Decking in Shadowun has it's issues, especially in SR3 it lead to a "seperation" of the party when the Decker went on a matrix run (good examples are given in this question).

Our group will start to play SR5 soon, and I'm considering to play a Decker. But I don't want to slow the game unnecessary down, so I asked myself if decking got any better.

I'm looking forward to your answers.


4 Answers 4


I haven't played SR3 so my answer will be entirely based on my experiences with SR5.

Deckers don't seem too separated from what's going on in meatspace

The Matrix in SR5 is completely wireless (although I believe this may not have been the case in earlier editions) and functions more as an alternate plane of existence than as a completely separated network of computers.

The Matrix can be viewed (using the appropriate devices) either as Augmented Reality, which is overlaid on their natural vision or by entering Virtual Reality and leaving their meat body limp and unconscious. The VR Matrix closely models the physical world, with connected devices and people appearing as icons and personas respectively.

While operating in AR a Decker uses their physical Initiative to determine when (and how many times) they get to act. Since this is unlikely to be as high as a Street Samurai or similar quick combatant it means that while the Decker can still operate, they're limited in how much they can comparatively achieve but make up for it with the ability to keep moving along with the rest of the team.

While operating in VR a Decker's body is completely limp but they can still observe their teammates (via their personas and/or devices) and communicate with them. They can no longer move their body around or take part in physical combat but use their Matrix Initiative instead of their physical Initiative, allowing them to act faster and more times each round. Regardless, their actions are still 'in sync' with what's going on in meatspace and isn't a separated thing.

Other benefits of the Wireless Matrix

Deckers aren't just limited to breaking into data vaults or disabling security systems in SR5, anything with a wireless connection to the Matrix is a potential target, this can include various fun-to-hack things such as Smartguns, Cyberware, Drones and Vehicles. Your Decker may be crouched behind a desk, their body limp as they hack away in VR but they could still brick a security guard's smartgun at a critical moment and save the Mage from taking a bullet without interrupting whatever else it was they were doing.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So am I correct in the assumption that a Decker doesn't necessarily slows the game down? \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex Wolf
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 10:08
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ All characters act within the initiative system regardless of whether they're in meatspace, VR or even the Astral Plane. So no, playing a Decker won't slow the game down, you take your turns just like everyone else except you take different actions during them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aiken
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 10:54

Yes, SR5 fixed a lot of the problems with decking in SR3 and earlier.

I recently heard an unconfirmed rumour (that could be nonsense) that originally, deckers were supposed to be NPCs. If so, it shows in their role in early Shadowrun. They lived in their own world, and were better off staying at home. Astrally projecting mages could also spend a lot of time in their own private adventure, by the way.

SR5 changes this in a lot of ways:

  • You don't have to be in VR to deck; you can do it in AR (Augmented Reality) overlaid over the real world that you can still interact with. It's not as fast, but it's pretty safe.

  • The Matrix is wireless. Well, maybe not the matrix itself, but practically every device communicates wirelessly, so there's plenty of places to hack into, from which you can then access connected systems. You can still connect by wire, which reduces the noise on your connection, I believe, but for most everyday stuff, that's not necessary.

  • Almost every device can be hacked. If you're attacked by people with wireless smartguns, you can hack the guns. You can hack enemy drones. You can hack even their cyberware. You can of course also hack security cameras and doors and stuff like that.

  • Of course, your devices can also be hacked. Here you have this team of heavily armed shadowrunners, loaded with cyberware and smartguns, and you don't want your opposition to disable all your buddies' toys, do you? Well, you can slave them to your cyberdeck, so you can run security for them. Now the attacker has to defeat you instead of that meat head street sam.

I don't yet have much experience with how this works out in practice (I've run only one game with a decker, who had great fun hacking people's PDAs), but it appears to me that the full decker game is a very rich and deep one. And you need to be with the group. Although that richness could still mean you're sort of playing your own game.

SR4 also had the wireless Matrix, by the way. I'm not sure how far it went with the "everything can be hacked" idea. It did merge decker and riggers into a single thing (called "hackers"). SR5 doesn't do that, although with deckers being a clear threat to the security of drones, it won't hurt if a rigger knows a thing or two about defensive decking, though I think that would be prohibitively expensive. Maybe you can slave drones to your decker buddy's cyberdeck?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've never heard or read that Deckers were to be NPCs. Where did you hear that one? Certainly, in Pre-4th-ed, Deckers sometimes stayed at 'home' and ran shotgun in the target corp's matrix, but they were full-fledged characters. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's only a rumour I've heard, I'm afraid. Someone claimed that when deckers, and possibly also riggers, were originally introduced in SR1, they were not intended for players, but everybody wanted to play them anyway, so they added support for that. I've never played SR1, so I have no idea if this is true, but it would explain a lot about the role of the decker. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh...Interesting. The original core SR1 rulebook has Deckers and Riggers archetypes right alongside the Street Shaman and Samurai - but it's certainly possible that the original designers didn't flesh out either archetype in early drafts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they're in the very first rulebook, that does kinda undermine the rumour. I've made this doubt a bit clearer in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 10:21

Actually the relevant change was introduced with SR4. See my answer to a question regarding the same situation in SR4: How do you make hacking useful without excluding other players?

In short, speak to your GM and propose your Hacker to be handled equivalent to a mage:

  • AR is the equivalent of your sight shifted to "astral" plane
  • VR is the equivalent of you being completely on "astral" plane
  • matrix combat is like mages fighting
  • Your hacking of devices is just another sort of (tech-)magic

If your GM has no problem with integrating a full mage, he should cope well for you, too.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer, welcome to the site! If you haven’t already, I do recommend the Tour, though you do seem to have a good handle on things. And when you get 20 rep, feel free to join us in the Role-playing Games Chat! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 15:09

I recently read the Rulebook and there are multiple Ways to get into the Matrix, a Decker can involve himself completely in the Matrix via virtual Reality or use only Augmented Reality, which is kind of 50/50 awareness on Reality and Matrix.

The rules changed a bit through the versions and this "problem" is adressed, as i understand it, you have the same Time/Spotlight as everyone else if you're in the Matrix, so no you're not that much seperated.

It seems to me that the authors changed the Matrix to look like a parallel reality now, maybe to reflect the emerging internet of things.

The same goes for the Astral Layer and Rigging.


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