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The following is a series of questions from a long email between Jacob Morris and Lukas Litzsinger. The text of the email was originally posted to BoardGameGeek on January 8, 2015.[1] The intent of the email was to better understand how abilities in Android: Netrunner are classified and resolved, especially in conjunction with other abilities. Some of the answers directly contradicted previous rulings and FAQs, as some of the answers given by Lukas were more thorough than any previous explanations.

SummaryEdit

Some of the major implications brought by this ruling include:

  • An "end the run" effect is the only thing in the game that can force a paid ability window closed. This is changed from the previous FAQ rules[2]. Jump to
  • Assume an ability is constant unless it uses "when", "whenever", "after", or "unless". Constant abilities generally define a "state of being". Jump to
  • "If" abilities are all constant. This means "if {some trigger}" abilities have priority over "when {some trigger}" abilities. "Until" abilities are also all constant, and can be read as "if not".
  • Conditional abilities fail to resolve if their trigger conditions are no longer relevant by the time they go to resolve. Jump to
  • Floating abilities: Once triggered, an ability's effect exists independently of the source. Jump to
  • Nested abilities: An ability and its effects can be made up of several different types of other abilities and effects.Jump to

Edit

Question 1
Let's start with paid abilities because those seem pretty clear as it stands. The rulebook already clearly states that paid abilities are always written in the "cost:effect" convention and that resolving the ability is contingent on the trigger cost being paid[3]. It is also conventional wisdom that paid abilities have the lowest priority of all abilities, although this isn't directly stated in any rules. The biggest open question I can think of in regards to paid abilities has to deal with ending priority.

Can players force paid ability windows closed? This certainly doesn't seem possible outside of a run, but during a run there are a lot of ways that the timing of the game can move past the current state during a paid ability window. For example, Nisei MK II's paid ability can end the run during a paid ability window, and the runner can use paid abilities to trash ice during almost any paid ability window with the right set up of cards. More specifically, I think ending the run certainly closes the paid ability window without passing priority again, but what about trashing a piece of ice during approach or encounter?

Tybb-sly Players can force close paid ability windows, and stop resolving subroutines, in only one case. An "end the run” effect immediately ends the run and closes any window. Trashing a piece of ice during an approach or an encounter does not close the paid ability window, though I cannot currently imagine a scenario where this matters. If the game is not in a paid ability window, however, bypassing the ice can skip steps.

Constant AbilitiesEdit

Question 2
Unlike paid abilities, both constant and conditional abilities are much more fuzzy. Again the rulebook is clear on some things, like how constant abilities do not have triggers or costs[4], but the rulebook does not give any clear indication of conventions constant abilities might follow.

By going through some of your other rulings and poring over the cards, I think I've come up with a list of key words that indicate an ability is constant. Are any of the following not constant abilities, am I missing any constant ability types, are any of these examples not constant abilities, or am I completely off base here? (Examples of these words used as qualifiers for other abilities are of course entirely different, e.g. the use of "all" in "when the runner passes all ice protecting this server" is different from saying something like "all ice is encountered with -1 strength".)

Tybb-sly First off, constant abilities usually define a state of being. While all of those words are definitely used, each one by itself doesn’t make an ability constant. Next time you are wondering if an ability is a constant, assume that it is unless it uses “when,” “whenever,” or has a colon that denotes it as a paid ability.

Play ConditionsEdit

Question 3
You've confirmed in the past that Parasite's "if" ability is constant[8]:Ruling, so I've extrapolated from there that all "if" abilities are constant abilities, and I think it makes a lot of sense for a lot of cases.

  • It would pretty clearly explains how "if successful" abilities work
  • It would make traces make a lot of sense in game terms
  • It would make "if {condition}, gain {attribute}" abilities make a lot of sense
  • It would make play conditions on events and operations make a lot of sense, but there is some weirdness as to how play conditions become active.

EITHER:

(A) Play conditions are constant abilities that become active with the rest of the text after being played, evaluating if that play was legal. But then what happens if you attempt to play an event/op with an unmet play condition?

OR:

(B) Play conditions are constant abilities that are always active, constantly preventing you from even playing the event/op until that condition is met. This would make a lot more sense, but begs the question, what about other constant abilities? If, as a general rule, constant abilities on events/ops are always active, then a lot of other problems seem solved. Certain problem cards make a lot more sense (Fetal AI, cards that need to be revealed from R&D, and of course Subliminal Messaging's return from Archives ability), and certain rules contradictions make more sense (non-agendas that can be advanced and cards with "about" abilities that allow interrupting rezzing like Zaibatsu Loyalty and Tyr's Hand). But, of course, this is in direct conflict with the rulebook specifically saying that "constant abilities continually affect the game as long as the card they appear on is active," as well as introducing a lot of concerns of deciding when a constant ability is active on inactive cards.

So which is it? Is it (A) that play conditions are abilities that retroactively decide if you were allowed to play that event/op, or is it (B) that there is some kind of special rule for play conditions (or all/some constant abilities in general) that they are active even on inactive cards? (Or of course something else entirely.)

Tybb-sly Play conditions have to be met before a card is played. Like Subliminal Messaging or Fetal AI, many cards break the rule that “abilities can only be used if the card is active.” I do admit that there is no good way to know which abilities these are, other than using common sense and asking “If this was not active, would it ever have any effect?”

Conditional AbilitiesEdit

Question 4
Likewise, conditional abilities do not have clearly defined conventions. The rulebook says for sure that "when" and "whenever" abilities are conditional abilities, but it also says that these are "commonly" used for conditional abilities[9]. Again, going off of previous rulings, FAQs, and my own personal readings of the cards, I've made a similar list of words that I believe denote conditional abilities. Do any of the following words not identify conditional abilities, am I missing any, etc.?

Tybb-sly Paintbrush is a paid ability that results in a constant ability that has an expiration date. “Until” can also be thought of as “If not” and should be thought of as a constant, not a conditional. For example, “Choose a rezzed piece of ice. If the next run this turn has not ended, that ice gains sentry, code gate, and barrier.” As you can see, “until” is a little easier to parse. We sometimes have to make calls between a more technical wording, and a wording that is easier to understand. We do not always make the right call (eg, Replicating Perfection).

“After” and “unless” are generally used for conditional abilities, but like constants I would not make a definitive statement that this is always the case. Inazuma and Susanoo-no-Mikoto, for example, use “until after” and are constants (of course they also both use “until”).

Fail to ResolveEdit

Question 5
Now that we've perhaps settled which abilities are which, there are several questions as to how they resolve and interact. First off, there seems to be an unwritten rule that conditional abilities that have been triggered are prevented from resolving if the trigger condition becomes irrelevant due to the timing or game state moving beyond the trigger condition. Is this true? I have come to this tenet through the following precedent:

  • Ice subroutines are required conditional abilities that can be stopped from resolving if another subroutine or effect ends the run or encounter.
  • Bypassing stops triggered "when encountered" abilities from resolving[11]
  • You can only resolve one replacement effect per trigger before the others are invalid[12]
  • The Parasite, Ice Carver, Datasucker v. Tollbooth Ruling shows that trashing ice prevents "when encountered" abilities from resolving
  • There are rulings showing that ending the run or using Copycat to move to a different server prevents triggered Awakening Centers from resolving[13]:Ruling[14]:Ruling
Tybb-sly That is correct.

SubroutinesEdit

Question 6
Speaking of, what is the trigger condition of subroutines?

Tybb-sly Subroutines are required conditional abilities that fire in order during 3.2 of a run.

Floating AbilitiesEdit

Question 7
Another conclusion I have come to based on previous rulings is that abilities can create "floating" abilities. Is this true? If so, where do these abilities live and how are they governed? Some examples include:

  • Paid abilities with trashing as the cost still resolve even though the card is no longer active[15]
  • Sneakdoor Beta's ability still resolves even if it gets trashed during the course of the run on Archives[16]
  • Joshua B. still gives you a tag even if you sell him to Aesop's Pawnshop[17]
  • Any subroutine (required conditional abilities) that creates constant effects (such as Chum's +2 strength for the next ice)
Tybb-sly Once triggered, abilities exist independently of the source. So when you trash a card as a cost, the ability still resolves based on the game state that existed when the card was trashed.

Nested AbilitiesEdit

Question 8
More to the point, these all seem to be examples of "nested" abilities. Am I correct that abilities can have triggers, costs, and effects that can be made up of multiple different types of abilities? For example, from above:

  • Sneakdoor Beta appears to have a paid ability action that initiates a run and creates a floating constant ability affecting that run
  • Joshua B. appears to have a constant ability, activated by resolving his beginning of turn conditional ability, that creates a floating conditional ability that triggers at the end of turn
Tybb-sly That is correct. Sneakdoor Beta is another paid ability that creates a constant ability. Joshua B. has an optional conditional ability and a constant ability ("If you do…”) that creates a required conditional ability.

Question 9
If abilities can indeed have triggers or effects with other types of abilities nested in them, how does this work with if/when abilities? The FAQ tells us that some of these are conditional "when accessed" abilities[18], so that leads me to believe that the key word denoting an ability as a conditional triggered ability does not necessarily need to be at the beginning of or even in the first clause of an ability, in addition to lending evidence to the nested ability model. (Related cards include Corporate War, Market Research, Aggressive Secretary, Cerebral Overwriter, Edge of World, Psychic Field, Snare!, and Subliminal Messaging.)

Tybb-sly We try to make the ability listed first in the sentence the primary ability word. Cards like Aggressive Secretary, however, require a cost to be paid, and the “If” does not turn that triggered ability into a constant ability.

Question 10
Interestingly enough, this seems different from Toshiyuki Sakai's ability, which uses if/while — both words that I have come to believe are associated with constant abilities. Does this mean that Toshiyuki's access swapping ability is a full on constant ability and therefore at a higher priority than conditional "when accessed" abilities? For now this distinction seems meaningless, but it could lead to some interesting design space with upgrades that have "when accessed" abilities.

Tybb-sly Toshiyuki Sakai does have two constant abilities.

Question 11
Assuming I have puzzled out at least some of the hidden details behind how abilities work in Netrunner, it seems then that we would also need official rules governing both the order of operations for deciding what type of ability a card has and the order in which to resolve abilities. For example, in the case of the "if/when accessed abilities", the when convention takes precedence over the if clause to make the ability as a whole a conditional ability with a nested constant ability inside of it. Does such a priority order for card ability key words exist? If so, what is it?

Tybb-sly No, a priority list does not exist.

Resolution OrderEdit

Question 12
Is there a priority order for ability resolution? Conventional wisdom in the player community holds constant>conditional>triggered, with prevent effects existing outside of that priority.

Tybb-sly Constant abilities are always resolved first. Conditional abilities are a subset of triggered abilities, which also includes paid abilities.

Example 1Edit

Question 13
Using the guidelines for abilities that I have outlined above:

The Runner is Gabriel Santiago with Sneakdoor Beta, Datasucker, and Security Testing installed. At the beginning of Gabe's turn, he chooses Archives for Security Testing, adding a floating constant ability to the game. He then spends a click to activate Sneakdoor, making a run on Archives with another floating constant ability added to the game. Gabe approaches Archives, decides to continue, and reaches step 4.4 of the run. There are three abilities active that care about this step: Datasucker, Sneakdoor, and Security Testing. As a conditional ability Datasucker has the lowest priority of the three, so Sneakdoor and Security Testing are on the line first. Because Gabe owns the abilities, he gets to decide the order of resolution. He can choose to EITHER:

(A) Resolve Sneakdoor first. The run is treated as a successful run on HQ instead of Archives. Security Testing is no longer relevant. However, Gabe's ability is now activated. As a constant ability, it resolves first, even though Datasucker still has yet to resolve. Gabe gains 2c. Datasucker finally has a chance to resolve. Even though the run is no longer successful on the server that triggered Datasucker's ability, there is still a successful run, and it is still on a central server, so Datasucker receives a virus token. Gabe then proceeds to access HQ.

OR:

(B) Resolve Security Testing first. He replaces accessing with 2c, but this does not resolve immediately because the run has not reached step 4.5 yet, wherein accessing would take place. Then Gabe resolves Sneakdoor, which is still relevant because there is still a successful run on Archives, so it instead becomes a successful run on HQ. Gabe's ability is activated, and as a constant ability, it resolves before Datasucker, even though Datasucker still has yet to resolve. Gabe gains 2c. Datasucker finally has a chance to resolve. Even though the run is no longer successful on the server that triggered Datasucker's ability, there is still a successful run, and it is still on a central server, so Datasucker receives a virus token. Gabe then proceeds to access HQ, which has been replaced with gaining 2 more credits.

The net result is almost identical, but B is better because it gets 2 credits more.

Is all of this correct, or am I completely wrong? How does this all work with "the first" successful run on Archives? Does either choice by the runner satisfy the first successful run on Archives for Security Testing, or does Security Testing "forget" that the successful run on Archives ever happened? My assumption is that the game has no idea that a successful run on Archives has occurred, let alone the first one, because I could not use Sneakdoor to fulfill both the Archives and HQ pieces of the play condition for Notoriety/Quest Complete, however this raises questions for Security Testing and Sneakdoor being used to click for 2 credits endlessly.

Tybb-sly Your examples with Gabe, Datasucker, Sneakdoor Beta and Security Testing are almost accurate. If the Runner chooses to use the Sneakdoor Beta first, then Security Testing can no longer be used. If Security Testing is used first, then “instead of accessing cards” is active until the Sneakdoor Beta is used, at which time the “If successful” ability on Security Testing is no longer applicable because the run is now on HQ. As now specified in the FAQ, “if successful” always refers back to the original condition under which the run was initiated.

Followup
Just wanted to follow up on 14. After reviewing the cards again, the end result is the same as I mentioned, with Sneakdoor Beta taking precedence and invalidating a Security Testing, but there is no Runner choice involved. The Runner is not choosing which one to resolve first: they both see that the run is successful, then the Sneakdoor Beta changes the target of the run which means that Security Testing’s own replacement ability can no longer be resolved when it is time to access cards. Hope that helps, sorry for the confusion!

Example 2Edit

Question 14
Even more troubling is the difference between The Cleaners and Tori Hanzō. According to rulings you have made, The Cleaners adds additional meat damage before the Runner can prevent any of it,[19] while the net damage that would trigger Tori can be prevented before there's a chance to turn it into brain damage.[20]

This doesn't seem quite right, though. The Cleaners is very clearly a conditional ability because of the "whenever" wording, and conditional abilities are completely interruptible by prevent/avoid effects according to the rulebook. Meanwhile, Tori's ability would seem to be constant because it uses "the first time" wording, and constant abilities can't be interrupted because they are always active. Unless I'm completely wrong about how to determine which type of ability is which and how abilities interact, wouldn't the reverse make more sense (The Cleaners resolving after the prevention window and Tori happening before the prevention window)?

Tybb-sly You bring up a good point. I will have to think on this one more; “additional” denotes that an effect is modifying the trigger condition, but I cannot deny that it muddies the water by basically turning an ability that uses “whenever” into a constant ability.

Question 15
In another ruling regarding Tori Hanzō, you said that Net Shield can't be used to prevent the next net damage after the first one was converted to brain damage.[21]:Ruling (16) Doesn't this go against the nature of the game forgetting previous game actions or states? If the game does remember, doesn't that imply I could use Security Testing on Archives and Sneakdoor Beta to click four times for 2Credit or play Notoriety/Quest Completed after only using Sneakdoor and running R&D?

Tybb-sly I do not quite understand the problem here. The game remembers what has occurred and keeps a record. However, the ruling about Net Shield and Tori Hanzō might need to be revisited in light of the reversal of Security Testing and Crisium Grid.

SourceEdit

  1. Posted to BoardGameGeek by Jacob Morris on January 8, 2015
  2. Destruction of ice during a run
  3. Paid Abilities
  4. 4.0 4.1 Constant Abilities
  5. Sensei's Added Subroutine Location and Timing Ruling
    Suppose the runner encounters Sensei and does not break the subroutine, and then encounters Ice Wall, which has been chosen as the target of Femme Fatale. Does it cost 1 credit to bypass Ice Wall with Femme Fatale (because these are simultaneous conditional abilities, and the runner may trigger Femme Fatale before Ice Wall gains a subroutine), or 2 credits (because 'for the remainder of this run, each piece of ice encountered except Sensei gains "SubroutineEnd the run" after all its other subroutines' is a constant ability)? If the previous answer is 2 credits, then suppose instead the runner encounters Sensei and does not break the subroutine, and then encounters Komainu. Does the end-the-run subroutine come first, because it is already present, as the first subroutine, when Komainu gains its net damage subroutines, or last, because Sensei says the end-the-run is after all other subroutines? Or something else entirely?
    The Sensei is creating a constant ability that gives each piece of ice an additional subroutine. So when you initially encounter the Ice Wall, it costs 2 credits to use Femme Fatale in order to bypass it. With the Komainu, the subroutine will be by itself, unless the Runner has cards in hand. If the Runner has cards in hand, then the subroutine drops to the last position as soon as the Komainu gains its subroutines.
  6. FAQ on Kit's ability being constant
  7. FAQ on Chum's subroutine creating a constant effect
  8. Parasite, Ice Carver, Datasucker v. Tollbooth Ruling
    Corp has Tollbooth. There is a Parasite on it with 4 counters, making it currently strength 1

    Runner has Ice Carver in play and runs. "All ice is encountered with its strength lowered by 1."

    Is the ice trashed before the runner has to lose 3 credits? I was reading somewhere about the active player choosing the order of effects, and if it is the runners turn, could he choose to process Ice Carver effect first, then Parasite, killing it before he has to pay the 3Credit

    In a follow up question, lets say that there was only 2 Parasite counters on the ice, but the runner has Datasucker in play with 2 tokens on it. "Hosted virus counter: Rezzed piece of ice currently being encountered has -1 strength until the end of the encounter. " That says "currently being encountered", so I think you would have to lose 3Credit from Tollbooth before you get to use it, whereas Ice Carver says that the ice is encountered at strength -1.
    The Tollbooth would be trashed before its conditional ability triggered. You have two different constant effects (Ice Carver and Parasite) which combine to knock it off before the Tollbooth can force the Runner to pay credits.

    Datasucker counters could not be used until after Tollbooth's ability. "When encountered" conditional abilities are resolved before there is an opportunity to trigger paid abilities.
  9. Conditional Abilities
  10. Clarifications for Paintbrush
  11. Bypass
  12. Replacement Effect
  13. Multiple Awakening Centers Rulings, Question 1
    When a run ends, what happens to any pending triggered conditional abilities? For example, if a runner runs on a remote server with 2 Awakening Centers, both of which have a bioroid on, what happens? Both Awakening Centers trigger when the runner passes the last ice (what if there is no ice?) and the corp gets to choose the order of resolution. The corp then chooses for the runner to encounter Viktor 1.0 from Awakening Center A. The runner spends a click to break the brain damage and lets the "End the run" subroutine activate. Does the pending triggered second Awakening Center then get to fire to force an encounter as well, or do pending triggered abilities get prevented in the same fashion as pending "on encounter" abilities when you bypass an ice? If this is the case it could do with a rule in the FAQ!
    Since "all" includes zero, the Corp can trigger Awakening Center even if there is no ice protecting the server. The Corp can use multiple Awakening Centers per run, and in your scenario of the run ending the second Awakening Center would no longer trigger since ending the run closes the possibility of triggering another in-run ability.
  14. Copycat v. Awakening Center Ruling
    This is basically a question about what stops conditional abilities from triggering. We know the card becoming inactive does, but does the trigger condition going away due to another ability generally stop it as well?

    For instance, suppose I'm running Copycat, and running on a server that's Ice Wall -> Awakening Center with something hosted on it. When I pass the Ice Wall, the Awakening Center's condition is met. But if I trigger the Copycat to move to a different server, does the Awakening Center still happen and do I still have to encounter whatever bioroid is on it?

    Similarly, what if there's Caprice Nisei? Does she still get to play the psi game even if I've Copycatted to a different server?

    The ability on Copycat would resolve first, and since you are no longer fulfilling the condition for Awakening Center it does not resolve.
  15. Paid abilities with trashing as part of the cost
  16. Clarifications for Sneakdoor Beta
  17. A triggered ability remains active until resolved
  18. When accessed abilities
  19. Clarifications on The Cleaners
  20. Clarifications on Tori Hanzō
  21. Net Shield v. Tori Hanzō Rulings, Question 1
    If the runner has Net Shield installed and is about to take damage from Data Mine, can the corporation use Tori Hanzō to shift the damage to Brain before Net Shield can prevent the damage?

    If the answer is that Net Shield can prevent the damage - is this it because of runner priority?

    If the damage source was House of Knives instead - would it matter?

    This is a topic that will be addressed in the next FAQ. For the time being, treat them as simultaneous effects (thus, during a run, the Runner has priority and can prevent the damage first).

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