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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:50 pm 
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Okay, here is what we came up with back on DS:
(Copied from original Matrix thread)

Key: Host subsystem names are Huge,
operational utility names are bold,
system operations are normal.

Extensibility notes are provided in case the decker wants to do something that can't be easily pigeonholed into an existing system operation.

Access
Deception
Logon
Freeze Vanishing SAN
Graceful Logoff

Encrypt and Decrypt
Encrypt/decrypt Subsystem

Extensibility: quite simple, really. If it's an Access operation that doesn't involve encrypting or decrypting, it uses Deception.

Commentary: You'll still be using Access as the TN to do things like crash the Access subsystem, but I don't consider that an Access operation per se (you aren't Accessing anything).

Control
Analyze
Analyze Host
Analyze Icon
Analyze Process
Inject
Abort Host Shutdown
Block System Operation
Crash Host
Alter Icon*
Redirect
Decoy
Redirect Datatrail
Relocate Trace
Validate
Dump Log
Invalidate Account
Restrict Icon
Validate Account

Encrypt and Decrypt
Encrypt/decrypt Subsystem

Extensibility guidelines: if it involves analysis, stick it under Analyze. If it involves interfering with a running process, use Inject. If it involves falsifying data or otherwise confusing system monitors, Decoy. If it involves logs, user accounts, or using the system's own security systems to allow you to do something or disallow someone else from doing something, it's a Validate issue.

Commentary: Altering an icon at will seems similar enough to the idea of injecting arbitrary code that I stuck it in there with it. Opinion?

Index
Browse
Locate System Resource
Trace MXP Address
Scanner
Locate Icon

Encrypt and Decrypt
Encrypt/decrypt Subsystem

Extensibility guidelines: If it's finding something that's a basic part of the system or can be considered a file, folder, subsystem, whatever rather than an active user (keeping in mind that processes can be users too), it goes under Browse. If it's finding something that has an icon, it goes under Scanner.

Or, to simplify it further: if it moves, it's Scanner. If it doesn't, it's Browse.

Commentary: Self-explanatory, I think. We'll need to define what a system resource is or come up with a better term, though.

Files
Read/Write
Manipulate Data

Encrypt and Decrypt
Encrypt/decrypt Subsystem

Extensibility guideline: this one's really pretty basic. If it has to do with reading data from or writing data to something that isn't a slave or protected by special permissions (logs, user databases), it goes under Read/Write.

Commentary: something about Make Comcall being here doesn't sit right with me. Any thoughts for a better place to put it? Possibly combine Commlink and Triangulate and put them both under Slave? Update: Done.

Slave
Spoof
Control Slave
Edit Slave
Monitor Slave
Commlink
Make Comcall
Triangulate

Encrypt and Decrypt
Encrypt/decrypt Subsystem

Extensibility Guideline: if it's a slave node, it falls under Spoof. This one's really easy as long as you don't try to make Slave do something that Slave shouldn't do.

Commentary: The exception is for cases like Triangulate. Is there another case someone can point out where additional information might be gleaned from a Slave that would need a program to calculate? Also, see Files commentary. Update: Triangulate no longer uses a separate utility.

Other
Analyze
Analyze Subsystem
Inject
Crash Application
Purge
Disarm Data Bomb
Disinfect
Relevant worm
Infect
Sniffer
Intercept Data
Commlink
Tap Comcall
None
Swap Memory

Encrypt and Decrypt
Separate utilities, but it makes little sense to discuss them separately.



Do we want to change this any further?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:14 pm 
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You know, it would be nice if we could reduce the whole ACIFS paradigm... I for one took years to remember 'ACIFS' and even now every time I look at it it takes me some time to remember what the letters all stand for. Is there even a reason we have systems high in A but low in C aside from flavor?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:18 pm 
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Hmm. That... is a very good point. I could actually pretty easily imagine hosts with only three subsystems (AFS), or even two (AS). What do you all think?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:09 pm 
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-1. IMO we need to be adding depth to decking, not taking it away.

As for why, I'm not really sure how to address that question—the answers are the same for why any given host isn't straight 18s (the IC answer, "it's too expensive to do everything at full blast", and the OOC answer, "we want players to be able to deck this system"—except here the OOC answer is refined to be more along the lines of "we want players to be able to deck this system without having all of their utilities be the same rating").

~J

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:50 pm 
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Quote:
-1. IMO we need to be adding depth to decking, not taking it away.
I'm not sure I support the idea of reducing the number of subsystem ratings, but even if I didn't this wouldn't be a good reason why. Changing numbers adds complexity, but not necessarily depth. For example. how about we change the range TNs for shotguns to 3 for Short, 4 for Medium, 8 for Long and 11 for Extreme? And rifles to 5, 6, 7, 8, respectively? We've got different numbers there, thereby adding depth to ranged combat, right?

No; it's not different numbers that adds depth; it's different options. That's why we need to work on Combat Maneuvers, to make some of them ore viable alternatives to Evade Detection. That's why we should seriously consider allowing deckers to make on-the-fly operational utilities, to allow a decker to improvise a utility that may have been crashed by IC, or may not have been on the decker's program load in the first place. That's why we should make the optional rules regarding hacking pool mandatory, and why we should work to make Agents more viable for things outside of search assistance.

But having numbers shift around just for the sake of having shifting numbers, and thinking that "adds depth"? No, it doesn't.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 6:02 pm 
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Ok, I let some stuff be implicit that I probably shouldn't.

Under the current system, a GM can construct a system in which it is quite easy to do certain tasks, and quite difficult to do others. He or she can do this in many ways, because of the subsystem granularity—the classic example being the chokepoint, where access is sky-high and everything else is pretty mediocre, but other examples including environments where one aspect of the system (slave nodes, say) is much more strongly protected against tampering than other parts. Reducing the number of subsystems reduces the number of ways in which you can vary this, and may eliminate it entirely (for example, the introduction of Validate eliminated the ability to lower Control while still having other things be hard, and if you lump anything together with Access it's going to have to be as hard (or as easy) as Access all the time, etc. etc. etc.).

So yes, it is different numbers that adds depth—it's different numbers that mean different things.

~J

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:39 pm 
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Well then wouldn't it make more sense, rather than forcing GMs to memorize funny acronyms and juggle five different numbers, to make one numbers and let him specify special modifiers for particular circumstances? So for instance, your choke-hold would have a general rating of 9, but a special quality which adds +4 to all access attempts, while your Slave system adds +2 to all File, Index and Slave operations.

The current system makes the exception (specialized systems) the rule, and makes even the simplest systems (someone's trid, for instance) complex.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:44 pm 
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Well, someone's trid is not a matrix host. That's a much larger change that should probably be discussed separately if we want to consider it.

EDIT: I forgot Sprawl Survival Guide isn't in the list of liber non grata. I'll have to check on it.

As for "making the exception the rule", I'll have to review the list of sample hosts, but I seem to remember a fair bit of variance. What's the point of throwing away ACIFS only to reimplement it as operation-specific modifiers?

~J

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:16 am 
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ACIFS reflects Matrix hosts from SR1-2 with it's slave nodes and datastores. It lets hosts be tailored in SR3 systems.
VR2 had a rule for abbreviating Index, Files and Slave to a single value so making ACIFS ACx.
The ACIFS system is flexible enough that a harried GM may use a single rating for the whole host or full ACIFS.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 4:33 pm 
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Kagetenshi wrote:
Well, someone's trid is not a matrix host. That's a much larger change that should probably be discussed separately if we want to consider it.

EDIT: I forgot Sprawl Survival Guide isn't in the list of liber non grata. I'll have to check on it.


Hey! No fair banning books just to make your argument.

Quote:
I'll have to review the list of sample hosts, but I seem to remember a fair bit of variance.


So what? If we're trying to make a system that matches SR3 as closely as possible, why don't we just keep playing SR3?

Quote:
What's the point of throwing away ACIFS only to reimplement it as operation-specific modifiers?


KISS - Keep It Simple. Now granted, if the majority of hosts are specialized, high-level and overly complex, maybe ACIFS is perfect. However, I was under the impression that every household had its own host or even multiple hosts, that every little corporate building had its own bunch of hosts and so on. So the majority of hosts are 'out of the box' functionality, and probably aren't especially complex or specially configured.

And even if we do look at the samples you gave, so far they have one or two subsystems which are really important, and the rest are basically all about equal importance. As a GM, does it make more sense for me to memorize security tally, host security number, color, and five numbers for subsystems? Or does it make more sense to replace five numbers with maybe two (general level and an exception or two).

Link is right, the "harried" GM can just do that on his own. But if that's the simpler method, and especially if it's the method a majority of GMs use, shouldn't we make THAT the standard, and make the complex, less popular method the unofficial alternative? I mean we could also add a special staging number to damage codes for SR1 and let GMs go back to 2 if they think it's too complex. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea to intentionally support a complex method just for complexity's sake!

Link is also right that ACIFS is an attempt to reduce the SR1/2 rules to something faster and more abstract. However, I've never heard anyone say they like the SR3 rules much more than SR2. They've lost the color of SR2, but haven't made things any simpler.

Decking has always been a common point of complaint for almost all players and GMs, myself included. As I read about SR1/2, I realize just how fun and clear that system was, but I also realize it was unpopular because it was a mini-game the rest of the group couldn't participate in. SR3 was an attempt to make SR2 decking quicker and more abstract, but the simple truth is they failed.

If we want to solve the decking problem, decking needs to be:
- Fun
- Simple and sensible (as opposed to complex and overly abstract)
- Involves more of the group than just the decker

SR3 lost the first one, made the second one a problem where it wasn't before, and never addressed the core of the problem, the third one.


So this is what I say, we need to go back to the drawing board and really think this through. SR4 has done the best job so far of making the whole group involved, and I think that's commendable. We don't need to use that method, but we DO need to appreciate this has always been a problem that has driven people away from either running deckers or playing Shadowrun whatsoever.

So... Do I have some basis in reality, or am I just a crazy? Does anyone else dread having deckers in their group, or doing heavy decking, just because it means you focus on one guy while the rest of the group gets pizza?

(Just so people know, in my own game we have three actual deckers out of a group of 8. The new idea we're going to try is the group goes into the system as a group, with the mages using trodenets. It works sort of like SR2 where your goal is to get to the central processor. Depending on how successful the whole group is, that determines how much data they get. This is the majority of the 'legwork' part of the run. When they log out, they can ask all the questions they want and the amount of information they get depends on how successful they were. I'll even answer questions about data which probably wouldn't have been on the system, without further checks, just to make decking fun and legwork fast.)


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:10 pm 
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Hm, so you want to bring back SR1-2 decking rules? I don't really know how they work, as I've never read or played with them, but the little that I have heard is not encouraging. I'd have to know more to be sure, but from what I know the rules are so completely lacking in realism or common sense that I'd probably never want to play a decker or have anything to do with decking, because the system would completely destroy any suspension of disbelief.

At the same time, I really believe that tossing out the whole SR3 ruleset in favor of an older one is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I really believe that most of the problems that arise with the SR3 system is with how its presented and thought of than of how things really are. For instance, let's take your three requirements for decking here, in reverse order for clarity's sake:

3) Involves more of the group than just the decker

This is vitally important, because for too long now decking runs have been stereotyped into the decker doing his thing before the run, while everyone else hangs around doing nothing, and then later, during the run, everyone else is doing their thing while the decker gets sent out for pizza. So, we have two aspects of the rules we have to deal with:

a) Keeping the decker's legwork from disrupting the game
Now, the first thing I don't want to happen is to force the other players to be dragged along while the decker assaults a host. Do you force the other players to tag along while the face meets with a dozen contacts? Force the other players to watch the mage summon/bind spirits, or go on an astral quest? Force the other players to help the rigger tune up his car?

Of course you don't. What you do is abstract away from the details of what the character is doing behind the scenes. You especially don't have the team decker go on a "mini-run" before the actual run, in which noone else can really follow along. Instead of decking the target host before the run, which in my mind is about as smart as having the team's sam Rancor-roll his way through the target facility before the run, you have him go elsewhere for his information.

This is what the data search skill is all about. You want to know about the target area before you go in for the run? Have the decker pull some satellite photos out of a government database. Pull the architectural plans of the building off of database of the contractor who built it. Get all the public info (and, 60 years after MySpace and Youtube caused the death of privacy there should be a whole lot of it) on every person who's ever worked at the target facility. Scrape together the security features of the facility from purchase orders and leaked internal supply documents. And that's just the beginning.

None of this, however, should require actually decking a host. All this information is out there on the 'trix, YottaPules and YottaPulses of it, constantly being indexed and cross-referenced and archived in millions of machines that never even know they have it, just in case another Crash comes around to destroy everything. Any information can be found just about anywhere, so long as you know how to find it.

You should never need to crack a hardened system just to do legwork.The only time you'd need to pull something like that is if you were after something truly rare and/or unique--paydata, in other words. This brings us to...

b) Keeping the decker useful during the run
...the actual run. At this point most deckers are told to go pick up the pizza, because their job is over. This is just as bad as before the run, when the decker had monopolized the GM's time and everyone else sat around abstracting away their work. It's for this reason that most deckers are dual-classers; they have decking be a side-gig so they have something else to do on the run, be it magic, samming it up, or doing the rigger's job, as they do in SR4.

There is, however, a solution. There is a way for SR3 deckers to remain involved in the run itself without having to be the rigger. Matrix mentions it briefly: Matrix Overwatch. There is a good example of it being done very well in the Infiltration Challenge thread on DS, which I encourage everyone to read in order to see how a decker can really be part of the team.

What it amounts to is the decker doing on the digital plane what the mage does on the astral plane, and what the drone rigger kinda does on the physical plane; he owns it. He wipes logs, erases security camera footage, opens electronic locks, watches guard rotations, intercepts calls to Lone Star, etc etc. If you want an example from recent media, look at Justin Bartha's character in the National Treasure movies, especially the most recent one where they break into Buckingham Palace. (I know there's better movies out there, but this one leapt immediately to mind.)

And, finally, here is where we have an actual problem with the mechanics. The problem, namely, is that security tally rises too damn fast for Matrix Overwatch to be done by a starting decker. This is really the only thing we need to change mechanically; everything else is perception.


2) Simple and sensible (as opposed to complex and overly abstract)

Again, a very important requirement, but one not quite as smiple as what's stated here. SR3 is many things, but not especially simple. And, in some ways, this is a good thing; if we were going simple we'd probably want to go with Savage Worlds or d20, as those systems are already simple, far more simple than SR can ever be, no matter how much we pared away.

What we really need is a way to start simple, and be able to ramp up the complexity as needed. This is why I like the idea of starting out with a single Subsystem rating, and be able to customize specific hosts if the GM so chooses. The thing is, there's nothing preventing us from doing this under the current rules. The problem is how systems are described, implying that most systems ought to have different ACIFS ratings when it would be simpler and more sensible to say that the vast majority of systems have only one common subsystem rating (maybe even go as far as to say it's generally Security Value + 2-4?), and only specific systems go to the lengths of actually tweaking them.

Now, before you get on the Validate train Kagetenshi, we've already acknoledged that we need to do something about the Validate Account operation, all by itself. One thing we cannot do is arbitrarily have Control always higher than other subsystem ratings, because there are 13 other operations using that same subsystem, none of which have the same game-altering consequences that a single Validate Account operation does, and should be allowed. The answer, then, isn't to arbitrarily jack up Control to a different level than the others, but to make Validate Account specifically harder, either by requiring a Threshold or by making the test especially dicey some other way.


1) Fun

Fun is very hard to quantify, in particular because fun is different things to different people. Some people like for math to drop by the wayside in a game, perfering to roleplay out situations and refer to the rules as little as possible. Others love math and complex systems. Some love fast systems, where you can go from conflict to resolution with a single die roll; others love getting into nitty gritty details at every turn, with a single Initiative Pass taking up to a half hour to get through.

Generally, I find that how "fun" a game is has little to do with the rules, and more to do with how people play. And so, to make the game fun, we need to make the rules accomodating, so that people can choose to run their game however they want to, and even change styles dynamically if needed. To do this, we should have systems which can start very streamlined, but can be customized when necessary. The magic rules do this with astral quests, for instance. If you want to, you can run an astral quest with nothing more than a half dozen dice rolls. If the GM so chooses, however, he can turn the astral quest into a run all by itself.

Maybe the decking rules should be the same. Maybe we should start by saying that all you should need to describe a system, to start with, is two numbers, a color, and a step increment (Orange-8, Subsystems 12, Rating 8 IC every 4 Tally steps), and describe a default security sheaf. Then, you can customize the Subsystems, security sheaf, IC, metaphor, etc as needed to describe more important systems.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:49 am 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
Hm, so you want to bring back SR1-2 decking rules? I don't really know how they work, as I've never read or played with them, but the little that I have heard is not encouraging. I'd have to know more to be sure, but from what I know the rules are so completely lacking in realism or common sense that I'd probably never want to play a decker or have anything to do with decking, because the system would completely destroy any suspension of disbelief.

Decking is not really that different to in SR3 to SR1 or VR/SR2. The mechanics have changed in some parts but the underlying theme remains quite consistent (I'll provide a brief explanation if desired).
As for SR3 Matrix (inc. VR2), the key addition was the security sheaf which works well.
Eyeless Blond wrote:
There is, however, a solution. There is a way for SR3 deckers to remain involved in the run itself without having to be the rigger. Matrix mentions it briefly: Matrix Overwatch. There is a good example of it being done very well in the Infiltration Challenge thread on DS, which I encourage everyone to read in order to see how a decker can really be part of the team.

What about augmented reality? Wireless link overwatch (sort of) or SR4 devilry?
Eyeless Blond wrote:
Maybe the decking rules should be the same. Maybe we should start by saying that all you should need to describe a system, to start with, is two numbers, a color, and a step increment (Orange-8, Subsystems 12, Rating 8 IC every 4 Tally steps), and describe a default security sheaf. Then, you can customize the Subsystems, security sheaf, IC, metaphor, etc as needed to describe more important systems.

With some of the utility suggestions you could reduce it to 1 number which would range from 3-8 for both System rating and ACIFS (at the most abstract level).


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 12:08 pm 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
Hm, so you want to bring back SR1-2 decking rules?


Not really. I feel like SR1/2 had something good, but with problems. SR3 tried to fix the problems, but failed to do that and made others worse. Like Link correctly pointed out, SR3 is meant to be an abstraction of SR2.

So my thinking is, abstracting the problem isn't making it any easier to work with, but generally moving from 2-3 was a bad move for deckers. SR2 clearly is NOT the best method for SR3R because it also got complaints, but since moving to 3 made things worse, we should consider taking a step back and proceeding from the simpler method of SR2 and actually address the problems that need to be fixed.

(I will say though, the SR2 rules seemed a little more realistic than the SR3 rules. I'll also say, I think a major failing of the SR3 rules is they don't explain stuff enough to properly set up or run a host. It's like the authors assumed everyone was familiar with how things were done in SR2, and just wrote the changes to the rules without anything else. Reorganizing and adding more color to the section may be all that's really necessary, and we can leave the rules alone. I have no idea, since I've never seen anyone run a "proper" matrix run.)

Quote:
Instead of decking the target host before the run, which in my mind is about as smart as having the team's sam Rancor-roll his way through the target facility before the run, you have him go elsewhere for his information.


I don't think I have to point out, there's nothing in the books supporting this. I agree, you make a strong point about how quick and easy legwork should be, but going off of the rules in the book, the BEST place for the decker to go is to the host he'll be breaking into later. If you're suggesting it be a rule, I agree, and I think it would go a long way to solving the problem.

Quote:
Matrix Overwatch. There is a good example of it being done very well in the Infiltration Challenge thread on DS, which I encourage everyone to read in order to see how a decker can really be part of the team.


Again, I really don't think the rules currently support this. I will have to read Infiltration Challenge (thanks for the suggestion).

Having read the main book and the Matrix book, generally my matrix overwatch is like this:

Runners reach the outside of the facility. Decker is safely tucked away in a matrix cafe somewhere and logs in. He passes the access test and does a search for the alarm controls. Three successes later, he finds it, goes there, interacts with the slave and turns it off. Maybe some White IC pays him a visit and he squashes it. Group needs something else, decker finds, overrides, maybe IC visits. Repeat ad nauseam. As far as I can tell, that is precisely how you are supposed to run the matrix. If you're being tricky, maybe a few controls are on another host, but that's about it.




Quote:
SR3 is many things, but not especially simple.


I agree, however I don't think things should be any more complex than they have to be. I don't feel like the Matrix follows this rule. It is hugely complex with no advantages to that complexity.

Quote:
Fun is very hard to quantify, in particular because fun is different things to different people. Some people like for math to drop by the wayside in a game, perfering to roleplay out situations and refer to the rules as little as possible. Others love math and complex systems. Some love fast systems, where you can go from conflict to resolution with a single die roll; others love getting into nitty gritty details at every turn, with a single Initiative Pass taking up to a half hour to get through.


I agree. My complaint is I don't feel like the Matrix currently meets ANY of the criteria. It's low math, low role-play, lots of rules, slow and without detail.

Quote:
Maybe the decking rules should be the same. Maybe we should start by saying that all you should need to describe a system, to start with, is two numbers, a color, and a step increment (Orange-8, Subsystems 12, Rating 8 IC every 4 Tally steps), and describe a default security sheaf. Then, you can customize the Subsystems, security sheaf, IC, metaphor, etc as needed to describe more important systems.


As you pointed out, we should probably rethink how to do the tally, since it doesn't support matrix overwatch especially well. But this isn't a bad idea, just something quick and stupid so I can reduce 8 dice rolls to two when the system isn't important.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:32 pm 
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I have to admit, having played a lot of SR3 I often times wonder how hard it would be to retrofit SR2 rules for decking back into it.

I doubt my vote counts for anything but AFICS needs to go imho. I know when I am making runs, unless I am making a run specifically for a decker, all of the subsystems are the same rating (because I'm winging it). Honestly I really like the idea of a single rating with bonuses to certain operations. Since the majority of subsystems used in practical play are going to just be GM's winging it anyhow, this will more closely reflect reality and GMs won't have to worry about a lot of extra details, nor will the players.

I think less can certainly be more in some situations and if we keep a relatively rich number of operations a decker can perform and better integrate the matrix world with the real world we might be better off. I think cyber combat can be richened up. I think decking skills can be richened up. I think agents/frames can be richened up. I think decker hardware paths can be introduced. With all of that a reduction in raw system complexity will not cause any decker to feel like their experience is threatened I don't think. Honestly I don't too many SR1/2 deckers who actually felt like SR3 offered much advantage at all beyond a net reduction in dice (which was welcomed).


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:41 am 
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nezumi wrote:
Eyeless Blond wrote:
Hm, so you want to bring back SR1-2 decking rules?
(I will say though, the SR2 rules seemed a little more realistic than the SR3 rules. I'll also say, I think a major failing of the SR3 rules is they don't explain stuff enough to properly set up or run a host. It's like the authors assumed everyone was familiar with how things were done in SR2, and just wrote the changes to the rules without anything else. Reorganizing and adding more color to the section may be all that's really necessary, and we can leave the rules alone. I have no idea, since I've never seen anyone run a "proper" matrix run.)

I think we need to take this to another thread. I've got to find out details about SR1-2 decking, and see how that works. So far what I've been hearing are things like decking being some kind of digital version of an astral quest, where you have to go on a weird journey through the physical computer circuits on a quest towards the CPU. Like a really hokey version of Tron. This whole insistence that the subjective reality of a sculpted metaphor should be divided up into "regions" is really not helping this uneasiness.

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Instead of decking the target host before the run, which in my mind is about as smart as having the team's sam Rancor-roll his way through the target facility before the run, you have him go elsewhere for his information.
I don't think I have to point out, there's nothing in the books supporting this. I agree, you make a strong point about how quick and easy legwork should be, but going off of the rules in the book, the BEST place for the decker to go is to the host he'll be breaking into later. If you're suggesting it be a rule, I agree, and I think it would go a long way to solving the problem.
Read the chapter on Info Searches lately? Especially the stuff starting on page 129. That's where a big part of the legwork should come from; the only thing the target's host would have that you can't find in half a dozen places elsewhere (eg. the general Matrix searches) would be the specific paydata you're looking for, if that's the kind of run you're on, or the host's Slave nodes.

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Matrix Overwatch. There is a good example of it being done very well in the Infiltration Challenge thread on DS, which I encourage everyone to read in order to see how a decker can really be part of the team.
Again, I really don't think the rules currently support this. I will have to read Infiltration Challenge (thanks for the suggestion).
Oh you have to! That was a freakin' beautiful run, especially how the team decker and rigger worked together and with the team's stealth/B&E adept. It's an excellent example of how some runners with a bit of karma under them should be able to really pull off some scary stuff.

The gist of it went thusly: team was hired to perform an extraction. In this case they were running low on time, and the place was a fortress, so they went in Mission-Impossible style. They had the Face/mage basically set up a fake gang war a half block away from the building, to distract the guards while the adept flew in via drone with the shaman riding along via astral projection.

Keep in mind, we're talking characters with a decent amount of karma under them, ~50 if I recall, so they had experience working with each other. Now, the rigger and decker had this cool setup between them where he carried a dataline tap as a cusom add-on for one of his drones, which basically gave the decker the run of the place, even though she was holed up in the riggermobile and the facility's host was "off the grid" so to speak. That meant that while the adept was ghosting her way into the place, the decker went through the system, unlocking doors, redirecting security cameras, tracking down other security features, etc.

Other things came up during the run. The guards got a bit too nervous at the distraction outside and put in a few calls to the Star. The decker intercepted all the calls and pretended to be the emergency operator, to buy them a few minutes (she, along with just about everyone else in the team had very good Cha, and decent social skills.) Things got a little hairy at the end, and the decker had to delay the guards' elevator to the adept could make their getaway near the end.

A whole lot of other things went on in that thread, but in general the best thing a decker can do on Overwatch is be the man-in-the-middle, listening in on the opposition chatter, communicating the enemy status to his allies, and selectively interfering with the opposition on the digital plane. The spy, in other words, where the rigger is forward intelligence and communications.

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Maybe the decking rules should be the same. Maybe we should start by saying that all you should need to describe a system, to start with, is two numbers, a color, and a step increment (Orange-8, Subsystems 12, Rating 8 IC every 4 Tally steps), and describe a default security sheaf. Then, you can customize the Subsystems, security sheaf, IC, metaphor, etc as needed to describe more important systems.


As you pointed out, we should probably rethink how to do the tally, since it doesn't support matrix overwatch especially well. But this isn't a bad idea, just something quick and stupid so I can reduce 8 dice rolls to two when the system isn't important.
Hm. So you think maybe we should include the quick resolution system for decking? I know Kagetenshi's put it on the forbidden list, but I'm not sure why. I haven't read it much myself; is it really that bad?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 1:20 am 
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nezumi wrote:
So what? If we're trying to make a system that matches SR3 as closely as possible, why don't we just keep playing SR3?

That was actually the original goal of the project, and the reason why we wouldn't have just kept on playing SR3 was that parts of SR3 are simply broken. Monkeyright and shotguns are two obvious examples, and the issue with who security tally belongs to and how it acts in the case of multiple deckers is a good example of a different kind of brokenness.

However, even now that we've cast our nets further, outside of the things that can simply be fixed and into the areas that we might want to make better, remaining similar to SR3 is still a goal. Every change we make reduces our likely playerbase, so it'd better either expand it by at least a similar amount or make life so much better for the people that remain that it's worth it.

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What's the point of throwing away ACIFS only to reimplement it as operation-specific modifiers?

KISS - Keep It Simple. Now granted, if the majority of hosts are specialized, high-level and overly complex, maybe ACIFS is perfect. However, I was under the impression that every household had its own host or even multiple hosts, that every little corporate building had its own bunch of hosts and so on. So the majority of hosts are 'out of the box' functionality, and probably aren't especially complex or specially configured.

Apart from the fact that I'm unconvinced that the many-hosts-per-household model is believable given the apparent architecture of the Matrix, I think the home telecom is the perfect place for wide-ranging ACIFS values—where stuff that is obviously related to the function of the telecom is given a decent value, while other stuff that doesn't seem to be (but might actually be) is left trivially low. Of course, there's also the fact that if we do pursue the home-host angle, we open up the can of worms that you need a decently beefy host to not be a security nightmare (take the sample host in SSG, which is an 8/8/6/6/6).

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And even if we do look at the samples you gave, so far they have one or two subsystems which are really important, and the rest are basically all about equal importance. As a GM, does it make more sense for me to memorize security tally, host security number, color, and five numbers for subsystems? Or does it make more sense to replace five numbers with maybe two (general level and an exception or two).

Ok, I'm going to do something dangerous here, and that's to put on my "former psychology major" hat.

It probably makes more sense for you to memorize security number, color, and five numbers for subsystems. That way you get all of the numbers into one mental block—once you stop thinking of a "Blue-3 8/5/6/5/6" as "blue", "3", "8", "5", "6", "5", "6" and start thinking of it as a single chunk of information, you start being able to hold 7±2 hosts. I don't see an obvious path to encoding modifiers and suchlike in the same way.

For what it's worth, whenever I try to imagine the proposed system, I always see myself reinventing ACIFS. It seems like, quite simply, the simpler option for anything must the most trivial adjustments.

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So this is what I say, we need to go back to the drawing board and really think this through. SR4 has done the best job so far of making the whole group involved, and I think that's commendable. We don't need to use that method, but we DO need to appreciate this has always been a problem that has driven people away from either running deckers or playing Shadowrun whatsoever.

So... Do I have some basis in reality, or am I just a crazy? Does anyone else dread having deckers in their group, or doing heavy decking, just because it means you focus on one guy while the rest of the group gets pizza?

I had a longer, probably better-explained schpiel here, but it got eaten.

My vote is for crazy. I'm of the belief that decking is, in general, extremely simple and straightforward, ultimately—the only portion that is expensive is generating security sheafs, and there are decent rules for doing that randomly. The three problems with decking, in my experience, are as follows:

1) Organization
2) Consistency (some parts of decking have two independently simple and mutually incompatible ways to handle certain situations)
3) Reputation

Urgh. Damn it, I had actual content instead of just opinion, but I'm too tired now to recreate it. For the morning.

(I didn't lose all of the post, in case you're wondering why some bits seem to have thought but not others)

feralminded wrote:
I doubt my vote counts for anything but AFICS needs to go imho.

Your vote counts for nothing. Your opinion counts for something. Your reasoning counts for quite a lot, if the reasoning is solid.

feralminded wrote:
I know when I am making runs, unless I am making a run specifically for a decker, all of the subsystems are the same rating (because I'm winging it). Honestly I really like the idea of a single rating with bonuses to certain operations. Since the majority of subsystems used in practical play are going to just be GM's winging it anyhow, this will more closely reflect reality and GMs won't have to worry about a lot of extra details, nor will the players.

I'm fairly opposed to nuking ACIFS, among other things because I tend to use its variation extensively (for me, it really would be replacing ACIFS with modifiers that turn out to be almost ACIFS but harder to remember), so be forewarned it'll take a fair bit of convincing.

Edit: regarding forbidden quick-resolution decking, the reason is that it makes no sense to me that decking should work in a fundamentally different way at times. Same reason I'd be against quick-resolution large-group combat systems or things like that.

~J

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Failure: when your best just isn't good enough.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:28 am 
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Kagetenshi wrote:
I'm fairly opposed to nuking ACIFS, among other things because I tend to use its variation extensively (for me, it really would be replacing ACIFS with modifiers that turn out to be almost ACIFS but harder to remember), so be forewarned it'll take a fair bit of convincing.

I agree, modifiers require more notation in the end because there's little consistency. I still reckon that a single value and ACIFS are completely compatible, where the one value expands to ACIFS for those who want the detail. I've seen a similar thing done with sensor ratings and it could probably work elsewhere allowing for varying complexity at the GM's discretion.


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You know, something important just occurred to me. You can describe the main attributes of a host with six numbers and a color: Green-6 9/12/9/8/8. Thing is, look just down the way, at the average security guard. Him you ALSO describe with six numbers (attributes), and a race.

Why, then, are we arguing that making the host is too complicated, without ever thinking the guard is? It comes right back to Kagetenshi's list of problems:

1) Organization
2) Consistency
3) Reputation

These I think, more than anything else, we really have to work on. Especially the first, as it's the main cause of the confusion, even in this thread.

Think about it. Why don't we have a problem choosing 6 stats for the guard, but are frustrated picking 6 stats for the host? It's because, unlike with the guard, we don't have a basic understanding of what the stats should be. The books spell out very clearly that the metahuman average for an attribute is 3+/- racial mods, but there is no similar consideration shown for hosts. Sure, you can work them out, but the actual average is couched behind so many layers (random generation, the caveat that you need to customize each stat for the intended purpose of the host, etc). It doesn't help that there are no actual host customization rules, only rules for random generation.

If we reorganized that, if we instead started with the average host, then generalized to the random host and the customized host, instead of only mentioning the random host and stipulating that it must be customized, never mentioning the average host, we'd go a long way to solve this problem. We'd cut away a lot of the uncertainty that the freshman GM/player has when looking at the host creation rules, and reassure them of what their host should look like, so when they're creating their own they have some intuition of what they're making and why. All a matter of organization, clarity.

Overall, I've got to say I agree with Kagetenshi. The rules themselves aren't nearly as bad as their perception of them is; this is one of the prime examples of that kind of thinking getting us in trouble.


Getting back to the actual topic (as we've strayed enough that we ought to have started a new thread awhile back), I think we really ought to have something extra to help organize the different operations. The table in Matrix is helpful, but we need more to it. Thresholds leap immediately to mind, as well as if those thresholds are accumulating (as with Analyze). Sorting by host attribute wouldn't hurt either, nor would noting the relevant TN's source if not a host subsystem.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 11:10 am 
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The reason why nobody knows AFICS isn't bcause of a lack of organization. Its because 99% of player interaction is with other humans/critters/whatever and the basic stats of all of them are the same ... they all have body/quickness/strength/charisma/intelligence/willpower. It's absolutely fundamental to the game. Every mage, decker, rigger, sam, merc, etc etc ... knows those numbers by heart. You could organize AFICS as much as you want but it will NEVER be as clear or as intuitive as the base attributes ... because it's not even on the same scale of ubiquity.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:07 pm 
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It is for the decker, though, and that's where it matters. ACIFS is a specialized paradigm, much like vehicle stats and the 5-7 schools of magic. The decker ought to know what they mean, just like the mage ought to know the schools of magic or the five different types of elementals and which school they map to, or the shaman ought to know how many different types of nature spirits there are, but the sam wouldn't be expected to know either because he doesn't have to deal with either of them. Or are you saying there should only be one type of spirit, because, after all, 99% of the time players don't have to deal with spirits, and having to deal with different types of spirits is too confusing.

When you get right down to it, ACIFS isn't that complicated; it's five numbers. What is complicated is the fact that there are (in SR3, VR2, etc) about a hundred different System Operations, and nowhere is there a clear, concise table explaining which Operations correspond to which Subsystem rating, nothing like you see in the simple chart above at least. Nowhere are there extensibility guidelines, detailing exactly what each subsystem rating really means, what it means to have a high rating in a given subsystem, and guidelines for mapping an arbitrary test to a specific subsystem/utility combination. In other words, what is lacking is clarity.


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Personally, I feel that having different TN's for different operations doesn't serve any purpose. Sure verhicles have 11 stats and Pc's have 6 base stats, then you add magic etc... but there is a purpose. Your deck has stats that serve a purpose.

If you are talking about going back to the SR2 method of decking, each node can have a different rating if you want.

ACIFS isn't complicated, it's tedious and I have not seen it justified.

The other thing is now you have to do a look up to see which operations and utilities fall under each category instead of just grabbing the rating and rolling against it.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:22 pm 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
Read the chapter on Info Searches lately? Especially the stuff starting on page 129. That's where a big part of the legwork should come from; the only thing the target's host would have that you can't find in half a dozen places elsewhere (eg. the general Matrix searches) would be the specific paydata you're looking for, if that's the kind of run you're on, or the host's Slave nodes.


I actually haven't. I read it years and years ago, but in the past... 6 years (!?) every decker says "I break into the target host and download floorplans!" And why not? It's faster and cheaper than data searches, with no penalty (worst case is I have to wait a few hours for the tally to die down). I'd also like to point out that this is really critical to running any game that involves matrix legwork. The game I run right now uses ONLY the main manual, so I don't even crack the Matrix book.

So two easy changes:
1) Visiting the target host has long-term consequences making it a poor idea to do this before your actual run
2) Data search stuff goes in the main book, not lost in the middle of another book


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Every change we make reduces our likely playerbase,


Just for the record, I disagree strongly with this sentiment. Obviously we don't want to go too far afield, but I think it would be a mistake to ignore common complaints about the system (and frankly, decking is one I hear regularly).

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It probably makes more sense for you to memorize security number,


I really hope to avoid having to memorize security numbers for hosts. I have enough trouble remembering my home phone number (yes, I got stuck at the bus stop last year repeatedly calling the wrong number wondering why my wife won't pick up). I could be an extreme case, but if we can avoid requiring memorization, it would probably be a plus.

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Why, then, are we arguing that making the host is too complicated, without ever thinking the guard is? It comes right back to Kagetenshi's list of problems:


I was going to make a witty reply, but I think you make a good point. The book really is horribly organized. There does seem to be a divide between people who 'get it' and enjoy the system, and those who... don't. If we can make the logic behind ACIFS and the averages for it make sense for the GM quickly, that would be a plus. This is also a big advantage for the suggestion that utilities limit the skill you use for a particular operation - now all host statistics are back to the range we're used to of 2-12. 12 means almost impossible, 2 is very easy. Off the top of my head, I can't tell you whether a 13 in ACIFS means it's especially easy or difficult, because I just don't know what 'average' is.

(I do know EB is right in regards to security tally. I spent a few years absolutely wasting deckers right and left because my security tallies were way too tough. It wasn't until I found another tally generator that I realized the sample tally in the main book is insanely difficult. I never bothered making my own, so I assumed what the book presented was average when it definitely wasn't, and as a result, no one had fun.)


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nezumi wrote:
So two easy changes:
1) Visiting the target host has long-term consequences making it a poor idea to do this before your actual run
2) Data search stuff goes in the main book, not lost in the middle of another book
Note that both of these can easily be done without altering existing rules. 2) is fairly obvious, but consider 1). What happens when a major security breach is discovered? That's right: increased security. Maybe the tally itself will go away, but maybe for the next couple of weeks the facility will have their guards on mandatory overtime, and they'll have their security deckers on heightened alert. One of the managers will send around a memo to expect trouble, and the guards who might normally be half asleep at his station will be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, fearful of losing his job (he's not expecting a runner team, naturally, but maybe he's expecting an audit or something).

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I really hope to avoid having to memorize security numbers for hosts. I have enough trouble remembering my home phone number (yes, I got stuck at the bus stop last year repeatedly calling the wrong number wondering why my wife won't pick up). I could be an extreme case, but if we can avoid requiring memorization, it would probably be a plus.
Agreed there. It's not like you have to write down much extra though: Orange-9 10/12/9/10/10 is not that much longer than Orange-9 11.

Seriously, that's all we're arguing over with the getting-rid-of ACIFS thing. We're eliminating a grand total of FOUR numbers off of one line of the host's attributes.

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I was going to make a witty reply, but I think you make a good point. The book really is horribly organized. There does seem to be a divide between people who 'get it' and enjoy the system, and those who... don't. If we can make the logic behind ACIFS and the averages for it make sense for the GM quickly, that would be a plus. This is also a big advantage for the suggestion that utilities limit the skill you use for a particular operation - now all host statistics are back to the range we're used to of 2-12. 12 means almost impossible, 2 is very easy. Off the top of my head, I can't tell you whether a 13 in ACIFS means it's especially easy or difficult, because I just don't know what 'average' is.

(I do know EB is right in regards to security tally. I spent a few years absolutely wasting deckers right and left because my security tallies were way too tough. It wasn't until I found another tally generator that I realized the sample tally in the main book is insanely difficult. I never bothered making my own, so I assumed what the book presented was average when it definitely wasn't, and as a result, no one had fun.)
Exactly my point. The books are really horrible at giving you an intuitive grasp of decking-related issues. Tally and ACIFS are only the beginning; the whole philosophy of playing a decker character or GMing a decker is almost entirely missing from the books. A whole lot of rewrite will be necessary to make the rules palatable, but the effort I think can well be worth it.


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