A store-bought cyberdeck has a cold ASIST, which does not allow us to use our hacking pool. This is a problem, because our hacking pool is a lot of dice that can be added to every matrix skill check we make. A hot ASIST is required to make use of our hacking pool, and we can only get that on a custom deck. Just because of access to that pool, a custom MPCP 6 deck beats a CMT Avatar (the best deck you can get in chargen) by a very substantial margin, even though the Avatar has a higher MPCP rating.
We can't quite start with a custom deck because we need to obtain a few things that are not available in chargen:
Between these, we'll need around 34.4k nuyen before our first paydata hunt. This can be covered by doing all the Neophyte Guild autoruns, plus “idle nuyen” while programming. This assumes we picked up a Mitsuhama Z4 computer and Novatech Burner in chargen. We should probably buy the optical chips first so we can cook chips while programming. NOTE: Making the cyberdeck parts will require the workshop, cyberdeck parts, and cooked programs for those parts that require them.
Intelligence contributes to our hacking pool, and if we didn't pick up the design skills, we default to this (with a TN penalty).
A datajack, because we can't jack-in without one.
Enhanced Articulation provides +1 to a variety of tests, including technical and build/repair skill checks. Cerebral Booster II provides +2 int and +1 task pool. Encephalon II provides +2 task pool and +2 hacking pool. Math SPU III provides +3 hacking pool.
A chipjack (any rating), chipjack expert driver III, and skillwires III or V will let us make use of activesofts, which can be used to cover all the design skills as well as any other skills that don't need to be maxed out (e.g. athletics, electronics, vehicle skills, and/or social skills). We take it at rating III or V to match the activesofts available in chargen.
Computers is what we use for matrix actions, programming tests, and caps the ratings of the programs we make (except evaluate). Computer Build and Repair is what we use to build deck parts, and caps what MPCP rating we can build. Data Brokerage is used when fencing paydata, and caps what Evaluate program rating we can make.
Cyberterminal Design and the five Program Design skills are optional because our first custom deck is only an MPCP 6. Without these skills, we default to Intelligence for design tests, and assuming we picked up everything on the the highly recommended 'ware list, our failure rate to produce rating 6 parts/programs is only 6%. These skills really do make a difference for higher rating decks/programs, but we can pick them up later when we're actually thinking of upgrading.
All the highly recommended 'ware can be picked up with resources at priority B, and the skills at priority E, so we have quite a bit of room for the rest of the character. NOTE: because melee is only defended against by melee, it is a very good idea for all characters to pick up a melee skill. If we're using a firearm, we use clubs for melee defense. If we put a bayonet on the firearm, then we use polearms for melee defense.
WRT magical characters: picking up everthing on the highly recommended 'ware list means starting with magic 3. For mages, this means we'll want to grind paydata for at least a rating 3 power focus before we do all that much magic. For adepts, it may be worth using those 3 power points for kinesics; we'll be lacking combat abilities until we get in a few addpoints and initiations, but we'll also be able to buy truck-loads of APDS ammo much earlier than any other character build.
WRT riggers, each rating of a vehicle control rig reduces hacking pool. Having a rig also increases matrix TN by 1. Because program ratings directly reduce matrix TNs, this is really only a problem while our ratings are still low. We may be better off starting without a VCR and picking one up in-game after we can upgrade to higher rating decks and programs.
Persona ratings are what opponents will roll against. Because of the dice rulset, personas at rating 6 are ideal for the hobbyist decker (and because of opportunity costs, 6 is actually better than 7). However, with an MPCP 6, the total of our four persona programs can't exceed 18. Because Evasion is only useful for initiating maneuvers (useful for hard targets) and defending against trace IC (NERP), we can do without it as we harvest blue, green, and some orange hosts for paydata. Thus, we aim for Bod 6, Sensor 6, and Masking 6.
For the purpose of harvesting paydata, we want at least the following:
The Recommended Minimum Deck
|Name of Part||Why|
|MPCP 6||the deck's cpu|
|Hot ASIST||so we can use our hacking pool|
|I/O 600||so we can download paydata|
|RAS||without one, we take a big penalty to target numbers|
|Matrix Interface||so we can connect to the matrix|
|Active Memory 576||so we can run the minimum program set|
|Storage Memory 3600||so we can store programs and paydata|
|Bod 6||so we can exist in the matrix|
|Sensor 6||so we can see in the matrix|
|Masking 6||so the host is less able to resist us|
With a bit more nuyen, from paydata or otherwise, we can then add:
|Name of Part||Why|
|Active Memory 1500||(upgrade) so we have room to load every other program|
|Hardening 6||to protect our MPCP from getting fried|
These parts can be useful, but are lower priority:
|Name of Part||Why|
|Response Increase 1||so we can act more often (see: help initiative)|
|Reality Filter||so we can act more often (see: help initiative)|
|ICCM||in case we run into sparky or black IC|
The Recommended Minimum Program Set
|Name of Program||Why|
|Armor 6||so we can survive longer|
|Sleaze 6||so the host is less able to resist us|
|Deception 6||to logon to hosts|
|Decrypt 6||to decrypt paydata|
|Defuse 6||to disarm paydata|
|Read/Write 6||to download paydata|
|Browse 6||to find hosts|
|Evaluate 6||to find paydata|
NOTE: the lack of an attack program means we're just sticking around as long as we can to upload or download what we need. This is plenty for blue hosts and will allow us to stick around long enough to pick up some paydata from green hosts. The lack of an analyze program is acceptable because there are a number of publicly known blue and green hosts (see other decking guides), because there's no real penalty for attempting to decrypt or disarm paydata that turns out to not be encrypted or trapped, and because we're not hitting anything yet that requires better knowledge of things in the matrix.
After the active memory upgrade so we can keep everything loaded, we add:
|Name of Program||Why|
|Attack 6 (D)||so we can clear out the IC|
|Lock-On 6||so IC are less able to maneuver|
|Medic 6||so we can repair our icon without having to logout|
|Analyze 6||so we can get more details on things|