Are infomorphs playable?

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
klaatu klaatu's picture
Are infomorphs playable?

This question has been asked a few times, but the conversation always seems to derail. (E.g., What is an Infomorph?, Looking for Infomorph advice, and Infomorph dumbness)

So, how does one play an infomorph? In normal play, with AR overlays, simulspace interaction, bots like guardian angels with puppet socks, and such, I think Infomorphs can interact without problems. But I've noticed two problems.

If you want to focus on jamming rather than sleeving, then you need a few skills. A PC in a bio- or synthmorph can get around in all gravity conditions with Freefall, Freerunning, and maybe a vacsuit. At worst, Flight and Swimming might be necessary to cover all the bases. On the other hand, an Infomorph who alternates between directing and jamming hardware has to cover the following bases:

  • Walker
  • Hopper
  • Tracked
  • Roller
  • Wheeled
  • Snake
  • Hovercraft
  • Winged
  • Rotorcraft
  • Microlight
  • Thrust vector
  • Ionic
  • Internal rocket
  • Submarine
When jamming a morph or bot with those types, an Infomorph needs the four skills above, minimum. Then, according to the basic rulebook, if the Infomorph wants to remote control the shell, the controlling ego needs to have a pilot skill appropriate to the mobility type. (EP 195) What that means isn't specified; does the ego need to have Pilot: Ionic, Pilot, Vectored Thrust, etc., or will Pilot: Spacecraft cover those and other "spacey" mobility types? (Similarly, jamming requires individual weapon skills, while remote control also requires Gunnery.)

That question plays directly into another problem: combat. It's pretty rare to have an RPG session where combat doesn't play at least some role, but Infomorphs are limited to doing nothing very fast. They have speed 3, but are limited by the speed of any hardware they operate or jam, without receiving any morph bonuses. Without operating or jamming, Infomorphs are limited to mental or mesh actions, but most mesh actions are task actions -- hacking, for instance, takes 10 minutes while combat is often over in under 20 seconds. So combat is likely to be deadly dull for an Infomorph player, unless I'm missing something.

So given all that, how can an Infomorph player have useful skills (except as the bus driver jamming the shuttle/hovercraft/whatever) and participate fully in the game? Or do they just sit in their ghostrider and twiddle virtual thumbs for significant parts of play?

If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.
- Welcome to Night Vale http://commonplacebooks.com

LatwPIAT LatwPIAT's picture
klaatu wrote:Then, according

klaatu wrote:
Then, according to the basic rulebook, if the Infomorph wants to remote control the shell, the controlling ego needs to have a pilot skill appropriate to the mobility type. (EP 195) What that means isn't specified; does the ego need to have Pilot: Ionic, Pilot, Vectored Thrust, etc., or will Pilot: Spacecraft cover those and other "spacey" mobility types?

I just checked the 3rd printing and - I believe - the 1st printing. Neither seems to actually say what you say they say on page 195. What they do say is that you need to make Pilot skill checks to avoid crashing. The Pilot [field] skill, meanwhile, says that "whenever you need to maneuver, control, or avoid crashing a vehicle", (which if taken at face value means a whole lot of rolls!). There are different Pilot skills that apply to the appropriate vehicle category. There's an unbounded sample of vehicle types, but looking at the examples, there's no indication whatsoever that you need a separate skill to pilot an Ionic thrustercraft. What, after all, would be the point of the Pilot: Spacecraft skill then?

The only one to really stand out is Snake, which is not covered by Anthroform or Groundcraft, and therefore probably is Exotic.

klaatu wrote:
(Similarly, jamming requires individual weapon skills, while remote control also requires Gunnery.)

No. Firstly, you use either Gunnery or another ranged combat skill. You don't need to use both at once. Secondly, direct remote control uses your own skill; you only use Gunnery if you're firing a vehicle-mounted or emplaced weapon, in which case you always use Gunnery for that kind of weapon.

(Admittedly, the game is unclear on exactly which weapons are fired with which skill; if I remote-control a vehicle with arms that have built-in laser pistols, do I used Gunnery or Energy Weapons to fire them? On one hand, they're mounted on a vehicle. On the other hand, the mechanism can be like firing any other laser pistol. Likewise, if I take a machine-gun and attach it to the pintle mount of a Jeep, do I attack with Kinetic Weapons or Gunnery?)

@-rep +2
C-rep +1

Bursting Eagern... Bursting Eagerness Soul's picture
Jamming and Hacking

My favorite workaround for the Ego/Shell speed difference is to have one infomorph jamming multiple bots. You just control one of them in each action phase. Alternately, you could house rule them as all going on the Speed 1 phase.

For hacking, page 97 of Transhuman has some clarification on how Speed and extra mental actions affect task actions. Also, they would probably be using brute-force hacking if it is time-sensitive. That takes a lot less time.

For the rest, LatwPIAT seems to have said what I would have, with the exception of this: I would rule that, if you are remote controlling and not jamming, Gunnery should be your go to combat skill.

In other words, firing off a laser with a sufficient TWR for the recoil to be noticeable would require a post-miracle-tech laser weighing less than a disposable plastic spoon and powerful enough to shoot down Death Stars? -- ShadowDragon8685

thepedant thepedant's picture
Infomorphs can coordinate the group

klaatu wrote:
So given all that, how can an Infomorph player have useful skills (except as the bus driver jamming the shuttle/hovercraft/whatever) and participate fully in the game? Or do they just sit in their ghostrider and twiddle virtual thumbs for significant parts of play?

The key thing that makes an infomorph useful is when the rest of the party is on a tacnet. Even if the characters split up, the infomorph has full access to what everyone else is seeing, and since it doesn't have a body, can process and react to that.

Example 1 - A team of 4 realspace morphs and 1 infomorph are infiltrating a facility. The realspace group splits into pairs. One pair is under attack. The infomorph, having monitored, can describe everything about the attackers (weaponry, uniforms, tactical situation) while the pair under attack don't have to take even a free action to let the other group know that they're in trouble. Using either a map of the facility or the map the infomorph has been dynamically compiling during the infiltration, the infomorph can even map out how best to get the other group over to help and throw it up on AR so the realspace folks can focus on their Free Fall or Freerunning.

If you have a research-optimized infomorph and the kind of mesh access you get on Luna or Mars, with the tacnet the infomorph can devote a couple cycles to getting other characters information through the planetary mesh while those other characters interrogate street punks or try to evade mercenaries in a Martian dune buggy chase or whatever, on top of tactical coordination.

Example 2 - The ID Crew member only dropped some cryptic clues as to where exactly on Mars he'd met with his customer before the Direct Action reapers dropped in and started machine-gunning everything. While the realspace characters are busy dodging bullets and flying glass, the infomorph, safely in a server nowhere near there, can spend its time pondering those clues. When the other characters have finally gotten free, the infomorph can then say, "hey, based on my research, you should head this way."

In both of these examples, the infomorph could also use Infosec to supplement the realspace morphs' skills.

One last thing about infomorphs: because they are often not physically present, they can be an institutional memory in "total party kill" situations, so when everyone gets vaporized when the brinker habitat reactor goes critical, when their backups wake up, the infomorph can just message them, "hey, here are my logs for the last two weeks on what you did, and why you should hate these guys."

klaatu klaatu's picture
Good points all, but...

@ LitwPIAT: I was wrong; it's EP 196 (4th printing) -- not 195 -- and the language is now

Quote:
The teleoperator uses Pilot skills for movement, dodging, and melee tests, and Gunnery skill for ranged combat.

I think it's now quite clear how that works. For the record, I tend to agree with you that the Pilot skills used should be the usual (Spacecraft, Groundcraft, etc.), but I would like to see that clarified. Also, 4th printing is clear that Gunnery is the only skill used for weaponry when directing shells.
The Shell Jamming heading (EP 196-197) says
Quote:
The teleoperator subsumes themself in the drone’s sensorium, essentially “becoming” the drone.

To me, that strongly implies that now standard movement and weapon skills are used.
(By the way, all these quotes and page numbers are from the PDF -- I'm too lazy to walk over to the shelf and get the physical book.)

@ Bursting Eagerness: I agree that Infomorphs directing multiple shells is the way to go, but as I read the rules I'd think that three shells with Speed 1 would all act under either direction or AI control at Speed 1, then the Infomorph is out of physical actions until the next action phase.

@ thepedant: I see your scenarios and raise you the notion that a tacnet admin spending complex actions calling shots with Squad Tactics would probably give the meatspace players a boost to hit, Fray, or some other kind of combat advantage. I suppose that does counter my complaint that they can't be effective at all in combat -- at least one Infomorph can provide something of a boost.

I do also like your second example, though it splits the party more than the first example. One of the problems I want to avoid is the classic Cyberpunk/Cyberspace/Shadowrun problem where the hacker character was playing a different game at a different pace than everyone else. Not only was that a problem for the GM always running a split party, but a bit boring for the players.

If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.
- Welcome to Night Vale http://commonplacebooks.com

thepedant thepedant's picture
klaatu wrote:One of the

klaatu wrote:
One of the problems I want to avoid is the classic Cyberpunk/Cyberspace/Shadowrun problem where the hacker character was playing a different game at a different pace than everyone else. Not only was that a problem for the GM always running a split party, but a bit boring for the players.

The last game I ran, thanks to the tacnet, the infomorph was more like a "ghost player" than running a different game. Basically, the informorph player wasn't doing anything more divergent than when two characters are in a bar and one wants to chat up the bartender while the other tries to pick the pocket of someone on the other side of the room.

The biomorphs would be searching a room, and the infomorph would be using Academics: Forensic Science to analyze what they were looking at. When the physical controls of a spaceship were fried, they asked the infomorph to hack into the ship and see what it could find, freeing them to move on to the next task.

And when they realized they forgot something on board their ship, the infomorph booted up a servitor bot and walked the object over to them. Another player was carrying one of the infomorph's surveillance drones so it could be started up and sent off when necessary.

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Oh no, I can't help my friends. I guess I'll watch porn instead.

It really can help to think of an infomorph as a "Ghost" character.
Jamming/RC allows them to "possess" bots and synths, which means they sacrifice some of the shell's abilities and fine control in exchange for being unaffected when they die, whilst disrupting communications through EMP or hacking effectively "banishes" them for a while.
They can also act as a "poltergeist". They can hack enemy equipment, defend their teammates, provide overwatch, manipulate the environment, and so forth.

As long as your team is somewhere with any sort of technological presence, your infomorphs should have things to do.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

Bursting Eagern... Bursting Eagerness Soul's picture
RC vs Jamming

klaatu wrote:
@ LitwPIAT: I was wrong; it's EP 196 (4th printing) -- not 195 -- and the language is now
Quote:
The teleoperator uses Pilot skills for movement, dodging, and melee tests, and Gunnery skill for ranged combat.

I think it's now quite clear how that works. For the record, I tend to agree with you that the Pilot skills used should be the usual (Spacecraft, Groundcraft, etc.), but I would like to see that clarified. Also, 4th printing is clear that Gunnery is the only skill used for weaponry when directing shells.
The Shell Jamming heading (EP 196-197) says
Quote:
The teleoperator subsumes themself in the drone’s sensorium, essentially “becoming” the drone.

To me, that strongly implies that now standard movement and weapon skills are used.
(By the way, all these quotes and page numbers are from the PDF -- I'm too lazy to walk over to the shelf and get the physical book.)

The Pilot/Gunnery vs regular skill usage seems to be the main difference between remote controlling a shell and jamming it. The best analogy that I can think of would be to consider RC as something like an FPS or driving game, and jamming as an immersive "this is you" game. You would want someone who knows the controls for the first, but someone who knows how to actually shoot a gun/drive a car for the second.

Quote:
@ Bursting Eagerness: I agree that Infomorphs directing multiple shells is the way to go, but as I read the rules I'd think that three shells with Speed 1 would all act under either direction or AI control at Speed 1, then the Infomorph is out of physical actions until the next action phase.

I would work it as each shell going on the phase that the Infomorph is controlling it. It keeps things simple.

In other words, firing off a laser with a sufficient TWR for the recoil to be noticeable would require a post-miracle-tech laser weighing less than a disposable plastic spoon and powerful enough to shoot down Death Stars? -- ShadowDragon8685

klaatu klaatu's picture
The ghost in the shell

I like the ghost analogy, though I was thinking of a character running distributed across some shells so the ego is live and present for whatever craziness the players get up to.

That said, I found part of the answer to my question; Infomorphs don't necessarily need more skills than those in meatspace.

Bursting Eagerness wrote:
The Pilot/Gunnery vs regular skill usage seems to be the main difference between remote controlling a shell and jamming it.

As I said above, that's exactly the way I read it. That was confirmed when I went hunting around and found the sections below from Transhuman (pp 219-221).

Quote:
Direct Remote Control
Uses the teleoperator’s Pilot skills for movement,
dodging, and melee tests. . . . Use the controller’s Gunnery skill for ranged
combat tests.

Quote:
Jamming
Uses the controller’s Climbing, Flight, Freerunning,
Free Fall, or Swimming skill for movement tests
(not Pilot skill). . . . Use the teleoperator’s normal Combat skills for all
combat tests.

So that's confirmed, then. The problem with that is that a physical morph can get around in every environment with about four skills, but an Infomorph has to have those four plus half a dozen Pilot skills (and knowledge skills to balance). That's a lot of skills required just to get around, plus whatever skills the ego needs to actually contribute to the group (E.g., Profession: Squad Tactics, Infosec, Interfacing, Programming, etc.)

And that's my difficulty. It's not cheaper points-wise to be an Infomorph, since you still need to buy an Eidolon (morph) and maybe bots to control. It actually costs more because you have to buy a lot of skills to get around and fight.

And it's not necessarily possible to have, say, just Pilot: Aircraft and Flight, because those are useless in an airless environment. Similarly, Pilot: Spacecraft and Freefall don't help in any appreciable gravity. Never mind how to deal with directing/jamming a swarminoid (which has constituents that get around as walkers, hoppers, fliers, and by thrust vector). Where most egos can get around with Freerunning and Freefall, an Infomorph needs at least a half-dozen skills just to operate in the most common environments.

The same is true for combat; the Infomorph ego needs the same skills any other ego would, plus Gunnery, jsut to have the same options. It seems like it's significantly more difficult to be an Infomorph than to be in meatspace.

If you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.
- Welcome to Night Vale http://commonplacebooks.com

thepedant thepedant's picture
klaatu wrote:So that's

klaatu wrote:
So that's confirmed, then. The problem with that is that a physical morph can get around in every environment with about four skills, but an Infomorph has to have those four plus half a dozen Pilot skills (and knowledge skills to balance). That's a lot of skills required just to get around, plus whatever skills the ego needs to actually contribute to the group (E.g., Profession: Squad Tactics, Infosec, Interfacing, Programming, etc.)

And that's my difficulty. It's not cheaper points-wise to be an Infomorph, since you still need to buy an Eidolon (morph) and maybe bots to control. It actually costs more because you have to buy a lot of skills to get around and fight.


This would be true of any character who does significant bot-jamming, infomorph or otherwise; the reason it's pricey is because you want to fly a bunch of bots. If you had a Exalt morph who liked to run drones around the place to save on wear and tear on his expensive sleeve, there'd be the same skill issues.

Part of this comes down to the kind of game you run. If a big component of the fun is large, set piece gunfights, everyone needs to be able to participate. So the infomorph has to dump CP into that, and the one guy who wants to play the Synthmorph Activist in the case morph needs to bring his Fray and at least one weapon skill up farther than he might want because otherwise that case is getting shot to hell.

Bursting Eagern... Bursting Eagerness Soul's picture
@klaatu: The swarmanoid would

@klaatu: The swarmanoid would likely fall under Pilot: Exotic Vehicle. Also, as an Infomorph (or anyone using drones), you have the option of using RC or jamming. You could use either or both, but it is likely that you would specialize in one, and thus the associated skillset. It gets a bit trickier if you want to be sleeved into a physical morph and be RCing drones, but at that point, you would likely be better off jamming.

In other words, firing off a laser with a sufficient TWR for the recoil to be noticeable would require a post-miracle-tech laser weighing less than a disposable plastic spoon and powerful enough to shoot down Death Stars? -- ShadowDragon8685