Friday, June 10, 2016

To Vesper Skies II: Search Engines and Knowledge Rolls

"For 87 years, Parse has been the most widely used database and search engine in the modern day. Parse is run with an advanced search algorithm, cutting edge archive AIs, and dedicated user crowd-sourcing that make sure only the most trusted and up-to-date search results are brought to you. Searching when the Great Fey War ended? We've got you covered. Need information on the specs and best deals of the latest Ergo quantum computer? Parse can handle that. Whether it's the aging cycles of a red dragon, or the best vacation spot in the galaxy, Parse will be there to make sure you have all of the knowledge and the best results you need.

Parse: Bringing the Best Results Yesterday!"

- Advertisement for the Parse search engine, in use for 87 years

In the distant future, online databases have largely replaced libraries and dead tree archives. Due to advances in data storage and management, as well as computing, a person can have the entirety of the Library of Alexandria and more at their fingertips. Finding information is usually fairly easy, unless someone is actively trying to hide something. Even in a world of social networks and blogging, there are still skeletons people want to keep in their closets.

Searching For Info

When using a search engine, the GM decided how difficult it is to find the information. Easy searches, like a person's name, an event in the news, or something in history, are trivial and require no roll. The player simply has the information. Generally, the first couple of results are the most accurate. It takes a round to get some key, generalized points, while it takes a turn to read and get a wider understanding of a subject. At the GM's call, it could take longer for a more difficult subject (like reading the Wiki article on magnetoencephalography). If using an AI to search, then the times are cut back, with key points coming up instantaneously and greater details coming up anywhere from a round to a minute.

For things that are more specific and detailed, more hidden, or may contain misinformation (whether deliberate or accidental), it takes a bit longer to parse through these searches. The player rolls a Wisdom check against a target number. Success means you are able to find good information. The amount is up to the GM, but they should be much more generous with useful information that the players can use. Failure can still net you info, but it will take longer and there is a higher chance that you get wrong info mixed in with good stuff.

Example Difficulty Amount of Time
Somewhat Difficult to Search
DC 10
2 Turns
Difficult
DC 14
1d6 hours
Obscure
DC 18
2d6+6 hours
Esoteric
DC 22
1d6+3 days

Finding the data can take awhile, but generally isn't hard. Analyzing it and making sense of it is the hardest part. This is up to the players, using smarts, appropriate skills, and trial and error to see what sticks and what is a red herring. Failure indicated that the time it takes can take upwards of twice as long as on the table, and can garner more useless or bad information. An AI can be used to parse this information if available, cutting the time by half (round down). Use the AI's Wisdom or relevant stat.


Top Secret

There are something things that aren't on internet databases. Top secret government projects, criminal information, and anything else people want to keep a secret. For that, it requires hacking into private databases, personal computers, and good old fashioned sleuthing. But that is a topic for another time.