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Hacking specializations

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ZeroSum

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« on: <09-26-19/1201:08> »
I was able to leaf through the 6th Edition CRB last night, and something struck me as odd where Specializations and Matrix Actions are concerned.

The Cracking and Electronics skills both have specializations available, but how is a player or GM supposed to know which specialization applies to which action?

Take Hacking, a specialization of Cracking, for example: Backdoor Entry is, essentially, a stealthy way to gain unauthorized access to a device or network/host, so this should more than like be a Hacking action. Brute Force on the other hand is an overt attack on a device except you're not trying to inflict damage, rather you're still attempting to gain unauthorized access. So is Brute Force considered Hacking or Cybercombat?

Similarly, Software is a specialism of Electronics; The Control Device action explicitly states that you are remote controlling another device, so this sounds to me like it should be Hardware. But, you are still using software do actually perform the remote control, so it could also be Software.

Immediately I see a potential for lot of confusion, which means GMs have to make table-specific calls for this. This can be frustrating for a player as you have to deal with your specialization behaving one way at one table, and a different way at a different table.

If an official answer exists and I'm just missing it, please feel free to educate me. Otherwise, let's use this as an opportunity to achieve some sort of consensus.

I'll get the ball rolling by grouping the various actions into categories as best I can just based on my gut reaction and a little bit of analysis so that no one specialty has too many actions (i.e. it becomes the obviously "best" pick for a specialization).

Cracking
  • Cybercombat
    • Brute Force
    • Crack File
    • Crash Program
    • Data Spike
  • Electronic Warfare
    • Check OS
    • Hide
    • Jam Signals
    • Snoop
    • Tarpit
  • Hacking
    • Backdoor Entry
    • Disarm Data Bomb
    • Probe
    • Spoof Command

Electronics:
  • Computer
    • Format Device
    • Matrix Perception
    • Matrix Search
    • Trace Icon
  • Hardware
    • Control Device
    • Jack Out
    • Jump Into Rigged Device
    • Reboot Device
  • Software
    • Edit File
    • Encrypt File
    • Hash Check
    • Set Data Bomb

Erase Matrix Signature is a Resonance only action, and I have no idea where this one should go. Other than that, this kind of division ensures that no one specialization grants an automatic +2 dice pool to ALL of your matrix actions.

Thoughts?

EDIT:
The following actions have no tests, so don't need to be tied to a specialism:
Change Icon
Enter/Exit Host
Full Matrix Defense
Reconfigure Matrix Attribute
Send Message
Switch Interface Mode
« Last Edit: <09-26-19/1206:17> by ZeroSum »

CigarSmoker

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« Reply #1 on: <09-26-19/1219:32> »
I made a table which is very similar to yours. :) just some minor differences

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #2 on: <09-26-19/1220:30> »
Specializations are meant to be whatever the GM permits them to be.

For Cracking skill, my personal recommendation would be to disallow the suggested specializations and instead just allow specializations by matrix action and/or by target type (Devices, Personas, Hosts, etc)
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

Hobbes

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« Reply #3 on: <09-26-19/1235:10> »
Or by Attack/Sleaze/Data processing.  Specializations in 6E are considerably broader than 5e, a single Matrix Action is too focused IMO.  Matrix Attribute or Target type seem about right.

CigarSmoker

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« Reply #4 on: <09-26-19/1238:38> »
But what if you are in a group that does not want to houserule ? or start a new game and then instantly houserule stuff. I really like Zero Sums categories since it's fair ... you can easily make a table with those Actions (add Major/Minor, linked Attribute etc)

I had a few less marked as "Hardware" but i just took his suggestions ^^

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #5 on: <09-26-19/1242:09> »
Well, it's not a house rule.  The book rule is the GM has final say over what a specialization does and does not cover.

As for matrix action type being too narrow.. maybe.  I could instead see linked Attribute being more appropriately 6we-y, for sure.
« Last Edit: <09-26-19/1244:10> by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

CigarSmoker

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« Reply #6 on: <09-26-19/1245:06> »
If you replace the suggested Specialisations  with others that's a house rule where i come from. The book says add more Specialisations if your GM agrees. This is all so patchy *sigh*

I want to add:

I dont blame you i think it's fantastic that people from the Errata Team try to help here ^^ so thanks
« Last Edit: <09-26-19/1248:49> by CigarSmoker »

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #7 on: <09-26-19/1248:11> »
Believe me, I hear you.  If I had the power to just issue errata by fiat, Cracking skill specializations would already have been rewritten.
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

ZeroSum

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« Reply #8 on: <09-26-19/1250:00> »
I made a table which is very similar to yours. :) just some minor differences

But what if you are in a group that does not want to houserule ? or start a new game and then instantly houserule stuff. I really like Zero Sums categories since it's fair ... you can easily make a table with those Actions (add Major/Minor, linked Attribute etc)

I had a few less marked as "Hardware" but i just took his suggestions ^^

Heh, glad I'm not the only one.


Specializations are meant to be whatever the GM permits them to be.

For Cracking skill, my personal recommendation would be to disallow the suggested specializations and instead just allow specializations by matrix action and/or by target type (Devices, Personas, Hosts, etc)
That's fair, but the entire point of this post is to try to arrive at some sort of consensus as to what specializations apply to what, if not officially then unofficially as a gauge of table. If your table approaches this at a per matrix action level for 6th Edition, that's fine and I appreciate your input.

Well, it's not a house rule.  The book rule is the GM has final say over what a specialization does and does not cover.

As for matrix action type being too narrow.. maybe.  I could instead see linked Attribute being more appropriately 6we-y, for sure.
Exactly; I'm obviously not suggesting this needs to be official, merely that this might be good guidance for new players and GMs alike, to maintain some degree of fairness so that a single specialism isn't overly useful or not useful at all.

Or by Attack/Sleaze/Data processing.  Specializations in 6E are considerably broader than 5e, a single Matrix Action is too focused IMO.  Matrix Attribute or Target type seem about right.
This is an interesting approach.

I just ran a quick analysis, and there are 13 Electronics actions and 13 Cracking actions. 21 of them use Logic, 4 use Intuition, and 1 uses Willpower. So this immediately takes balance out of it. Let's look at defense instead.

17 can defended by Firewall, 8 by Data Processing, 1 by Attack, and 5 by Sleaze. Basing specializations off of Attribute, then, seems to run into an issue of one type of specialization being overly strong.

What do you mean by Target Type?

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #9 on: <09-26-19/1257:24> »
...
What do you mean by Target Type?

By what you're targeting while using the Skill.  Host? Persona? Device?
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

ZeroSum

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« Reply #10 on: <09-26-19/1304:44> »
...
What do you mean by Target Type?

By what you're targeting while using the Skill.  Host? Persona? Device?
Ah, interesting. That could work too, but this would be a re-write of the current specializations, which is a little bit beyond the scope of the original post. Interesting suggestion though, and one I would be comfortable running at my table as it takes all of the guesswork out of the specializations.

That being said, having a flat +2 for ALL actions as long as you're targeting devices... That could be really powerful, too. Hmm, tricky.

Anyway, neat idea, but let's focus on the specializations as they are currently written, until such a time when or if CGL changes them.

Hobbes

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« Reply #11 on: <09-26-19/1337:55> »
I made a table which is very similar to yours. :) just some minor differences

But what if you are in a group that does not want to houserule ? or start a new game and then instantly houserule stuff. I really like Zero Sums categories since it's fair ... you can easily make a table with those Actions (add Major/Minor, linked Attribute etc)

I had a few less marked as "Hardware" but i just took his suggestions ^^

Heh, glad I'm not the only one.


Specializations are meant to be whatever the GM permits them to be.

For Cracking skill, my personal recommendation would be to disallow the suggested specializations and instead just allow specializations by matrix action and/or by target type (Devices, Personas, Hosts, etc)
That's fair, but the entire point of this post is to try to arrive at some sort of consensus as to what specializations apply to what, if not officially then unofficially as a gauge of table. If your table approaches this at a per matrix action level for 6th Edition, that's fine and I appreciate your input.

Well, it's not a house rule.  The book rule is the GM has final say over what a specialization does and does not cover.

As for matrix action type being too narrow.. maybe.  I could instead see linked Attribute being more appropriately 6we-y, for sure.
Exactly; I'm obviously not suggesting this needs to be official, merely that this might be good guidance for new players and GMs alike, to maintain some degree of fairness so that a single specialism isn't overly useful or not useful at all.

Or by Attack/Sleaze/Data processing.  Specializations in 6E are considerably broader than 5e, a single Matrix Action is too focused IMO.  Matrix Attribute or Target type seem about right.
This is an interesting approach.

I just ran a quick analysis, and there are 13 Electronics actions and 13 Cracking actions. 21 of them use Logic, 4 use Intuition, and 1 uses Willpower. So this immediately takes balance out of it. Let's look at defense instead.

17 can defended by Firewall, 8 by Data Processing, 1 by Attack, and 5 by Sleaze. Basing specializations off of Attribute, then, seems to run into an issue of one type of specialization being overly strong.

What do you mean by Target Type?

Specialization by Matrix Attribute, so Attack, Data Processing, or Sleaze linked actions are what I meant.  I'm not aware of any skill checks that involve Firewall, those are typically Willpower plus Firewall.

Sneaky Hacker vs Brute Force Hacker vs. Actually doing the thing Hacker.  And balancing by Matrix Action count isn't really necessary.  Edit File is one of the most important actions, used multiple times in most runs.  Control Device, Matrix Search, and Matrix Perception are right there as well.  IMO the Matrix Actions aren't all equally important.  I'm pretty sure in all my 5th edition time there were several I never even used.

ZeroSum

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« Reply #12 on: <09-26-19/1414:08> »
Specialization by Matrix Attribute, so Attack, Data Processing, or Sleaze linked actions are what I meant.  I'm not aware of any skill checks that involve Firewall, those are typically Willpower plus Firewall.

Sneaky Hacker vs Brute Force Hacker vs. Actually doing the thing Hacker.  And balancing by Matrix Action count isn't really necessary.  Edit File is one of the most important actions, used multiple times in most runs.  Control Device, Matrix Search, and Matrix Perception are right there as well.  IMO the Matrix Actions aren't all equally important.  I'm pretty sure in all my 5th edition time there were several I never even used.
Ah, interesting. Unfortunately, the linked attribute is simply not present for a large number of tests, or there is a large skew towards Firewall as per my previous post. Again, though, we would be re-writing the specializations. I would certainly be open to that at a given table, but the idea behind this thread was to try to come up with some sort of way of balancing the existing specializations as they are currently written. At the moment, this is entirely GM fiat (which seems to be somewhat of a trend).

While I don't mind GM fiat as a rule, it is not very helpful to new players and GMs, and I do find it a little odd considering the size of the 6th Edition ruleset that few examples are given for certain things.

Your point about Matrix Action Count is well taken, and that was kind of my point. Useful actions, such as Edit File, may have a higher weight than others, so lumping Edit File in with a few other less useful actions in a single existing Specialization would be one way of balancing the specializations so they don't become autopicks.

Did you have any thoughts on the groups as posted, in terms of some being obvious must haves as specializations? What would you change, if you had to use the existing specializations as written?

Banshee

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« Reply #13 on: <09-26-19/1438:55> »
As the writer of the matrix chapter but not the skills chapter... I would endorse ZeroSum's version
Robert "Banshee" Volbrecht
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Hobbes

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« Reply #14 on: <09-26-19/1456:39> »


Did you have any thoughts on the groups as posted, in terms of some being obvious must haves as specializations? What would you change, if you had to use the existing specializations as written?

If I'm a player and I have to take a specialization in the CRB, it's Hacking and Computer every time.  Because if I'm using the Cracking skill, I'm probably hacking something.  If I'm a Decker or Technomancer using the Electronics skill, Computer probably covers most of what I'm going to do.

Not to be dismissive or combative, but if the GM is going to arbitrarily assign specific Matrix actions to this or that specialization, I'm not sure why the GM wouldn't be willing to simply use a different, more accurate, name for the Specialization.  YMMV.

The important thing is that the GM and the Player are in general agreement though.  If you're having that conversation, you're probably in good shape.