Try Something New is an occasional series of articles about new things… to try! New game mechanics, play styles, or food!
In my recent CoC game I wanted players to be able to hack into websites and technology. To do so I hit upon a novel way to handle this. This mechanic is explained below:
- A skill in your game that can be used for using computers. In my game this is Computer Use, and being Call of Cthulhu this has a percentile number.
- A jenga Tower
- Cover three jenga blocks with a sticker of some kind, then separate the blocks.
- Choose a low number of blocks and write “Virus” on them.
Determine if hacking is possible:
If you are offering a game where a character can be a hacker consider that this will change how you need to play. Anything that is electronic might be hacked. Think about the consequences when you design locations and information. But keep in mind that you are promising at least one player the ability to hack into things and be useful while doing so. Don’t make every important location unhackable.
Break electronic devices into groups.
- Unconnected devices.
- Connected devices that do not have security.
- Connected devices that have static security.
- Connected devices that have active security. (ie. someone else is watching the network and protecting it.)
2-4 should all be hackable, and if possible connecting unconnected devices can be something a hacker might try to do.
Once you have determined how secure a device is make the player pull from the jenga tower. For no security devices you may want to simply ask them to roll Computer Use, or if the information is useful and necessary simply let them describe the brilliant way they break in.
For static security ask the player to pull 1 jenga block.
For active security ask the player to pull 2-3 jenga blocks.
If a rival hacker or security expert is working to block a hacker from accessing a device you can take turns pulling pieces. But note that unless the tower is near collapse the player will likely always win. Instead ask for a harder number of pulls and make them roll as if they got a virus block.
Viruses: The first danger while hacking is viruses. Data can pick up computer viruses and deposit them into the hackers own system.
When a random virus block is pulled the player can roll their Computer Use skill. If they succeed they can do what they want with the virus. They may remove the virus, store it, or even let it run. If they fail describe a potentially harmful virus for them. If the player has pulled more than one virus blocks make the virus more harmful.
Crashing: Most dangerous is a full crash. When the hacker pulls from the tower and the tower collapses their system has crashed. This means the system they were entering will be warned of the hack, and the computer of the hacker has been flagged and attacked by the hostile systems security. This might mean the hacker’s real world location is at risk, or that their own data has been stolen. This should reflect the danger and technological ability of whatever organization or person they are attacking.
Data: Whenever the hacker successfully hacks something they should be able to see its data and potentially control the device. A computer or a network might contain emails, phone records, or a video feed. Whatever the hacker’s goal is should be completed.
Data Blocks: Furthermore there are three “data blocks” in the tower marked with a sticker. Let the players keep these blocks between sessions. Once they have found all three, they gain a great deal of important information. This should be a big reveal moment in the game, letting the hacker take the spot light as they discover the dirt on who ever they are attacking.