Computers in Rifts

YES, HERE'S WHAT HACKING JUNKIES HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR...Riftsculture will now discuss computers in Rifts. Special thanks to those putting Riftsculture stuff up on their web pages and those who've sent suggestions (Tho I can't seem to find Colin's webpage...)

 Alright, the World Wide Web, as far as I know, operates by

connecting individuals across existing telecommunications networks. Unfortunately for Rogue Scholars, there aren't too many global telecommunications satellites left after the global cataclysm of the coming of the Rifts, and many of those that survived were shot down as "foreign matter" by the hunter-killer satellites described in mutants in orbit. There are few left, and a small percentage of those function.

 So, okay, ya got a world fulla information you need, ya got no

telecommunications, ya got magnetic storms and weird shit keeping land based communications from working (not to mention what mutant flying armadillo-grizzlies do to telephone lines) so where are you gonna come up with a global network for transferring information. Hmmmmm....

 How 'bout ley lines?

 A small group of technowizards, ley line walkers and rogue scholars

thought this one up and it caught on among an information underground all over the world. Accessing the LeyNet requires a rather expensive, rather rare, portable (slightly larger than hand held) techno-wizard device (GMs, design this as you will, depending on whether your TWs are allowed to have technical skills or work entirely "intuitively". I remember someone saying the basic description of them allows no computer programming). You gotta be on a ley line to use it. Information flows both ways. Powerful psychics or Leyline Walkers should be able to detect who is "up" on the web at any given time provided they have access to the device and a ley line (the more powerful, the users they can detect. Technology is such that anything that's on, say Netscape, could be transferred, plus really advanced games and holographic images of limited size (maybe a 2foot by 2foot by 2foot cube, full color, permanently installed computers could be larger). Interface is audio, but could be modified.

 The information moves like this: if some information

source is on the web the same time you are you can usually get it instantly, i.e. if your buddy is in Silver City and you're in Chi-Town you can get anything from

him barring any weird Ley Line storms or other interference, if the information source is NOT on the web when you are, the net has a mystical "memory" which can give you any information that was transferred recently. The chances of getting information off the web right after it was transferred is 95%, the next day 85%, then 75% and so on. You can only try once (i.e., it's either there or it's not). The third way to get information is from permanent installations set up along the lines by techno-heads across the globe . There aren't a lot, but the disseminators of certain information always make sure they're up on them (Erin Tarn usually tries to post her latest work at th e nearest station, for example) if the GM knows a certain bit of info is at a station chances are it can be accessed.

 Base chance of getting information that the GM hasn't "placed" on the

web, or from some random user is 35% (after the application of the "operate computers" skill, if the user is a non Techno-Wizard), 50% if you're on a Nexus. Sometimes you may need to cajole info out of some obscure user online (MA comes into play here), or trade information. There are different "grades" of TW access devices like some may reach half the world, some 75%, and permanent stations reach all over the world.

 If you like the idea of this being more along the lines of

Shadowrun-style virtual reality hacking than just looking for information , I would include elements of astral projection in it, since this is Techno-Wizardry..

 Any techno-wizard or anyone with computer operations or telemechanics

or whatever can use these things. BUT YOU"VE GOTTA BE ON A LEY LINE!

 For now, use your judgement on how long a retrieval session should

take (no looking up werewolves weaknesses while you're in hand to hand with them).

 The New Lazlo government uses these, as does Atlantis.  The CS doesn't

know about 'em but would probably outlaw them and secretly use them if they did. Most other government ]s do not know about them, Erin Tarn purposefully does not mention them in her books so that the NGR will not find out about them. Permanent installations tend to be heavily hidden, underground and covered with illusion spells. You can access the LeyNet while flying over a leyline, too.

 Atlantis tends not to be too assertive on the net because it wants to

find out what's out there, so they are aware, but do not actively fuck with information, yet. Viruses, encryption, programming other people's terminals

to explode etc. etc. are all possibilities. Remember, this stufff combines magic and science, so a tentacle might just jump out of the screen and grab you, but in general its safer than the astral plane, as only users and hardcore

TW programmers can hurt you.

 The CAN and other more advanced colonies orbiting the earth have

something like the WWW (i.e. entirely technology-based), but each is limited to that colony. Phaseworld has the same deal (I think, I haven't actually read Phaseworld very closely).

 The CS and NGR (and similar hi-tech states) have unconnected internal

government technological networks. These are pretty local, one for all government buildings in each city accessible only from other government buildings in that city.

 However, using

these you could control all electronic and ROBOTIC systems hooked into that network. You could send commands, control security cameras, erase records, etc . Certain computers are meant to access certain files so you probably couldn't control an army of Skelebots from a CS mail room computer without a lotta hacking, but from Karl Prosek's office you could probably do it instantly (it probably has palm print or retinal scan ID, though) I suggest the GM seriously consider skill modifiers for access to certain files and design hierarchies of information if you're gonna have a lot of this in the campaign.

 All other computers in the CS and other states are not network.

Networking is illegal (even in the same building) because it is impossible to monitor. The governments try to keep things simple-just go in and interrogate people if you want information. 75% of people who try to link into the government web from outside the government (this requires a hardlink, like underground cables) are arrested the next day, but it is POSSIBLE...

 What else is there....uh...vehicles, right.  With sufficient skill, a

techno-wizard could design remote control systems for vehicles, GMs make this as hard as you want. Power armor suits are so complicated that they need a virtual reality interface which requires A)more skill to design B)more space c)more money and d) somebody willing to go out of commission to run this thing.

These possibilities hopefully will give the City Rats and Rogue Scholars out there a more active role in the game.

 You can watch movies on the LeyNet easily, those documentary filmmakers

I wrote about before usually get their work posted illegally (they don't do it generally cuz they lose money.) As hinted at above, heavy psychic problems can fuck up the web, so if there's a battle between the four horsemen and eight

Chiang-Ku on a Ley Line Nexus in Mecca could screw up communications on opposite sides of that site.

 There's a few informal mailing list newsgroup

kind of situations on the LeyNet, kind of like a HAM radio enthusiast sort of thing. Scanning still images things on in three dimensions is pretty easy, with some pretty cheap equipment, but holographic movies are rare (requires a lot of cameras or a lot of magic). Sometimes someone will post a 3d scan of a slain D-Bee enemy to show you how to kill them, but generally independent operators won't give out any secrets that they think could possibly hurt them. There isn't alot of netjunk on the LeyWeb...YET. Most terminals have a Jetsons-style vidphone link, but it doesn't have to be on (and some people alter it).

 Some malicious cyberdocs or governments occasionally (it is expensive

and difficult) place a control node in cybernetic and bionic parts secretly so you could end up somebody shooting themself in the head if they are ungrateful to their creator. Once in a while even these files are net accessible.

 Is it possible to access the all-tech networks or individual computers

using the LeyNet? Yes, but the GM should make it really really hard. Of course it is ALL up to them...

 Stay tuned for another exciting edition of Riftsculture later. As

always, tell me what you think of this one and tell me if you have any ideas for future articles.