Vir's Archive

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Unity in Diversity: the SCEs (Content)

Often, the simplest answers are the best.

In the case of SCEs, I think what makes them unique is their diversity.

Okay, so I have really been thinking about Sovereign Corporate Entities and what they bring to the table in The Difference Equation (per my last post).  I asked for a couple idea on what I could do to make my Corporations different than all the others out there in transhuman and cyberpunk games -- and the suggesitons I got were fantastic.  Thanks to Ben, Jason and Sootch.  They each game me an idea, and each was quite different.  Initially I waffled back and forth on which one to adopt - and then the easy answer hit me - why adopt just one?

The map has changed... 

One of the problems I see with the corps in Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase is that they feel very monolithic - which makes sense for those settings.  In both cases, the authorial voice wants you to believe the MegaCrosp are bad things, or at the very least, sleazy.  I don't want to automatically evoke that same sentiment with the corps of TDE.  Instead, I want the corporations to be rogue actors that operate outside the bounds of conventional power politics.  They have seats at the table, sure, but it doesn't mean they are playing by the same rules or even striving for the same goal.  Similarly, and importantly, no two SCE will look quite the same.

One corp is going to be an integrated hive-mind with distinct personalities embedded into the various branches.  Another is going to be a para-statal, with ambitions to develop the same power and influences of the traditional states.  Another will test the boundaries of what it is to be "family."  In every case, they will have very different approaches to pretty much the same endgame - survival and the accumulation of wealth.

The thing that binds the SCEs into a distinct group is the fact that at some point in the history of TDE each one of the SCEs garnered enough influence to demand a seat at the UN.  Nothing would have been given to the SCEs, especialy not at first.  Instead, they would have had to bribe, cajole, and intimidate the traditional member states of the UN into allowing a very different actor the same rights and responsibilities of the rest of the group.  I imagine this was a tumultuous and very controversial decision - and probably only reasonable in the wake of major social upheaval -- perhaps something like a major population crash?  Perhaps.

So, thats it.  In the wake of the massive human dieback, the first one or two SCEs had the resources to make some major contributions to stabilizing the ecosystem -- and eventually get humanity on an upward trend (not in terms of population, in terms of general social development).  At a time when the States and their allies were weakest, a handful of corporations were strongest.  At that point, when the States and the UN apparatus had the least ability to say no, the first SCEs demanded new rights and representation -- and the nation states would not have been in a position to say "no."

Thus was born the new sovereign entities.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Defining Corporate Greed for the 22nd Century (Musings, Collaboration)

I need a bit of help. 

My corporations are painfully boring.  

I’ve been putting off diving into the most blatant omission in the TDE setting – the Sovereign Corporate Enterprises (SCEs).  Part of the reason I have been reluctant to define them is the simple fact that I cant really think of anything new to do with them.  SCEs right now are a little too recognizable and tread upon a very well-worn path that models the hyper-zaibatsu/chaebol popularized in cyberpunk fiction.  SCEs are big and diversified – though with a specialization that makes them stand out from their competitors.  

From interesting movie background element,
to all encompassing corporate evil.
As it stands, the System is host to about 15 SCEs that all have official representation in the UN as observers.  There are another 10 or so wannabe SCEs that don't have the last bit of power to push them past their own political inertia to take their seat at the UN's rarefied table.  BR/BP Distribution is known for energy production and delivery (growing from 20th C. oil and mining corporations).  IntraSys is known for interplanetary transport (and made its fortune shuttling Earth refugees to Mars after the eco-crash).  Orbital Inc. makes its living mostly through operation and expansion of skyhooks and beanstalks.  The Access Group does banking and futures.  ViaAgro LLC is all about the agriculture (as are a number of other wealthy SCEs).  Caliban Systems is known for its military wares.  They are all rich, powerful, extraterritorial, and complete bastards when it comes to the bottom line. 

And all that?  Its been done before.  Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Battletech, Eclipse Phase… the worlds I respect because of their depth and detail all seem to have the same conclusions – giant multinationals that rival the traditional nation-state in power, influence, and legality.  Cinema has done it to death as well; Weyland-Yutani, Tyrell, Umbrella (okay, not originally cinema, but still…) – again, this isn’t new territory at all. 


Dammit Ash - we are gonna get screwed again, arent we?

I look back at Mars and Mercury and even Earth and I like what I see.  Earth, in particular, stands as a nicely complicated political entity.  Likewise the UN.  Having been away for a bit, there was time to reflect on TDE and decide if I liked where it was going.  Happily, I see where TDE is going and smile.  But the SCEs wipe that smug smile off my face.  

Its 150 years in the future and follows a major humanitarian and ecolo

\gical disaster of nearly unimaginable scale.  These two facts about the setting along make me think that the nature of corporations, with their parochial demands on intellectual property rights and data control, would likely be a thing of the past.  There would be something new, something just as powerful as the MegaCorps of Shadowrun, and just as influential as Weyland-Yutani of the ALIENS franchise – but that would operate in a fundamentally different way.

So, in my head I have point A and I know I want to get to point B – but that necessary straight line connecting the two is damned elusive. 

So, anyone out there seen an approach to sci-fi corporations that you felt was compelling or particularly interesting?  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Consular Security Corps - Diplomats Doing Naughty Things (Content)

Saturn does things differently.  Its kinda their thing.  

As discussed before, its hyper-progressive insomuch as it is a libertarian’s and industrialist’s wet dream.  In that crucible of low regulation, environmental pressures, and an intrepid sense of exploration a lot of the Solar System’s significant (and dangerous) technological jumps occur.  Saturn government is similarly odd, only performing the most basic of functions and often operating completely aloof from the rest of the planet’s many settlements and stations.  The times the Saturnine government does become involved in internal affairs, the issue has gone long past simple dispute resolution and likely has major implications for the other settlements.  Likewise, the Saturnine government doesn’t often get involved in the affairs of the other planets, and when it does, it is often for reasons either blatantly obvious (like a system-wide threat that everyone agrees must be dealt with) or oddly inscrutable (like a obscure Martian-Earth patent disputes). 

Saturn thinks outside of the box, including in the makeup of their military and diplomatic corps.  In this case, the two are combined into one service – the Consular Security Corps (CSC).  The Consular Corps is the smallest of the military services, focused on defense of Saturnine installations, regional resource interests, and its diplomatic presence throughout the System.  At the top of the hierarchy is the Senior Ministers of the Diplomatic wing of the CSC – they make the policy decisions for the entire CSC, including the military wing.  By both tradition and legal stipulations, Saturn will not allow a uniformed servicemember to outrank a civilian in the same responsibility chain.  What this actually means is that many of the most bright and ambitious service members often retire mid-way through their careers and take on prestigious and well-paying civil service jobs with the intention of making their way to the highest ranks of the CSC or any other Saturnine government job. 

The makeup of the security wing (which includes the Saturnine Federal Police as well as armed forces) focuses almost exclusively on the space forces, with a small but well-equipped branch of Marines who serve as the standing security for static Saturn facilities, dry army (when needed), and, of course, assault force.  Though it has not always been so, the diplomatic wing currently works closely with the security wing lending a unity of purpose to much of Saturn’s foreign policy. 

Saturn's intelligence service also has significant assets working withing the CSC - making the Coprs a one-stop shop for forming foreign policy and the tools to execute that policy.  

While the Vienna Convention (as revised) still dictates the norms of diplomatic niceties and privlidges, and things like armed diplomats is still a very big “no-no” – that doesn’t mean Saturn cant arm the support apparatus for their diplomats to the teeth.  Other officials and diplomats from the other planets have noted their discomfort working with Saturn’s diplomats – not only because many of Saturn’s diplomatic corps have undergone radical surgeries and cyber/bionic upgrades, but also because the diplomats are often backed up (usually literally) by a detachment of Marines. 

Scary, mutherfukin’ diplomats. 

Okay, yeah, it’s a bit of a Mary Sue if you know my profession – but I indulgently think it’s a cool idea for a different type of military.