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http://img79.imageshack.us/img79/6415/sr7219targetmatrixtw8.th.jpg Tapeta


A Review of Target: Matrix
by Wordman

Scoring Scale Edytuj

This review awards zero to five points in each of five sections, giving a final score of zero to 25. The Writing section deals with the originality of ideas in the book, as well the quality of prose. The two Usefulness scores indicate how useful the book is to Game Masters and players. Design covers the organization, layout and artwork of the book. Ease of Use deals with how easy it is to locate what you need in the book and includes an evaluation of the table of contents, index, charts and so on. The scale for these items is:

0 - None
1 - Barely passable
2 - Not good
3 - Average
4 - Quite good
5 - Perfect

Scoring Edytuj

Writing: 4
GM Usefulness: 4
Player Usefulness: 2*
Design: 3
Ease of Use: 1

Total: 14 (out of 25)

  • This is much higher for decker characters, but most characters are not deckers.

Bias Edytuj

I have some strong opinions about how FASA has handled the Matrix, and to understand this review, it will help to know what they are.
Imagine that you saw this line in this week's copy of Newsweek: "For years the Internet has been perceived as the province of hackers, a stronghold for the worshippers of technology."
Would you think this line is true? How long have you used the Internet? Are you a hacker? How long has your mom been on-line? Is she a hacker, or even a worshipper of technology? Did you hack into Amazon, or did you just use a credit card like millions of other people? Hundreds of millions of people get spam, download porn, chat, e-mail, buy and browse, and very few of them are hackers.

Nearly everything FASA has published about the Matrix, however, makes it sound like it is just packed with deckers, IC, paydata and nothing else. In Target: Matrix, there is a line on page 12 that correctly sums up FASA's apparent attitude toward the Matrix: "For decades the Matrix has been perceived as the province of deckers, a stronghold for the worshippers of technology."
FASA has long treated the Matrix as nothing for a playground for deckers, totally ignoring the fact that as a percentage of the activity that would actually go on in the Matrix, decking is almost not measurable. The Matrix is built for real work and for real people, but you'd never know that looking at FASA products.

As someone who does not encourage PC deckers in my games, FASA's attitude has been very irritating, as it means that all of their work on the Matrix is basically useless to me. PCs who are not deckers would .certainly. use the Matrix, but due to the decker-centric rules for the Matrix, it is nearly impossible for them to do so. For example, thing about doing something as simple as browsing the web. With the Matrix rules as written, this most unpleasant, because instead of a browser bringing pages to you, you have to visit the hosts yourself.
Or, think of printing a document. A working person does this several times a day, but the Matrix rules make this a huge undertaking, involving moving to the node containing the printer and convincing it to do your bidding.

In short, the Matrix rules start from the standpoint of a decker wanting to do something. I think this is stupid. They should start from real people wanting to do something. To do this, though, you need to completely re-write the entire Matrix system, because it's foundations are built on the wrong principles.

So, I mostly ignore the Matrix rules, and instead use the Matrix books as source material. This tends to be fruitless, however, as nearly all of the source material is written for deckers.

I have been very anxious to see Target: Matrix, because from its description, it appeared that it might be closer to what I was looking for: a sourcebook about the way normal people (or Shadowrunners, for that matter) would use the Matrix.

First Impressions Edytuj

With Target: Matrix, FASA has finally taken some steps towards making the Matrix useful for all Shadowrunners, not just deckers.
Unfortunately, these steps are of the tentative, baby-step variety. Most of the Target: Matrix is still just for deckers.
That is not to say that Target: Matrix is bad; much of the information presented is clever, well thought out, and thought-provoking.

Target: Matrix's 133 pages provide a lot of plot hooks for GMs and (fortunately or unfortunately) turn the Matrix into more of a decker playground than ever before. Decker characters will have a field day with this book. (It almost makes a decker-only campaign sound interesting. Almost.)

One welcome surprise (especially for me, as I maintain the Sixth World web site), is that a great deal of politics and national history are discussed in Target: Matrix, mostly about places that have not yet been covered much in previous sourcebooks.

Grids Edytuj

The first section of T:M is about Grids, that is, collections of hosts that form their own "plane of existence", so to speak. Most of these items in this section are for deckers-only (with one notable exception).
FASA does a good job here of making each of the grids discussed very different from the others, and each useful for totally different reasons.

The grids covered are Angel Satellite Constellation (a network of satellites of all stripes, including surveillance), the Chicago Noose Net (a hacked together grid in Bug City), the UCAS Department of Justice, Magicknet (a magical bazaar, sort of), Matrix Service Providers (the AOL's of 2060), various corporate grids (PCC, Saeder-Krupp, Shiawase and Transys).
Each grid gets about a page to a page-and-a-half.
Of these, the section on the Justice Department is probably the most generally useful, as Shadowrunners often have... issues with the FBI and INS. Coverage of Magicknet is also most welcome, especially the details of how magicians gain access to it without having to be deckers.

There were a few things missing from this section. A grid tying all of the various stock market hosts (or even banks) together, for example, would have been welcome. A huge B2B grid could have also been neat.

Data Havens Edytuj

This section, at about 20 pages, gives information on what a data haven is and why a decker would care. It also describes the Shadow Matrix (Shadowland, the Denver Nexus) and several other data havens: Asgard (auction house in orbit), Azziewatch (CAS anti-Aztechnolgy), the Helix (huge haven in the Hague), Kalinin (old-boys network in Konigsberg), Manchester (anti-Tir na nOg), the Morgue (Singapore), Mosaic (pro-meta in Vladivostok).

This section is entirely for deckers. It's only saving grace is that it gives some decent history information on many parts of the world not previously explored much, especially Konigsberg and Singapore. Further, a lot of this history deals with political and corporate rivalries in the area, so is quite useful for GMs, even for events outside the Matrix.

The Seattle Matrix

These 11 pages on the Seattle Matrix should really have been in the New Seattle book instead (and were probably in Target: Matrix because they were cut from there, at a guess). This section is much to long and could have been cut altogether. Or, alternatively, could have been edited to fit in three or four pages in the Grids section.

Hosts Edytuj

About 15 pages on various Matrix hosts make this section, the best in the book. If only some or all of the pages in the Seattle Matrix section could have been taken to expand this section.

Some of the hosts (Hacker House, Lone Star) are deckers-only. Others, like the Malaysian Independent Bank and Zurich-Oribal, are mostly for GMs. The best parts of this section, however, are (finally) some hosts for non-deckers. And there was much rejoicing.

The People's University hosts on-line, free education. This section innovative and realistic (for example, it exists only due to a wealthy benefactor).

The Matrix Clubs item contains a mix of decker and non-decker clubs.
Some of these have some great ideas on how the Matrix can offer an experience not to be found in reality. Atlantis, for example, seems like a particularly cool place to hang out.

Matrix Games contains some good in-jokes and could have been longer.
Given the gist of Dawn of Atlantis, it is surprising that a BattleTech clone was absent.

While Matrix Brothels covers its topic perfectly, missing is a section on virtual sex clubs, where consenting adults mingle.

Another section that would have been very useful to Shadowrunners would be a company that hosts virtual meetings free from surveillance. A negotiating space for fixers would been interesting as well. Other possibilities include theme parks, gambling, online services (such as people who will do legal data searches for a fee), the evolution of the open source and open content movements, hosts that let you lease processing time, peer-to-peer networks, and so on.

Personas Edytuj

About a page each on several big-shot deckers. Useful for GMs and interesting for what it is, but your average runner will not care.

Organizations Edytuj

A few groups that deal with the Matrix fill about ten pages. Most of the groups are interesting, but fairly standard: the Corporate Court Matrix Authority (Matrix cops), the Dead Deckers Society, Die Shockwellenreiter (the evolution of the Chaos Computer Club) and various Matrix gangs.

The section on the Exchange, however, is special. Kudos to whoever wrote it.

Open Forum

This is a pure shadowtalk section dealing with myths and happenings in the Matrix. Lots of plot hooks here, and very interesting. While references to otaku in Target: Matrix are blessedly Spartan, most of them are in this section but are easy to stomach.

Game Information Edytuj

At first this looks like the "rules" section, and it does have rules (including sample security sheaves), but it is mostly useful for commentary on the game world itself. It gives good information on how to use many of the ideas in Target: Matrix in a game.

Art Edytuj

Art in the Target: Matrix holds to the same standard we've come to expect from FASA, which is to say spotty and inconsistent. The Grid Reaper drinking a martini on page 40 is well executed, as is the S&M babe breathing smoke faces on page 125. The rest of the art is fairly uninspiring, particularly the cover. Most of the artwork is by Steve Prescott, for good or bad.

Index Edytuj

FASA continues its grand tradition of publishing information rich sourcebooks without any index at all. Don't get me started.

Quirks & Nitpicks Edytuj

There were a few things in Target: Matrix that came across as mistakes or, at least, suspended disbelief.

One was a line in the Magicknet section about the system changing the iconography it presented to you based on the appearance of your icon. A system that could do this (analyze an arbitrary image, make some sort of cultural judgment on it, then use that cultural judgment to build images within the same culture) would be extremely powerful. Deus could do this, probably. No way would Magicknet be able to. Leave this up to a decker's reality filter, since it already knows the .exact. culture the decker wants to see.

Page 39 demonstrates a cardinal sin of page layout: orphaning a headline at the bottom of a column. This is both amateur and irritating, since it effectively hides the headline of one of the most important data havens, making it difficult to find with quick visual scanning.

Conclusion

Target: Matrix is a must buy for decker characters. Some other characters, particularly technophiles or on-line addicts, can benefit from portions of this book and may find it worth owning. Game Masters should only need this book if they run Matrix heavy campaigns or care a lot about the geopolitics of the Sixth World.

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