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Leaving a Matrix tracker on a device?

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MTCE

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« on: (10:46:58/10-19-19) »
My group's Technomancer hacked a Company Man's--woman, actually--commlink last night. No biggie, except he got it in his head to write and hide a Screamer--his word; not mine--file via Edit before logging off. His idea is that Screamer periodically broadcast a signal to a burner commlink he owns that he could then use to Snoop or Trace the corper. Cool idea but I don't know if the rules permit this? Any ideas?

Follow up question. If this is possible, how long do you figure before the corper's commlink finds the Screamer?

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #1 on: (11:00:27/10-19-19) »
The answer would be different for 5e and 6we, although some elements would remain the same:

You can't just "know" where any device is that you don't actually own.  Trace Icon is the action required to pinpoint the location of anything that's not actually yours. (although, note that you can own physical RFID tags, and when you physically stick those to actual objects, you can then in turn track those objects as if you owned them so long as the RFID sticker remains attached...)

5e: the Trace Icon action requires you to maintain 2 MARKs on the commlink, with all the attending restrictions.  (you can't reboot or you'll lose your marks)

6we: the Trace Icon action doesn't require MARKs, since they don't exist in this edition. You need to first have achieved Admin access (which it sounds like this may have happened anyway in your example) and after succeeding on a Trace Icon action, you can then just follow the device's location "as long as you can detect it".  So, honestly, the player's "screamer file" idea just sounds like an in-universe techno-gobbledygook way to explain the meta mechanic of the existing Trace Icon action.

As for how long it would last: In 5e, it would explicitly stop working when you reboot.  The jig would also be up whenever the user (or the user's assigned matrix security professional) performs a Matrix Perception test on the device with the intent to see if someone's put MARKs on it: this is an unopposed roll and there's nothing you can do to prevent it, nor hide your MARKs.  Once strange MARKs from an unknown source are discovered, one of two things will happen.  1) they'll just be safe and reboot the commlink, thereby deleting your MARKs. 2) they'll start tracking you down based on your MARKs.

In 6we: I do believe that the intent is that Trace Icon would stop working when either party reboots.  It's certainly not meant to last forever after succeeding on one test.  You could also borrow from the example of Probe: say the "Screamer File" is found and removed after 10-Device Rating hours.
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.

MTCE

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« Reply #2 on: (12:52:16/10-19-19) »
Insightful and thorough. I should have mentioned we're playing 6WE. Sorry 'bout that.

So if he's not standing in the corper's presence, and doesn't know her commlink's code or Matrix signature, how does he find it to Trace it? Matrix Perception with Noise penalties, if applicable?

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

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« Reply #3 on: (13:01:28/10-19-19) »
Insightful and thorough. I should have mentioned we're playing 6WE. Sorry 'bout that.

So if he's not standing in the corper's presence, and doesn't know her commlink's code or Matrix signature, how does he find it to Trace it? Matrix Perception with Noise penalties, if applicable?

Well if he's not in her presence and doesn't know anything about her icon, I'm not sure he has enough to go on to begin with.  Maybe some legwork based on her name, or at least her picture, can turn up the commcode.  And then once you have that minimum bit of matrix info, you can begin with the Matrix Perception to spot her icon on the matrix.  And then you can hack to gain Admin access, and THEN you can Trace Icon.
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.

Giabralter

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« Reply #4 on: (16:20:46/10-19-19) »
Insightful and thorough. I should have mentioned we're playing 6WE. Sorry 'bout that.

So if he's not standing in the corper's presence, and doesn't know her commlink's code or Matrix signature, how does he find it to Trace it? Matrix Perception with Noise penalties, if applicable?

What's not available in 6E are worms. like data bombs. but more Trojan functionality such as what he described (the worm drops off after X hours with information.

MTCE

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« Reply #5 on: (17:52:11/10-19-19) »
Thanks, guys! Part of my "problem" with Matrix stuff is I'm not computer savvy. At all. I run two games. One has a computer engineer and a data base engineer. The other includes a guy who writes code for some of the more popular online games out there. They keep bringing up "real world" technology that I don't know anything about, so I can't really argue with them. The "Well, it doesn't work that was in 2080" argument sounds lame and "Because I said so!" sounds worse. Still trying to get my head around it all. Want to lay down suppressing fire or roast someone's head with a fireball? I'm your guy.

Michael Chandra

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« Reply #6 on: (17:57:00/10-19-19) »
Actually, "it doesn't work that way in 2080" IS the perfect argument. Forget EVERYTHING you know about reality. The Matrix is practically Magic. Real world technology is utterly irrelevant.
How am I not part of the forum?? O_O I am both active and angry!

ZeroSum

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« Reply #7 on: (19:19:04/10-19-19) »
I agree with Michael Chandra; The Matrix in 6th Edition might as well be Magic, and trying to treat it like modern tech is a pretty common pitfall from what I can tell.

I saw this with some of my veteran buddies when we were playing back in the 90s; "these ranges are all over the place", "I want to build the demo charge like this", "can I make my own weapon mod that does x?", and so on.

My observation is that if a player possesses in-depth knowledge of a particular subject they will often, knowingly or not, impart that knowledge into their Player Characters. When that happens, my personal rule of thumb is three-fold;
1. Are there any existing rules I can use for what the character is trying to accomplish?
2. Is it a cool and/or creative idea?
3. Does it further the plot ("yes, and" type improv)

If the answer to any of the above is true, I'll try to come up with a way to integrate the players idea into the storyline.

For example, in this case, let's go through what the player was asking, and note that I am paraphrasing here:
"I've hacked this commlink; can I track it and/or spoof it at a later time?"

1. Existing rules
Each net hit on Matrix Perception allows you to ask one question about the device in question. "What is it's commcode" would be a valid question in this case. This is really all you need to then later specifically use Matrix Perception again to find the device; this in turn lets you target it for Spoof Command (only needs Outsider access) or for Trace Icon (requires admin access, if memory serves). So the rules already cover what the player wanted to be able to do, and his actions are technically redundant; he doesn't 'need' to write a screamer to do what he wants, but let's move on to the other two questions, shall we?

2. If the rules already cover what he wants to do, the act of creating a screamer file (I would personally call this a program, but that's just preference) could be seen as a narrative explanation for the player characters actions. Mechanically speaking, it's no different from the a Tual rules, but if it makes your player happy to come up with some technojargon for how he does what he does, all the more power to him, right? Well, that's where the third question comes in.

3. How does this action further the plot? Only you can answer this, but I see two distinct possibilities here; the player uses resources at their disposal to come up with a cool, narrative way of tracking down who their contact is. This could be a whole story arch in itself, when they discover that their company woman is actually second in command of UCAS military training operations in Seattle! Alternatively, if I don't want my players to learn that particular detail just yet, guess what; this is a skilled company wan, and she burned that commlink the moment she walked away from the meet.

Just how deep the rabbit hole goes is entirely up to you, the GM. I'm a firm believer in enabling my players to have fun. Even if something they want to do isn't covered by the written rule, it can be a good idea as a GM to go with the flow and let players help you build your narrative. As a player, I love when things I think of can help shape the story we are telling; being empowered by a GM who takes my wacky idea and runs with it is a great feeling.

tl;dr
I wouldn't worry too too much about what the rules say and what they don't; the ultimate goal is to have fun, and as long as you are consistent with regards to implementing the rules and game mechanical at your table I think you'll be just fine.

Xenon

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« Reply #8 on: (05:09:46/10-20-19) »
What your player wish to do is not really supported by the book.


Instead, in order to Snoop communications and/or Trace the physical location you need to gain maintain Admin access.

A Hacker can either gain admin access by forcing his or her way into a network (although this will potentially cause a lot of attention from both the owner and the grid overwatch division which make this mostly only useful as a quick and dirty solution, but by threading and sustaining a Static Veil it seem as if a Technomancer hacker may maintain admin access for many hours even when using Brute Force) or by taking their time probing the network for weaknesses that he or she may exploit (this let the hacker create a backdoor that will last for 10 - device rating hours).

Once, and as long as, the hacker have Admin access the hacker can take a an Opposed Electronics + Intuition vs. Willpower + Sleaze test (Trace Icon) and if successful he or she will automatically keep tracing the physical location of the target. The hacker may also take an Opposed Cracking + Logic vs. Logic + Firewall test (Snoop) and if successful he or she will automatically intercept all matrix traffic going in and out of the device (which for example can be used to listening and/or recording to all calls being made and view all videos or photos that is being taken).

  • Opposed Cracking + Logic vs Willpower + Firewall test (Probe) to exploit weaknesses in order to create a backdoor that will last 10 - Device Rating hours (test take 1 minute).
  • Opposed Cracking + Logic vs. Willpower + Firewall test (Backdoor Entry) to gain admin access on the network for as long as the backdoor is active (test take a major action).
  • Opposed Cracking + Logic vs. Logic + Firewall test (Snoop) to intercept all matrix traffic going in and out for as long as long as got admin access (test take a major action).
  • Opposed Electronics + Intuition vs. Willpower + Sleaze (Trace Icon) to trace the location in real time for as long as got admin access (test take a major action).

After 10 - Device Rating hours the backdoor vanish and with it admin access and with that also snooping and tracing information - the technomancer need to start over with a new probe attempt....

MTCE

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« Reply #9 on: (07:31:18/10-20-19) »
Superb suggestions/advice/information. My thanks to all!