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While playing (and then later running) shadowrun I never really got a feel for the VR side of the Matrix. I understand the gist of it but it just didn’t feel right. So when I ran a game of shadowrun I told my players that I was going to be doing the Matrix similar to the popular Wachowski brother’s trilogy. I ran a few sessions and it seemed to work well enough. It ran very much the same as it usually does but I described it differently.

Now soon I may have a chance to run shadowrun again (albeit with a different group of players) and I was hoping to enhance on this concept to make the Matrix a more group friendly environment. One of the largest challenges I have found in Shadowrun is properly integrating Matrix play with “meat” play and so I’m hoping that I may have a way to make going into the Matrix a more viable option for non-hacker characters.
So my first thought is that the matrix is identical to the real world (game mechanically) except that
  • character skills and attributes are somehow limited by their commlinks.
  • Hacking/computer based skills provide a large bonus to this world (“some rules can be bent”)
  • Technomancers can do even more (“others can be broken”)

So? What does Dumpshock think?
Feedback on the idea in general would be appreciated as well as any thoughts as to what the mechanics for such a system might be.
Help me Dumpshock, you’re my only hope!

So my initial thought would be that...

  • your attributes are limited to racial minimum + response
  • skills are limited to system
  • you receive ballistic and impact armor equal to firewall x2
  • not sure how signal might function other than limiting how far you can broadcast your digital self.
  • programs would possibly allow you to increase skills within the matrix, not sure on how yet.
  • furthermore this would allow technomancers a higher limit through threading programs

I'll add more as I think about it.
How are Matrix actions handled? What skill would a hacker use to, say, find a hidden node? Probe it? Hack on the fly? What would represent a node? If the Matrix is "just like the real world," what effect would a Reality Filter program have? You're basically talking about a wholesale rewrite of one of the core subsystems. It's a big project.
Here is an idea I had a few months ago.

The idea rely on the concept that "The Matrix" is a very high-level and abstract interface. The computers are so good at handling information on their own that they provide users with the most inuitive access to the information they want. You don't need to know anything about computers to use them, you're provided with an illusion that's close enough to the real world to be intuitive (you want a document, just look at your document tray on your virtual desktop) but add some convenient options on top of that (you don't need to search the document tray, you just need to think of the document you're looking for and it flies from the tray to your desk or hand).

Now even developers use such tools and everything is becoming more and more abstract as less and less people have an idea of how all of this works under the hood. Most of the developers are "Matrix Architect", they use the metaphor to do their job. Only a handful are true programmers, as rare as competent mages. Hackers are in the latter group.
Even for them, using the Matrix "normally" is faster and easier than using command lines and other programming tools. But in some cases, these tools will let them do things that a normal user can't do. A Matrix Architect can shape his system, but he's still constrained by the environement he's running on. A Hacker isn't. Just like mages can use spells to bend realities and the laws of physics, hackers can use their tools and knowledge to break rules in the nodes.


Basic rule: once inside a node, characters can act instinctively in the metaphor instead of using a computer skill. They roll Attribute+Skill, but:
- Matrix attributes are used:
-- Agility is replaced by System
-- Reaction is replaced Response
-- Body is replaced by Firewall
There's no Matrix Strength. It has no use in the Matrix. Attacking requires an Attack program, and you can either lift/push/pull things or you can't.

- The skill is restricted by the node's System rating.
- Technological and magical augmentations don't work (except at GM's discretion)
- If the action is normally handled by a program, the program's rating limits the number of hits. If the user has no program, he's limited at node's System rating - 1.

For example Sam the Streetsam wants to hack a rating 3 node on his own. He's in front of the node entrance : an old wooden door with a lock. He knows how to pick a lock in real life (Natural Agility 4 + skill 4) and tries to do the same here. Since the node has a rating of 3, his skill is limited to 3. He rolls 7 dice. Since he has no Exploit program, he can't get more than 2 hits.
Just like in a real hacking attempt, the node can see it. It rolls System+Analyze and gets 2 hits. Sam has no Stealth program: in the metaphor he's visible in front of the door. Just like he'd have been caught in real life by the security camera, he's caught by the system.

Later on, Sam the Streetsam is now inside the node, but faces 2 guards with their weapon drawn. Sam has no Attack program, so he can't affect them. He switches to Full Defense as they shoot him. He'll roll Natural Reaction (4) + Dodge (4, limited to node's rating 3). Luckily, he dodges and slips into another room where he tries to hide. He rolls Agility (4) + Stealth skill (3). He gets 4 hits, but since he still doesn't have a Stealth program, he's down to 2. The guards run their scanners, using their computer skill. They roll Computer + Analyze. One of them gets 3 hits: he knows exactly where Sam is.

Special cases

- ICEs can't act "intuitively"
- A hacker can program an agent to assist someone for specific tasks (picking a specific lock, for example). In that case, the character can add the agent's program (or pilot) rating to his dice pool for this action.

Going a little further

SR4A and Unwired consider that the metaphor isn't a real representation of the Matrix: a wall or an icon doesn't have to be an opaque barrier. If you don't care about canon, you can decide that the metaphor is strict: a wall will hide visilibility because it surrounds a memory zone that you can't access from the memory zone you're in. In that case, hackers will be some kind of "matrix gods", able to see through walls with their Analyze programs, able to fly in zones where normal users have to walk and so on.
Have some time?
QUOTE (Stahlseele @ Feb 29 2012, 11:16 AM) *

Except that it doesn't fit with what Relecs is looking for.
Not quite what is discussed here, but has anyone tried making the Matrix more like the Astral?

Use programs as if they were Spells and hacking skills as if they were Spellcasting(roll stat + skill and limit hits by program rating)?

If you add the commlink-ratings-become-physical-matrix-attributes stuff from above onto that, could the result work?
@SnowRaven: The problem with that idea is that spells have a precise effect and most of the time that effect can be understood in physical terms (cast a fireball at something, that something can catch fire and we all know how that works) while programs can be used for different purposes and their effects might be harder to understand.

You can look at the link Stahlseele gave, which is a Matrix rewrite that makes Matrix mechanism very close to Magic. But it leads to a very different game with a very different feel.
Yeah, I was thinking of something that could 'just' be applied to the existing rules with very little change necessary. Most programs are fairly well described (if a lot broader in scope than most spells).

I'm not sure if it will have enough of an impact to change things for the better(read: make things simpler), though.
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