An FKR classic: Chris Siebenmann’s 27-year old "A Sketchy New Netrunning System for Shadowrun"

 This beauty is 27 years old… and still relevant.

For FKR players even more so.
Emphasis mine.

Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1993 14:55:27 -0400 

From: Chris Siebenmann 
Subject: A sketchy new netrunning system 

I’ve decided to write up my sketchy thoughts on a makeover of Shadowrun netrunning, since it’s unlikely I’ll be able to finish and test them any time soon. Standard cautions apply, and yes, this is deliberately a very abstracted system. I like abstracted systems. Okay, first step: throw out the existing rules (clunk). They stink. They don’t match what it looks like in the literature. They make you  act like a made-over AD&D dungeon crawl. 

So, you gots yer deck. It’s gonna be one of two types: 
  1.  a dreck deck that clips your wings, ancient tech only suitably for kiddies. 
  2. a good deck, lets you be all that you can be. 
  3. Sometimes you find a really shit hot deck, one that really helps you, gives you an extra boost. Watch out; those decks have strings attached. Usually they’re experimental, often they’re one-shots, built for specific things. The military is fond of domain-specific decks. Mechanically, decks simply have a hacking pool maximum; any given deck only lets you use so many dice from your hacking pool. Clearly you want a deck that’s good enough to let you use it all. Exceptional decks give you some extra dice. If you want to quantify how much a deck costs, instead of just saying that deckers have a good enough deck, then I’d use a sliding scale. Next, you need your programs. 

There’s three sorts of programs: 

  1. storebought junk. They’re for simps who can’t code, and you’re not a simp, are you?
  2. your programs. You’ve written them, you’ve traded for them, you’ve stolen them. You know them inside and out. They’re part of you, now. 
  3. that shit-hot piece of software you got from the Swede. You don’t even have to do anything; it does it all for you. This can, of course, be a problem if what it does isn’t exactly what you want. See ‘Burning Chrome’ for details. 

Deckers don’t have any of the first sort (unless they really want to), automatically (no cost) have everything they need of the second sort, and the third sort is damn rare — model them as having their own hacking pool that they use instead of yours. It’s a hacking pool vs hacking pool contest of some sort to rein one in. You may have noticed that we’re ignoring decks and programs in this system; the only thing that’s important is you, the decker. 

This is deliberate. You have a hacking pool; call it something like computer skill plus reaction. I haven’t worked this out in detail; I said this is fuzzy. We’ve got a decker. Now we need something to deck. Throw out the system maps with all those funny symbols FASA likes sticking in their modules; they’re dreck, overly complicated and not worth the effort. �

Get a pencil and a piece of paper. Start drawing circles; each ‘system’ is a circle. Once you’re inside a circle, you have free run of the system it represents. Where one circle touches or overlaps another, that’s a connection (draw lines if you want to avoid trying to make everything touch at the right spots). Where one circle is entirely inside another one, you gotta get into the second system before you can get at the first one. 

We’ll generously assume you’re a competent decker, and you’ve done all the competent decker stuff, like human engineering and dumpster diving and so on. Play it out if you and the GM feel like it; it could make an interesting mini-adventure. The GM can give you bonuses for especially clever stuff or good ideas. 

This leaves two ways into a system: you can sweet talk the security, or you can kick it in the nuts. Sweet talking is a lot slower, but you have to really blow it to make noise, and if you succeed, you’re in clean. Kicking the security in the nuts is fast, but it makes lots of noise; better hope you can finish what you’re here for before someone comes to take a look. 

Mechanics of this I haven’t figured out exactly; call it something like an unresisted test vs actual ‘combat’ (really an opposed skill test with trimmings, your hacking pool against the security’s dice rating; the classification of the system determines the relevant target numbers). When you sweet talk, your successes add up slowly until you get enough. 

If you flub, alerts go off — how badly you have to flub depends on the system security rating; call it an index of how many turns in a row you can keep trying without a single success that turn. Once you’re in, you’re in; you have full regular access to that system. If you want privileged access, find the privileged access subsystem (GMs: feel free to not draw all the privileged access subsystems; just bump the security ratings a bit and wing it), and bang away. 

A lot of systems are pretty trivial to get in; the GM should adopt some sort of autosuccess rule to keep the rolling down. Raiding the local Stuffer Shack’s systems for information shouldn’t take dice rolling for your average competent PC decker. 


Bottom line:
Decking/netrunning/hacking the FKR way

Decks: Drek decks lower your success chances. Good decks let you use your full potential. And shit-hot decks increase your success chances.
Software: off-the-shelf crap lowers your success chances. The progs you write yourself let you use your skills in full, and shit-hot pieces of code are mil grade efficiency entities you don’t know a flying fuck about, with almost guaranteed success chances.
Systems: each circle represents a computer system. Crack the circle, and you have full control. There are nested systems (represented by circles within circles).
Decking: The ‘Sweet Talk’ method increases success chances and is very quiet, but it’s slooooooow. The ‘Kick it in the balls’ approach is brute force hacking and is really fast, but makes a lot of noise and sends ICE of the nasty sort your way.

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