The Net

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NET Mechanics
This document describes mechanics; for the high-level concepts refer to NET Content.
Mechanically a Mindscape is simply another mini-campaign setting, a game within a game, with whatever campaign ground rules the creator choses to impose. Typically this is the GM, but could be a player if a PC programmer were to program a custom Mindscape.
Put simply the GM (or other creator) simply defines a separate campaign setting as if it were any other HERO System setting suitable for use as a campaign or mini-campaign, setting the power level (point range), genre, allowed races, and so forth. Alternately, published and community provided settings can also be used as is or as jumping off points.
A combination of convention and requirements provides a system for describing and categorizing Mindscapes, allowing would-be users to identify what a particular Mindscape is about and to communicate any restrictions upon its use to would-be users. Towards those ends, Mindscapes must disclose their Theme, Rating, Exclusivity, Accessibility, and Interactivity.
Additionally, Mindscapes vary in quality, referred to as Fidelity. While Mindscapes do not have to self-disclose their quality, users quickly weigh in on the subject and such information can usually be ascertained with a little NET research (though, obviously, not so much on a new or private Mindscape). The quality of a Mindscape affects the overall user experience; poor quality Mindscapes can impose penalties on resolutions within them.
All Mindscapes have a theme, though they can vary widely in their scope and inclusiveness. A theme is sometimes as simple as a genre (Sci-Fi, Fantasy) or sub-genre (In-Period China Kung Fu Action Theatre Simulation). Themes can also be utilitarian (Commercial, Adult), or extremely specific (High Fantasy RPG in the ever-expanding Orb of Kreigerkraft setting).
A Mindscape's rating indicates the relative capabilities of the Avatars that can be used within it. A Mindscape's rating and an Avatar's rating directly correlate such that an Avatar with a rating lower or higher than a given Mindscape's is unable to be used in that Mindscape.
In the MetaCyber setting Mindscapes are rated in minimum and maximum ratings. Rating is indicated verbosely as Rating Min and Rating Max and compactly as R-Min and R-Max, with a number designation of 1 or higher indicating a level.
Mechanically each rating level represents +50 character points; thus a Mindscape that lists itself as having R-Min: 1 (Minimum Rating: 1) and R-Max: 5 (Maximum Rating: 5) is indicating that it allows Avatars with between 50 and 250 character points.
  • Rating Min (R-MIN): 1+
  • Rating Max (R-MAX): 1+
Some Mindscapes require proprietary Avatars to be custom-built solely for use with that Mindscape. Other Mindscapes are completely open and allow any Avatar within it's power level range to be used. Most are somewhere in between, allowing externally created Avatars to be used within the Mindscape, but with some imposed limits.
The most common limits usually revolve around Theme. Thus a Mindscape with a strict Epic Fantasy Theme would predictably only allow Avatars with a compatible Theme to be used there in.
Some Mindscapes might allow external Avatars, but only after each such Avatar has gone through a review process and been approved.
Choice of Avatar is not always permitted by a Mindscape.
Many corporate Mindscapes restrict users to a bonded Avatar that is essentially a direct facimile of themselves, with only minor cosmetic improvements allowed; not only does this provide a more professional environment, it is also a security deterent as it removes anonymity.
Some games, "historical simulations", "BroadNET" plays, and "immersive novel" Mindscapes don't allow the user to provide an Avatar, and instead offer up "dramatis personae" or "roles" for users to take on. A few even go so far as to have casting calls and essentially force a user to demonstrate an ability and willingness to play a role "in-character" before issuing an Avatar.
Mechanically, it is up to the GM to decide which Avatars are allowed in which Mindscapes and whether there is any red tape involved or not.
By convention, Mindscapes that require proprietary Avatars also provide an Avatar creator designed specifically to produce Avatars suitable to that Mindscape.
Mindscapes differ in their openness to usage.
Some Mindscapes are free to the public, many are fee or subscription based, and some are private or by invitation only.
  • Public: some Mindscapes are free to the Public, at least to access. For instance, most commercial store fronts are open to the public to enter, but to partake of their services probably costs money.
  • Club: users must create an account and provide some form of identifying information, but there is no subscription involved.
  • Subscription: a user must set up an account and pay a reoccuring expense.
  • Fee: A "door charge" of some kind must be paid. This might be a one-time or a per-use charge.
  • Invitation: a user must be invited by another user to get in.
  • Private: only specific individuals on a white list (perhaps even just one user) are allowed.
  • Hybrid: Accessibility can be mixed in various combinations, even seemingly mutually exclusive ones such as Public and Private. For instance, a Mindscape might have a Public area for most people and a Private area only accessible to users with a Subscription or who have paid an entry fee.
Hacking a private Mindscape is generally a nearly impossible proposition requiring either direct access to the hosting hardware or access to a NET entry point of the Mindscape to even attempt.
There are five levels of interactivity allowed within a given a Mindscape, defined by the NEC standards. Generally a given Mindscape will be permanently set at a specific level, but it is permissible for a Mindscape to be sub-zoned into areas of different interaction levels so long as users are clearly notified in an unambiguous way before entering into a zone with a different setting. The "None" setting is also permissible to apply to individual Avatars under various circumstances.
The five levels are:
  • None: Avatars cannot interact with each other at all. Visibility is usually often altered one way or another in conjunction with this setting.
  • Communication: Avatars are able to communicate with each other, but cannot conduct financial transactions or affect one another.
  • Commercial: Avatars are able to communicate with each other and conduct commercial transactions. They cannot affect one another otherwise. This is the typical setting of commercial and corporate Mindscapes.
  • Combative: Avatars are able to affect one another, but an Avatar cannot be permanently damaged or destroyed, and Avatars either reset or respawn in a pristine state under various circumstances. This is the default setting of most casual or arcade style NET games.
  • Persisted: As Combative, but Avatars can be permanently modified in both positive and negative ways. If an Avatar is "killed" it is usually rendered permanently inaccessible (at least within that Mindscape). This is the typical setting of most serious NET games. Note that many such games have one or more schemes by which a "killed" Avatar can be "resurrected".
It is possible for a decker to manipulate the interactivity of a Mindscape, but its a very difficult task requiring administrative priveleges within the Mindscape or access to the configuration files of the Mindscape on its host, and it will be noticed very quickly.
As is true with all media, quality is not an absolute quantity. Mindscapes vary in the quality of their content and resolution. The best Mindscapes offer versimilitude and immersion indistinguishable from the meat reality (or even "hyper-real"), but that level of perfection doesn't come cheap or easy, and most Mindscapes fall short of that ideal.
This difference in quality is represented mechanically as a flat penalty that can apply to various resolutions at the GM's discretion if it seems appropriate. The GM should be equitable; if the penalty applies to one character to do a particular action, it should be applied to all characters attempting that same action. Consistency is also called for.
Mindscape Quality
Fidelity Modifier
Very Poor -6
Poor -5
Very Low -4
Low -3
Standard -2
High -1
Very High 0
Excellent +1
Perfect +2
Fidelity modifiers are most applicable to physical actions requiring finesse, and to perception where the lack of finer detail and rendering limitations can interfere. However, some Mindscapes with lower Fidelity might attempt to overcome their limitations by "helping" certain things to resolve (particularly entertainment based Mindscapes); for instance in a RPG Mindscape a "thief" Avatar's attempt to pick a lock may not require actual manual dexterity and simply come down to a probability based resolution handled by the Mindscape's logic.
For purposes of opposed roles, including OCV vs DCV attack rolls, the GM shouldn't bother applying the penalty as it applies equally to all participants. For instance, if one character were attacking another in a Poor Fidelity Mindscape a -5 penalty might be applied, but it would be applied both to hit and to not get hit and thus effectively cancel out.
To experience Fidelity beyond Standard requires a NETDeck.
The concept of Fidelity is presented for completionary purposes, to better model a concept. It's primary side effect simply serves to allow characters that invest in better NET gear to have an edge over those who don't (as their gear helps them to offset such penalties). However, it is complicated and might be overly finicky for most groups. A GM is free to totally ignore the concept, or simply represent it via description and fluff.
Avatars are represented mechanically as a full-blown HERO System character write up (in fact, just about any published or fan created character write-up could serve as an Avatar with GM permission).
Avatars do not cost character points.
As they are such a ubiquitous concept in the MetaCyber setting, are available to all characters (both PC and NPC), and there is no stipulation allowing MetaCyber characters with more character points to have more powerful Avatars than characters with fewer character points, there is no purpose to accounting for Avatars in terms of character points.
Your character might be a real bad ass in the meat reality, but in the Orb of Kreigercraft Mindscape their noob Orc Fighter is puny compared to some 10 year old kid's mighty high-level Elf Ranger.
Avatars are stored either on NETDecks (NETDecks are described in the NET GEAR section), or hosted on remote servers (a trivial concern).
There are literally dozens of hosting companies that will persist peoples Avatars for a generally reasonable and market-driven montly fee (as is true of all hosting services). There are even some free hosts on advertising or spam-list business models (but you get what you pay for).
A typical cost would be 100 credits per month per Avatar; a more "secure" host with better privacy features would cost 300 to 800 credits per month, and impose a -1 or -3 penalty respectively on attempts to trace a user by their Avatar. In the MetaCyber setting, the top end hosting service is run by a medium-sized but privately owned company in Switzerland called Avidtar, which guarantees total privacy; it costs 5000 credits a month per Avatar and imposes a -5 penalty to attempts to identify a user via their Avatar.
Similarly to Mindscapes, a combination of convention and requirements provides a system for describing and categorizing Avatars. Each Avatar has a Name, an AvatarId, Theme, Rating, and Origin.
Avatars also differ in quality, but the ramifications of this are generally only cosmetic and social (cheap, ugly Avatars are often the target of mockery by users with more elaborate Avatars), but some choosier Mindscapes will reject an Avatar based solely on it's lack of quality.
Each Avatar has a unique identifier issued to it upon creation. Avatars that can be used NET-wide must have a NUID (NET Unique ID) issued to it from an issuing authority, while Proprietary Avatars that are only usable within one Mindscape can use any ID that is unique within that Mindscape. Acquiring and assigning an ID is part of the Avatar creation process and not under the user's control.
Each Avatar also has a Name, which generally is under the user's control at time of creation. There are no restrictions on uniqueness in general, though individual Mindscapes might levy such an additional requirement and thus within a given Mindscape an Avatar might also have a unique Alias so as to enforce such a rule.
There are some decency standards applied to Avatar Names, and many hosts wont host Avatars with various vulgar or offensive names, but some will. Similarly, individual Mindscapes can vary widely in this regard.
All Avatars have a Theme. Sometimes an Avatar will have more than one Theme, but one is always primary and all others are secondary. There are some odd-balls, but the mainstream Themes are:
  • Professional: a pseudo-theme attached to practical, workaday Avatars used to conduct business and commerce. Most non-entertainment Avatars are of this Theme.
  • Social: a pseudo-theme attached to Avatars used for socially oriented activities, such as online dating, NETHoods, online clubbing, and so forth.
  • Adult: a pseudo-theme attached to Avatars used for mature, online activities, including sexually oriented content.
  • Entertainment: a catch all group for various kinds of Avatars intended for entertainment oriented use, such as games. An open category, the most common Themes are:
    • Genre-Fantasy: an entertainment based Theme indicating the popular Fantasy genre. Avatars representing elves, dwarves, dragons, and so forth fall into this category.
    • Genre-SciFi: an entertainment based Theme indicating the popular Science Fiction genre. Avatars representing space marines, starship captains, and so forth fall into this category.
    • Genre-Modern: an entertainment based Theme indicating a genericized concept of "modern" settings, with a wide range of variations.
    • Genre-Historical: an entertainment based Theme indicating a genericized concept of "period" settings, with a wide range of variations.
There is a Rating system for Avatars that assesses their overal competence and capabilities of the Avatar to derive a number between 1 and 50 with 1 being the lowest and 50 being the highest. Avatars at the extreme ends are simply floored or ceilinged at 1 or 50.
An Avatar's Rating corresponds to a Mindscapes Rating to determine if that Avatar can be used within that Mindscape. In practice though, Rating generally only matters in Mindscapes that allow Interactivity beyond Commercial use, which generally means Entertainment venues only.
In practice, most Avatar's Ratings are in the single digits, and it is unusual to see an Avatar with a Rating higher than the teens in general usage. However, some gaming Mindscapes cater to "high-end play" and specifically feature Avatars with very high Ratings.
Mechanically, simply divide the total character points of an Avatar by 50 to derrive the Avatar's Rating. If an Avatar is less than 50 points their Rating is 1, if an Avatar has more than 2500 total points their Rating is 50.
Each Avatar is flagged with an Origin, which is signed as part of the Avatar's creation. This generally has no bearing, except for Mindscapes that only allow Avatars created with their own tools, or a white list of allowable creators. A user can opt to hide their Avatar's Origin from other users, but not from Mindscapes.
The NET is a technological marvel, but no one can interact with it without the proper gear. Though there are a variety of commercial options and accessories, the most essential gear consists of VR Goggles, Brainjacks, and NETDecks.
VR Goggles are essentially somewhat bulky eye glasses and ear phones (some fancier versions also include nose plugs) which allow the user to experience Neurally Enabled Content via their normal senses. VR Goggles are considered to be Standard / Street Equipment in MetaCyber, equivalent to an MP3 player in their commonality and expense. Quality is graded by cost rather than mechanics.
Due to the indirect nature of the NEC feed using VR Goggles, users suffer some drawbacks. In interactive Mindscapes, VR Goggle users suffer a -1 penalty to all resolution rolls made by their Avatars and lose any tied rolls to opponents who are using Brainjacks.
VR Goggles are considered to be Equipment and are paid for in a character's Equipment Resource Pool. There is also a credit cost that varies based on qualities.
VR Goggles: Computer Link; Focus (OAF; -1)
Real Cost: 2 points
Low Quality: ~150 credits; Standard Quality: ~300 credits; High Quality: 500+ credits.
Brainjacks are a minor Cybernetic device installed into the users head, which splices Neurally Enabled Content directly into the brain, bypassing the normal senses. They come in shieled and un-shieled (ie "standard") varieties. Shieled Brainjacks are not affected by EMP's while standard Brainjacks are; they are otherwise identical.
Brainjacks allow NEC to be piped directly into the sensory apparatus of the brain, granting the most immersive possible NET experience.
Brainjacks are Cybernetic devices and cost both character points and credits.
Shielded Brainjack: Computer Link
Real Cost: 5 points; ~60,000 credits
Standard Brainjack: Computer Link; Restrainable (EMP; -1/4)
Real Cost: 4 points; ~40,000 credits
In addition to being a more convenient and private means for the storage of Avatars, NETDecks can also enhance a users experience on the NET, boost graphic content quality, and optimize the human / machine interface.
Terminals are rather spartan in their features, have no storage, and offer a standard level of processing power and rendering capabilities. While that's sufficient for the mainstream, some powerusers want more. NETDecks are specialized portable mini-computers that essentially supplement the basic features of Terminals by adding physical storage, buffering capabilities, and extra processing power that is particularly useful for rendering higher fidelity Mindscapes.
Rather than plugging directly into a Terminal, a user instead plugs their NETDeck into the Terminal, and then plug themselves into the NETDeck.
NETDecks have a finite amount of storage, but its generally large enough to persist all of a typical user's personal files, music, videos, and Avatars if they choose not to host such content via one or more hosting services, or if they just want a local copy. A user can interact with their NETDeck even when not connected to the NET, but obviously can only access items persisted locally and not anything remote.
Two or more users can also link their NETDecks together and share files. Additionally, by linking NETDecks secondary users can "piggy-back" a primary user as they access the NET, able to observe whatever the primary user is sensing. The secondary user(s) can only observe, they cannot themselves interact or take any actions themselves unless the primary user relinquishes control to them.
NETDecks are considered to be Equipment and are paid for in a character's Equipment Resource Pool. There is also a credit cost that varies based on quality.
In the MetaCyber setting, Laptops and Computers (built using the actual Computer rules rather than using a convenient Custom Perk handwave) are assumed to include the equivalent to NETDeck functionality in addition to their other features for no additional cost. The quality of the overall device also determines the Fidelity level of this free functionality; thus a bleeding edge elite laptop is equivalent to an elite NETDeck when used in such a fashion.
NETDeck: Custom Perk (local storage, improved NET Fidelity); Focus (OAF; -1)
Real Cost: 2 points
Economy (High Fidelity): ~500 credits
Mainstream (Very High Fidelity): ~1000 credits
Premium (Excellent Fidelity): ~2000 credits
Elite (Perfect Fidelity): ~3000+
For the truly hardcore, Cybernetic versions of NETDecks exist though they are substantially more expensive. A significant cranial installation, a user cannot have both a Cybernetic NETDeck and a Combat Assist Computer, though they can have a SkillSoft Chip Reader. All such Cybernetic NETDecks are shieled.
A character must also have a Brainjack (at full normal cost) to have a Cybernetic NETDeck.
Cybernetic NETDecks are not Equipment; like all Cybernetic devices they cost both character points and credits.
Cybernetic NETDeck
Cybernetic NET Deck: Custom Perk (local storage, improved NET Fidelity)
Real Cost: 5 points
Economy (High Fidelity): ~5000 credits
Mainstream (Very High Fidelity): ~10000 credits
Premium (Excellent Fidelity): ~20000 credits
Elite (Perfect Fidelity): ~30000+
If the GM is enforcing the Fidelity modifiers described for Mindscapes, quality NET Gear can help offset penalties but not provide bonuses. The adjoining chart indicates the Penalty Skill Levels granted by NET Gear to offset Fidelity penalties.
As an example, a user with a Brainjack and an Elite NETDeck entirely offsets the penalties associated with Poor Fidelity content, and suffers only minor hindrances using Very Poor Fidelity content.
NET Gear
Fidelity PSLs
VR Goggles n/a
Brainjack +1
Economy NETDeck +1
Mainstream NETDeck +2
Premium NETDeck +3
Elite NETDeck +4