The people have spoken! Offering a choice of possible futures, our latest Patreon poll landed on “Post-Apocalyptic Australian Outback.” (Better luck next time, Neo Tokyo!)

I’m happy to have Street Samurai in the comic. Not only does she have the best distressed jeans in all of Handbook-World, she also comes packaged with a boatload of tropes that don’t exactly work in a fully fantasy universe. I mean sure, Wizard is a smart dude, but I suspect that the “technical skills” section of his resume is limited to “metamagic.”

So what do you say we talk about Hackerman? I’ve met the dude a time or two, and he’s a bit of a problem in futuristic games. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with playing a decker (except possibly this video). A character that knows their way around the net can be useful, especially when it comes to investigation and mystery games. It only becomes a problem when internet research becomes your first, last, and only avenue of inquiry. In my mind there’s a big difference between, “I scout out some useful intel on the target,” and, “I find out where the target lives. I hack into his robot dog. The dog delivers the maguffin to the alleyway.”

Happily, games that support Hackermans tend to feature countermeasures and limitations on tech, reducing the likelihood of hearing the dreaded question, “What do I even need the rest of the party for?” However, like a working cell phone in a 1980s horror flick, unrestricted internet access has a way of stepping all over dramatic tension in contemporary games.

Let’s bring it back to fantasy for a minute. Take the Pathfinder spell speak with dead. The spell does what it says on the tin, allowing the caster to ask questions of a dead body. Within the context of a murder mystery, it is hard to imagine a bigger obstacle for a GM. After all, it’s not going to be much of a mystery if the body can sit up, point a decaying finger, and croak, “J’accuse!” at its murderer. And so, even though the spell has built-in workarounds (the magic might fail if the creature’s alignment is different from the caster’s; answers are always cryptic; etc.), a mystery writer is obliged to have  murderers remove victims’ jaw bones or otherwise restrict access to the spell if they want to preserve their genre tropes. In the same way then, contemporary games have to account for internet access and Hackerman PCs.

The problem is exacerbated when a player knows more about computers than a GM. Suppose it’s session 1, and that a mafia Don has invited you to his fancy soiree to meet the other PCs. If he gives you access to his home network, and if you can explain in technical terms how this allows you to steal enough personal files to blackmail him a dozen times over, my computer-illiterate ass has no choice but to say, “Ummm… Cool. I guess I’ll rewrite my campaign a little. A lot. Completely. Once I’m done crying.” It’s a lot harder to apply the old “a wizard did it” when there’s a literal computer wizard sitting across from you, explaining why your explanations a hooey.

So here’s my question to all you IRL Harckermans out there. What are some strategies that a technologically illiterate  GM can use to manage a Computer Skill: ∞ kind of PC? How do you run a satisfying mystery when a high hacking roll can do seemingly anything? Let’s hear it in the comments!


THIS COMIC SUCKS! IT NEEDS MORE [INSERT OPINION HERE] Is your favorite class missing from the Handbook of Heroes? Maybe you want to see more dragonborn or aarakocra? Then check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. You’ll become part of the monthly vote to see which elements get featured in the comic next!