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So, a Data Search + Browse test resulted in this thread which touched a little on hacking without programs, or when lacking a key program, but didn't really seem to apply completely.

Firstly, has anyone encountered anywhere in the book a rule saying that you cannot perform a matrix action without it's associated program. For example, if you don't have the Defuse program, can you disarm a data bomb? If there is such a rule, I've missed it, and this thread can be as short as a reference biggrin.gif.

Now, assuming for the moment that there isn't such a rule, here's the situation. I'd rather let the sleeping dog of Logic + Hacking vs. Hacking + Program asleep for the moment, though it's awakening might be immanent. With the RAW, there's no real difference between a Logic 1 and Logic 6 hacker since their abilities online are based almost solely on their skill and programs. I've already ruled that the intervals in a matrix extended test are limited by Logic plus the appropriate skill to indicate that more logical characters can continue to come up with other weaknesses to probe or techniques to apply in a given situation while illogical types are quickly frustrated.

To continue this trend, I've been toying with another house rule:

Any matrix action requiring a program that a character does not have may be performed as an extended test with a +4 modification to the threshold and a two-fold increase in interval length as determined by the Extended Test Difficulties table on page 59.  Thus, a test whose interval was previously 1 Combat Turn would now have an interval of 10 Minutes.  A test without an interval would now have a test of 1 Minute.

The +4 modification means that such a test would never really be "easy" (as defined in that table) and the increase in time represents the fact that the hacker has to do it all without the aid of assistive programs, thus it takes longer.

I'll be testing this house rule in my games next weekend, but I'm interested to see your reactions now.

Hacky McHacksalot has been caught without a Defuse program after detecting a Data Bomb (Rating 4) on a file. Realizing that this file is essential to his plans, he needs to get by the data bomb, and due to the sensitive time frame involved, he can't track down a program and return later. He'll have to try and defuse it manually. The normal test would be Hacking + Defuse (Data Bomb Rating x2) but because he's working without the aid of the Defuse program he's looking at an extended Logic + Hacking (12, 1 Minute) test.

Later on, our intrepid Hacky is again lacking a key program, this time it's the Scan program. He's trying to detect a specific hidden node from within a stew of other non-hidden nodes. Thus, his test, which would have been an Electronic Warfare + Scan (15+, 1 Combat Turn) now becomes a Logic + Electronic Warfare (19+, 10 Minutes) test. He might be able to pull it off, but that threshold is a killer. The gamemaster politely tells Hacky's player to buy more programs and suggests that Edge might be handy right about now.

I'm torn on the idea. I like it because it allows characters who may not have the program load out of the hacker to perform some basic matrix actions that they may not have otherwise been able to do. However, the likelihood that such a character needs to do this is definately in the "last-ditch-effort" category. It also would seem to help Technomancers since they may not have quite the program load out of a "normal" hacker as they have to spend build points for complex forms in addition to everything else that BP are needed for at character generation.

Jeez ... this turned out to be a longer post than I expected, but I have one more thing to add. I've also toyed with providing the host a test to "perceive" an action of this type similar to when probing the target. When the action finally succeeds, the system gets a chance to notice the hack as an Analyze + Firewall (Stealth) test. If the host detects you an alert is triggered.

In Hacky's Disarm Data Bomb test above, he succeeds in defusing the data bomb after 4 minutes of brain bending work. At this point, the host rolls Analyze + Firewall for a threshold equal to Hacky's stealth program. Luckily for Hacky, that's a program he already has..

The only test this one doesn't seem to work on would be a Decrypt test, but that's because it's a Decrypt + Response test and has nothing to do with the hacker's skill at all. I'd argue that one could allow the commlink a chance to crack the encryption, with a threshold and interval modification as described in the house rule above but manual cryptanalysis should take far longer than this house rule would represent, if it would be possible at all.

Glitches on these sorts of tests should be an order of magnitude more dangerous than glitching with a program, but that's my opinion.

Kremlin KOA
given that in the fluff, intuitive mavericks have always been better hackers than logical types, the tying it to the logic stat makes little sense
regardless of that, the game does link all of the matrix skills to the logic attribute.
emo samurai
Maybe you could have a "hero protagonist" positive quality that allows you to use Intuition in place of Logic with a +4 dice pool modifier.
I'm not interested in linking the hacking skills to intuition. I'd rather leave them with logic as per the RAW. I'm looking for a way allow characters who, due to a lack of programs, could not otherwise perform a matrix action to do so. I was re-reading the RAW over lunch and as far as I could tell, someone without a Browse utility can't even perform a data search on their own commlink and would have to resort to contacts. Peraps that makes sense due to the large amount of data available to people to search through, but it could be nice to provide a blanace house rule if possible.
Well, for legal programs, there are probably online versions available. Browse functions come immediately to mind... it's likely that, since there are still public forums and such, there are still public search engines. Or even share- and freeware versions of things like Scan or Edit. Though I'd slap them with either a die or threshold penalty or simply put certain topics out of bounds due to the fact that the public utilities would be set up to function within strictly legal parameters and some data just isn't publically-available, no matter how precise your search-fu. So no firing up SuperGoogle and running down the security layout of the MCT drone testing facility. But a WhitePages search or WHOIS-type lookup would be within the realm of possibility. Or, say, that free version of Encrypt 4 you downloaded works fine, in most cases, but it contains a well-known back door that makes it more vulnerable to decryption if the person trying to crack it figures out what program you're using.
So you pretty much need to buy almost all the programs
There's not really a reason to not eventually pick up most, if not all of the programs. At least, there really wasn't in SR3, in that you could just put so much Active/Storage into your deck that it wasn't a big thing.

But, really, in SR3, while the programs were offensively more expensive, they were about infinitely more easy to program. With a self-coder, Renraku Teng, and a sleep regulator, you could basically cut the programming time to bupkis.
but which ones are absolutely must have?
Okay, page 208 says that Matrix actions are meant to be the same as normal tests, only with programs instead of attributes. So, I'd say that lacking a program means you're running with skill dice alone, or perhaps even with a defaulting penalty. This means that you will need a program of some sort to function on the matrix, although a GM is free to rule that certain easy tasks are worth a positive dice pool modifier. That way, Average Joe won't need a program to function on the matrix.

Another alternative is to have a lot of agents availiable for use. Google 2070, for example, might automatically send an agent to link to a user who's logging on. The agent can then run programs on behalf of the user, and report back to him as needed. For example, the user might not have Browse or Data Search, so the agent does it for him, and reports the findings back to him. The user refines his search terms, the agent goes out again, and so on. You don't need a program to interact with an icon, so matrix services might send out icons to do the work for you.

As for the Logic issue-- there's enough tests that link to it that a Logic 1 decker is going to be at a disadvantage. For example, on p218, Logic can apparently stand in for a program when using the Computer skill and interacting with a device-- and device means "everything" in 2070.
The Jopp
I'm with Cain on this one. It should be possible to default to attribute with the normal -1 modifier, and most likely some other modifier like the B/R tables example of lackign the right tools for the job.

What the hacker will attempt in such a situation is basically hackin/programming on the fly, using brute code to reach his objective. The treshold should reflect this.

I like it since it gives the perfect picture of a hacker, someone who ISN'T dependant on the programs but that CAN manage without them in a pinch. Ok, not well but he would manage.

This would also make Logic heavy technomancers a bit more worth their salt since they would be able to use their logic to substitute for programs.
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