The Hacker’s Handbook provides expanded rules for extra detail in for just the one skill in the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG—‘Hacking’. One of the issues in the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG – Player’s Survival Guide is that none of the skill are actually defined and so the Warden has to adjudicate exactly how they in the dark future depicted in the roleplaying game. Most of the time this will be enough, and in play, the Warden can have a player simply roll of his character if he wants to unlock a door, take remote control of a gun turret, or extract information from a computer system. However, if the Warden wants to present a more detailed, even extended challenge for the player whose character has the Hacking skill, then the core rules are insufficient. This is where The Hacker’s Handbook is useful. It still suggests using simple rules under most circumstances, but otherwise suggests presenting the hacking Player Character with a ‘Network’. This is constructed of a linked series of nodes and each node can be individualised. Each is defined by its Function, Security, and Response. In other words, what it does, the degree of how difficult it is to gain unauthorised access to, and what happens if the Hacker’s attempt is noticed by a network admin, automated security feature, A.I., and so on.
The Hacker’s Handbook lists several options for each as well as giving a modifier between zero and five for the roll on the Response Table if the hacker’s intrusion is noticed. For example, an automated security turret might be listed as ‘Automated security turret, Infrastructure/Hardpoint Control, Hardened, +2 Response’, whilst a medical database might be listed as ‘Medical Records Storage, Data Storage, Secured, +1 Response’. In play, each node can be drawn as a box and the boxes connected to form a diagram of linked nodes and thus you have the computer network for the starship or the facility, and so on.
The Hacker’s Handbook does not ignore the social aspect of hacking either. It suggests ways of gaining access via user accounts rather than direct hacking and the various types of user account which a hacker might gain access to. It also suggests that it is one way of getting Player Characters involved in a hacking attempt whether or not they have the actual skill. Whether or not a Player Character has the skill, it also lends itself to more roleplaying opportunities than might be available with a simple roll against the skill.
Lastly, The Hacker’s Handbook lists equipment that a hacker might want to carry as a loadout. This includes decks, wristcoms, and pieces of gear. Decks include gear slots and often have extra abilities, such as treating Hardened Nodes as Secure Nodes. For example, Maze ignores one response from network security whilst CoyBoy reduces the Response value of a node by a random value. Essentially, this provides some technical equipment and details which can flavour a hacker’s activities in game and bring a little more verisimilitude to play.
Physically, The Hacker’s Handbook is all text, barring the network diagram examples. This is not an issue because the supplement has a lot of information to impart, so none of feels wasted.
There is a lot to like about The Hacker’s Handbook. It provides an easy way to handle a particular aspect of the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG, and supports it with enough details to keep both interesting and challenging.
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