I am just about to start a Shadowrun 4th ed game and I want to play a Hacker (Decker?) and I was just wondering about their use of robots (small or large).

Can I have a bunch of small robots to take part in either combat or surveillance? I know almost nothing about the system (just what I read on its Wikipedia page) so I am not sure if this is feasible or even how the skills work.


The easy answer is yes. But there's a few things that you need to know about Hacking and assigning devices.

As a hacker, technomancer, or anyone with a commlink, you have a number of devices you can Subscribe to your PAN (Personal Area Network). These are the devices that are currently being monitored by your commlink and that you can directly interface with. Don't have the books handy, but one of the stats that the commlink has is the linked attribute for how many devices this is (as a technomancer, YMMV). You can also group devices up into groups that make sense and assign this group as one device.

So let's say you wanted to have a group of robots (known in Shadowrun as Drones) to do surveillance, combat, and recon for you. As a hacker (you'll be called a Rigger normally) you then subscribe these devices into your commlink as groups. Say you have a few rotodrones as your surveillance, some ground based tiny drones as your recon, and then your combat drones into your combat group. You have three devices now subscribed. Basically, as an action (I think it's a simple action) you are able to give your group an action and they carry it out. Each drone has what is called Pilot (some call this the Dog-Brain). This is the drone's ability to carry out the task you just assigned it. When rolling for checks, each drone in the group rolls their Pilot and the linked program you have for that task (for surveillance, this might be Sensor). Each drone rolls differently and they relay you back the info they gathered.

Now, all of what I've mentioned is you acting in what's called the Captain's Chair. This is how many Corp-Spiders work. A Spider is a hacker or rigger that sits in a corp's control room (or in their apartment, however upscale the corp is) and administers all drones on the network (usually in a closed network). They assign tasks to the groups of cameras and other small drones and call up combat units when needed.

The second way to rig is Jumping In. Jumping in to a drone means all of the drones skills and abilities become yours, as you are now directly controlling the drone. When doing this, that drone (singular, not a group) is that much more powerful, but you will feel the damage it takes as if you were taking damage in the Matrix. Also, you can no longer give commands to your other drones, as you're busy rigging the drone directly.

Usual SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for a rigger is to run in Captain's Chair mode and survey and recon for a group until the fecal matter hits the revolving wind generator. When combat comes, the rigger will assign remote actions for their drone groups and then jump into their best combat drone to take full control of the situation. While you're shooting mans, the groups are still feeding you info and doing their jobs. If they run into problems, you have to just trust that the Dog-Brain will help the drones figure it out.

There's more about Sprites or Agents, but that's for advanced rigging and I won't get into it. While you can have an army, understand that it's expensive to maintain and the mechanics of it takes a good tactician to pull off, but it's an invaluable part of any running team.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the detailed explanation, I just assumed hacker was the role I was looking for but it does appear to be rigging that I wanted. I'm going to leave this up for another day and then I'll accept your answer unless there are any that are significantly better. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2 '12 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Glad I could help! Remember also that while there are classifications for different rolls (Hacker, Rigger, Street Sam, Gun Bunny, Face, Mage Overwatch), your character doesn't need to pick a specific thing. A hacker can still rigger drones and a rigger can still hack. It's just that when you go for Rigger, you're focusing your points on stuff that'll help that endevor and less on programs. However, I would still take some good programs, a good Stealth and Attack prog, and be sure to invest highly in Command Unauthorized and ECM/ECCM. Those are vital for Riggers. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3 '12 at 12:18

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