental things I can identify are that they can interact with objectives on the target's host (steal, alter, or delete data) and that they can bypass, suppress, or otherwise interfere with the target's security system on a systematic level—Electronics can deactivate a camera or maglock, and might even be able to make the camera loop, but it can't affect all the cameras at once, nor do anything about the data once it moves out of the immediate physical enclosure of the camera.

Quote:
2) What other things can a Decker do that makes them unique, things that aren't bare-metal requirements but are incredibly useful to have? The Rigger has heavy combat support and MIJI; the Mage has spells and spirits; the Point Man has the potential for advanced combat and B&E capabilities; the Face can does a lot of the more subtle social engineering work. Why do you want a Decker on your team, rather than just some "dual-class" who can cover the basics for 1)?

3) What can the Decker do in combat? It's obvious what the other big-name roles do when bullets start flying; what unique thing/things can the Decker do?

We need to answer all three of these questions if we're going to keep Deckers in the game as a real class

Well, not if you count the Face as a big-name role, but yes, the Big Three have clear roles in combat. These two items really seem to be the crux of the biscuit; I think we could live with not having a complete answer to one (I'd be willing to accept not having a way to truly fight as a decker, as such, if we had a good answer for #2 and at least had occasionally-useful decker actions for combat), but this provides some initial refinement of our goal conditions.

Eyeless Blond wrote:
monitoring communications […] for some reason […] falls under the Rigger's purview more than the Decker

In the SR3 world, this is pretty reasonable—Deckers have monitoring of civilian communications (Foo Commcall), but essentially nothing about their core skillset involves interacting with radio communications, especially when you add in the weird fact that deckers don't even work with the same kind of encryption that combat comm uses. There's also the fact that the Rigger is sitting inside a huge signal booster, with additional boosters available as inexpensive accessories.


nezumi wrote:
I don't think we need to attach decker to an existing archetype. There's no reason it couldn't go to the reaction-heavy gunslinger, the brainy mage, the sharp face, or the jack-of-all-trades.

It's not a fundamental attachment, but the Essence cost, while low, is enough to create substantial dysergy with the mage; the point man doesn't suffer from the same issue, but the Rigger is just filled with synergistic points.

Quote:
Thinking about it, there is one other option I don't think anyone has brought up - actually making decking realistic.

You have one guy with programming skills. He sinks a lot of time in casing the system, bringing his tools to bear, setting backdoors and so on. He embeds everything before the run. Then when the run actually starts, he isn't sitting there banging on the keyboard, trying to improvise code. He's setting off those embedded programs, to do things like loop security software, override the elevators or whatever.

This gets us points for realism, since hackers do 90% of their work before the actual 'run'. If you're programming while your mates are getting shot at, they're probably out of luck, right? It eliminates the decker playing deckerrun on the side. He does all the crazy 'find vulnerabilities', 'craft tools', 'program contingencies' and so on beforehand, with the input of the whole group and with just a few dice rolls. After that, he or anyone else can send the trigger commands to those embedded programs. It simplifies the rules, so you don't need to learn a whole new system.

The big issues I see with that are, first, that it's substantially equivalent to a radical simplification of decking as a role—if it's detailed, you just have deckerrun happening during the legwork phase—and second, that it demotes the decker from a second-class role to a third-class role insofar as being more or less entirely outsourceable, and in having the decker's role end as the run begins. That said, I think there's room to explore in this direction.

~J

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 8:20 am 
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I suppose it's worth asking, do we want to keep 'Deckerrun' at all, and if so, what should it look like? The matrix as we've been given it doesn't make sense from a technological or social standpoint, barely makes sense from a rules standpoint, and is often detrimental from a game-running standpoint.

If we go with the realistic method, we reduce decking to some rolls beforehand and rolls to run exploit programs at the time of. We could build the matrix up, make it a place where people actually live and work and where all the characters spend some or all of their time (more like the mesh in Eclipse Phase), and/or we could blend it in more like SR4 does, where most people are operating with AR interfaces most of the time.

If you go with the first option, reduce decking to some basic skills and simplified rolls, sort of like the face who can reduce his researching with contacts to a few rolls. If you go with the second, the decker becomes a more viable archetype, but everyone else has at least some decking time and skills, and it really shakes up the setting. The third can fall anywhere in the middle, but it really expands tactical options (since presumably you can now hack into tactical data and inject AR ghosts and so on).


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