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> Need a bit of help from the "hivemind" here, SR4a hacking houserule
Kyrel
post Jul 1 2016, 12:10 PM
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Hey people,

I'm going to be running a SR4a campaign in a few months, and I'm currently considdering houserules etc. for the campaign. One of the things I'm not overly happy with, is part of the matrix rules (what a surprise, right...).

Specifically I'm currently thinking about "Hacking on the Fly". What bothers me is how absolutely hopeless it is to hack with a low rating Stealth program, and how grotesque threaded rating 15+ Stealth ratings become. RAW the player rolls a series of extended tests against a threshold, while the system rolls Analyze + Firewall against a threshold of the player's Stealth, and then it becomes a race to the goalpost. I'm considdering what will happen, if you change the system's extended test into an opposed roll between the Firewall + Analyze vs. Hacking + Stealth.

I could use your thought on the consequences of making such a change. It's been a while since I played, so I've no doubt that I'll overlook something, if I try to puzzle out the consequences on my own.

Initial thought is that it ought to make it a little more random, whether the hacker gets cought trying to break into a system. A skilled hacker with a good Hacking skill but a crappy Stealth program will still have a chance of getting in, without being caught, while a skilled Technomancer with an insane Stealth might still get caught, due to a bad opposed roll. What am I overlooking here?


/Kyrel
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bannockburn
post Jul 1 2016, 12:56 PM
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QUOTE (Kyrel @ Jul 1 2016, 02:10 PM) *
What bothers me is how absolutely hopeless it is to hack with a low rating Stealth program [...] and then it becomes a race to the goalpost.


But that's actually the design goal. Hacking on the fly should feel like a race and be full of risks. Even with a higher rated Stealth program.

To actually answer your question:
Changing this process to a simple opposed roll would certainly speed up things a bit, but it will also result in it being less predictable on the lower end of dice pools (hacker with good skill and low rated Stealth program) and having the same issues with high dicepools (your aforementioned threading TM).

On the other hand I'm asking myself how your TM gets to such a ridiculously high threaded complex form.
For one thing, the TM in question would already need a Resonance rating of 8, for another, even starting from a rating 6 Stealth CF, it would require 9+ hits, or an average pool of 27 for threading.

Maybe your issue is not with this particular mechanic but rather extremely min-maxed characters skewing your results?
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Thanee
post Jul 1 2016, 02:41 PM
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QUOTE (Kyrel @ Jul 1 2016, 02:10 PM) *
I'm considdering what will happen, if you change the system's extended test into an opposed roll between the Firewall + Analyze vs. Hacking + Stealth.


And then you make one such test for every roll in the extended Exploit test? Or how do you want to handle that part?

Anyways, I think this makes it far too easy for a dedicated hacker. Since you can get a lot of extra dice for Hacking, you will easily have like +50% dice in your pool compared to the defending system. And you have Edge. If you do not want to raise an alarm, you can all but guarantee that there won't be one.


Why not just go the standard route and simply don't use Stealth programs below Rating 5, if you are a serious hacker, because they are useless. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

It's no problem to get Stealth 5 or even 6 (just w/o program options then) from the beginning.

Bye
Thanee
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bannockburn
post Jul 1 2016, 02:48 PM
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QUOTE (Thanee @ Jul 1 2016, 04:41 PM) *
It's no problem to get Stealth 5 or even 6 (just w/o program options then) from the beginning.


While that's technically true, you need to buy the Restricted Gear quality to have a commlink capable of running them, IIRC (and provided you're not a TM).
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Thanee
post Jul 1 2016, 03:24 PM
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QUOTE (bannockburn @ Jul 1 2016, 04:48 PM) *
While that's technically true, you need to buy the Restricted Gear quality to have a commlink capable of running them, IIRC (and provided you're not a TM).


No you don't. Stealth 5 or even 6 can easily be run on an average commlink (though, a hacker won't really have anything lower than Rating 4).

The key is program options (Optimization in particular) from Unwired. Hence the Stealth 5, because with Stealth 6 + Optimization you break the Availability limits. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

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Thanee
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Kyrel
post Jul 1 2016, 04:20 PM
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Gentlemen,

I'm perfectly aware that the easiest course of action is to simply use the standard rules as they are. However, the fact of the matter is that I'm simply not happy with how the standard rules perform in this respect, and I'm trying to find a better alternative that won't screw up the rest of the system at the same time. I'd like all program ratings to be at least somewhat useful in some situations, and I'd like for a hacker to be able to get an Admin account on a system, without having to blow Edge on it to be successful. And from my perspective, the rules don't currently provide resonable odds of that, without various forms of optimization shenanigans, which I don't like.

A hacker with i.e. 12 dice that tries to get an admin account on a Device 1 will have to get what? 7 successes. If he's got a Rating 1 Stealth program, which theoretically ought to be OK to go against a Rating 1 Device, the odds are that he'll be detected before he hits his threshold. He'll get on average 4 hits per roll, and the system will have two dice to hit 5+ on one of them. Simplified he'll get the 7 hits in 2 tries, but the system is likely to discover him in 1-2 tries too. And that's assuming 12 dice. Without optimization it'll require Skill 6 (world class) and Rating 6 (military grade). To have about 50/50 odds of being able to get an admin account on a Rating 1 Device. Above that level of Device, the odds just go downhill. This math just doesn't work for me.


It's a good point with regards to how it's possible to boost the Hacking skill. I hadn't thought of that. Any other perspectives anyone would like to contribute to this?


/Kyrel
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Mantis
post Jul 1 2016, 04:46 PM
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Another option is to use the decreasing dice pool rule for the extended tests. That way your hacker with his pool of 12 can still hit that 7 threshold but that rating 1 system with its 2 dice will be out of dice after 2 tests. You can find the rule on pg 64 under Extended Tests in the last paragraph.

We use this system in any place where the result of failure in an extended test is something other than just lost time. So hacking, climbing, that sort of thing. We use the regular dice pool for extended test for places where there aren't any serious consequences to failure, so things like vehicle or weapon mods or software design. Works out pretty well for us.
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bannockburn
post Jul 1 2016, 05:06 PM
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QUOTE (Kyrel @ Jul 1 2016, 06:20 PM) *
[...] which I don't like.


So let me briefly recap this: You don't like it that hacking on the fly is a risky venture, so you want to make hacking on the fly less risky and more often successful?

That's alright by me if you feel that way, but I can't contribute to a solution there, because I don't think there's anything wrong with the premise. If people want safety, they should take the long road and probe for weaknesses, IMO.
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Thanee
post Jul 1 2016, 05:17 PM
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How about this? (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

Hacking on the fly works exactly like probing the target (i.e. same threshold needed, not the reduced one).

Then, once you have generated enough hits, the system gets one roll against you with Analyze+Firewall, just like when you were probing the target.

However, the system gets a bonus of +1 die for every extra round you were hacking (i.e. for every roll you made after the first).

Bye
Thanee
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Kyrel
post Jul 1 2016, 10:19 PM
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QUOTE (bannockburn @ Jul 1 2016, 07:06 PM) *
So let me briefly recap this: You don't like it that hacking on the fly is a risky venture, so you want to make hacking on the fly less risky and more often successful?


I don't mind that there are resonable odds of being detected, if you try and burst through the frontdoor of a system. But I find it annoying that a hacker with supposedly "world class" skills and top of the line programs, virtually must blow Edge, in order to have any serious chance of hacking a useful account on an average node, without being discovered. A world class hacker, that tries to hack a toaster shouldn't have very high odds of being discovered IMO, even if equipped with a shitty Stealth program. But if he goes up against a top of the line system, he should have even odds of being discovered. Basically, I'd like a situation where a hacker at a given level of skill and equipment have a fair chance of hacking a device of equal rating. A good chance of hacking lower level devices, and a hard time hacking higher rating devices. I don't find that RAW in 4a models that very well. You can argue that no hacker character will ever in practice have below a Stealth 5 program, and maybe that's right. But in terms of "believability" (don't start on the argument about "realism in a game with dragons..." etc. crap), I find it ridiculous that someone with supposedly worldclass skills and top end equipment should have such a hard time breaking into an average system undetected.

Again, think about it. Someone with Skill 6 and an Exploit 6 program trying to get an admin account on a Rating 3 device, will need 9 successes. Statistically he'll get 4 hits per phase, and the system will get 2 hits per phase, meaning that it's about 50/50 odds of a world class hacker with top of the line gear being detected breaking into what ought to be akin to an average security node. The math vs. the world description just rubs me the wrong way in this regard.



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Kyrel
post Jul 1 2016, 10:38 PM
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QUOTE (Mantis @ Jul 1 2016, 06:46 PM) *
Another option is to use the decreasing dice pool rule for the extended tests. That way your hacker with his pool of 12 can still hit that 7 threshold but that rating 1 system with its 2 dice will be out of dice after 2 tests.


I actually did considder that option too. The problem with that version is that it makes it even less likely that a Technomancer with a boosted Stealth rating will be discovered. And that's not what I want either.

I've also considdered letting the Stealth rating be a target no. the defending system must roll, in order to detect the hacker. But that is ridiculous with regards to a system then needing i.e. 5-6 successes on a single roll, in order to detect the intruder. Doesn't work.

Another option I've considdered is simply giving a hacker a number of rounds equal to Stealth, before they are detected by the system. But that doesn't give me the effect I'm after either.

Yet another thought I had was to simply reduce the extended tests to a single opposed roll between Hacking + Exploit vs. Analyze + Firewall - Stealth + 0/3/6 (for account type), but that makes it too quick and simple for my liking.

Or a handful of other variants of this last thought above. And I've still not come up with a variant I'm happy with.


So again I'm back to what the consequences becomes if you turn the threshold for the target system's Analyze + Firewall into an opposed roll against Stealth + Something?
Hacking makes sense to use as the "Something", but as pointed out, it's possible to boost that up to a point where you've effectively all but eliminated the risk of hacking, which isn't the idea either. So the question can then be, if not Hacking, then what? System or Response might also be options to considder, as these aren't so easy to boost beyond level 6.

Any other thoughts on this? What am I missing in terms of consequences?
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KCKitsune
post Jul 2 2016, 12:46 PM
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Kyrel,

How can hacking go beyond 6 (or 7 if you blow Positive quality points)?

Here's an idea (most likely a bad one): Compare the rating of Firewall vs Stealth, and if Firewall is higher than Stealth, then the system being hacked into has that many free hits to detect the Hacker (kinda why it's there), but if Stealth is higher than Firewall then that is how many extra hits the System being hacked into has to to get to detect the Hacker.

Also, if you want to limit the amount of threading that a TM can do then just raise the Fading pool to (New Rating +2 or +3). That will make it a VERY tricky proposition. Also remember to keep a threaded Complex form the TM has to have a -2 to his dice pool.
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Mantis
post Jul 2 2016, 05:03 PM
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QUOTE (KCKitsune @ Jul 2 2016, 05:46 AM) *
Kyrel,

How can hacking go beyond 6 (or 7 if you blow Positive quality points)?

An adept can take improved ability in Hacking if they wish. This allows them to have a modified skill of 9 or 10 with aptitude.
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Blade
post Jul 4 2016, 12:39 PM
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The extended roll system of SR4 is cumbersome. In most cases, it could be advantageously replaced with a single roll that tells you how long it takes to succeed.
The only advantage it has in the case of hacking is that when hacking on the fly the hacker gets to do a roll at every IP and when it's done alongside action from the rest of the group it can give this "hold on, I just need a few more seconds to get in" feeling.

But even that case doesn't work that well in an actual game. The hacker's player will spend most of the combat waiting to finally hit that threshold and won't have a lot of fun. A big problem of the whole hacking minigame of SR4 is that it's centered on this intrusion test, which is just about rolling dice with little meaningful choices.

A solution could be to restrict that kind of hacking to probe hacking, and have on the fly hacking start directly with the hacker inside the node, with ICs and stuff like this, letting him choose between his different tools to get to his end (including the possibilty to use Exploit to get a legitimate account). But even then, it would require some re-balancing, otherwise a hacker could just focus on his Exploit program and forget about the rest.
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Jaid
post Jul 5 2016, 06:31 AM
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QUOTE (bannockburn @ Jul 1 2016, 08:56 AM) *
On the other hand I'm asking myself how your TM gets to such a ridiculously high threaded complex form.
For one thing, the TM in question would already need a Resonance rating of 8, for another, even starting from a rating 6 Stealth CF, it would require 9+ hits, or an average pool of 27 for threading.


1) edge.
2) luck.
3) support operation registered sprite service. if you have a rating 6 registered sprite, you only need to thread stealth up to 9, and the sprite takes you up to 15.
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Iduno
post Jul 7 2016, 07:16 PM
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It sounds like your major issue is high-end programs causing problems. There is an optional rule in Unwired to use the program rating as a limit to the number of hits (I think, someone correct me) you can get. Low-end programs are still useful against a low-end system, because the system is limited in the same way. High-end programs still have some uses, but aren't an auto-win.
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Tymeaus Jalynsfe...
post Jul 7 2016, 07:31 PM
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The Optional Rule is: Skill + Attribute, Program Limits the Hits.
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Mantis
post Jul 8 2016, 05:11 AM
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QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Jul 7 2016, 12:31 PM) *
The Optional Rule is: Skill + Attribute, Program Limits the Hits.

Yup. We use this one to help avoid the script kiddie issue. Though getting a high logic (the usual default attribute) is pretty easy and comes with a host of other benefits at least it means a professional is the likely one hacking your commlink rather than someone with hacking 1 and a large bank account.
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Kyrel
post Jul 14 2016, 08:41 PM
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QUOTE (Iduno @ Jul 7 2016, 09:16 PM) *
It sounds like your major issue is high-end programs causing problems. There is an optional rule in Unwired to use the program rating as a limit to the number of hits (I think, someone correct me) you can get. Low-end programs are still useful against a low-end system, because the system is limited in the same way. High-end programs still have some uses, but aren't an auto-win.


Not so much Iduno. My problem is that I'm not happy with the way the rules perform. It bothers me that a hacker virtually HAVE to spend Edge, in order to successfully be able to "Hack on the Fly", without being discovered. It bothers me that a hacker doesn't have resonable odds of being able to successfully hack a system of a comparable or lower rating than his skills and programs, without being discovered. It also bothers me that a low rating Stealth Program is all but useless, regardless of what system it's being used against. Fair enough that it won't cut it against a higher rating system, but it ought to be somewhat useful against a system of a comparable rating.

I realise that the character can "just" hack the system beforehand, but while that's true, this won't always be possible, and even if it is, it means that the hacker player have to have a "solo adventure", when he tries to hack the system beforehand. I'd much rather have the player do his hacking in AR during the run itself.

In an earlier post I posted some sample numbers to illustrate what I meant. But let me repeat myself here:

A hacker with Hacking 6, Exploit 6, and Stealth 1 who tries to get an Admin account on a Rating 1 Device, will require 7 hits, in order to get the account. Statistically it'll take the hacker 2 attempts to get the 7 successes. However, over the two tries the system gets to detect the hacker, it statistically ought to get the 1 hit required to "penetrate" the Stealth 1 program. In "fluff terms" this means that a world class hacker with a top-of-the-line Exploit program and a Stealth Program of an equal rating to the Rating 1 Toaster he's trying to get an Admin account on, have a roughly 50/50 chance of being successful. Go up to a Rating 2 Device, and the system ought to discover the hacker in the first turn. It just rubs me the wrong way.

On the other end of the scale, you have the other challenge of giving a system a resonable chance of discovering a max. boosted Technomancer with Sprite assistance, trying to hack in. RAW the odds of a system detecting a Stealth 14+ Technomancer, before he hacks the system, is fairly remote.

Now, you could argue that changing the system to make it easier for the hacker to break in, only...well, makes it easier for them, and reduces the risk of having to engage in cybercombat or similar. And yes, that's correct. However, I'm OK with that, because I'd rather have the Hacker engage in a support role for the team, manipulating cameras and other security systems, than have him engage in cybercombat on his own in the Matrix, or get the team's presence blown at the first hack, forcing them to engage in a running gunbattle for the rest of the run.

I'm aware of the optional rule from Unwired. I've considdered something similar myself, only I'd use Logic as the cap, rather than Program Rating, based on the idea that you might have a super fancy program, and some skills, but if you're dumb as a door, odds are that you won't get the optimal performance out of the program or your attempts to use it in practice. But as such I don't considder this to be a particular great problem in the game.
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Blade
post Jul 18 2016, 11:03 AM
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What I did for my houserules is that the hacker rolls when he has time (for example when preparing for the run) to fill his "hacking pool", and then spends the points in his hacking pool during the run itself to help with the hacking. (Well, that's actually the basis of my houserule system in general, not just for hacking)

Spending point can mean that he has installed a backdoor during the preparation or that he's hacking on the fly thanks to knowledge he got during hte preparation, we don't really care, the important thing is that the rolling was done when there was time to do it, but the action takes places when it's more interesting.
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