SR5 development: The reconfigured Matrix and the return of cyberdecks

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text

In the last post on the Matrix, we talked about trying to simplify Matrix rules and bring them more in line with mechanics for the other areas of Shadowrun. Now we need to cover a little bit about how the Matrix is changing and what that means to the people who hack it.

Around the time Jet Set came out, I ran my gaming group through one of the adventures in that book focusing on Danielle de la Mar and her efforts to make a “safer” Matrix. After the session, the player in the group who has a technomancer character looked at me and said “That woman’s dangerous.”

And so she is. While the Matrix is not changing between Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition quite as dramatically as it did between Third and Fourth, it is changing. The major change involves the megacorporations realizing that a free and open Matrix does not serve their interests, and that Danielle de la Mar and her ilk provide the perfect excuse to clamp down on things in the name of public safety.

As mentioned in Storm Front, the Corporate Court is introducing a whole bunch of new protocols as part of this new Matrix. Old commlinks and their programs are no longer equipped to deal with the level of security these protocols present. Instead, if hackers want to be able to break into this new system and mess around, they need a new tool. It will be relatively small, discreet, and wireless-enabled, and it will have the tools and capabilities needed to do battle with the new security structure of the Matrix. All the device needed was a name, and we decided there was no need to invent a new one. We went back to the classic name: cyberdecks.

So why bring back cyberdecks? A lot of reasons. On the simple side, it’s because we like the name, and because we like calling people “deckers” (in Fifth Edition, “hackers” is an umbrella term for anyone who messes with the Matrix; the subsets of this group are deckers, who use devices to do this, and technomancers, who do not). Additionally, we wanted decking to feel both difficult and special–it’s not something just anyone can do. As is the case with any other specialization in Shadowrun, you have to commit to it.

As is the case with most gear in Fifth Edition, cyberdecks set your limits when performing Matrix actions. They’re customizable, giving you the chance to put a higher limit on the type of activity you expect to be doing frequently. As mentioned above, they’re wireless enabled, but they also can plug into systems when you want the advantages plugging in gives you–or if you’re dealing with one of those paranoid types who stores things on a non-wireless system. They do not come with a giant keyboard, unless you want that sort of thing for some reason.

The Matrix is a tougher place for hackers now. Security is tighter, and the Grid Overwatch Division of the Corporate Court is constantly on the watch for illicit activity. This gives deckers and technomancers the chance to buck the odds, show off their skills, and pull off amazing feats in the face of pressing danger. To us, that feels very much like Shadowrun should.

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