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> Rules Hacking the Hacking Rules, House Rule
Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 05:07 AM
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I'm one of those people that is probably never going to be satisfied by certain parts of the rules, and for whatever reason is compelled to sit down for hours at a time and hack out new variations to try.

There was a thread a few weeks ago that made me think about the Matrix/Hacking rules. There were some optional suggestions (Logic + Skill, use Program rating to cap hits, et cetera) and I came up with one of my own (Logic + Skill, use Program rating like Reach is used in Melee). After a few sessions, I've decided I don't like that, and so I've come up with a new house rule that I'm going to give a go.

TL;DR: What follows isn't all that complicated, but it is rather long. You were warned.

Rule as Written: Contests are performed using the Program Rating + appropriate Skill, et cetera and so forth.

Previous House Rule: Contests are performed using Logic + appropriate Skill, with the Program Rating applying a modifier based on its comparison to the targetís program/firewall rating. This has brought up some complications. First, it lets the hacker know what the skill/firewall rating of the target is. Second, some tests donít really have a comparative program (Data Search tests, some Electronic Warfare tests, etc). Third, itís a little bit of hassle to compare program ratings.

Problems: Under Rules as Written (RAW), Logic is a dump stat for Hackers, which doesnít make any sense. Being a successful hacker only involves having an expensive commlink and wiz programs.
Challenges: There are three things that should merge to create your dice pool: Attribute (Logic), Skill (Computer, Hacking, Data Search, Electronic Warfare), and Program Rating. Adding all three of these equally to create the dice pool will immediately skyrocket you into absurd dice pool ranges, and will also break a lot of the in-place systems. Adding only two leaves an odd man out, which is what RAW does by leaving the Attribute out of the equation, which doesnít seem fair to hackers that take the time to be very smart. Leaving Skill out of the equation wouldnít help, as that would make Skill worthless, and then anyone with decent Logic and some spare cash could be a good hacker. Leaving Program Rating out would make Program Ratings worthless, which would eliminate one of the primary barriers for hackers -- the need to have state-of-the-art software to be competitive. So, again, the challenge is a way to incorporate Attribute, Skill, and Program Rating in such a way as to make each worthwhile, yet not in such a way as to break all of the associated systems in such a way that they cannot be assessed intuitively from knowledge of RAW in the event of a rules question or a failure of the house rule to address an unanticipated event.

--------

House Rule: Contests are performed using Logic + appropriate Skill. Wherever below you see something like (+1/2 <program rating>), that means add 1/2 of the program rating (rounded up) to the number of hits on the dice roll to get your total hits.

Extended and Opposed Tests: Add half the appropriate Program Rating (round up) to the number of hits for each test. In the event of a tie, victory goes to the persona/agent with the higher Program Rating. On extended tests against flat thresholds (ie, where the threshold is not built from ratings but rather is simply a number like ď10Ē as with some Track, Search, etc rolls), adjust those thresholds upward by +6.

Standard Tests: The vast majority of Hacking/Computer tests are either Extended or Opposed, but there are a few that donít fit that mold (Edit, possibly others). For these tests, make them as described above in Extended and Opposed Tests, but the basic threshold for success is the Firewall rating of the device if applicable, otherwise against the listed threshold +2. Additional modifiers may be applied to the threshold corresponding to the degree of difficulty of the action, as usual.

Cybercombat: Attacking is done by performing a Logic + Cybercombat versus Response + Firewall (+Hacking or +Pilot while on Full Defense for persona or agents, respectively) opposed test. The attack program rating (Attack, Black Hammer, etc) serves only to provide the base Damage of the attack. Damage is equal to the rating of the attack program + net hits on the opposed test. Damage is resisted with a System + Armor test, with each hit reducing the damage of the attack by 1. Blackout and Black Hammer attack programs are instead resisted by Willpower + Biofeedback Filter, with each hit reducing the damage of the attack by 1. Additionally, Black attack programs make it difficult to jack out. That system remains unchanged (opposed Willpower + Biofeedback Filter vs Black attack rating + Response test). Note: There is one place where the Attack program is used outside of Cybercombat -- that is the Crash Program/OS action. Add Ĺ Attack rating to the Logic + Hacking extended test, as you would with any other extended test.

Agents and Nodes: Tests made by and Agent (IC, Sprite, etc) are performed using its Pilot Rating + the System or Firewall Rating of its originating node, depending on the action.

Breaking In: When Hacking on the Fly or Probing the Target (p221 SR4), the system usually gets a chance to detect you. For Hacking on the Fly, that test is usually an Analyze + Firewall (Stealth) extended test for every test made to hack in. For Probing the Target, that test is usually a single Analyze + Firewall (Stealth) test made at the point of actual intrusion. Modifications to the two cases below:
>Hacking on the Fly: Before you make the first attempt to hack a system, make a single Logic + Hacking test, adding your full Stealth program rating. This becomes the threshold for the targetís System + Firewall extended test, to which it receives a bonus of Ĺ its Analyze program rating.
>Probing the Target: When you perform the actual intrusion, make an opposed test of Logic + Hacking (+ full Stealth rating) vs the targetís System + Firewall (+ Ĺ Analyze).
>These are the exceptions to using Ĺ your program rating as bonus hits. In the event of a glitch, you receive only Ĺ your Stealth rating as a bonus, which is an exception to the glitch rule below.

Programs Running on Automatic: Some programs (Analyze, Browse, etc) can be set to run automatically while youíre doing other things. In such a case, it rolls its full Rating, which is then added back to Ĺ its rating. For example, if you hack a node and want to set your Analyze 5 program as a watchdog for other intruders while you look for some paydata, your Analyze program will roll 5 dice (+3) vs the intruderís Logic + Hacking (+ Ĺ Stealth). (The system in the book is that the program just rolls its own rating vs the targetís Hacking + Stealth, or worse yet somehow co-opts your skill). If you set your Browse program to search the Matrix for a piece of information while you go have lunch, it will faithfully run a Browse (+ Ĺ Browse) extended test every minute until it completes the task or crashes.

Terminate Connection: This is supposedly a rare intrusion response method. Change this test to an opposed Firewall + System vs Logic + Hacking test. Rather than splitting hairs about what system program would correspond to this action, no programs apply to this test.

Glitches: While rolling 0 hits still provides you with a base result of Ĺ your program rating (on most tests), in the event of a glitch, you do not retain that bonus, netting only the hits you receive from dice unless otherwise indicated. In the event of a critical glitch, you net 0 hits (0 dice hits + 0 program rating bonus) and potentially have more severe consequences. A program that glitches while running on automatic will crash and lose any stored results. A program that critically glitches while running on automatic may instead return erroneous data.

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Immediate Concerns:

I know that adding a set bonus equal to 1/2 Program Rating makes Program Rating worth somewhat more than an equivalent amount of Attribute or Skill (3 Rating is worth about 1 hit if it were just bonus dice, but gets you two automatic bonus hits). This makes Program Rating worth a lot, but it's usually only counting for 1-3 bonus hits, which turns out to be easy to work with. In Opposed Tests this more or less balances right out, providing perhaps a 1 hit advantage to the higher rating, and otherwise counting as a tiebreaker. In Extended Tests, this has the effect of quickly reducing the overall time it takes to complete an extended test. I'm cool with that. I think most Extended Tests in hacking take way too long, anyway.

The threshold modifiers (+2, or +6 for extended tests) are there to maintain expectations for an "average" program rating (3-4, or +2 automatic hits). On the extended test, that means an "average" program mitigates the threshold increase after 3 rolls. A higher rated (5-6) program does it after 2 rolls, and bleeding edge (7-8+) get there sooner. Since it's a simple threshold modifier, it has the added effect of causing weak programs (1-2) to be at a relative disadvantage to RAW, and good programs (5-6) to be at a relative advantage. The advantage is fairly slight. This difficulty could easily be adjusted upward to +3 / +9 if it turns out to be too weak. This could probably be combined easily with an optional rule that limits the number of rolls you can make on a single extended test, if you think it makes extended tests far too likely to succeed.

Cybercombat is actually largely unaffected by this. Programs like Attack, Armor, and Biofeedback Filter, etc all have intrinsic value for damage and damage resistance. Same goes for programs like ECCM out of combat.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 28 2011, 05:12 AM
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Note that it's only an opinion that the 'hackers don't need Logic' situation is a problem. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 05:25 AM
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QUOTE (Yerameyahu @ Mar 28 2011, 12:12 AM) *
Note that it's only an opinion that the 'hackers don't need Logic' situation is a problem. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)


<dude>That's just, like, your opinion, man. </dude>

Yeah, I know. I'm sure everyone's got their opinions on everything, and most everything anyone says about anything is an opinion. I just know that some people (myself included) have expressed various issues with the hacking systems in RAW, and so what I've presented is an attempt to cobble together a tighter system out of disparate parts.
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braincraft
post Mar 28 2011, 06:00 AM
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I'm of the opinion that the hacking rules in each edition have always been way, way, way too complicated and onerous in both chargen and play. At least mages get a new trick for each spell they buy; hackers need every single one of more than a dozen programs or they'll be hilariously incompetent.
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Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 06:05 AM
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QUOTE (braincraft @ Mar 28 2011, 01:00 AM) *
I'm of the opinion that the hacking rules in each edition have always been way, way, way too complicated and onerous in both chargen and play. At least mages get a new trick for each spell they buy; hackers need every single one of more than a dozen programs or they'll be hilariously incompetent.


I more or less agree. Not only that, but hackers get a lot of "me time" in actual play, due to the stepped nature of things: find target, hack target, find thing in target, hack thing in target, fight IC, fight IC, fight IC, obtain appreciable result. All while 2-5 other players who couldn't care a lick about what's going on in your beautifully designed digital worlds are twiddling their thumbs and waiting for the camera to shut down so they can just make it into the damn stairwell.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Mar 28 2011, 01:18 PM
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QUOTE (Epicedion @ Mar 27 2011, 11:05 PM) *
I more or less agree. Not only that, but hackers get a lot of "me time" in actual play, due to the stepped nature of things: find target, hack target, find thing in target, hack thing in target, fight IC, fight IC, fight IC, obtain appreciable result. All while 2-5 other players who couldn't care a lick about what's going on in your beautifully designed digital worlds are twiddling their thumbs and waiting for the camera to shut down so they can just make it into the damn stairwell.


So run the hacker simultaneously with the rest of the party. That is what we have been doing since SR4 came on the scene. Works great.

As for Dice Pools. We construct with Logic + Skill (Capped by Program Rating). I am curious. You did not really comment on why you did not like that method (it is one of the optional rules). I know that one of the major reasons that Yerameyahu (and a few others) do not like it because it removes that Luck factor from the roll. Why do you not like it.

As a note. I like that it removes the luck factor. Hacking should not be about luck, but skill. You want luck, spend Edge. Edge removes the cap, just like it does for Spellcasting (ands as a note, Technomancers do not even Need Edge, all they need to do is Thread the CF higher to raise their cap). This has worked absolutely wonderfully for us. And it gives meaning for the lower Rated Programs. Why would a Company spend Tens of Thousands of Nuyen for a Program Suite that will never be utilized to its fullest capacity by those wageslaves that are using it? Rating 1-3 Programs now have a logical, in-game, use.

Anyways. I am curious as to what you dislike about that system, as you did not elaborate.
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Belvidere
post Mar 28 2011, 04:57 PM
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I have been playing around with a few different house rules, but I haven't been able to find many to my liking.

So far the two best (IMO) are

Attribute+Skill, hits capped at program
This one makes sense, but so does the following one. It makes sense for a bad program to limit how much you can do.

Skill+Program, hits capped at Attribute
This one makes sense as well, because you can have best program in the world, and practice day and night, but if your brain just can't keep up, you're bound to make mistakes.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 28 2011, 05:03 PM
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This is just a comment, not a comprehensive critique. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I'm always extra-wary of introducing new mechanic paradigms into the game (in this case, bonus auto-hits all over the place). Even if it's all balanced and functional, it's preferable to have fewer of these patterns.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Mar 28 2011, 05:12 PM
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QUOTE (Belvidere @ Mar 28 2011, 09:57 AM) *
I have been playing around with a few different house rules, but I haven't been able to find many to my liking.

So far the two best (IMO) are

Attribute+Skill, hits capped at program
This one makes sense, but so does the following one. It makes sense for a bad program to limit how much you can do.

Not so much a BAD Program, just a Limited one. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/biggrin.gif) After all, it is the difference between Mocrosodft Works and Microsoft Office. They can both do the job. But one is Definitively better than the other.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 28 2011, 05:19 PM
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Only with a very sensitive crapometer. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)

I wouldn't say that my primary concern is the removal of luck, though it's a factor. Most of the hacking revamps I see trade not-needing Logic for not-needing Programs (to some extent); that is, they generally alter the Karma balance by altering the Nuyen balance. *That's* the big problem.
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Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 05:24 PM
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QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Mar 28 2011, 09:18 AM) *
So run the hacker simultaneously with the rest of the party. That is what we have been doing since SR4 came on the scene. Works great.


In the middle of other action, it works out. Whenever the hacker does Matrix legwork, it tends to drag for the others, especially if the hacker does something stupid and gets caught in a system alert.

QUOTE
As for Dice Pools. We construct with Logic + Skill (Capped by Program Rating). I am curious. You did not really comment on why you did not like that method (it is one of the optional rules). I know that one of the major reasons that Yerameyahu (and a few others) do not like it because it removes that Luck factor from the roll. Why do you not like it.


Basically, I'm not a fan of hit caps. Partly because they penalize the rare, extremely lucky roll.

QUOTE
As a note. I like that it removes the luck factor. Hacking should not be about luck, but skill. You want luck, spend Edge. Edge removes the cap, just like it does for Spellcasting (ands as a note, Technomancers do not even Need Edge, all they need to do is Thread the CF higher to raise their cap). This has worked absolutely wonderfully for us. And it gives meaning for the lower Rated Programs. Why would a Company spend Tens of Thousands of Nuyen for a Program Suite that will never be utilized to its fullest capacity by those wageslaves that are using it? Rating 1-3 Programs now have a logical, in-game, use.

Anyways. I am curious as to what you dislike about that system, as you did not elaborate.


One thing I don't like is that mediocre programs become too much of a bottleneck for good hackers, under that system. All programs must must must be rating 5 or 6. A 12-dice hacker hits the cap from a rating 4 program over 60% of the time. An "average" professional computer user with a dice pool of 6 hits the program cap on a Rating 3 program nearly a third of the time.

I think those limitations are too strict, leaving the hacker battling his own gear more often than not. On the other side of things, a hacker with a high enough Program Rating isn't really limited by the program -- in fact, more often than not it never enters into the picture. I'd rather see Program Rating wired into the system so that it contributes directly.

What I'd rather see is the Program contributing to the ease or difficulty of each task. SR3 managed that by having Program Rating subtract directly from the action's relevant Target Number, making programs both powerful and necessary. So what I designed above was an attempt to have Program Rating remain powerful, and directly influence the degree of success of each dice roll as opposed to being some limiter floating around and waiting to be used. I want the players to feel a benefit to having a rating 5-6 program over a 3-4, rather than an occasional penalty for not having a 5-6 program.

So RAW is "program is everything." The optional rule is "program is limiting." I'm going for a third option: "program contributes heavily but can still be outpaced by skill and/or luck."
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Mar 28 2011, 05:37 PM
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Gotcha... Makes a bit of Sense... (IMG:style_emoticons/default/biggrin.gif)
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Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 05:46 PM
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QUOTE (Yerameyahu @ Mar 28 2011, 01:03 PM) *
This is just a comment, not a comprehensive critique. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I'm always extra-wary of introducing new mechanic paradigms into the game (in this case, bonus auto-hits all over the place). Even if it's all balanced and functional, it's preferable to have fewer of these patterns.


I'm also wary about adding new mechanics (and for me the auto-hit mechanic was a long-time headscratcher). But in looking at the rules as a whole, and through multiple editions, Physical, Magic, and Matrix have always had to have their own special mechanics nuances. I finally figured that auto-hits made programs do what they were actually supposed to do: make actions reliably more likely to succeed or succeed faster. It still won't save you from being stupid or sucking at hacking.

The loss of Target Numbers in SR4 really left the Matrix twisting in the wind. I think that RAW and those two optional rules are pretty much hatchet jobs.
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sabs
post Mar 28 2011, 06:05 PM
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My problem with your system:

Rating 2, 4, and 6 programs are now worthless and stupid. Why bother getting them.
Now, if you tell me something like:

A couple of different options for program rating:
1) When I load a program, I get Rating # of modifier points. I can use those points to modify a threshhold up or down.
2) When I load a program, I roll rating dice, I add those hits as auto-hits for every action I use that program on.
3) Rating = Max Hits, if you need more than that, spend edge.
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Epicedion
post Mar 28 2011, 06:10 PM
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QUOTE (sabs @ Mar 28 2011, 01:05 PM) *
My problem with your system:

Rating 2, 4, and 6 programs are now worthless and stupid. Why bother getting them.
Now, if you tell me something like:


Higher rated program wins ties.

The other way to go would be round down, which probably would work fine too.
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tete
post Mar 28 2011, 06:52 PM
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Well the 2e system was Reaction+Computer+Program so I have no real problem with it.

[edit] Personal opinion but intuition should be way more important that logic for hacking on the fly situations where you don't have the time to properly analyze the system.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 28 2011, 06:57 PM
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Yeah, that was one of the options in the last thread about this exact topic. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif) Just teasing, Epicedion. Anyway, I think it's worth playtesting: it's an existing mechanic (skill+stat+gear), everyone likes more dice, no luck-capping, and people can *choose* whether to invest in karma or nuyen (or both). Possibly, you'd need to adjust a few specifics (Stealth, of course).
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Adarael
post Mar 28 2011, 06:58 PM
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It has been my experience that Logic is a dump stat for every single character except technologists, except when characters wish to actually know something. I like that, in SR4, a Street Sam or Decker can be a zen type who knows everything he has to via street channels, and has no use for "book learning" save for those times when they need to have technical or academic knowledge. I see no problem with logic being a dump stat, personally, because it is only a dump stat until a player wished they'd invested those points in Hardware, Software, or Matrix Data Structures.

Which, in my games, they tend to do immediately after being foiled by a particularly nasty lock, custom program, or matrix loopback technique. Perhaps I weight knowledge skills as more useful than other GMs, but research and knowledge play a huge portion of the Success Pie of my runs. I cannot easily imagine a runner team breaking into a facility to steal something without having some logic-heavy folks do research into that company's security methods & tech, and then devising run-specific ways of defeating them. Anything less is likely to devolve into a running firefight. And if that's what you're after, it's a good thing you don't have to waste points on logic instead of having a combat hacker with gun skills out the ass.

Or that's how I see it, anyway.
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Epicedion
post Mar 31 2011, 05:12 AM
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I just noticed something about this that I missed when I was writing it.

While an Attribute + Skill + Program roll might be more in-line with some of the other Attribute + Skill + Gear rolls that pop up in the rules, setting X number of hits per program rating means that Edge can't be used to explode the extra Program "dice." Your dice pool for Logic 5, Hacking 5, Exploit 5 isn't 15. It's 10. The Exploit 5 provides 3 free hits (or 2, or however you would run it like this assuming you ever would), but it's not 5 dice that could potentially turn into exploding 6's when you spend Edge.

I kind of like that idea -- gear giving some static bonus based on its rating, as opposed to a more variable result from talent, skill, and luck. The idea that X rated gear is worth this much, some quantifiable amount that doesn't change on you. A rating 6 device might be worth 6 hits, or no hits, or 12 hits with Edge, but if you ever tried to measure something with a vernier caliper you wouldn't be prepared to get a hyper-accurate, moderately accurate, or wildly inaccurate result based on luck. You'd expect a specific amount of precision based on the manufacture of the tool.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 31 2011, 05:20 AM
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On the other hand, the odds of exploding sixes giving you as many hits as the free autohits aren't high. Exploding sixes simply aren't a big deal; the power of Edge is rerolling, or +Edge dice (depending on the exact stackup).
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Epicedion
post Mar 31 2011, 06:13 AM
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I was more commenting on the static nature of what you might in reality expect from your tools.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 31 2011, 01:19 PM
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Hehe. It's an interesting philosophical point.
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sabs
post Mar 31 2011, 01:27 PM
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Letting Hackers buy successes to accomplish basic tasks also speeds up the hacking rules.
If you're going to do stat+skill+program you need to relook at system+firewall, and how stealth works.

btw, intuition+computer+analyze is not a bad grouping for matrix perception tests. It makes Intuition have a purpose. You can even roll willpower into for certain things. Willpower+Hacking+attack (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif) for example.
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Yerameyahu
post Mar 31 2011, 01:35 PM
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Are you teasing, sabs? That doesn't make sense, why would Willpower be involved in using a computer? (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) You've got it for Stun damage resistance, sure, but using an Attack program?
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sabs
post Mar 31 2011, 01:43 PM
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I am teasing (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)

Although willpower is your ability to focus and concentrate, it's also very much part of mental combat. Perhaps Matrix Combat is mind on mind. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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