In a few days I will master my first Round of Shadowrun and I talked with my players about specifics of their roles. During that I stumbled across the problems of deckers in combat. To me the rulebook suggests the idea of hacking guns in combat. But if I read the rules correctly then this is not a very viable course of action.

In my understanding most opposition would have their devices on running silent since there is no disadvantage to it for most devices. So the decker would have to make a matrix perception check and would generate lets say 4 Hits. Then he would use his first hit to make sure there are devices running silent in 100m. Then he could use the remaining 3 hits to spot devices if he knows a feature that they possess. Here is where my problems arise. (This interpretation of the rules is based a lot on the example on page 271.)

  1. The Decker would know that he has spotted a gun but would not know which one. Unless the Opposition is a lot about Gun diversity it would be impossible for the decker to know who he is attacking. Which becomes a big problem when a few enemies are dead and he is possibly hacking the guns of dead enemies.
  2. In skyscrapers the problem is even bigger since 100m in every direction are a lot of floors with a lot of guards with weapons. So the spoting and identifying the right one becomes even harder and comes with the possiblity of alerting more guards.

The decker and I came to the conclusion that combat decking is pretty useless and we are wondering if we missed or misunderstood something. We are willing to make adjustments to the rules if necessary.


2 Answers 2


Remember that the Matrix is layered over the real world.

If he can physically see the gun, finding which icon belongs to it is super-simple; it's the one that's physically located in the same place. The only benefit they might get from running silent is making him waste an action to locate a handful of their weapons; that's if they're allowed to run silent. If they're run-of-the-mill security guards, not Corporate Special Ops, they're probably required to keep their gear aboveboard so HR can see they're at their posts and doing their rounds and such.

(Even if they are running silent, physically seeing the gun might allow the hacker target it without spotting it first. He knows where to "aim" and can fire away. But that's not directly supported by the book, so it's a GM call.)

The hacker's two main uses as far as combat is concerned are avoiding it and support. Since the hacker can see enemy personas without a physical line of sight (including camera icons) he can guide the team to avoid a gunfight. He can send false orders, turn off / fake a camera feed, and unlock doors to hiding places so they don't get caught. Even if they have to fight, he can already be disabling guns from well before the fight starts. If he can find a safe place to go into VR (like a troll teammate's back) he should be getting lots more turns than the meat fighters (not even counting sprites and agents), so the rate he can eject clips and smash guns is pretty impressive.

If the hacker isn't in VR, he still has a wider variety of combat actions available to him than anyone but magi - and he can ignore cover for half of them. Jam that gun, co-opt that turret, blind that cyber-sammy, eject that clip, add his team to that smartgun's friend-list so it won't fire on them, direct that drone to open fire, etc...

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would add that in the way AR (Augmented Reality) is presented, is pretty easy to understand that the Decker gets an overlay of the position of every system discovered, so they could even notice hidden snipers or guards by the positions of his commlink/gun, and the guards could have cameras showing what they are seeing. For hidden systems/icons a Matrix Perception roll should be enough to discover nearby "guns", with several initiative phases he could have tagged the near ones quickly. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2015 at 6:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ tbh, my problem with SR5's decking - aside from the total lack of detail on some parts that matter - is that there's still a "decking phase" where only the hackers and magi get to play, and everyone else sits outside the target location and edited for content. I mean, unless your run is super-tight for time, there's absolutely no reason to go in before your decker and mage have scouted it in VR/Astral and done all they can do from there. You shouldn't walk into a building without already knowing the location of all the guards, whether their gun is hacked, and the names of their children. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2015 at 6:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are protections to avoid that, magical barrier to avoid Astral Scan from outside, and special paint/construction materials to block wireless, so the DM could force you to make the scans more near than you hoped. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21, 2015 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 Thank you for your response. I realy like your reason for keeping guns not silent and I agree with your suggestion of targeting guns that you can see. At least you could use location as a feature in my opinion. What I'm not sure about is if you can see the location of devices, which you have no line of sight to, that are running silent. If that would be the case the trace icon action would be far weaker than I thought. Additionaly if there would be a security spider on site it could probably locate the runners almost immediatly if he does make perception checks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antrix
    Apr 21, 2015 at 12:32

It's actually a little more simple than you think. If you're running with the same group more than once you can say in the downtime you log your runners' equipment into a filter so that they don't even register when you ping for strange weapons. That way when your rig says that there's a gun nearby there's a serious issue.

Also, with programs at your disposal you can likely get into the local access points and find the guards' commlinks because the weapons are likely a subnet of the individual's PAN. It takes a little digging but it's easily doable.

Depending on the circumstances of your decker/rigger they could be piloting a drone that can directly connect to the equipment in question, although the piloting rolls to land on a gun in a firefight might be too difficult.

Plus, depending on your decker/rigger/technomancer, you could have multiple initiative passes to use towards this end. Spending the first pass to find and the second pass to hack could work quite easily. If you're in a hot sim to find the guns, 4d6+8 (for example) could afford you a minor eternity to find and tamper with equipment.

When it comes to range issues, especially in a building, you can likely detect targets within the same area because of the Noise Ratings. If they're smart enough to hide their gear then the corporation probably has some sort of noise in the wallpaper or the walls/ceiling/floor and even a Spam zone if there's that much traffic going on. Find the targets with the best signal, filter out the friendlies (as above) and it's a pretty tight search. It's also entirely possible that each individual even on the enemy side will possess an avatar for the friendly network to identify them. Even without it, AR should be able to show pings coming off of the targets' devices.

Use a Sleaze or Brute Force action to Grid Hop, maybe spend an edge for an action to target multiple devices in the room with a Trace Icon action, and then you should mechanically have everything you need. If you have a couple Fork programs available this should be even easier.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your reply. The problem is less the runners' equipment but equipment that is not involved in the current combat situation. E.g. a guard 4 floors up. Is there a program or anything written for hacking access points or their range? Because if i take the range of modern day cellular tower than that means a lot of comlinks. The drone idea is original but as you point out a bit gimmicky. We took multiple initiative passes into consideration but even if you ignore the usual problems with it (no movement, no defense) then we get to the issue of not really knowing what you attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antrix
    Apr 21, 2015 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited my answer a bit. Still thumbing matrix actions for more specifics. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Apr 21, 2015 at 16:17

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