IT HelpDesk

This page will describe Computer combat, or hacking. General hacking is normally done by Computer Use and is rolled much like opening locks or disarming a trap. However, sometimes hackers go against their own. In the case of unattended networks or devices, to hack them you simply beat the passive defense DC with Computer Use, much like opening a lock. If the network or device is being monitored by anti-Cyber Intrusion personnel or AIs, you will use Computer Combat.

The Three Layers

Unlike burritos, the Internet in this world has only 3 layers: Terminal, AR, and VR.

Terminal Layer

Don’t let the name fool you. This is not the “final” layer, rather it is the layer handled by “terminals”. And Terminals aren’t necessarily desktop computers. They can be anything you have to manually interact with: a hand-held comm, a tablet, a laptop/notebook, a desktop terminal, a LCD touch-pad interface, etc.

Augmented Reality Layer (AR)

This layer is a combination of the Terminal and VR. A holographic and tactile interface is projected in front of the user. The user then uses their hands to interact with these holograms, or they use a combination of voice commands and manual manipulation. This is the most common layer. All comms and tablets have AR interfaces as well as their “terminal” interface on the device itself. Laptops/Notebooks and Desktops are a bit more stationary and designed more for VR than AR (see below).

Virtual Reality Layer (VR)

This layer actually is located on a completely different plane of existence, the Cyberplane. The difference between the Cyberplane and say the Elemental Plane of Fire, is that the Cyberplane can be “manipulated” or programmed through computer code. Thus, there are hundreds of tiny, interconnected worlds that can only be accessed through a VR connection. As mentioned above, this is more suited with Laptops/Notebooks and Desktops. The majority of day-to-day work in corporations is done at a desktop terminal with a VR connection. This way, the corporation can save on their physical environment and the employee can be more productive in the virtual environment of their choosing (or the preset ones offered by the corporation they work for).

General Flow

For simplification purposes, Computer combat and Hacking will be done, in a very general sense, the same way combat is done. That is, you will roll Initiative, each action will be based on Rounds (though actual time passed could be minutes or seconds depending), attacks will be made, damage will be done, and whoever reaches zero first loses. That is of course the very broad view of Hacking. Now, for the details!

Computer Combat and Hacking (Terminal and AR Layers)

As with regular combat, you will start with Initiative. As with combat, those with the best reaction go first. Like with combat, you roll 1d20 to determine initiative. Whoever rolls highest, goes first, as normal. However, to get your total, besides just the die roll, you will add your Int modifier (instead of Dex) and your Comm, Tablet, Notebook, or Desktop computer’s RAM speed or bonus. Once you determine order, like in combat, you attack or you defend.

If you Attack…

First, you must have an attack program (see IT and Sundry for details). Like in regular combat, you have a “Base Attack Bonus”. This is determined by your RAM bonus and your Computer Use. Any Attack Applications/Programs you use do damage to the firewall. You roll the damage appropriate to the App/Program. Each Attack Program can only attack once per round, however, with a high processor (or controlling multiple computers/devices) you can have more than one attack program running giving you more attacks per round.

If you Defend…

If you did not go first, or if you’ve already attacked, it’s now time to defend. Again like in regular combat, you’ll have an AC. This is determined by your Processor bonus and your HP is determined by your firewall (see IT and Sundry for details). If your Processor is +6 for example, then your AC is 10 plus your Processor bonus, or 16. Any attacker has to meet or beat 16 on their attack roll to do damage to your firewall. You can also run a Shield App/Program to add to your AC. Once your firewall reaches 0 HP, it is compromised and you cannot attack or defend until it reboots. The reboot time is different from Firewall to Firewall.

If you are Compromised (or if your enemy is)…

Once you are compromised, or you have compromised a network/device, you can attempt to take it over. This is done by an Hijack Program. However, the defender gets one last-ditch effort to resist while their firewall reboots. Each Hijack Program as a + bonus (between 2-8). The player using the Hijack program rolls their Computer Use plus the program’s bonus and tries to beat the target Network/Computer’s Reboot Defense Bonus (RDB). You determine your computer’s RDB by adding the Processor Bonus + RAM Bonus + 10. The player Hijacking the computer does not need to meet or beat it on the first try. Some servers and other computers will have a RDB of 40+ sometimes. Most firewalls will reboot in 2-5 rounds. Thus, the Hijacker can keep rolling until they meet or beat the RDB provided they do so before the Firewall reboots.

If you are the compromised computer or device, you can take no action to attack or defend until your firewall reboots.

Once the computer is Hijacked, the player gains Admin access and can do whatever they want with the computer shutting out the previous User or AI completely. AI’s might have other backdoor access points through other backup servers/computers. Users (or players) will need another computer or device to essentially re-hack their now Hijacked computer/device.

Computer Combat (VR Layer)

Combat can be done on the VR layer as well. There are 2 ways to go about this. First, you have a computer (laptop/notebook or desktop) that has a VR interface and UI program. Once in the Cyberplane, you use your Avatar to do combat. Your Avatar will have similar stats as your or another character/NPC/monster would. Combat is then done normally. The second way is to have a Cybermage transport your physically to the Cyberplane (which they can around lvl 6). Once there, combat is done normally.

Since physics is…well…what you program (or hack) it to be, your attributes can be significantly altered by the UI program. In the case that a Cybermage brought you in physically, they can boost your physical presence in the Cyberplane by spoofing their own UI program on their comm.

Apart from these various buffs, it’s not much different than regular combat.

Computer Operations

In the general overview of Hacking and computer combat, certain stats were mentioned and will be employed. The following is an explanation of those stats and how to employ them.

Processor

Like in our world, the processor of a computer or device is its computation power. With this in mind, in the game, Processor (or the bonus ranging from +2 to +12) will be a measure of how many active programs you can have running during combat. This includes all of your defense, offense, and utility apps and programs. Each App or Program will have a Processing Point (see IT and Sundry for details). If an App or Program has a Processing Point (PP) of 2, that means it takes 2 points from the bonus to run. So, if your hand-held comm has a processor of +4, that program with a PP of 2 has used half the points. Your processor also contributes to your RDB as well as your AC.

RAM

Like in our world, RAM is essentially the “action” speed of the computer, or how fast it loads up a program. With this in mind, in the game, actions, or the speed of actions, are determined by your RAM. This is the main attack attribute of the device. Your RAM also contributes to your RDB as mentioned above. And lastly, it is used as your Initiative bonus combined with your Int bonus (instead of Dex as in normal combat).

Capacity

This is the physical capacity of the device (measured in bytes just as in our world). Most digital storage is done in the cloud in Athas (something our world is moving towards as well). Thus you technically have an unlimited space on any device. However, though download is instant, keeping and running Apps or Programs on your device takes up space on the device. Thus, like in our world, each App and Program takes up space, usually in Storage Units (Su).  Though you can typically have a full array of…er…useful Apps (no, not hacking apps at all) and still have a bit of storage space left on the device. However if say you are “retrieving” data, like everything else it is stored in a cloud somewhere (a server in some server farm in the middle of nowhere) and you have to download it (to your device) and then transfer it to where ever it is you are going to store it to give it to whoever had you “retrieve” it. Thus, Capacity becomes important.

Reboot Defense Bonus

This is calculated by the player, but is reasonably easy. As mentioned above, the calculation is:

10 + Processor Bonus + RAM bonus

This is the DC anyone needs to roll to take over your computer once compromised.   This is used in both Pathfinder rules and D&D 5e.   Though CMB and CMD (and thus RDB) are more “Pathfinder” rules, in this instance, it can be used the same in D&D 5e.

Advanced Combat Tactics

Much like our world, there are redundancies built in as either backups or just multiple layers that you have to sift through before you get to your target. For instance, most corporations will have several AIs or several AIs and a few actual beings acting as Intrusion Countermeasures (different from the VR ICs, that’s a bit further down). Just like they can work together, so can you…or you and a handful of computers.

All DCs Are Cumulative

The DCs are high for a few reasons. First, it should be difficult or any old hacker could get in and take those juicy, juicy secrets. Second, they are cumulative and participation is encouraged.

That means if after all is said in done your character needs to beat a DC of 55 for whatever reason, it’s not impossible without a bunch of extra modifiers. Instead, you can use the standard Computer Use way and roll multiple times. If in a Terminal or AR layer hack, each roll counts as 1 minute. In VR combat/hacking, each roll counts as a millisecond, but at that layer the CPUs, AIs, and ICs are moving just as fast. So, if in 3 rolls you beat that DC of 55 and you were in the Terminal/AR layer, then it took you 3 minutes. Some firewalls take that long to reboot.

But let’s say you don’t have 3 minutes, or milliseconds. That firewall is rebooting in 1 round, still a DC of 55. This is where participation comes in. Anyone else, also logged into the session (in the same combat) can also roll on their turn and contribute to the total. So, either you and 3 hacking buddies can each roll and hopefully in that one round your total rolls go over 55, or you can…

Hail Hydra!

Use a Hydra Interface App. With the App running on one computer, you can connect up to that computer’s RAM bonus a number of other computers to help you in Hacking/Combat. With a Hydra Interface, each computer counts as an autonomous “player” under your control, meaning you can attack and defend with each computer and when the time comes, all three (running off your Computer Use or Disable Device) can make a roll to Hijack the compromised computer.

VR Combat

The combat itself is exactly like combat anywhere else. You use your stats, you roll your hits vs enemies’ AC, spells are cast. However, what is different is YOU, or rather your avatar or you physically when you enter the Cyberplane.

Your Avatar and You

When logging onto your Avatar, you must use a VR Interface program. This program allows you to build your Avatar. Under normal circumstances, the Interface Program (or VR UI) just gives you a generic avatar that allows you to interact with the Cyberplane, or specifically each company’s mini-world within in the Cyberplane. Because they set the rules, your Avatar is very, very limited, but does get some unusual perks:

  • Omni-Directional Movement: This is essentially the same as Perfect Flight (or A level flight). You have perfect control of where you can move and in what direction. Most of the time, you still walk as you would in the Prime Plane, but you can move in any direction on a whim if needed. You move at your regular movement speed unless otherwised enhanced. This is “normal” movement and doesn’t require a Fly roll. However, the more practiced you are, the better you are. So, for every 3 ranks in Computer Use you have, you can add +5′ to your base movement.
  • Touch Interface: You can touch any any pre-selected object and interact with it by pulling up a “holoterminal”. This mimics the AR interface in the Prime Plane. Normally this is allow you different selections and options while in the mini-World.
  • Teleportation: It take a moment for your personal comm or computer to calculate the route, but you can teleport anywhere you have the coordinates for provided you are allowed access to that point. To do so, you make a Computer Use check, TN 20 and six rounds later, you instantly move to that point. For every 2 you roll over TN 20, you can reduce the time by 1 round to a minimum of 2 rounds. Again, rolls are cumulative, so if you don’t make the roll on the first try, roll again, but each roll counts as a minute of work/calculation.

The “look” of your avatar is entirely up to you. You can look like yourself in the Prime Plane. You can look like a little school girl. You can look like some eldritch horror from ancient memory. Or you can look like a giant, floating smiley face. Your appearance doesn’t matter.

Like everything else computer based, this can be hacked (detailed below).

You and You

When physically in the Cyberplane, you are not an Avatar. You are YOU. However, a Cybermage automatically applies the 3 basic Avatar perks provided that when they do shift to the Cyberplane, they have a VR Interface Program running on their computer. After level 6 when they can bring their friends, same thing, provided they have the VR UI running, they and all companions receive the 3 basic Avatar perks listed above.

Altering Your Avatar and You

As mentioned, the three basic perks can be hacked. The hacker and/or Cybermage does so before they enter their session (when Cybermages physically travel to the Cyberplane, alone or with friends, they still call it a “session”) with various Computer Use checks. Provided they meet the TNs below, they gain the effects for their entire session until they disconnect. If you are hacking multiple avatars, or multiple friends coming with you physically to the Cyberplane, you must roll for each one. Here are the augments you can do to your (or others’) avatars.

Name Benefit TN
Augment Ability +4 to any one Ability 30
Augment Speed +10 to Movement Speed 30
Augment Accuracy +2 to BAB 25
Augment Force +2 to Damage 25
Augment Presence +4 to all Saving throw rolls 30
Enhance Magic/Psionics +2 to damage for your Avatar’s Powers 25
Enhance Defenses +3 to AC 30
Enhance Touch Interface Allows the chance to use Touch Interface anywhere, not just at pre-designated nodes 35

As usual, all DC’s are cumulative and you can take multiple rolls to achieve them. However, each roll is equal to ten minutes of work. Additionally, each roll for each effect, or applying each effect to others, takes ten minutes.

Avatars

For non-Cybermages, or those traveling to the Cyberplane without a Cybermage physically taking them, you must use Avatars. These general rules apply.

  • BAB,Proficiency Bonus, Saves, and Feats: Each Avatar will be listed with a Base Class which will apply to which Saves they receive (or how they progress if you’re playing Pathfinder). You use your own Proficiency Bonus (or the BAB of the base class). You can permanently or temporarily raise the level of your avatar.
  • Avatar Roles: The Avatar roles are not the same as your Class Roles. They are closer to MMORPG roles. Thus there will be a Tank, DPS, and Heals. Each Avatar will list their roll. Though its still slightly different from Avatar to Avatar, this will influence their BAB, Saves, and Feat selection.
  • Avatar “Death”: When your Avatar reaches 0 HP, you lose connection. Your consciousness is immediately sent back to your body on the Prime Plane. You can log in again, but you will be at your original Session Point.

VR Avatars

The Avatars themselves are detailed in Apps and Software.