It makes sense that they can, but barring something specific in Data Trails when it comes out, I'd like community input. So I'll lay out my evidence and arguments for and let the community help me sort it out.

For: only commlinks and cyberdecks can be masters, and the book very strongly implies that a single decker should be able to defend an entire team's wireless gear. Making a few assumptions, every team member is likely to have at least two wireless-enabled items, probably three (a commlink, a way to perceive AR, and their key piece of gear or weaponry), while sammies and riggers likely have more (the street sammy is probably loaded with implants and smartguns, the rigger has his own implants and AR tools on top of his RCC and drones and vehicles - though if the rigger's RCC is solid, neither it nor the drones need the decker's help).

If a commlink can be both master and slave, the implication is easy to meet - the decker's cyberdeck slaves the entire team's commlinks in addition to the decker's own gear, and then the members slave their gear to their commlinks. Not only does this leave the members' gear in a good condition for when the group breaks up after the run (with all their gear already set in the optimum configuration for being solo, slaved to their personal 'links), it just makes sense from an in-world standpoint. The decker doesn't need to handle or virtually touch every piece of gear in the group, because the commlinks already serve as nerve centers - the decker just assumes a leadership role over the others' personas (via their 'links) and their gear is automatically included with them.

Against: The only reason I'm even asking instead of going with my assumption is that the RAW doesn't spell out that it does work this way, despite getting into the situation a few times in at least two chapters (the Matrix and Rigging chapters both cover PANs and master/slave relationships). "The book doesn't say I can't" is a poor excuse for believing you can do something. After all, the book doesn't feel the need to spell out that ordinary humans can't fly or throw fireballs (without a Magic attribute and some spellcasting, anyway)... can you help me confirm or debunk my assumption?

I would prefer answers from RAW, but as I have found none so far myself, I'll gladly accept any explanation that works, for or against. Using the world fiction, drawing assumptions from the rules text, or explaining how it worked in a previous edition of Shadowrun and why it does (or doesn't) work that way now are all great.


2 Answers 2


It would be kind of silly if you couldn't group up devices like that. If you think about it, modern networks work very much like this. Take a modern-day setup. We have companies with servers that all slave a number of computers to themselves. Those computers, in turn, will slave other devices (such as flash drives, mice, keyboards, monitors, ect.)

Your rational is correct. You can, indeed, create groups of devices, slave them to a commlink, and then have the decker slave the commlinks to himself. This creates a mobile PAN (personal area network) mesh that the decker can more easily police and protect, since he's the first thing an enemy hacker has to get through. There are, of course, problems with this setup.

The biggest flaw to this setup is what happens when someone DOES make it through your detection and firewall unchecked? The answer? They now have EVERY piece of hardware your entire team owns at their fingertips. And until you can get them out of your node, they can choose to screw with any of the devices. Normally, if they want to hack the street sam, they'd need to be within range and hack their commlink separately. It's easier, but that's multiple points of failure, since the enemy hacker can't get to anyone else on your team through the sam. With you protecting the group, you're more likely to catch any intrusion, but if you fail, the enemy hacker now has three marks on your entire team and hilarity can ensue (read: bad things for your team).

Generally, you want to protect all of your party members and slave all of their devices to your deck. Period. There is no reason NOT to do this, honestly. The chances that you'll miss a hacker in your system are pretty low anyways, and even if you do miss them, rebooting your deck will sever the connection and erase the hacker's marks on your deck, forcing the enemy hacker to have to start again on someone else's device.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't considered the possibility of marks climbing the chain. If someone gets a mark on a subsidiary device, it would give a mark on the immediate master (the teammate's commlink) which would chain up to the primary master... that's kinda scary. Methinks if we left explosives with wireless detonators or something behind somewhere, we'd need to un-slave them. They'd still be owned, just not part of the PAN - so much easier to hack to prevent detonation, but no abusing the direct connection loophole. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 20:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is why a PAN can be a double edged sword. The master or node of a network holds all of the security of a system now. Mark the head and you get access to everything it holds. It's why the decker is now the protection for gear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CrystalBlue has it correct on all accounts in my book! \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you everyone :D I will point out, though, that it is pretty specific that marks only pass up the chain, not down. That is, getting three marks on the sammy's smartgun will give the guy three marks on the sammy's link AND on my deck, but won't automatically give three marks on everyone else's devices (or even the sammy's or my other devices). But, since he'll be able to take my protection out pretty easily at that point (as well as the sammy's!), the others will be left only their own 'links to defend their gear until I can get my 'deck up and running again. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not so much that the marks travel downwards. It's the fact that, as a user that's put three marks on the cyberdeck that's protecting a PAN, you now have full authorization on that device to do with it what you will. You'll still have to make matrix hacking tests to mess with it, but it recognizes you as a user. Break the connection with the master and they can't follow you to your link. But while your link is on the deck, you and the link and all your devices are 'trusting' the authority of the deck and it's users, whoever they might 'appear' to be. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:05

There is some evidence that a master device could also be a slave at the same time, but there is also strong evidence that in such chain the defense benefits are only between immediate master and its slaves.

From the PANs and WANs section in the core (page 233, emphasis mine):

If you want extra protection for some of your devices, you can slave them to your commlink or deck. Your commlink (or deck) can handle up to (Device Rating x 3) slaved devices, becoming the master device in that particular relationship. The group consisting of your slaved devices plus your master commlink or deck is called a personal area network, or PAN.

Particular relationship suggests that your commlink might have some other relationship with other devices, possibly being slave to them. On the other hand the (Device Rating x 3) limit suggests that chaining devices and benefit from the protection at the same time was not the intention of the authors. That is why I would allow only the immediate slaves to benefit from the master device defenses.


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