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> An Introduction into the Matrix Rules, GM notes / Software Recommendation / Examples
Ryu
post Sep 8 2008, 09:15 PM
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Situation:
Lets assume most of your group does not really know the matrix rules. Shocking idea, I know. Now if you introduce all the rules you know at once (which is of course "all of them". Yeah, right.), they´ll go straight into information overload mode. Not nice. Hey, at least they got the part about comlink modes and augmented reality.

Solution:
You pretend you don´t know much about the matrix either. No, not the NPC solution this time. You introduce a limited ruleset, rules-as-written from the get-go. Whatever a player wants to look up has to be in the book. Once they´ve gotten the basics down, you sneakily build up to "full Unwired".


Approach
The matrix is mostly reduced to the interaction with matrix nodes, glossing over the network aspect:
  • you need the rules for Matrix Perception and Data Search. Those are core functions within the matrix.
  • hacking requires the options of spoofing orders and exploiting access to nodes.
  • matrix combat may ensue from failed hacking attempts. I don´t bother with matrix combat in this writeup, as it is rather simple and follows usual mechanics. If you want that handy, too, go to Aarons Cheat Sheets and print the matrix combat one.
Rules that can wait, lowering the entry barrier:
  • Program loads don´t matter much. Experienced matrix players using all rules will not suffer from program load often, and trying to figure out specific program loads takes way to long for unexperienced players. Reserve that complexity for later.
  • Subscriptions limits are much the same. Yes, the game can benefit greatly from considering those, but ignoring subscription limits will not hurt that much.
  • Networking tricks, because no group I´ve ever played with had a common starting point in RL knowledge. Better to build an understanding of SR nodes, and from that an understanding of SR networks (See post #17 when you remove this restriction).
This is my take on what can be done; thanks to those that helped me create it, with special mention for Aaron´s suggestions. If you use any of this, please report back with suggestions for improvement.

This writeup was created for the pre-SR4A matrix rules.
An update to the current RAW will be forthcomming once I have "The Precious", myself. Noted for future reference: SR4A Introductory Fiction Mechanics

Structure:
  1. Running the Matrix 101. A selected set of rules, focussed on the GM.
  2. Programs and You. A players introduction to programs
  3. Examples
    • Example 1: Sensor Networks
    • Example 2: Access Control
    • Example 3: Drones
  4. Matrix Mechanics 101



1. Running the Matrix 101
The reduced ruleset, organised by activity. You´ll find a more detailed look at Exploit and Spoof below (Post #10).
Quick Matrix System Generation (Post #11) is a step-by-step guide to creating a matrix security concept for any kind of node.
[ Spoiler ]


2. Programs and You (Version 1.2)
Now the second part is ensuring that no hacker is ever surprised by the program requirements of the reduced ruleset. So those should be explicit. Ruleswise, one set of Aarons Hacker Cards per player is the recommended minimum. Don´t ever forget them. The Hacking cheat sheet from the same page will also come in handy.
[ Spoiler ]


3. Examples
Most of the nodes you encounter during an SR session should in some way be similar to the following examples:

Example 1:
A sensor network. This example can be adopted for many kinds of devices that are unified into one node, including industrial machinery. The functions of the devices are what determines the relative value of spoofing or hacking the node.
[ Spoiler ]

Example 2:
A system for matrix-controlled doors, without central node.
[ Spoiler ]

Example 3:
Taking a look at vehicles, or more specifically, drones. Rigger adaption (default for drones) allows for nearly all vehicle functions to be matrix-controlled.
[ Spoiler ]


4. Matrix Mechanics 101
[ Spoiler ]
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Synner667
post Sep 8 2008, 09:29 PM
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Still too much hassle for me...
...But a very good primer, and probably good enough for main use.

I''l print this out and keep it in my rulebook.


Bravo !!
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Ryu
post Sep 15 2008, 10:40 AM
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Glad you like it.

When I condensed the above post, I managed to fumble the link to the matrix combat cheat sheet out of it. You might want to print that one, too.
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Wasabi
post Sep 15 2008, 11:35 AM
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Ryu, I like this a lot. The layout is intimidating but the info condensed. I'd suggest including a second post with screenshots of a card-based presentation. Two types of cards... one for programs that reference the actions available and a second set of cards for the actions that reference the programs. The action cards explaining the matrix action such as cybercombat and the program cards with the page# of the actions and the things used in the contested roll.

This way intermediate to experienced players use the programs as standalone visual aids and the beginners use them both.

The actions could be condensed to a sheet but doing it as a "Matrix Trick" card for "Break-in to a network using exploit!", or "Fight for your life!" or "Search for the data!" seem a little more engaging than the typically drier overviews.

Still, excellant work, Ryu. Thanks to you and Aaron [EDIT: Per Aaron mostly Ryu!] for putting the overview together!
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Aaron
post Sep 15 2008, 11:43 AM
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Don't thank me. I only made a couple of suggestions; the first post of this thread is all Ryu.

In related news, I have finally clawed through enough of my TODO list that I can actually see the hacking/spoofing cheat sheets on it. I should have them available Real Soon.
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Ryu
post Sep 15 2008, 04:08 PM
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QUOTE (Wasabi @ Sep 15 2008, 01:35 PM) *
Ryu, I like this a lot. The layout is intimidating but the info condensed. I'd suggest including a second post with screenshots of a card-based presentation. Two types of cards... one for programs that reference the actions available and a second set of cards for the actions that reference the programs. The action cards explaining the matrix action such as cybercombat and the program cards with the page# of the actions and the things used in the contested roll.

This way intermediate to experienced players use the programs as standalone visual aids and the beginners use them both.

The actions could be condensed to a sheet but doing it as a "Matrix Trick" card for "Break-in to a network using exploit!", or "Fight for your life!" or "Search for the data!" seem a little more engaging than the typically drier overviews.

Still, excellant work, Ryu. Thanks to you and Aaron [EDIT: Per Aaron mostly Ryu!] for putting the overview together!


I´ve improved on the layout of the first post a bit. Still, I´d like to hear what part of the layout you find to be intimidating. Is it in the structure of what is already presented, or do you think that some expansions are missing? I have considered to separate the GM advice from the basic rules collection. Would that help, or would it separate info that belongs in one place?
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Wasabi
post Sep 16 2008, 10:52 AM
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QUOTE (Ryu @ Sep 15 2008, 11:08 AM) *
Still, I´d like to hear what part of the layout you find to be intimidating.


Volume of info, not that it isn't quite condensed and applicable... but it is a lot of info. I have some ideas that will take me a few days to document and pass on to you.
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Ryu
post Sep 17 2008, 07:52 PM
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@Wasabi: Take your time. (You´ll have noticed that the opening post is subject to stealthy ninja edits, yes?) (I´m not into making each minor update a news item).
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Ryu
post Sep 18 2008, 01:38 PM
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Suggested Order of Reading (pre-SR4A)
When I explain the matrix basics to my victims players, I don´t do it in the order of the wireless world chapter. It results in some unpretty page-jumping, but seeing that it is only about 10 pages, you could give it a try:

[ Spoiler ]
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Ryu
post Sep 19 2008, 11:29 AM
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You won´t need these available ingame, but understanding mechanics is IMO helpful. I deduct some simple guidelines from the mechanical analysis, those are of course subjective. Can´t be helped.

Balance: On Exploit (1.1)
The mechanics are simple: (Cheat Sheets Service link)
But how many dice do you need to succeed? Lets take a look at some math: Feshy´s Diceroller with Statistics Function

[ Spoiler ]



Balance: On Spoof
Again, the mechanics are simple.
She-who-has-more-dice wins. But lets take a closer look anyway:

[ Spoiler ]
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Ryu
post Sep 28 2008, 06:39 PM
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Quick Matrix System Generation (1.2)
What the title says, hopefully.

At this point I use the concept of Slaving (from Unwired). Under the simplified ruleset, only the master node is allowed to connect to the slave, so spoofing orders to the slave requires the matrixID of the master node, and Exploits against the slave are directed against the Master instead. Different levels of access to the master node come with different levels of access to all slaved nodes.
Example: All devices in a household could be slaved to the central houshold telekom. The kids would have standard accounts, the parents security accounts that also permit access to the camera systems. Only the matrix security provider would have admin access. If the parents need admin access for something, they log in to their security provider and call up a configuration agent. Clusters can be slaved, too.

If you are designing the system during prep time, you will want to use the more stylish IC programs and security spiders from Unwired, instead of the generic ratings below. I`d also recommend to read Unwired on system design (pg. 74 onwards).

Heads-Up: See Knassers Sample Matrix Sites, as hosted by Aaron. His examples are more detailed and explained deeper individual matrix systems, compared to the creation guide I´m going for here.

[ Spoiler ]
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Ryu
post Oct 4 2008, 01:01 AM
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Heads-Up: Structure and Layout changes to Programs and You (now 1.2), and Balance: On Exploit (now 1.1). Included Edit into Programs and You, greater oversight.
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Ryu
post Dec 27 2008, 02:36 PM
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On Rigging
This one does not really fit into the matrix rules stuff, but I need something along those lines anyway. My group has a new player/GM, one that only played SR2 before. Seeing as he is pretty clever, a mere compilation of things to know should do the trick. Yes, I know it won´t help many people on DS, nothing new to see. (Please give me a heads-up on any errors you find.)

[ Spoiler ]
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Draco18s
post Dec 27 2008, 08:59 PM
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The issue our group has is--beyond how the rules work--is making it so that we can run one hacker and the rest of the meat world at the same time. Hacking is a game within a game that is either brushed over ("The hacker gets in and deactivates the door locks") or is done in enough detail to give that player a feel for actually playing their part ("Ok, you see a giant black pyramid: Reraku's matrix presence...." 30 minutes later "and the doors unlock. Wait, where'd every body go?" "Pizza.")

Edit: I never finished the sentence.


Either the matrix is abbreviated an unentertaining to the "I only exist on the web" characters or its done in enough detail as the rest of the game that everyone else has nothing to do for a half hour and goes and gets pizza.
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Ryu
post Dec 27 2008, 10:45 PM
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I believe that the main reason for long matrix-only runs is people trying to turn a system that is simple into a complicated challenge to the players mind. Why should the matrix stuff be unique in it´s difficulty? Other areas of speciality are simple, too. If the player can´t be content with providing matrix overwatch and controlling devices/drones from the matrix, "I exist only on the matrix" characters are probably not a good choice.

Once you accept that the system is simple, you just need to work on your speed of resolution. This is were Aarons hacker cards come into play (information at your fingertips).

Each individual node should usually (player was able to avoid detection, as you kept to the device rating table) be hacked within one normal and two opposed tests (matrix perception on the target node, maybe two hacking tests). Even the Renraku Arc example can be resolved within a few minutes: Official Matrix Presence ->Dept. of Matrix Security ->Door Overwatch System. You are onsite? Great, start at the Door Overwatch System. Complicate matters only if you want your matrix runs to take longer.
Appropiate spotlight times are a matter of group consensus; seems that half-an-hour is not a good choice for your group. I´d suggest to have more systems to hack, but less complexity per individual systems. More spotlight in smaller slices.
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Draco18s
post Dec 28 2008, 03:15 AM
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My first hacker was a great character, SR3. Rigger/hacker, did both. And had 4 or 5 Lynx drones with minimachine guns (oh the fun and giggles we had with those and the 3 mounted on the van).

I told the technomancer for our SR4 recently that he need to expand and that he wasn't going to have any fun the way he was build (paraplegic) and used a thread (dumpshock forums I think) that had suggested a better build in order to fine tune what he'd started with (as well as my own attempts and failures at a technomancer), but in the end I was right:

He's a vampire now (of course, he's still not so great at figuring out what the best plan of attack is: "Oh, I've got regeneration, their shotguns aren't magical, I'll maul their faces off." *BLAM!* "Oh.")
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Ryu
post Feb 1 2009, 05:58 PM
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Polished the Opening Post (yet again), added Matrix Mechanics 101 to it.

Also, I´d like to keep the following base for SR networking around (Thanks to Tiger Eyes, Malachi, and Hobgoblin. Source.)

On Networking - some notes.
All of the rules apply in AR or VR mode. The only difference between the two modes is the Initiative rolled, and the way the digital world is displayed to the user.

A matrix node can be set to active, passive, or hidden mode.
  • Active: The node is visible and set up to react to data requests from all other nodes, the "Public Access" rights determine what information and services are available.
    (You are basically carrying a big virtual sign with an arrow on it, pointing towards you, along with name and phone number in big letters.)
  • Passive: The node is visible, but only reacts to data requests from defined nodes/users or upon individual confirmation.
    (You no longer have the sign, but you still have some kind of ID on you, and your phone will accept any incoming calls, as your Commcode Provider is authorised.)
  • Hidden: The node is invisible, and only reacts to data requests from defined nodes/users. Sending a data request to a node makes you visible for that node.
    (You don´t broadcast any ID data, and your phone only accept calls from your list of known numbers.)

Subscriptions:
  • A subscription has nothing to do with the commlink mode; if you know that the node is there, and have the necessary access rights, you can subscribe. If you don´t have the rights, you need Exploit.
  • You must have a Subscription (and thus at least User level access) to a Node in order to perform any action beyond a Spoof.
  • Most user access rights permit you to subscribe a node, as do all security and admin access rights. A subscription is not required for activities that can be handled via data requests, but you would likely want one for encryption alone.
  • Only the personae of subscribed users are visible on the node, even if you might be supplied with a "currently online" list.
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Ayeohx
post May 17 2009, 08:59 PM
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Good stuff so far Ryu but I recommend removing the threshold for Wifi Scans for active and passive nodes. It threw me for a loop. I was trying to figure out how normal folks could find their friend's commlink. Being that they probably don't have Electronic Warfare and they are probably using the Scan Rating 1 prog that came with their 'link, I'd say their chances are pretty low. Then again, I still don't get this stuff so I'm probably wrong. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

Also, was this possible in 4th ed:
"Using a matrix function without associated program, that you want to have a test for anyway: Logic+Computer"

I couldn't find any reference to this in either 4th or SR4A.
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Ryu
post May 17 2009, 09:20 PM
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"WiFi-Scan is used to search a physical location for matrix nodes. Finding the physical location of a matrix node is done via Trace."

Does that help any?
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Ayeohx
post May 18 2009, 01:40 AM
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Nope. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

Sorry, its probably my fault, I rarely convey my thoughts coherently it seems. I blame lead. Tasty, chewy lead.

1. You mention that there is a threshold of 1+ to find active and passive nodes. I don't think that you need to make a test to find active and passive nodes. Otherwise people without the Electronic Warfare skill wouldn't be able to find nodes.

2. Can you perform a Matrix function without having the appropriate program? If I read this right you say that you can use Logic + Computer. Is this in the rulebook somewhere or did you include this to simplify things for us new folks? If its a standard rule... why ever use programs?

Thanks Ryu!
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Ryu
post May 18 2009, 07:33 AM
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Hmm. Ok. You have multiple options, and I need to improve the WiFi-Scan description.

You need not roll a test to find all active/passive nodes. The threshold I listed is for searching a specific node in a crowded (matrix-wise) environment. Assume you want to know a certain persons adress "because you really dig their style". Knowing that 25+ commlinks advertise their presence in your area doesn´t help - but it would, should you somehow learn which commlink is located "at the left end of the bar, where X is sitting".

You don´t even need to use WiFi-Scan if you can identify the correct commlink by it´s transmitted information. Finding your friend? The active PAN named CopKilla. That´s him. No test involved - it is an active node, and you can identify it by it´s name. Your friend could also give you the necessary contact information.



Logic+Computer would only be used for things that don´t have an associated program. It is the standard way of testing for computer stuff, usually overridden by the program+skill mechanic. You are out of luck if there is a program.
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Ayeohx
post May 19 2009, 03:31 AM
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Cool, thanks for clearing that up.
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Ryu
post Jul 28 2009, 04:56 PM
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Found this in another thread:
QUOTE (DireRadiant @ Jul 28 2009, 06:29 PM) *
I create the AR view of the world around the characters as the primary POV for all characters. I describe the ARO view first. It is most useful because there are background systems making it so. Literally in a crowd there will be a highlighted individual shown to the team because someone's agent software or routine has identified that person as the one the team should talk to because there is something related to what the team is interested in. This works for everyone, whether or not there is a Hacker in the group. You will be gimped without using AR, because that stuff doesn't happen if you have AR turned off.

Once this mode is established, VR becomes of interest to the team. Physical only views become boring and uninformative.

If you don't work to make it matter, then it won't.
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Navar
post Mar 15 2010, 08:52 AM
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I probably shouldn't post, as this thread has been hidden in the pile for quite some time. Nearly 2 years in fact. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this Intro, Really Saved my arse. Coming from a previous edition campaign where I was the combat munchy troll, somehow I turned into the GM. With the oldest running player in my group being a former decker; This Intro was just what I needed,aside from the books and common sense of course, to get me up to par with the aforementioned player in no time flat. Thanks again, Ryu.
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Ryu
post Mar 16 2010, 05:27 PM
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Thanks for the feedback!

It does sound as if the thread worked as intended for you. A few questions if I may:

- Was there information missing that you had to look up on a regular basis?
- Are there parts that need improvement for easier understanding?
- How did you continue after the first steps?
- What suggestions would you add for a GM that wants to introduce the matrix?
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