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DurosSpacer

The Google Effect

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Anyone else notice how Computer, Streetwise, and Underworld Knowledge checks seem to be affected by what a player considers to be available to them in real life using a Google search?  I mean, players just expect access to a computer to results in all the answers they ever wanted. I find it difficult to tell them that the information just isn't available. 

 

For example, if players need to 'find' someone or make a contact, they just seem to say that, "I look someone up on the computer and find out where they live."

 

Players also want the Holonet to be just like our internet. They also buy into the movie crap about hacking into databases.  My friend has a masters degree in such security and laughs at the way it is portrayed on TV and in movies. Players seem a little put off when it isn't a 5-10-second action. 

 

Any suggestions for how to distinguish the Holonet and such things in gameplay from what we are familiar with on our smartphones & computers?

Edited by DurosSpacer
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Star wars is 1970's version of the future. There is no google. there is no internet.  Case in point Obi-wan had to ask a real person about the saber dart and the planet. 

The holonet is more like cable tv  and phones than it is an internet. Especially after Order 66 when it was locked down. 

Edited by Daeglan

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You hit the issue right on the head.  The players are familiar with the internet and the kind of networked electronic environment it implies, but most of the electronics in Star Wars are unconnected to each other.  There is certainly a good deal of slicing in the movies, and it is often a very positive tool, but in each instance the characters had to get to a very specific place to access the information, or at least do anything productive with it.

 

Whenever your players try and do what you describe, allow them to find out where that information might be available, but not what it is, so they have to go and actually interact with guards, bureaucrats, droids, etc. and not just get it electronically.  While the Holonet does exist, its purpose is primarily long-range communication, not data storage and retrieval.  Besides, governments, corporations, and individuals alike are well aware of the threat of electronic security breaches, so everything important is compartmentalized to the extent that that is practical.

 

If you want to throw your players for a loop, give them access to a widespread network in the capital city of some major system, but have counter-slicers follow their electronic trail.  If they connect their devices to do some slicing, they have made themselves vulnerable to detection or even electronic warfare.  They may have a high Computers skill, but a Minion Group of multiple technicians stacking dice (and don't forget Defensive Slicing) should be able to give them a run for their money.

 

Same goes for Streetwise and the various Knowledge checks.  Unless they're a local, they probably won't know what they want off the top of their head, but may know where to find out.

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Look at how things work in the new Battlestar Galactica. Not the reasoning just how it works. Nothing is networked. You physically have to go places. A good example is the scene in A New Hope where R2 hacks in and finds out where the tractor beam controls are but someone had to actually go to them and turn off the power. This also has an advantage. You can't turn them back on remotely either. 

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Awesome stuff, Joker Two!!!  (I'm taking notes!) Yeah, players often want to get on their ship's computer and hack into some corporation or something.  GREAT point about systems being compartmentalized.  Networks aren't connected and planets and corporations don't store data out there for all to see.  I often forget that, myself, as a GM.  :)  No Wookieepedia available in the Star Wars universe! 

 

GPS tracking by cellular use is another one of those areas. "I'll just track him by his devices.", they say. 

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there are no GPS satellites. But you could triangulate their location via their radio signals when they broadcast. I think of comlinks more like out modern day FRS radios that are encrypted. 

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Yeah, some planets have limited "internets," but Galaxy-wide you're gonna be mostly limited to small isolated networks. The HoloNet is a resource, but is heavily restricted, monitored, and limited in scope.

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This also has an advantage. You can't turn them back on remotely either. 

 

Bingo!  :D

 

 

 

GPS tracking by cellular use is another one of those areas. "I'll just track him by his devices.", they say. 

 

I've got that guy in my main group at home.  Players a stealthy hacker in every RPG campagin we ever run, always wants to establish massive tech superiority, and tries to bring in things from other settings to do so (to be fair, he's not too big on the background fluff, so he doesn't know what fits and what doesn't).  He means well, but it gets a little repetitive.  I deal with him by applying what I have termed the Corollary to the Golden Rule.

 

If the Golden Rule is;

"do unto others as you would have done unto you",

then the implied Corollary to the Golden Rule is;

"anything you can do unto others, they can do unto you".

 

Most of the players who have uber-slicers probably still want this to be a Star Wars game, not a Cyberpunk game.  If they're pushing a little too hard with the EW, don't be afraid to push back.  There's plenty you can do within the realm of Star Wars; Lambda Shuttles projecting ECM fields, Probe Droids tracking their signal and vectoring in Stormtrooper squads, other slicers having a go at their systems for a change, etc.

 

The trick is to not target it all on the slicer, spread it around the PCs to keep everyone involved.  That way it's presented and perceived as the consequences of the group's actions, rather than the GM getting into an arms race with a single player.  If the whole group likes the new direction, then cool, you've got a new campaign theme!  But if not they can always drop off the radar to lose their trail, and pick up again somewhere else without going all slice-happy.  And once you've established the Corollary in your game, it's much easier to bring in bounty hunters or Imperial troops if the PC doesn't cover his or her tracks, since interested parties will be on the lookout for such a dangerous slicer.

 

 

 

Another factor is that even when it is possible to accomplish something remotely, the equipment requirements will be very high, and it will be far more easily detectable.  For example

 

there are no GPS satellites. But you could triangulate their location via their radio signals when they broadcast. I think of comlinks more like out modern day FRS radios that are encrypted. 

 

This is definitely possible, but you'd need a good amount of gear to pull it off.  Multiple sensor suites at different locations, either separately manned or with a very strong and secure remote connection.  Or access to someone else's sensors with a similar setup.

 

The major planets (or at least their major cities) probably do have a GPS equivalent, if only for basic navigation and traffic control with airspeeders and such (think of all the Coruscant airspeeder scenes).  Most of them will also have at least basic sensor satellites in orbit, especially if there's a military presence.  Star Wars sensors usually aren't depicted as being able to reach past the atmosphere with any detail in either direction, so having remote arrays in low orbit covers the major blind spots.

Edited by Joker Two

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The best network available in the galaxy is the force and only a handful of people have an account that works and even then the reliability is hit or miss.

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This also has an advantage. You can't turn them back on remotely either. 

 

Bingo!  :D

 

 

I had do deal with something similiar with a droid player of mine. He complained (out of character) why his character missed the shots as he was a computer and made perfect calculations.

 

 

GPS tracking by cellular use is another one of those areas. "I'll just track him by his devices.", they say. 

 

I've got that guy in my main group at home.  Players a stealthy hacker in every RPG campagin we ever run, always wants to establish massive tech superiority, and tries to bring in things from other settings to do so (to be fair, he's not too big on the background fluff, so he doesn't know what fits and what doesn't).  He means well, but it gets a little repetitive.  I deal with him by applying what I have termed the Corollary to the Golden Rule.

 

If the Golden Rule is;

"do unto others as you would have done unto you",

then the implied Corollary to the Golden Rule is;

"anything you can do unto others, they can do unto you".

 

Most of the players who have uber-slicers probably still want this to be a Star Wars game, not a Cyberpunk game.  If they're pushing a little too hard with the EW, don't be afraid to push back.  There's plenty you can do within the realm of Star Wars; Lambda Shuttles projecting ECM fields, Probe Droids tracking their signal and vectoring in Stormtrooper squads, other slicers having a go at their systems for a change, etc.

 

The trick is to not target it all on the slicer, spread it around the PCs to keep everyone involved.  That way it's presented and perceived as the consequences of the group's actions, rather than the GM getting into an arms race with a single player.  If the whole group likes the new direction, then cool, you've got a new campaign theme!  But if not they can always drop off the radar to lose their trail, and pick up again somewhere else without going all slice-happy.  And once you've established the Corollary in your game, it's much easier to bring in bounty hunters or Imperial troops if the PC doesn't cover his or her tracks, since interested parties will be on the lookout for such a dangerous slicer.

 

 

 

Another factor is that even when it is possible to accomplish something remotely, the equipment requirements will be very high, and it will be far more easily detectable.  For example

 

there are no GPS satellites. But you could triangulate their location via their radio signals when they broadcast. I think of comlinks more like out modern day FRS radios that are encrypted. 

 

This is definitely possible, but you'd need a good amount of gear to pull it off.  Multiple sensor suites at different locations, either separately manned or with a very strong and secure remote connection.  Or access to someone else's sensors with a similar setup.

 

The major planets (or at least their major cities) probably do have a GPS equivalent, if only for basic navigation and traffic control with airspeeders and such (think of all the Coruscant airspeeder scenes).  Most of them will also have at least basic sensor satellites in orbit, especially if there's a military presence.  Star Wars sensors usually aren't depicted as being able to reach past the atmosphere with any detail in either direction, so having remote arrays in low orbit covers the major blind spots.

 

 

If he's not trying to determinate the exact position of the target (just want to know in which city he, is for instance) and Star Wars telecom works similary to us, you could just trace back the call with a computer check and use a local streetwise check for the pinpoint location!

 

I think civilian starships constantly broadcast their position with the BOSS' transponder. Don't know if it applies to speeders.

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I supose that in general common things can be search via net Simple dif (-) but for the rest or more precise thing this checks can be ok.

 

Also I have to say that probably its because the game is mainly focused on Empire era where there are TONS of restrictions and prohibitions. People who never lived in a tyranic dictatorship have problems imaginating that. When my parents explained those times was like watching an old movie XD

 

My fathers lived on the Spanish dictatorship era (no so far away), where people that have access to a TV, not everyone had one, can only watch 1 channel that only says the "empire vision" with tons of lies and propaganda. Also, written methods like newspapers where controlled by the dictatorship, and of course radio too... and this happened just above 40 years ago...

 

Rebels on that era where people who use to difuse propaganda via papers and in hidden places or shouting and running throw the streets from dictatorship police and army.

 

So, yes, difficulty to access to knowlegdes in Empire era seems fine to me. No Google sorry ;)

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If he's not trying to determinate the exact position of the target (just want to know in which city he, is for instance) and Star Wars telecom works similary to us, you could just trace back the call with a computer check and use a local streetwise check for the pinpoint location!

 

I think civilian starships constantly broadcast their position with the BOSS' transponder. Don't know if it applies to speeders.

 

Ships have an engine signature. So while they are moving the engine gives off something that identifies it. 

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Holonet is kind of like what the internet would have been if it stuck to its original design principle of being a highly redundant, military grade information network used to launch missiles and co-ordinate troops around the world. Except in this case its used to basically big-brother information, vet the media, allow naval forces to act quickly, send covert intelligence details to secure locations and keep the riff raff out of it.

 

Prior to the Empire its sort of 'speculated' that there was a bit more private and possibly civilian traffic on it, but for the most part that wasn't ever really shown in the movies aside from some quasi-military activities by the Jedi and planetary governments. It was (non-canon) also quite bigger due to people not building star destroyers, death stars and other stuff, so it was scaled back in size to just Moffs and big naval ships, mostly due to its horrendous upkeep and deployment cost.

 

Not impossible for a slicer to 'intercept' S-Threads and transmit lolnexu pictures, ***** pills and hutt porn to Imperial officials, but there is a fair bit you need to do it (and it isn't cheap) and be talented enough to blast through some really mean encryption.

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You hit the issue right on the head.  The players are familiar with the internet and the kind of networked electronic environment it implies, but most of the electronics in Star Wars are unconnected to each other.  There is certainly a good deal of slicing in the movies, and it is often a very positive tool, but in each instance the characters had to get to a very specific place to access the information, or at least do anything productive with it.

 

EU should have developed an ancient cyber-war that explained this. Some evil entity that took control of machines and electronic devices, spreading through the Galaxy, and could only be defeated by destroying anything "connected". Governments, corporations, and people are now way too scared to add wireless connectivity to the devices they use and manufacture due to this cyber incident/war.

 

Battlestar Galactica (as mentioned above) and Dune have similar past incidents that help their plots.

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Finding very precise detailed information on the Internet is not as easy as you may think. Yes, finding general information is simple. Trying to find information that the vast majority of the people don't care about becomes far more difficult. They won't find the hideout location of some back hills biker gang in the sticks on the Internet.

 

Wading through all the trash on the Internet is also cumbersome. This can slow down research as well. This can give misleading information as well.

 

The skills I would bet assume that the person has access to all tools necessary to do the skill check. All research checks probably assume Holonet access. If the player did not have access, I would give them a setback die as a penalty. If they get threat, I would assume they found some convincing bad data that hides some of the good data through doubt.

 

The Internet is great, but it is not the end all.

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I wonder if the trend of expecting to find things electronically is generational? Myself and my players grew up in the eighties and nineties during the Internet's infancy, back when it was considered less reliable than analog sources. None of us think to Google anything when we're playing a game, let alone a Star Wars game. Are your players younger than that, or are they just caught up by the advances in technology?

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The Holonet is not the Internet. I explain things to players who expect it to be as follows:

Star Wars is not an Information Society. The realworld Internet was designed to be a highly resilient system that could withstand devastating force (nuclear attack) and still enable all members of it to be able to reach all other members - It is a large net which has the principle of routing around damage built into it as basic aim. I.e. its primary goal above all else, is to enable communications.

The Holonet is not that and never was. It's a state run communications system and its primary aims are security and top-down control. It doesn't have the goal of withstanding a massive and devastating external attack by a party of equal power, because there is no party of equal power to the Empire. Where the Internet is decentralized, the Holonet is has control centres. Where the Internet tries to enable to party A to get their message to party B via any path available, the Holonet tries to make sure communications from party A get routed up to the local control stations and then routed down to party B after identities have been confirmed. Where the Internet allows anyone to connect and start serving up a webpage, the Holonet checks with C&C and looks to see if your systems have been properly registered in triplicate before they are allocated a communications channel.

The Holonet has different design goals to the Internet and is thus different in implementation. The Empire does not fear external attack. It fears internal dissent. Your analogue for the Holonet is not today's Internet, but the military communications network of a fascist state.

Good luck with that!

Edited by knasserII
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The other thing worth mentioning is that the communications systems in Star Wars are NOT WiFi, nor electromagnetic radiation. They can't be - you have instantaneous communications between star systems or even between planets in the same system. You can't do that with radiowaves. They have something that is faster than light.

And if it is a technology that is faster than light then we can throw out assumptions based on electromagnetic radiation and we must draw our conclusions based on what we actually see on screen. Namely that this technology is not limited by speed, but by bandwidth and occasionally by distance.

Bandwidth limited communications are consistent with everything we see on screen. All those holograms that are patchy blue and have lines going up and down them? Vital schematics having to be transported in person? My guess is that whatever the technology is, there is a point of diminishing returns rapidly approached as you increase the amount of data you try to cram into a signal. If that is the case, then it is a further reason why trying to hack that Star Destroyer from your hidden base is just not going to work.

Again, the Star Wars setting is NOT an Information Society. They manage perfectly well without everyone broadcasting personal information everywhere or running blogs and creating Wiki encyclopaedia. Indeed, they would probably respond to suggestions that they should with very good reasons why they don't want to. And if the best a player can come up with is that the Imperial Ship ought to be broadcasting internal control systems out into space is so that the player can hack it, then they've just given a very good reason why the Imperials don't do that.

Most of Star Wars technology is controlled by sentient beings. The Star Destroyer doesn't need to have access to the control systems of a Tie-Fighter over some network when the Tie-Fighter is controlled by a loyal pilot. All they need is to be able to send a message saying "return to base" or "kill that X-Wing". And that, is a secure thing to do.

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Knasserll one doubt. You are refering just to Empire Era or to Star Wars Universe itself?

 

I say this because on Episode 2, on a Coruscant pub (and a few more scenes from Clone Wars) appeared screens with sportive events and other similar things.

 

Did I miss something?

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Knasserll one doubt. You are refering just to Empire Era or to Star Wars Universe itself?

Both regards the wireless technology. Regarding design of the Holonet, both as far as I am concerned. Someone could say in their setting that things were different in the Republic Era, but I see nothing that shows this is necessarily the case and you'd end up having to justify a change to the Empire model. Besides, the Republic was at war for quite a while before the Empire and corrupt long before that. This interpretation of the Holonet works fine for me for both times.

 

I say this because on Episode 2, on a Coruscant pub (and a few more scenes from Clone Wars) appeared screens with sportive events and other similar things.

It could easily be a local broadcast, it could be delivered from elsewhere on the planet using a terrestrial broadcasting network, it could be pre-recorded. The point is, what do you say to those who have grown up in an Information Society and don't understand that high technology does not have to mean Wikipedia and Facebook and an Internet that works how some smart arse IT monkey thinks it should work.

Edited by knasserII

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The other thing worth mentioning is that the communications systems in Star Wars are NOT WiFi, nor electromagnetic radiation. They can't be - you have instantaneous communications between star systems or even between planets in the same system. You can't do that with radiowaves. They have something that is faster than light.

And if it is a technology that is faster than light then we can throw out assumptions based on electromagnetic radiation and we must draw our conclusions based on what we actually see on screen. Namely that this technology is not limited by speed, but by bandwidth and occasionally by distance.

Bandwidth limited communications are consistent with everything we see on screen. All those holograms that are patchy blue and have lines going up and down them? Vital schematics having to be transported in person? My guess is that whatever the technology is, there is a point of diminishing returns rapidly approached as you increase the amount of data you try to cram into a signal. If that is the case, then it is a further reason why trying to hack that Star Destroyer from your hidden base is just not going to work.

Again, the Star Wars setting is NOT an Information Society. They manage perfectly well without everyone broadcasting personal information everywhere or running blogs and creating Wiki encyclopaedia. Indeed, they would probably respond to suggestions that they should with very good reasons why they don't want to. And if the best a player can come up with is that the Imperial Ship ought to be broadcasting internal control systems out into space is so that the player can hack it, then they've just given a very good reason why the Imperials don't do that.

Most of Star Wars technology is controlled by sentient beings. The Star Destroyer doesn't need to have access to the control systems of a Tie-Fighter over some network when the Tie-Fighter is controlled by a loyal pilot. All they need is to be able to send a message saying "return to base" or "kill that X-Wing". And that, is a secure thing to do.

 

*slow clap*

 

This.  A hundred times this.  You've encapsulated a lot of what bounces around in my brain when a player wants to use Computers to "do everything" in Star Wars, but I just couldn't get out of my head in a cohesive manner.

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The point is, what do you say to those who have grown up in an Information Society and don't understand that high technology does not have to mean Wikipedia and Facebook and an Internet that works how some smart arse IT monkey thinks it should work.

 

Hey, I resemble that remark... :)  It's a bit of a weird argument to be so fervent about, especially when you have essentially zero evidence for your POV.  It's not something movies spent any time on, though TCW sure has plenty of hints that that "information society" is all there.  If you don't want it to be for your own game then great, but insisting on a "one truth" here seems unnecessary.

 

 

The other thing worth mentioning is that the communications systems in Star Wars are NOT WiFi, nor electromagnetic radiation. They can't be - you have instantaneous communications between star systems or even between planets in the same system. You can't do that with radiowaves. They have something that is faster than light.

 

 

I think you missed the point about what wifi is and how people are using the term colloquially.  All it means for most people is "without physical connection".  I can tell you, if they rolled out new technology tomorrow that was faster than light and used quantum tunnelling or nano-wormholes to form dynamic quantum entanglement bonds between two receptors...people would *still* call it wifi.

 

 Back to the OP:  the problem isn't so much that players don't know how Star Wars tech is supposed to work, it's that they're making really dumb assumptions about how it works today and *then* transporting this supposed knowhow to the SW universe.

Most people can barely use google.  Sure, they can find stuff about celebrities and popular things, but digging any deeper takes some skill and work.

Almost no hacking is done from the outside (wifi included), it's almost all done from the inside or with insider information.  That means stalking key people and getting their access codes or security badges...or your previous biological eyeballs as in Minority Report :)  The Jewel of Yavin has a pretty good slicing mission that makes this pretty clear, I'd suggest giving it a read and applying similar principles to any hacking the players want to try and do.

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