Hashing the Hacker 2

Well, work is progressing on OSRIC/2050, and it’s actually quite a bit of fun! Hey, Stanford here, and I’ll briefly introduce my old man. Shawn currently makes his living as a COBOL programmer, and has been since he started doing it in the Marine Corps in the early 80’s. Yeah, that’s nearly 40 years of programming, so he’s old. He was also an avid tabletop gamer during that decade and the first half of the next. Marines, as it turns out, love themselves some D&D.

When I pitched the idea of OSRIC/2050 to Shawn, he was eager to hop on board and help out, and is currently one of the lead developers of the supplement (myself being the other). My first task was to come up with a list of big pieces to the project as a whole, the two new classes being at the top of that list. Shawn took the reins on the Hacker and has been going apeshit with the class since. He’s already written up first drafts of the class description and programs as well as large swaths of the digital rules and notes. Needless to say, OSRIC/2050 is making a lot of progress thanks to his work.

So, I’ll let him take it from here:

The ongoing work to create the new Hacker class is interesting, and by “interesting” I mean “difficult.” The difficulty is in creating a class that is wholly new, but uses established mechanisms and concepts for determining actions and outcomes. It needs to be familiar enough that OSRIC players will quickly become comfortable with the mechanisms of the class, and that fans of the genre will be familiar with the look and feel of the class.


Subject to change!

The Hacker is a sort of ‘magic user’ of computers; using programs in the digital realm, instead of spells in the real world. The OSRIC Magic User informs much of the mechanics of how he does his business. But, there is also a Fighter aspect, because if his clever programs don’t get him what he wants, the Hacker may still have to resort to beating down the doors of the networks he’s hacking to achieve his goal.

A big part of the task (a part that is still not fully resolved) is deciding the workings of the devices – computers, networks, and network-attached electronics – that are the Hacker’s playground. These are a key component of the wired world of OSRIC/2050, and they have to leverage current reality and existing popular fiction. My primary inspiration was Gibson’s gritty tech-noir Sprawl series, flavored with a little Stephenson.

I have a tendency to try to boil things down to a small set of rules that apply across the board (a kind of role playing “reductio ad absurdum“), while creating new rules to clarify or illustrate applying concepts. The first tendency spoils gameplay by unbalancing the game, the second makes the rules unwieldy and limits players’ freedom-of-movement.

Luckily, Matthew has nearly the opposite tendencies. He has no problem developing rules with (what seem to me) enormous loopholes meant to help gameplay, and he is willing to let GMs and players mostly make it up as they go along. So, his rules make no sense and his games are a chaotic free-for-all.


A glimpse of our process…

Adding to the fun of working together is the fact that I have the attention span of a squirrel, and I happily believe in six impossible things before breakfast. So, I pick up, examine, and toss away ideas in rapid succession. Matthew has a more ordered process, and he’ll already have worked through his ideas and be fairly wedded to them before presenting them. He tends to grip more tightly and change lanes less often. For us, “collaborating” is often long strings of insults, hooked together using vulgarities as conjunctions.

A Hacker’s primary tool is the computer he uses, called a “rig.” No matter what flavor of cyberpunk you like, you’re familiar with the idea of a hacker and his rig; it’s nearly universal to the genre. The Hacker knows programs, and he uses them to get things done. There are dozens of programs available, like “Gate Burn,” which tears down security gates on target devices, and “Phantom User,” which creates a fake user who can enter system commands on the Hacker’s behalf. Of course, the Hacker can also use one-time program cartridges that hold programs he doesn’t himself know. And, ultimately, if a clever program can’t get him in the door, he can fall back on the DOM – Digital Offensive Module – he surely has slotted into his rig.

The digital world of OSRIC/2050 is a version of the “internet of things,” where anything and everything is connected to the Net, and anything connected to the Net can be accessed by the Hacker. Once the Hacker gains access to a device, he can use any of its capabilities. He can lock a lock, he can look through a camera, he can turn a traffic signal green to red, he can reroute a communications satellite, he can cause a vending machine to dump its contents.

The Hacker also has the ability to proficiently control autonomous or remotely-controlled vehicles. In the world of OSRIC/2050, these are vehicles that patrol corporate perimeters, sweep streets, drive long-distance trucks, and pilot container ships. Any of these are controllable by a Hacker, once he penetrates their security!

In OSRIC/2050, Hackers may be freelancers, they may be gathered into self-organized groups or criminal gangs, or they may be employees of government, military, or corporate entities. Hackers and groups of Hackers are a standard feature of any organization that uses computers or net technology, much as any group that uses vehicles will have drivers and mechanics.

The Hacker is going to be a key class in OSRIC/2050, so we’re working very hard to make sure that the class is understandable, effective, and fun.

2 thoughts on “Hashing the Hacker

  • JVerb

    Looking forwards to it Chief! Though, if the group play-tests OSRIC/2050, I will probably do something not hacker related to see what happens…like play a barbarian in a cyber-punk landscape. Haha. Cheers!

    • Matthew Stanford

      With our design philosophy, this should be totally possible. You might take a few shots before you close with that axe though…

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