The Decker (Shadowrun)

This little post started out as a message to one of my players who was struggling with playing the Decker. She felt like her options were actually rather limited as the Decker, because they always seemed to come down to “I throw a data spike.”

So, I was thinking about the issue… This idea that she had limited options (especially in combat) and how to help her get more “into” her character. What follows are my thoughts on the question and how I hoped to make it a little more exciting for her.

Over the years – and editions – one of the things that Shadowrun has struggled with as a game system is the fact that the meat, the magic, and the machine all operate in different “spaces.” The physical world, the Astral plane, and the Matrix.

In earlier editions there was very much a sense that the Decker/Hacker type character was sometimes better as an NPC, because while it was fun to play for the person playing one, it was the kind of role that when it was doing what it does best, the other PCs were just sitting around.

4th/Anniversary and 5th edition have attempted – each in their own way – to make the three spaces of the game mesh better. Honestly, 5th does it really well. It can still feel like you are not a part of the action but in many ways, 5th has really tried to make the decker the “ghost in the machine.”

When you throw a data spike, it’s the same as the Samurai shooting his gun.

When you shut down a camera or open a door, it’s the same as the infiltration expert doing it manually. The problem is, the decker still feels like it’s all over the place. In D&D you’d be like a mage/thief/cleric.

You run support, you do awesome stuff, and you are the one who defeats security. Unfortunately, that versatility also means that you don’t have a specialty. So you’re a bit all over the place.

With all that said – to make that feel more “cool” in-game, one way you can look at it is…

When you are running, you are everywhere. You are a digital angel diving in and out of devices – looking through your teammates eyes, blasting devices into scrap, and turning your opponents against themselves. Don’t think of it as your unconscious meat body doing things with its brain – think of it as your glorious Matrix Avatar winging through e-space and bending it to your will while dodging the vengeful GODs who attempt to strike down any who would fly to Olympus.

Thoughts, feelings, emotions from the Deckers out there? How do you feel about your place on the team – both in-game and mechanically speaking?

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