SR5:Matrix:How To

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5th Edition Rules
Basics Combat Magic Matrix Driving Character Creation
Basics Skills/Attributes Actions Jargon Cyberdecks Programs How To Complex Foms Submersion Sprites IC

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Matrix Combat

Combat in the Matrix involves complex, yet subtle, tactics and strategy. The most important thing to remember when it comes to Matrix combat is to have a plan. Your plan may not survive contact with the enemy, but you should have some sense as to how your avatar fights. Does he run silently and do whatever it takes to avoid detection, quickly hiding if spotted? Is she a pugilist at heart, brutally attacking icons that stand in her way? Or is he a strategist, sacrificing specialization for adaptability? Here are a couple of basic concepts to master:

This is the speed with which a hacker reacts in the Matrix. It is largely determined by the mode she uses to interface with the Matrix. Note: enhancements cannot push past the maximum of 5D6 Initiative Dice. (For more information on User Modes, see p. 229, SR5.)
Augmented Reality
Hackers use their normal Initiative and Initiative Dice.
Cold-Sim Virtual Reality
Hackers use their Data Processing + Intuition as their Initiative, and roll 3D6 Initiative Dice. A middle ground of sorts, but not entirely without risk. Biofeedback damage taken while in cold-sim is Stun damage.
Hot-Sim Virtual Reality
Hackers use their Data Processing + Intuition as their Initiative and roll 4D6 Initiative Dice. Speed comes with its own set of risks. Biofeedback damage is Physical damage while using hot-sim.
Data Spike
This is the main, no-frills offensive Matrix action in a decker’s arsenal. Marks aren’t required, but can help you pile on the damage that much more quickly if you have the opportunity to set yourself up for a knockout blow. Most corporate security spiders aren’t terribly interested in being subtle or earning style points. If they’ve found you, expect a fair number of data spikes to be thrown in your direction. Cybercombat + Logic [ Attack ] vs. Intuition + Firewall
Brute Force
A blunt way of getting marks, Brute Force sacrifices efficiency for versatility. A Data Spike will net you more damage out of the gate, but Brute Force can act as a setup blow, giving the decker more options down the line. Remember a successful attack action alerts your target to your presence, but not your precise location. If you’re running silent, using Brute Force won’t automatically reveal your location (while a failed Sleaze roll will), perhaps giving you a small window of opportunity. Cybercombat + Logic [ Attack ] vs. Willpower + Firewall
Hack On The Fly
Hacking + Logic [ Sleaze ] vs. Intuition + Firewall
Full Matrix Defense
This action triggers the commlink or connected device into active defense mode, granting a bonus (add the user’s Willpower to the dice pool, even if it has been previously added) whenever the user makes a Matrix Defense Test.
Reconfigure Deck
Either through using the Configuration cyberprograms or simply swapping cyberprograms or Matrix attributes, reconfiguring your persona can mean the difference between life and death on the ever-changing battlefields of the Matrix. Using a Free Action at the end of your first Action Phase to boost your defenses against the incoming counterattack and then using another Free Action at the beginning of your next Action Phase to revert to the proverbial glass cannon is a tactic used by many deckers who are entirely confident that the second counterattack will never come. It was also popular with many deckers who miscalculated when it came to that second counterattack. Rest in peace, chummers.
They can’t hit what they can’t see. Unless you’ve been marked, using Hide to disengage from combat can be a good way of buying yourself some time. If you succeed, your opponent will have to spend actions devoted to Matrix Perception tests. In a world where a nanosecond can make or break a man, that may be all the time you need.

Damage and Consequences

No matter how subtle and sneaky you are, sooner or later everyone takes a hit. Here are a couple of basic concepts to master before running through a Matrix combat scenario:

Matrix Damage
The Matrix Condition Monitor represents a device’s ability to handle damage. A device has 8 + (Device Rating / 2) boxes that represent the state of repair for the machine. Matrix damage is always resisted with Device Rating + Firewall. When a persona is hit for damage, the device it is running on takes that damage (except technomancers, who take it as Stun damage). (For more information, see p. 228, SR5.)
Damaging Hardware (Bricking)
“Bricking” is the slang term for when a device suffers enough damage that all of the boxes of its Matrix Condition Monitor are completely filled, causing it to malfunction explosively—complete with sparks, smoke, and small fires. These sorts of effects should be generally for show and not a source of Physical damage, although gamemasters may decide extreme situations warrant a Damage Resistance Test. A decker in VR mode is dumped from the Matrix when her device is bricked and she suffers from dumpshock. A bricked device is damaged and useless until it is repaired. (For more information, see Bricking, p. 229, SR5.)
A hacker forcibly disconnected from the Matrix while in VR suffers a nasty shock as his sim module kicks out. The Damage Value for dumpshock is 6S if you’re in cold-sim and 6P if you’re in hot-sim. Dumpshock is biofeedback damage, so you resist it with Willpower + Firewall. As if that weren’t enough, you’re also disoriented and take a –2 dice pool modifier on all of your actions for (10 – Willpower) minutes. (For more information, see Dumpshock & Link-Locking, p. 229, SR5.)
Getting link-locked occurs when a persona is frozen in the Matrix and is not allowed to leave. In essence, your on/off button is stuck in the on position. A link-locked user can’t leave the Matrix or Reboot her device. The only escape is a successful Jack Out action (p. 240, SR5). Any persona (including an agent, technomancer, or sprite) can be link-locked. Typically, a decker knocked unconscious in VR will revert to AR, but a link-locked persona remains online and in VR leaving the hacker vulnerable to further attacks. (For more information, see Dumpshock & Link-Locking, p. 229, SR5.)
Illegal Actions
All Attack and Sleaze actions are illegal Matrix actions and are tracked by GOD. If a hacker fails an Attack action, her target’s security software rejects the code, sends it back to the hacker, and then alerts its owner. For every net hit the target got on its defense test in a failed Attack, the hacker takes 1 box of Matrix damage, which can’t be resisted. If a hacker fails a Sleaze action, the target’s Firewall software detects the intrusion, places a mark upon the cyberdeck, and informs its owner.