New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

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Deflare Deflare's picture
New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

Came up with this idea when pondering my idea for an AGI white-hat hacker whose job was to hack into hypercorp databases and get back out, then let the hypercorp know how to improve their security. It's a bit of a spinoff of the 'Edited Memories' trait--possibly the upgraded, 20-point version.

Secret Programming
Bonus: 10 points
The character's ego has been altered with psychosurgery to perform a specific task in specific circumstances (to be worked out with the gamemaster). For example, a programmer might have been programmed to leave a specific backdoor in every firewall they write, or a media personality may have been programmed to always obey the orders of someone who says the code phrase "The flowers of Babylon are lovely at this time of the year".
The ego in question usually has no knowledge or memory of the programming, nor do they find anything remarkable about the actions that they do as a result of it--the programmer incorporates the backdoor as part of their regular coding practice, and the media personality follows the orders of the speaker of the code phrase (seemingly) of their own volition. The character must succeed at an INT test in order to realize that anything is odd (this becomes INTx2 if a third party points it out for them); if they succeed, they may attempt to break free of the program by succeeding at a WILx3 test.

The 'leaves a backdoor in all programs' is what made me come up with the trait, as it works well with the character's Edited Memories (which obscure the identity and goals of her creator). I'm not 100% on the mechanics; I want it to be hard to figure out that you're doing something weird and to break out of it, but I might have messed something up along the way.

Thoughts?

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

I like it. It fits in nicely with the conspiracy part of the setting. You can't even trust yourself.

One new character in my group has a compulsion added by the planetary consortium when he was freed from slavery. His morph is essentially a nanofabricator under his control, and in order to retain it he agreed to undergo psychosurgery so that he would always check the legality of blueprints he was making - he is essentially implementing the PC nanosecurity controls. The most intriguing thing is that this is not just a crude Clockwork Orange compulsion (do/avoid a stereotypical behavior) but actually involves him making proper judgements: he doesn't *want* to break the nanosecurity controls, even if he finds a loophole. At least that is the theory; if I were the psychosurgeon involved I would have added some secret programming for him to report infractions subconsciously too.

Maybe there should be an option for the GM to reassign other traits to this? The player thinks his character has (say) neurological damage or bad luck, but it is actually just the cover for the secret programming. Maybe (to balance things) the secret programming even comes with some secret benefits - the sleeper agent doesn't know she has been imprinted with martial arts skills, the hacker has some extra neural pathways for virus detection. They do not notice that they get secret bonuses.

Extropian

killj0y killj0y's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

I also agree that it fits a number of setting ideals.

Manchurian Candidate
Terminator Salvation
Total recall

There are even a number of ways this could be accomplished. By carefully editing existing memories to omit some knowledge it is possible to engender a motivation the character has no reason to dismiss.

By Branching memories at significant points one could create an alternate identity similar to an alternate universe version of yourself. For instance what if I left the employ of the hypercorp of my own free will rather than being drummed out for sedition. The personality would react very differently based on those choices and could be made to believe that actions they take are of their own volition.

I think the question becomes how easy is it to do something like this. If you open the door saying that it can be done then when and how could someone acomplish this?

Say someone copied you off a darkcaster and created an alpha fork with secret programing then killed and replaced you?

What if a PC wants to attempt this on a bad guy as a way of mitigating their evil ways once they've been resleeved?

nick012000 nick012000's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

Isn't this just the Enforced Behavior flaw at the -20 CP level?

+1 r-Rep , +1 @-rep

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

nick012000 wrote:
Isn't this just the Enforced Behavior flaw at the -20 CP level?

Maybe from a rules standpoint, but rules do not a game make.

I love the idea of a branched persona. With simspaces and psychosurgery you could create a very plausible alternate lives for your agents. Which they will believe in until given the right memory code. This might also be a reason for the Ultimates and criminals to buy egos: they literally overlay their memories on top of their agents and send the apparent innocents out as mules.

To make matters even more fun (consider the interrogation of King Mob in Grant Morrison's The Invisibles ("Entropy in the UK")) you could have layered false personas in a valued agent - the agent believes in the current one, and some could be dangerous traps ("And now I am a khaos AI interfaced to your interrogation system!"). Of course, there is a slight price to pay here in terms of mental stability. But sanity is overrated. At least among field agents.

Extropian

King Shere King Shere's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

Another Movie example for Secret programing & skills is the film Demolition Man.



"To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult."
Plutarch

Decivre Decivre's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

I actually have a Shadowrun character with a positive version of this. He is a technomancer that created a BTL program that, if ran on him, would awaken his normal personality. Otherwise he was a Joe Schmoe with an average job.

Now that I think of it, this could be an interesting technique for Firewall agents as well. Firewall takes a beta fork and edits it to have completely different memories of a mundane life, then uses it as a means of getting past heavy security (he doesn't need to do any tests to "lie", because he isn't really lying). Secretly his mind is partitioned with the original personality, and a code word causes him to fall into a comatose state, during which the Firewall agent comes out to play.

Hmm... new idea for a character....

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

trechriron trechriron's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

Awesome. Dollhouse. We agree the -20 CP would be a solid pricing for this?

Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
Bard, Dreamer, Computer Nerd, & RPG Enthusiast
October Northwest

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Decivre Decivre's picture
Re: New Negative Trait: Secret Programming

trechriron wrote:
Awesome. Dollhouse. We agree the -20 CP would be a solid pricing for this?

Yup. I would say -20 for the bad version, +10 for the good version.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.