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> In Defense of Script Kiddies, Even though we still don't like them.
Gelare
post Oct 11 2007, 06:43 PM
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So I was thinking about how Matrix tests aren't based on logic at all, whatsoever. It's all done by Skill+Program. And I was wondering why it would be like that. So first I realized that computing in 2070 is nothing like it is nowadays. You'll notice that hacking into a node protected by Renraku Omniprotect Firewall, and then going and hacking another node, often in the same company, protected by the same software, requires a completely new set of skill checks, starting totally from scratch. You'd think it would be easier the second time around, having found an exploit that should work on every instance of that software you encounter, but nope, this is not the case.

The reason, of course, is that programs in 2070 are stupid advanced, and we can't actually describe them well with our pitiful computing vocabulary. There must be a bunch of majorly unpredictable parts to them, or else it would be easier to hack the second time around. So presumably the Exploit program that you buy for hacking takes those complex subroutines of Firewall software into account - something your puny Logic stat could never do on its own. The skill, Hacking, is how well trained you are at using that Exploit program to do stuff - knowing the right processes to point it at, or whatever. That kind of in-depth, technical knowledge isn't covered by generic Logic either, especially since there's no reason why a person with a high Logic stat should instinctively know anything about computers.

So if you were going to decide what numbers to use for a hacking skill check, you would prioritize them thusly: the Program rating, the efficiency and quality of the code and the ingenuity of the programmer, would be first, followed by your technical training with how to use computer programs, the Skill, and in a distant third would be your general, abstract Logical reasoning capability.

Personally, I do think Matrix tests should be somehow related to Logic (cap hits? limit program rating to Logic?), but I can also see how, in a system that tries real hard to keep tests down to two inputs (this is not the medkit you're looking for!) one could try to justify not using Logic for Matrix tests.

Thoughts?
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Aaron
post Oct 11 2007, 06:47 PM
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I agree with your reasoning.

Incidentally, Logic is used in the Matrix; it's used in the writing of the programs. Maybe it's not your Logic that's being used, but there it is.
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FrankTrollman
post Oct 11 2007, 06:51 PM
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My problem is that as outlined there's no place for the Hacker at all. The Skill can and should be replaced by an Agent. The Attribute cna and should be replaced by a Program. "You" don't really add to the dicepools at all. There's a big green button that says "Hack!" and you press it and you walk away.

Now it's certainly a potentially realistic depiction of the future to have all computer-related disagreements solved by having both sides invest thousands into computer equipment and having the equipment square off in some sort of crazy virtual cat-and-mouse arena combat while both sides shrug and go about their business. But that's a future that doesn't have any "Hackers" in it. A future in which the "Matrix Specialist" isn't part of a covert ops team - where instead getting a Matrix Assault together is simply part of a covert ops budget over and above whatever team is assembled.

And honestly, fuck that. That's a future that I don't want to play in. It does not tell stories I want told and it doesn't feel like "Shadowrun" at all. I'm fucking pissed, and I'm no longer interested in what is contained in the SR4 Matrix book. It's Script Kiddie all the way and I don't even want to read it.

-Frank
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Spike
post Oct 11 2007, 07:10 PM
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Frank,

I think he is suggesting that the Exploit program is something like a very specific 'agent' and the firewall is also more akin to a very specific 'agent'. And while it is possible to have these two automated programs beat each other stupid all day every day until one wins that the process can be very much improved by the human element, which in the cultural landscape always brings that 'unpredictable element that baffles pure logic of computers' to the table, realistic or not. And, realistic or not, that cultural artefact also allows us to have hackers in a game setting that in your ideal realization doesn't need the human element at all.

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FrankTrollman
post Oct 11 2007, 07:17 PM
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But game mechcally, it doesn't. Your dicepool is made out of two things:

Agent or Skill Wire Program (Skill Rating) + Action Program (Attribute Rating)

You purchase both parts. A human being does not need to be present and the dicepools involved are no different if one is! Worse, the Programs which do these things are iteratable. You can just have more. If not by cracking copy protection and making hundreds of copies, then simply by purchasing more from the store.

There's no human element in the rules outlined in the Basic Book. And the guidelines for writing Unwired essentially forbid one from being added. The SR4 Matrix rules are a sham, and I no longer feel compelled to try to "make them work". I'm just going to call a spade a spade: The SR4 Matrix Rules are shit on a plate, and no amount of salt and paprika can make them taste good.

Meh. It's frustrating, but there it goes. I have irreconcilable differences with the SR4 Matrix rules and I'm divorcing them from my gaming life.

-Frank
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Spike
post Oct 11 2007, 07:26 PM
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QUOTE (FrankTrollman)


Meh. It's frustrating, but there it goes. I have irreconcilable differences with the SR4 Matrix rules and I'm divorcing them from my gaming life.

-Frank

But now you will have to pay alimony until 5th Ed ships. Bad idea, man... just tough it out! ;)


As much as I dislike 'houseruling' on a portability rational, I would suggest that I would stick to the idea that skillwires can only give you physical skills, as you are just repeating mechanical actions from an expert. Cyberpunk did it better, alas.

Ditto agenting it out. Make the dice pool more explicitly 'Skill + Program'. Put an agent into the mix and you replace the exploit (which I defined a moment ago as a specialized agent), not the skill.

Its easy for me, though> I don't program diddlysquat IRL, so I got no baggage to bring to the game. I think the rules as written are overly vague in places, but functional enough for a game. Just as long as my players don't try using my laptop to 'hack' someone IRL using the SR4 matrix rules (somehow) and call the fuzz to my house, I'm cool with it.

I've done the 'realistic CP genre' with GURPS (so real the FBI confisticated it!!!! :D ) and it was boring and dry as the mojave sands.
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HappyDaze
post Oct 11 2007, 07:59 PM
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So if you houseruled it to Logic (or possibly another Attribute) + Skill + Program for the hacker and added in a third rating (or doubled one of the existing ratings) for the resisting rolls would that be better?
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Gelare
post Oct 11 2007, 08:08 PM
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QUOTE (HappyDaze)
So if you houseruled it to Logic (or possibly another Attribute) + Skill + Program for the hacker and added in a third rating (or doubled one of the existing ratings) for the resisting rolls would that be better?

I've been considering that. The analysis goes like this:

Pros:
Lets Logic be used in hacking tests.
Makes Agents worse (assuming they don't get to use anything where you get Logic).

Cons:
Everything becomes instantly more complicated and harder to remember.
The thresholds will all need to be retooled.
IC doesn't stand a chance against a hacker.

Basically, the fix isn't as easy as that. In fact, I'm largely inclined to agree with Frank. Call me picky for having high standards, but the SR4 Matrix rules don't meet 'em. You simply don't need a human for anything. You're putting the hacker - the PC in your party, the guy sitting there at the table - in the same bin with a maxed out commlink, an Agent, and programs, which sure doesn't cost the same 400 BP as a hacker.
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Fortune
post Oct 11 2007, 08:10 PM
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QUOTE (HappyDaze)
So if you houseruled it to Logic (or possibly another Attribute) + Skill + Program for the hacker and added in a third rating (or doubled one of the existing ratings) for the resisting rolls would that be better?

Yes. Or make it Logic + Skill with hits limited to Program rating. Or Skill + Program with hits limited to Logic rating. or ...

Almost anything would be better, in my opinion.
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mfb
post Oct 11 2007, 08:11 PM
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seems like a fairly simple fix to me. you just need clearer rules for controlling agents. those rules need to basically make sure that agents can't perform complex tasks without complex preprogramming.
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Orient
post Oct 11 2007, 08:11 PM
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To be fair, the SR4 matrix concepts don't exclude the hacker as a viable character - the SR4 rules do. Has anyone had any additional experience with that "Attribute+Skill, with hits limited by program rating" houserule yet? That one seemed like it could work...

Edit: You're just plain faster than me, Fortune. ; )
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Fortune
post Oct 11 2007, 08:15 PM
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QUOTE (Orient)
You're just plain faster than me, Fortune.

Sometimes that just ain't a good thing. ;)
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Orient
post Oct 11 2007, 08:17 PM
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QUOTE (Fortune)
QUOTE (Orient @ Oct 12 2007, 06:11 AM)
You're just plain faster than me, Fortune.

Sometimes that just ain't a good thing. ;)

<<cough>>

Hey, we're talkin computers, here..
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Moon-Hawk
post Oct 11 2007, 08:21 PM
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I agree with Frank, although perhaps with less vehemence and finality.

I will not argue with anyone whether or not computing is realistic. Ask someone from 1944 whether our modern computing is realistic. Well, first you'd have to actually find someone who knows anything about computers in 1944, but they were around, and if you can wrangle a time machine I'm sure you can tackle the problem of finding a 1944 computer expert. I'm pretty confident that they would assure you that just about everything we do with computers is either flat-out impossible, or simply unrealistic.

But I don't really want to argue that point with anyone either. In fact, if someone wants to dispute that, I'll concede the point. You know why? 'Cause I don't care. I'm not trying to predict the future of computing. I'm trying to play a game, and I want that game to be fun.

If I can do all the hacking I need with a skillsoft and a program and it doesn't make a bit of difference whether that gear is being used by a Logic 10 hyper-genius or a Logic 1 dope, that's bad for the game. If an Agent is just as good (or even really close to just as good) as a Hacker, that's bad for the game too, although in my mind not as bad as the genius/dope thing. I think having Hackers in the game is an important part of it. I don't care if it's a realistic part or not. The human element has to be important. Justify it; I don't care how.

Now in SR4's defense, Augmentation helped this situation. A lot. With all the great new toys that boost dice pools when engaged in hacking actions (none of which are available to Agents), suddenly a dedicated hacker is much better than a good Agent, instead of marginally better as they were before. Also, a dope with all that great gear gets better at hacking, but they're also less of a dope in other areas, so that's better too. That doesn't really get around the skillwires problem, unless those bonus dice don't add when using skillwires, but if that's the case I'd love to see the page reference, 'cause I've missed it. The point is that it got better, but it still feels like a patch on a more fundamental problem.

But of course, take anything I say about the SR4 Matrix with a grain of salt, because as you probably already know I use my own house rules for the Matrix based on Attribute+Skill. So what the hell do I know about the core Matrix rules, I don't even use them! I will say, though, that when Augmentation came out every single bit of gear that affects Matrix use in any way instantly worked as written with my house rules with no alterations, addendums, or errata to said house rules or to Augmentation, and I expect to see the same with Unwired.

In the end, if SR4 Hacking works well for you, if it makes sense, and your game plays the way you want it to, then there's nothing wrong with it. Just understand that there is a contingent of people (I won't invent any statistics about how many) like Frank, who are really bothered by the fact that everything a hacker does can be so trivially replaced by gear, and that has nothing to do with realism. For these people, it's not a matter of justifying the way the Matrix rules are. They don't want to justify them, they want the Matrix to work differently and for the rules to justify that. You've never been able to replace a dedicated hacker with a few thousand Nuyen worth of stuff in editions 1-3, and that difference in 4 is troublesome. Of course, in the current incarnation of SR4 being a Hacker is less of a dedicated role and more like a secondary role for a lot of characters, and that now everyone is expected to have a level of ability, but that's just all the more reason to foist the extra burden onto a good Agent if you can get away with it.

Well, this has gotten very long, but I was just trying to help clarify a position, because I know that there are people out there who just can't understand what people's problem is with the SR4 Matrix rules. I'm not talking about anyone in particular, I'm just trying to help.
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Fortune
post Oct 11 2007, 08:22 PM
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QUOTE (Orient)
Hey, we're talkin computers, here..

True, but wasn't the point to try to add more of the human element? :D
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Thanee
post Oct 11 2007, 08:24 PM
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Aren't Agents limited to Rating 4 with no Specializations?
And they don't have Edge.

That's a pretty huge difference right there...

Though the lack of Logic in the equation is still something that really bugs me, too.

Bye
Thanee
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Fortune
post Oct 11 2007, 08:24 PM
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QUOTE (Moon-Hawk)
I agree with Frank, although perhaps with less vehemence and finality.

I suspect Frank has had access to the Unwired guidelines, and therefore has a reason for his vehement stance.
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Moon-Hawk
post Oct 11 2007, 08:26 PM
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QUOTE (Fortune)
Yes. Or make it Logic + Skill with hits limited to Program rating. Or Skill + Program with hits limited to Logic rating. or ...

Almost anything would be better, in my opinion.

Like Logic+Skill and program ratings be damned. We no longer have to learn spells at a particular force, so why the hell should we still have to put up with needing to note 25 different ratings (hyperbole? I haven't counted) to govern the use of one stupid skill!?
And no, before anyone says it, it really doesn't require redoing the entire Matrix system from the ground up, it takes a dozen bullet points over a half a page.
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Fortune
post Oct 11 2007, 08:26 PM
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QUOTE (Thanee)
Aren't Agents limited to Rating 4 ...

Not that I know of.
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mfb
post Oct 11 2007, 08:27 PM
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QUOTE (Moon-Hawk)
You've never been able to replace a dedicated hacker with a few thousand Nuyen worth of stuff in editions 1-3, and that difference in 4 is troublesome.

what? yes you could. it didn't cost a few thousand nuyen, it cost tens of thousands of nuyen--but so did everything else, so it works out to be the same thing. drones and agents were just as capable in SR2-3 (haven't checked 1, so i can't be sure) as they are in 4.
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Orient
post Oct 11 2007, 08:28 PM
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QUOTE (Fortune)
QUOTE (Orient @ Oct 12 2007, 06:17 AM)
Hey, we're talkin computers, here..

True, but wasn't the point to try to add more of the human element? :D


Don't 2070 computers still use biological pigment shifts for binary whatsits? That makes them carbon based, too. :D

(Also, I hereby declare that the human element counts as an ignoble gas.)
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Moon-Hawk
post Oct 11 2007, 08:28 PM
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QUOTE (Fortune)
QUOTE (Thanee @ Oct 12 2007, 06:24 AM)
Aren't Agents limited to Rating 4 ...

Not that I know of.

I used to use that house-rule, for a while, just to make sure Agents stayed below the Hackers, but I got rid of it when Augmentation came out.
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Spike
post Oct 11 2007, 08:30 PM
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My big complaint about the matrix rules (and mind you, I've offered what I think is a viable fix to agents in this regard....) is that they violate the standard pattern.

Most dice pools are generated via a 'attribute+skill' set, with equipment and environment providing bonuses/penalties depending or 'other things'... such as a gun's damage code and range.

Hacking, of course, does not follow this pattern. Ideally it should

This solves several problems, not the least of which is the Swiss Army Samurai/everyone a hacker so the hacker does everything situation.

It makes the game more intuitive and easier to learn/get into.

Its 'pretty', in an aesthetically balanced sort of way.

And it kills 'script kiddie' complaints dead. Like Raid.

I am reasonably certain that, were I inclined to houserule (as I am not) I could take the tools provided in the book and write a simple, elegant 'rewrite' that accomplished this; In a paragraph or less, and with a commensurate investment of time.





And guys like Frank who know computers better than I do (anyone here? Probably...) would still bitch that it didn't match up to how 'computers work' worth a damn. Encryption would still suck. And the book would still say exactly what it does now.
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Moon-Hawk
post Oct 11 2007, 08:31 PM
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QUOTE (mfb)
QUOTE (Moon-Hawk)
You've never been able to replace a dedicated hacker with a few thousand Nuyen worth of stuff in editions 1-3, and that difference in 4 is troublesome.

what? yes you could. it didn't cost a few thousand nuyen, it cost tens of thousands of nuyen--but so did everything else, so it works out to be the same thing. drones and agents were just as capable in SR2-3 (haven't checked 1, so i can't be sure) as they are in 4.

Really? You could be right. I was thinking that Agents were severely more limited in what they could do, but I could be wrong about that.
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Orient
post Oct 11 2007, 08:31 PM
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Lets not forget, for purposes of comparison, that a combat character could be replaced by an appropriately outfitted drone.

Really, I just dislike the idea that an Int-1, Log-1 hacker could be as good as an Int-5, Log-5 hacker. It'd be nice if the more intelligent hacker's ability to formulate spooky tricks in the matrix was represented by something more than simply a justification for the character having high skills.
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