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> Technomancers:, A Thesis
ludomastro
post Jan 15 2008, 06:50 AM
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I personally find the concept of and fluff about Technomancers fascinating; however, they live up to neither. The following is an attempt to understand and explain why that is. I will grant that the most egregious errors are well known and ask patience so that I can flush out the thought process. Comments are both expected and welcome. I only ask that you keep them in the dual realm of civil and constructive.

It is important to tell people what you are going to talk about; however, it is just as important to let people know what you are not going to talk about. I will NOT be covering the known issues with the Matrix such as Agent Smith, hackastacks, etc.


Thought 1: Inspiration for the Technomancer

The most obvious inspiration for the TM are our friends from 3rd Edition: the otaku. Mechanically they are obviously based on mages. Many have pointed out the thematic similarities and mechanical replication between the two. A few examples follow:
  1. Summoning/Binding/Banishing Spirits ~ Compiling/Registering/Decompiling Sprites
  2. Casting ~ Threading
  3. Initiation/Meta-magics ~ Submersion/Echos
  4. Mental Attributes correlating with “Physical? Astral Attributes ~ Mental Attributes correlating with “Matrix? Persona Attributes

Then we hit the brick wall of complex forms. If we continue our mage analogy they would be spells; however, they aren’t. They function similarly to 3rd Edition spells – purchased with a rating, etc. – but are used without drain. So, what are they?

We don't have to look far to see to what they should be compared. They function in a virtually identical manner to the programs that Hackers use. Mechanically, it can be argued, they are identical; however, RAW states that they are separate.

I think that we have a solid base for the TM.


Thought 2: Why a TM doesn’t work

This is obvious to several people – please bear with me while I wade through this. I find that if it is written down, I can organize my thoughts and everyone reading them can be on the same page – doesn’t mean they are, it just increases the likelihood.

Why is the TM broken? In a word cost. The cost of a rating 5 hacking program is 5000 nuyen = 1BP. A TM has to spend 5 BP for the same complex form. I don’t think further examples are needed with respect to cost of complex forms.

The second cost is that of the living persona. Let’s look at an off the shelf Commlink and OS – a Fairlight Caliban running Novatech Navi will run you 9500 nuyen ~ 2 BP. Our friendly TM uses his mental attributes for his living persona. To get the same ratings (for a human) will cost:
  • Response 4 = Intuition 4 – 30 BP
  • Signal 5 = Resonance/2 – Can’t be done a chargen. We’ll settle for 3 (5/2, round up) – 40 BP + 5 BP (Technomancer Quality)
  • Firewall 3 = Willpower 3 – 20 BP
  • System 4 = Logic 4 – 30 BP

Total BP cost = 125 BP (80 BP attributes / 45 BP special) and we have yet to purchase physical attributes or Charisma; which incidentally serves as the Biofeedback filter.

Some will say, “Hold on! You have to buy your attributes anyway.? True; however, I am severely limited in physical attributes due to the number of BP I am spending on complex forms.


Thought 3: How do we fix it?

This is always the point at which disagreement sets in as we don’t all agree on how the Matrix does (or should work). Therefore, I will lay out my proposed fix as well as my thought process. Feel free to comment on it and/or make better suggestions.

First off, I propose that complex forms be purchased in CFP (complex form points) where 1 BP = 5 CFP. This allows the TM to spend a similar amount of BP on complex forms as the Hacker does on programs. I think that leaving the starting limit of Resonance x 2 complex forms of a rating no higher than Resonance should stay. However, YMMV. I still need some help figuring out the cost post chargen.

Second, … frankly, I am at a loss for how to fix this. Any help is appreciated.


Thanks for taking the time to read this.

- Alex

Looking forward to when Technomancers don’t suck.
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hobgoblin
post Jan 15 2008, 09:31 AM
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i would say that yes programs and complex forms are the same, when it comes to how they interact with the traffic flow of the matrix. but when it comes to the other end, they are completely different...
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FrankTrollman
post Jan 15 2008, 09:51 AM
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QUOTE
Why is the TM broken? In a word cost. The cost of a rating 5 hacking program is 5000 nuyen = 1BP. A TM has to spend 5 BP for the same complex form. I don’t think further examples are needed with respect to cost of complex forms.


Oh but they are. Remember that a Rating 5 Common Use Program costs 500¥, which is a tenth of a BP. Also recall the opportunity cost which is that a TM can only purchase a fraction of the available CFs at Chargen, while a Hacker can and will purchase all programs (and usually at Rating 6 because they can and they don't want to upgrade everything when they upgrade to a Response 6 computer).

And of course, we shouldn't forget that the cost of Technomancers goes up after chargen, because Complex Forms are the worst Karma to BP exchange in the entire game. That 5 BP you're spending to start with a CF is stiff, but once your character is in play it shoots up to 16 Karma. A Karma/BP efficiency rate of less than a third.

How many people are lining up to trade their Karma in for 312¥ a pop? How many are looking to trade it in for thirty one¥ (to get a Common Use program equivalent)?

-Frank
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hobgoblin
post Jan 15 2008, 10:02 AM
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frank, take your meds :silly:
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Seven-7
post Jan 15 2008, 10:44 AM
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Saying his numbers are wrong?
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Konsaki
post Jan 15 2008, 11:19 AM
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QUOTE (Seven-7)
Saying his numbers are wrong?

No, his numbers are usually right. It's just someone started him on the 'Matrix is wrong' rant, again. Not that I blame him, I too think the matrix section of the book should be rewritten and lobbied for such around 8 months ago. The answer I got back was 'No'.
So it's up to each GM to rebuild the matrix from scratch or apply houserules to fix all the holes themselves.
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Cardul
post Jan 15 2008, 11:22 AM
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I fully expect ALOT of things to be helped with Unwired. Also I do not think Technomancers are Broken. If they WERE broken, they would out do a hacker. In fact, I think they are kind of balanced.

Think like this: They cannot be hacked by another hacker, like a Commlink can. Sure, they lose in that they still need a commlink to store things, but..they do not need a Commlink. They can go into a place as just a wage slave and hack it for you, and, places that try to detect commlinks won't see them.

Admittedly, their strength mostly comes from story reasons..but..remember, when we first saw Adepts, in previous editions, it was not until the Grimoire/MitS that they came into their own. Mages and Adepts were made more powerful once street magic came out,and I expect we will see something similar with Unwired for Technomancers.
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Konsaki
post Jan 15 2008, 11:26 AM
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QUOTE (Cardul)
I fully expect ALOT of things to be helped with Unwired. Also I do not think Technomancers are Broken. If they WERE broken, they would out do a hacker. In fact, I think they are kind of balanced.


By that logic, hackers are broken and need nerfed to a point where TM's can compete at a reasonable level.

QUOTE
Think like this: They cannot be hacked by another hacker, like a Commlink can.
True
QUOTE
Sure, they lose in that they still need a commlink to store things, but..they do not need a Commlink.
true again.
QUOTE
They can go into a place as just a wage slave and hack it for you, and, places that try to detect commlinks won't see them.
False, their brain still acts like a commlink and outputs commlink like 'signals'. Therefor they can be detected unless they turn off their 'comm-brain'.
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hobgoblin
post Jan 15 2008, 03:09 PM
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QUOTE (Konsaki)
QUOTE (Seven-7 @ Jan 15 2008, 07:44 PM)
Saying his numbers are wrong?

No, his numbers are usually right. It's just someone started him on the 'Matrix is wrong' rant, again. Not that I blame him, I too think the matrix section of the book should be rewritten and lobbied for such around 8 months ago. The answer I got back was 'No'.
So it's up to each GM to rebuild the matrix from scratch or apply houserules to fix all the holes themselves.

and its a rant he have been repeating from the day that sr4 got the first print. so at this point one would expect people to have gotten the message.

also, it was declared that the writers of sr4 would not contradict main book rules in later add-on's.
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Nightwalker450
post Jan 15 2008, 04:19 PM
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QUOTE ("Alex")
I think that leaving the starting limit of Logic x 2 complex forms of a rating no higher than Resonance should stay.

Fixed this.. Logic x 2, not resonance.

I'm playing a technomancer currently, and I'm rather pleased with it. The BP for complex forms is high, but in its defense. A hacker can't pull a rating 10 or 12 program out where they originally had nothing. But my GM allows rethreading threaded programs at a free action per threading (Max 3 per pass). This was my groups first real Matrix Specialist so we've all been learning. Last time I GM'd (slightly different group) there was a hacker.

I felt sorry for him, as he's juggling loading and unloading programs so that the response on his commlink allows his programs to function at their max. A hacker can own every program at rating 6, but a technomancer can have every program they "own" running. And those they don't own they can create at the speed of thought. Not to mention if they're in the same node competing, as the hacker loads up more programs/agents/IC into the node the system lags and they become less effective. The technomancer grins and continues swinging around his rating 10 attack program, behind his rating 10 armor program.

Granted different interpretations of rules or the hackastack and such are ways for hackers to cope, but as Alex requested please nobody derail us with those.
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Pendaric
post Jan 15 2008, 05:21 PM
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Though not related to crunch discussion, for which I make no apology. The fluff side of things and a TM's abilities seems to be inspired by Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive.
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FrankTrollman
post Jan 15 2008, 05:39 PM
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QUOTE (hobgoblin)
[QUOTE=Konsaki,Jan 15 2008, 12:19 PM]
and its a rant he have been repeating from the day that sr4 got the first print. so at this point one would expect people to have gotten the message.

also, it was declared that the writers of sr4 would not contradict main book rules in later add-on's.

Not really. I gave the Matrix a good honest try. I didn't start my crusade until October of 2006, over a year after the game had been printed.

QUOTE (Me @ in 2005)
I'm assuming that you intend to play this character for a long time.

As per the standard rules, a Troll is nearly as good a Hacker with a Logic of 1 as he is with a Logic of 4, so don't sweat the Logic. On the other hand, buying up your body later is very expensive, while buying it up at chargen is very cheap. You should have a body of 9 even if you are a hacker. It's only 40 points, and in the long run will save you 90 Karma. Since many things can be purchased later on for Karma = Build Points, you'll want to do that instead. That means that you'll begin play with no Specializations at all, and buy them at about 2 per game session from now on until you have one for every skill you have.

So you'll start with Electronics and Cracking of 4. You'll take Perception or Gunnery of 6. Fight primarily with Drones, as Wasabi noted. This can get really ugly if you have a good Gunnery Skill.

None of your starting attributes need to be that good, except Body of course. But your Programs do. You can't have a Commlink with more than Response 5 at character start, which means that none of your initial programs can be better than 5. So your programs will be five. This means that on chargen you'll be rolling 11 dice on matrix actions (5 program 4 Hacking, 2 Hot Stim). That's decent enough, and after just one adventure you'll have +2 dice on your favorite Hacking and Electronic Warfare tests.

-Frank


QUOTE (Me @ in 2006)
Technomancers, as printed, never stop being weak. Ever. The dicepool of the standard "Hacker Adept" will with relatively little Karma and money cap out under the basic game rules at 15 for hacking tests. (That's Skill 6, Improved Ability +3, and a Response 6 Commlink). That's as high as the Hacker Adept can ever get without resorting to improved systems from Unwired which has not been published.

Now the Technomancer is uncapped. Using only the basic rules, her dice pool can go as high as you want to think about. There is literally nothing in the Matrix that could stop a high-end Technomancer (even Sprites ae capped at Rating 8 because higher ratings don't persist long enough to be registered). But wait a minute, how much Karma are we talking? Well... a lot.

A character starts with probably at most 12 Complex Forms. To hack properly you need 18. To match the dicepool of our Hacker Adept we need to raise them all to Rating 9. To do that we need to Submerge ourself three times (42 Karma), actually upgrade Resonance 3 times (72 Karma), and purchase 12 programs from 6 to 9 (288 Karma) and 6 more programs from 0 to 9 (276 Karma). And thats in addition to buying the skill groups up to 6 from 4 like the Hacker Adept has to do (110 Karma). And while we've matched the dicepools, our matrix attributes still blow until we purchase all remaining mental stats up to 6 (probably about 132 Karma).

So yeeah, a Hacker Adept can max out all her Hacking by maximizing two skill groups (110 Karma), upgrading her Commlink (11,000 :nuyen:), and buying up two points of Magic (21 Karma).

So for a mere 920 Karma a Technomancer who does nothing else in her entire life can match what the Hacker Adept can do on less than 150 Karma and a month's rent. After that, the sky is the fucking limit, the Technomancer is completely uncapped.

But you know what? Who gives a fuck? I have never ever seen a game where the players made 1,000 Karma before it was over, so the Technomancer is always going to be playing second fiddle to the Hacker Adept at the only thing she does - Hack. It's sad.
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Momijizukamori
post Jan 15 2008, 05:41 PM
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QUOTE (Nightwalker450)
I'm playing a technomancer currently, and I'm rather pleased with it. The BP for complex forms is high, but in its defense. A hacker can't pull a rating 10 or 12 program out where they originally had nothing. But my GM allows rethreading threaded programs at a free action per threading (Max 3 per pass). This was my groups first real Matrix Specialist so we've all been learning. Last time I GM'd (slightly different group) there was a hacker.

That was one of the points I was going to make, too. We've got threading as a non-action, with three tries for each go at it in the interest of not having me sitting there rolling dice and swearing all night (my d6s love 4s).

The other thing that makes up for the brutal BP cost for CFs is sprites - they can make up for the lower CF and skill ratings early on, and some of the sprite powers are pretty awesome - suppression comes to mind, as it basically allows you to brute force a system, whip through (rating 4 sprite -> two rounds of suppression -> six IP, which is a pretty decent window in SR), do what you want, and then get out again before the alarms go off.
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Nightwalker450
post Jan 15 2008, 05:56 PM
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Technomancer at build
Res 5, Complex Form 5
Two Free Actions to thread to 10 (Easy to resist 2 and 3 Fading)
10 Complex Form + 4 Hacking + 2 VR
I'm rolling 16 dice pool on a simple action left this turn

Hacker at build
Program 5
Complex Action to load program
Next Pass
Program 5 + 4 Hacking + 2 VR
11 Dice the turn after the technomancer as already started

Yeah they're BP/Karma heavy but weaker than a hacker not quite, its comparing adepts and cyber. They have a different way of going about their job but I don't think they're at a disadvantage. Hackers advantage is its easier for them to hack as a hobby, Technomancer is a technomancer.

Here's what I'm doing with mine (I'm kinda waiting for Unwired before worrying about submersion..) I've picked up mechanic skills, and maglock interfaces so I can help on the repair and breaking and entering, by putting Machine Sprites in to run Diagnostics on the systems. Also will pick up automatics skill, with a suppressive fire specialization. Low points for good assist hopefully.
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Momijizukamori
post Jan 15 2008, 06:36 PM
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QUOTE (Nightwalker450)
Technomancer at build
Res 5, Complex Form 5
Two Free Actions to thread to 10 (Easy to resist 2 and 3 Fading)
10 Complex Form + 4 Hacking + 2 VR
I'm rolling 16 dice pool on a simple action left this turn

Hacker at build
Program 5
Complex Action to load program
Next Pass
Program 5 + 4 Hacking + 2 VR
11 Dice the turn after the technomancer as already started

See, this relies somewhat on interpretation though (which about sums up my problems with the Matrix rules - they're not broken, just poorly worded) - it's never specified if threading attempts are cumulative - you're treating it as 'yes', we're treating it as 'no'. So with my dice, I'm usually looking at 2-3 extra dice from threading, with three totally free tries a pass to get that (which sometimes gives room for better rolls) - each try is basically a new start. With your build this comes comes to a 13-14 pool, and with my less efficient build, 10-11 on most hacking rolls - on par with your hypothetical hacker. I fall on the side of saying that technomancers are less powerful than mundane hackers at start-up - unless you're very lucky, relying on threading doesn't give the best results, and the high BP cost forces you do thread or compile sprites. But they have a lot more room for growth once you survive long enough to get some karma in them. And I'm hoping for some cool new stuff in Unwired, too (particularly more submersion Echoes).

(This discussion > physical chem)
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Fortune
post Jan 15 2008, 06:57 PM
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In my opinion, the rules need to be changed so that Threading actually takes some kind of Action to accomplish. I really dislike the fact that it doesn't even use a Free Action at the moment.
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Nightwalker450
post Jan 15 2008, 07:06 PM
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Our group rules it as a free action, and allows the rethreading. So I can thread a program slowly, it just takes time. Allows for a technomancer to thread a rating 6-9 program (at 2-3 hits per free action), in the time a hacker has to load his program. If I'm in a time limit situation, I've interspersed my threads on extended test. Thread - Hack, Rethread - Hack, Rethread - Hack... So my program is good towards the end, whereas at the beginning I'm just compensating for my threaded stealth program.

So our interpretation on the thread/rethread (since it isn't explicitely stated one way or the other). And a house rule to turn threading into a free action instead of a non-action. Works for us, might not for you.

So what about technomancers as riggers, continuting the thesis on technomancers. Not just using sprites (we know the sprites do well) but doing so themselves? What do people think?
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Jack Kain
post Jan 15 2008, 08:32 PM
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One thing I think would help Technos is if they can have ALL there complex forms at the ready. A hacker can only keep a limited number of programs loaded at a time with out suffering from problems.
From what i've been told (and I could be wrong). Technomancers have a similar set up they can only have x many complex forms "loaded" at a time. It could give early techomancers a boost if they have access to all there complex forms they know at a given moment.

I'd like to see some technomancer rigger builds. As they require no comlink and with the addition of sprites it wouldn't take much for a technomancer to be built as a rigger instead of a hacker. (and drones would actually be something to sink your cash into).
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Moon-Hawk
post Jan 15 2008, 08:36 PM
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QUOTE (Jack Kain)
From what i've been told (and I could be wrong). Technomancers have a similar set up they can only have x many complex forms "loaded" at a time. It could give early techomancers a boost if they have access to all there complex forms they know at a given moment.

You were told wrong. It works exactly as you're suggesting.
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Hank
post Jan 15 2008, 09:14 PM
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QUOTE (Alex)
I still need some help figuring out the cost post chargen.

Second, … frankly, I am at a loss for how to fix this.

Maybe you can just put CF on a linear improvement scale instead of an incrementing one, or put it on a semi-incrementing scale.

e.g. Improving a CF by 1 point costs 1 Karma up to level 6. Beyond that, charge 2 Karma per point. Or some other simple variant.
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hobgoblin
post Jan 15 2008, 10:40 PM
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QUOTE (FrankTrollman @ Jan 15 2008, 06:39 PM)
QUOTE (hobgoblin @ Jan 15 2008, 10:09 AM)
and its a rant he have been repeating from the day that sr4 got the first print. so at this point one would expect people to have gotten the message.

also, it was declared that the writers of sr4 would not contradict main book rules in later add-on's.

Not really. I gave the Matrix a good honest try. I didn't start my crusade until October of 2006, over a year after the game had been printed.

well a honest oops from my side. have the SR4 really been around that long?

ugh, i need to get my sense of time adjusted, when it gets past about a month its all a jumble :(

hmm, now that i think about it, it could be that im getting your ranting mixed up with mbf's (or whatever said nick was) ranting...

or it could be that im generally tired of reading rant posts and threads mostly based on them every time i visit this forum...
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FrankTrollman
post Jan 15 2008, 11:13 PM
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QUOTE (hobgoblin)
well a honest oops from my side. have the SR4 really been around that long?


Yes it has. Setting the wayback machine to late two thousand and six for the moment, we'll see that I was at the time sort of working for FanPro. I say sort of because there was a work stoppage secondary to various management arguments that I wasn't privy to and wouldn't tell you about them if I was. Street Magic had been published and had gotten generally good reviews, and Augmentation drafts were in, but unedited. At the time my work was in one chapter (final draft put it in three).

And the writers, left adrift and unsure of the direction things were going were turning their eyes to Unwired. We had long discussions about how the Matrix worked, how it should work, how it didn't work, and so on and so forth. I mean seriously, what else was there to do at that point? Serbitar, AncientHistory, and myself just sending long emails back and forth complaining about each other's ideas.

And I had an epiphany: on close examination it didn't work. What we were dealing with was a case of balance by obfuscation. That the rules were unclear enough that you could make any particular thing work by ruling on one of the grey areas in one way or another. But solving any particular problem in that way actually created more problems down the line. No matter how many faces of the rubix cube you made mono color there was always at least one that was jumbled.

And that meant that you could keep it going in an individual campaign. All you had to do was have the game master stay ahead of the players and use the grey areas to rule against any specific problems that came up. In a game of limited scope it could work. It did work for a lot of games. For a while. But if you clarified things, they stopped working. The act of telling people how things actually worked made some problems go away but made other problems explicit.

That took a lot of thinking, a lot of analyzing, and a lot of soul searching. This isn't an example of someone who had their own pet ideas on how things had to work and through a temper tantrum. I throw temper tantrums for entirel different reasons. No, this is a case of me honestly having exhaustively tested the system until it broke and then determined that the Matrix subsystem is and always will be broken. I presented my findings, FanPro (now Catalyst) said that they were holding to their explicit design goals of not contradicting core material, and I walked.

I actually find the concept of not contradicting rules to be quite admirable. I was a huge proponent of it in Street Magic, and was in favor of it in everything in Augmentation except Cyberlimbs (after long, long arguments on the subject we compromised and made alternate "advanced" cyberlimbs that were independently useful - but the ones in the core book still blow). But I genuinely do not believe that it is a good plan in the case of the Matrix chapter. The flaws are... pernicious.

-Frank
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Earlydawn
post Jan 16 2008, 03:13 AM
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So we're clear, what are the widely accepted issues with 4th edition Matrix rules, and for reference, Frank, which edition's rules did you think were best?
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Nightwalker450
post Jan 16 2008, 03:23 AM
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Am reading through matrix again, always looking for anything I might have missed. So far nothing... But on the complex forms I got to thinking.

Another way to house rule around the threading:

Threading requires no action, and you cannot rethread. Simple choose the rating for the new form, or the bonus on an existing form and resist that amount of drain. This makes the software skill pointless, unless you wanted to rule a limit as to what you could add/create based on software.

Otherwise since you don't have to take all the hits or even any of the hits, you could just keep tossing rolls until you get the hits you want for the rating. This is very pointless rolling, and is rolling dice just to roll dice. This makes it slightly closer to mages having to choose the force of their spell beforehand, they don't have to roll before casting to see if they are capable of casting their force 4 spell. I still prefer my groups slow threading, since mages don't usually have to resist 5 or 6 drain on a regular basis (unless overcasting), which is what a technomancer would be doing to keep up with a hacker.
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ludomastro
post Jan 16 2008, 05:11 AM
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Posts: 3,382
Joined: 22-February 06
From: Shadowland
Member No.: 8,297



I would like to thank everyone for keeping this civil and positive. :)

I too am waiting for Unwired; however, I am still scratching my head about how anything will be fixed without touching the basic rules. I can understand why the devs refuse to "fix" the Matrix, since they designed it. Personally, I would love for one of the devs to show me how to play a TM and not feel cheated compared to a similarly designed Hacker.

A second thought originated while I was at work today: The downside of a Technomancer is not just the cost of complex forms but also the cost of Resonance.

Assuming we:
  • use my proposed fix (1 BP = 5 CFP)
  • ignore Frank's very correct math on the cost general use programs (no offense Frank, I just don't have a good counter argument for your logic)
I am still paying 45 BP to play a different style Hacker. Why?

I understand the argument that TMs have advantages; however, these advantages don't add up to a distinct mechanical advantage for the BP cost. (Please note, I have always read the rules to only allow threading once.)

Let's keep the discussion going. :D



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