|As printed in Star Hero (5th ed.):|
Except for a few Low SF settings such as Dune, computers are omnipresent in science fiction. From massive supercomputers capable of running entire civilizations, to bio-computers able to catch true "viruses, to hand-held computers containing many thousands of times the processing power and storage capacity of the computers of twenty-first century Earth, they crop up in Star Hero games all of the time, and that makes the Computer Programming Skill especiall useful.
Paradoxically, computers become both more and less complex in science fiction. On the one hand, ease-of-use and user-friendly features improve to the point where most characters can "perform" complex computing tasks simply by telling the computer what they want to do - they never have to press a key or control panel. Thus Computer Proramming as a Skill may die out among large sements of the population, to be replaced by, if anything, a PS: Use Computer Skill. On the other hand, the internal workings of computers become more and more sophisticated, meaning engineers, scientists, and hard-core computer users still need Computer Programming to build, repair and get full benefit from their computers. Characters may need a Fringe Benefit like Galactic Computernet Access Card to use certain networks or computer systems, in much the same way that people on modern Earth subscribe to Internet service providers.
In some settings, computers diverisfy incredibly, making the ability to use or program one type of computer virtually useless when the character encounters another type of computer. You can simulate this with a -1 to -5 penalty to Computer Programming rolls, depending on the degree of difference between systems. But again, ease-of-use features may compensate for much of this.
In a Space Opera or Pulp-oriented Star Hero campaign, having a single Computer Programming Skill is sufficient; there's no point getting bogged down in technical details or imposing penalties for using unusual systems. On the other hand, in a Cyberpunk or Hard SF type of game, GMs and players may want to take technical differences into account. One of the easiest ways to do this (besides the Skill Roll penalties suggested above) is to split Computer Programming up into various categories, the way Gambling and Survival are normally. A sample list of subcategories is suggested in the accompanying box. Characters can learn any one category for 2 Character Points for a (9 + (INT/5)) roll; each additional category costs +2 Character Points, or each additional subcategory +1 Character Point; improving the roll for all categories known costs +2 Character Points for each +1 to the roll.
|EXPANDED COMPUTER PROGRAMMING|
Portable Computers (laptops and such)
Cyberspace (Imperial Net)
Mainframe Computers and Supercomputers
Hacking and Computer Security
Military and Starship Computers