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> Cyberdecks and Deckers: A discussion, Cross-posting from officialdom!
Wakshaani
post Nov 8 2015, 04:46 AM
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I just put this thread up elsewhere, but, I wante dto get the Dumpshock view as well. Yeah, I already know some comments that'll come in, but that's fine, I'm looking for everyone's opnions, not just the good ones. I love the game as much as anybody and I always like talking about it, so, I just ask that you keep it civil. I'll pop in as often as I can over th next few weeks to keep tabs on things and drop off my views, but I want to give y'all a few days to just sorta talk. I'll be reading and taking notes, but I don't want to break up the flow. Now, to cut-n-paste.

***

For a while, there's been a lot of talk around this issue, but I figured it'd be nice to gather it all up, sit down, and chew the fat over a few weeks. Moving away from "Everyone can hack everything" to "Hacking is hard and you really need a Decker around" is a move away from the 4th ed style and more to a 1st-3rd ed style. Obviously, this doesn't sit well with *everyone*, but it's a design decision and one that I, personally, support.

But how much should a deck cost?

Here, we get into both design elements (How much of an 'archetype tax' is there?) and in-world continuity (Do you want to have scrappy teenage streetpunk deckers? Only elite corporate black opps deckers?) Is this something for high schoolers or is this something that requires a BIG investment? Do you want to allw a mid-range decker subtype, like a Face who dabbles in hacking or a 'combat hacker' who mostly shoots but also decks, or do you want to push Deckers only? (We're skipping over Technomancers for now. I'll talk about them at a later date.)

I always liked having an entry-level deck, a mid-range 'This is for most starting deckers', a high-end 'This is for Resource A deckers only", and then a deck or three that were out of reach for a starting character, but, other people have mentioned wanting better toys right out of the gate. Some people don't like teh low-end decks on teh grounds that no one would take them, but others have a problem with any deck being so expensive that it's more profitable to track down deckers and steal their gear than to go on actual missions.

SO, lots of angles here, lots of elements, and plenty of things I want to discuss (After hearing from y'all first, mind!) ... but I want to try and keep focus on, in essence, teh 'entry cost' for Decking, not so much the rules on Decking themselves. Decks, skills, and so on, teh Decker 'elements' as it were. (And, again, try to hold off on Technomancers by and large? That's a whole other topic,)

Try to keep it civil gang, and I'll try to pop in often to chat.

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Sendaz
post Nov 8 2015, 10:49 AM
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I think it should be an investment, but not quite the staggering it costs just for even the most basic.

Now in the case of the high schoolers it is often mummy & daddy unwittingly picking up the tab or a street rat have done some scrounging/swapping to get those pieces, but still the overall cost for that rating 1 deck should be around 1/5thif buying off your fixer to maybe even 1/10th of it's current pricing if scrounging parts your self as it is just getting your foot in the proverbial door.

And you can even implement limits on improvised gear so you can't make the equivalent of a Fairlight easily without scrounging from much higher level devices/areas to assemble the knockoff.

The high end stuff is not so bad because it is supposed to be the best of the best, but could still do with a bit of price reduction by knocking off a third to maybe even half of the original cost.

Honestly if you are carrying anything on your person that is worth more than a half mil by itself and does not require actual surgery to remove it, that is a reason to get shot in the face by people around you all on its own or make you seriously consider PC suicide if you lost it. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)

But it is hard to discuss the 'entry cost' for decks without also discussing maybe some tweaking of decks themselves.
One thing to consider is maybe the decks should all get the ability to carry/use a few more programs actively.
That rating 1 deck can just have 1 program up at a time and you have to constantly swap out.
While that makes some sense as it is a pretty basic device held together with synthgum and electrical tape, it is the equivalent of having a beginning Sammy who can go into a fight with a gun but no body armor, trusting just your own body to soak it up, which can work for trolls but some of the squishy sort not so much.
One thing is all cyberprograms pretty much take up the same slot regardless of actual power, maybe by offering more slots but then have the badder programs take up more than 1 slot to balance it out.

But like you say this is drifting into Decking rules, however it is still something you have to keep in mind while you are discussing pricing as this is part of justification for said costs.
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Sengir
post Nov 8 2015, 07:16 PM
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QUOTE (Wakshaani @ Nov 8 2015, 05:46 AM) *
Moving away from "Everyone can hack everything" to "Hacking is hard and you really need a Decker around" is a move away from the 4th ed style and more to a 1st-3rd ed style.

But that was already achieved by making decking dependent on attributes and skills, with equipment only determining how well the decker can make use of his skills.

Was the reason for the price hike really that the devs were so unconvinced of their own system that just to be sure they added a second limiting factor? That would be pretty ironic, because decking is one of the examples where Limits work really well in both fluff and mechanics.

QUOTE
But how much should a deck cost?

High-end decks need to be difficult to get, to give players something to look forward to and because the Limits concept doesn't work if the players' gear is too good to limit anything.
But at the entry level, what would be the difference if you handed out a deck fro free on chargen? The street samurai still couldn't hack anything.
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Mantis
post Nov 8 2015, 07:22 PM
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QUOTE (Sendaz @ Nov 8 2015, 02:49 AM) *
Honestly if you are carrying anything on your person that is worth more than a half mil by itself and does not require actual surgery to remove it, that is a reason to get shot in the face by people around you all on its own or make you seriously consider PC suicide if you lost it. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif)


This right here covers the biggest problem with cyberdeck pricing as it stands. With that kind of price scheme runners are better off breaking into warehouses where these things are kept (before sale to whomever is so rich they can afford one) once, clearing the place out and then living like kings off the proceeds.

With those prices who is buying them? Governments? Corporations? Certainly not the average joe. Even if mommy and daddy are footing the bill, there aren't so many wealthy folks running about dropping the cost of a new car or more on their kid's hobby to support a cyberdeck industry. And this only gets them the basic level deck.
So if only governments or corporations can afford them, then they should be the only ones with them so your characters all need to be from that background. Sure, you can say, oh my guy stole his. OK. And no one hunted him down to get it back? Keep in mind corps and governments are the ones with these things. If you stole a car from either group they send the police to get it back. You steal a mid range deck, which is the equivalent in price of several cars, just what do you think they will send after you?
At it's core, the cost of cyberdecks just doesn't work. Too expensive for the economy and too expensive for any group of runners that aren't the most elite of the elite.
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Critias
post Nov 9 2015, 01:25 AM
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Decks should cost enough they're a serious decision you have to make, but they should not cost so much you can never really upgrade them during any sort of reasonable campaign.
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Koekepan
post Nov 9 2015, 03:10 AM
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The discussion should start from a lower level.

What makes someone capable of compromising electronic security? A talent unique to The Mighty Decker? Or a skill open to all? That right there is hugely important, and guides the discussion of how restricted the archetype is. For comparison, only mages can ever be mages because mage is what you are as much as what you do. Conversely, anybody can pick up a Predator that the dead guard dropped and learn to make it bang.

A different take on it is that decking hinges on what you have - which relates to the mysteriously significant deck of truly vast cost. No deck? No decking. Big deck? Big dick.

The only real way around the problem of theft of decks as a huge industry, is to make their value commensurate to the rarity of buying them as-is, but making it possible for deckers with the right B/R skills to create their own. This mitigates the in-game cost of upgrades and repairs, while limiting the point of just pouring cash into a tool of godlike power.

Another consideration is that of people with multiple abilities. Let's say you have a small team; call it three people. Alice is a drone rigger/vehicle rigger/infiltration specialist. Bobby is a chromed-out killer, but also makes a good face and investigator. Chuck is a magician, who also knows how to slip on some 'trodes and do some electronic intrusion. Together, they're a well-rounded team, and by 3rd Edition standards, Chuck can even be moderately effective in the world of electronics.

Is that a bad outcome? Should Chuck have devoted his entire existence to the worship of the Mighty Electron? I don't really see why. I don't even see why a given shadowrunner needs to be mercilessly sledgehammered into a particular niche; and the moment that you think that some generalisation is an option, the rationale for making decks super-expensive drops away.

A game design consideration which has created perennial disgruntlement is the need to explain why a deck is so super special anyway. Why shouldn't anything capable of delivering the right set of bits achieve the same? Why are commlinks Just Not Tough Enough? Or for that matter, home computing systems? There's no clear technical answer that I can see making an ounce of sense, especially the moment you allow for B/R skills.

In the bigger, economic picture, the net present value of being a shadowrunner has to be positive to people who combine high skill levels with strong discounting of future value. This means that they see a net return in the near future - next year they may be dead. Unless somebody is showing up and offering them meganuyen on a regular basis, the cost of a cyberdeck just can't be that darned high - otherwise being a shadowrunner is (from that perspective) sheer economic insanity. If you think that the typical payout for a shadowrun has to allow shadowrunners to keep a comfortable existence at, say, 3 runs a year, then each run will have to pay for their general gear plus lifestyle expenses for four months at least - coming down to six figure payouts per team to justify them even getting out of bed. Adding to this the plausible risk of a meganuyen piece of equipment, and having to replace it ups the cost of hiring a shadowrunning team for any plausible job to millions of nuyen - not really feasible in most scenarios.

Just a few thoughts, really.
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sk8bcn
post Nov 9 2015, 04:26 PM
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QUOTE (Critias @ Nov 9 2015, 02:25 AM) *
Decks should cost enough they're a serious decision you have to make, but they should not cost so much you can never really upgrade them during any sort of reasonable campaign.


To me, it's mostly software that should power a good decker and so, programs should be a key to hacking.

This way, you could have a base price high enough but during a campaign, a character could code his own programs so that he's not that dependable on money rewards but more on his own skills.
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Beta
post Nov 9 2015, 10:28 PM
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I have a two part response, one in light of how 5th is set up, and one less restricted.

First, given the structure of fifth:

- I think that the price of a deck combined with no upgrade path, limited ability to recoup price from re-sale of an old deck, and chance of damage/loss, puts too much uncertainty into the existence of deckers. Sure, deckers are limited by the accumulation of money which gates getting a better deck, that is the 5th edition way of doing things. But there should be better ability to get value out of an existing deck. Either upgrading is possible (probably for more than the delta of just buying them new, but not by crazy amounts), or there is some other way to get the value out of a deck that you are replacing. A hundred thousand for an upgrade may be hard to achieve, but it is still a lot easier than a quarter million.

- I think that having all generic decks doesn’t create the possibility of niche hackers. The specific one that comes to my mind is the thief/intrusion expert type, who wants to be able to take out specific devices (cameras and locks—the latter often while having direct attach), versus the all-purpose decker who can do everything. (Dongles may fill in this hole, but I’ve not spent enough time looking at the math yet). Basically not having program count so directly tied to the limits would let you focus more on one type of decking or another, I think. The deck that is better in only some ways would logically not be as much more expensive than a deck that is better in all ways.


OK, taking away the existing structure of fifth, this is kind of how I could imagine things being done.

- The sort of immersion that deckers need is special, and requires headware beyond a Datajack. That nuyen and essence is the entry cost to being a decker. Sure you could be a Sam/decker hybrid, but they are both fighting for essence space. You can be a decking adept, but the loss of essence will hurt the adept side, etc. Make it the requirement for matrix 4.0, or whatever. Make it something like 40k and 0.7 essence, enough to hurt but no so much that it is impossible to combine things. With that ‘ware you can hack, but stopping there is like going into a fight with no weapons or armor. Possibly more expensive versions available, giving an initiative bonus?

- Your deck lets you run programs. They also have a certain number of physical slots. Better decks can support more total points of programs. And oh yah, programs have ratings.

- Programs come in three types with one additional option. You can have a program in software, firmware, or hardware, and the latter two can be implemented as meltware.

o Software has a limited rating, but isn’t too expensive and takes no physical slots.
o Firmware requires fairly expensive programmable cards that take up a deck slot—the cards can be re-programmed, given the right tool-box and a bit of time.
o Hardware is really expensive and high availability rating, as well as taking up a physical slot. Probably not in reach of starting characters (this is your super-military grade assault rifle or initiation – a milestone that gives you a real power boost)
o Meltware is what it probably sounds like. Something that gives you extra rating, but it will literally melt or burn up if you keep using it—it is designed to create more heat than a deck can realistically dissipate, but it will give you a bit of use before it destroys itself (it is good for so many rolls only). Firmware-meltware can be re-programmed onto a new card, hardware-meltware is gone for good (realistically this won’t be bought by players much, but more likely given to them by a Johnson for a specific job). Think of it a bit like hyper-overclocking a graphics card. In practical terms, this is a decker’s APDS ammo or reagents – stuff you use on the hard jobs, but that is expensive and you may not always have as much of it as you’d like.
o A special version of meltware could maybe be a firewall booster that essentially provides one time damage soak.
o A program is written for a given implementation. A skilled hacker can take one version and come up with other versions, but this is a time consuming process. Otherwise you can buy it anew. This is to give more of an armorer or arcana equivalent, where having skill can save you from having to pay others so much.
o A program can have a specialization, following the same basic idea as skill. So you could have a level 3 program, or a level 2 program that is rated at 4 vs maglocks, and either would count as three points of programs. This better lets cheap decks be focussed for a specific task.

- Agents require the right deck features, make it tied to the deck, not the slots, so that to have an agent you need a more expensive deck. Or possibly more interesting, agents require additional headware, and now they let you split your attention in two (the agent is an aspect of your thoughts – like the Daimons in Walter Jon Williams’ novel “Aristoi.”) Agents then become a marker or true advancement as a hacker, letting you do things like continue hacking (via your agent) while taking part in a gun-fight. Rules-wise that could be challenging, but it would be very cool IMO.
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Sengir
post Nov 9 2015, 11:17 PM
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QUOTE (Mantis @ Nov 8 2015, 08:22 PM) *
Too expensive for the economy

All character gear is too expensive for the economy (and it's not just inflation, the Soy Mac index remained the same), but for some grognards it's not about sense, it's about "we've always done it like that". But cyberdecks are so ridiculously expensive, they stick out even in an edition where even simple Muscle Replacement costs R*25k.


Or maybe let's consider decks as a kind of Magic attribute for deckers: You pick up the quality "Decker" for 25 Karma and get an DR 1 deck (25 Karma equals 50,000 ¥, the costs of an Erika MCD-1).
The next better deck costs 60k more than the basic model, so you'd spend 30 Karma to upgrade your "Deck Attribute" -- whereas somebody who picked an awakened quality can already get to Magic 3 for 25 Karma.
An overall decent Novatech Navigator costs 155k more than the basic model, so a total of 77 Karma to upgrade your "Deck Attribute". But an awakened character can get to Magic 5 for 70 Karma.

TL;DR: Getting a decent deck at chargen costs more Karma than getting Magic 5 plus the required quality.
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Serbitar
post Nov 11 2015, 08:19 AM
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Prices should facilitate gameplay.

I want prices that allow:
* Gangers to have low level deckers
* Part time hackers, just like there are part time mages and part time riggers
* The possibility of a cyberdeck being destroyed (its a piece of equipment, its not invincible)

Decks should range from 5k to 200k.
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Pendaric
post Nov 12 2015, 08:13 AM
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I am going to start in a strange place for this discussion.

I played a character that was a decker/sam who started without a deck. Idea was his deck got burnt and he had to fall back on other skills. This was in 3rd ed so it was a big deal to get a half decent deck. This is my take on what I learned.

Being able to make/upgrade your deck with time not just nuyen should be important and common amougst runners. Programs should be curbed by hardware limits but drive decking with a healthy amount of skill- so your not a script kiddie but a character that a player can choose on how it plays. So the player skill alllows them to get something out of being a decker in the trix not just a dice roller.
Programs should be able to be programmed/ upgraded in the same vein a decks without breaking the game world economy. Swapping utilities with other deckers/soft ware pirates should be common. Most uber deckers I would expect are solid programmers to add to their bleeding edge style.

Lower end decks/software packages can/should work on low end systems, mid decks/software can on mid range systems etc. Skill can/should make up some of the short fall in MHO.
You can build mini decks that are more expensive or not very powerful out of comlinks, basic computers etc just adding the necessary hardware without taking four years to do it.

The above rules should make sense with in game economy. So you don't get a retail piece be strangely cheaper that a homebrew just cos of meta gameplay rules nonsense. Or you can retire rather than buy your next upgrade.

OK on the last point psychology can come into play so you keep running or your in the game and cannot stop running. But really a little realism can make a lot of difference.
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KCKitsune
post Nov 12 2015, 02:26 PM
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Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but I sorta liked the way that 4th edition did things. The optional rule of using Logic + skill (limited to software rating hits) should have been the default rule and not an optional rule. The good thing about this is that if you also limited the level to which a mage/technomancer could Initiate/Submerge and limited the number of spells/complex forms they could get, then they could be more well rounded characters and maybe pick up some hacking skills.

Where I'm going with this is that if you have players (even the mages) who could hack, then you could have whole 'Runs that could happen in the Matrix and not break the suspension of disbelief.
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Sendaz
post Nov 12 2015, 04:38 PM
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Just remember to keep one guy on Overwatch while everyone else dives in. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)
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Sengir
post Nov 12 2015, 04:49 PM
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QUOTE (Serbitar @ Nov 11 2015, 09:19 AM) *
Prices should facilitate gameplay.

I want prices that allow:
* Gangers to have low level deckers
* Part time hackers, just like there are part time mages and part time riggers
* The possibility of a cyberdeck being destroyed (its a piece of equipment, its not invincible)

Decks should range from 5k to 200k.

Still pretty expensive if you ask me, which gun costs 200k?
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Mantis
post Nov 12 2015, 05:21 PM
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Shouldn't comparison be between 'ware and decks rather than guns and decks? Everyone uses a gun but not everyone uses a deck or ware. Either way though, the cost to make a character using any of those things should be comparable. The entry price and the continued cost to play a samurai or rigger or decker or mage should be roughly equally.
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Wakshaani
post Nov 12 2015, 06:47 PM
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Agreed about entry costs, but, here's a question to spin from that: What's the entry cost to be a Samurai, Rigger, or Mage?

For transparency, feel free to convert 2000 Nuyen to 1 Karma to keep it balanced. That'll give you an idea about the Magic attribute, learning spells, and bonding foci for magical types vs the raw cash of a samurai or rigger.
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Wakshaani
post Nov 12 2015, 06:47 PM
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Agreed about entry costs, but, here's a question to spin from that: What's the entry cost to be a Samurai, Rigger, or Mage?

For transparency, feel free to convert 2000 Nuyen to 1 Karma to keep it balanced. That'll give you an idea about the Magic attribute, learning spells, and bonding foci for magical types vs the raw cash of a samurai or rigger.
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KCKitsune
post Nov 12 2015, 10:47 PM
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QUOTE (Wakshaani @ Nov 12 2015, 01:47 PM) *
Agreed about entry costs, but, here's a question to spin from that: What's the entry cost to be a Samurai, Rigger, or Mage?

For transparency, feel free to convert 2000 Nuyen to 1 Karma to keep it balanced. That'll give you an idea about the Magic attribute, learning spells, and bonding foci for magical types vs the raw cash of a samurai or rigger.


That's not really fair. Magic is pretty damn hard to shut down, your Matrix connection... not so much. Getting a rating 6 area jammer only costs you 1200 (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) and is pretty darn effective.

Also If I'm a street sammy and don't want to deal with that hacker/decker from shutting me down, I can just turn wireless off. An internal router (SR5) still allows me to have the good stuff without the drawbacks. Nothing like that WRT to magic.
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Beta
post Nov 12 2015, 10:54 PM
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QUOTE (Wakshaani @ Nov 12 2015, 07:47 PM) *
Agreed about entry costs, but, here's a question to spin from that: What's the entry cost to be a Samurai, Rigger, or Mage?

For transparency, feel free to convert 2000 Nuyen to 1 Karma to keep it balanced. That'll give you an idea about the Magic attribute, learning spells, and bonding foci for magical types vs the raw cash of a samurai or rigger.


This is where the experience with priority or sum-to-10 is very different from karma or life modules, I suspect. Under the priority system, the cost of magic is typically something like: 4 attribute points, 8 skill and 3 skill group points, 90k nuyen, and 2 edge (for humans). In return you are at least competent and your two preferred magic abilities (probably want to top them up slightly), have a broad array of spells, and access to spirits.

An equivalent 'decker priority' option would say that for priority A you get a pretty sweet deck, can run agents, and have a broad array of programs--including ones you could use to make yourself better at non-decking activities. Oh, and you could make significant upgrades to the capacity of your deck starting around 25k nuyen (i.e. first initiation of 12-13 karma) and putting a month's work into the upgrade. Oh, and future upgrades would only be moderately more expensive.

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Sengir
post Nov 12 2015, 11:21 PM
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QUOTE (Mantis @ Nov 12 2015, 06:21 PM) *
Everyone uses a gun but not everyone uses a deck or ware.

Everybody (well, nearly) wants some kind of firearm, and should be able to get one which does not fall apart. But even the guns with the best stats, made for the few discerning experts who can make use of them, and only intended for corp/military use do not cost 200k. The most expensive sniper rifle costs a bit under 50k. The heavy Vickers Ares Laser MG goes for 35.

Both decks and guns are supposed to be tools the characters use, they provide a few base stats (damage, stealth, armor) and determine how well the character can make use of his DPs, but ultimately their usefulness should always depend on the character. The prices of guns overall fit into that design philosophy, because that 50k sniper rifle won't make anyone a master shooter. But the 200k deck also won't let a script kiddie pwn the Zurich Orbital, so why the difference?

And yes, deckers should get more matrix cyberware. Right now we don't even have an Encephalon...
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KnightAries
post Nov 13 2015, 01:09 AM
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Hmm.....
Drop a zero off the cost of the decks by counting them as "type-o's" (IMG:style_emoticons/default/biggrin.gif)
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Glyph
post Nov 13 2015, 03:35 AM
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Decks are too expensive in comparison to what runners get paid. 'Ware has the same problem, but at least it can be improved piecemeal and is less likely to get damaged during a run. The other problem is that deckers don't scale well at the low end. The impression I get from the official boards is that deckers need to be min-maxed just to be capable of some basic tasks. It would be nice to see some Matrix tasks that are easier to do, to make things like Matrix gangs more plausible.

Decks are a poor choice of entry barrier. I agree with Betx that deckers needing specialized headware to do their jobs would be better. Plus, Shadowrun fluff is always talking about deckers with cobbled-together decks who write their own code, but the actual rules make it either impossible or too much of a time sink. And honestly, I would like some rules for hacking without a deck - a decker should be disadvantaged in doing so, but it should be like a street samurai with his wires turned off; he may not be superhuman any more, but he is still skilled and capable.
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DeathStrobe
post Nov 13 2015, 05:13 AM
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Magic 6 costs 105 Karma

105 karma turns into 210000¥

That can by you the Novatech Navigator or for a bit more the Renraku Tsurugi, both rating 3 devices. Is that equal? Let's assume that it is. How about moving up to the next tier.

The Sony CIY-720 is 345,000¥ or 172.5 karma. Let's assume you can get the market rate for reselling your Novatech Navigator, that's a 139,250¥ or ~70 karma to move from device 3 to device 4.

A Mage needs to initiate. 13 karma, and then raise their magic, 35 karma; which is a total of 48 karma and get a metamagic which unlocks new options of play.

So not only is magic arguably more powerful in general, they also have a "cheaper" upgrade path. This could be a problem.
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Wakshaani
post Nov 13 2015, 09:13 AM
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Decker skill being an issue vs hardware is also a thing, and brings in a bit of side-cost as well.

One of the things I'm doing is crunching some numbers on "Generic Shadowrunner", who costs 300 Karma for a baseline of abilities, then seeing how much it costs to get an archetype on top of that. Not a GREAT one, or even a GOOD one, but one that's got enough talent to pass muster. That's looking like 200 Karma, which includes things like a Magician with Magic 3, Sorcery Group 3, Conjuring Group 3, and 3 spells, or a Decker with 160K to sink into gear.

Not sure yet if it's viable, but it's letting me at least break down certain concepts to a pure mathematical form to help figure things out.
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Serbitar
post Nov 13 2015, 10:02 AM
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QUOTE (Sengir @ Nov 13 2015, 12:21 AM) *
Both decks and guns are supposed to be tools the characters use, they provide a few base stats (damage, stealth, armor) and determine how well the character can make use of his DPs, but ultimately their usefulness should always depend on the character. The prices of guns overall fit into that design philosophy, because that 50k sniper rifle won't make anyone a master shooter. But the 200k deck also won't let a script kiddie pwn the Zurich Orbital, so why the difference?


Guns can only kill people. Decks can do so much more.
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