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Zsig

Icebreaker Limits Confusion

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Posted (edited)

At first I thought I understood the rules, but the more I read it, the more confused I get. I can't seem to get what's the intended way to play with the limits on how many programs a runner can have active at any given time (or, for that matter, what "active" means).

I gathered all sources I could find on the book regarding the subject:

Equipment

From pages 98 to 99 (and 106), the computers entries each describe how many ice/icebreakers the device can have "active" at once.

  1. PAD: can have 1 icebreaker and 1 ice active at once;
  2. Spinal Modem: can have 2 icebreakers and 1 ice active at once;
  3. Portable Rig: can have 2 icebreakers and 2 ice active at once;
  4. Big Rig: can have 4 icebreakers and 6 ice active at once.

All descriptions also include a "(for the purposes of network encounters)". Whatever that means (more on that later).

Finally, the Custom Rig talent (page 44) allows the device to store (own) one extra program (or, number of programs the device can own is increased by one).

Curiously, on the starting gear for the runner career (page 39), it includes an option to have a pad with 2 icebreakers, which shouldn't be possible since the PAD can only hold 1 icebreaker, so, maybe they are assuming your character has the Custom Rig talent, or...

There's something missing...

 

The Sidebar

Back at page 99, there's a sidebar with the title "What Can a PAD Hold", and it states that (as I understand it) the limitations above are only valid while the runner is making a run (a network encounter). Outside of those encounters, any device can hold as many programs as their owners wish (credits not being a problem).

But then, comes the final culprit...

 

Network Encounter Rules

On page 132, there's a maneuver named Activate Program, and there it is stated that if a runner activates an icebreaker, all other icebreakers automatically deactivate. Also, it says a runner may only have one icebreaker "active" at a time. (The Codeslinger talent, page 48, allows 2 icebreakers active at once).

Which contradicts the whole thing!

Unless the term "active" is being used for two distinct purposes and are not to be treated as the same thing, basicly I have the following interpretation.

 

Current Interpretation

Each device can host as many programs as you wish, but when an encounter starts, the runner gets to choose which programs he/she is bringing to the run, limited by the device's storage space (I think of this as a warrior readying to go out on a journey who owns several weapons but can only bring so many on his body, leaving all other weapons back at home).

While on the run, from those programs brought in, the runner can actively be "wielding" a single icebreaker (I think of this as a warrior in combat with several weapons stored on him, but that can only wield a single weapon). The codeslinger talent effectively works as a "dual wielding" (as in, you can wield one weapon in each hand in combat).

 

If this interpretation is not correct (maybe because the term "active" on both the equipment descriptions and the activate program maneuver), then the rules get a bit wonky and everything falls apart as one section will contradict another.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to throw this at the community and see what everyone thinks are the rules as intended.

BTW, I sent the question to FFG and still haven't got an answer.

 

Edited by Zsig

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On the most recent episode of the Dicepool Podcast, Sam Gregor-Stewart explained that the limits on the devices should have been “installed” rather than “active”.  As you point out, you can only have one breaker active at a time (important to note that limitation does not apply to ice). So your interpretation is correct. 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Gamedog said:

On the most recent episode of the Dicepool Podcast, Sam Gregor-Stewart explained that the limits on the devices should have been “installed” rather than “active”.  As you point out, you can only have one breaker active at a time (important to note that limitation does not apply to ice). So your interpretation is correct. 

Ahh, good to know, I started to listen to it, but it's over 2 hours long, and after 10 minutes into it, they're still talking about random stuff that has nothing to do with the game, so I gave up. Life's too short.

Anyways, changing the wording to "installed" would clear up a lot of the confusion... but not all of it. There should be a clear distinction between the programs that are "installed" from the ones that are currently "ready" for use during an encounter. So I'd use the following terms:

  • Installed: for all programs that are installed in the device (no limit);
  • Ready: the programs that are available for the runner during the encounter (limited by device type);
  • Active: the program currently being used to break ice (limit of 1, or 2 with the talent).
Edited by Zsig

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Posted (edited)

 

3 hours ago, Zsig said:

So I'd use the following terms:

  • Installed: for all programs Ice or Icebreaker that are installed in the device (no limit);
  • Ready: the programs that are available for the runner during the encounter (limited by device type);
  •  Active: the program currently being used to break ice (limit of 1, or 2 with the talent).

 

11 hours ago, Zsig said:
  1. PAD: can have 1 icebreaker and 1 ice active installed at once;
  2. Spinal Modem: can have 2 icebreakers and 1 ice active installed at once;
  3. Portable Rig: can have 2 icebreakers and 2 ice active installed at once;
  4. Big Rig: can have 4 icebreakers and 6 ice active installed at once.

 

As I understand it (Thank to Gamedog for pointing out the podcast clarification) the word "active" should not have been used in the description of computers. You can have a limited number of ice and icebreakers installed on each computer device, specified in the item's description. 

Only one icebreaker can be active ("running") at a time, unless a specific rules allows you to, such as the codeslinger talent. The "activate program" maneuver is used to activate an icebreaker.

I think the the sidebar on page 99 "WHAT CAN A PAD HOLD?" simply suggest that you should not bother keeping track of data or program stored on computers that are not ice or an icebreaker. 

I would assume a Runner could have Ice and Icebreakers stored on different computers or storage device and swap them between devices (Copy and Install) given enough time and provided there is enough free space on the target device. The book makes no mention of this so this is a personal call.

Am I mistaken?

A clarification should be added to the FAQ.

Edited by Aazlain
barred some text

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Aazlain said:

Am I mistaken?

A clarification should be added to the FAQ.

I think you are. That's why I think clarification is needed.

If you assume what you say is right, then they must fix the starting gear suggestion for runners, as they offer a PAD with 2 icebreakers (which then wouldn't be possible, because PADs are limited to 1 icebreaker).

Both the sidebar and the device descriptions make use of the "for the purpose of network encounters" sentence, and I take it to mean that said device limitations are only aplicable when running network encounters, outside of those encounters, you can have as many as you want.

Edited by Zsig

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For reference: 

The Dice Pool Podcast S01 E24

This is discussed at 1:52:53

In the podcast, they use an analogy, comparing the computers' icebreaker/ice limit to the number of weapons carried, and the active icebreaker to the weapon that is currently drawn or ready.

Using the Portable Rig as an example (2 icebreakers and 2 ice)

  • We can think of the 2 icebreakers and 2 ice limit as the maximum number of weapons you can have on your person (holstered), sort of like a character's encumbrance capacity.
  • The active icebreaker(s) would be the weapon(s) you have readied (in your hand). (One at a time, or two with the codeslinger talent)
  • You can have more ice and icebreakers than the limit listed in computer's description but those are not readily available (not installed). I think that is what the page 99 sidebar suggest. To quote Sam Gregor-Stewart (the designer), these would be like the weapons your character have back home in a box with a lock on it. That should be what the box on page 99 refers to.

Having listened to that explanation, the starting gear can be confusing but it is not an error. You can have two icebreakers on your PAD, but only one is "installed" and available during a Hacking encounter. You could switch between the two but not during the hacking encounter. 

These are the conclusions I'm drawing from the podcast.

 

 

 

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What you said above is exactly what I posted on my first post. The only difference is that I used the term "installed, but not running" where he uses the term "stored on a folder but not installed". In effect, though, it's the same thing.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Zsig said:

What you said above is exactly what I posted on my first post. The only difference is that I used the term "installed, but not running" where he uses the term "stored on a folder but not installed". In effect, though, it's the same thing.

Yes. I agree with your first post's interpretation.

As you said, the wording in the book is confusing. The word "active" currently refers both to a) the numbers of ice/icebreakers you can have at once on a device, and b) the icebreaker you currently have activated in an encounter. This should be corrected or clarified.

I will use a different wording in my campaign for the first two 'states' until there is an official correction:

  • Stored, Packaged, Archived, Compressed or Backed-up (No limits)
  • Installed, Running, Stand-by or Ready (Limited, as per item's description)
  • Active (1 icebreakers active at once, two with codeslinger talent. Activate/switch with "activate program" maneuver)

Thanks to you and Gamedog for helping sort this out.

Edited by Aazlain

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Has anybody asked FFG yet if successfully broken ice automatically re-activates after the runners next turn, or if it has to be re-activated by the sysop?

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2 hours ago, DrVecctor said:

Has anybody asked FFG yet if successfully broken ice automatically re-activates after the runners next turn, or if it has to be re-activated by the sysop?

The answers is NO ! No need to ask FFG for something so obvious. Seriously if a broken ice automatically re-activate after the runner next turn, why bother to break it ? What do you think is the purpose of breaking an ice ?

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, DrVecctor said:

Has anybody asked FFG yet if successfully broken ice automatically re-activates after the runners next turn, or if it has to be re-activated by the sysop?

I think the wording is a little tricky but here's the passage form the PDF:

"If the runner succeeds, the security program shuts down and cannot be reactivated until the end of the runner’s next turn. Runners can spend [1 Advantage] or [Triumph] to keep a program shut down longer, or to completely disable it (see page 130)."

The wording seems to imply that the broken ICE stays offline.  It cannot be reactivated until the runner's next turn.  It doesn't say it WILL be reactivated next turn, just that the defending sysop can't even try.  Then the runner can spend Advantage or Triumph to keep it shut down longer or even permanently disable it. 

 

Edited by themensch
edited out cruft for clarity.

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Interesting, I haven't thought about it like that, but I see your point. I mean, you could still break up to two ices on the same subsystem and use enact command maneuver to do something on the subsystem itself afterwards before you get thrown out by ice reactivating.

In any case, now I think it doesn't reactivate automatically but rather states that it can't be reactivated by sysops in that time-frame, because otherwise sysops activate program maneuver would be too strong. I.e. runner breaks the ice, uses one advantage to keep it deactivated one round longer, sysops just spends one maneuver and reactivates it throwing runner out of the subsystem without any cost almost.

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On page 127 it says [if you break the ice] it is deactivated until the end of your character's next turn. It does not say "it is deactivated at least until the end of your character's next turn". This is the passage that made me think it could auto-reactivate (plus the fact that it does in Android Netrunner).

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There are (at least) four places where they talk about how long ice stays deactivated.

pg 127 "The runner must break the first piece of ice (which remains deactivated until the end of their next turn), then wait a turn to perform the attempt access incidental again and break the next piece of ice."

pg 128 "If the strength of their action is greater than the strength of the ice, they successfully override the piece of ice. The ice is deactivated until the end of your character’s next turn."

pg 128 "Remember, overridden ice typically remains deactivated until the end of your character’s next turn, meaning that your character can spend two turns breaking through two pieces of ice and usually still  perform at least one enact command maneuver involving the protected partition before the firewalls come back up."

pg 129 "If the runner succeeds, the security program shuts down and cannot be reactivated until the end of the runner’s next turn."

The second and third of these indicates that the norm is for ice to reactivate after the hackers next round.  So why do the rules seem to say that this is not always the case?  It is because hackers can spend Advantages to increase the number of rounds ice stays inactive (pg 130).

Given all this, I conclude that ice automatically reactivates.

 

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, TheSapient said:

Given all this, I conclude that ice automatically reactivates.

Then there is an error in the Activate Program maneuver on page 132 where it states that the Activate Program maneuver can be used to reactivate ice. If ices reactivates automatically, the Activate Program maneuver should not apply to ice.

ACTIVATE PROGRAM
Available To: Runner, Sysop
Description: Characters use this maneuver to activate (or
reactivate) ice and icebreakers...
If a sysop activates or reactivates a piece of ice, a runner
can’t access (or can no longer access) any of the subsystems
behind it until they break through the piece of ice (or break
through it again) ...

Unless this applies to player characters only? Still confusing.

In all cases, this is definitely a question for Sam Gregor-Stewart.  This should also be clarified in a FAQ.

Edited by Aazlain

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Posted (edited)

That is a good point.  Maybe it is referring to having multiple pieces of ice installed on a device, deactivating one, activating another, then reactivating the first?  I suppose there are other circumstances in which ice might be deactivated and need reactivating.  A reboot of the system, perhaps.  Diagnostic work.  I tend to think this is what they were trying to say, given that both ice and ice breakers were included in activating and reactivating, and just the tone of the rest of the description of the maneuver. 

I think it all brings up another question.  What does a Sysop notice?  If they have noticed someone is in the system, do they see ice being deactivated and subsystems being accessed?  I think they do not.  I think it would require Compters (Sysop) checks to examine each piece of ice and subsystem to determine if/what had been done.

Edited by TheSapient

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Looking at the quoted pieces from the rulebook, maybe both situations could be true?

Kinda confusing but I'll try to explain...

First situation: A runner breaks a piece of ice. It stays deactivated and will reactivate automatically by the end of the runner's next turn. Nothing the sysop could do here.

Second situation: A runner breaks a piece of ice and spends advantage to keep deactivated for an additional round. It will automatically reactivate after two rounds, but, after the first round has passed (minimum amount of time before the ice can be reactivated), the sysop could spend a maneuver to reactivate it earlier... or they could wait another round so it would reactivate automatically.

 

Either way, that seems a bit complex and I honestly don't think I have anything good to contribute to this conversation except that I could be convinced either way at this point whether it takes an Activate Maneuver by the sysops or not to reactivate the ice. :lol:

 

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Posted (edited)
On 3/26/2019 at 4:35 PM, Zsig said:

Second situation: A runner breaks a piece of ice and spends advantage to keep deactivated for an additional round. It will automatically reactivate after two rounds, but, after the first round has passed (minimum amount of time before the ice can be reactivated), the sysop could spend a maneuver to reactivate it earlier... or they could wait another round so it would reactivate automatically.

I like the idea, but looking up the actual text, it says you can spend one Advantage or Triumph in the following way:

"Thorough Override (Runner Only): If the runner successfully broke a piece of ice, it cannot be reactivated for one additional round."

This has the "cannot be reactivated" text, so I don't think a Sysop could use the Activate Program action to reactivate ice.

I'm almost completely convinced that reactivation is automatic.  It is the non-passive language that makes me slightly unsure.  Why does it  say "cannot be reactivated" instead of "does not reactivate"?  That does imply active participation in the act of reactivating.

Edited by TheSapient

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I guess, while testing it, they tried several approaches until they fixed it on a single definitive one.

But when finishing the book, the rules conflict got past editing, so we ended up having this instead.

I believe what we can do is test it and see how it feels for the sysops having to spend maneuvers to reactivate ice vs. automatic reactivation, on a equivalent level (both runner and sysops going deep/shallow, both with the same amount of experience, etc). Whatever feels more balanced is the answer.

From what I could tell, on the runner part, it is quite common to finish a turn with spare maneuvers (specially when you are facing a sub-system with multiple ice protecting it), not sure about the sysops, they'll probably spend most his actions on tracing, but not sure about maneuvers.

 

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From my few sessions, where I did not use automatic reactivation, I now think that automatic reactivation is a better solution.  It adds more tension to the scene, forces harder choices, and allows the GM to build systems that require either an extremely good hacker that can reliably generate advantages, or multiple runners.  Because maybe the deepest darkest secrets of Haas Bioroid should be really hard to get at, but still possible with a big, quality team of runners.

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Posted (edited)

Ok. That was fast. Got an answer from Sam Gregor-Stewart. (RPG Manager of Fantasy Flight Games)

Q. Does broken ice reactivates automatically at the end of the runner's next turn or does the Sysop needs to use the Activate Program maneuver to reactivate ice?

A. It reactivates automatically. Hope this helps!

--- 

As Zsig suggested, there probably is leftover text from a previous version of the rules in the description of the Activate Program maneuver. Here is my personal take:

ACTIVATE PROGRAM
Available To: Runner, Sysop
Description: Characters use this maneuver to activate (or reactivate) ice and icebreakers, as well as other programs that do not fall into either category.

If a sysop activates or reactivates a piece of ice, a runner can’t access (or can no longer access) any of the subsystems behind it until they break through the piece of ice (or break through it again). If a runner activates an icebreaker, all of their other icebreakers automatically deactivate. A runner may only have one icebreaker active at a time.
...

In the free Android Adventure, there is a description on page 10 of how the Sysop adversary uses its actions and maneuvers to oppose the runner. It made no mention of the sysop using maneuvers to reactivate broken ice.

Edited by Aazlain
Added comment on activate program maneuver.

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6 hours ago, Seam said:

That came as a surprize for me. For what does a Sysops use Actovate Program then?

I suppose we don't need to think of systems as being static and unchanging.  A Sysop could be taking ice offline, putting new ice online, or reactivating ice that s/he deactivated for various reasons.  Maybe the servers are going through diagnostics.  Maybe the Sysop shut down some ice so the authorities could examine a subsystem.  Maybe the Sysop sees there is an intruder and activates ice that is there, but not running.  Maybe a Sysop is lazy, and just keeps all the ice on their server disabled so s/he doesn't have to keep typing in passwords, and suddenly needs to get everything activated.  Maybe the server is just coming online, and the Sysop needs to activate each piece of ice.

All of these can be hooks to motivate PC's to act at certain times or in certain ways.

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