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> Advancement for hackers?, Is there any room for hackers to grow?
Waltermandias
post Feb 22 2006, 12:02 AM
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My friends and I have been looking at hackers vs. technomancers, and were worrying about what hackers spend there hard earned nuyen and karma on. From what it looks like in the book, it is a pretty trivial expense to raise one's commlink's abilities to max (6 signal, response, firewall, and system) and programs also seem to be comparitively inexpensive.

So what stops a person from being able to be an uber-haxxor almost right from the git-go? It seems to us that even a player that chose not to twink out their hacker right from the beginning will be hitting a peak on ability way quicker than other types of characters. Is there any system reason why this should not be that we are missing, or is it something we are going to have to tweak if we have a problem with it?
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Brahm
post Feb 22 2006, 12:23 AM
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The list prices are too cheap for the Programs. :( The availibility needs to be higher or something. Or you really need to sock SOTA penalties, which haven't been ported from SR3 yet, to them hard and often.

But it does take a highly specialized created character and more than 250 karma spent to the exclusion of all other advancements to reach the top techical rung for mundane hacking. That is before knowledge skills and secondary staying alive outside the Matrix skills like Dodge, Reaction, and Body.

Technomancers theoretically have no top rung, but they start out in a weaker position.
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Moon-Hawk
post Feb 22 2006, 12:25 AM
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First of all, wait for Unwired before you change too much.
That said, I don't think Hacker is supposed to be as concept-dominating as Deckers were supposed to be. I think the solution may well be to say, "Yes, you're a very good hacker. Now diversify."
*shrug* We'll just have to see how the situation changes with Unwired.
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Dissonance
post Feb 22 2006, 12:30 AM
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That might be part of the point, really. In the new age, hacking isn't something you can do from your couch in the comfort of your own Rtg 10 maglocked house with rail-type turret drones in your killing jar hallway.

As Brahm touched upon, the types of characters who'd hack exclusively are likely going to be technomancers. In this day and age, a hacker will want to suppliment his skills with other stuff, in order to get to/survive the hacking process. I see your average (shadowrunning) hacker to be more like Motoko than your corn-chip-crunching pastynerd from yesteryear.

Edit: What he said.
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mfb
post Feb 22 2006, 12:36 AM
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meh, maybe. i think there's still a solid place for the pastynerd hacker--they'll just be part (SR3) decker and part (SR3) drone rigger. sitting safe at home, you can do a hell of a lot of hacking with microdrones. loss of signal is a worry, but you can arrange for backup methods--point to point laser relay being the most obvious (granted, no rules for in in SR4, at least as far as i recall). why be there yourself, when you can be there in the form of three microdrones and an armored monster bristling with weaponry?
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Dissonance
post Feb 22 2006, 12:39 AM
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Right. If you still want to play the part of the pastynerd, pull a Ng. Or whoever that guy from Snow Crash was.

The van.
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Brahm
post Feb 22 2006, 12:57 AM
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QUOTE (mfb @ Feb 21 2006, 07:36 PM)
meh, maybe. i think there's still a solid place for the pastynerd hacker--they'll just be part (SR3) decker and part (SR3) drone rigger. sitting safe at home, you can do a hell of a lot of hacking with microdrones. loss of signal is a worry, but you can arrange for backup methods--point to point laser relay being the most obvious (granted, no rules for in in SR4, at least as far as i recall). why be there yourself, when you can be there in the form of three microdrones and an armored monster bristling with weaponry?

Last week our Bastard GM had Steve the Weasel, one of our fixers, hook us with a client with a job that ended up requiring an onsite File Edit run. No pastynerds need apply. We even tried to outsource to a hotshot pastynerd so we could just sit at home and collect a sizable go-between fee. :P But the GM didn't bite. The pastynerd just confirmed for us that the way to get it done was an onsite job, and refused to trust us with his meatbody. Although he did sell me some most helpful paydata at a very reasonable price.

Our decker definately showed off his Connan the Destroyer side. I should finish the write-up and get it posted.
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neko128
post Feb 22 2006, 02:54 AM
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QUOTE (Dissonance)
Or whoever that guy from Snow Crash was.

Hiro Protagonist.
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Dissonance
post Feb 22 2006, 03:03 AM
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No, not him. The one who lived in the van. Or, rather, who used the van as his wheelchair, due to, like, a really bad explosion that left him a sack-of-organs in a jar.
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emo samurai
post Feb 22 2006, 03:15 AM
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Dude, I was totally thinking of having a character like that, but he was completely shot down. But having a drone relay seems to work, and if the high-security sections have a separate ventilation to prevent evil overlord slayers from coming in, I'll just have the runners carry, like, 50 and lay them all over the building.
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Waltermandias
post Feb 22 2006, 04:28 PM
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I guess that all makes sense. Although I am still a little worried that it is too easy for a character to kind of "tack-on" being a badass hacker by purchasing really top end programs and commlink and getting by on mid range skills.

In either case I agree that tweaking should be held of until the Unwired book comes out. Thanks for the advice.
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fistandantilus4....
post Feb 23 2006, 06:17 AM
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That's pretty much what happened in SR3, so at least there'd be some consistancy. ;)

Really the idea of the 'diversified' hacker being pushed by the new edition seems a little off to me. Hacking, and the skills required to do it, take some serious effort, knowledge, and lots and lots of practice. It's not the kind of thing you jsut decide to go and learn, and decide on leanring how to handle an SMG on the side while you have the time. The wireless matrix enables hackers to get"out of their mother's basements", but that doesn't mean that it's realistic, likely, or even a good idea. If you'd spent the last 10 years honing your hacking skills breaking in to corporate hosts in between battles of Everquest IX, along with serious studying in a few college classes, are you really going to be risking putting your head in the way of a bullet by physically trying to break in if you have the choice.

It just seems to me that while it may be swell to have the option, unless it's the only to get access to a system, a decker/hacker is still better off hacking from a far. Might not be as fun in-character for the player, true. But it's a much beter idea from the character's POV.
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emo samurai
post Feb 23 2006, 06:32 PM
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You could have the hacker do work on the side.
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Cray74
post Feb 24 2006, 01:00 PM
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QUOTE (Waltermandias)
My friends and I have been looking at hackers vs. technomancers, and were worrying about what hackers spend there hard earned nuyen and karma on.

Hackers aren't a "class" in the DnD sense. You can advance them into being good at firearms, vehicles (driving or B/R), medicine, melee combat, etc. What suits the character concept?
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Waltermandias
post Mar 2 2006, 12:00 AM
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True, you can definately make a hacker (by which I mean a character that is sort of defined by his role as a computer expert) and make him better at non-hacky things, but I worry that the same "in-role" advancement that other types of characters have is unavailable to hackers. Some examples: (for purposes of illustration these example characters are heavily focused in one area to demonstrate the depth of the problem)

I'm Joe the Street Sam. I start off with good combat skills, a bunch of guns, and all the 'ware I can afford. However, after creation I can spend karma to boost my stats and skills to a limited degree, but I still likely have a boatload of 'ware that I want that I either couldn't afford, couldn't cram into my system (and thus need alpha- or beta- versions), or couldn't purchase due to high availability. Thus I have lots to spend my money on, although less to spend karma on.

I'm Steve the Magic Guy. I start of with 6 magic, good mental stats and a bunch of spells. After creation I can still initiate, boost my skills and stats some, buy new spells that I haven't gotten and buy and bind foci. Initiating alone is pricey karma-wise, so I have a metric crap-ton to spend karma on, and foci are pretty expensive so I can definately sink some nuyen there (although not nearly to the same degree as my karma costs)

I'm Mike the Adept. He's pretty much like Steve, but he might blow some cash on 'ware and doesn't need spells. More nuyen costs, slightly less karma costs.

I'm Rick the Hacker. I start out with a top o' the line commlink for pretty cheap, and have rating 6 in every program I want. I have good mental stats and computer skills. After creation I tweake up my stats and skill a bit and....? I guess I learn to ski or something. Maybe take Tae-Kwon-Do lessons at the Y.

Obviously these are extremes, but I just worry that it is too easy to reach the pinnacles of hacker accomplishment compared to one's ability to become an amazing street sam, or mage, or what have you. This may well be intended in the new design, and I can certainly understand if they are trying to encourage people away from playing scrawny haxxors that are scared to come out of their basements, but I can't say I like it. In SR3 I thrilled to the prospect of upgrading my deck with killer hardware, or finally upgrading my programs.

For me, one of the most fun parts of any roleplaying game is seeing my character get better at what he does. Now granted, I can start out with a mediocre hacker and still get some of the thrill of advancement, it don't think it will feel as cool as playing the mage who finally scrapes together the karma to get another initiate grade or the street sam that has been eating ramen and living in a sty so he could finally afford those fancy synaptic accelerators.

Long post, my apologies.
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nick012000
post Mar 2 2006, 12:17 PM
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Raise the Cracking and Electronics skill groups up to 6. They'll take 55 each to raise from 4.

Play a hacker-adept, and initiate.

Buy more commlinks, and use the secondaries to run agents to swarm your opponents.
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Shrike30
post Mar 2 2006, 07:53 PM
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Wait for the book with all the computer stuff to come out, so you can get a bunch of "class"-specific stuff to spend karma and money on.

Or hell, learn information skills, develop contacts on the Matrix, set up a safehouse somewhere, start your Swiss Bank Account, buy cyberware, bulk up your abilities in a different department, get ahold of some of that amazingly nifty gear everyone's always talking about on Dumpshock, which, if you're creative, will help your decking...

Besides, there's what, 7 skills directly underneath the Computer and Cracking groups? 8? You can't have them all at 6 to start...
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mdynna
post Mar 2 2006, 08:56 PM
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QUOTE (Waltermandias)
True, you can definately make a hacker (by which I mean a character that is sort of defined by his role as a computer expert) and make him better at non-hacky things, but I worry that the same "in-role" advancement that other types of characters have is unavailable to hackers. Some examples: (for purposes of illustration these example characters are heavily focused in one area to demonstrate the depth of the problem)

I'm Joe the Street Sam. I start off with good combat skills, a bunch of guns, and all the 'ware I can afford. However, after creation I can spend karma to boost my stats and skills to a limited degree, but I still likely have a boatload of 'ware that I want that I either couldn't afford, couldn't cram into my system (and thus need alpha- or beta- versions), or couldn't purchase due to high availability. Thus I have lots to spend my money on, although less to spend karma on.

I'm Steve the Magic Guy. I start of with 6 magic, good mental stats and a bunch of spells. After creation I can still initiate, boost my skills and stats some, buy new spells that I haven't gotten and buy and bind foci. Initiating alone is pricey karma-wise, so I have a metric crap-ton to spend karma on, and foci are pretty expensive so I can definately sink some nuyen there (although not nearly to the same degree as my karma costs)

I'm Mike the Adept. He's pretty much like Steve, but he might blow some cash on 'ware and doesn't need spells. More nuyen costs, slightly less karma costs.

I'm Rick the Hacker. I start out with a top o' the line commlink for pretty cheap, and have rating 6 in every program I want. I have good mental stats and computer skills. After creation I tweake up my stats and skill a bit and....? I guess I learn to ski or something. Maybe take Tae-Kwon-Do lessons at the Y.

Obviously these are extremes, but I just worry that it is too easy to reach the pinnacles of hacker accomplishment compared to one's ability to become an amazing street sam, or mage, or what have you. This may well be intended in the new design, and I can certainly understand if they are trying to encourage people away from playing scrawny haxxors that are scared to come out of their basements, but I can't say I like it. In SR3 I thrilled to the prospect of upgrading my deck with killer hardware, or finally upgrading my programs.

For me, one of the most fun parts of any roleplaying game is seeing my character get better at what he does. Now granted, I can start out with a mediocre hacker and still get some of the thrill of advancement, it don't think it will feel as cool as playing the mage who finally scrapes together the karma to get another initiate grade or the street sam that has been eating ramen and living in a sty so he could finally afford those fancy synaptic accelerators.

Long post, my apologies.

This is exactly what I see as the "giant pink elephant" of a problem with SR4. With capping everything at Rating 6, the scale of advancement has become too small. For Mundane non-Technomancers, the advancement in their chosen specialty is very limited. I realize that they can "branch out" and become more generalized, but, quite frankly, most of my players won't care.

PC:"I want to raise my Automatics skill"
Me:"You can't, but you can improve other skills!"
PC:"I don't care, I want to shoot better. This version sucks..."

I should also add that under the previous version, we didn't need to wait for the "specialty" books for character advancement options.
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Brahm
post Mar 2 2006, 09:10 PM
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QUOTE (mdynna @ Mar 2 2006, 03:56 PM)
This is exactly what I see as the "giant pink elephant" of a problem with SR4.  With capping everything at Rating 6, the scale of advancement has become too small.  For Mundane non-Technomancers, the advancement in their chosen specialty is very limited.  I realize that they can "branch out" and become more generalized, but, quite frankly, most of my players won't care.

PC:"I want to raise my Automatics skill"
Me:"You can't, but you can improve other skills!"
PC:"I don't care, I want to shoot better.  This version sucks..."

I should remind you that Aptitude is a 20 karma purchase that allows them to spend another 28 karma on a skill. If you treat the "once only" as a character generation only limit, and better yet if you allow them to take it multiple times for a Skill to keep raising the limit you have a horendous karma sink, a total of 52 karma for their 8th point, that should keep them quite busy trying push up higher.

You don't even need to "Branch out" to a generalist to have more than one skill to raise. I don't see one Skill pony as even a specialist. A specialist has an area that they are good in.


All Hackers need is an adjustment on Availability of Hacking programs and commlink upgrades and presto they have advancement. Even with RAW it'll take them nearly 300 karma before they run out of Skills and Attributes to boost for VR-only decking specialists. Nevermind Knowledge Skills.

QUOTE
I should also add that under the previous version, we didn't need to wait for the "specialty" books for character advancement options.


Mages? Advancement options were for crap without MitS.
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Azralon
post Mar 2 2006, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (Brahm @ Mar 2 2006, 05:10 PM)
Aptitude is a 30 karma purchase that allows them to spend another 28 karma on a skill.

20 karma, ain't it? Double BP value in karma after chargen?
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Brahm
post Mar 2 2006, 09:16 PM
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QUOTE (Azralon @ Mar 2 2006, 04:15 PM)
QUOTE (Brahm @ Mar 2 2006, 05:10 PM)
Aptitude is a 30 karma purchase that allows them to spend another 28 karma on a skill.

20 karma, ain't it? Double BP value in karma after chargen?

Oops, I remembered it as a 15 BP Quality. Still that is 20 karma plus a 4xrating cost.
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Cain
post Mar 2 2006, 10:06 PM
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QUOTE
I should remind you that Aptitude is a 20 karma purchase that allows them to spend another 28 karma on a skill.

Except that PC's can start with it. With the RAW cap at 7, Joe Newbie is as good as Fastjack, right out of the box.
QUOTE
You don't even need to "Branch out" to a generalist to have more than one skill to raise. I don't see one Skill pony as even a specialist. A specialist has an area that they are good in.

Yeah, that's the problem. SR4 encourages hyperspecialization-- raising one stat and skill higher than any other. And the way things are written, they're always plenty of BP left to pick up a few other things on the side, so the one-trick ponies aren't as vulnerable as they were in SR3.
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Dashifen
post Mar 2 2006, 10:14 PM
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Also, I don't see why, if you're playing a game that goes over a longer amount of time, that your hackers couldn't programming new system or firewall applications or burning new response and signal chips. New programs could put together, too. Some of the intervals on those extended tests are horrendous, but throw edge on them and maybe it only takes a few months. Skip from April to October in game time over a weekend and it's amazing what people can do with their time, money, and karma.
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Brahm
post Mar 2 2006, 10:29 PM
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QUOTE (Cain)
QUOTE
I should remind you that Aptitude is a 20 karma purchase that allows them to spend another 28 karma on a skill.

Except that PC's can start with it. With the RAW cap at 7, Joe Newbie is as good as Fastjack, right out of the box.

Total myth. They are not Fastjack out of the box. Not even close.

They are good in one Skill. Even a VR-only decker is not made on one Skill like SR3, they have 3 core, of 5 total, across 2 Skill Groups. If they max out one of those Skills and bring the others to the limit of 4 they really don't have much left for the rest of their character, and there are a few Qualities that go to being the best decker they can be. If you want to be a basement dwelling gimp you have to concentrate at character generation and then get him through a minimum of another 250 karma.

QUOTE
QUOTE
You don't even need to "Branch out" to a generalist to have more than one skill to raise. I don't see one Skill pony as even a specialist. A specialist has an area that they are good in.

Yeah, that's the problem. SR4 encourages hyperspecialization-- raising one stat and skill higher than any other. And the way things are written, they're always plenty of BP left to pick up a few other things on the side, so the one-trick ponies aren't as vulnerable as they were in SR3.


If they aren't as vulnerable it is only because SR3 was even worse at encouraging min-maxing at character generation. :(
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Waltermandias
post Mar 2 2006, 11:34 PM
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Here is another aspect of this problem that my friends and I hashed out last night: Lack of toys. Now, by "toys" I mean cool, distinct things you can get to make your character neater. Toys make your character better, cooler, more effective by giving them something that is more than extra dice. I believe other things get a lot of distinct toys that make improving one's character more fulfilling, whilst hackers are sadly lacking in same.

Allow me to provide some examples by way of clarification.

As a street sam, I have access to lots of cool 'ware. A lot of 'ware doesn't "merely" add dice or if they do, they do so in a way that still adds a very different dimesion to the character. Granted, alot of 'ware does merely add extra dice (like reflex recorders or muscle augmentation), but a lot also adds something interesting. Things like cyberweapons, internal air tanks, and reflex enhancements dramatically alter what your character can do. Even things like hydraulic leg jacks let your character do something dramatically different, i.e. falling several stories at taking off at a dead run. Mages get new spells and initiate powers that allow cool new abilities. Adepts get neat new powers. (Missile Parry is damn cool, not always useful, but damn cool)

To me, these kind of improvements are alot more satisfying than merely raising a stat or a skill by a point. Now don't get me wrong, getting that sixth point of logic or hacking is very cool, but throwing 12 instead of 11 dice in a test is not as neat as the guy who can now mask his signature or catch arrows.

Granted hackers can take these kinds of things, but they fall, for me, outside of the thematic purview of "hacker." Most hackers are going to have a full complement of programs and such by day one.

Hopefully the Unwired book will solve all these problems, and if all goes well (knock on wood, or at least a good synthetic) all my worries will be washed away by a sourcebook chock full of kickass new toys for hackers everywhere.
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