From time to time I like to play around with game design elements of RPGs (and other games, often miniature games) that I really enjoy. Over the last year, I’ve played a lot of Shadowrun 4th edition and I’ve grown to count it amongst one of my favorite RPGs. To be fair, Shadowrun 4th has its share of flaws, but I do believe it is probably the apex of Shadowrun’s RPG design in its foundation. One of the major flaws holding Shadowrun 4e back from achieving a higher level of quality is its Matrix rules, the design intended to allow Hackers (a player character archetype) to access the Matrix (a global wireless computer-linked communication system that employs both augmented and virtual reality).
|Yep, pretty much this.|
So, just as an FYI, this blog post is going to be pretty incomprehensible if you're not familiar with SR4's mechanics. You've been warned!
I’m not going to get into a full review of neither Shadowrun 4 nor the existing Matrix rules, but I do want to showcase here my design for a replacement system. I chose to create a design that fit into Shadowrun 4’s paradigm and solved some of the existing rules biggest issues – namely, the number of rolls needed to resolve a single Matrix task, using the rules to push the story rather than trying to mimic how actual computer programming works, and simplifying/streamlining the process so that hacking takes no more time at the table than any other archetype’s actions.
So I tinkered around with an idea – what if Hacking worked on a similar paradigm to Magic in Shadowrun? Magic basically takes only three rolls to resolve a typical spell: casting, resolving the effect of the spell, and then resisting drain.
What I came up with is the outline for a system where the Decker (I prefer this term to Hacker, and I’m using the term Cyberdeck rather than commlink, but these are basically just names) uses the same three rolls: hacking, resolving the effect of the program (mimicking the effect of a spell or a gun), and then resisting detection – since the whole point of hacking is to do it without setting off tons of alarms, just as the point of spellcasting is to cast a spell without knocking yourself out.
Click past the jump to see the rest of the design!