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There's nothing to see here except for shadows of the past - and these ones won't be returning.

I'd point you to my next project here - but I'm not that organised. My style is to act and then sort out the consequences, rather than the other way around. Oh, and lying. I do that a lot too. (i.e. if you look closely, you may have seen some links appearing roughly once a week) is registered to me for the forseeable future, so you might find something there.

Edited by Vitenka at 2003-04-09 08:22:54

Vitenka : Wed 4 03:12:36 2002  
...Further limiting my audience, AND contradicting a forum post I made only a couple of hours ago - RPGs and new settings... Oh, and stealing a famous websites name ...

Ars Technica

(The art of technology)

Synopsis and conclusion: The ars magica system works great for a cyberpunk hacking game - just needs a couple of translations applied.

This is going to be stats heavy. It's a rule system. Deal with it. If you know Ars Magica, then - frankly, you can skim read and skip straight to the example where the 'add magnitudes because you are affecting a CLASS of things' is first introduced.

All of the following terminology is made up - with the AM equivalent in brackets.

Interfaces (Techniques and Forms)

Everything you do in cyberspace is done with one (or more) algorithms - and it affects one (or more) interfaces. Verbs and nouns. You'll get the idea.

Left most column is algorithm, rest is interface.

Res. Create something from nothingness. (creo) Avatar. The 'body' of someone online. (corpus) Ghost. The mine of someone online. (mentem)
Crash. Destroy something. (perdo) Bot. An online AI. (animal) Entity. Something online that isn't animated. (herbam)
Rcon. Control something. (rego) One. A fundamental element of the cyberscape - 'one' represents things that are solid. (terram) Zero. A fundamental element of the cyberscape - 'zero' represents things that can be walked through freely. (Auram)
Evolv. Change something into something else. Jolt. A fundamental element of the cyberscape - 'jolt' represents the energy that maintains everything. (Ignem) Fluid. A fundamental element of the cyberscape - 'fluid' connects the other elements, it moves a little, it can be moved through but it can support weight. (aquam)
Scan. Find something out. Texture. The appearence of things - includes sound and text too. (imagonem) Protocol. The fundamental underlying mechanics of the system - not easy to play with. (vim)

Running (Casting)

You use these techniques and forms in three basic ways. Spin, drive and skid.

  1. Spinning. You use your natural skills with algorithms and interfaces to spin a new web. This allows you to create effects on the fly - and they can be customised to your immediate needs. The example will make things clear. The major advantage of spinning is that you can perfectly customise - you don't need to be able to craft something that can affect EVERY person - you just craft something that can affect THIS person in THIS situation. Much easier. The disadvantage of spinning is that you have to do the mental equivalent of pulling an all nighter in a couple of seconds. That takes a major jek and will leave you fatigued. (AM equiv: spont)
  2. Driving. You've taken the time to put together a proper set of tools - using existing libraries (AM: books) and APIs (AM: spells) And you know how to use your tool. It will usually have fewer options than you would like - but it is much easier to use. (AM equiv: formulaic)
  3. Skidding. Derived from "script kiddie". Someone - probably not you - put together a tool that is so proficient that you don't really need to know anything. Just point and click. No effort to use, but even with the best AIs, probably not good except in certain limited circumstances. (AM equiv: items)

I'm not going to reproduce the AM rules here - I'm sure you can see how they would work. For those with no clue what I'm talking about: a) What are you still reading this for? b) Spin skill = ( d10 + tech skill + form skill ) / 2 ; Drive skill = ( d10 + tech skill + form skill + 10 ) ; skid needs no skill. Drive must take time to prepare the tool in advance ( take {time unit - I'm suggesting months} adding ( tech skill + form skill + random bonuses - level of effect ) until your total = level of effect ) Or to learn to use a tool someone else created takes only one {time unit} but your (tech + form) must be higher than the effect level - without the +d10+10. Spin takes roughly the same time to prepare (bonuses will be different is all) but costs vastly more resources. Also power of spin effects is vastly lower and thus easier to block.

Worked Examples

High level skills are typically in the range of 0-25 - usually quite a few 5's and only a couple of 15+

Magnitude means 'div 5' - 5 is first magnitude, 25 is fifth etc.

The difficulty of effects is adapted from AM4 - there are plenty of alternate guidelines available - pick one you like if you don't have AM (but go buy AM).

Situation - encountering a guard and wanting to make a statement, three hackers decide to turn his comms bracelet into a dragon and have it eat him.

D4n The Driver

Assuming Dan knows how to use a tool to do the job, he sets a few options and lets rip. The guard gets eaten, assuming that dans (minimum of evolv and rcon)+(minimum of entity and bot) +d10+10 is greater than 40. Which isn't too likely. Assuming dan manages it, then dan is obviously highly skilled. The 'minimum of' is to compensate for mutiple techniques being used (change into a dragon and then control it) (bracelets are immobile, dragons need AI).

Forty is an estimated effect level. Controlling something you created is one magnitude. Changing a single bracelet into a a dragon is two magnitudes to take it to living, one to change the size to person, one to change it to large, two for 'highly unnatural' (dragons can fly and breathe fire) Finally one magnitude because you need to be able to affect ANY bracelet. To be able to transform any jewellry would be another magnitude, and so on.

St3v3 the Spinner

Ok, this guy is clearly the l33test of the l33t here. ((minimum of evolv and rcon)+(minimum of entity and bot) +d10 ) / 2 must be greater than 30. (Two magnitudes less, because you can affect just that single bracelet, and you are only giving one single command to the dragon - not making a dragon with generic AI) Still, steves tech+form total must be 55 or so, far more than the 25 dan needed. But steve didn't need to have a tool in advance.

5tu The Script Kiddie

Well, probably, stu goes "Oh dear, I don't have a tool to do that, let me go find one" - but, asusming he does, he just points it - clicks the button and hope that the guard doesn't have a shield. He then engages in a shouting match to try and get the dragon to obey HIM rather than the guard - since it just responds to verbal commands, because stu knew how to set a password - but not how to make it just HIS.

The guard then goes "Oh god - where did you get THAT thing, because such an item is as hard to make as the car (drive-tool), and correspondingly expensive.

Class of objects

Direct digital copies of something count as the 'same thing' - so a car that effects one would equally well effect them all. That's usually only of use on things that you own, or know are being mass cloned. To affect a class of objects (ANY keyring) then add a magnitude for each step of genericness. This represents knowing about a flaw in a lower level API - and the more you know the deeper you can go.

Oh, you'll note that there is quite a lot of overlap in the forms - and that some forms seem to 'include' others. This is intentional; if you have sufficient knowledge about 'solid things' then you can apply that to 'solid things that move' - the reverse is NOT true.

But at 'sensible' skill levels, there is a lot to be gained from specialising.

See AM for further ramblings.


Well, I hadn't written a column for a while, and I thought of this and it just seemed to fit. I'd been playing spybotics y'see and... Anyway. This system should please people who like strategy and long lists of available programs and costs; those people who like to make stuff up as they go along and people in between. AM also provides spectacularly effective mechanisms for CREATING such programs - and manages the 'hacker cabal' thing quite well too. Other aspects of the AM system don't translate so well (or, in the case of the mundane combat system, work) so you might want to use something else when you run your game.


This idea brought to you by the "Society for the Eradication of the Shadowrun Rules" - a society dedicated to the eradication of an entirely filthy system.

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