NET RUNNING RULES
The Net is a slightly different construct than the original Internet. Whereas the old Internet was really a handful of servers that routed all web page and FTP requests, The Net is a massive network of fiber optics, satellite links, and thousands of junction control boxes. The increase in the amount of hardware means it’s a lot harder to bring it down than the original Internet.
The World Wide Web is gone. The Net actually looks a lot like the early Internet. There are basically two things to find in The Net: Bulletin Boards and Data Fortress. Bulletin Board Sites or BBS are locations designed to allow free or mostly free access to information provided there. A board may require payment in money or information to trade, but in the end, BBS exist to disseminate information.
Data Fortresses are any enclosed systems or networks linked to The Net. They could be as small as a single PC or as large as a mega-corporation’s entire internal network.
Thanks to the breakthrough of the I-G algorithms, net runners can now explore The Net as a virtual reality environment. Combined with a cyber-link, Net running can now be a totally immersive experience.
To run the net, a runner needs at least three things: a cybermodem, a user interface, and a Net connection.
A cybermodem is a modem that uses the I-G algorithms to convert Net architecture into a three dimensional virtual environment. It also converts the user’s motions or thoughts into commands within The Net. A cybermodem can be run through three basic types of devices.
The simplest, and most common, is the cyber deck. A cyber deck is little more than a cybermodem with memory for programs, and input jacks. It is the most efficient device for running The Net and the most portable. This is especially true if the deck is both battery operated and has a cellular Net link, allowing Net access literally while on the go.
A cybermodem can also be run through a workstation. A workstation is essentially a desktop PC. The workstation has two advantages over the cyber deck. The first is that its memory can be maxed out to 30 MU as opposed to a deck’s 20, and speed can be maxed out at +7 as opposed to a deck’s +5. Also, the workstation supports a larger array of peripherals than a deck. The disadvantage is the reduced portability. The PC can be moved, but not without some preparation.
The server is the highest end way to run The Net. A server can support input from multiple workstations and cyber decks. Servers max out at 250 MU and a +9 speed. They can also run a multi-tasker program that can allow up to three runners at once or one runner to use three actions per turn. The program does reduce speed by 2 however. The big downside to a server is price, (its expensive) and its size. A server is pretty much hardwired and is not going anywhere without extensive work.
A user interface is how the runner communicates with his cybermodem. The old classic stand by is the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. It’s such an inefficient way to work that the user is at a –6 to system speed and a –6 penalty to all rolls that use the Interface skill. The good news is that you are immune to anti-personnel programs.
The next step up is the VR gloves & goggles rig. This allows a somewhat more immersive experience than the keyboard & monitor. It has only a –4 Interface and speed penalty and the user is still immune to anti-personnel attacks.
The next best version is the electrodes attached to the forehead. They allow for direct input and output from the brain to the cybermodem. This method has a –2 Interface and speed penalty, but the user is now subject to anti-personnel attacks.
The most efficient interface method is to have a neural co-processor implant with a cyber link. The user can link the cybermodem to their brain without the resistance involved in sending signals through the scalp and skull as with electrodes. There is no Interface or speed penalty with this method, but of course, there are the anti-personnel programs.
The final piece of the puzzle is the Net connection. Internet Phone Corporation, despite its outdated name, controls access to The Net. To legally access The Net, the user must have an access code. This code is tied to the point of entry. If using a hard line, the line itself has an access code. If using a cellular modem, the cell account being used has the access number. The user can get a code by purchasing a data plan. For a monthly fee, the user gets unlimited access to The Net, although using Long Distance Links does require an extra fee.
Of course if you don’t want to pay, you can always use someone else’s hard line, clone a cellular account, or write an access program that generates an access code without an account. The upside is that besides saving some Eurodollars, it also makes you harder to track down in realspace if someone traces your point of origin in cyberspace. The downside is that if Net Watch stops you for any reason, and determines you are not using a legitimate access code, legal problems will ensue.
TRAVELING IN THE NET
Once you have gotten into The Net, its time to start moving around. The Net is a three dimensional space that exists on four scales. The smallest is the system scale. If the runner is operating at this scale, he is inside or trying to get inside a specific system called a sub-grid. Runners can switch between this and the local scale at any system icon.
The next scale up is the local scale. Most of the time, if a runner is at this scale, he is operating in a city grid. The Net at this scale appears to be the same size as Realspace. In other words, the distance between the Militech data fortress and the PetroChem data fortress in The Net will appear to be the same distance apart as between the Militech office building and the Petrochem office building in realspace since it is within these buildings that the corporations’ networks are set up. Luckily, you move faster in The Net than in realspace. A runner can get clear across downtown Night City in about 8 seconds.
Although it is possible to move to a different city grid at the local scale, a much faster way is to jump to the regional scale. Making this switch requires finding a Long Distance Link (LDL). The IPC provides them for public access, but a runner may find a private LDL located within a data fortress. By jumping to the regional scale, a net runner can move from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in about the same 8 seconds.
Some LDL links also support WDL links, which grant access to the global scale. At the global scale, a runner can move from Los Angeles to London in about 4 seconds. He could also go to the Tycho moon colony in about 22 seconds. Remember, that once a runner leaves a city grid via an LDL, the meter on long distance charges begins. It continues to run until he returns to the city grid via the same link.
Regardless of what scale you are on, you can move 5 squares per turn. You can see up to 20 squares. You can also see in every direction at once. Data walls and icons do block line of sight. All systems, programs, and runners are represented by an icon.
HACKING DATA FORTRESSES
To hack a data fortress, the runner first needs to get inside. The exterior of a data fortress is made of data walls and code gates. Those with the proper codes can enter the gates. The rest have to do it the hard way. Once inside, the runner can interact with all programs and systems located in the fortress. An icon represents each program and system. The runner’s targets will be things like remotes, memory files, and CPUs. But he must also contend with defense programs and even other runners. Some larger corporations will also keep a system operator (sysop) active in the fortress all of the time. Not only are these talented net runners, (that’s how they got the job,) but they are also running via a server that can likely run rings around your cyber deck. It could be worse though. The data fortress could be an AI.
GATES, FILES, AND DATA WALLS
To get through a gate, or open a locked file, the runner calls up a decryption program. To get through a data wall, the runner uses an intrusion program. In either case, the following roll is made:
Program Strength + 1d10 vs. target strength + 1d10.
All programs, data walls, and code gates have strength values that are used in the above roll. In this type of situation, a program may only be used against the target once. If it fails, it just doesn’t have what it takes to break that code barrier.
Inside the fortress, the runner can get access to files. Once a file is unlocked, the runner can edit, delete, or copy the files as he wishes. These are basic functions of the cybermodem and do not require special programs.
A remote is basically a hardware unit controlled by the system. This could include something as basic as a printer to building systems such as locks, elevators, and cameras, to vehicles and combat drones. If the runner gets access to a remote, and has the appropriate controller program, he can attempt to control the remote. Roll a 1D10. If the result is equal to or less than the strength of the controller program, the runner has control of the remote.
At the heat of every data fortress is one or more CPUs. CPUs can be attacked using anti-system programs. Attacking CPUs is resolved the same way as intrusion programs. In fact, the CPU’s strength is the same as the data fortress’ data wall strength.
It is important to remember that the runner’s system also has a CPU that can be attacked through the runner. This is why you may want to spend a few extra bucks on your cyber deck’s data walls.
The situations above involve interacting with passive systems. In many cases the runner is dealing with an active program, another net runner, or an AI CPU. In these cases, initiative must be rolled.
Attacker’s INT + Speed + 1D10 vs. Defender’s INT + Speed + 1D10.
Rounds work a little different in cyberspace. Unless a runner is using a multi tasker, he may only take one action per round. Also, in cyberspace, a round is 2 seconds. That means for every round that happens in realspace, three rounds happen in cyberspace.
STEALTH AND DETECTION
As you move through The Net, any program that is within 20 squares and has line of sight can see you…unless you are running a stealth program. In this case, both the runner and the program roll the following:
Stealth program strength + 1D10 vs. system program + 1d10
If the runner gets the better roll, the system program fails to spot him. If not, the program detects the runner’s presence. Sometimes you are not dealing with just a program, but another net runner or AI. While you have got a stealth program, he’s got a detection program. In this case the following roll is made:
Program strength + Interface + 1d10 vs. Program strength + Interface + 1d10
Whoever gets the higher roll; their program succeeds in doing its job.
ATTACKS AGAINST PROGRAMS
Sometimes the only way to rid your self of a troublesome program is to attack the program itself using an anti-program. Such attacks are resolved as follows:
Program strength + INT + Interface + 1d10 vs. Program strength + INT + Interface + 1d10
CPUs do not have an Interface skill, so the only time both sides will use it is if two runners are dueling. Note however that CPUs do have an INT attribute.
ATTACKS AGAINST RUNNERS
The runner is generally on the receiving end of this bit of nastiness, but sometimes you do what you have to do to deal with a pesky sysop. If an anti-personnel program is attacking a runner, the following roll is made:
Attacking program’s strength + INT + Interface + 1d10 vs. Defender’s program’s strength + INT + Interface + 1d10
As before, CPUs do not have an Interface skill. Furthermore, the defender must have a defense program up, other wise they are rolling only INT + Interface + 1D10.
Here is a quick summery of program types:
Utility Programs are rarely used in Net combat. They are mostly used to aid the operation of the runner’s system.
Controllers were called drivers in the old days. Each controller will operate only a specific type of hardware. An important note about controllers: The user does not need to run The Net to use them. If he or she has the ability to jack the cyber deck directly into the remote, or tap into its control line, the runner can take control of the remote similar to using a vehicle link.
Intrusion programs are used to pass through data walls.
Decryption programs are used to open code gates and file locks.
Detection/Alarm programs are used to detect the presence of another runner or program.
Anti-system programs are used to attack CPUs and cyber decks.
Evasion/Stealth programs are used to hide the net runner’s signal, making it difficult to detect his presence or trace his location.
Protection programs defend the runner against anti-personnel programs.
Anti-programs are used to attack other programs.
Anti-personnel programs are designed to attack runners and system operators.
Compilers are complex programs that act as assistants to the runner. Demons, for example, follow the runner, carry out basic commands, and carry 2-4 programs that can be used as directed by the runner.
Programs have a copy protection that allows them to be migrated but not copied. This means you can move it from system to system, from a chip to a system or vice versa, but once the program has been moved, the original program is lost. A user can crack the copy protection by rolling his programming skill vs. a 28. If the roll is successful, he can copy the program at will. If the roll is failed, the program is lost.
A skilled net runner can write his own programs. First the GM determines the program difficulty. This is based on the program’s function, its strength, and its additional features. The difficulty number will determine the size of the program (1-7 MU) and the time it takes to write it (6 hours x difficulty.) Multiple users can divide the writing time and combine their INT and Programming skills. Its still only one skill test to write the program, but skill ratings and attributes are combined. The writer has the option of adding copy protection to his or her program.
Programs lose a point of strength every three months. This is to simulate the constant and rapid evolution of programming. That Jackhammer program you have loses a point of strength every three months not because the program itself is getting weaker, but while its sitting in your hard drive, data fortresses everywhere are learning to make stronger data walls. In other words, what is really happening is that data walls are getting a point stronger every three months. A programmer has to constantly update his software to stay on the cutting edge.
One way to stay up to date is to purchase upgrade patches. Whereas a new Jackhammer will run about 360eb, an update patch only costs about 20eb. You can also write your own updates. The same rules apply as for writing the program itself except the difficulty is halved for the skill roll and divided by 10 for determining write time.
Here’s a handy tip: Programs that the runner writes him or herself, and keeps solely for his or her own use, degrades at half the rate, losing a point once every six months. This is because system operators and programmers focus their attention on counteracting the publicly available software that’s out there. As a result, unique and custom programs take longer to become obsolete. On the downside, if you wrote the program yourself, once it does degrade, your only option is to write the upgrade yourself as well.