As we mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the main design philosophies going into Shadowrun, Fifth Edition is that we like Shadowrun, Fourth Edition. One of the noble tasks of Fourth Edition was involving hackers more in the action, thanks to the existence of the wireless Matrix. Wireless activity gave them all sorts of cool things to do, including shutting down wireless-enabled guns. They may not be able to shoot as well as some of the other players, but by taking out another combatant’s gun, they can be powerfully effective in a fight.
This power, though, came with a hitch. If you were going into a fight, and you knew that your gun could be shut down by an enemy hacker, would you want to use a wireless-enabled gun? Would you take that chance? For many people, it simply was not worth the risk. So they went in with wired technology instead of wireless-enabled devices, and the tool hackers briefly had started to disappear.
We decided that one of our goals for Shadowrun, Fifth Edition was to make it harder for people to decide to turn off their wireless functionality. We thought about using carrots or sticks for motivation, and we settled on carrots. The way this works out in game mechanics is that gear comes with a standard bonus and a wireless bonus. Want to use it without a security risk? Great, you still get good functionality from your piece of gear. Want a little extra performance? Then crank up the wireless.
The type and size of the bonus varies based on the kind of item it is. Take, for example, the chemical seal armor modification. This is not something that you would expect would depend much on wireless performance, so its basic function–protecting you from inhaling or contacting harmful chemicals–does not depend on wireless functionality. The wireless bonus is very simple–when wireless is off, you need a Complex Action to activate the seal, while when it’s on, it only takes a Simple Action–and that’s in keeping with the low risk of having it wirelessly enabled. Of all the things a hacker might target on the battlefield, a chemical seal is pretty low on the list.
Vision enhancement, though, is a different story. This is a piece of gear that could stand to gain from being wirelessly enabled. The gear could collect data from signals flying all around, translating it into useful visual information. This means if you don’t have this enhancement wirelessly enabled, you add its rating to your limit on visual Perception Tests. Activate the wireless, and you also get the rating as a dice pool modifier on visual Perception Tests. The enhancement might be a more likely target for hackers, but it’s also delivering a solid bonus for having its wireless functionality on.
Is it worth the risk? That’s your choice. As with everything else in the game, the bonus comes with a price, and you have to decide if you want to pay it.