Modern Computer System

Example Computer Stat Blocks...

 Name                Spd      Pro      Enc      Fir      Cost
 Pane Laptop           1        3        0        2      *
 Nix Workstation       3        5        2        0      **
 Nix Server            5        7        2        0      ***
 Pane Supercomputer    7        9        0        2      ****

Description of Computer Stat Blocks

  • Spd - Speed; This statistic describes the speed of the computer. Speed is added to the initiative rolls involving hacking or swift computer use. Additionally, it represents the maximum amount of program suites a user may load per turn. Program suites always take one turn to load.
  • Pro - Processing; This statistic represents the computer's multitasking capacity. All programs have a Resources Cost, which also represents the complexity and power of the program. A computer may run one Resources dot of program suites per point of Processing. So, if one is using a Pane Laptop, the combined Cost value of all running programs could never exceed 3, without overclocking.
  • Enc - Encryption; This is the difficulty to trace the computer through a network (such as the internet). This statistic is wholly reliant on what program suites are active on the computer. If a box possesses no encryption software, encryption defaults to 0, and no roll is required to trace the computer at all - even rudimentary OS tools are able to track it without flaw.
  • Fir - Firewall; This is the difficulty to hack the computer through a network (such as the internet). Firewall is dependent on software suites, similar to Encryption. If a computer has no firewall software, this rating defaults to 0, and no roll is required to access its data.

Software Suites

Software is the core of the computer. Without programs, data, and operating systems, any given box is little more than a half-booting paperweight. Operating systems start the computer, manage every last magnetic data sector on the hard disk, and calculates every minute pixel that assembles its GUI. Programs provide tools that grant the computer, or the user, bonuses to Computer involved rolls - anything from art, to black operation satellite surveillance. And both operating systems and programs would flounder and fail without databases to back them up with all the information they need.

Software of all types are represented by a small stat block that describes their Cost (both in processing, and in Resources), purpose, type, and OS compliance. There are three different types of nonmagical software - program suites, databases and operating systems.

Operating systems control every minute aspect of a box. When a Computer starts up, it requires an operating system for the boot-up to be successful. If it has multiple operating systems, the user may only select one of them to load at boot time. Operating systems, regardless of Cost, do not count towards the computer's Processing limit.

Program suites are required for the computer to perform anything more complex than rudimentary tasks. Although all operating systems come with their own proprietary suite of general software, such software is hardly professional grade fare. Programs are tools of varying quality and nature, and can assist in nearly any computer related task - if they don't simply do the task automatically. Program suites are built on top of operating systems, and are incompatible with any system they haven't been specifically programmed to accomodate.

Databases are encrypted archives of organized information. They contain nothing more than information concerning specific subjects. Databases may be accessed through any operating system, but are otherwise exactly like program suites.

Computers are assumed to start out with no software except one operating system of the buyer's option. There is no practical limit on how many programs a computer has, merely on how many it may have simultaneously active.

Note that many programs will roll dice independently of the Exalt. This is a function of the computer, and not the Exalt, and so a roll of ten counts as only one success, not two.

Example Software
Antivirus Pro
Van Labs' latest offering in affordable antiviral software, Antivirus Pro silently attaches itself to most operating systems, and constantly reads and rereads the dataflow of the computer in search for known virii taken from the Van Labs HQ in Southern California. Antivirus automatically loads itself when the computer boots up, and checks once per boot-up for infected files, at a dice pool equal to the computer's Processing +2.

 Cost:  *
Operating Systems: Panes XP, Star Nix

IP Trapper
Another offering from Van Labs, this shareware application suite offers everything a server administrator would need to trace and analyze IP data. If IP Trapper is loaded prior to any hacking attempts, it grants +2 dice to any attempt involving tracing the source location of any attempt to hack the pertinent computer.

 Cost: *
Operating Systems: Panes XP

Liquid ICE
Liquid ICE is a basic, often pirated defensive suite for the mildly paranoid. Its makers, an internet-based group of programmers (self-titled as the Roadkill Cult) have extensive hacking backgrounds, and are most renowned for their suite of software called Bunk Buddy - an infamous piece of software that cracked open Panes 95 like a rotting walnut shell. If the Roadkill Cult weren't proud and vocal supporters of the Star Nix operating system, no doubt everyone would suspect Liquid ICE contained trojans as well. When loaded, Liquid ICE provides the computer with Enc +1, Fir +3. Liquid ICE also connects daily to the private Roadkill Cult database, to check a certain variable (there is one individual variable for every registered copy of Liquid ICE). This variable reads 'no', but if at any time a member of the Roadkill Cult sets it to 'yes', Liquid ICE writes the Nth Citious trojan to its parent computer's hard disk.

 Cost: **
Operating Systems: Star Nix

By far not the first file-sharing software designed, Orpheus is definately the most popular. Although under attack by global media corporations since its advent (an activity the corporations have not slackened on), Orpheus is the best place to locate new software, music, and movies for free. Using it lowers the difficulty to locate and freely download any public software by -1, but multiplies transfer time by 10 due to sporadic and fussy file sharers.

 Cost: *
Operating Systems: Panes XP

Claywheel Photobench
The global premiere of graphic editing software, Photobench is an everyday tool for any serious graphics designer, as well as any dabbling home user. Using Photobench adds +4 dice to any attempt to create or clean up a graphic file.

 Cost: **
Operating Systems: Panes XP

Nth Citious
One of the least known inventions of the Roadkill Cult, Nth Citious is a brilliantly programmed trojan that nests inside Liquid ICE, waiting for the proper signal. When this signal is given, Citious writes itself to the hard disk, where it waits for a reboot. On a reboot, Citious updates the root passwords of the system to include the database of Roadkill Cult key words. Citious then sends a signal to the Roadkill Cult headquarters, to tell them that their new machine is accessable. Locating and removing the Citious infection is a difficulty 2 process.

 Cost: None (Piggybacks on OS)
Operating Systems: Panes XP

Mini-Me Doppleganger
A small but popular hacking tool written years ago by an anonymous hacker, and dispersed for free in the darker areas of the internet, the Mini-Me Doppleganger creates multiple interfaces with any computer the user attempts an intrusion upon. The connections all seem to come from disparate sources across the globe, confusing any alert administrators. This program adds +2 to the difficulty to detect the user's intrusion efforts.

 Cost **
Operating Systems: Star Nix

US.SSN Dbase
Nested in every major US credit card and government information server are the access codes for the US social security number database. This database is the most extensive key to locating and researching the backgrounds and whereabouts of any legal US citizen. This program adds +6 dice to any effort to locate or pull the public record of any US Citizen.

 Cost: *** (Not for public sale)
Operating Systems: All

Panes XP
Since the late-eighties, an edition of Panes has been pumped out of Macroware once every two to three years. Regularly timed free updates and extensive customer support have made up for what is otherwise a very fallible operating system. This allows Macroware to continue to chug out small improvements under the guise of a new OS every few years, while still focusing their efforts more towards pleasing corporate sponsors with ridiculously stringent copyright-sensitive proprietary software. Due to recent market scorn, Macroware has grudgingly endowed Panes XP with adequate firewall software, providing +2 Fir on top of what is granted by any third party firewall program suites.

 Cost: ** (Operating system)

Star Nix
Star Nix is the Norwegian answer to operating systems, and it has taken the world by storm. Free and open-sourced, Nix has always been easy to obtain - but with new corporate sponsorship and offices granted by Star Group Investors, it's now easy to install and use, too. Star Nix frightens Macroware, and Macroware officials have been known to stammer and make excuses whenever Star Nix is brought up in press conferences - which just makes the operating system that much more popular to computer fanatics grown bored with Panes XP. Nix is a very cleverly built operating system, automatically archiving and reorganizing files for maximum efficiency - this archiving complexity gives the box running Star Nix +2 Enc.

 Cost: Free (Operating System)

Programming Complications

Programming in Ex Mod is fast and dynamic. In a cinematic environment, a programmer does not need months or even years to develop excellent software - the process is condensed into a period of hours.

  • Talk with your Storyteller about what you want out of the software: what software type you wish to use, and what the software is meant to accomplish. He will assign a Cost rating to it that represents both how much processing power the software will take, and how much it is worth in the open or black markets.
  • The character must spend one hour programming for every point of Cost. At the end of this programming session, roll Intelligence + Computers, at a difficulty equal to the software's final Cost rating. This is an extended roll: every time the programming time requisite is met, another roll may be attempted. Once the designer has as many total successes as the software's Cost rating, the software is finished. If at any point the designer botches, he becomes lost in the tangled mess of code, and must start over from scratch.
  • For example: Ned is trying to write a 3D rendering suite to display a global positioning satellite datastream. Ned's Storyteller claims the Cost would be *****. Every five hours Ned spends programming the rendering software, he may make another Intelligence + Computers roll against difficulty 5. When he has a total of five successes, the suite is finished.
  • Creating operating systems require double the programming time; creators of an operating system have an intimate knowledge of the environment they have created. Any future efforts to program software for that particular operating system are made at -1 difficulty (minimum 1).

Hacking Complications

Because the vast majority of the information in the world has been stored on one computer network or another, the computer network is naturally the most valuable tool for gathering that information. Additionally, human insight only goes so far, and specialists in computer security can only anticipate so much. In the modern day and age, if one does not freely grant access to privately or publicly stored information, one risks hacking by the curious and those in the employ of the curious, both.

Hacking begins with the uninvited access to a system. Following that, a hacker will typically nose around the system to either copy software from it, use software within it, or plant software in it. Finally, the hacker disconnects and must trust to hope or cunning to keep his location from being traced.

The only real prerequisite to hacking is having network access. There are two types of networks that concern hackers: wide access, and local access. Wide access networks may be accessed remotely from any point in the world. Local access networks require a hard connection between the hacker's computer and a computer connected to the network. As one can expect, hacking some local networks is impossible to mere mortals - for example, retrieving the entire US.SSN Dbase for download requires hard access to a government facility. Tricky to obtain, to say the least.

Linking to a local network requires no roll, but merely one minute to synchonize the hacker's box with a box already connected to the network. Once inside, however, the system for local and wide network hacking is identical.

Intrusion is breaking into the system and finding a way past the Firewall. The hacker rolls Wits + Computers at a difficulty equal to the target computer's firewall. Successful intrusion grants the hacker rudimentary file access - he will be able to view and copy files, but cannot edit, delete or move them without root access. With basic access, you can search for data, or you may download data. At the time of intrusion, any attending administrators may roll Perception + Computers to notice the uninvited guest. The difficulty for this roll is equal to the hacker's encryption rating.

Searching for software is a direct process of looking through folders and registries for helpful clues. It involves a Perception + Computers roll at a difficulty equal to the target computer's encryption. This roll may be attempted multiple times, but every attempt takes one minute. Once the software has been located, the hacker has the option of either viewing and perhaps downloading it, or editing, moving, replacing or deleting it, depending on his system access.

Data transfers are largely a matter of time, because there are no rolls involved in simple downloading or uploading. To transfer software from one computer to another requires one minute for every point of Cost the software has. Each minute, any attending administrators may repeat their efforts to detect intrusion once. This assumes that the connection is fast - in the instances of slower connections, Storytellers are encouraged to double or even quadrouple the time required for transfers.

If at any point a hacker is detected by an administrator, the administrator may opt to sever network access through one of two ways: he may either disconnect the computer from the network manually, or he may choose to flush the hacker while keeping the system connected. Naturally, if the connection is manually severed, all transfers stop and intrusion must be attempted again later, when the target computer is once again on an accessable network.

If the administrator chooses to flush the intruder out without disconnecting from the network, then counterhacking begins. The administrator attempts to eject the hacker, while the hacker attempts to buy enough time to complete his goals before he is ejected. The process of counterhacking is this:

  • Both parties roll initiative. (Dexterity + Wits + Speed)
  • Starting software is a simple action. Terminating software is a reflexive action.
  • Flushing intruders is a contested Wits + Computers roll. If at any time the hacker has less successes than the administrator, he is ejected from the system and all his transfers are cancelled.

Tracing is a basic hacking and counterhacking trick. Any computer connected to a network may trace any other computer on that network. Tracing is a simple action involving a roll ofPerception + Computers against a difficulty equal to the target computer's encryption. A successful network trace reveals important information about the target computer's physical whereabouts.

Finally, sniffing is another hacking trick worth mention. It picks up information and badly encrypted data transferred throughout a network. Sniffing may be used to grab bits of information from a computer - anything from its operating system to root passwords. Sniffing is a simple action, and the sniffer need only roll Intelligence + Computers against the target computer's encryption. Successful sniffing reveals one fact per roll.

Point-based Computer Creation & Computer Tweaking

Resources cost, and correlating point totals...

  • 1: 4
  • 2: 8
  • 3: 12
  • 4: 16
  • 5: 20

Spend these points on a 1-for-1 basis between Speed and Processing. Typically, a computer begins with one operating system of the buyer's choosing. After that, ICE suites and other defensive measures may be used to improve the basic defenses of the system.

If the computer's basic stats aren't satisfactory, the most savvy of computer users may attempt to overclock their box. Overclocking a computer involves an Intelligence + Computers roll at a difficulty equal to the stat to be overclocked, which may either be the machine's speed, or processing. This roll may be attempted as many times as the overclocker desires, although the bonus does have an upper cap.

If the roll is successful, the stat improves by +1, but never more than double the original stat. If the roll fails, the computer must be repaired from the attempt, which is a Wits + Computers roll, difficulty 2. A botch indicates a crucial mistake, and fries the machine completely - all hardware, software and data on it is lost, and must be replaced. .