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 Post subject: On-the-fly utilities
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:02 pm 
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I think it's pretty clear that I'm still not a big fan of the proposals to either get rid of or massively change the core decker mechanic of (decker skill+hacking pool) vs. TN of (Subsystem rating-utility rating). One good point that was made, though, is that there are few provisions for a high-skill decker with a poor deck to beat out a script kiddie with a good deck.

That got me thinking, why don't we, instead of cutting out the heart of the decker rules, simply use the rules that already exist for creating an improvised one-shot attack program and expand them to operational utilities as well? This, especially if we combine it with one of the increases to hacking pool I proposed in another thread, would go a long way toward making the low-deck decker viable, without having to rewrite most of the crunch that currently exists in the decking rules.

Thoughts?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:53 am 
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Hacking pool is intelligence + deck MPCP / 3.

So the super-intelligent decker (int of 7) but trashy deck (MPCP of 4) is going to have the same hacking pool of the average script kiddy (int of 3) but slightly nicer deck (MPCP of 6).

I think we need to change hacking pool before we can expect anything that depends on hacking pool serving as an equalizer.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:21 am 
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Er, yeah, I kinda said that in paragraph 2 there. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 12:11 pm 
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Oh, for some reason 'increases' didn't translate to 'replace the old system with a new one' in my head. I apologize.

How big do we expect the hacking pool to be? Right now it starts around 4 and goes up to, at its peak, maybe 6 barring all the funny cyberware we're looking at tossing out. That looks a little shrimpy to me, and being restricted to level 4 utilities and no hacking pool will still kill the wiz-bang decker with no deck pretty quick (honestly, that means the whiz bang decker really can never get beyond the 'fresh out of the gate' decker without a whiz-bang deck to match).

And related, how fast should someone be able to make an improvised program? It really seems odd to me that even a very skilled programmer could whip up something to slip by a firewall in a few seconds (although this is cyberpunk, so it's not like it doesn't have precedent...)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:28 am 
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I guess that all depends. A whiz-bang skilled decker with the 'ware to match will have up to 6 pool dice just from his 'ware, and another 2-3 from his Int. The reason I'm considering making skills/attributes factor more heavily into pool is to get rid of the 3 dice from the Math SPU, but either way a high-skill decker should be able to whip up a rating 6-7 utility on the fly, and still have a die or two left over for other uses, like DF or IC suppression.

As for whipping up utilities quickly, all I can say is the utility is meant as a one-shot and would likely degrade very quickly; conceptually it'd be to exploit a specific weakness that presented itself at that moment. Then again I also think that programming times ought to be much shorter, so take this all with that in mind.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:05 am 
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So it would take a complex action to make it, perhaps, and a simple action to use it? That would make combat interesting, as you'd need to dodge or something long enough to get your utility ready, use it, then get back to dodging... But it's not unreasonable.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:20 am 
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I have an idea that I came up for on the fly utilities that I come up with while working on a simplified and quick decking rules. (which I will post for review soon)

For on the fly utility ... decker chooses a rating of program that he wishes to write. ie. browse 5. The decker then roles programming skill against that rating. They can add hacking pool, but only up to the skill rating. The decker will gain 1 point of rating for each success they score. The rating of the utility is temporarily subtracted from the hacking pool until the utility is "deleted" as it represents all of the tweaking and maintenance that the decker will have to put into running that program.
If the decker falls short of successes he still has to remove the rating they were shooting for, but has a degraded program.

example 1 - Jon is a decker, and IC just burned his Browse program. he trashed the IC, but now he needs to search the archive, he decides to whip up a utility to do so. he decides on a rating 5 browse. He has a 6 in programming, and can use up to 6 dice from his hacking pool. He rolls 1,2,2,3,4,4,5,5,5,5,5,16 and gets 6 successes. He now has a rating 5 browse utility that he can use to search. He also subtracts 5 dice from his hacking pool.

example 2 - Jon isn't a lucky boy, he forgot his decrypt program in his other suit. He really needs to decrypt this scramble IC or the run is shot. He decides he really needs to get a whopper here so he tries to whip up a decrypt-5. He rolls 1,2,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,7,9,9 and gets 5 successes. He now has a rating 4 decrpyt but has to subtract 5 dice from his hacking pool.


Now I wonder, if a decker can improvise a utility.... what about mages/shaman doing the same with magic? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:39 am 
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Well, not bad, though it is just one more die roll.

One question: the pool dice the decker invests, are those dice also rolled during the improvisation test? Or are the dice reserved, unrolled, and the decker has to roll unallocated pool?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:41 am 
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Those rules seem reasonable, although I don't know if letting it last so long is smart. If the explanation is that he's taking advantage of a temporary exploit in the shifting matrix, it makes sense that that exploit is only open for a few moments before the utility becomes obsolete for that purpose. However, from game-balance purposes, it would quickly become tiresome to have to reroll for the same utility EVERY ROUND.


As for magic... In the game I'm playing around with I've implemented something akin to this, except that shamans can ONLY improvise and hermetics can ONLY learn spells. Improvised spells are more efficient (effectively +1 to power for free), but require time to design and are basically one-shot. Since both improvised and learned spells take sometimes several rounds to cast, this isn't a huge shift, however. I fear the same idea in Shadowrun would greatly decrease the karma costs that keep mages in check.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:46 am 
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I like the idea of improvised spells for mages, but I think they should be a) available to both traditions and b) an obviously bad choice.

The biggest reason I want them is to legitimize fluff about people who discover they're awakened when they accidentally Fireball people teasing them on the playground or something, which I believe has been referenced in canon but is currently not possible by the rules (can't default, plus can't cast unlearned spells).

~J

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:56 am 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
Well, not bad, though it is just one more die roll.

One question: the pool dice the decker invests, are those dice also rolled during the improvisation test? Or are the dice reserved, unrolled, and the decker has to roll unallocated pool?


Yes, the dice that the decker invests are also rolled. They do not become occupied till after the program test is complete.

Now .... we also need it to take up space in memory. I haven't thought about a balanced formula for determining that number.


Regarding magic ... we will start a new thread.... but I was figuring ... that downside to improvised spells is that either 1 it would be physical drain .. or 2 would be full force instead of f/2.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:39 pm 
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Space would be the same as a one-shot utility of the same rating, though in practical terms I'd usually not bother to even check the decker's active memory.

So, does everyone think the programming test is necessary? AFAIK, the current rules for improvising an attack program don't require a test; it simply restricts the number of pool dice, and thus the rating of the program, to a maximum of your skill. Is there any value in adding the test, that isn't taken away by the added time of making the test?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:10 pm 
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I would actually assume, if you bother to check program space at all, it would take more space because it hasn't been optimized. Or maybe less space because it only attacks a single vulnerability, not a whole bunch of them. But definitely NOT the same amount of space. Really probably easier to say no space at all, though.

I can't think of it logically making sense without requiring a programming test, even if that test didn't require more than a free action.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:24 pm 
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that post got me thinking....

Sorry .. what a terrible post ... edited for clarity.

How would a decker whip up an improvised utility???

answer... a toolkit / dev kit
they would need to have loaded or possibly in can be an add on to a deck.

The program reside within memory of the toolkit, and would be limited by the rating of the toolkit.

Basically a decker would snap together "widgets" to create a program that he/she needs.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:35 pm 
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Then we're back where we started from, with the decker needing good utilities/good deck to get anywhere. If we're going to require that we may as well forget the whole thing.

One other idea I had was that improvised utilities like these should be allowed to break MPCP rating (eg. they can actually provide their whole rating to a task, even if that rating is higher than MPCP). This is juat to further allow for a good decker to make up for sub-par equipment, which is the whole point of this idea.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:40 pm 
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Platinum wrote:
they would need to have loaded or possibly in can be an add on to a [s]deck[/s] program carrier.


Fixed that for you ;)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:47 pm 
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well ... the suite thing kind of made sense to me... as it appeared to allow widgets to fit together like "Ajax" kind of does now. However this is the future ... and it doesn't mean that the deck/program carrier can't let you fit instruction sets together ... no one really knows how programming works.

So if we make the programming suite not required...
(which I am not opposed to... (I was just throwing out a brainwave that I had so we make sure all facets of this are completely covered.)) then we can have it add extra dice to your test? kind of like biotech kits?

now I am back to throwing out random ideas ...

I did forget about the program carrier idea, and that I think is something that adds so much flavour it is really not worth making a dev suite mandatory.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 4:26 pm 
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All I care about is that the actual rolls made for this should mimic whatever we come up with for ad-hoc spells as well. Consistency across archetypes is a key part of SR3, it was the best thing they did honestly.

So if deckers have to roll "Programming" to make a one-shot program on the fly, then mages should roll "Spell making" to do the same. If deckers have to sacrifice some hacking pool to make a program, magicians should as well.

Personally I am in the camp that a decker needs to take a complex action to "whip it together" and then he can use it as needed. I realize this is in opposition of the precedent set for improvised attacks but this is one of the times I am in support of throwing away the old. I propose the following.

Improvised Utility:
Complex action. Roll programming + Hacking pool desired, TN (host rating). Successes generated is equal to the rating of the final product. It is a One shot utility and takes up memory equal to twice the equivalent one shot.

The decker can then use it like any other program, no questions asked. This will set the precedent for ad-hoc spells used in the same fashion. You need to "make it" first, then use it. For spells we'll just twiddle the drain is all.

I never liked the idea of having to "withhold" hacking pool for improved attacks ... there's almost no other similar system in place anywhere in SR so it always felt a little hinkey. Go with what's been done already whenever possible.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:36 pm 
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feralminded wrote:
All I care about is that the actual rolls made for this should mimic whatever we come up with for ad-hoc spells as well. Consistency across archetypes is a key part of SR3, it was the best thing they did honestly.
Er, I'm assuming you mean SR4, right? SR3 does many things well, but I don't think anyone would accuse it of "Consistency across archetypes." :)

Moreover, spells and utilities really aren't the same at all, especially operational utilities. You could make an argument over special utilities, like Medic and Shield, which go by their own rules, but spells are very different from operational utilities. You can get around not having a spell with creativity or technology, but you need a utility just to get in the door. And that makes perfect sense too; try web browsing without a browser sometime, or typing a document without a word processor (yes, Notepad still counts :P)

So it stands to reason that making a utility should be easier than making a spell, because while the spell is nice, the operational utility is a requirement.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:41 pm 
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meh ... I'm still squarely in the "utilities are retarded" camp. The more I think about it, the less sense it makes to me, and the more inane it feels. Honestly utilities feel like busywork ... something invented to waste time and brain cycles to make things seem artificially complex. That would be great if it added flavor but decking needs more speed, less flavor at this point in time. I intend to play-test a utility-less setup here in a week or so and I'll see how it turns out. Not that this will mean anything to anyone here, but it will make me feel better :).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:20 am 
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In SR2 programs didn't have ratings. They only allowed the decker to do certain actions or not.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 12:09 pm 
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That's not true at all. SR2 Programs had ratings and typically you used their rating as dice for the roll.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:26 pm 
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You're right, I don't know why I was thinking they didn't do that. But you COULD make it so programs don't have ratings. I have difficulty imagining what a rating 6 read/write program would do that isn't already wrapped up into a rating 2 program. Then the deckers just buy the programs they want (which will be just about all of them) and move on with life.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:46 pm 
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I personally never actually understood the point of a read/write program at all. Like ... I/O is kind of what decking IS fundamentally.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:00 pm 
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feralminded wrote:
I personally never actually understood the point of a read/write program at all. Like ... I/O is kind of what decking IS fundamentally.

Not really—at least, not if you're talking about a non-Unix-derived OS. Well, not I/O to the filesystem, at least.

Basically, Matrix hosts do not work on the metaphor of "everything is a file". Read/Write isn't about I/O, it's specifically about reading from or writing to the filesystem. There's nothing fundamental about that, sans the aforementioned metaphor—I don't need to write to something that mimics a file in order to open a door, because the control for the door isn't a device file.

~J

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