programs and gear with a Halloween theme
by Gary Astleford
Print this Article

With the coming of a vast virtual computer network which spans an entire globe (not to mention low earth orbit, the moon, and (perhaps in the near future) Mars), an entirely new subculture was created. Technophiles, hackers, and computer geeks of all ages came scrabbling into the future hand over fist, evolving from the primitive Internet culture of the 90's into the sleek Cyberpunk culture of the 2000's. Something as vast and poignant as Cyberspace must have a profound effect on everyone who touches it (or, as has been said, is touched BY it), and this effect will obviously be felt in the music, movies, art, and television of the day.

While Braindance/SimSense might be the entertainment of the elite, flatscreen movies are still likely to be a big production well into the middle and latter half of the 21st century. Likewise, books are still going to be written and read, though most likely on a palmtop computer screen as opposed to an actual paperback book (it should be noted that paperbacks still have the added benefit that they can burned for warmth when the Local Power Authority shuts down your electricity). Seeing as Cyberspace has had such a profound effect on society as a whole, it is unlikely that modern Cyberpunk fiction and entertainment will not include Cyberspace in its broad list of topics.

That being said, assume for a moment that horror movies in 2020 are still as popular (as well as bloodier, more shocking, and (perhaps) a tad bit scarier than the MPAA-butchered ones we're spoon fed in cinemas today). Some of these will involve Cyberspace. Some of these will be set in Cyberspace. But they will all be uniquely Cyberpunk, whether they are original movie creations, or new modern adaptations of old favorites (ie, "Dracula" comes to Night City, where he seduces and drains a corporate president's daughter who hires a group of occult-minded edgerunners to kill the dastardly vampire; or, perhaps, a more modern Prometheus in "Frankenstein 2020": Dr. Frankenstein, a brilliant cyberneticist, builds an artificially-intelligent cyborg which causes all sorts of gruesome havoc on the good doctor's family and friends until they are both consumed in the end by a massive explosion).

If we consider that horror fiction is still as popular in 2020 as it is today, we can also assume that there will be programmers and techies out there with a close connection to the darker side of their souls. Their penchant for the horrific and the macabre will be felt in the work they do, much as with any other artist. An entire wave of horrific programs and products might be released. Some of them will be legally released, while a good deal will be written by underground programmers and unleashed to wreak damage in the name of revolution or sociopathic fun.

Hence, what follows is a list of horror and Halloween-themed programs and products; things that go bump in the 'net (if you will). Some are unique, some are standard, but all are tuned to set the mood and keep your netrunners screaming.

New Programs

Cost: 540 eb
Class: Stealth
Strength: 4
MU: 4
Options: Invisibility, Superrealistic ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 27/162 hours
Description: Apparition is designed to make a netrunner undetectable by normal means, giving him the look of a ghost.
ICON: When Apparition is activated, the affected ICON shimmers and fades from view. The only visible trace left behind is a faint, ghostly outline and a cold breeze.

Cost: 440 eb
Class: Alarm/Detection
Strength: 6
MU: 3
Options: One Use, Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 22/132 hours
Description: Bats is a one-use alarm program, designed to detect intruders and warn its parent system of the security breach.
ICON: A swarm of small black bats that hang from a ceiling or door frame. When alarmed, they flap around the intruder, squeaking and making a very loud racket, before flying off into separate directions.

Black Cat
Cost: 11,500 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel/Alarm
Strength: 3
MU: 8
Options: Simple ICON, Movement Ability, Trace
Difficulty/Programming Time: 46/276 hours
Description: Black Cat is similar to Hellhound, only feline and less tenacious. Black Cat will warn the system AI or SysOp of any intruders, then pursue targets through the 'net and dish out 1D6 damage per attack.
ICON: Black Cat appears as a cartoon feline, sleek and black, curled up asleep. When intruders are detected, it springs to life, its fur standing on end and its tail puffed out. With an alarming "Hiss!" it begins to attack and trace the target.

Black Cauldron
Cost: 200 eb
Class: Utility
Strength: 8
MU: 2
Options: Contextural ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 20/120 hours
Description: Black Cauldron is simply a more powerful version of File Packer.
ICON: A large, black, cast-iron cauldron filled with a murky, boiling liquid. Programs to be packed are "dumped" into the cauldron, screaming (if applicable), and then stirred about. They can be ladled out later, much smaller for being cooked.

Cost: 6,000 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel
Strength: 5
MU: 3
Options: Noisy, Invisibility, Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 24/144 hours
Description: BOO! is a frightfully effective program that stays hidden so that it may ambush victims. If the program's attack is successful, it does no damage but has managed to send a neural signal to the target's brain, specifically to the portions that control fear and the "fight or flight" reflex. The target must roll under his own COOL rating, minus the strength of the BOO! program. Failure indicates that he must flee in terror in a random direction for 1D6 turns, and may not use any programs or menu options in that time.
ICON: None, per se. When activated, the program lets out a very loud and startling "BOO!"

Cost: 300 eb
Class: Protection
Strength: 3
MU: 1
Options: Contextural ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 15/90 hours
Description: A generic, all-purpose protection program, like Armor.
ICON: Cape appears as a long, flowing, black cape with a red satin lining and a high collar. It's easy to imagine a vampire wearing such a cape, which is funny because icons with Cape running on them appear somewhat paler than normal.

Cost: 6,250 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel
Strength: 4
MU: 3
Options: Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 25/150 hours
Description: Cobwebs is similar to the Glue program, but slightly weaker. If successful, it holds the target netrunner tangled in place for 1D10 turns.
ICON: A thick mass of dusty cobwebs that hang from walls and ceilings like macabre party streamers.

Cost: 600 eb
Class: Stealth/Evasion
Strength: 4
MU: 4
Options: Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 30/180 hours
Description: A good stealth/evasion program designed for those with a certain gothic panache.
ICON: When Fog is activated, a thick cloud of quickly-expanding mist envelops the one running the program. The mist clouds vision and dulls noise, allowing most 'runners to make a clean getaway. The strength of the program is halved, however, versus Dog-series programs.

Gaseous Form
Cost: 200 eb
Class: Intrusion
Strength: 4
MU: 2
Options: Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 20/120 hours
Description: A quiet way to breach Data Walls from the same people who brought you the Worm series of programs. It does 1D6 damage to a Data Wall per round of successful use.
ICON: The netrunner using Gaseous Form becomes misty and intangible, flowing through "cracks" that appear in the Data Wall.

Cost: 1,720 eb
Class: Anti-Program/Detection
Strength: 4
MU: 7
Options: Auto Re-Rezz, Invisibility, Fractal ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 43/258 hours
Description: Ghoul is a variant of Killer, written to lie in wait for intruding netrunners and/or programs.
ICON: A stooped, humanoid creature with a muzzled face, wickedly-clawed hands, and a simian gait. It springs from ambush, using its "claws" to destroy its target.

Cost: 210 eb
Class: Controller
Strength: 6
MU: 3
Options: Endurance, Contextural ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 21/126 hours
Description: Gremlins is virus-like in its application. When run on a data fortress or mainframe, the "gremlins" control random machines and items in realspace, always to a destructive and/or mischievous end. Forklifts run workers down, doors close and lock at random, monitors display random images or static, and speakers crackle with the evil, maddening laughter of the gremlins.
ICON: Dozens of small, green, sickeningly cute demons with scales, forked tongues, and short tails. They scatter, mob-like, and wreak havoc on randomly-determined automated systems until either recalled or destroyed.

Jack o'Lantern
Cost: 720 eb
Class: Alarm/Detection
Strength: 5
MU: 6
Options: Hang Up, Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 36/216 hours
Description: Jack o'Lanterns are similar to dog series programs, except that they remain stationary, scanning for potential intruders. When an intruder is detected, the Jack o'Lantern will attempt to cut his connection, simultaneously contacting the system AI and/or SysOp and informing them of the security breach.
ICON: Though Jack o'Lanterns all share the form of a well-carved cartoon pumpkin, its interior flickering with orange candlelight, each has a unique face and body shape.

Mad Slasher
Cost: 13,750 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel
Strength: 8
MU: 9
Options: Auto Re-Rezz, Endurance, Superrealistic ICON, Movement Ability, Pseudo Intellect, Damage Upgrade (*)
Difficulty/Programming Time: 55/330 hours
Description: The Mad Slasher is the spitting image of a Hollywood horror villain that lurks the 'net in search of victims. Written by an unknown sociopathic programmer, the Mad Slasher is nearly indestructible and never gives up looking for its intended victim. It seems to take great joy in killing those that happen to cross its path, dealing 1D10 damage per successful attack.
ICON: The Mad Slasher has been seen with many icons, each with its own unique personality. Versions have been known to wear the faces of Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th's Jason, and Halloween's Shape (ie, Michael Meyers). Some have even been programmed to resemble real-life serial killers. The program doesn't talk (though some have been modified to taunt their victims), maintaining an eerie silence as it slashes out with whatever weapons it has.

Cost: 340 eb
Class: Utility
Strength: 6
MU: 5
Options: Conversational Ability, Pseudo-Intellect, Memory, Photorealistic ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 34/204 hours
Description: Necromancer is a high-cost, high-performance version of the Re-Rezz utility. Necromancer can re-rezz destroyed programs nearly 60% of the time. Necromancer leaves obvious signs of its use: the icon of the re-rezzed program is somehow thinner, marked by fractal scars and stitches.
ICON: Necromancer appears as a gaunt man in a heavy black robe, similar to that used by a priest. When he speaks, his voice is a disconcerting whisper. When he reanimates programs, he waves his hands and utters strange incantations under his breath. If successful, the program in question "rises from the dead."

Nevermore (Raven MkII)
Cost: 690 eb
Class: Anti-System
Strength: 5
MU: 3
Options: Fractal ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 23/138 hours
Description: Similar in theory to the "Raven" anti-personnel program, Nevermore is a bit more selective. It strikes at the 'runner's cyberdeck, targeting the circuitry that transmits visual information to the user. A successful attack indicates that these video circuits are destroyed and must be replaced, and the netrunner should be considered "blind" as long as he's in cyberspace. New circuits cost anywhere from 200 euro (for low-cost decks) to several thousand (for top-of-the-line consoles).
ICON: A shiny black bird that lands on the target icon and plucks out its eyes. With a successful attack the bird barks out, "Nevermore!"

Screaming Skull
Cost: 7,250 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel
Strength: 4
MU: 4
Options: Noisy, Speed (+2 Deck Speed), Fractal ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 29/174 hours
Description: A Hellbolt variant with a personality all its own. Screaming Skull launches with blinding speed and deafening noise. If successful, it does 2D6 damage to the target netrunner.
ICON: A normal-sized skull with coals for eyes and a flaming contrail. It shoots forth, howling and screaming like a banshee, and chews into the target's icon with savage ferocity like a piranha.

Cost: 5,500 eb
Class: Anti-Personnel
Strength: 2
MU: 3
Options: Auto Re-Rezz, Contextural ICON, Noisy
Difficulty/Programming Time: 22/132 hours
Description: A small, cheap, and persistent anti-personnel program that deals out 1D6 damage per successful attack.
ICON: A stylized skeleton that walks with a very loud clattering of bones. If destroyed and subsequently re-rezzed, the Skeleton's bones re-form into a cohesive whole and it continues to attack its target.

Trick or Treat
Cost: 250 eb
Class: Decryption
Strength: 4
MU: 3
Options: Conversational Ability, Fractal ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 25/150 hours
Description: A relatively effective code-breaker that only works against Code Gates.
ICON: A tightly-packed group of nearly a dozen costumed children, each holding a sack or pillow case. When activated, the children swarm around the Code Gate, chanting "trick or treat" while holding their sacks up patiently. The children can hold conversations, which usually consist of informing the controlling netrunner of the Code Gate's password or code.

Vampire Bats
Cost: 1,110 eb
Class: Alarm/Detection/Anti-System
Strength: 6
MU: 6
Options: One Use, Simple ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 37/222 hours
Description: Similar to Bats, but much more sinister. The program detects intruders and alerts the system much as Bats does, but it also deletes 1D6 random programs from the intruder's cyberdeck.
ICON: A swarm of small black bats with small, sharp teeth that hang from a ceiling or door frame. When alarmed, they flap around the intruder, squeaking and making a very loud racket, before flying off into separate directions.

Wicked Old Witch
Cost: 16,500 eb
Class: Interactive Anti-Personnel
Strength: 6
MU: 12
Options: Conversational Ability, Memory, Pseudo-Intellect, Recognition, Photorealistic ICON
Difficulty/Programming Time: 66/396 hours
Description: Originally written by an elusive netrunner calling himself "Scarecrow," the Wicked Old Witch attempts to seek out and destroy intruders in its data fort, dealing 3D6 damage per successful attack. Through its complex AI subroutines, it can easily be mistaken for another netrunner or, in the case of a virtual reality, a genuine wicked witch.
ICON: A tall, thin woman with green skin who wears a black outfit complete with a pointy hat, and wields a broom upon which she can zip about as if flying. She often cackles, calling people she meets "my pretty" and threatening to "get your little dog, too!" The witch throws balls of fire when attacking her victims, screaming, "How about a little fire, Scarecrow!"

(*) - Indicates a new programming option. See below.

New Programming Options

Damage Upgrade (Difficulty +5)
Only applies to Anti-Personnel, Anti-Program, or Intrusion functions. Increases the damage values caused by the program in question by one die. For example, D6's become D10's. This option can only be purchased once.

Damage Downgrade (Difficulty -5)
Only applies to Anti-Personnel, Anti-Program, or Intrusion functions. Decreases the damage values caused by the program in question by one die. For example, D6's become D3's. This option can only be purchased once.

Netrunning Gear

Tombwerx Casket Creche
Cost: 50,000 eb
Speed: +3
MU: 30
Data Walls: +5
Options: 'Trodes, Chipreader, Dead Man's Handle, Hardened Circuitry, Neural Recognition Security
Description: This funky little number will give you the ultimate in Cyberspace comfort as well as the style of a born-again child of the night. The Tombwerx Casket Creche is a genuine luxury coffin, made from the finest imported teak, lacquered and polished to a mirror-shine, and lined inside with luxurious quilted satin (in any color you can imagine). Created to order by the fine artisans of the Old Country. Hardened to resist all but the most intense electromagnetic pulses, equipped with an inner-sealing magnetic lock, environmental controls, and armored to an SP of 25, you can be certain that a century or more may pass before your rest is disturbed by outside influences. This quality tomb piece is not for everyone, but it does make quite an impression on those not familiar with genuine techno-gothic flair.
Notes: Stylish? Sure. Functional? Yes. Pretentious? Of course. This is a specialty deck, obviously, with wealthy wanna-be gothic netrunners in mind. The thing weighs nearly a ton, so it's doubtful it'll be stolen. Just in case, there is some serious security if the would-be thief drives a fork lift.

Please Note:
This article originally appeared in Issue #2 of the original Edgerunner E-Zine, available at: http://www.ee.oulu.fi/~exec/edgerunner/
What's New Guns and Weapons Gear and Equipment Cybernetics and Implants House Rules Netrunning and Net Gear A Day in the Life Recommended Dosages Names and Faces The Man Cyberpunk Sites Wheels and Otherwise Copyright and Legal Statements Out on the Town