CYBERMODEM CONUNDRUMS
some house rules for netrunning
by Amy Luther
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Presented here for your (dis)approval are more of our house rules on the convoluted computer world that is netrunning. These rules will expand upon, disregard, and sometimes contradict the published rules system. But you expected that, didn't you? Read on.

CPUs and MUs
CP2020 has never really provided a clear, concise explanation of netrunner decks, laptop computers, and mainframes (other than to note that you can netrun with some but not with others). A stock, generic cyberdeck comes off the shelf with 1 CPU and 10 MU. This is the standard deck as listed in CP2020, p. 133. In our house rules, decks are expandable up to a limit of 40 MU by spending 5,000eb per 10 MU (or 500eb per 1 MU, for more limited budgets).

The 40 MU limit is not a cap on deck capacity, but rather on access times by the CPU. A cyberdeck can contain more than 40 MU, but its Speed is penalized -1 for every 10 MU over the 40 MU limit. For example, a deck with 60 MU and only 1 CPU is at -2 to its effective Speed.

We're a bit fuzzy still on how many CPUs one deck can contain. So far, we have concluded that cyberdeck CPUs are expensive, and though miniaturized, it's hard to justify cramming more than two or three CPUs into a teeny little cyberdeck. As a playtest limit, I'd suggest pricing cyberdeck CPUs at about 5000eb a pop (half the cost of a standard CPU as listed in CP2020, p.155). Besides allowing you to have more MU with no speed reduction, multiple cyberdeck CPUs allow you to Multitask (Rache Bartmoss, p. 144) and Multinet (CB3, p. 58), just as you can with a computer. Since the Multitasking rules state that the maximum number of extra actions a netrunner can gain is 1 per CPU, up to a maximum of 3, I'd say that the maximum number of CPUs a deck can have is also 3 (thus limiting cyberdeck memory to an absolute internal maximum of 120 MU). Also note that adding multiple CPUs to a cybermodem effectively turns it into a desktop computer with a cybermodem attached (see below), because it's no longer quite as portable or amenable to the jarring and bumps associated with traveling.

Why Bother Buying A Computer?
If you hook a cybermodem up to a computer, you can netrun with it. To attach a cybermodem to a computer requires a free option slot and a Difficult (25) Electronics roll, unless the computer entry specifically states that the computer is engineered to support cybermodems (as the Zetatech PS-4040 Portastation does, CB3, p. 61).

It's considerably cheaper to plug your deck into a laptop than to add an extra CPU. For example, the Portastation costs 1000eb and comes with a whole host of options -- 30 MU, a 10-slot chipreader, a 12 SP case, a keyboard, a scanner, etc., whereas a single extra CPU for the your deck would cost five times that. You can buy a cheap 500eb PCT Danzig (CB3 65), attach it to a Portastation, and voila: 2 CPUs, 40 total MU, +3 Data Walls, and you can now buy all the cheap plug-in Data Walls, Code Gates, and Processor Upgrades designed for use with PCs (CB3 70 and 72).

If all this sounds too easy, I'd suggest a few drawbacks:

First of all, as anyone with a supposedly "portable" laptop can attest to, a cybermodem stuck to a laptop is not anywhere near as portable, compact or durable as a high-end, expensive cybermodem. Think a whole mess of cables, peripherals, battery strips, a separate scanner and videoboard versus the quick and clean lines of a Raven Microcyb Kestrel.

Also, access times between the cybermodem and the attached laptop are significantly slow. Speed penalties for this set-up are in addition to 40 MU/1 CPU penalties and should begin around -5. Processor upgrades will be required to get the speed up to cybermodem level, and the access time can never be upgraded above -1.

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