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Author Topic: Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management  (Read 339 times)

Charon's Little Helper

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Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management
« on: January 08, 2021, 10:14:30 PM »
Like many other nerds, I've always thought of the original Deus Ex of having great pacing & level design - especially as it comes to having different ways to tackle problems & resource management. While this obviously doesn't translate directly into TTRPGs, I have used the vibe a bit when tinkering with my space western game: Space Dogs. (see my avatar for the art style - he's one of my iconics)

Anyway - my hacking system has just been a pretty straightforward skill check thus far. I always liked the idea of some sort of resource management in the vein of Deus Ex's picks & multitools - which I always felt were a solid core of that game. However, I thought that that wouldn't be possible in a TTRPG, as there's no way to keep the PCs from loading a backpack or three full of them every time they dock at a civilized space station. However, I was thinking about it again after playing Cyberpunk recently (which has issues - but still a lot of fun) and its ram system for hacking. The implementation of it has issues, but I really like the vibe.

My new thought is to keep the skill of Hacking in space dogs the way it is - which goes from Untrained up to Maestro (6 total ranks including untrained) giving you 1d10 die per rank (plus two attributes from 3-8ish each). The RAM (or some better term I think of) you get is equal to your skill rank. Rolling failures on your Hacking check will cause you to lose RAM (and dice to roll on future skill checks), and the most secure systems inherently cost RAM to hack into. (RAM all comes back after a night's sleep.)

The fluff of this is that you're actually jacking directly into the system that you're hacking with a cord from your brain. (There is already fluff in the system about jacking - which is how you jockey exo-suits & mecha as well.)

Now - I like the vibe right now, and mechanically it can work. However, it wouldn't be the first time that I come up with a cool new mechanic, and then only after I've put all the work to integrate it into the system do I realize that it's clunky. Or it would be too hard for GMs to balance. Or something else. Therefore, I'm coming to the brain trust to tell me if it sounds good, decent, or terrible.

Thanks much!

robh

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Re: Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2021, 07:02:51 AM »
How important is "hacking" to your storyline/game world?

Reducing it to a die roll makes it a quick event which does not slow down the gameplay, but loses any sense of what the activity actually involves. Hacking becomes a simple skill check. Your approach there seems as valid as any other.

If hacking and hackers are an important part of the game then the method used should reflect that, and resource management is teh way to go. A side table or subgame system works well. Could be as complex as the incredible old "Netrunner" CCG or a much simpler version of the same idea like the resource cards from the Shadowrun CCG.
Probably (imho) the best compromise was achieved in the "Human Interface: Nakamura Tower" boardgame.
https://hint-thegame.com/human-interface-nakamura-tower/
« Last Edit: January 09, 2021, 07:05:02 AM by robh »

Charon's Little Helper

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Re: Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2021, 11:48:14 AM »
How important is "hacking" to your storyline/game world?

Reducing it to a die roll makes it a quick event which does not slow down the gameplay, but loses any sense of what the activity actually involves. Hacking becomes a simple skill check. Your approach there seems as valid as any other.

If hacking and hackers are an important part of the game then the method used should reflect that, and resource management is teh way to go. A side table or subgame system works well. Could be as complex as the incredible old "Netrunner" CCG or a much simpler version of the same idea like the resource cards from the Shadowrun CCG.
Probably (imho) the best compromise was achieved in the "Human Interface: Nakamura Tower" boardgame.
https://hint-thegame.com/human-interface-nakamura-tower/

It's not a core building block of the setting. I don't think that the new system would be too much trickier. Basically you lose dice to roll if you fail Hacking checks, and you're forced to sacrifice dice to hack the most secure systems. In both cases you get back to full dice the next day.

A bit more to track - but not a ton, and definitely not to the level of Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020. (I hate how everyone but the hacker needs to go make a sandwich for 20 minutes while the minigame plays out.) Hopefully it adds some depth and makes it so that having 2+ PCs invest into Hacking isn't stupid. (Currently it's one of only 2-3 skills where that's the case.)

Mishihari

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Re: Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2021, 09:51:18 PM »
Here's an idea for a resource you can't bring a pile of in a backpack.  First, make the assumption that ICE, or whatever you choose to call it, talk to each other.  This is what actually happens in real life, of course.  Security software gathers information on attacks and sends it back to the vendor, which updates its defenses for the new attack.  Assume this process is automated with AI.  Then any particular piece of breach software becomes less useful each time it's detected, as the defenses improve.  So a hacker will probably carry several types of attack software, each with particular strengths and weaknesses.  He has to write these himself or buy them custom-made, because each time one is used it becomes less useful, so anything found in a public resource is likely fully compromised.  It takes a significant amount of time, research, experimentation, and money to write these.

So for the game mechanics - the hacker writes his attack software and it uses up significant amounts of an important resource, like money, time, or xp.  Every time an attack is made with that software, it gets a -1 permanent penalty to future uses, with an additional -1 if the attack fails, as the collective defenses of the world have learned just a bit more about it.  Eventually it's useless and the hacker will need to write some more.

Thondor

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Re: Hacking - Skill Check vs. Resource Management
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2021, 11:48:30 AM »
How likely is failure and the reduction of dice?
Are you making multiple rolls in a single hacking attempt?

Do you think this approach works for the small number of other skills that only one character needs? Thus providing a solution for these as well?

Thematically it sounds cool. More mechanical context would be useful.
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