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Hey folks;

I'm just getting into GMing Shadowrun -- and, unfortunately, both I and my group are fairly new to the system as a whole. That said -- our first experiments ended up being wetwork with lovely (meaning high) bodycounts. I've stated outright that I'm going to try to guide these folk (with new characters) into quieter, cleaner runs, with Johnsons that generally will want discretion.

That said, the previous experiences made decking seem rather dull or monotonous. What tips do you guys have for making interesting decking situations? Are there FAQs, guides or sample decking runs you'd recommend I read? I plan on having the decker, generally, serve as information retrieval, surveillance and the eye-in-the-sky that helps whomever is going in -- but would certainly like any tips you all would care to give.

...and then, after having thought I had done a good search, I find the Community Support for the Matrix-Challenged thread. Doh.

Well, any further advice or recommendations will be much appreciated -- namely how to lure in some poor, unsuspecting sod, or how to insure that a poor, unsuspecting sod has a fair amount of fun with this. wink.gif
Digital Heroin
The Matrix can be a wild and wooly place... it's as fun as your imagination can make it... few hosts are actually boring... it's all in the arcitecture my friend...
My suggestion is to ease into it. Start with an NPC decker and have the players realize how important his role is. Maybe take a player on a run with hitcher jacks. See who might be interested in deckers and a little further down the line kill off the NPC (around the same time the player's character bites it) and ask him if he'd be interested in giving a decker a shot.
QUOTE (Digital Heroin)
The Matrix can be a wild and wooly place... it's as fun as your imagination can make it... few hosts are actually boring... it's all in the arcitecture my friend...

And how the decker interacts with it. If the player interacts with it and really immerses himself in it, it can be pretty neat. Otherwise, it's just another dice-rolling session.
Don't forget to introduce them to mysteries of the Matrix, like the Otaku. A little boy jacking in to the Matrix with only a datacord should be pretty fragging strange. cyber.gif eek.gif

I once devised a run where they were hired by an unknown Matrix Johnson. The part had to rescue a kid lost in the sprawl. Said kid used to wander the Matrix with his little kid computer. After meeting and befriending some "strange kids" at virtual park (Otakus having fun, you know), his new friends decided he was a potential Otaku and asked him if he wanted to join them.

The kid managed to escape from his corp enclave, but got lost in the Big City. Meanwhile, the corp (pick one) decided that his mysterious absence and the abnormal amount of time he spent in the Matrix pointed to a kidnapper trying to blackmail his parents, both important corp suits.

The runners had to investigate and do a lot of legwork to find the kid before the corp squad, then take him to an abandoned warehous where a group of strange kids were waiting for them. Kids with datajacks who paid them whatever money they could scavenge (if you want to have a rich tribe go ahead, runners will be left wondering how the frag did those kids get that much money).

Hope it helps for a more quiet run. smile.gif
Decking is fun and easy.
Just remember to keep your utilities straight and remember the acronym ACIFS. Oh, and, interestingly enough, you may want to have the first PC decker be an Otaku, because they involve a lot less looking up of what utility matches what operation and what persona ratings can be set at.

Its incredibly useful and time saving to have pages 166 and 167 of the Matrix sb on ahnd.
I just pretty much kicked the whole thing out. No one was really interested and it's a pain in the neck to run two games simultaneously.
QUOTE (moosegod)
I just pretty much kicked the whole thing out. No one was really interested and it's a pain in the neck to run two games simultaneously.

Which is why you don't. You just run one game which happens to have decking in it.

I guess I wasn't clear.

You are, in effect, writing a game for the decker, with all the IC's, hosts, and what not. So you have a ton of maps and notes for, typically, one player. Then you have to turn around and do it again for the rest of the group. When you are working with one part, you are neglecting the others.
Not really, not unless your decker is the bust-everything-up type or it's a particularly decking-heavy run, and in the latter case it's entirely appropriate to have that much material on-hand. Most of the time, a good decker against a non-high-security system won't raise the tally enough to trigger IC, and will be jacking out pretty quickly if they do.

Hm. Well, the general mechanics don't seem -too- rough to handle. I guess, then, the key thing is making decking niftier than "You search for this file. Roll. Alright -- you find it," et cet.

So there was a comment on architecture -- and presumably sculpted systems, persona/IC appearances, the like -- being important. So decking's niftiness is partially in the bizarre imagery one can apply? Say a decker's persona looks like a giant bunny -- having that bunny slink through an Ares host sculpted to look like a medieval castle, with IC/corp deckers that look to be wearing knightly armor, that sort of thing?
Kanada Ten
Yepers. Though canon has a silly silliness about conforming to the system metaphor. So the decker in the Ares castle might "slide" into a thief iconography or such. This is largely ignored (or not).

The advantage of conforming is that you make theme worlds the decker becomes an inhabitant of. Makes interaction more natural.

I simply allow the decker to chose comformity or non.

The books assume that by 2060 most hosts are sculpted.
Hm. Ares is fairly easy to tell, what with the Knight Errants -- the same with Aztechnology, care of the Aztec link. What of other major corporate or national groups? Are there clear themes for sculpting that a new GM might miss?
Since I'm incredibly slow on the uptake from SR2 to SR3 I just recently discovered that SR3 has done away with the "map" system. My understanding of the new system is that almost every host consists of only one "room", except for bigger companies who probably have some sort of interlinked minigrid.

How often do GM:s make use of tiered, host-to-host or PLTG systems; More often than not or seldom, as an extra challenge?
I used to use them all the time. That may have been my problem.
Hm. Why not a single building, but organized in such a way as to simulate individual computers or directory-structures? Even within one network or host, there's bound to be some sort of organization -- even if it is only the deck's programming organizing it for ready interpretation by the mind.
The Mitsuhama example in SR3 is what I work off.
Kanada Ten
The map is not gone, just navigating the map is gone. Each of the ACIFS can be a different room. Even within the ACIFS there can be variation with some Files apearing as a dusty room filled with file cabinates and others a long road with tress -each leaf a file.

I know one SimSense producer of mainly horror sims uses a theme of a haunted house.

Mitsuhama has the Paradoga, with rice patties and all.

Almost every host has a unique theme even within a megacorporation though.

Running the net/Web/cyberspace/whatever in the cyberpunk genre has always been problematic, and it is no less so than for Shadowrun. Magic and astral stuff isn't too hard to run with the other things, because for the most part it exists alongside everything else, and both the mundane and the astral can interact with one another in various interesting ways. (Astral quests are different, but they are also a whole other realm of adventure. The beginning GM shouldn't be worried with them for a while yet.)

The basic problem with decking isn't that it's not necessarily less exciting or fun than any other aspect of Shadowrun. The problem is that it rarely has much influence on the rest of the world while it's going on. Let's be honest: stealing data via the Matrix is about as interactive with the team as the average politician is with the voting public. While evading harsh IC, skulking through the lines of a major corp's mainframe, and combating other deckers may be exciting in and of itself, the team's street sam and combat mage don't really have much to do while it's going on. In addition, if the decker hasn't got many other skills, then they spend more of their time avoiding dangers that the street sam and the combat mage rush forward to engage.

However, I have dreamed up of some very good ways to avoid this issue, ways that make the decker more a part of the action and less something that is normally seen only as a contact for other PCs to use for stealing valuable data and whatnot. Some of these ideas rest with the player, and some with the GM:

The Player's End: The Technomancer

A decker only needs a datajack to be a decker; other cyberware is there simply as a matter of choice. One could spend all their money and Essence getting a cranial cyberdeck, but there is a much more fun alternative to this.

The technomancer is a decker/rigger hybrid that allows the PC to become the teams ultimate electronic guru. Buy some skill with a firearm of choice (Pistol is good; I prefer Shotgun for the Enfield with a 50-round drum and an underbarrel grenade launcher and internal smartlink), Gunnery, Computer, Electronics, and a vehicle or two (depending on the combo of vehicles and/or drones you are getting).

Give the character a datajack, a VCR, a smartlink (both for vehicular/drone weapons and any carried into regular combat), and a few other extras that might be useful (bone lacing, muscle augmentations, etc.). For beginning equipment, just pick up a remote control and a drone with some weaponry, maybe a team vehicle (Bison, Osprey II, t-bird, etc.), and a nice firearm.

When made, they should focus on the drone thing; it'll let them be in combat alongside the party, and they can even be in the getaway car for a quick escape. If they buy a good bit of Electronics at the beginning, they can also serve the team by mucking with security systems, jury-rigging electronic gizmos for the run (like remote things that create distractions, for example), and other random uses.

If the game progresses beyond the initial run, then the technomancer will be spending Karma on buying more skills (lots of B/R, more skill in weapons, etc.), and their money on a cyberdeck, better vehicles/drones, better weaponry, and any gadgets that make their life in the shadows a little safer.

The weaknesses here is that there'll never be enough money for all the stuff they need, and they will spend a lot of time and Karma on a pretty diverse set of skills. This isn't so bad; mages and shamans have similar issues when they get into Enchanting, and the street sam never seems to have enough guns and cyber to satisfy them. The time the mage/shaman spends enchanting or conjuring is normally the time sammies and mercs spend getting cyber put in and fun toys tracked down by contacts; this is the same time a technomancer needs to spend working on their cyberdeck and drones.

In time, the technomancer can end up becoming a cornerstone of the team; they provide all the technical and electronic expertise of the team, so that the sammie/merc focuses on killing people better, and the mage/shaman focuses better on spells and spirits.

The GM End: Setting The Decker UP

Actually, this is more of setting the other PCs up, so that the decker becomes a necessity rather than an inconvienence. Believe it or not, many strange things can be made to occur by which the decker must act alongside the team's actions, in order to make things work.

On that note, here's some run ideas to consider...

1. Virtual Prison: The PCs are, by hook or crook, lured to use a simsense unit that suddenly immobilizes their bodies. Their minds become trapped in a computer simulation somewhere, and they must find their way out of it. Meanwhile, the decker discovers the origin of this nefarious plot, and begins to slice his/her way into the system that has the PCs trapped. Once there, he must enter the simulation in order to lead his friends back to their "jackpoint" (the place in the system that leads to their simsense units), while the system's owner(s) throw all kinds of kinks their way.

Motivation for this can be revenge (from a previous foe), or perhaps the PCs are investigating the problem for pay. Maybe it's a treasure hunt - an system that a crazed genius made that contains some killer paydata, but requires someone to risk their lives to get to it in a virtual simulation. Maybe it's an interrogation simulation, designed to probe minds and extract valuable information; a copy of it, if it worked, would have it's own price...

2. Body Snatching: The PCs are hired for a very strange job, indeed - they are asked to retrieve the crippled body of a decker that some corp is holding in a facility. The target is plugged into the Matrix with some harsh programs that are connected to the target's life-support; if the target is removed before the programs are blown away, the target dies. The decker could hack the system from outside, but it'd be easier to do it from inside; anyway, he'd be able to disable various security and otherwise help the rest of the team get to the body in time.

The target is in a semi-closed system; the PCs will have to plug the decker into a terminal in the building, then take out physical security as fast as the decker can take out computer security. Once done, they must contend with the fact they have a fragile life to transport; if the target requires the programs that threatened his life to run his life-support, the PC decker must then encode new programming fast to keep the guy alive, while the team preps the target for transport.

The reward can vary. The target may be a super-decker, who has adjusted fully to life in the Matrix, and would be a potent ally for the PCs. Or, perhaps his/her significant other arranged for the extraction (they carry on their romance via simsense), and pays the PCs extremely well, and/or becomes a high-level contact. Or maybe the target knows something important, which he gives the PCs... or which the PCs must take from his mind.

3. John Law: A number of things can be done when the contracted law enforcement is going to be involved. While the PCs distract the cops, the decker slips up, hacks the on-board system, and plants some programming or info into the system (maybe a virus that'll do something at a specific time later, like shut down all the cars' computers, or make them put out an APB on someone). Most likely easier than hacking the cops' main system, and some interesting stuff can be done once inside (like making the computer play a sound file that says something offensive, or the like).

The trick is always to have something for the decker to do in the field. Don't let them stay at home or in the van; make them get out and about to do whatever it is the team needs doing. Urge them to buy Electronics, Negotiation, any skill that the team hasn't got that it could use. Hell, make 'em buy more contacts, so that they're the guy who knows someone who can get the rest of the team what they need.

There's not a magic solution to putting decking into your game that doesn't require both the player and the GM to be realistic about decking. It's actually much the same with magic: if a GM doesn't consciously put some of it into the game, those playing a mage or shaman may wonder if it's worth the trouble (as they are very Karma-intensive, whereas more mundane PCs usually need more cash).

Compromise is the crux of it. If everyone is willing to do it a little, then everyone has a more enjoyable time. If not, well, the game can die out pretty quick, either for the player or the GM.
Im sorry, with the phrase "one room" I meant ruleswise; One host.
I agree completely with your description/visualization of the different sectors of a host though, Kanada Ten.
For a thread on sample SR3 Hosts (which have been around since SR2 btw) seehere. It's stalled recently but I will be posting more Hosts I've been developing for my campaign.

For a helpful walkthrough and community help thread for the Matrix-Challenged
try here

Decking in general has recieved a bad rap in part due to the 1st Ed mechanics and in part due to the percieved difficulty of the current rules (when in fact ACIFS is all you really need to know). In the latter of the threads above we've demonstrated that a simple data grab run should take no more than 7/8 Tests and we're currently demonstrating how to coordinate a Matrix overwatch operation (since the thread is meant to serve as an example I've made the entrance more complicated than usual but we're entering the Overwatch proper phase of the operation).
And ye gods, is he ever ambushing me with fun little tricks. Oy...

Still, all the descriptions and FX on both sides of the run, both player and GM, show that decking doesn't have to be a boring roll-fest. In the hands of the imaginative, it can be just as interesting as a "real-world" run.
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