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> Need Hacking Inspiration/Ideas, How do I flesh out hacking within a run?
NightRain
post Oct 7 2007, 05:26 AM
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Ok, so I'm still trying to get my head around exactly how 4th edition hacking works within a run. I think I've got too many 1st/2nd/3rd Ed ways of thinking stuck in my head, meaning that as a GM, I think I'm making things too easy for my players..

My problem seems to be that the hacker goes onsite, finds a node, and hacks himself admin access. Of course he doesn't always mange this without setting off an alarm, but assuming he does manage it, that seems to be the end of his rolling. Now having admin access, he can legitimately do almost anything he likes within the node, so locking/unlocking doors, editing video feeds, erasing data, editing data etc all just happen magically, with at most, a basic computer roll, and no real risk of retaliation unless he glitches.

That says to me that I'm missing something. I currently treat onsite computer systems as a single node (or maybe two nodes, one hidden behind the other), meaning that once they're in, it's all available. Should I be breaking it up more, treating individual components as nodes that need to be hacked?

Or is the answer in the IC and security hackers? Of course the odd file and system will be protected specifically with IC, but other than that, how do I handle roving hackers and IC? Given that nothing the hacker does is going to trigger them (unless he glitches) it seems the only option is to have them show up randomly when I feel like harassing the teams hacker, but that doesn't quite feel right, it feels like I'm missing something.

So my question is, how is everyone else handling this? If I team is going to do a run on a site, what's a brief overview of how you'd handle it to keep things interesting /and/ challenging? If I am reading things right, I'm open to house rules to make things interesting as well...
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kzt
post Oct 7 2007, 05:35 AM
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I can't figure out an acceptable answer. So I have the team hacker be an NPC. I still roll, but unless it's way above or below average they get the information and control appropriate to the plot and it takes a lot less time and argument.
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Emperor Tippy
post Oct 7 2007, 05:35 AM
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Hacking in SR 4 is royally screwed up at the moment.

Most hacking can be taken care of with a rating 6 comlink with a rating 6 agent and all rating 6 programs. It rolls 12 dice on any computer test or hacking test. Just get the programs and make copies, buy everyone on the team a rating 6 comlink and you can forget about ever having to do anythign on the Matrix or involving hacking.
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Gelare
post Oct 7 2007, 05:58 AM
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What the above posters say is basically true, but if you don't want to throw in the towel like that, you can try to make more devious security systems. First off, if the PC's all have rating 6 commlinks and programs and agents, match them blow-for-blow in the security. Yes, even that Stuffer Shack has a rating 6 everything. I know it doesn't make sense in the game world, but as they say, hacking in SR4 is a right cock-up. Then proceed to make very liberal application of Track and Black Hammer.

When a hacker in my game gets spotted by a node while hacking in, no alarms go off. Instead, the node immediately and quietly dispatches a message to a security hacker, and launches Track IC which will send the location of the hacker to the security guy. Now, in the time it takes for this stuff to happen, the hacker probably gets his paydata, and that's okay, because now the enemy knows what's going on and can call down the triple thunder of Black IC, remote spirits, and corp sec assassins. The incoming security also provides the other characters with a reason to be around - when the assassins come, someone needs to fend them off, and it sure won't be the hacker.

EDIT: Also, if the hacker always goes for admin access, there should be almost no way he gets in without being spotted. Make sure you roll your dice in secret so he doesn't suspect anything when the node clearly rolls seven hits and you tell him no alarms go off.

EDIT EDIT: Also also, if the corp has a technomancer on call, the TM can compile a sprite, the sprite can hack into the hacker's commlink (because sprites are awesome), and once inside the semi-intelligent sprite can spread to another commlinks in the party and mess up someone's smartgun system, causing it to eject clips, or cause the car they're driving to go into a brick wall, or whatever. Really, get creative, have fun with it.
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FriendoftheDork
post Oct 7 2007, 06:22 AM
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Well sometimes there are patrolling eyes routinely running Analyze on users of the Node, if it finds someone it doesen't recognise it could very well trip the alarm could it not?

But yeah hacking is usually either no sweat or DOOM.

For the simpler hacking (like getting a few disposable wrecks for a run) I just have the hacker roll Exploit+Hacking once, if he gets a few hits he manages it, if not he fails....a glitch means he's tripped some security, a serious one that LS is on his tail. Fast and easy.
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NightRain
post Oct 7 2007, 08:39 AM
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One thought I've had that comes to mind, is given that there are so few admin users, it would be perfectly reasonable to have some IC come sniffing around to Analyze an user that logs in with admin access. A genuine admin would have no problem with this extra level of security.

As for the ratings, my group isn't too bad. They don't min max overly much, so they're not waltzing through systems like they're not there, it's just that when they do get in, things seem kinda anti climatic :)

QUOTE
Also, if the hacker always goes for admin access, there should be almost no way he gets in without being spotted.


How do you mean? Are you saying that the rules don't let him get in without being noticed? I've noticed otherwise. It's possible, but not likely that the node will notice them logging in, because although it gets more rolls to spot the hacker, success don't add or anything, so it's trying to spot the hacker from scratch each and every roll, and odds are against it each and every roll
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Ophis
post Oct 7 2007, 08:44 AM
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Mostly I use patrolling IC a lot, while the hacker doesn't have to roll to get the system to dance to his tune (except for the odd browse roll to find stuff, and edit rolls to alter files convincingly) I make him make regular Stealth tests to avoid to the Icy stare of the IC, if the IC wins the test it notices an anomaly and attacks. This seems to work and allows me to build up tension with regular tests to avoid notice.
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Prime Mover
post Oct 7 2007, 11:36 AM
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RAW States that IC should be treated like you would treat security in any other place. Along the lines of sneaking into a building, You sneak in a back window unnoticed but that does'nt mean you'll sneak by every guard in the place. Don't forget the reality filter on the node either. Lot's of ways to make the matrix rules work there easy and flexible, seen too many people busting on them simply because they can't wrap there heads around the concepts.

Current group has just upgraded there commlinks, hacker subscribes all of them creates team network. Even with max stats and decent programs on two occasions so far the teams had there network compromised and in one case the hacker was nearly wiped out by much lower rated system. Have to admit when I started using the matrix rules I was a little lax myself but now that Ive taken the time to get my head into the concepts it works much better then any previous version of matrix rules. ( Not saying a few fixes are not needed just not as many as I think folks think.)
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Orient
post Oct 7 2007, 04:03 PM
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I don't believe that every single node in existence should have rating 6 everything. Instead, make changes to protocol, as some have suggested.

One of the major differences between Stuffer Shack and some high-security compound is that if an alarm goes off and is immediately suppressed by your hacker and his newly-acquired Admin code, then whoever is monitoring the Stuffer Shack system is a LOT more likely to think, "Oh, it was probably nothing."

Even though that Admin code allows your hacker to play around with things inside the system, it doesn't give him free reign for that long. What if Admins are supposed to notify other Admins when they log in? What if the security spider starts asking questions about why 'his' doors, maglocks, and cameras are being manipulated?

Again, don't just change all opposing nodes to rating 6.
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Cheops
post Oct 7 2007, 04:35 PM
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It's up to the GM to flesh out the Matrix in SR4. The BBB isn't the Matrix Bible like it was in previous editions. It gives you the basic rules, how a few things work, and a framework.

You as GM decide how a Hacker gets Access and what each Access level gets you. In my games I let my hackers choose whether they want to log on as a defined user or if they want to hack their own access. This affects how the system and users interact with them.

I also limit what they can do. Admin doesn't let you access everything automatically. You don't have full access to all files for instance. Most are only available to specific Basic or Security passcodes (ie. an Exec's dayplanner would be limited to his workgroup--him, his assistant, and possibly 1 or 2 other execs). What the Admin does let you do is define passcodes and security settings. So you don't have access to the file but you can give yourself access. This doesn't require any rolling but it does increase your datatrail.

You were bang on when dealing with roving IC and Spiders. Treat them exactly like you would with roving patrols in the Meatbod. They show up and harass the hacker whenever you feel like it. On low security nodes it should be VERY infrequent. On high security nodes it should be more frequent.

I use a system like NightRain uses. Either an IC or a Spider will routinely check the System Logs and react when they find something unusual.

eg. Spider runs his 10 minute review of the Security Logs. This is an Extended Data Search + Browse test and takes 1 second I think per test (whatever it is for Data Search in specific file or node). If the players haven't taken steps to hide their trail (Hacking + Edit) then this will turn up their activity.

You can make this even easier for the Spider. The rules state that you can run Browse on a node and let it run automatically and report to the hacker when it comes up with something. So Spider starts his shift, loads up his Browse, and waits for it to turn up irregularities in the Logs.

If the hacker is using a pre-defined Admin account the Spiders know everyone who has Admin. "Hmmm...Bob just logged on. I wonder what's going on. I'm going to go talk to him. Hmmm...I can't find him, he's running a Stealth program I'd better sever his connection." This is a Simple Action followed by an Extended one.

Basically this all depends on how tough you as GM want to make the matrix for the hacker. The Spider could be sloppy. Or, the method I like to use, is that the Corporation uses the same Spider to guard multiple Nodes (equal to System) so that he has to divide his attention. It cuts the security budget for the execs and seems to provide enough security when combined with IC/Agents. Maybe the Spider is a Console Jockey and doesn't like using the Logs, maybe he prefers to do it all manually to show how badass he is.

You as GM have to decide how you want to run the Matrix and what flavor it has.
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kzt
post Oct 7 2007, 05:27 PM
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QUOTE (Cheops)
You as GM have to decide how you want to run the Matrix and what flavor it has.

Which would kind of be easier if there was a game SYSTEM and clearly articulated concepts underlying this instead of a bunch of recycled tropes from Tron, Neuromancer etc thrown in a blender, and served up in the "Now it Does Wireless!" souvenir cup.
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Gelare
post Oct 7 2007, 07:09 PM
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QUOTE (NightRain)
QUOTE (Gelare)
Also, if the hacker always goes for admin access, there should be almost no way he gets in without being spotted.


How do you mean? Are you saying that the rules don't let him get in without being noticed? I've noticed otherwise. It's possible, but not likely that the node will notice them logging in, because although it gets more rolls to spot the hacker, success don't add or anything, so it's trying to spot the hacker from scratch each and every roll, and odds are against it each and every roll

This is a commonly held, and ultimately, completely wrong, misconception. Hacking into a node is an extended test, and detecting someone hacking into a node is an extended test. For the hacker the target is the node's firewall, for the node the target is the hacker's Stealth program. And when you go for admin access, your target increases by six, so short of throwing a lot of edge or getting stupidly good rolls, you will be detected.
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Aku
post Oct 7 2007, 08:01 PM
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Yea, that whole extended test fooled me too, it gets written on a line after it seems like everything is done and said, so i stopped reading lol
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NightRain
post Oct 7 2007, 08:30 PM
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QUOTE (Gelare)
This is a commonly held, and ultimately, completely wrong, misconception.  Hacking into a node is an extended test, and detecting someone hacking into a node is an extended test. 

Holy crap. I don't know how many times I've read and re-read that section, thinking of using exactly that rule as a house rule. In all of that time, I missed the fact it's already an extended test. That alone makes things much better, because it forces more logins as something other than admin, which in turn makes life more interesting within the host almost by definition...

Many thanks to everyone. With that misreading of mine out of the way, and plenty of ideas on how handle things when they do get in, I think I'll be able to make life plenty interesting for the hacker. Much appreciated.
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Gelare
post Oct 7 2007, 10:54 PM
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QUOTE (NightRain)
QUOTE (Gelare)
This is a commonly held, and ultimately, completely wrong, misconception.  Hacking into a node is an extended test, and detecting someone hacking into a node is an extended test. 

Holy crap. I don't know how many times I've read and re-read that section, thinking of using exactly that rule as a house rule. In all of that time, I missed the fact it's already an extended test. That alone makes things much better, because it forces more logins as something other than admin, which in turn makes life more interesting within the host almost by definition...

Many thanks to everyone. With that misreading of mine out of the way, and plenty of ideas on how handle things when they do get in, I think I'll be able to make life plenty interesting for the hacker. Much appreciated.

Seriously, that happens all the time. Happened to me too, and I asked that exact question here on these boards, and I've seen lots of other people come here and ask it, too. And knowing is half the battle! Or something.

Good luck with your game! :)
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hobgoblin
post Oct 7 2007, 10:55 PM
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one line, easy to miss, and makes all the difference...
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Kyoto Kid
post Oct 7 2007, 11:36 PM
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...our group uses the Attribute + Skill with hits capped by programme rating houserule and I can say, the threat of being detected greater as you cannot use all the hits in that gawdawful roll you just made.

So far this has worked well as in the last mission Violet (#20) was forced to jack out because she was eventually noticed and she was not even in a very highly secure system. At one point she rolled 8 hits on one roll (enough to get her in right on the spot unnoticed) but could only apply 5 so she had to go for the extended test thus increasing the chance of detection.

We also are using the houserule that treats edge more like the old Karma pool. At chargen you cannot apply BPs to buying up edge. Humans start with 2 Metas with 1 (unless you take the Lucky quality), so, there are no fistfulls of Edge dice to add to a test at the outset.

This also makes Hacking on the fly a more viable option for it is not restricted by programme rating (as there is no programme involved). However, as mentioned in the rules is the "Brute "Force approach which the system will have a better chance of detecting you.
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Kool Kat
post Oct 8 2007, 06:00 PM
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QUOTE (Kyoto Kid)
...our group uses the Attribute + Skill with hits capped by programme rating houserule and I can say, the threat of being detected greater as you cannot use all the hits in that gawdawful roll you just made.

I am going to use this house rule starting next session.

As the GM, I have been having a terrible time grasping the Matrix concepts(or lack thereof) presented in SR4. The whole wireless thing has my head spinning. While the rules appear to be simpler I enjoyed laying out system maps for a linear progression of previous SR editions. It made it seem more 'real' to me. The abstractness of the Matrix now has been rough. I have been hunting through the boards looking for how others run the Matrix to help me smooth out my own game.

My players groan out loud right now anytime the team Technomancer has to do anything because it takes so long. This is partly because we keep forgetting the rules for doing EVERYTHING once you get inside and partly because the player is not always clear on his intentions inside.

His TM is Min-Maxed and I was wondering what the point of hacking was because it seems like he can just bulldoze any system I throw at him with his gajillion dice he gets to roll for hacking in. I finally managed to get him with a System Alert trigger for the first time against his character last session but with that ridiculous dice pool he just blew through the defenses, grabbed Admin Access and proceeded to milk the system for everything he needed... all because I can't understand how it all works yet.

It seems to easy for his TM to do everything... an almost God like force in the Matrix. I want this to end. I want it to be challenge where challenge is due, even when he has 200 Karma under his belt to make his TM even more Uberlicious.

On top of what I have seen here does anyone know any good resource sites that can help a struggling GM grasp how the Matrix looks, feels and works in the SR universe? I also had my hands on a Hacker/Technomancer cheat sheet once that showed EVERY action that a hacker/TM could make in the matrix and what dice to roll vs. what. Anyone have something like that they can share?

I read a few novels now that helped me visualize a little bit how the Matrix looks but I feel I need more. The Matrix movies ruined it for me. XD Does the Matrix in the SR world ever look as detailed as stuff shown in The Matrix movies?

My ultimate goal is to learn enough so that Hacking in my games doesn't bring my game to a crawl and make the other players pass out and drool on themselves waiting for the team Technomancer to get the job done.

Help condense the non-sense! I am losing my mind!!! :spin: :spin: :spin:
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Cheops
post Oct 8 2007, 06:28 PM
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What specifically are you having problems with? It's hard to answer questions about EVERYTHING. I found that Serbitar's files helped me wrap my head around a lot of stuff. I don't use his actual house rules and fluff but it gave good examples.

While "On the Run" was pretty lame it did have some useful rule demonstrations in it including running the Matrix. "Missions" is only quasi-official but it also has good demos and clarifications.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO IS STOP THINKING IN TERMS OF OLD EDITIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The latest player to join my game is also having problems with this. We told 4 times last session to stop thinking like it was 3rd. He's slowly starting to wrap his head around that concept.

How to make it tough? Have a public node for the target but keep all the vital stuff on a sub-node that is Hidden and running the Stealth program. Your TM now has to make a EW+Scan and/or Matrix Perception test (Computer+Analyze v. System+Stealth). This can actually be a lot tougher than it seems especially if he's not expecting it.

Hard wire a building and put Jammer paint on it. Now the TM actually has to get into the facility to hack. Keeping a secure facility completely hardwired is an option and makes things difficult for TMs.

Depending on how you want to treat Passkeys it can make it impossible to get in without a copy of it. This one is GM call.

Roving Agents makes life difficult for a TM. Means that he has to keep Stealth threaded and takes -2 to all his other tests. Basically you make a Matrix Perception test against him whenever you want.

Data Bombs. Many players don't stop to think about them and just start to randomly access stuff. This is where you have to really define what their account can and can't do. Even Admins don't always have access to all files (ie. sensitive financial documents only open to execs and accountants). Just say "Your account doesn't have access to that file so you'll have to hack." Make the player roll dice, Hacking+whatever (1), if they insist on going through with the action then hit them with the bomb. TMs take actual meatbody damage from data bombs and most TMs don't have the BPs/Karma to spend on Defuse and Armor. Also, a bomb going off in the system should alert the system that someone is intruding.

Encryption. Decrypting is a Combat Turn extended test. That massively slows down a TM giving security some more time to respond to their presence.
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Kool Kat
post Oct 8 2007, 08:10 PM
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QUOTE (Cheops)
What specifically are you having problems with?  It's hard to answer questions about EVERYTHING.  I found that Serbitar's files helped me wrap my head around a lot of stuff.  I don't use his actual house rules and fluff but it gave good examples.

While "On the Run" was pretty lame it did have some useful rule demonstrations in it including running the Matrix.  "Missions" is only quasi-official but it also has good demos and clarifications.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO IS STOP THINKING IN TERMS OF OLD EDITIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The latest player to join my game is also having problems with this.  We told 4 times last session to stop thinking like it was 3rd.  He's slowly starting to wrap his head around that concept.

How to make it tough?  Have a public node for the target but keep all the vital stuff on a sub-node that is Hidden and running the Stealth program.  Your TM now has to make a EW+Scan and/or Matrix Perception test (Computer+Analyze v. System+Stealth).  This can actually be a lot tougher than it seems especially if he's not expecting it.

Hard wire a building and put Jammer paint on it.  Now the TM actually has to get into the facility to hack.  Keeping a secure facility completely hardwired is an option and makes things difficult for TMs.

Depending on how you want to treat Passkeys it can make it impossible to get in without a copy of it.  This one is GM call.

Roving Agents makes life difficult for a TM.  Means that he has to keep Stealth threaded and takes -2 to all his other tests.  Basically you make a Matrix Perception test against him whenever you want.

Data Bombs.  Many players don't stop to think about them and just start to randomly access stuff.  This is where you have to really define what their account can and can't do.  Even Admins don't always have access to all files (ie. sensitive financial documents only open to execs and accountants).  Just say "Your account doesn't have access to that file so you'll have to hack."  Make the player roll dice, Hacking+whatever (1), if they insist on going through with the action then hit them with the bomb.  TMs take actual meatbody damage from data bombs and most TMs don't have the BPs/Karma to spend on Defuse and Armor.  Also, a bomb going off in the system should alert the system that someone is intruding.

Encryption.  Decrypting is a Combat Turn extended test.  That massively slows down a TM giving security some more time to respond to their presence.

Good stuff.

Well how about a critique to see if I am at least doing something right in describing it to my player and making them do appropriate rolls. We both always feel like we're not doing the rules right when we Matrix run.

In this example from last Saturday's gameplay: The team leader tasked the TM to get security shipping logs from their target company in Detroit. They are trying to break in to the place and wanted to know if any other companies made routine deliveries or pick ups to the place in question. So she jumped into the Matrix through my NPC's computer system in his hideout. I described the starting point as a whirlwind of datafiles in a white room that had a single door. She opened the door and stepped out on to the Matrix grid itself which I described much like in the novels... Tronish with datalines wizzing about everywhere, Icons of Seattle's business floating all about at various distances with the Seattle skyline providing background bling to the scene. She jumped on the nearest dataline out of Seattle on her way to Detroit. I didn't make her roll any dice to get there. In the old editions you had to find LTGs and RLTGs. Once in the Detroit grid I had her roll a Matrix Perception test to locate the company system she wanted to find. I felt like this roll was useless because she has a bajillion dice to roll.

This brings up question #1: At this point, when they are on the grid hunting for the node they need is there any danger to them while searching? Do they really need to roll any dice if time is not a factor?

After a few seconds she located a dataline leading to the company security node that controlled all security for the facility. They have to upload their logs to the company HQ occasionally so that was the rationale for her being able to see this node on the main Detroit grid. She jumped on it and ended up in front of a icon made to look like a security booth with one of those striped arms that you can raise and lower to block traffic. I described a security guard sitting inside the booth and when she approached he asked to see her ID (my way of asking for a Passcode.) She threaded a complex form to help her hack her way through since she didn't have a passcode.

At this point she declared she was going to probe the system and spent 4 hours building up enough hits to find the weakness in with Admin rights. She did her one roll with 5 bajillion dice and the little system got it's 10 dice and failed to spot her. So I described to her that the security guard had nodded off and was snoring and opened the door to the booth and stepped in to a bright white room with a single chair in the center with 12 screens floating around it, each screen had a different view on it of the R&D compound belonging to the company. Some of the windows woud flicker every three seconds to show a new view. She sat in the chair and start moving the screen around to her taste bring one of them in front of her to start bringing up maps of the facility. Then she went through all the cameras and marked them on her new map file and then marked all the locations of guards she saw on the camera on her map file. Then she download the map file to her commlink. Next she searched for the log files and obtained a list of how many guards worked at the facility. At this point I made her do a Browse + Computer Use check. She found the files easily enough, downloaded it and jacked out. So during this entire encounter I made her only do two rolls. I felt this was wrong... didn't feel like a challenge at all. What should I have done different to spice it up?


Example #2: Later in the week, the Boss wanted her to get satellite photos of the compound because they ones they were given weren't high resolution. So she decided to go comandeer a satellite that was going to fly over Detroit and make it take better pictures. She couldn't probe the system for a weakness because she was limited to a one hour window.

The system node has a Firewall of 6 and she wanted admin rights to the node controlling the satellite system so her Threshhold was 12. So she started banging away on it. She got 4 hits, 3 hits and another 4 hits on her 3rd roll. On her third roll the system picked up on her hacking attempt by getting 9 hits over those three rolls which defeated her threaded secrutity form of 8. She was in but the system was on alert. The first thing she did when she got in was Analyze the system to see what security condition it was at. She used her Analyze + Computer Use skill and I countered her request with Firewall + 4 for alert status. I don't know if this was the right thing to do. It took her a couple tries to get the system to tell her what the status was; She rolled only 1 hit with all her dice and I rolled 2 on her first attempt so I said the system refused her command even WITH Admin access. And the second try I told her the status of the system; RED ALERT. Intruder Detected.

Her next action was to use her Admin rights to deactive the Alarm on the node before it called to much attention to her. I think at this point, it already has its full attention on finding her. So while she was trying to locate the subsystem to kill the Alert I had a security hacker show up. I did a Matrix Perception test for her character in secret and she succeeded in getting more hits thatn the security hacker had Stealth so I described Lord Vader coming out of the digital shadows with lightsaber in hand (The hacker was a sci-fi vid geek). We entered Cybercombat at this point. I made a mistake and forgot to give the hacker the Armor program so she wiped Lord Vader out in 2 hits with her huge dice pool.

She then decided to abort her attempt to deactive the Alarm and just start issuing commands to the Satellite to take high res photos of the target site. I decided the Satellite node's next step was to shutdown. I gave her 3 rounds to do what she needed. She gets 3 passes per round so I made each command she issued One pass. She was able to do two rounds before being dumped. It was enough to command the satellite to zoom in on the compound, snap photos, move the view to the bridge with the checkpoints, take pictures and then she had it moving the view again to look at the residential sector on the island to get photos of that but it dumped her before then. All the photos she took were download to her Commlink automatically at the dump.

In these two examples, did I do anything right?
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NightRain
post Oct 8 2007, 08:30 PM
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QUOTE (Kool Kat)
I finally managed to get him with a System Alert trigger for the first time against his character last session but with that ridiculous dice pool he just blew through the defenses, grabbed Admin Access and proceeded to milk the system for everything he needed... all because I can't understand how it all works yet.

In case you missed the comment earlier in this thread, it's worth pointing it out again. When someone is trying to hack themselves admin access, they're making an extended test, so it will generally take them a few rolls.

The node is making extended test rolls as well though! It only needs to reach the TM/Hackers stealth to trigger an alarm!

Example time.

Lets say your min/maxed TM has Exploit 6, Hacking 6 and Stealth 6 and he's trying to hack himself admin access on a rating 4 node of some kind. The node is running Analyze and Stealth at 4 as well.

Now, 1st initiative pass, the hacker rolls exploit + hacking (+2 for hot simming presumably). That's 14 dice, giving him 4.6 successes per roll on average. That means that the hacker is typically going to take 3 rolls to make the required threshold of 10 (firewall 4, + 6 for admin), though sometimes he'll be lucky and get away with two rolls

Now each time he rolls, the node makes an extended roll back. It's trying to reach a threshold of the technomancers stealth of 6. Rolling 8 dice (analyze and firewall of 4), it will get an average of 2.6 per roll, meaning that it will trigger an alarm on the third roll most times, though sometimes it will get lucky and get away with two.

That means that most times the tricked out TM tries to hack admin access on a rating 4 node, he'll trigger an alarm. He'll have to be lucky to get in without triggering one, which means he either needs thread himself a higher stealth (giving himself penalties for sustaining, and resisting physical drain (fading)) or he'll need to go in with something less than admin access.

For a rating 6 node, he'll still hack himself in within 3 turns most times, but the node will trigger an alarm within 2 turns most times!
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Jaid
post Oct 8 2007, 08:51 PM
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your descriptions are excellent.

the main problem from what i can see is how you are defending things. you aren't using a wide enough variety of programs to challenge your TM, and you don't seem to be requiring them to ever go onsite.

just because the matrix is wireless, and many businesses will have nodes attached to the matrix, doesn't mean you're going to find the information you want on one of those nodes. that first one you mentioned for example... the node you described shouldn't be online most of the time. it should connect when it needs to send information, and disconnect when it doesn't. on that node, there should only be the information that needs to be sent to their head office. in order to get to anything useful through the system you described in one, imo she would have had to hack into that system while it's transmitting (won't be online long most likely, but the system would not likely be very tough) then hack into the system beyond it (which would involve turning on the connection most likely, since that's imo the safest and easiest solution to sending the data is to put it into the transmit node and then have it send while disconnected from the internal node) and then from there she might be able to get into something useful. most likely she would have a window of a few minutes at most (ie no probing) and more likely less than 1 minute (looking at SR4's transfer rates, likely 5 combat turns would be generous from a 'realism' perspective). once the node in between disconnects from the matrix (broadcast finished) she can't reach the internal node anymore either, and would probably get dumpshocked.

the kind of node that should always be online imo is the kind that is always online today. you can't hack into GM's assembly lines because they aren't connected to the internet... you could absolutely hack into GM's website and write "american vehicles suck" in gigantic letters across the front of it, if you wanted. in order to get into the area where you're gonna be able to do anything useful, you're going to need to probably get in through the node where the company gives access to the security decker (unless it's a large company, they likely have one on call from a security company, and even if it's that large they probably have telecommuting as an option for security deckers so they can be on call in event of an emergency). that kind of node is likely to be high rating (at least 4) will have an analyze program running, and likely some IC, with one or more security deckers on call. quite possibly some roving IC as well, and while it would connect to all the internal nodes of the company (or at least, anything the company wants protected via offsite deckers) you would still have to hack into those connecting nodes. naturally, such a node as the always online telecommuting decker node would be fairly heavily defended, using encryption, databombs on important files (accounts on the node, and datatrail records for example) and so forth.

(note: just because there is no specific matrix architecture doesn't mean you don't have to hack into node A to get into node B, according to most people's interpretation... it means that once you're into the security node, for example, you don't have to track down the correct device control node thingy for the cameras, it's all just part of the security node and you can just use a control device operation from there).

in all probability, the easiest way to get into the company's internal nodes is to actually be physically onsite.

in your second example, if you forget to give the hacker armor, rewrite things. if he has a tracking program he hasn't used, pretend like it's an armor program instead. if necessary, even overload the hacker's commlink with an extra program or two... the penalty to initiative is worth having armor. imo, one thing you did wrong is to send a hacker before sending IC or an agent to inspect things, also... the hacker would likely show up shortly after, or even accompanying them, but not before. also, keep in mind that your TM did not eliminate her data trail... whoever owned that satellite is not going to be a cheap company, and they may or may not take it lightly that you took over their satellite for a bit.

also, this should be a fairly high rating site, with some good security. frankly, the kind of satellite that can take high-res pictures of the ground is most likely used for such things as spying, surveillance by law enforcement, etc... in other words, the kind of company that owns one likely doesn't have to worry about petty details about what's legal and what isn't (the satellite is in space anyways, there's no laws there ;) ) additionally, you really need to start using multiple layers of defence... by which i mean (as was earlier mentioned) the satellite should be a hidden node (requires scan, possibly sniffer, to find) encrypted (requires decrypt), should be running analyze, and should have some IC/agents in addition to the hacker. the way to challenge a technomancer is not by high rating systems (which, for the record, are not that huge of a challenge for a skilled, well-equipped hacker either) but rather you have to put some time restraints on them (so that they have to hack in on the fly and face the extended test to detect them) and to require less-used programs to be used by them. if all the TM ever needs is exploit and stealth, the TM will crush systems like bugs. if you start requiring all those programs the TM couldn't afford to put in at chargen (like decrypt, scan, browse, defuse, sniffer, etc) they will have to start threading which expends more resources and actually hurts them (giving them further penalties to their actions beyond just sustaining threading at least some of the time... when the TM is sustaining 3 CFs and has 3 boxes of injury, that's a total of -5 to their dicepool for just about everything... should keep the DP a little more manageable).

this assumes the satellite is even connected to the wireless matrix in the first place, btw... it may not be. it may be that the TM has to spoof it to go online (which requires that she see someone else give it orders, first), *then* hack into it. it may even be connected via laser communications, and doesn't even *have* a way to communicate outside of connecting to the control site (ie the TM would have to hack the control site, but could then control the satellite with a control device action from the control site).

basically, the matrix rules are fairly wide open. get to know them as best you can, and make them work for you.

also, have your TM's player get more clear about what she wants to do, if that's slowing things down.

oh, and i think the cheat sheet is probably on Aaron's site. the link is in his sig, iirc... have a look around for it.
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deek
post Oct 8 2007, 08:52 PM
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One thing to think about as a GM, is how much time do you want to devote to matrix descriptions. Most of the time, there is only going to be one or two players that are going to be interested in hacking, while about everyone is going to be interested in shooting guns.

So, I try not to get bogged down on how "cool" I think matrix runs should be. The "cooler" you try to make it, the longer it is going to take and the more the other players are going to get board.

I try to think of it as a gunfight. Let the objectives be clear, roll the dice, and get to result. If you end up doing this, you will find that your matrix encounters will be more frequent, but a lot shorter. So you end up with players in the matrix a lot more (which is good for the game) and everyone having more fun because it doesn't take so long.

Now, that does sacrifice all the fluff and descriptions you may want to give to make the matrix time "cool", but in the end, I think that a lot of simple, yet frequent, matrix runs, makes for a better game all-around.

In the end, you don't want to make the matrix so tough that no one wants to ever do anything in it. I think the biggest thing is to put everything at an equal level. If you hacker wants to unlock a door, that really shouldn't be all that more difficult than a player wanting to shoot their pistol. It doesn't have to be drawn out and involved.

If you do want something in the matrix to be tougher, then just drop a bunch of IC or hide the data (or whatever) creatively...then make it a real encounter. Most of the matrix runs I have seen, have just been the player wanting to do something really quick (track a comm, open a lock, shut off a security cam, edit a video feed). An SR4 hacker, should be able to do this very easily, so let them roll, do it and move on. A quick matrix run like that should not make or break the session or the story...
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Gelare
post Oct 8 2007, 09:05 PM
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@Kool Kat: The advice Jaid posted is mostly sound, so rather than repeat that stuff, I'd just like to mention that your descriptions sound like really cool Matrix runs. You're certainly doing more stuff right than you are doing wrong. If you think the player is getting off too easy, load up two IC, one Black Hammer and one Trace. While the character is fighting off the Black Hammer, have the Trace (which should be running Stealth as well) track down the character's location, and then make bad things happen.
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Cheops
post Oct 8 2007, 09:07 PM
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First Run:

Looks good in the fluff department. Because she was in a different city she would still have to go through all the RTGs. It was okay getting her to make a Perception test. I would have gone with an Extended Data Search + Scan test (8+, 1 Combat Turn). (BBB 220) However, since time wasn't of the essence you don't really need to bother with this (I usually make the player roll to see if any Glitches/Critical Glitches come up). There's no direct danger to the TM while doing this (you can always have random Matrix Gangs or Rogue Sprites to spice things up if you want).

Pretty much everything you did on the target node was correct rules wise. If the target only goes online for a short period I would have ruled that you only have wireless access for that long. This would have forced a Hack on the Fly instead of a Probe and would have severely limited what the TM could accomplish before getting kicked off (treat it like a System Reset, BBB 223). As I said in a post above, getting Admin rights should draw the attention of the Spider. This makes it a little more challenging since the TM would then have to dodge the Spider while doing everything. Honestly, if you have legitimate access then you hardly make any rolls, and when you are hacking the rolls are still very easy.

Second Run:

To get onto the Satellite you should have treated it like Hacking a Remote Device. First she has to detect the Satellite which is EW + Scan (4) test (satellites should be running in Hidden mode). (BBB 225) Then she has to Decrypt the signal because all transmissions should be encrypted. This is a Decrypt + Response (Encryptx2, CT) extended test. (BBB 225) Next she has to Intercept the Wireless Signals which is an EW + Sniffer (3) test. (BBB 225) Finally she can hack into the Satellite.

However, I, as GM, would not allow any control of the satellite from the satellite itself. The controlling node should be ground based which means she'd have to hack that node or else Spoof the satellite. In either case, she needs to succeed in a Matrix Perception test against the Satellite (which should be running Stealth) to get the Access ID of the Satellite and the Controlling Node. She could then go and hack the Controlling Node (which should be similar to what you did) or else Spoof the Satellite. Then it is just a Hacking + Spoof v. Pilot + Firewall test. Less risk to the TM. Also cuts down drastically on the time that Hacking runs take. (BBB 224)

The Matrix Perception was handled correctly assuming that the node was trying to hide. Usually I only allow this if there is a Stealth program but makes sense that Nodes on Alert would try to hide as well (GM call). (BBB 217)

Technically the Spider would also have to roll a Matrix Perception test to spot the TM. These are Opposed rolls of MP v. Hacking + Stealth (not just MP (Stealth)). As far as fogetting the Armor program I would have just gone ahead and used it anyway. Players can't see what you wrote on your sheet so they don't need to know. Besides security on a Satellite should be pretty insane.

To get rid of the Alert there are no specific rules. Exploit sounds like the right program to do it or else Edit. (BBB 226-227) You'd have to decide whether Admin accounts have the right to stop Alerts. It makes sense that they do but then you again have an action without a roll. Not allowing it makes it hard for the legitimate Spider to restore the system to regular status. (BBB 216)

Finally for taking the photos she should have made a Command + Artisan (Photography) test (BBB 220) or else issued a Command and let the Satellite do its own thing. (BBB 221) Depending on method and number of successes you'd give more or less info.


All in all it doesn't sound like you made any mistakes. Just keep reading the rules and thinking about how to apply them and it'll start to make sense. As you can see there are a lot of specifics left open to the GM. In terms of making things more difficult take some of my suggestions from this post and the ones I posted above. Keep trying and you'll get the hang of it.
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