I GM for a group of four players. The party consists of a shaman, a rigger, an adept and a Decker and I think we stumbled upon one of the most common problems in Shadowrun, the problem of decking taking an eternity. I run a heavily modified version of Splintered State and at the Moment we are at the "Threading the Needle" scene. In other words the big run on Brackhaven Investmens to steal some data.

My players have quite a few ideas how to pull this off and are in the middle of their preparations and since the decker had quite a lot of tasks to perform we schedueled a decker session. That worked out rather well but showed us how long decking can take. The decker and I agree that these extra sessions should be kept to a minimum after all rpgs are a group experience. On the other hand he does not want to hog huge amounts of time. He feels bad about it even though the other players tell him that they don't mind. So I had the idea of simplifying hacking in the interesst of time. The problem here is that he really likes the complex rulesystem for decking and shadowrun and I can't blame him since I appreciate it myself. Additionally he likes these complex runs with a lot of preparation and the possibility of going full stealth because of it.

So our problem is that we have to find a way to keep the decking complex and interesting but make it work much faster since it is a huge time sink.

We are all new to the shadowrun system so I guess we are going to get faster with time and we use roll20 so we have options to accelerate but only so much. How do you manage to keep decking interesting, crunchy and speedy?

Disclaimer: I have read How do you make hacking useful without excluding other players? but must admit that the ideas, as far as I see it, either do not solve the problem or ignore at least one of the wishes of my players. I know this is a very difficult question but maybe someone has a good answer for it.


4 Answers 4


Here are a few things I do as a GM to help speed up hacking.

Don't roll for the easy stuff

Has the Decker proven he can hack all the easy things? Are a bunch of cameras slaved to a cheesy host? Let them get the marks. Maybe the host's strength lies elsewhere, like IC or their security spider.

This doesn't just include getting marks. Maybe you can assume they're pretty well hidden and just roll a die for an edge test every now and then. Maybe assume the host thinks everything is normal and only worry about the Patrol IC finding the player when the security has gone up.

Pre-roll your dice

If you trust the player (you SHOULD trust the player), let them pre-roll some of their common things. A couple of Matrix Perception tests, a few Hack On The Fly...they can do these while the other players are going. This DOES have the side-effect of making failures known ahead of time, and the player might look at those rolls and try to change what they're going to do...but it comes back to trust. I ask my player to roll them and provide them in the order they were rolled.

Remember, it's not the only time sink

I've seen 3 minutes of combat take up 2-3 hour sessions by players who've done this for a while. Right now the Decker might be getting their time, but soon enough the others will, too. And they may want to hear about the fun the decker is having, what the host looks like, and more. Maybe invite them over to just hang out if you want to do a solo Decker session.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm fully aware that it is not the only time sink the problem is just it does not matter to my player. He feels better if he does not hog so much time. We already had a combat scene that took a whole session but to him this does not matter even though he was unable to do anything. I like your idea of pre-rolling. I will probably make my own pre-rolls before the session for things like IC just so I can speed it up. I will ask my decker what he thinks of pre-rolling even though I'm afraid he will not like it for the reason you mentioned even though I trust him completely. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antrix
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 14:04

Short answer? Don't Change Much This is the raison d'etre of your decker. They invested a hefty chunk of points into their character to... Have them summarily ignored? Yes, spotlight issues can occur but they also have ways to put a decker in simultaneously actions with combat. If it's not combat, and you don't just want to flatten it to "give me these three rolls". However, an option I've suggested before (having trouble finding the exact question) is that you can have your non-tech players assume control of friendly software, drones, even hacker Contacts/Allies that would otherwise be extra GM overhead.

It's the sort of crux that occurs in any game that everyone can't do the same thing. In most games, a fight scene is the easiest because everyone tends to have at least a little martial talent even if it's not a specialty. But, for example, you have a mage who needs to do research. Usually that's condensed to one roll, flash forward, done. No real payoff for the mage to invest. And then they usually have to spend time forming a spell they can lose any time for a formidable effect... Provided the samurai's three direct attacks a turn don't finish the conflict anyway. But you still have to sit through the wired samurai's each and every combat roll without making it interesting for your "face" character.

Another option is Buying Hits from pg47, where it says that if you roll a number of dice >= 4xDifficulty, and your GM approves, you can automatically succeed as if by the exact number of successes. It's a good way to hedge junk rolls like having to disarm a simple keypad lock to a storage unit if the player doesn't want to embellish.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of involving the other players and reducing the overhead for the GM and I will keep that in mind. Interestingly we do not have too much problems with combat situations even though hackers don't gel to well with combat. The problem is primarily in the preparation for the run. Hacking the security system, adding new access codes, changing the timetable for the security forces and things like that cause problems since that often is a lot of hacking but also a viable approach that I don't want to take away. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antrix
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also do a hot run where you have the hacker breaking locks as they go because if you do it too soon, their white hats could reset security before you get on site. You might have to break into combat time to parse it out but it gives everyone something. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited the answer to include automatic successes. I had to check my book for if it was x4 or x3 \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 11:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Admittedly, it was a prior edition (SR3, in fact), but the GM deputizing a player to help run the Matrix scenes is the best approach I've seen. It certainly didn't hurt that the deputized player had a better intuitive understanding of the Matrix rules than the GM. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 16:45

When it is just the matrix person working :

I would agree with Codeacula's answer of Don't Roll for the Easy Stuff. I typically give over easy rolls you know they are going to make, and just have it cost the action or time.

Another way to deal with it is combined actions. If you need to bring down 20 cameras, make it a single roll. There is no point in forcing the 20 rolls.

You can also group broader ideas together. Instead of rolling for the door, the security camera and the elevator you can just lump them together as "Entrance Roll" and hack it as one object.

When the matrix action is in the same combat as the rest of the team :

One trick I like to use to reduce the bogging down of matrix combat in a fight is to put the rolls in the players hands.

The player tells me something like they intend to make a sprite, then jump into the host and search for a file.

I will tell them the threshold they need or the defense dice they are rolling against, and tell them to roll for it. Then immediately move on to the next player.

The matrix player will roll their dice and the defending dice as needed, and get my attention if they need input. Otherwise I just check in for the result when their turn in initiative comes around and see how it worked out.

This can work for most parts of a fight, as the defense side usually doesn't take a ton of response from me as a DM. Sometimes this can lead to a desyncing in combat, IE the street sam needs to know if the camera is down, but usually when that comes up the group is interested in the results of the matrix rolls and no one is bored watching the matrix person doing their thing.


This is just a suggestion based on what we have done in my group. The idea is from this Shadowrun forum thread. The basic idea is to make all opponents challenging, while rolling nonchallenging tasks into one larger and more difficult but faster one.



Loose Devices and PANs

Only Commlinks, Cyberdecks, Living Personas and RCCs naturally have a Firewall rating. Devices without a Firewall rating are totally without protection against wayward hackers. Anyone with a Cyberdeck or a Living Persona may treat any device not attached to a PAN or a Directory as though they had 3 Marks on it. Additionally, such Devices do not have a firewall rating.

In Matrix terms, all Devices on a PAN or a WAN are merged into a singular device. All icons may be manipulated or harmed by manipulating the Master device. Any Marks on the Master also count as Marks on all of its Slaves, and visa versa. Registering or removing a device from a PAN or WAN takes roughly one minute worth of work. There is no limit to the number of devices that can be in a PAN or a WAN.


Hosts are further subdivided into Directories. Each Directory contains any number of files and devices. Marks on a Directory count as Marks on all attached Files and Devices, and an attack on a Directory is applied to one of its attached Files or Devices (attacker's choice). A person may use the Brute Force or Hack on the Fly actions against a Directory they are not in, as long as they are in that Directory's Host. All other Matrix and Resonance Actions require that that the Hacker "Access" a particular Directory. One can access a Directory with the "Enter Host" action, and only one Directory may be accessed at a time. Accessing a new directory immediately severs the Hacker's connection to the old one. Intrusion Countermeasures may be considered in any or every Directory at the same time.

By default, a Host can have up to (Host Rating) Directories, and may spread (Host Rating)*2 points of Protection amongst those Directories, with no one Directory getting more than (Host Rating) Protection. A Directory rolls Protection + [Host's Matrix Attribute] to defend against all actions, and is incapable of actions on its own. Many Hosts have at least one Directory with no protection as a sort of store front or face, where visitors can enter. Many Directories are also protected with a Data Bomb. Beyond that, it is merely a question of how much the Host wants a potential Hacker to have access to at once.

Further in the interest of saving time, we have decided that monks (minor npc's) act as a static threshold of their relevant dicepool/3. Real characters and important NPC's are not changed from the base rules.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I found the source of the house rule and linked to it in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 15:48

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