Commlinks remain the basic interface for the Matrix of 2072. Most people will have a basic unit to allow for communication, information storage/access/searching, and for basic connectivity. The majority of streetware ’links are configured for interaction with the Matrix and Augmented Reality at the simplest of levels, providing a firewall, an avatar, and that’s about it. On the other end of the spectrum, cutting edge units provide faster response times, better protection, better offensive capabilities and greater range for accessing nodes.
Response relates to the speed of data transfer and provides a bonus to the hero’s Hacking skill checks.
VR Armor provides a dampening field that protects against harmful bio-feedback signals generated by IC (Intrusion Countermeasures) and attacks by other hackers. This dampening field rating is added to the character’s base Toughness score to determine the modified Toughness attribute while is Virtual Reality.
Damage is the rating of offensive capabilities of the ’link, should the user find himself in Virtual combat with hackers, IC, or other devices.
Range describes the commlink software’s ability to filter out the massive amounts of wireless data in the air. The further from the target the device is, the harder it is for the system to communicate the massive amounts of data necessary for Hacking. Range increments impose penalties as if making ranged attacks (0/-2/-4).
Commlink functionality can be upgraded to provide more functionality. Given the modularity of commercial units, each individual rating can be modified. Upgrading to a new module requires complete replacement (ie: costs the full amount of the new rating), but old modules may be sellable on the black market.
The process of hacking is handled quickly and relatively abstractly.
Hackers use their Notice skill (adjusted by commlink Response and Range modifiers) to identify Matrix nodes and connections in VR. Raises on the test may give additional information, such as the likely level of security present on a Node. The hacker must be able to physically see the target to Notice it.
Hacking the Firewall
Breaking into a Node requires a Hacking check (standard action), adjusted by Response and Range modifiers, with a penalty determined by the system’s defense ratings. Defenses can range from +0 for Public Access Networks with minimal security, to -8 for high security military-grade networks. If the hack is successful, the hero is in the node and has control of whatever functions it is capable of performing (eg: shutting down a sentry gun, looping a security camera, opening a door).
If the Hacking check fails, a security response is tripped, which could range from a minor alert on a low security system to full system shutdown with lethal feedback damage, activated physical security measures and armed trace response team dispatch on a milspec security system. Assuming the system has not shut down, the hero can attempt another Hacking check next round, although the security response for subsequent failures will generally be more robust each time.
Heroes can try to hack multiple nodes at the same time (eg to shut down several active gun turrets at once). They can attempt one additional Hacking check for each level of Response on their commlink (ie: Response 2 equals up to three simultaneous hacks), but they take a -2 Multi-action penalty on all hacks for each attempt beyond the first (ie: three simultaneous hacks imposes a -4 penalty on all three checks) Heroes can also attempt to hack and perform physical actions at the same time, also incurring normal Multi-action penalties (eg: hacking while shooting a gun gives -2 to both actions)
Control mode allows a hacker to directly control an item she has hacked. In this mode, hackers can take control of things like video cameras, gun turrets, vehicles, elevators, etc. If a hacker takes control of a device that is normally operated by use of a skill (like Piloting for a plane or Shooting for a gun turret) she must have that skill to use the device.
Edit mode allows the character to change the existing functions of a specific item or system. While in edit mode, hackers can do countless things. They can rewrite, upload, or copy files on a database, loop camera feeds to mask the passage of her team, change the timing of street lights, alter the flight path of a satellite, modify the “friend/foe” designations for gun turrets etc.
Sometimes, a hacker doesn’t want to take control of an object or manipulate data. Sometimes, the goal of a hack is to wreak as much havoc as possible or prevent objects from being used against other members of the party. This is where destruction mode comes into play. When in destruction mode, a character can destroy an object by inserting malicious programming into its circuitry that corrupts the original programming of the device, rendering it unusable.
Success on a Hacking roll incapacitates simple items (cameras, vending machines, street lights, etc).These items can be fixed with a successful Repair roll. If the hacker gets a raise on the initial Hacking roll the item is completely destroyed and must be replaced.
Objects such as Drones, Auto-Turrets, and other devices capable of inflicting harm on the hacker and their allies are rendered shaken with a successful Hacking roll. A raise inflicts the damage rating of the hacker’s hyper glove on the object, ignoring physical armor only. If the object has any VR armor, it still adds to its Toughness. This mode is also useful when attempting to affect an environment. In destruction mode, hackers can alter the physical world by destroying controls for things like piping systems, containment fields, lights, etc.
Mode modules – or MODS – are add-ons that expand on the utility of the commlink. Conceptually, mode modules are very similar to applications (commonly known as Apps) for the smart phones which were so popular at the turn of the century. While some mode modules (such as the lethal MOD) add new tools to the hacker’s repertoire, others allow characters who don’t hack to expand their abilities.
Note: If you use a MOD for skill rolls, you can’t benefit from co-op rolls from other players. MOD bonuses do not stack with bonuses from other expert program sources (eg: Medical Expert MOD does not stack with the bonus from an Autodoc)
Each MOD costs 5000¥.
Used by authenticators and art thieves the world over, the appraisal mod provides a database of valuables, antiquities, precious commodities, and other valuables, listing various scientific data such as the weight of a diamond, the material composition of a rare Ming dynasty vase, the amount of carbon molecules that have escaped from the paint on a renaissance piece, etc. Micro material analyzers within the device compare the item to the database and calculate the authenticity and monetary value of the item. The appraisal mod provides a +2 to all rolls to authenticate, price and forge an item.
Field Survival MOD
With a built in database of plant life and animal life, this mode module allows you to analyze food items to see if they’re safe to eat. It also teaches you basic ways to find and construct shelter, build fires with little more than a rock and sticks, how to purify water, and all sorts of additional information you need to survive in the wild. The field survival mod gives +2 to all survival rolls.
This mod installs a series of micro-analyzers on the commlink. These analyzers – sensitive enough to read DNA samples – scan evidence and compare it to an onboard database of various samples ranging from bullet casings and fabrics to hair follicles and fingerprints. The Forensic mode gives a +2 to all rolls involving the analysis of potential forensic clues. This bonus also applies to appropriate Notice rolls, and Knowledge (Biology) rolls.
This MOD is rather limited in scope, but its effects cannot be understated. A lethal mode module allows the user to generate enough bio-feedback to inflict lethal damage against other hackers in Virtual combat. VR armor still shields against this bio-feedback, but all damage taken is lethal.
Medical Expert MOD
Used by street docs and combat medics the world over, the medical expert mod comes with built-in SMARTknowledge™ medical files, portable X-ray capacity, fluid analyzers, and various sensors that identify a patient’s wounds and provide instructions for proper treatments. The Medical Expert mod gives a +2 to all Healing rolls.
Used by professional wheelmen and drivers everywhere, the NAVbuddy mod is an essential tool for navigating megasprawls all over the globe. The NAVbuddy MOD provides a +2 bonus to Investigation (or Streetwise) rolls when attempting to find a specific location in the sprawl.
Tool Expert MOD
This mod installs thousands of blueprint read outs, 3D mapping tools, adjustable microlights, and other minor modifications useful to those who work with machines. The Tool expert will analyze a machine and display a 3D hyper-reality image of the items needing to be repaired while guiding the user through a step-by-step tutorial. The user gains +2 to all repair rolls.
VR Overlay MOD
A wildly popular mode module, the VR overlay mod syncs up with your imagelink and generates a reality filter which renders the world around you into a theme of your choosing. Typical VR overlays include fantasy simulations, or spaceopera-themed overlays. When running this mod, it is easier to identify Nodes. Users gain a +2 to Notice rolls when looking for Matrix Nodes.
When hacking fails and systems trigger IC or security hackers, virtual combat ensues. If the hacker has accessed the node before the combat, range no longer matters, as both icons are in the same system. If the hacker is still trying to access the node, range modifiers apply to both combatants (they may have different range modifiers depending on hardware capability).
The icons roll opposed Hacking checks (modified by Response and Range) and the winner deals their damage value to the loser. All damage in Virtual Combat is non-lethal (causes Fatigue instead of Wounds), unless a combatant has a Lethal MOD installed.
If one of the combatants wishes to withdraw from the combat (Jack Out), they must succeed at a Hacking check modified by the system’s Firewall rating and the Range modifier as a bonus instead of a penalty (eg +2 to the check at Medium range). If the Hacker has not yet penetrated the Firewall of the node in question, there is a +2 bonus to Jacking Out.