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We have started a cyberpunk red game, and one of our party is a net runner. However, we have found the game slows down while he is doing his thing. It doesn’t seem to be the players or GM's fault; it is just the nature of the mechanics of hacking to allow us access to somewhere, get information out, turn off alarms or cameras, or take control of the systems.

It can result in a 10-15 min break while the GM and Netrunner make all the various rolls and decisions. If there are 3-4 hacking attempts in a session, this can eat up slot of time. It isn’t just we that feel this; the GM and Netrunner are also conscious of the fact.

Is there a way to streamline this at all? Our netrunner has suggested writing an app linked to roll 20 that the GM can use to set up hacking challenges, so the net runner can then sit and do it by himself, while the GM carries on with the rest of us. But are there any suggested mechanics or ways to speed up net running?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might be interested in how users suggest handling solo computer intrusion in other systems like Shadowrun. For example, see here. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 19, 2020 at 20:30

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This isn't a problem unique to Cyberpunk Red

It comes up in Shadowrun too, as well as other games with the word 'cyberpunk' in the title, some spy thriller games, pretty much anything with hacking or any 'environment' that most players can't interact with.

It also comes up in DnD when you have a wizard using divinations, a rogue going scouting, or the party split up into two locations where one location is more plot relevant or has combat.

You can usually solve it in the following ways;

Streamline Mechanics

Reduce the 10-15 minutes of rolling into a few checks that are rolled without much in the way of choicemaking. Like 'go loud or go quiet, okay, roll X and Y vs Z and P'. Then, give the hacker either the info he's looking for or some options ('you can disable the cameras but the security guards might notice if they cycle their HUD') he can take back to his party to discuss, or have him fail and the alarm goes/data shuts down/enemy netrunner gets alerted (if he rolls poorly or w/e).

This shortcuts the netrunner-only part of the game without removing his ability to contribute to the group. You also apply this in combat or more 'physical' scenarios - if he's hacking traffic lights, an automatic door, a robot that is chasing them etc. You minimize the time spent in Virtumal Realmz unless you're doing the equivalent of a Solo Quest for the netrunner where he specifically gets to be in the spotlight, or if the entire team is 'along' with his ride and making decisions about what he does next in the place.

Gain Explicit Buy-In

If you make an experience cinematic and have an interested audience, sometimes people are willing to be sidelined and become a more passive participant in someone else's story. This generally requires less rolling more situational description and choice-offering, as 'now roll X' is often not as exciting to people whose characters are not present, but things like weird servers with custom graphic effects and interesting/creepy/exciting/revelatory information being uncovered or interpersonal drama between the netrunner and his npc contacts are all things people will find more interesting.

Effectively you turn the hacking more 'narrative' and thus make it more interesting to people who cannot interact with it.

Automate It

Rather than rolling for each thing with multiple stages that the netrunner wants to do, instead you decide, perhaps even beforehand, what he can hack into and what he can't. Stuff he can hack into he automatically succeeds at - pdas, terminals, cameras, auto-cars, are all pwned by his 1337 sk1llz. Stuff he can't is locked up with firewalls or things he doesn't have the tools to access. Some stuff perhaps will take specific amounts of time - 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes even, so the situation is not about 'wait around for 20 minutes while the netrunner rolls dice' but rather 'defend the netrunner for 10 minutes while he does his thing'.

To some degree this removes spotlight time from the netrunner, but he is still able to do useful things. He will require more spotlight in 'physical' situations (action, interpersonal, informational, story-importance) to make up for his lack of spotlight time in his area of expertise. Making more things for him to hack, and making hacking those things more important, will in many ways alleviate this lack of spotlight.

Bad Solutions

Solutions that people seem to try that don't work include;

  • trying to make non-netrunner people participate somehow in the netrunning

  • removing all hackable items except for some Locked Door or other you-must-be-this-tall-to-ride macguffin

  • Making hacking harder/more dangerous (?? yeah I don't know why either, maybe to try to 'force' the netrunner to spend less table time hacking?)

  • adding a single thing to hack and treating it like a solo adventure - the netrunner goes off and hacks all the things the party might need hacked, in one go, and then sits on the sidelines for the rest of the game

  • trying to force the netrunner to participate in more physical challenges presumably so him being bad at them will offset the solo spotlight time or ??

  • trying to 'hurry through' the mechanical interactions of hacking, giving short or no descriptions, and asking specifically for dice rolls - commonly slows things down even more while making the experience unsatisfying for everyone

  • making the netrunner's role very binary and expected - there is no failure state or w/e so it's like some weird ritual that has to be gone through where otherwise an npc would just spill deets or there wouldn't be an automated turret in the hallway

I could expand further on why these don't work but that's probably a separate question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I strongly agree with this answer. Unless the entire game is about hacking, the interesting aspect isn't how the hacking is accomplished but rather what can be done on success and/or how the situation changes on failure. \$\endgroup\$
    – sptrashcan
    Jan 2, 2021 at 8:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ How are your final two "these don't work" points different from your first and third suggested strategies? Have you had experience implementing any of your recommendations, and what was the result? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 2, 2021 at 13:11

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