Now that you mention it...
The wireless world
In 2072, a world of augmented perceptions and wireless connections exists: the Matrix. It is built to ensure that it is omnipresent, accessible from all locations, and integrated into
daily life. Nearly everyone is part of this interlinked electronic world, whether they will it or not. Your personal commlink allows you to be online wherever you go, 24-7-365.
Augmented reality allows you to access data from the Matrix just about anywhere, overlaying it upon your physical senses like a personal heads-up display. Want to see a map, a restaurant’s menu, or an incoming email message? It’s just a mental click away.
Augmented reality (AR) includes all types of sensory enhancements overlaid on a user’s normal real-world perceptions. This allows the average citizen to see, hear, touch, and
even smell the Matrix continuously while still interacting with the normal everyday world around them.
AR is not to be confused with virtual reality (VR), where artificial sensations from the Matrix overwhelm your real-world perceptions and immerse you in a simulated reality—mentally
separating you from your physical body.
AR is experienced as visual sight cues, icons known as arrows (AROs, or augmented reality objects). You can see arrows by linking any number of gadgets or cyberware to your commlink.
Arrow data appears as ghostly images and text in your field of vision. You can customize your interface to “view” this data any way you like. If you accept an incoming video call, for example, the caller’s image/icon appears in your center of vision (but transparent so the real world can be seen through it).
If someone starts shooting at you, you can put the caller on hold and close the “window” or shift it to your peripheral vision so it doesn’t interfere with real life activities. AR can also be experienced through audible cues.
How The MATRIX Works
At the bottom layer of the Matrix pyramid are individual users with their commlinks and personal area networks (PANs). These users and PANs wirelessly interact with other PANs and devices all around them in a wireless mesh network.
Every character possesses basic computer and electronics skills. Standard denizens of the
Sixth World use their commlinks/PANs on a constant basis to make telecom calls, experience
augmented reality, search for data, keep in touch with teammates, and manage their finances.
Commlinks are the ultimate personal networking tool. They are a combination wireless router, cellphone, vidcam, PDA, GPS unit, chip reader, wallet/credstick, and mobile gaming device—
all in one easy-to carry package that can fit inside your pocket.
Commlinks serve as the primary hub for your PAN, allowing you to access and manipulate all of your PAN-connected electronics through your commlink. Commlinks also provide
you with instant wireless access to the world around you. Not only can you access data via the Matrix, but you can access the wireless devices and networks in your vicinity.
Commcodes and Accounts
Everyone who uses the Matrix has an access code. Your access code is like a phone number; it’s how others know where to reach you online. It’s also a way in which you may be tracked.
Many parts of the Matrix are open to public access, just like a web page—anyone can go there and view the contents.
In order to enter some nodes (devices or networks), however— especially private ones—you must actually log in to an account. The type of account you have determines what actions you can legitimately take on that particular node.
As already noted, with augmented reality, you do not perceive yourself as “within” the Matrix—you see aspects of the Matrix digitally overlaid upon the real world around you. As such, when you access a node, you do not “go there,” but you see an icon of that node “projected” in your vision. In digital terms, your connection is passed from node to node until you reach your destination.
While there are legions of important nodes that the public can easily access, for shadowrunners, the nodes they usually need to access the most will be illegal. As such, no shadowrunning team can expect to get by for long without a hacker on their side. Hacking is called for whenever you wish to manipulate the programming of computers and electronics—especially Matrix nodes—in ways that are not authorized.
Hacking is centered around defeating a node’s firewall and breaking in. If you successfully hack into the node (a device or network), you’ll be able to then attempt to manipulate that computer device or network.
Programs are the software tools that you use to make things happen in the Matrix. Programs come in many types. For these quick-start rules, only the Exploit program (to hack in to a protected node) and Attack program (for crashing/controlling an active program once you’re inside a node) are used.
Programs have variable ratings, normally in the range of 1 to 6. A program’s rating is
the number of dice added to the dice pool when that program is used in a test.
Matrix skill tests use the same skill + attribute dice pool as other tests, except that since
you are interfacing with the machine world, you use an appropriate program attribute in
place of your character’s attribute.
To hack into a specific node, you make a Hacking + Exploit Test. The Threshold for
the test depends upon the node in question. For example, the Threshold for the Stuffer
Shack in the adventure (p. 15) would likely only be a 2 (though the gamemaster can
increase this value if he feels it appropriate).
Additionally, the gamemaster may decide to apply situational modifiers. For example,
if a character is in the middle of a gun battle and attempts to hack into a node, that player
may be required to apply a –2 modifier; if the character is in a melee combat, the gamemaster
may increase that to a –3 or even –4.
Hacking into a node requires a Complex Action.
Once You Are In
Once you’re inside the node, you then make a Hacking + Attack Test to attack an
active program icon, which will crash that program. The Threshold for the test depends
upon the active program in question. For example, to stop the cleaning robot working
on that spill in aisle 2 in its tracks would only be a Threshold of 1. However, to crash
the security cameras (even at a Stuffer Shack) would likely be a Threshold 3. It is up to
the gamemaster to determine the exact Threshold based upon what active program is
The number of successful hits determines what a player can ultimately accomplish.
For example, if a player attempts to crash the security cameras and only nets one success,
the cameras simply cease to function.
However, if he nets two success, he might be able to loop the image so that the same scene appears over and over again; if someone views the images, they will not notice right away that it’s being manipulated. If he nets four success, he can insert a manufactured image that places four other characters in the Stuffer Shack, and so on. Again, the only limitations are the player’s imagination and the gamemaster’s guidelines of what can be accomplished and how difficult it is to achieve.
Crashing a program requires a Complex Action
It should be noted that compared to the rest of these quick-start rules, the rules for
how to use the Matrix are lightly covered. This has been done on purpose, not only to
accentuate the roleplaying nature of the Matrix, but also to allow both the players’ and
gamemaster’s imaginations to fly during the adventure!
Once players dive into the more fully-fleshed out rules of the Matrix found in
Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, they’ll find a host of exciting additional
rules. For example, in these quick-start rules, players are able to hack into the node
of the Stuffer Shack and then manipulate to their heart’s desire, dice rolls allowing.
However, the owners of such nodes don’t like hackers manipulating their systems and
have security; a node can bite back with just as much deadly power as a manaball spell or high-powered weapon!