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GMing the Matrix

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JackRackham

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« on: (08:08:56/09-08-10) »
I have been playing ShadowRun for a while, mostly combat oriented characters. I am thinking about running some games, but need some help with some aspects of the rules. Specifically, I have been browsing the rule books for rules concerning the Matrix since this is the least familiar to me.

I see a lot of rules concerning players skills and programs, but I see very little concerning the actual Matrix and how a GM should represent it. Maybe it's there and I am just missing it. Can somebody point out the pages and or sections of the SR4 and Unwired rulebooks I should concentrate on to learn how to run the Matrix for my players?

Doc Chaos

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« Reply #1 on: (08:16:56/09-08-10) »
There are basically none. Which is a grand problem IMHO. There are bits and pieces throughout "Unwired", but it never paints a clear big picture.
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Mooncrow

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« Reply #2 on: (08:27:50/09-08-10) »
Honestly, with how the Matrix interactions sync (or rather, don't) with the rest of the group's actions, I tend to keep Matrix descriptions to a bare minimum =/  It kills my roleplaying soul, since there are a lot of cool things I could do with it, but in the name of smooth play, it's just not possible without making everyone else wait.

Jonny Reload

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« Reply #3 on: (09:05:19/09-08-10) »
I dunno, with my groups, I've found Matrix integration to be seamless... WHEN THE PLAYER KNOWS WHAT THEIR DOING!!! Obvious Hackers aren't for new players but if you plan on playing one, you can't half ass it. At the BARE basics of what you need to learn are the dice rolls for gaining entrance into a node undetected and Matrix perception tests. If you don't even understand those 2 fundamental basics, then Hacking is not for you, and you will slow down the game when you decide to try hacking.

When you have a GM as well as a player who know how to use the Matrix rules, if your scene is going on for more then 5 minutes, your either trying to hack an Ultra Violet server or one of you 2 don't know what there doing  :D

Best advice I can give you is if you really wanna be able to run the Matrix, ya gotta read (unfortunately) everything. But pg. 224 and 235 are probably where you should start to understand the layout of the Matrix and how players will be using it when your running.
"Do you hear that Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability... That is the sound of your death."
-Agent Smith from The Matrix

Mooncrow

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« Reply #4 on: (09:10:57/09-08-10) »
I dunno, with my groups, I've found Matrix integration to be seamless... WHEN THE PLAYER KNOWS WHAT THEIR DOING!!! Obvious Hackers aren't for new players but if you plan on playing one, you can't half ass it. At the BARE basics of what you need to learn are the dice rolls for gaining entrance into a node undetected and Matrix perception tests. If you don't even understand those 2 fundamental basics, then Hacking is not for you, and you will slow down the game when you decide to try hacking.

When you have a GM as well as a player who know how to use the Matrix rules, if your scene is going on for more then 5 minutes, your either trying to hack an Ultra Violet server or one of you 2 don't know what there doing  :D

Best advice I can give you is if you really wanna be able to run the Matrix, ya gotta read (unfortunately) everything. But pg. 224 and 235 are probably where you should start to understand the layout of the Matrix and how players will be using it when your running.

How do you handle doing two scene descriptions without slowing down the game overmuch?  I'm curious, because I would love to be able to do that.  The mechanical parts of the Matrix aren't a problem any more, but trying to do anything beyond a bare minimum description of the node sculpting seems to bring things to a grinding halt.

Jonny Reload

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« Reply #5 on: (09:22:39/09-08-10) »
Mooncrow: A few ways, remind your Hacker player to not be a douche bag and LEAVE A COMLINK LINE OPEN TO THE GROUP!!!  >:( (I've had to beat this into my Hackers but eventually they discovered keeping the RP going even via Comlinks is a good thing rather then forcing every one to just sit there and watch without any sort of interaction at all.)

Also, make sure your Hacker player has a plan BEFORE he logs on. I've had sessions where a Hacker is logging on to hack in and look for paydata for his Johnson... Not knowing what he's looking for or where in the Node to get it. Beat it into your players if need be, RESEARCH BEFORE RAMPAGING THE MATRIX!  >:(

But unfortunately, there's a type of Hacker that will ALWAYS cause the game to slow down, and that's the Combat Hacker. Plowing through IC and Firewalls is a sure fire way that players are gonna be sitting on there asses waiting for a combat they can't even participate in. Try to emphasize that Stealth not only is a much better option, but gives you a lot less resistance when getting into a Node and tampering with it. Stealth 12 Programs and a Comlink with Stealth Optimization are the best ways to go for making it easy on the GM and not wasting the other players time.
"Do you hear that Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability... That is the sound of your death."
-Agent Smith from The Matrix

Max Anderson

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« Reply #6 on: (09:34:55/09-08-10) »
Well for my part, I tend not to describe something as mundane as hacking Johnny Average's commlink. But when the hacker tries to do something cool (like hacking a secured node in order to give one of his teammates to escape), I try to make him feel rewarded for it by describing what the node actually looks like, and what his actions do.

It takes preparation, for I have to imagine what is the metaphor, and its basic "physics rules". For example, in a sea-based metaphor, obviously all the icons are "swimming", data bombs will look like WWII underwater mines, IC will be sharks or maybe submarines, files may appear as fish or corral, etc.

Now, for the rules, you need to master the basics : what do the skills and program do, how to hack on the fly or by probing, and what a security system looks like. Unwired has a few examples of sample nodes that can help you understand how matrix security is designed.

As for any other character type, I tend to insist that they MUST know the rules they must use often (for example, the rigger must know the vehicle rules, the mage the magic rules, etc.). This way, I don't have to repeat every time how much dice they have and what does X do...

FastJack

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« Reply #7 on: (10:32:51/09-08-10) »
Ah, but SR4, the team can run into IC at the same time the sec team hits. Then everything happens at once, just that the Hacker & IC are fighting off to side.

Much like a Mage on Astral.

But yes, the best way to handle the Matrix (and the Astral, and everything else) is to drill into the players that this is NOT D&D where their job is to wander around and look for trouble. Shadowrun is about planning what needs to be done and how to avoid trouble.

I like to give my players some movie-watching to understand this (and please don't consider this a recreation of the massive list of SR movies that's over on Dumpshock). I basically sit them down and tell them to watch Sneakers, Ocean's Eleven, Serenity and/or Mission: Impossible. Each of those movies shows a team that doesn't go in blind to situations (unless they're ambushed).

Doc Chaos

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« Reply #8 on: (11:21:31/09-08-10) »
Thats what I like about Shadowrun. There is a way to play ANYTHING:

Stealth: Shadowrunners.
Just walz in and shoot everything that moves: Gangers.
Above with more tactics involved: Military.

So great :)
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Prime Mover

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« Reply #9 on: (13:50:19/09-08-10) »
Not sure if this is what your looking for but this is cut and pasted from a post Tiger Eyes made on dumpshock showing the mechanics behind Game,Set and Match the chapter opener in SR4A.  A nice way to put the fluff with the crunch.

GAME, SET, AND MATCH

(Note that Aaron and I wrote the Game, Set, Match story together, and we actually did roll each test; the story was originally designed to be a demonstration of a hacker, a technomancer, and a rigger in a competition. However, the original story was 500 words, the final version ended up being 3000. So, some extra stuff was thrown in to make the story read better, and didn't reflect all the original actions... *sigh* that's what happens when you take creative license.  But, for what it's worth, here's the (revised) mechanics behind the story.)

Hacking a Drone Example

BEHIND THE SCENES
Netcat: Initiative 9, 1 Initiative Pass, Resonance 7, Cracking Skill Group 4, Software (Threading) 5 (+2), Willpower 5, Command 2, Exploit 6, Scan 4, Stealth 6, one registered Rating 6 tank sprite with 5 tasks.
Slamm-0!: Initiative 11, 2 Initiative Passes, Computer 5, Electronic Warfare 5, Hacking (Exploit) 6 (+2), Sniffer 5, Spoof 5, Track 5.
Rigger: As Drone Rigger, p. 101, SR4A, add Cracking Group 3 and Analyze 5 & Nuke 3, in cold-sim VR, and already subscribed to the drone.
Security Drone: As MCT Fly-Spy, p. 350, SR4A. With Firewall 4 and running Analyze 3. The drone is operating in Hidden mode and has orders to patrol a specified route and report specific suspicious activity.

Combat Turn #1
Slamm-0! flashes the sun off his reflective shades towards the drone, trying to get it to report back to the rigger so he can begin a Trace User Test to track the connection.
Netcat uses a simple action to call her registered sprite. She uses another simple action to use her E-Sensing echo rolling Resonance + Perception getting 4 hits. This allows her to locate the drone’s node, and tells her that it has a System Rating 3 (E-Sensing Table, p. 146, Unwired).
The drone has seen something it doesn’t recognize. It makes a "common sense" test (p. 245, SR4A), Pilot + Response, getting no hits. It contacts the Rigger (a free action) for further instructions.
Slamm-0! attempts to intercept the communication between the drone and rigger in order to begin tracking the Rigger. He performs a Capture Wireless Signal Test (Electronic Warfare + Sniffer (3) Test) (p. 229, SR4A), getting 7 hits and succeeding. This gives him a way to track the rigger's node, so he can get his access ID. Yes, this would be unnecessary in modern TCP/IP, but the Matrix ain't yer daddy's communications protocol.

Combat Turn #2
Slamm-0! begins the extended Trace User (10, 1 IP) Test (p. 232, SR4A); he rolls Computer + Track Test and gets 4 hits.
Netcat threads her Exploit complex form (no action required), getting 6 hits on her Software + Resonance Test and choosing to use only 4. She resists the fading of 4P (Physical Damage because the new complex form rating is greater than her Resonance) with her Resonance + Willpower, getting 4 hits and resisting it completely. She then orders her Sprite to Assist Operation for her Stealth complex form, a simple action. Her Exploit Complex form is now 6 + 4, or 10, and her Stealth complex form will be 6 + Sprite Rating (6), or 12, starting in Combat Turn 3 and lasting 6 combat turns.
Slamm-0! continues the Trace User Test, getting 3 hits for a total of 7.

Combat Turn #3:
Slamm-0! continues the Trace User Test with 3 more hits, reaching the threshold of 10. He has successfully tracked the rigger’s connection—the rigger is in the campus security headquarters—and gotten the rigger’s access ID. Slamm-0! can now spoof orders to the drone.
Netcat starts hacking-on-the-fly for an Admin account: an Extended Hacking + Exploit (drone's Firewall + 6, Complex Action) Test. Netcat rolls Hacking + Exploit and gets 7 hits. The drone gets to make a test to detect the intrusion, an Extended Firewall + Analyze (Netcat's Stealth) Test. The drone gets 2 hits.
Slamm-0! uses the rigger’s access ID to spoof an order for the drone to change course. He makes an Opposed Hacking + Spoof Test against the drone’s Pilot + Firewall. He gets 5 hits; the drone gets 3 hits.

Combat Turn #4:
Slamm-0! waits to observe if the drone accepts the spoofed order. He also uses a free action to confirm his dinner reservations (what a romantic!).
Netcat continues her hacking-on-the-fly. She rolls 8 hits, which added to her original 7 hits achieves the threshold of 9. Netcat now has an Admin account on the drone. The drone rolls Firewall + Analyze, getting 4 hits, for a total of 6; it does not detect Netcat.
The drone begins to fly towards the Chemistry building.
Slamm-0! gloats.

Combat Turn #5:
Slamm-0! continues to gloat.
Netcat controls the drone directly, steering it toward her window (Complex Action). If she needs to make any Vehicle Tests, she will use Pilot Aircraft + Command (a dice pool of 1, since she doesn't actually have the skill).
The Rigger calls up a status report (a free action) and then decides to Jump Into the drone (a simple action). Because the rigger has jumped into the drone, there is no more outside access to control the drone; it is overridden by the jumped in rigger.
Slamm-0! orders the drone to resume flying towards his window. Nothing happens.
The Rigger analyzes the drone's node, making an Opposed Matrix Perception Test against Netcat's Hacking + Stealth. He gets 2 hits. Netcat gets 5 hits.

Combat Turn #6:
The Rigger starts moving the drone toward the security building (costing no action when jumped into a drone). He again attempts to locate Netcat. He gets 3 hits; Netcat gets 5.
Slamm-0! unloads his Sniffer program (Simple Action).
Netcat attempts to eliminate the Rigger’s Access ID from the drone’s accounts list. Unfortunately, the clever Rigger has programmed the drone not to accept Admin account deletions. Netcat and the Rigger are at a stalemate.
The Rigger accesses the Access Logs, attempting to figure out what’s going on.
Slamm-0! loads his Exploit program (Complex Action).

Combat Turn #7:
The Rigger scratches his virtual head and performs yet another Opposed Matrix Perception Test against Netcat's Hacking + Stealth. He gets 4 hits. Netcat gets 6 hits. (Makes you feel sorry for the guy, doesn’t it?)
Slamm-0! performs a Hacking + Exploit (drone’s Firewall, Complex Action) Extended Test. He gets 4 hits on his first roll, entering the drone with a normal user passcode. The drone rolls Firewall + Analyze, getting a lucky 6 hits; it detects Slamm-0! and an alert is triggered. This immediately has two effects: it creates a Restricted Alert (p. 238, SR4A) against Slamm-0! (it raises the drone’s Firewall rating against Slamm-0! by 4) and it immediately loads an MCT Bloodhound (p. 71, Unwired), rating 3, configured to look like a pack of husky puppies. The IC starts a Trace User (10, Complex Action) Extended Test.
Netcat deactivates the IC, using a Simple Action (since she has an Admin account, this is an allowed action; otherwise, she’d have to roll a Matrix Attack against it).
The Rigger sees Slamm-0!’s icon and attacks with a Nuke program (p. 111, Unwired). He rolls Cybercombat + Nuke, getting 2 hits. Slamm-0! defends with his Response + Firewall, gets 4 hits, and dodges the attack.
Slamm-0! performs a Redirect Trace action, making an Opposed Hacking + Spoof against the IC’s Computer + Track. He gets 3 Net hits, which would be added to the IC’s threshold for tracing him (if it weren’t for NetCat’s interference).

Combat Turn #8:
The IC goes pop.
The Rigger attacks again. He rolls Cybercombat + Nuke, getting 4 hits. Slamm-0! goes on Full Defense, and so resists with his System + Armor + Hacking, and gets 7 hits, dodging again.
Slamm-0! chose to use full defense this turn, so he can only trade witty banter with Netcat.
Netcat compiles a rating 6 Paladin Sprite. She rolls her Compiling + Resonance, and gets 4 hits. The Sprite rolls its Rating, and gets 3 hits. Netcat needs to resist Fading damage of 6S. She rolls her Resonance + Willpower, gets 4 hits, and takes 2S. She uses a free action to order the sprite to protect Slamm-0!
The Rigger attacks Slamm-0! again. This time, he scores one net hit. The base damage of the Nuke 3 is 3, plus 1 from the Net hit, so Slamm-0! resists the damage rolling his System + Armor. He gets 2 hits, and takes 1 damage. This reduces his Response by 1 point!

Combat Turn #9:
The Sprite uses its Castling Power to protect Slamm-0!.
The Rigger attacks again. The attack is redirected from Slamm-0! to the sprite, which rolls its Response + Firewall (total 16), and easily shrugs off the attack.
Slamm-0! loads up his own Nuke program (not wanting to hurt a campus security goon).
Netcat delays her action.
The Rigger attacks again. The attack is redirected from Slamm-0! to the sprite, which rolls its Response + Firewall, and easily shrugs off the attack.
Slamm-0! attacks the Rigger, with his own Nuke program. He scores 3 net hits, which added to his Rating 6 Nuke, make for 9 damage. The Rigger only resists 3 points of damage. His Response is reduced to 0, which reduces his System to 0, and he immediately loses all subscriptions, dumping him from the drone and causing 5S in dumpshock for him to resist with his Willpower + Biofeedback Filter.

Combat Turn #10:
Netcat alters the Rigger’s account to not allow movement commands. She then gloats (a Free Action).
Slamm-0! spoofs the drone using Netcat’s access ID—something he already knows. Using her access ID, he orders the drone to fly into his window. He gets 4 hits against the drone's 2 hits.
The drone flies into the window, ending the contest, and finally getting Slamm-0! a date with Netcat (more on that in future books).
Why do things happen the way they happen? For
all I know the world Is Just one big game and all of
our actions are determined by the roll of a die.
-  Dunkelzahn,  Great-Dragon

Casazil

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« Reply #10 on: (17:29:41/09-08-10) »
The thing is the Matrix is what it is to each character in it I mean if your useing a standard commlink it's probally the standard geometric shapes.

But you actually get some programs and stuff and the matrix is turned into what you set it to be.

I.E. the whole time your there it's a ballgame or a swashbuckleing adventure or whatever you want to make it.

when opossed you have to roll reality filters and the highest wins simple.
"If at first you don't succeed blame someone else"
Joel "Casazil" Rogers
Catalyst Demo Team Shadowrun Special Agent #251
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/CasazilsShadowrun/

JackRackham

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« Reply #11 on: (14:19:04/09-09-10) »
Hmmm... I guess the short version of all the above is that I'm not wrong when I wish there were a GM guide to running Matrix activities.

FastJack

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« Reply #12 on: (14:39:58/09-09-10) »
I found the Matrix for Dummies and Matrix Topography sections to be helpful. The problem is that every corp/user/designer on the Matrix wants to set their 'webspace' as personal and unique as possible. For instance, in our terms, you know what a Desktop, Web Browser and Document are. But how many different ways can you describe those three items in terms of using them on your computer?

Sichr

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« Reply #13 on: (11:20:25/10-12-10) »
When we started to play 4ed, Ive been beginning from 0 with my players. So at the first run, we had done some social tasks, getting know each other and putting the team together (2 weirdness magnest, believe me, lot of fun with no shot fired :) The second run, I ve sent them to recon something like cursed hotel. When they`ve been underground, we had some melee fight with ghouls. Next time they go there again and we had some lead exchange with street gang. After the succesfull recon, they find out there is something true evil in the penthouse and report back to Johnson (shedim, just for the beginning, but those weirdnesses and bad luck...hell happened). Johnson gave them 1 canister of FEBIII to help them clean the hotel and want them to infiltrate and destroy the shedim. Then we used magic, almoost for the first time in the combat situation... After the rest of them who stayed alive get out from the hospital, I ve paid them and say good bye. Next time they were savin young boy, just Emerged technomancer. They get used to matrix, and their new Combat hacker gets some experiences with matrix combat (so did I). After this run, I told them the basic school is over and give them some real work. They have seen what technology, magic and some special equipement is used for and begin to work out the tactics for multi layer combat sitations. At the end of some next run, they have been fighting with Azzies - 2 atack + one transport chopper, one mage with his blood spirit in astral world and assault team. They fought hard 5 hours battle (maybe 6 rounds = 18 sec :) and they have worked simultaneously in astral, physical world and combat hacker in matrix who fought with IC and riggers for the choppers. It does not, that they won. It matters, that in 4ed It had been perfectly synchronized battle in very complex world and it have been quite fluent and run smooth. Nothing like 2ed one man show for decker and the rest of the team waiting until the end or something. It was quite an experience, for me and players both, and we really enjoyed this game.
The thing is, that there is too much rules for one gamemaster to keep in mind, that it takes maybe two months of gaming pause (because of work etc.), and We had forgot a lot. So I say:
Ubung machen meisters!
If you do not practice, you will always need to spend a lot of time rereading the same rules again and again, and it doesnt matter, how good you are at it, if you do not play at least twice a month, it would be hard to stay sharp...
« Last Edit: (11:25:49/10-12-10) by Sichr »

Kontact

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« Reply #14 on: (19:40:49/10-12-10) »
Don't want to describe matrix environments?  Try Reality Filter!

Reality Filter!  Now every node looks exactly the same!

Alternately...

Quote
Retro collection: Basic low->medium (1-3) Response sets - Basic rules of physics as seen on Earth

Gothic Church - Firewall is Wrought-iron fences and towering stone walls. Encryption is locked doors and cabinets. Agent is robed servent. IC is gargoyles. Data is scrolls, books and bejeweled items. Hand bells ring for alarms. Silent alarm is far away chant. Tower bell is rung for alert. Purge program is a straw broom. Stealth is deep shadow. Data bombs are spring spike traps.

Roman Villa - Again, walls are walls. Encryption is bars and crossed spears. Agent is cook. IC is centurion. Data is papyrus scrolls and food. Alarms are voiced calls. Silent alarm is laughter from far rooms. Alerts are small glass bells. Purge is bucket and rag. Stealth is evidenced by dropping tapestries. Data bombs attract lightning from Jupiter/Zeus.

Japanese Temple - Bamboo spear walls block access. Encryption locked doors and chests. Agents are serving women. IC is Samurai or spear guard. Data again is scrolls and iron-forged goods. Alarms are sharp wood-on-wood claps. Silent alarm is song birds. Alerts by gong. Purge is floor towel. Stealth is leaves or rotating walls. Data bombs are bamboo grenades.

Rammed Earth Citadel (as was common across the Middle East to China) - Elements common to above temple entries. Surely you've got the pattern by now.

Victorian Mansion - Basically a skin for the roman villa.

19x0's Suburban Home - White picket fence for firewall. Locks and safes for encryption. Agent is wacky neighbor, maid or pet. IC is police constable or pet. Data is books, records/tapes/CDs/DVDs, folios, baked goods. Alarms are basic house alarms. Silent alarm is dogs barking in the distance. Alert is egg timer. Purge is a vacuum cleaner. Stealth is evidenced by being under rugs and behind furniture or from the never-ending doors and closets. Data bombs are leaky bottles of poison or what have you.

Full Environs: Meduim to high (2-5) Response sets - Large area with lots to see at once; exaggerated physics.

Naturalist's Retreat - Straight up woods surrounded by thorny briers. Encryption is a bit more abstract here. Data is kept in knotholes and the ability to climb up the trees and reach them determines access. Agents are things like owls and raccoons - tree dwelling creatures. IC is things like bears and large cats. Data comes in the form of stashed nuts and berries. Alarms sound like crow calls and are punctuated by the briers lighting aflame. Silent alarm is cicadas or crickets. Alert are handled by owl hoots or such. Purge is handled by insects. Stealthed items are revealed by falling from tree branches on spider webs. Data bombs are beehives. Popular with users who prefer animal personas.

Underground Bunker - The most common choice for most corporate nodes. Blast doors aplenty. Teleportals and laser grids control access. Agents are IC are basically what you'd expect - robots! Lots of sci-fi awesome here. Data is glowing energy rods or beakers full of knowledge. Alarms are pretty standard. Silent alarms like theremins or distant machinery. Alerts are vocal messages. This whole thing should be pretty familiar to anyone with shooter experience.

Space Station - Zero-G Physics. Much of the same science tropes and hallways as the Underground Bunker, but with an alien bent.

Tree Fort - First you have to get up there, firewalls restrict access through height. Cracking encryption leads to rope swings and zip lines. Metaphor sets can go several ways, from kids to woodsmen. Anthro-animals or fantasy elves not uncommon for woodsmen IC and agents on this one. Otherwise, you've got your basic Peter Pan thing here. Customized to the robin hood or pan archetype, you might run into a Friar Tuck Agent or a Rufio IC. Basic spatial warping within structures. Bigger on the inside like unto a TARDIS.

World is Tiny - Godzilla theme. The world is small and you walk around skyscrapers like coat racks.

World is Huge - Honey I Shrunk the Node. Lots of complicated structure piles. Soft gravity.

Toon World - Everything from 100 Acre Wood to whatever they come up with in the next 60 years.

Belly of the Beast - Ewwwww. Organic backdrops on everything. Much like the bunker or station other than the skin change.

High Response (4-6+) sets: Characterized by abstract physics and sweeping, expansive vistas

MC Escher 4D house - All that spacial distortion goodness.

Magic kingdom - Fantastic world of dreams stuff. Ride across sparkling canyons on waves of sound. Fall through water pools into a new room where you have to climb down. Metaphors are specific only to the room they are in. Icons and relationships will change even in your hands as you move around.

Small Alien World - A tiny planetoid with specialized gravity and physics. Expect firewall to be planetary forcefield. Encryption is natural hazards and closed up alien ruins. Agents are critters. IC is nasty critters like OMG SAND WORMS. Underground cities, sprawling tunnel systems

Funhouse Disco Party! - Rooms full of data as sound and light.

Living Library - Jump from book to book and world to world.

Also, feminodes!
Quote
Jane Austin
Landscaping features workhouses (background operations), resplendent manors (administrative processes) and sweeping English countryside estates (data stores) with horse-drawn carriages for getting around. Files are game for hunting, encryption is in the form of nobles needing eloquent persuasion, IC are period soldiers whilst agents are servants and errand boys. The firewall is represented by being completely ignored by your social peers.

Shopping Precinct (Mall)
Landscaping is an impossibly big retail site with plenty of things to do (besides pretend shopping). IC are security guards, agents are personal shoppers, files are items for sale, encryption is massive crowding and decryption is finding the desired item in a shop the crowds haven't found yet (or it's the difference between an item being full price and being on sale). Travellators and multitudinous glass lifts make travel easy and convenient. Navigation is covered by maps of the complex. The firewall is a car park of Escherean complexity.

Fairytale Castle
The node is a beautiful, ivy-clad stone castle on a forested mountainside. Files are ornaments, statues, works of art and books of poetry. Encryption is in the form of mazes of corridors with decryption being the appearance of glowing faeries to show you the way. Agents are string quartets who achieve their assignments through song and IC are dragons circling outside surveying the inhabitants and plucking away masonry to get at trespassers. Programs, especially combat ones, are almost always in the form of a Prince Charming coming to your aid. The firewall is a tangled forest to be navigated.

Disney
That's all I want to describe for this one.

Walk-in Wardrobe
Landscaping is of a clothing storage unit that makes Narnia look like a shoe box. Files are dresses, encrypted dresses make you look fat and decrypting them is represented by finding another option after your boyfriend has confirmed for the umpteenth time that the first one was perfectly fine. Agents are calls from girlfriends about clothing, gossip and the night out ahead whilst IC are spiders that make you run screaming from the node. The firewall is having to get your hair and make-up just right before allowing yourself to consider what to wear.

That's what I've got for pre-packaged nodes.

If you're talking about a corporate node, then it's technically a host, or a bunch of little nodes all rolled into one big node, (just to make things simpler on the poor GM.)  A 100 node office pool would be terrible otherwise.  Big "host" nodes generally have an architecture that looks like a neighborhood.  Each workstation node is like the ones above, but you don't need to cut through each to get where you're going, you just have to crack the next server to get to the next host until you find the specific system you're after.  I suppose you could have all sorts of colony metaphors for a Host node too.  Satellites in space, underground caverns, however you like to represent a collection of smaller things.