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Ebak

How do you handle slicing and computers?

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Hey all.

 

I've been running Edge for nearly a year, yet I still feel as green as if I started a week ago in various areas (probably just the fact that Edge is my first ever RPG, period. I've never GMed or played another RPG as a player.)

 

One of my biggest faults (I think) is slicing and computers.

 

Now as I know it, computers in the Star Wars galaxy work very differently to how computers work today given that it is based off 1977 technology, so they are not all connected and if they are, they are restricted to what terminals can do what.

 

I've always had problems with my slicer in the group thinking that he can do almost anything and get almost any piece of information through slicing (which is not possible in this world).

 

So I need expert GM advice in how to handle computers and slicing in general. How would a standard computer system work in the SW universe? How do you guys run computers and slicing? Is there a way to make it more than a simple one roll check (which my slicer will always succeed with his 6 die pool). Also how can I bring in talents like "defensive slicing" when the player rarely (read: never) gets caught on his initial check?

 

I need to reel in my players expectations, but I can only do that by knowing a lot more about how the systems work and how I should run them.

 

Any other useful information about slicing and computers check would be welcome, it is one of the areas which is left very vague in the book.

Edited by Ebak
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The Expanded Universe books give some insight into Star Wars universe slicing as opposed to 21st century Earth hacking.  When your Slicer starts thinking they can do anything, you might want to remind them that Stars Wars computer systems are smarter then existing systems.

Yes, they were originally based on late 1970s tech.  But the reality is that they don't have simple databases and networked hardware.  A given computer has droid-level intelligence to it, and some of them are very crafty at what they do.  A recycling plant computer might not be very bright, but convincing the paranoid security computer at an ISB outpost is going to be much harder.  Upgrade those challenge dice, toss in some setbacks too when reasonably appropriate. 

Lastly, there is probably a historical reason why Star Wars computers aren't all networked together.  But for play it doesn't really matter, so long as your slicer realizes that getting into one computer may not help at all at getting into the next one, and may in fact make it more difficult.

Slicer:  "3 successes, I'm in."
GM:  "Ok, you've successfully cracked the main terminal.  The data you seek isn't here though.  This has access records for the main door and copies of the last month's worth of security footage, plus authorized credentials for all the employees here."
Slicer:  "Ok, I go to the secondary terminal, that's probably where the info is."
GM:  This terminal is fairly easy to slice, no roll required.  Unfortunately, it's just an access point to get to the information from the main terminal."
Slicer's buddy:  "Hey, there's a hidden terminal behind this panel I think."
Slicer:  "I hack into that terminal."
GM:  "Alright, you've probably still got time, you've only spent about 5 minutes so far.  This one is harder, it's a security terminal.  So it will probably have the detention plans you're looking for.  Unfortunately it also routinely monitors activity at the other terminals, and it's a bit suspicious of what's been going on." (adds 2 setback dice)

bradknowles and themensch like this

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I guess my first question would be why you're assuming a six die (and which dice? Six proficiency dice is a LOT of XP. Someone with that much XP SHOULD succeed a lot) pool will always succeed - is he never opposed, under stress, or slicing in less than ideal conditions?

 

Heroic games make their PCs capable of success against impossible odds - if you're not throwing impossible odds against them, they're 100% going to steamroll a "realistic" challenge.

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To add to what the Admiral said, Star Wars computers are also a lot more "active" than our networks or systems.  Slicing major or difficult systems isn't just a matter of defeating the initial security layer, you have to stay one step ahead of the security programs that are actively trying to hunt down your connection and terminate it.  Particularly intelligent (read droid-operated) systems, or systems monitored by skilled slicers (which any secure installation should be) will be actively counter-slicing, if not attempting to slice into the slicer's system to see what they're after, or what access point they're using.

 

If you want to give him an epic moment, build a BBEG slicer (living or droid) and let the go at it in slicer-combat. (while the rest of the players are doing other things)  They can each roll 'combat rounds' of opposed slicing tests, dealing strain damage equal to successes to each other as they force the other to work that much harder just to keep the connection alive.  First one to threshold is out-sliced and has their terminal shut down.

 

On another note, Cappa is also right - if the guy is throwing six dice (presumably green/yellows) he should roll right by any reasonable challenge.  It's only the epic or otherwise highly stressful rolls he should be throwing.  See some of the "high level" threads in this forum about it.

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Well how they work depends on the source, some are all 77 style, others  more modern.

 

How it funtions in game often has as much to do with keeping things interesting as the tech seen in the films. Its not very interesting if the adventure can be completed with just a few computer checks in the slicers apartment.

 

Here's some notes I try to stick to:

  • Data nets are local and hardlined. Typically they top out at city, or planetary. There's little to no wireless data networks, for various reasons ranging from security to freq issues. 
  • Few networks are directly connected to a larger outer network. So slicing into the TaggeCo net means first breaking into a TaggeCo data center and bridging the TaggeCo net to another larger outer network.
  • Communication nets are separate from "data" nets. Complicated sounding, but short version is the network you Skype and Wikipedia on is on an entirely different internet then the control tower of your local starport. This is actually one of the functions of comms and coutier driods, to serve as a kind of sneakernet running data between public and private nets while maintaining the security of the air gap.
  • The holonet is its own beast, and little non-holonet dedicated systems are connected to it. No hacking corascant from tatooine.
  • Data can be sent wirelessly if you really want, but its usually some kind of tight beam or laser transmission that requires a lot to intercept. (This is the beaming referred to in ep iv).
  • Hacking droid brain style systems (the wheels mastercom) is remarkably hard, as they have multi layer redundancy that is always cross checking it. So even if you do, hack it, it'll usually only last for a limited time.
Edited by Ghostofman

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Sounds to me like your Slicer PC needs a personal nemesis.



Every now and then, this sentient shows up—at the least convenient times—to make your PC's life miserable.

Barring that, many systems are sure to have complex defense systems, droid AIs, and hidden electronic countermeasures that could cause harm to your PC or his equipment.

You could take the chase rules and modify them for computer use: just substitute Computers for Athletics and have the "chase" signify a battle of wits. A series of competitive checks while the rest of your party keeps the bad guys occupied... Or keeps a lookout... Or makes a beer run...

 

 

(Edit: fixed the sentence right under the video. It was bugging me.)

Edited by awayputurwpn

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The new Battlestar Galactica had an interesting premise for onboard computers and networked systems, and I take this "air gapping" (this is a real-world thing) as a great idea for Star Wars computer networks, particularly the ones PCs would want to slice.

 

I think the key to adjudicating slicing is to remember it's not one check to hack in.  I build my slicing encounters in multiple steps:

  • You crack the terminal's lock.  Okay, now you're on the network.  
  • You need to crack the authentication for that other system whilst avoiding system watchdogs.  
  • Then you need to dig around in a non-suspicious manner lest you alert the watchdogs. (Defensive hacking, hello!) 

Balancing the rolling against the narrative, I try to keep the flow moving so I won't have an entire session dedicated to hacking, but it could be the mainstay of a scene.  So much the better if they're getting shot at while doing it - nobody wants to sit around while the (slicer |netrunner | technomancer) hogs all the action.  

 

I also agree adapting the chase rules is brilliant, and I will be looking closely at that!  

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Like themensch, I also break slicing up into multiple checks if it's the focus of a scene. 

 

"You need to slice these 3 terminals to overload the central computer and shut it down."

 

Of course they're being shot at while it happens. So on successful checks, it takes one check to slice one terminal but then they need to reach the other terminals and slice them as well.

 

On a failed check, they need to try again, while under fire and experiencing other enemy interference.

 

If it's a simple thing I just call for one check.

 

 

Ebak, forgive me if this is out of line, but I have one suggestion that relates more to your players' conception of the GM's authority than it does to slicing.

 

You had trouble with the player using the killer blaster who would throw a fit if it got broken. And you have a slicer who it sounds like may be trying to take advantage of what slicing can do, over your objections as the GM.

 

It might be worth having a frank discussion with your players about "Look gang, we're all here just to have fun and play adventures. In order for that to work well, I need your permission to really BE the Game Master.

 

"That means if there's a question about a ruling or something, we can look it up after the game or discuss it, but during the session, if I make a ruling, just go with it and accept it because we're all here to have fun and I promise, I'm on your side."

 

Another conversation I usually have with a new group is something like this:

 

"Sometimes players can tend to OVER-identify with their characters. They don't want anything bad to happen to their characters, or don't want them to ever fail.

 

"But look at Star Wars. The heroes fail ALL THE TIME. They get captured, they get shot, they get betrayed, they make dumb choices or step on a branch and give their position away. In pulp adventure it's far more fun for everybody if we all understand that the heroes are going to be outnumbered and outgunned a lot of the time."

 

Remind them of this exchange:

 

Han: "How we doing?"

Luke: "Same as usual."

Han: "That bad, huh?"

 

Again, I don't know if this really does relate to the challenges you're having as a GM but I can tell you're enthusiastic about wanting to have a fun game for your players so it might help to discuss these issues of theme and authority with them.

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Generally all my players are very good, I just have a few pet peeves when it comes to the group. As for reinstating my authority. I do plan on doing that, I did do it last session and I intend to do it this session. That rifle will be having problems next session.

 

When it comes to the slicer of the group, he is a GM of other games, and so has very large misconceptions of the game, ala player VS GM as well as not understanding that the game does not simulate real life, it simulates a movie, where things happen because: plot. So because he believes he is a more qualified and experience GM, he usually questions my choices RAW which I am known to twist to make things fun.

 

I am very very very VERY hesitant to instigate 'rule 0'.

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Generally all my players are very good, I just have a few pet peeves when it comes to the group. As for reinstating my authority. I do plan on doing that, I did do it last session and I intend to do it this session. That rifle will be having problems next session.

 

When it comes to the slicer of the group, he is a GM of other games, and so has very large misconceptions of the game, ala player VS GM as well as not understanding that the game does not simulate real life, it simulates a movie, where things happen because: plot. So because he believes he is a more qualified and experience GM, he usually questions my choices RAW which I am known to twist to make things fun.

 

I am very very very VERY hesitant to instigate 'rule 0'.

 

It sounds like you need to have a direct talk with this player, alone. He sounds like he might have a bit of a control problem. Here are a few suggestions that have helped me greatly in the past, so I will pass them on:

 

1. Set clear boundaries before the game session, like progressions suggested. Nothing confrontational or accusatory, just something like, "Hey guys, I would appreciate it if we could try to keep the flow of the game going tonight. Please hold all rules disputes til after the session. My goal is that everyone has fun, and I just ask that you trust me to do that."

2. Address the situation broadly during the game, if you find that your earlier boundaries are being pushed. Just reinforce it: "Okay, that might be how the rules are written, but in this game, we're gonna play it this way for now."

3. If 1 and 2 fail, try making that person an ally. Give him the job of "looking up rules" or running certain NPCs during combat. Or make him the scribe of the group, task him with taking notes or keeping track of other PC's Thresholds, your ship's status, Critical Injuries, or once-per-session abilities. Sometimes it's just matter of engaging him where his passions are.

4. Talk with the player frankly, alone, and ask him to let you be the GM.

Edited by awayputurwpn

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I've got two pretty decent slicer PCs in my game, plus a scientist / inventor. The whole "Star Wars Science and Technology" has been a nagging question, as the info is pretty much scattered all over the Internet. I manage to do some handwaving unnoticed, but sometimes the questions are plot-relevant and I don't want to disempower players, especially when they invest in B&E, slicing, codebreaking, decryption, etc.

 

Is there a guide somewhere that could help? Or even an Order 66 podcast I didn't notice? (I looked, didn't find one on this topic.)

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What, exactly, is the question of "Star Wars Science and Technology" that you're looking for an answer to? Just what technology exists and what doesn't?

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The problem with answering this question definitively is each story can potentially have it different, heck even look at the movies.

 

Hacking the death star to get a whole layout of the space station and find the tractor beam area? like 2 minutes nearly no effort.

Finding the Princess? nearly no time.

Finding the "off" for the trash compactors? 5 minutes

Finding the button to turn off alarms? nearly impossible.

 

Opening a secure bunker door? lots of time

Trying to hotwire it ? quick, but very difficult (closed the blast doors... oops)

 

Accessing a video by yelling at a droid? (coercion) impossible

Accessing the same video by futzing with a piece of metal near the video display Brawl/coordination?, impossible

Accessing the same video when the intended recipient of the message - simple or easy.

 

Star Wars was never consistent about how to retrieve information from computers/electronics/droids though I am pretty certain the only universal truth of droids and star wars is yelling never works.

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What, exactly, is the question of "Star Wars Science and Technology" that you're looking for an answer to? Just what technology exists and what doesn't?

 

The list would be quite long. And yes, it would include a periodic table of the elements. Seems absurd, but I did check Wookieepedia to see if there was any mention of Polonium in SW (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Polonium) for a particular poisoning... And sometimes players wonder if all this Oridium (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Oridium) they loaded on their ship is radioactive, poisonous or else...

 

But more seriously, it's hard for example to find info about the exact function of the HoloNet (both pre-Empire-takeover or post-), and it's very easy to just think "Internet" because it rhymes. I tried to find info about wireless versus wired data transmission and it wasn't always clear how prevalent or not those were (for example, Lobot controls Cloud city mostly wirelessly; R2 has to unsheathe the scomp link all the time and carry the Death Star plans "physically" with him; Maul's probe droids were wireless, as are the senate/pod racing cameras). Just how hard is it to communicate through Hyperspace between two worlds: Obi Wan seemed to connect his commlink to the Republic/Public HoloNet through relays that allowed him to contact Coruscant, but it's not exactly clear how it functions. Can Black Sun or the Hutts communicate with their own relays? Electronic banking across the Galaxy seems to work reliably, at least coreward of the Outer Rim, even in the Imperial period.

 

The list could go on as long as curiosity goes... how easy is it to program a droid brain? Can you access individual thoughts/memories? Can you alter it (apart from memory wiping)? How much and what kind of fuel does a sublight engine need? Sometimes, we have great detail, like the Tibanna ammo for Blasters, or amazing starship plans including this amazing technobabble for hyperdrives:

 

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Hyperdrive

 

After receiving commands from a ship's pilot via paralight system, the process of a hyperspace jump began with the collection of gamma radiation by the field guide. A motivator would build up and modify the energy in a fusion generator through several kilometers of looped superconducting wire. To enter hyperspace, the hyperdrive's horizontal boosters would provide energy to the ionization chamber to begin ignition that would release the radiation, causing ripples in the time-space matrix and allowing the ship to propel off the ripples into hyperspace. Inertial dampers were used to protect the ship, crew, and cargo from being crushed by the tremendous acceleration of the jump. Once in hyperspace, a null quantum field generator helped stabilize the vessel and kept it from prematurely emerging from the alternate dimension. Shields also protected the ship from fatal collisions with interstellar gas and dark matter particles. To prevent the relativistic passing of time while in hyperspace, starships used stasis fields attuned to hyperdrive levels to keep organic onboard crews or cargoes "in time" with the standard galactic dimension.

 

Those are not really questions for the FFG RPG to answer, more setting's questions that would help run a game. And yes, I've had all kinds of weird questions, including a debate about the velocity needed to enter hyperspace.

Edited by BarbeChenue
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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.

 

 

I'm embarrassed to say I forgot to write down who the above quote is from (on this forum) but he did a great job of describing the holonet.

 

The Banking Clan, who originally controlled a large portion of interstellar banking, used their own Hyperspace relay system that was built into their frigates to generate a secure financial network.  I seem to recall at least one hutt using one as well. Hyperspace transceivers are expensive, though, particularly ones with any range (ie, are not hooking into the holonet)

 

Remote communications does not seem to be particularly uncommon, but it tends to be point-to-point rather than a Wireless networking system.  Lobot is linked to Cloud City, Maul's drones are linked to a viewer, Comms talk to other Comms.  Once could safely assume that any of these signals have at least basic encryption.  

 

Programing a Droid appears to be as much hardware as software.  Reprograming a droid appears to be all but impossible, though resetting the firmware (memory wipe) is semi-routine.   This reinforces the idea the droid programing is more hardware than software.  This would mean altering the programing would require physically altering their processor system.

 

Different sublight engines appear to run on different fuels. This is highly, highly contradictory across the stories though, as well as how much fuel is needed or taken to perform particular actions.  Most fuels appear to be liquids, although at least one has been said to be a solid, 'nuclear rod' like fuel unit. 

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If you're interested in ideas for a more complex rules system for hacking, consider taking a look at Shadowrun.  There are different rolls for accessing a system, establishing an identity in a system, hiding from sysadmins, finding data, exerting control, etc.  If you're looking to break things up into pieces for more complicated challenges, it's a starting point.

 

Keep in mind that the more rolls involved, though, the greater the likelihood of failure and despairs or triumphs.  If a player with 5 ranks in Computers and a 6 int has to make six rolls to break into the computer system of the local bar, they might get a little irritated.

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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.

 

 

I'm embarrassed to say I forgot to write down who the above quote is from (on this forum) but he did a great job of describing the holonet.

 

That would be knasserll, quoted from here: http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/topic/127397-the-google-effect/#entry1339765

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