An Expansion of The Grid

Discussion about the Cyber Sorcery Tabletop Role Playing Game
Quantomoo2
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Mar 04, 2024 7:10 pm

An Expansion of The Grid

Post by Quantomoo2 »

Been working on some Grid rules for Sinless. The goals are to create some rules that encourage everyone to be taking part (while still giving the dedicated decker a bit of a leg up) and to make navigating the grid something like a dungeon ponit-crawl. Here is what I have so far (not playtested at all):

In world, everything is powered by, and connected to, the grid. It is omnipresent and to some degree omnipotent. However, it comes in two "flavors": Augmented Reality (AR, what is in the rulebook) and Virtual Reality (VR or Full Dive).

AR lives as a second reality overlapping our physical one. It is made of holographic projections, AR constructs, and direct interactions with the physical. You see and work with it the most around NANs. However, that is only the surface. To see it all, you need to take a dive.



Accessing The Grid
If you want to access the grid, it is a lot like regular decking. You need a datajack to make the connection and if you aren't hotseating it in a nerve rig everything is at -2. However, there are alternative methods of entering the grid.
  1. Nerve Wreath (AKA: Feeder Rig) - With this, you are using electrodes connected to your scalp to get similar effects to a datajack without actually needing one. If you want to lug one around, they are weight 3 and take a complex action to set up. Anything more complex than a simple action breaks the connection and you need to reposition the electrodes. However, while you are using one you cannot hotseat and take an additional -1 (So effectively at -3). Work with your Agonarch on pricing.
  2. Terminal - Usually directly part of a NAN, it is possible to work in the grid through an actual terminal - usually some form of touch screen with specialized helper software for the old people who insist on using it. While using the terminal, you get access to a special simple action: operate terminal. You cannot take any actions with a terminal without having previously taken an operate terminal action, and each operate terminal action is only good for a single action (simple or complex). Also, you still can't hotseat and take an extra -1 (effectively at -3 always). However, there are a couple benefits. Unlike a feeder rig or datajack, you can't be harmed by damage to your avatar in the grid (but AR entities can still attack you like normal). And, you are never unaware of your surroundings since you aren't actually diving in.
Jacking into the grid itself is a complex action (even on a terminal, and that also requires the operate terminal action before it). Other than a terminal, you are taking a full dive into the matrix and will be unaware of your body while inside.



Topology of the Grid
Everything in the grid is classified as one of the following:
  • Hosts - Areas you can visit, the computer systems you are navigating
  • Nodes - Things you can interact with, connections to things in the physical
  • Entities - Avatars, ICE, AIs, etc.
The overall grid itself is represented by the root host. Every Host has a connection to the root host, but security can restrict access. So, theoretically you can navigate from any host to any other host while practically you can't.

By default, every NAN is represented as a publicly available host (that is they are directly accessible from the root host with no security restrictions). However, many corporations will "conglomerate" a number of their NAN hosts into a single larger host.

The framework of the grid also makes it very easy to create "virtual" hosts, which are identical to normal hosts--just without any relation to the physical.

By its very fundamentals, the Grid is closely entwined with the physical. In fact, it has its own set of coordinates, created by laying a hex grid over the globe (offworld gets special handling). This grid has hexes only a few feet across, so it is very precise. The coordinates for this grid are given as a set of 3 words, which can uniquely locate any single hex. In fact, you only need 2 of the 3 words to identify a single hex, but like this it also gives the ability to define a roughly triangular area. Each of the 3 directions you can navigate on a hex grid has a set of words with places close by having similar words (as much as it can be). In reality, these coordinates are just numbers that get translated for people to use.

These coordinates are very important, because it means that if someone gets your coordinates, they have your location to within a couple feet. And every NAN has both its own coordinates and the coordinates of everything connecting through it. However, these coordinates aren't just openly available. The NAN codes its own coordinates into a special NAN Key, that it gives to each avatar that connects through it. This key is unique for each avatar and is good for the duration that they are logged on, but it is not exclusive to them (that is, you can steal someone else's NAN key). The only way for someone to get your specific coordinates, is to figure out which NAN you are connecting from (not trivial) and request your coordinates from it.

NAN Keys are important, because many hosts are configured to only accept connections that come from a prepared list of NANs. A NAN Key is how you prove that, and it can't be faked. Corporations use this a lot to section off subnets of hosts to only allow on-site connections (and sometimes even from specific locations on site too!). As mentioned earlier, you can use someone else's key, but that key breaks when they log out (which doesn't kick you out, but can block your progress).

Handing over your NAN key is dangerous too, since if you provide it you are identifying the NAN you are connecting from. If there is an active trace on you, this means you have until the end of your turn before the trace locks onto you. However, if you provided a NAN key previously and a trace starts after you are safe (unless you provide the key again).

So, an example network for a shopping mall might look like so:

Code: Select all

			      Onsite NAN Requirement:
			      | *Security Office NAN
                              |
	   [  Public Host  ]  |  [      Security Host      ]
[GRID]-----[Almost all NANs]--|--[All cameras and security ]
	   [in the mall.   ]  |  [controls route here      ]
			      |


Nodes
While hosts are the spaces you navigate in VR, Nodes are what you are interacting with. Any system connected to the grid, creates an associated node in the host the NAN it connects through is associated with. This node will offer all the remote controls you would expect for that specific system (EX: A camera node would let you view the feed and control it).

There are a few types of nodes:
  • Physical Nodes - Nodes connected to something in the physical, with the controls you would expect (though it can be moved and replaced with a Pointer node)
  • Connection Nodes - Nodes representing connections to other hosts
  • Virtual Nodes - Nodes with no physical connection, usually something like files, software, or games (which might be full virtual worlds)
  • Pointer Nodes - These nodes appear as Physical or Virtual nodes, but instead point to where it can be found. Using this node, you can get there faster than regular navigation. Pointers should only point to things 1d6 nodes away.
You can ALWAYS find either the physical node or a pointer node for it in the host of the NAN a system is connected to. As an example, if you have a NAN and hook up some cameras, they will automatically create a node in the NAN's host. However, if you want to secure those controls in a safer host, you can move it there and a Pointer node will be left behind.

Nodes can be encrypted, which means that they cannot be interacted with until they are decrypted. Even for people who can decrypt the node, it is still a simple action to decrypt the node (but re-encryption is free!). Because of how onerous it is to work with, this is not usually done despite the security benefits.



Taking Action in the Grid: Macros
Macros represent the common actions people take in the grid. Every character peforming a dive is assumed to have these set up (minimum rating 1). The rating of these macros is based on TODO: Something from the brand Grid, the Decker's skills, or something else.

Performing any macro is a simple action. These are the basic macros:
  • Logoff - General - Logoff as gracefully as possible, cleaning up traces while you do so
  • Contact - General/Entity - Attempt to securely contact (text, audio, and video all possible) someone whose contact info you have, or who is present in your host.
  • Analyze - Host/Node/Entity - Figure out what a thing is (even if it is trying to appear as something else) and checks out its security
  • Key - Host/Node/Entity - Provide a key or otherwise validate credentials
  • Search - Host - Try and locate something. Extra successes can expand the search to connected hosts (1 success=1connected host). You can also spend an extra success to create a one-time-use pointer node
  • Map - Host - Map out the connections from the host. Extra successes add extra depth to the mapping (i.e., following connections in connected hosts too)
  • Locate - Host - Retrieve the coordinates of the NAN(s) this host represent. Fails (but still takes an action) in Virtual Hosts.
  • Connect - Node - Follow a connection node, enter a virtual world with a virtual node, or follow a pointer node (success => number of hosts moved, assuming you actually can enter those hosts)
  • Modify Security - Host/Node - Attempt to modify the security permissions of a host or node (Control what Macros can be used on/in it). Some Hosts/Nodes have this ability split off into its own virtual node, so directly attempting to Modify Security will fail (still taking an action)
  • Read - Node - Read data/info from a node. For non-traditional nodes (e.g., a Game), this may provide a summary of what it is about or some view of what is going on inside it.
  • Write - Node - Attempt to write data to a node, edit its contents, or delete it
  • Control - Node - Attempt to use a node to control something it is intended to control (e.g., locks or a camera feed)
  • Shift - Node/Entity - Bring yourself and the target into or out of the AR field of a host's NAN (e.g., drag some ICE into the AR field so your buddies in the physical can fight it for you)
Basic macros are safe to use, though they may be denied by security policies. They do not raise the alert level when used. Illegal macros, however, do:
  • Attack- A general assault on an entity
  • Disguise - Pretend to be a node or another entity (does not let you fabricate credentials)
  • Steal key - Automatically succeeds on suppressed entities
  • Force Access - Attempt to break security restrictions. This lets you perform Basic macros you normally would not. This macro CANNOT force access past a NAN key requirement and it cannot be used to enable Modify Security if that macro is controlled by an external node.


TODO LIST
  • Expand on the illegal macros
  • Software Entities
  • Security measures (like Tracing!)
  • Logout and dump rules
  • Your avatar?
Agonarchartist
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Mar 04, 2024 2:34 pm

Re: An Expansion of The Grid

Post by Agonarchartist »

Ok, Here are some comments!

I'm open to feedback on all of the following.

There was cut content regarding Programming, Different digital defenses and attacks, and host infiltration.

The intent is to eventually have some type of ability to do 'dungeon crawls' virtually, for rewards in the sector turn/operation.

Some commentary:

Terminal: You don't actually need a screen. The Nan can see you, and knows what you want. Like it has viewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 52,560,000,000,000 hours of humans on video, so it has a pretty solid understanding of human behavior. You can just ask, or gesture, and an AR construct will pop up to make you comfortable as it replies to your request with your specific preferences and parameters.

The idea of a "Screen" is so 2040's.

My feeling is that, we should really only bother with declaring things as having an action cost if we specifically have a procedure that occurs during a conflict round. This isn't pathfinder. If you're not in a combat round, you can just do it. More on this in a second.

The things you define as entities are currently officially referred to as "Agents" or "Daemons" (Based solely on your opinion of the importance of the entity)

I don't know what sort of philosophy is behind you can't get from one host to every host. The internet is the elimination of space. We have to define and introduce space in the web of light we built for it to exist (e.g. create x,y,z matrices to track objects; take this video image and apply depth mapping to an internal coordinate system). I think my designs will probably lean into that. That said, I get it, we've got to have a dungeon to crawl.

You know I recognize the pith of this from 3e. I love it, but it didn't really ever work, imhe. I mean, like anything shadowrun, you could figure something out, but that's not what I'm getting paid for. The reason I cut an implementation of this is I couldn't get the time together to make it work *right*. Like, this seems like a very complicated procedure that wasn't designed as a fun game to play in itself.

I think *my* goals are that whatever minigame the decker is playing, it is fun, in and of itself, and it is related to the actions taken during play. What does the gameplay loop for this look like at the table, and what exactly is fun about it? Identify those things, cut the rest, and revise and refine.

Now the great stuff:

What I *love* is the hex grid and the nan keys, and the pointers. All these are great ideas! "Why is it called the grid?" There's an actual grid of hexes on the planet! Brilliant! Nan keys are great McGuffins; this is the threat, the thing that's in danger. The specifics would be related to whatever finishes happening with the rules.

The pointers get to what I'd like to make fun at the table, like a *maze*. A dungeon is just a flowchart right? If there's a hidden chart, and whatever is happening in the maze is directly related to what's going on, and it can be coordinated 1:1 with external stuff, that's the juice.

My focus right now is on asset cards and the first adventure, but this is certainly on the agenda.
darkfluid
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2024 3:05 am

Re: An Expansion of The Grid

Post by darkfluid »

Quick thoughts.

Action cost..leave it in there..doesn't hurt, as you never know what players will ask to do during conflict...but keep it simple...the above keeps a lot of things at a simple action...that's great. Otherwise I agree..it's just happens..which leads me to the below point.

I really appreciate that all that stuff was cut..not just because of time to get it together..but also because it allowed hacking to stay light and not pull a decker away into a mini game mid run while everyone gets bored and naps..but allows them to do things..it's a good core compromise for fun gam ability. It also helps that pulling all the extra software out just happened be neat and clean and still leave the core programs that allow a decker to do all of the main things...

So to me I like this as an add on..it allows solo sessions with some deckers to get some things done should that ever come up and brings depth to an all/mostly decker campaign. Having just re-read Count Zero...having a ride along option for those with a nerve wreath or data jack....and maybe a few rules could be cool for these situations. I envision the ride along as not being able to hack..or maybe even do any combat (if so highly penalized)..but they can use their eyes and maybe provide bonus dice and of course suffer damage and die when riding along....this wouldn't be used a ton in the game I would think..but maybe fun/handy for these types of campaigns...I mean..even if another decker rides along..they could maybe supply some bonus dice if they didn't have their own deck but wanted to jack in to help.

I do like the hex grid idea..but honestly would be fine with point crawl style as it mirror moving over the limited transatlantic fiber or corporate uplinks. It also helps simulate how ICE can trap you and you have to search for...or have no way out. With all the work you've put into the idea of the grid..with NAN Keys etc...I think it's cool and I would stick with it. Either one for the VR deep dive..I like it, I want it for my genre fulfillment..even if I might only use it for a narrative or sector action flavor in actual game time. The other thing in re-reading Gibson that struck me..is how open it is for travel..unlike the current internet. So the idea you can go wherever...see everything from the outside..but you need a NAN key...or you need to slice through ICE to get in is on point in the genre for me. So a big thing is slicing through ICE...while simultaneously obscuring...or keeping up an illusion of a different NAN key...I can see teams working that way..one cowboy slicing while the other works full time to obscure and another monitors etc...
Agonarchartist
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Mar 04, 2024 2:34 pm

Re: An Expansion of The Grid

Post by Agonarchartist »

Yeah. TBC. Right now the decker has (usually) 3-5 actions they use to accumulate successes for various things. Those things are:
1. Overcoming hardening (2x successes vs. hardening)
2. Locating files (1-4 successes)
3. Decrypting files 6-~40 successes.
4. hacking nodes (successes increase radius)
and rarely, casting nan spells.

I do not think 'success accumulation' is particularly compelling gameplay, but it is far superior to whatever was/is going on in other cyber sorcery games.

it is certainly open for review and comment.
Painkiller Jane
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Apr 29, 2024 9:43 pm

Re: An Expansion of The Grid

Post by Painkiller Jane »

How does the alarm system work on the grid and how does it influence heat? I saw that some hacking software has an alert value.... but what value has to be reached to increase the heat of an operation
Agonarchartist
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Mar 04, 2024 2:34 pm

Re: An Expansion of The Grid

Post by Agonarchartist »

Those are excellent questions!

Alert is a global effect. You start off at alert 0, and when you move, hack things, or take actions, the alert raises complicating matters. Once the characters are discovered, you move over into "Heat" and from that point, there's usually 9-11 rounds until the end of the mission.

Think of triggering "Heat" as the deployment phase of a warhammer battle. As the damage gets higher, heat will rise, very quickly, and once it peaks, there's a 2d6 timer to the end of the mission.

All actions once the operation begins raise alert. Each person taking a turn to move will raise the alert by 2, with shadow rolls (1 success/2 successes) reducing that down to 0. Activating software raises alert the noted value.

Alert being triggered makes it harder to avoid getting more alert. It does things like "Adds patrols" "Turns on cameras that cause alert to raise by 4 when moving instead of 2" etc.

Note that powerful hackers can completely nullify alert, though it requires some amount of focus.
It's like, every action (deciding what to do, moving, talking to guards, hiding stuff, opening doors, etc.) raises alert.

Alert generally runs 0-60, with security increases every 4-8 ticks. Once heat triggers, it has several levels that rise based on actions.