This should be a quicker post than Part 1 and Part 2B, thankfully. I think we’re hitting the stride now and can pick up some speed—I’ve discussed why I’m making these procedures, how I’m making them, and breaking down the concepts that go into them.
To recap, the four “major” procedures that make up the Matrix loop are:
Answering the Challenge Posed
In the previous post I explained how we could create a procedure that guides the hackers whenever they want to find out information about something in the Matrix. I also posed a bit of a challenge / problem at the end of the post: as it was set up, the “safest” way to gather information was essentially to jack-in and jack-out of the Matrix as much as you could, opting to run away rather than “push your luck” by sticking around for more information. How then, could this be fixed?
My good friend (and full-on probability genius) Marcia B brought up some good points:
i also wonder if detection could start at 3 instead of 6, so once there’s a little detection there is already a chance that they’re going to be discovered (and bc rolling 3 five times will take at least 30 turns i think)
One thing that lowers the amount from 30 turns (!) is that Detection will worsen on failed skill checks. In that case, she helps out with the math:
also OHH yes failed checks causing detection should def do the trick. shouldn’t turn out 30 turns in that case XD i think to calculate overall rate, multiply by rate of success for skill checks? e.g. a 1/3 rate of success should cause 30 to become 10, since 2/3 of attempts reduce detection?
Even 10 turns seems like a lot to gather information (how could you not get everything at that point), but I think the key here is to have Detection carry over! So, if you’re just doing recon, it’s pretty safe. But the moment you have a rendezvous (or do an assault!), the Detection worsens, and it stays at that level. It should reset when you return to Zion.
Marcia also has some good ideas in terms of bringing space in as a factor instead of just time:
in the matrix, don’t you have to find a telephone to escape? it might be a whole ordeal to get out once you’re in!
i think the situation emphasizes that space is also a really important dimension to interesting play, besides time :)
I love this idea! This is good stuff. One of the interesting things that happens in the movies is that they don’t pre-plan their exits all that often. They’re always having cool scenes where they call the operator and ask for an exit. When they visit the Oracle and do have an exit planned out, it’s catastrophic, because they’ve been sold out and the Machines can easily trap them.
So yeah, Marcia is right—getting to the exit should be a major thing.
No new tools to leverage yet. We’ll be using the following for rendezvous:
The first is meaningful choices. Chris McDowell talks about it neatly over here. The players need to have information about the decision, what their choice will (likely) lead to, and an opportunity to chose. After choosing, the choice needs to matter. We’ll use an orange rectangle to represent these.
The second is random chance. This is just some kind of RNG to introduce chaos. It could be cards, a dice roll, a spinner, whatever. Something that the players don’t actually have control over. This is not the same as something like a skill check, which will be covered later. We’ll use a red diamond to represent these.
The third is resource drain. We’re using the nebulous resource of fuel to track how often this procedure can run. Resource drain is an excellent way to prevent a “repeat endlessly until we get a perfect result”. There are other ways to achieve this, but for this one, we’ll use the ship’s fuel. We’ll use a purple circle to represent these.
The fourth is a check. This is whatever kind of roll that the game engine uses to determine the chance of success for a specific character. This could be cards, tokens, dice, whatever. If it’s a d20 game, it’s probably something like d20 + mod or rolling a d20 and trying to roll under the ability score.
Lastly, a calculation is nothing special—just some kind of processing that we need to do to move to the next step.
Enter the Matrix: Rendezvous
First off, to recap what we’re trying to lay down structure for:
This is actually the meat of what hackers do in the Matrix. Trinity meets Neo at the club. After being freed, Morpheus takes Neo to meet the Oracle. All the ship captains meet up in the Matrix to discuss plans at the start of the second movie. Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus meet up multiple times with the Merovingian. Ghost and Niobe pick up a package left behind by the crew of the Osiris. Most of these rendezvous end with the hackers running from agents, rogue programs, or law enforcement.
And now, the procedure:
The Meet Up Location
If the PCs have called the meeting they choose the place. If NPCs have called the meeting, roll randomly to decide where.
This means that there needs to be a way to create locations where groups can meet. This could be a fun place for collaborative worldbuilding between the players and the GM. I think these locations should have some kind of tags associated with them that differentiates them in meaningful ways. To brainstorm some examples, maybe each location has:
- Concealment: how well hidden the location is. This score could give a bonus to Maximum Detection (see below) and a penalty to the Operator trying to insert hackers close by. Let’s say that the Merovingian’s underground club is hard to get to, giving it a high concealment.
- Defense: How easy it is to defend from attack. Multiple blast doors to get at the location could give the hackers ample time to flee. A location with the high ground could have someone posted up with a machine gun to watch anyone approaching. The location the hovership crews meet up at the start of the second movie is secured with steel doors that slow the agents down (briefly).
- Space: The maximum amount of groups that can meet in this location. The Oracle’s apartment can’t even accommodate Morpheus’ entire crew.
Sometimes these tags might be turned against the hackers. The defense of the Merovingian’s restaurant hinders the hackers rather than helps.
Setting the Detection Level
The more crews that meet up in the same place in the Matrix, the easier it is for Machines and anamolies to find them. For this, I would use a Detection threshold, since we’re having your Detection score remain until you return to Zion. Something like this might work:
|Maximum Detection||GROUPS Meeting|
The Event Die
I think, in terms of verisimilitude in the game, the Event Die should be the same for all “Enter the Matrix” procedures. This means we might need to rework it, but for now, it remains:
|2||Discovered||The hackers are detected. Encounter arrives in 1d4 turns|
|3||Fatigue||Decrease Detection by 1|
|4||Locality||Deja Vu: The machines have changed something in the Matrix (roll on table)|
|5||Percept||Make a useful discovery (roll on table)|
This is the meat of the procedure. In a lot of ways it’s similar to recon, but the nebulousness of dealing with NPCs makes it harder to nail down. The thing we do is determine turns based on the information shared—1 turn for each piece of worthwhile information.
What’s worthwhile information? That’s for the group to decide. But after it’s shared, that’s when Detection worsens and the Event Die is rolled. This means that the GM should have specific encounters, Deja Vu, and useful discoveries prepped for specific groups. The hackers meeting up with the Merovingian is going to have different encounters than a bunch of hacker crews meeting up to discuss orders from Zion.
Either way, after the exchange is done, the characters once again must try to get out of the Matrix.
Bonus: An example
I think, to explain what this might look like, it’s easier to understand based on an example instead of just trying to explain it all using jargon and flowcharts:
GM: Alright, so you all want to meet up with Proxy, and she’s agreed to it. Usually, since you called the meeting you get to pick the place, but Proxy isn’t going to let that fly. They’ve got three locations they are willing to use, so I’ll roll now to find out where they offer to meet.
Enigma: I wish we had found out more about this Proxy character during recon, but we’re short on time.
Mantis: Yeah, it’s really strange that they’re a human—still plugged in to the Matrix!—but that the Machines can’t see them.
GM: Alright. Proxy wants to meet you in an old abandoned subway station. It’s well hidden, but not that defensible. Someone have the Operator roll a check to see how close they can get you.
Enigma: I rolled and succeeded.
GM: Okay, The Detection drop to 5 if it was a 6, but it was already at 4 from your previous Recon exploits.
The GM describes the world and gets the players to the abandoned subway terminal. At this point, they roll the Event Die and get a 1. That would be an immediate encounter, but since Detection is at a 4, it doesn’t happen!
GM: Alright. Proxy is there—she’s dressed in a black hoodie with jeans. Kind of like Elliot from Mr. Robot, but a woman. There’s two others with her as well: two men in rags, hand-me-downs, and other greasy clothing. They’re huge, though. Like really big. Muscles bulging. You think that they might be wearing disguses. To recap, you’re meeting up with Proxy because you need to find a way into The Sanctum.
Mantis: I’ll greet Proxy, she seems cool.
The GM and the players roleplay a little bit, have some laughs, and eat pizza. No major information is exchanged, so a turn hasn’t passed yet.
Enigma: Alright. Let’s get down to it. I ask Proxy how we can get to the Sanctum.
GM (as Proxy): How come you want in there? That maze is a deathtrap.
Enigma: We’re tracking a rogue program. We think they went in there.
GM (as Proxy): Which program?
Enigma: The Firewall.
GM: She’s tapping her lip, thinking. You get the feeling that she’s putting things together. If you want The Firewall, you’re probably up to something big that you need to screen from the Machines. This seems like a big chunk of information.
Mantis: We probably shouldn’t have revealed all that.
GM: You could have tried to stop Enigma if you wanted. Want a do-over?
Mantis: Nah. This is fun. It’s just a bad idea—in the best way—to play our hand like that.
GM: Cool. So, we’ll drop the Detection from 4 to 3. Mantis, roll a d6.
Mantis: A 5!
GM: Nice. That’s a useful discovery. As Enigma and Proxy are talking, you glance at the two men with her. They’re absolutely still. Not even breathing. And those muscles! They’re wearing baggy clothing but they’re still stretching the fabric. These things are definitely programs. Maybe Proxy is controlling them?
GM (as Proxy): I’ll help you out. Just ’cause I think it’s funny to send people into the Sanctum. There’s twelve ways in, but only one way out. It’s actually totally easy to get in, ya’know? It’s the getting out that’s almost impossible.
GM: She hands over a floppy disk and tells you that’s the coordinates to the entrance of the Sanctum.
The group continues roleplaying for a bit, discussing the entrances and exits to the Sanctum. The GM gives up a bit more information—probably enough to be worth two turns, but that’s okay.
GM: Alright. Detection worsens again. We’re down to 3. Getting dangerous. Enigma, roll a d6, please.
Enigma: Crap. A 3.
GM: Detection worsens again! Down to 2 now.
Enigma: We need to get out of here before it gets worse. But I really want to know how Proxy hides herself from the Machines!
GM: Want to ask?
Enigma: No… no, we’ve got our mission. I’ll try and figure it out myself later.
That’s it for this part! Hopefully these posts are helping show how procedures can be created. Or, at the least, how I would do it. It should be pretty obvious that the thing about creating these is that one change (like how the hackers get out of the Matrix) can ripple through other procedures pretty significantly. That’s why after it’s all said and done, you might look back and change entire sections around. That’s just the nature of creation, though—the end product is hopefully greater than the sum of the parts.
Next up we have the last part of Entering the Matrix: Assault! The fun part! I would love to hear your thoughts, or how you think assault should be structured before I reveal it. Leave a comment here, reply or message me on twitter, or hit me up on discord (@eldritchmouse on twitter, mindstorm#3320 on discord).
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