When creating a code, the Power Rating is determined by the number of challenges rolled in creating it. But, you can continue to attempt challenges until certain conditions are met. So, the PR isn't determined until the code is finished.

However, the Hacker has an ability that lowers the PR of a code when creating it for determining the DC of skill and request checks.

So the issues here are twofold: What does the PR of a code actually do when creating the code? What effect does lowering it have during creation?

and also,

Since there isn't a DC involved in creating the codes, what does the Hacker's Master Key ability actually do in this situation?


For all three of your questions, the answer is the same:

Technically, Nothing

A hacker's master key ability doesn't help him create codes at all. Decreasing a code's Power Rating doesn't do anything to change the DCs of the hacker's Science (Mathematics) skill check needed to create a code.

It's a hole in the rules--an annoying one, given how tightly written Spycraft 2.0 is.

What It Should Do

I believe the final phrase in the master key ability ("...for the purposes of determining skill and Request check DCs") is legacy text leftover from concerns about Power Ratings stemming from the gear chapter having been--if I'm remembering Spycraft 2.0's development correctly--written independently of the remainder of the text.

Excising that text (and house ruling in a (minimum 1) in the same section after reducing the Power Rating) allows the master key ability to be useful when creating codes by, potentially, vastly reducing the amount of time necessary to create codes and software because of the check's PJI (High) tag. This drops an increasingly powerful code's corresponding Complexity and permits the hacker to create codes faster.1

I've compiled the chart below so you can see the impact this would have.

   Code's            Code's Complexity:               Minimum Project
Power Rating  (2 × the mission's Threat Level) +   Investment Per Check
     1                        13                           1 week
     2                        15                         1d3 weeks
     4                        18                         1d3 weeks
     6                        20                         2d4 weeks
     8                        23                         2d4 weeks
  9 or 10                     25                         3d4 weeks

This time is spent per challenge the character undertakes (p. 101) with his Science (Mathematics) skill, so dropping the Power Rating even by 1 can save weeks or months of work.

  1. I've never had a hacker create a code beyond PR 1. Almost all the skill checks with the PJI (High) tag are ridiculous, given the tiny amount of time available during most missions. Cash can be gained by ruthlessly exploiting the rules (e.g. earn millions in minutes by putting a UAV on Ebay), but time? That's a hot commodity.
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Technically Nothing" is unfortunately the conclusion my group came to as well. We also decided to just take a code as a gear pick. I'm getting increasingly disappointed that I haven't made any important rolls with my Science skill as a Hacker. I'll show my group this, though, because it's reasonable. The idea of creating a PR6 code in a few weeks seems pretty good. \$\endgroup\$ – Mystagogue Jul 25 '14 at 14:09

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