More Static/Signal Cyberpunk fun!  This time I'm talking about hacking.  Yes, this is going to be a long post.

It's not cyberpunk without hacking, but hacking has a lot of problems.

First of all, the depiction of hacking in cyberpunk books and games typically involves a guy with a plug in his head jacked into a virtual reality world, cutting through black ice structures to access virtual data vaults inside.  It's fun and stylish, and really not at all realistic.  It would be akin to the idea the best way to hack into Blizzard's network would be to log into World of Warcraft and "cut through the code."
In the real world, virtual reality systems are going to be heavily sculpted simulated environments, not the deep base code of a system. Hacking is still best done with command line tools, and is often done from half way around the planet thanks to the internet.
There is also a tradition of the virtual world being faster than the real world, often depicted with the hacker experiencing compressed time in the virtual universe, experiencing an hour of subjective time hacking in minutes of real world time.  I'm not clear on this works, as the brain only operates as fast as the brain operates. Short of actually uploading your mind into the computer (which could run the brain simulation faster) I don't see compressed time being realistic.

Compressed time virtual worlds are also not very helpful for gameplay. Having the hacker on rules complex dream trip while the rest of the team does "real world" activities is a known symptom of games like Shadowrun.

In Static/Signal I attempt to sidestep a lot of these issues by not adhering to the traditional depictions of hacking in cyberpunk.  Hacking is done in Augmented Reality windows (screens are a largely dead technology), and generally over Wifi.  A quirk of the high tech wireless communication depicted in the setting (included specifically as an excuse for why hackers need to be physically on missions instead of ensconsed in a den full of electronics) is that the short range future equivelent of blue tooth is far less secure than the internet facing systems.  Hacking devices is a lot easier if you can get in the same room as them instead of being an ocean or even a block away.  AKA: War Driving.
This means your team's hacker needs to be standing right next to the gun totting assassin if you expect her to hack the door open or hide the team from the cameras, but at least she's stand up and active instead of in a VR trance.

But that's all background and story.  Let's talk about Fate mechanics.

"Tech" is a broad skill in Static/Signal that is used for handling any technology, such as driving or controlling robots.  To use it for hacking, you need permision in the form of highly expensive Cyberdecks.  Cyberdecks are a Big Score item that allow you to use Tech to make virtual attacks, (and some other stuff.) Note that anyone can defend against virtual attacks with Tech.

Device in the setting are protected by ICE, which you can think of a virtual character or guard.  In order to override control of a device (like forcing a locked door open, or stealing files) you have to first defeat the ICE in virtual combat (which takes place in AR, possibly right along side gunplay vs actual guards.)  Your average door is a Mook, with no stress, but hardened (story important) devices or systems will  be tougher virtual foes.

ICE comes in different varieties ranging from consumer grade protective only White ICE to military grade aggressive Black ICE.  Mechanically they are simply stated up as virtual characters.  Their skills include Scan, Offense, and Defense, which work as you would expect.  They can posses System Stress, and possibly consiquence slots. They also have a Weapon rating, firewall (armor) rating, and possibly an AP rating. ICE is limited to the short range wireless around the device that is hosting it, so it can't chase or hunt.  In effect it much like a guard that can't leave the room its in. When ICE is defeated it leaves the host device at the mercy of anyone that wants to issue commands to it over short range wireless.  What kind of damage can be done depends on the device in question and the skill and creativity of the hacker.  Burning out the electromagnets in a maglocks so they can't be locked (or alternatively unlocked) is a classic trick, but it's not possible short out the average camera, for example.

The combat capabilities of your Hacker are enhanced by software (on their deck).  Firewall acts as virtual armor. ICE Breaker acts as a Virtual Weapon, and ICE Pick provides virtual AP. There is also Illusion software with does real-time editing of sensor feeds so Hackers can hide their team from appearing on hacked cameras (or hacked cyber eyes.)  Alternatively they can make things appear that aren't there: including virtual disguises or distractions.

A main trick of hackers is concealing their presence from virtual foes.  Unlike guards or even cameras, ICE doesn't see the real world, only the virtual flow of data, and a skilled hacker will conceal their team from detection, even when launching a virtual attack.  This is important because Black ICE can and will attack anyone it identifies as a threat, and that can include the cybernetic assassin standing next to the hacker on a mission.
It is assumed that a hacker is constantly hiding their team from detection when on missions.  For ICE to spot the team, they must make an opposed overcome roll against the Hacker's Tech. If the ICE wins, it spots the entire team's network communications and can take actions against any of them.  It may also set off an alarm, although this doesn't mean any other ICE can see the team automatically.

Defeating ICE to gain access to a device's controls before it can react and sound the alarm is the main task of a hacker on a mission.  mechanically it plays out not unlike a gun totting assassin taking out guards before they can sound an alarm or shoot back.

ICE is not the only thing a Hacker can target, however.  People also carry lots of electroncis on them, or even implanted into them, and a hacker can mess with these.  Most people have a SIMM, an electronic presence in AR made up by the clustering of their various smart devices and their connection to cloud systems.  SIMMs don't carry ICE, but they can have a Firewall and do have System Stress.  If you want to mess someone up via hacking, you can destroy their System Stress leaving all their various smart devices and cyberware implants vulnerable to your whims.  Mechanically this like Fate Core's mental stress track.  If you take out a target via System stress you probably haven't killed them any more than intimidation taking somone out via mental stress kills them, but turning off all their cyberware or using illusion software to blind them is just as good.

The average person runs their own SIMM, but Ghost Agents (players) link their SIMMs to the team hacker, gaining the benefit of the hacker's Tech skill, and Firewall, while still using their own System Stress.  This shared defense is another advantage to a Cyberdeck that most people can't make use of.

Note: Mental and Physical Stress in Static/Signal have been merged into just plain "Stress."  Characters have both a Stress Track and System Track, and can be taken out if they are unable to mitigate attacks of either kind.

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