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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:30 am 
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In my previous thread on the subject, I attempted to shuffle around the four main decker skills (Computer/Electronics/BR/BR to: Computer, Decking, Computer B/R and Electronics B/R), both in an attempt to balance them and in an attempt to force the decker to be more skill-relliant than the single all-powerful Computer skill. I like the way it turned out, so much so that I'm starting this thread assuming that we adopt that change, at minimum, to the decker "class".

Now I want to take this evolution to the next step. What I'm proposing is that the decker, rather than the cash-based character that he currently is, be made a primarily skill-based character. In other words, what I want to do is make the decker be the guy that you'd actually want to put the "A" priority in Skills, rather than (by necessity) Cash. The reasons for this change are many-fold, but two reasons jump especially to mind: to restore the decker to a character, rather than an appendage; and to create a larger range of playable characters and settings.

The first consideration, restoring the decker to a character, is something that's been bugging me for a long time. In canon SR3, once the decker gets his INT 6/Computer 6, there's basically nothing else for the decker as a character to achieve. At that point it becomes all about how tricked out l33t his deck is: MPCP, Bod/Evasion/Masking/Sensor, Response Increase, I/O, Active/Passive Memory, peripherals (satellite dish, etc), Utility payload, Agents, etc. It makes the decker a second consideration to his deck. It's no wonder the decker usually picks up a second specialization; after his two stats are maxed there's nothing else for him to do to become a great decker!

The second consideration is also important, and something that's clearly lacking from SR3 deckers in their current form. One unfortunate consequence of the expensive deck is that, in many cases, it's entirely inappropriate for a decker to be in a low-level campaign, a low-equipment campaign, or indeed most kinds of campaigns where there are restrictions over certain types of characters. The decker's deck makes up so much of the character, and is so inherently expensive, that it limits the kinds of stories you can tell with the character. Deckers are literally incapable of surviving on their skills and their abilities, because without their massively expensive deck they re useless, and if they do have their massively expensive deck... why don't they have an apartment instead?

So, how do we do this? The decker we have already has five "required" skills--Computer, Decking, Computer B/R, Electronics B/R, Ettiquite(Matrix), so we're off to a good start. Now, my first idea--one I don't particularly like--is to make the decker take Channels, much as the Otaku had to, in order to deck each host subsystem. I don't like this, though, as this basically doesn't add any value to the decker as a character; it just makes him more expensive for the sake of being more expensive. Maybe require a bunch of Matrix System knowledge skills? Eh. I'm open to suggestions.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:43 am 
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I object! Absolutely not! Electronics B/R should just be 'electronics'. Unless of course you're looking at splitting off Electronics B/R as maintaining and using most electronics, with electronics warfare falling under another skill.

Also you may want to consider putting in a skill for decker combat.

I'm not huge on channels either, and until we either really make decking more popular by its own right or reduce the financial cost, I think we should minimize boosting other costs. Until we figure out what the other costs and benefits are, I don't think we can properly tweak karma costs.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:12 pm 
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Electronics Warfare was going to be part of Computer, being a complex computing task that doesn't involve breaking into fortified Matrix installations. I don't really think it deserves its own skill, but I guess it's possible. Matrix Combat being its own skill is also a possibility; after all, melee combat, ranged combat, and astral combat are all their own skills.

Electronics B/R would be all about fiddling with hardware. You'd use it to break a maglock, for instance, or build a physical computer/deck. Computer B/R would be the programming skill, also for issuing commands to AI and writing scripts... this is all covered in the other, linked thread, you know.

And yes, all of this depends on--and enables--severely lowering the nuyen cost of an effective deck; I'm thinking of effectively cutting the price of a fully-loaded MPCP-8 deck to at most 200k nuyen, potentially under 90k nuyen.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:16 pm 
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Eyeless Blond wrote:
Electronics B/R would be all about fiddling with hardware. You'd use it to break a maglock, for instance, or build a physical computer/deck. ... this is all covered in the other, linked thread, you know.


Don't be a hater... just because I can't read.

I won't push the electronics/electronics b/r thing here. However, if our goal is to make MORE required skills for decking, it would seem like wrapping EW into another skill is a step in the wrong direction.

Hmm... It occurs to me we can also just... reduce the cost of decking, and making it's clear it's never intended to be a full role of its own (just like the face really isn't effective for a dedicated character). If we make it so decking is not a serious investment, we're more likely to see several deckers, since characters can pick up the second role so much more easily. If we go this way though, we'd do well to make decking faster and simpler. The sam stops long enough to deck, then returns to blowing stuff up.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 6:59 pm 
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nezumi wrote:
I won't push the electronics/electronics b/r thing here.
Well, why not? This seems like the place for it. Do you skill think Electronics needs to be a separate skill? What would it encompass?
Quote:
However, if our goal is to make MORE required skills for decking, it would seem like wrapping EW into another skill is a step in the wrong direction.
That's an excellent point. In fact, I can see that as being a great reason that not everything is wireless, as it is in SR4: hacking it wireless requires a whole extra skill.

This puts us to six(seven) skills:
-Computer
-Decking (Decking is at least as different from Computer as Con is from Negotiate, or Lockpicking is from Blacksmithing)
-Electronics Warfare (for jamming, etc... really need to work on those rules to make them more comprehensible/compelling)
-Electronics B/R (now includes B/R on decks, as it doesn't make much sense to separate them. This IMO would be the skill used to break electronics-based locks; tumblers and safes would need Lockpicking.)
-Programming (essentially Computer Program B/R--in fact that might be a more consistent name for it.)
-Ettiquite(Matrix) --Not really a new skill, but pretty much a basic requirement of anyone wanting to call themselves a competent decker.
-with a possible seventh being Matrix Combat.

That's... ~40+ Active skill points to make a good decker. Add in a Stealth skill, maybe a firearm or two... I think we may be getting somewhere here. What we really need to do is convince people that all of these skills are necessary and integral to the decker archetype.

Another thing I'd really like to do is introduce a plethora of knowledge skills that make the decker more effective at his job. The System Familiarity knowledge skills from Matrix I think are a good idea, and ought to be integrated somehow; maybe different programming languages/system metaphors ought to be Language skills too? The big problem there is that, at the moment, knowledge/language skills are primarily meant for character background, and making the decker knowledge-skill intensive just encourages min-maxing one of the big "flavor text" areas of the charsheet.

Quote:
Hmm... It occurs to me we can also just... reduce the cost of decking, and making it's clear it's never intended to be a full role of its own (just like the face really isn't effective for a dedicated character). If we make it so decking is not a serious investment, we're more likely to see several deckers, since characters can pick up the second role so much more easily. If we go this way though, we'd do well to make decking faster and simpler. The sam stops long enough to deck, then returns to blowing stuff up.
This is exactly what SR4 does; you can buy yourself a fully-loaded deck for something like 15-20 BP, and the necessary decking skills for 80. This leaves you with the majority of your BP left (3/4 of them; SR4 gives you 400 BP) to make a "real" specialization; the Hacker archetype version chooses Rigger, but you could conceivably make a Sam, a Face, an Adept, even a hermetic mage, though that last one would be tough.

Going this route--basically making decking a skill group, rather than a character choice, we'd probably be better off starting from SR4's ruleset and working "backwards" to a variable-TN system, rather than starting from SR3's ruleset and building in stremlining and usability. I really don't care for the idea; I think that decking should be a legitimate and compelling character choice in its own right, just like sam and rigger are.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Hmm... should there be a computer stealth skill? I know this is sort of covered already by both masking AND evasion, but I'm just tossing it out. After all, masking is against the host, and evasion is like camouflage, but there's nothing for actively hiding. Regardless, this would probably be a specialization of normal stealth (again, this is the same conflict with astral vs. physical stealth, and we can go either way in either case).

Otherwise I like the suggested skill breakdown, as long as we do in fact reduce the cost for being a decker.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:16 am 
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Er, isn't that kinda what the Decking skill is? I absolutely believe that we shouldn't make Matrix stealth a specialization of the Stealth skill. As natural as it sounds on paper for them to be related, the Matrix world is so completely different from the physical world that it would be entirely silly to allow you to default from one to the other. Remember that what we're dealing with here, on a fundamental level, is computers talking to each other. Any physicality that we attach to Matrix Icons, hosts, etc. is nothing more than an illusion generated by the computers--the ones doing all the real work--in order to explain what is happening "under the hood" to the attached brain.

For example, ducking behind a wall in Iconspace--that is, putting one of the walls generated by the host between your Icon and another computer's Icon--doesn't hide you in the Matrix, like it would in the real world. This is because walls in the Matrix don't block line of sight/effect, as they do in the real world. Instead, what's happening is that the underlying computers each have to broadcast their locations to each other, and the host broadcasts the location of the wall, and then the rendering programs calculate that the wall must come "between" the two Icons and blocks them from each other. Your computer would still know the Icon was there; it's just occluding the other Icon from your "vision" in order to perpetuate the metaphor.

This is actually the way many online games work, and have worked for decades. In Counterstrike, for example, there's a video card hack that lets you turn the walls transparent, allowing you to see players across the entire level (and, because some of the higher-powered guns can shoot through walls, it is incredibly cheap and will get you blacklisted from most servers if you ever get caught using it). Any sort of stealth techniques that would apply to the real world are meaningless to such a cheater; he's seeing things the way the computer sees them, rather than the illusion the game is pulling over the players' eyes to create an enjoyable virtual world.

Sure, it's possible that the Matrix works differently "under the hood" than the way I've described, but it's a sure bet that it doesn't work in any way similar to how visibility works in the real world. And, because of that, it's silly to assume that real-world stealth techniques would be anything but a hindrance in the Matrix. This is in contrast with Astral space, as the Astral plane is directly connected and analogous to the real world, and shares many core assumptions (for instance, that an entity's senses emanate from that entity, and that physical location is more than a metaphor.)

Anyway, Matrix Stealth seems far too specialized a task to be worth being an Active Skill on its own. I'd much prefer it to be a Decking (or Matrix Combat) specialization, possibly using the Cloak utility for in-combat evasion.

Maybe we should consider splitting deck construction/customization off from Electronics B/R, sort of a Microtronics/Opticronics B/R? That seems a little "niche" for a skill as well, though.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:46 am 
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ok, you convinced me on that one. Any more comments? I'm happy to enforce these rules in my game for testinng (although with no new deckers joining for a while, splitting skills is sort of irrelevant).


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:53 am 
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Oh, I've got an excellent idea for a good Decker skill:

Scrounging (INT)
Specializations: MacGuyvering, Dumpster Diving, Recycling/Re-purposing, Urban Farming, by product type (food, weapons, electronics, microtronics, etc)
Description: Zen masters extol the virtues of becoming one with the world around you. This skill essentially allows you to become one with the filth and clutter of life in the 2060s, pulling solutions to your problems from what would only look like trash to others.
MacGuyvering - From using a discarded bar of chocolate to patch a leaking vat of sulfuric acid, to using a nearby photocopier to fool a security camera, with this specialization you are never without the right tools for the job. So long as the TN for the job is not greater than twice your rating in this specialization, you only have a +1 TN modifier for having inadequate tools, and if the TN is less than or equal to your rating, then the TN modifier drops to +0 (normal +2TN, see p. 95 for normal rules).
Dumpster Diving - A common specialty of street-dwellers and, somewhat oddly, deckers, this specialization allows you do build useful gear out of stuff you find in the trash. [b]((Rules to follow later, but my intention is this specialty will be especially effective for deckers, considering the power and ubiquity of computer technology in the '60s: "Diving" an MPCP essentially gets you all four Persona chips, MPCP*100MP of Active and MPCP*200MP of Storage Memory, and [MPCP/2] different types of connectivity devices--laser links, etc--included for "free". Gear built from Diving will break down after X days, and/or be more likely to Rule of One through some method I'll come up with later.))

Recycling/Re-purposing and Urban Farming I'm still working out. I'm figuring mostly minor benefits related to B/R (for Re-purposing) and Lifestyle (Urban Farming) cost reductions.


See where I'm going with this? A skill like this would go a long way toward de-emphasizing the decker's disastrous hardware dependence and make him much less like a 3.0e D&D wizard, completely hostage to his spellbook/deck. Plus it's a great skill to add street flavor to your average game: "Roll your Dumpster Diving skill to see if you find something to eat today." "Ewwww..."


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 9:15 am 
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That's an interesting idea. I wouldn't categorize it under 'decker', since it would apply to any category. I'd also put a hard cap as to the best you're going to be able to find (under normal circumstances). You're probably looking at an MCPC of 6, or no weapon with damage better than 8M, Single Shot, or... and so on.

This is a bit of a problem in that it takes the roleplaying off the player and puts it on the GM, but at the same time, so does the Etiquette skill.

I also think this is a little out of scope. It's a pretty large divergence from the current RAW, and we have to be careful about being too creative.

So, would I add it to my game? I might just. Would I want to add it to the SR3R ruleset? Probably not. I think it would make more sense to add back the 'decking naked' option from SR1 than to create something completely new (and which adds to ALL of the character types across the board). The solution is more complex than the problem.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:17 am 
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nezumi wrote:
That's an interesting idea. I wouldn't categorize it under 'decker', since it would apply to any category. I'd also put a hard cap as to the best you're going to be able to find (under normal circumstances). You're probably looking at an MCPC of 6, or no weapon with damage better than 8M, Single Shot, or... and so on.

This is a bit of a problem in that it takes the roleplaying off the player and puts it on the GM, but at the same time, so does the Etiquette skill.
Well that rather depends on the group. In one group the absence of rules for dumpster diving will spur the players to describe in detail how they go about outfitting a character from the street, about the decker scrounging for deck components in corporate dumpsters and lifting small items from a Stuffer Shack, and the GM will throw him a bone by letting him have his $500,000 deck on the cheap. In another group the absence of rules for dumpster diving will mean that the GM won't let the decker have a new deck until he can amass the considerable nuyen required to purchase one, hamstringing the character for months and years of game time.

One group's role-playing opportunity is another group's gaping lack of rules, and one group's handing off roleplaying to the GM is another group's role-playing opportunity.
Quote:
I also think this is a little out of scope. It's a pretty large divergence from the current RAW, and we have to be careful about being too creative.

So, would I add it to my game? I might just. Would I want to add it to the SR3R ruleset? Probably not. I think it would make more sense to add back the 'decking naked' option from SR1 than to create something completely new (and which adds to ALL of the character types across the board). The solution is more complex than the problem.
This "decking naked" option from SR1 intrigues me. Please to elaborate?

As for diverging from RAW... well yes, that kind of is the point here. What I want to get away from is the cognitive disconnect between a character so resource-starved that he'd be willing to go on dangerous "shadowruns" for money, and the character walking around with over half a million nuyen encased in a small keyboard-sized case on his back. It irks me that a character like a decker, who is described in the literature as being a braniac who understands depths of technical knowledge that are beyond most other people in the Sixth World, can be added to just about any other archetype for about thirty Karma and a really, really, ridiculously expensive laptop.

The whole point of this thread is to fundamentally alter the balance of the decker, from resource-based to skill-based. This means drastically lowering total deck costs--to the point where anyone could easily afford at least the hardware part of a deck--and rearranging decking skills so that 99% of the population would have no idea what to do with one if they had it. It's sorta like how most people today think a computer is only for checking email and looking at Youtube, and even many people with advanced degrees in computer programming don't know how to hack into a well-secured server. I also think it would be perfectly appropriate if at least one or two of these skills made it possible for the decker to build a brand new deck almost on-the-fly, with random components found lying around, especially in a world where Moore's Law has been active for another fifty years.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 9:29 am 
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In SR1 they had a piece of equipment, I think they were called 'cyberspurs' or something, which let you plug into the matrix without a deck. It included, I believe, two chips, probably masking and one other, and your attributes created the other two. You ran with basically no programs, and white IC acted like black IC, so it sucked to use, but if you're in a jam, it's what you had. Imagine a cranial deck with lower cost, but higher risk to the user.

If we're looking to reduce the costs of the computer, I don't think I'd include dumpster diving. Granted, I am in fact in the process of refurbishing a computer I found literally in a dumpster, but that's more along the lines of 'someone threw out an entire computer because buying a new computer was cheaper than learning the skills necessary to repair it' - it's not like I'm soldering together cell phones and PDAs. If we reduce the cost of the deck hardware (which makes sense - perhaps excluding the masking chip) finding a nearly functional deck in the trash makes sense, just like my characters have found functional handguns in the trash, or nearly-functional prostitutes in the trash. I didn't use rules for dumpster diving, and you're right, maybe another GM would have poo-pooed the idea, but as a dumpster diver myself, it seemed pretty straightforward.

So yes, decrease hardware costs, and decrease the costs for making your own deck - it should cost less than buying one new. If we do that, dumpster diving becomes somewhat superfluous.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:20 pm 
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Program carriers.

~J

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2009 2:07 am 
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So, anyway, now that I've put up my Cyberterminal Construction proposal, do you see why I'd rather have a generalized-ish Scrounging skill? With that, we'd have four "required" skills--Computer, Decking, Computer B/R, Electronics B/R, and three "optional" skills--Etiquette(Matrix), Electronics Warfare, Scrounging.

That's a good 42 skill points. It is a bit much in Karma--210 karma, if we're going by BeCKS, with all those 6s, which is half your total Karma bill. Do you think that's good enough, or do we need more/something else?


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:54 am 
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So I'm going to register some objections here, and I want to note up-front that I'm doing it before reviewing the proposed changes to Otaku, based on the fact that they're probably worth keeping in mind even if they get invalidated so we don't revalidate them in the future and also on the fact that we're in another highly interdependent knot of rules and I'd probably go mad trying to account for all of the proposals before I say anything.

As I see it, from a mechanical standpoint the Otaku are special (compared to Deckers) in three ways: first, they're Channel-based instead of utility-based—they trade the ability to specialize on a single task for the ability to improve their performance on a whole range of operations all at once. Second, they're karma-based instead of cash-based. Third, they have access to a (very) small number of Echoes that can't be duplicated by a Decker (notably Info Sortilage, Traceroute, and Resonance Link—though Resonance Link is likely to be useless in actual play).

This whole proposal of making Deckers a skill-centric archetype more or less eliminates the second distinction; they become slightly-more-cash-based as compared to the slightly-more-karma-based Otaku. The merging of utilities has eliminated most of the first distinction as well; the Decker still has a bit more ability to do heavy specialization (if you wanted to go cheap, you could take just Validate and Spoof to gain the ability to attack slave nodes without being able to download files/etc), but unless we significantly increase the cost and/or size of utilities, the decker is now able to essentially do it all. That leaves the Echoes, which are an advanced technique, heavily GM-dependent for usefulness, and also aren't even priorities even when they are useful (even a generous GM leaves it difficult justifying taking Info Sortilage before, say, Ghosting or Switch).

So basically, if we're going to consider this seriously we're going to have to do some real work differentiating Otaku.

Secondarily, there's the fact that this proposal looks to make Deckers much more primary—Shadowrun already has a decent number of roles that need to be filled in order to field a generally-capable team, and we want to make sure that it's still possible to field such a team with only three characters (preferably also still allowing four characters to get into some real specialization). I'll have to open another thread about that.

We should also probably write a GM's pamphlet about running games with major roles missing; it's always possible to just run the opposition as mostly incompetent in whatever the missing area is, but that causes issues if the missing role later appears (so, for example, either the corps discover the magic of magical security overnight or the new mage runs right over everything).

~J

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:58 pm 
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Kagetenshi wrote:
This whole proposal of making Deckers a skill-centric archetype more or less eliminates the second distinction; they become slightly-more-cash-based as compared to the slightly-more-karma-based Otaku.
Well, if you're just going for cash vs. karma, yes there is less distinction. The problem is that the distinction was always far too broad to begin with: under current SR3 rules, once you have a decker with Computer 9 (or whatever you decide is the max level for that one skill)... you're basically done being a decker, karma-wise. There was nothing else to invest karma in that would make him a better decker, with the very marginal exception of Computer B/R which can give you a cash discount on deck upgrades. It never really sat well with me that there was little to no difference between a 50 Karma and a 250 Karma decker but the size of his hardware.

Quote:
The merging of utilities has eliminated most of the first distinction as well; the Decker still has a bit more ability to do heavy specialization (if you wanted to go cheap, you could take just Validate and Spoof to gain the ability to attack slave nodes without being able to download files/etc), but unless we significantly increase the cost and/or size of utilities, the decker is now able to essentially do it all.
I don't know of a single non-dabbling decker who didn't have a full suite of the Operational Utilities at rating 6. The decker always could do it all; it was the Otaku who was limited here, with chargen-imposed limits on the maximum ratings for his Channels.

Quote:
That leaves the Echoes, which are an advanced technique, heavily GM-dependent for usefulness, and also aren't even priorities even when they are useful (even a generous GM leaves it difficult justifying taking Info Sortilage before, say, Ghosting or Switch).
Agreed, Echoes are not a good way to distinguish chargen Otaku, though it might be a way to distinguish advanced Otaku from deckers and each other if we made Echoes more interesting, like Metamagics, rather than their current bland existence.

Quote:
So basically, if we're going to consider this seriously we're going to have to do some real work differentiating Otaku.
Now that you mention it, I do have some ideas, specifically to go with the specialist vs. generalist route, with Otaku being far superior at specialisation than deckers. They already are, but we can do more.


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