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Are droids hackable in the Star Wars universe?

For example,

  • could an Imperial hacker hack into C3P0's memory (let's say while the poor robot is in pieces in the Cloud City, before Chewie finds and rebuilds "him")? Could said hacker read and possibly alter C3P0's memories? Could he install "subliminal suggestions", in other words, viruses?
  • could the Rebels hack, in the very beginning of "The Empire Strikes Back", into the Imperial Probe's AI remotely (via a WiFi or similar channel) and alter either or both the droid's perception (so that it sees only the snow fields, not the Rebel Base) and the signals it sends out, back to the Imperial recon divisions?
  • could Imperial hackers aboard the Death Star hack into the attacking X-Wings' astromech droids (R2s) and cause the starfighters to crash into the walls or at least malfunction?

If so, what are the game mechanics for droid hacking, in any Star Wars roleplaying game (d6, d20 etc)?

I know the idea itself feels somewhat strange to the world -- even though R2D2 does hack into the systems of the Death Star in "A New Hope", finding out where Leia is held captive and stopping the walls of the trash compactor before it would kill the "party" --, yet gaming in this day and age brings up such "technological updates" almost unavoidably, as both players and GMs think about computers and systems with an up-to-date mindset.

Note: Should you feel interested, I have asked practically the same Q on scifi.SE without the gaming part. :)

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All we see about the films (IV, V, and VI) is form the perspective of C3P0 as recounted for the Ewokes -- Simplistic, black and white, and biased towards the Rebellion. What would an Ewoke know of "hacking"? Best gloss over that... ^_~ –  Sardathrion Jul 3 '13 at 8:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

From Star Wars: Edge of the Empire p. 107, which describes the Computers skill:

This skill also governs the repair of a damaged computer system, defensive actions against an intruding slicer, and routine maintenance necessary to keep the software on a computer or a droid running effectively.

Further down the page:

Efforts to alter a droid's programming or gain access to its memories require the acting character to make a Computers check.

And further:

The difficulty for a Computers check is calculated based upon any defenses present within the system and the inherent sophistication of the system against intrusion.

How long it takes to hack a droid seems to be left to the gamemaster's discretion:

The difficulty for a Computers check is calculated based upon any defenses present within the system and the inherent sophistication of the system against intrusion. Slicing into a tapcafe's systems to alter a transaction might be trivially easy, while a military outpost could be hardened and prepared for a slicer's assault. In general the more vital the materials protected by the system, the more difficult the system should be to overcome.

Additional [successes] may be spent to reduce the time required for the action undertaken. This is generally representative of the character's extensive familiarity with systems of the type targeted.

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If you take only the movies as canon, hacking is mostly not part of the Star Wars universe. Only highly specialised droids like R2-D2 are seen doing it, and he is shown to be a highly exceptional droid at that (there are many R2 units around, but R2-D2 is shown to impress other characters with its resources, showing he is "above average R2"). Among other things, droids do not seem to be networked unless explicitly and physically connected: wireless communications are only used as a holographic substitute of the telephone (there are cables everywhere in Star Wars).

In the expanded universe, however, there are some examples of movie-like hacking.

If your question is mostly about the mechanics, the Star Wars RPG by WEG (usually called Star Wars D6) has the Technical -> Computers (p62) and Technical -> Droids (p63) skills precisely for this kind of actions. Note that it is assumed that droids and computers are different things, and that the hacker needs physical access to the system: "The programmer must have access to a computer or datapad, which must be jacked directly into the droid's memory for programming" (p63). All page numbers refer to the 2nd edition revised rulebook.

Unfortunately I do not have my d20 rulebooks handy, but there is probably one or two skills for that too in Star Wars d20 (SAGA or not), probably depending on Intelligence and trained only.

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Actually, the droid battle army from Episode I is totally 'networked' wirelessly and remotely controlled from a space ship in orbit. (Or are we still ignoring episodes I through III?) –  fgysin Oct 8 '14 at 14:16

fgysin is correct that those battledroids were networked. And that ship was destroyed which shut down all those droids. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever made that mistake again.

Getting back to the original point, I'm not aware of anyone doing any wireless hacking on droids in the EU. That's not to say that it couldn't be done, and the GM might or might not allow it. But I'm not aware of anyone that has actually done it.

If you did want to consider it, I think it would come down to the droid type and what kinds of options they might have installed. For example, in ANH, you will note that C-3PO used a hand-held communicator to talk to Luke, and although we later find out that C-3PO was custom-built, he seems to be pretty typical for this model of droid, and so they probably don't come with communicators built-in.

But there are other models of droids that may come with communicators built-in. According to Wookieepedia, the LE-series Repair Droids (like Dash Rendar's "Leebo") come with broadband antennas built-in, and therefore presumably equivalent of a long-range communicator. And if there's a way for them to inherently communicate out, then there might be a way to hack in. Again, that would be up to the GM, and what they determine the communications system is connected to with respect to the other systems in the droid.

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In the case that a GM wishes to allow hacking, how might it be handled mechanics-wise? (And welcome to RPG.se! Please take a look at the tour; it's a useful introduction to the site.) –  SevenSidedDie Apr 23 at 5:11
I think the most important thing would be the nature of the droid and what may or may not have been done to it in the past. In ANH, note that C-3PO used a hand-held communicator in order to talk to Luke, just like any other organic would have done. So, we could reasonably conclude that 3PO units probably don't have any built-in comm systems as standard factory-built options. But there's no saying that they couldn't have one added by someone else. And if there's a way to get communications out, then there might be a way to hack in. But really, I think it all comes down to the GM. –  Brad Knowles Apr 23 at 6:19
Cool. That thinking should probably go into the answer (comments are ephemeral). If you have any suggestions about how you would handle that mechanically if you were the GM in question, that might also be a practically-useful addition to the answer. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 23 at 6:40
Will do. Thanks! –  Brad Knowles 2 days ago

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