Limitless Worlds

Limitless Worlds

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Basic Hacking System

It may be no surprise, but I'm kicking around making an OSR cyberpunk game. Below are my draft rules for hacking, which involves hacking physical objects like cars, ATMs and so on. Netrunning does exist and will be covered later, but it will basically be just a setting change, not so much a mechanical one.

These rules are supposed to be both quick and cool. I like the idea of have your personal assistant jump into an ATM, swim through the files while dodging ICEs, and then eventually proudly announcing 2000 credits have been transferred to your account. It also brings in hacking combat without making it too complex. Originally, the Executables were going to be basically Avatar equipment, but I think treating them as bonuses is quicker and less book keeping.


Almost everyone in modern society has a CompDeck, and you're no exception. Though most CompDecks are only used to browse the IntraNet, play games or other personal matters, you have tailored yours into a hacking machine.

Every CompDeck has an Avatar, a small helper program that represents that limited intelligence the computer has. The Avatar can take any form you wish, from a dragon to a businessman to a sexy lady. The Avatar, which rests or stands on the back of your hand when you use your CompDeck, basically performs the CompDeck's functions for you, serving as a digital helper and more.

Avatars are also the programs that actually hack the ExtraNet. They plunge into the ExtraNet, rooting around and fighting off counter measures to perform the task you want.

Avatars are based on their Rank. They are ranked from 1 to 5, with all characters starting with a rank 1 Avatar. The rank serves as the Avatar's health bar, the Avatar's hacking effectiveness and the amount of Executables he can attempt.

ExtraNet systems also have a rank that acts the same as Avatar rank. This rank represents the various firewalls, re-routes and fake files the Avatar must navigate. However, their health bar can reach higher than 5 depending on the system. ExtraNets can have Executables as well, but usually only half as many as an Avatar of an equivalent rank.

Hacking is basically a quick one-on-one battle between the Avatar and the ExtraNet. Unless the ExtraNet is particularly strong, the Avatar usually goes first. The hacker rolls a d6, and if it is less than or equal to the Avatar's rank, the Avatar has made progress in hacking. The Avatar deals damage equal to the difference between the roll and the Avatar's rank (minimum of 1) to the system. If the system reaches 0 health, the Avatar has breached through all the security and the hacker can manipulate the ExtraNet how he pleases.

Like combat, after the Avatar makes his attempt, the ExtraNet will attempt to ward off the Avatar. The GM does the same d6 roll as the Avatar did, and if he succeeds, he deals the difference in damage to the Avatar. If the Avatar ever reaches 0 health, it is booted out of the ExtraNet and the hacker is pinged. When the hacker is pinged, it means the local authorities are actively looking for you for the crime of "unlawful data manipulation." You should start running.

Be aware that at any time, the hacker can abort the attempt and withdraw the Avatar. The Avatar may have some scrapes, but you won't be pinged and can safely lick your wounds.

As both the Avatar and ExtraNet take damage, it is harder and harder to perform well. When damaged, your rank temporarily decreases to where your health is. So if a Rank 5 Avatar took 2 damage, you would have to roll a 3 or lower on a d6 to deal damage to the ExtraNet.

If the Avatar reaches 0 health, it's out of commission until the hacker can wipe his hard drives, restore memories and so on. The process takes about 8 hours, and afterwards the Avatar is back up to it's full rank.

It seems hacking may be difficult, but the Avatar has some tricks up its sleeve in the form of Executables.

Executables are small bonuses that Avatars (and hackers) can use to better attack the ExtraNet. They represent backdoors, trojans and malware the Avatar unleashes to get what it wants. The Avatar gets a number of Executables per day equal to their rank. This number doesn't decrease if the Avatar takes damage.

By "burning" an executable, the Avatar can do one of the following things

1. Instantly restore 1d3 health
2. Block 1d3 damage from an ExtraNet attack
3. Use the Hacker's Intelligence roll to hack, rolling d6 for damage. Backgrounds do apply.
4. Instantly re-roll a hack attempt
5. Cause the ExtraNet to re-roll their hack
6. Deal an additional 1d3 damage to the ExtraNet

Be wary, as some well protected ExtraNets have Executables as well.

Blitz Hacking

Blitz hacking is the term used when multiple hackers attempt to infiltrate an ExtraNet. Though one Avatar could hack the Rank 5 Megacorp Door Lock with 10 health and 4 Executables, it won't be an easy task. He'll need a little help from his friends

Any amount of hackers can work together, but usually 2 or 3 is the norm. There should be a leading Avatar, who actually does all the hacking, and the support Avatars.

While Hacking, support Avatars don't really do any active hacking. Instead, they can use their Executables on the leading Avatar, and they can also intercept damage. A support hacker can take the lead should the lead hacker fell, taking up the job of damaging the ExtraNet. Further, none of the Hackers are pinged until all the Avatars are knocked out to 0 health.

Be advised that ExtraNets can also Blitz Hack, with local ExtraNet objects teaming up to destroy a significant threat. It's not common, but it can happen.

Hacking Hackers

Avatars can actually hack other CompDecks. This functions as an ordinary hack, treating the opponent's CompDeck as its own ExtraNet. However, the opponent's Avatar will quickly make his master aware of the act, upon which he will probably draw a pistol and attempt to give you a second mouth.


  1. WHat can Rank 1 Avatars reliably hack? What would prove to be challenging for a team of Rank 1 Avatars?

    Also, how fast is advancement in Avatar Ranks? What is its pace based on?

  2. Rank 1s could probably hack into bsic things such as low-level security cameras, vending machines and so on. I'll have to do tests, of course, but rank 1s are small time.