Friday, July 26, 2013

Corps and Criminals Development Update

I've spent most of today dreaming up and writing down new gangs for Psi-punk: Corps and Criminals, the first sourcebook for Psi-punk. After working hard all day, I thought I'd take some time to update everyone on the progress of the supplement and where it stands right now.

First of all, writing is coming along great. Word count is currently 14,695, which translates (roughly) into 34-1/2 pages in MS Word (of course, that's single column, not double-spaced, and with mild formatting; page counts have a tendency to vary dramatically).

Right now, the book consists of...

Chapter 1: Mega-corporations

I have 8 mega-corps detailed so far, each with a broad overview of the corporation and its industry, its corporate culture, and how it fits into your game from both a GM's and a player's perspective. Five of the mega-corps are from the Psi-punk core book, and three of them are brand new: Die Oberbank (a Swiss bank), Kojicorp (a Psionics and Magic research company from the Asia-Pacific Union), and Nuevo Horizonte Médico, one of our fantastic contest entries.

Chapter 2: Cartels

This chapter is still undergoing a lot of tweaking. Original plans were to detail different types of Cartels (Drug cartels, Ghost Cartels, Weapons Cartels, and Trafficking Cartels), but I'm currently trying to decide whether or not to ditch the classifications because, with the exception of Ghost Cartels, most of the other cartels really deal with a wide range of criminal activities.

So far I have only 5cartels detailed: GhostSec, Neurotech, and Legions of Death (all of which are Ghost Cartels), The Cabal (a contest entry) and Fantasma Biotécnica (a contest entry).

Chapter 3: Gangs

This is the one I spent the most time on today. I'm up to 11 total gangs, each with a different theme. We have traditional street thugs, gangs that deal in black market magic, a group of body-modded ravers with a criminal mastermind at the helm, a political extremist group, and even a gang of pirates in the Mediterranean.

In addition to individual gangs, I provide some examples of how to implement them in your games -- again, both from a GM's and a player's perspective. Finally, I provide some general statistics about NPCs within the gang, including what some of the common members may look like and what the gang's leaders may look like from a game-mechanics perspective.

Other thoughts

That's what I have planned and written so far. The goal of this book is to be a setting guide first and foremost, so I am not planning on tossing around a bunch of Gifts and Faults or new equipment. There are a lot of potential adventure seeds hidden throughout the text, and still more which are explicitly spelled out for GMs.

So that's where the book stands today. I do not have an estimated release date yet, but I hope to have more progress to report next week. In the meantime, if you would like to see anything in the book that hasn't been mentioned here, or if you have suggestions for other organizations, let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

And the Winner is...

Or should I say "and the winners are..."?

Every entry in the Psi-punk Giveaway Contest was so top-notch, I decided to declare each person the winner. Expect to see all five of the submissions in the upcoming release of Psi-punk: Corps and Criminals.

Congratulations to all of the participants. You all deserved it!

Each participant earned a free PDF copy of Psi-punk and they will get to see their entries in the upcoming sourcebook.

Also, thanks to +Christopher Helton and the +Dorkland Blog! for suggesting and hosting the contest. If you haven't checked out Dorkland! you should definitely head on over and give them a look; Chris has been blogging for 10 years now and he also posts a lot of great Actual Play videos on  YouTube.

Thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who followed along--you all made this contest great!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Contest Entry: Fantasma Biotécnica, a Cartel by Gwenhwyvar Gray

And finally, contest entry number five. This one's a cartel by Gwenhwyvar Gray.

This is the last of the five entries I received. Every entry has been fantastic, and I look forward to seeing one or more of them in the upcoming Corps and Criminals sourcebook!

What is your cartel's name? Fantasma Biotécnica

What kind of cartel is it? The Fantasma Biotécnica cartel deals in illegally-modified cybernetic implants, limbs and subsystems. They purchase everything from stolen brain matter to machinery and refine them into concrete, usable merchandise. They’re headquartered in Rio de Janeiro.

How does the cartel operate? Fantasma Biotécnica actively funds small-time mercenary gangs and grey slavers, turning their raw materials into illicit goods. They play the role of middleman, but occasionally will be able to provide implantation services directly, though generally for their members only. They also take legal cybernetics and modify them, everything from stripping materials for reinforcement to overclocking internal CPU’s, or crafting actual brain matter implants, most notably psionic implants that function the way they had for their less-than-fortunate first owners, not simply mimicking their powers. The latter in particular brings them infamy in the region, as it’s reasonably well-known that they are the result of grey slavery, though this has yet to be thoroughly proven by any authorities.
 What else should we know? While the cartel is generally white collar work, they outsource their security to gangs, often the same ones who bring them their raw materials. This gives them a distinctly threatening presence, as they can quite capably organize street level violence.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Contest Entry: Muertos Carmesi (the Crimson Dead)

Here's the next entry into the Psi-punk Giveaway Contest, a gang named Muertos Carmesi (the Crimson Dead) by Maire Gray.

What is your gang's name?
Muertos Carmesí (the Crimson Dead). 
Who is their leader?El Hueso Blanco (the White Bone) is the sociopath running the show. The thin veneer of sanity he wears is calm, collected, and magnetic. You don’t have to understand to want to follow- you don’t even have to see his face. And you won’t: it’s hidden under a dual-port gas mask backlit with bloodred LED’s. A large scar runs down the midline of his right eyebrow, all the way over his eyelid and down his cheek. In whispers, they say that El Hueso Blanco plucked out his own eye to replace it with his red psionic implant. The symbol of his power is always strapped openly to his left thigh: a long knife made of razor-sharp bone, carved with grotesquerie befitting of the gang’s gruesome purpose. It is no silent blade; El Hueso Blanco rarely skips out on joining the fray. He commands through fear, and his followers are fanatic. Rumors abound that El Hueso Blanco possesses dark, barely comprehensible psionic powers of influence.

How big is their turf?The entire state of Bolívar, Venezuela falls under the purview of Muertos. Ciudad Bolívar is a convenient urban base, but the gang is not limited by territories. They move into the surrounding wilderness with ease, and are rumored to store caches of contraband in the thick jungle surrounding Angel Falls, a place even Venezuelan natives call dangerous. Their numbers are difficult to gauge- some guess hundreds- because they often move in small, organized cells. Muertos Carmesí know their territory; if a plan goes awry, they fade into the night like ghosts, into rumored under-town bunkers in the Ciudad itself, or into the lawless wildlands.

What is the gang's method of operation?The gang is a platform for ‘gray slavery.’ As the name implies, the practice originated with stealing the brains of the psychically gifted, but the process gradually became more refined- now, only parts of brains are needed, though no great care is taken to make sure that the owners survive the extraction process. No better example can be given than that of Kylee Pace, visitor to neighboring Colombia for the 14th World Psi-Games. A talented spirit-talker, Kylee was favored to take top honors. Just before the preliminary round began, the entire arena was deafened, blinded, by an impressive display of concussive grenades, all exploding at once. Many blamed the sheer amount of psionic power in attendance for the phenomenon. The nature of the attack and Kylee's disappearance were not discovered until the next day. Seventeen days later, she was found wandering the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, identifiable only by the serial number of the eye implant she clutched in her hand. Kylee had been expertly lobotomized, her memory erased by purposeful, careful trauma to the brain tissue. She would require care for the rest of her life, and she could no more identify her own parents than her attackers. Muertos Carmesí were never apprehended for the crime.

What is their symbol or identifying factor? Many choose to mimic their founder in wearing only black. Some gang members also wear a red optical implant- this is not symbolic of gang membership, but is a punishment; when a gang member commits an act contrary to the gang’s code of secrecy, he is forced to wear this implant simply because it makes him more noticeable. The real marker of membership is a self-chosen pattern of scarification on the left shoulderblade- these vary, but imagery of death and its trappings are common. Active cell members on missions always wear respirator-styled gas masks to conceal their identity. High-ranking members carry a bone knife personally carved by El Hueso Blanco.

What else should we know about the gang? The gang thrives on and in chaos. Any kidnapping perpetrated by Los Muertos will be surrounded by it, such that the kidnapping seems like the least noticeable thing- but it is in fact the focal point. They are well aware of the talents of potential victims before they strike, and will kill anyone who attempts to keep them from reaching said victim. This is because of the money interest of the cartels who pay them for parts. Their primary partner is Fantasma Biotécnica in Brazil, which pays excellent money for harvested parts and sometimes even puts in special orders. Muertos Carmesí acts as a chop-shop.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Contest Entry: Espessura

Another great entry into the Psi-punk Giveaway Contest, a gang named Espessura by Merry Wilson.

What is your gang's name?
Espessura (a.k.a Thick)

Who is their leader?
Espessura’s leader is known as Alma Escura (Dark Soul).  He is a well organized leader, especially for a gang leader.  He rose to the position after confronting and taking down his predecessor, Bicho Feio, during a rival gang raid that lasted three weeks.  Many members were lost in the first two weeks due to the poor leadership skills of Bicho Feio, so Alma Escura straight out killed him, claimed himself the new leader, then organized the remaining members and was able to regain control of their territory.  He demands respect from his members, and is quick to remind any that get out of line who is in control.  His ability to organize his members to keep the gang out of trouble with local and government authorizes eventual caught the eye of a local cartel known as Fantasma Biotécnica (see entry by Gwen Gray).  He has positioned himself, and his gang to work with the cartel in hopes of being “promoted” into the big leagues.

How big is their turf? (Street, neighborhood, city, county)  
On the surface it would appear that the gang covers a few neighborhoods at most, but in reality Oscura has become the leader of a few once-rival gangs and has brought them all together as a united group and thus his territory now covers two-thirds of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  He has organized the gang into five or six sectors, each maintaining their original areas, and unique symbolism; but each are well aware of their brother gang and do not cross the other unless directed to do so.  Sometimes it is necessary to keep up a façade of rivalries between them to authorities.  

What is the gang's method of operation? (Do they vandalize property for fun, steal electronics, smuggle illicit goods, etc.)
The gang as a whole is focused on protecting their streets, especially around the cartel’s operations and assists the cartel by helping to supply them with test subjects.  Each section of the gang is responsible for certain tasks and within each section members are organized on levels of ability.  Some members are used as “petty thugs” who steal valuables, vandalize, or get in petty fights with rival gangs, while other members collect test subjects for the cartel operations.  Those at the bottom or new recruits that do not show any promise in his eyes are quickly set-up and used as scapegoats with the authorities, rival gangs, or become test subjects themselves.  The petty crimes committed are usually more to keep up appearances of a typical gang.

What is their symbol or identifying factor (tattoos, crazy implants, certain color or style of hair, etc.)
Each section of the gang is made to keep their identifying symbols and colors, but all members are marked with a tattoo of three thick lines across the back of their neck, with a small knick on either side of the middle line at its center.  Each section has a color combination of blue/black, red/black, green/black, orange/black, etc. which are shown in the colors in their hats, or a ribbon worn around their left bicep.

What else should we know about the gang?
The Fantasma Biotécnica cartel, in return, help fund the arms and supplies needed for Espessura by buying test subjects as well as any other useful material collected by the gang. Some successful test subjects are returned to the gang as more useful members and stationed as such by Escura.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Contest Entry: Nuevo Horizonte Médico

 In today's update, I present a new corporation in the medical services industry. They have some pretty shady business practices, but don't most corporations?
Thanks to RJ Stewart for the submission!

What is your corporation's name?  
Nuevo Horizonte Médico (New Horizons Medical)
What is their industry of expertise?
Medical services mostly confined in the South and Central America areas, and some Caribbean Nations. They also have contracts in some cities in the regions of Southern California, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They have subsidiaries that are out to design and patent new methods of gene therapy, genetic engineering, pharmaceuticals, and transplant methods and technology.
They operate street level medical facilities in most of their areas: affordable medical care for everyday people. A few major hospitals as well, but they have found it much more lucrative to target lower end medical facilities, instead of larger and more costly to maintain markets.
How do they operate?
To say many find them shady would be an understatement. But since they’ve cornered the market in areas for low cost health care for the common person, they’re seen as a necessary evil. They have maybe 10 total major metropolitan hospitals to their name, but hundreds of smaller clinics. A few other corporations, including fellow megacorps have allowed them to open up clinics and ambulatory care facilities even in their own areas, buildings and arcologies due to their specialties. This of course gives them some access to people who are in other corporations. The smarter partnerships keep them on a tight leash when in such an arrangement.
To many they fly under the radar, not seeming to be anything but a ‘cheap alternative competitor’ to Medical Services International in the Separatist States.
However, one byproduct of their major method of cash inflow is a very large, variable test bed for new technologies they have developed, paying handsomely to some who would volunteer to test anything that needs testing, but they wish to bypass government level controls and standards, in countries in which they aren’t in some form of influence on the governing bodies.
They are known for being aggressive against competitors in their home regions, using shadow operations to facilitate anything from takeovers, corporate espionage, and rumored to even support ‘wetwork’ jobs against executives of rivals that refuse their influence.
Briefly describe their corporate culture.
As a culture, they seem to be very aloof, and overbearing. It’s safe to assume that any normal worker fears for their family and job if they are in the know on anything that goes on behind the scenes. They pay their people well, and the medical benefits are some of the best outside of MSI’s. But there are some former employees, extracted from their services, that go on record as saying that they fear their families and friends would end up in some test laboratory as a new guinea pig for a genetic therapy or worse.
The normal visage though is that of doctors and medical clinic technicians who are happy, paid well, and not at the whim of MSI’s over-watch culture. They openly recruit at universities in impoverished countries, mostly at schools that have medical training facilities they helped fund and support.  
The other side is of course research personnel, who are often hidden from public eyes. Word has it, it’s this side of the coin that is paid the best, and kept under the most control as well.
What else should we know about them?
Mostly rumors, but some have suggested that Nuevo Horizonte Médico are linked to quite a few cartels in the countries they operate in, many of them specializing in finding ‘lab test subjects’ for use in testing new procedures and products. Or worse, cartels that would find them body parts for some of their transplants they’ve been working on.
Some have speculated that they have a very secret wing that is working on how to transplant the parts of the human brain responsible for psionic powers. While some corporations have worked on how to mimic psionics with cybernetic enhancements, some out there see this as being 2nd rate to having the powers yourself.
They have had quite a few ethics complaints put against them. Some have even challenged that they use kidnapped test subjects, taken from homeless populations.
It’s said that, like their chief rival, MSI, the legal department of Nuevo Horizonte Médico are some of the best in keeping things from sticking to them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Psi-punk Contest Entry: The Cabal

The Psi-punk Corps and Criminals Contest recently came to a close and now I have the very difficult task of choosing a winner. Before I tackle that herculean feat, I'd like to thank +Christopher Helton of the +Dorkland Blog! both for suggesting and hosting this great contest.

I received five entries total, which is perfect because there are five days in a business week. That means each day I'll post one entry, in the order I received them, for all of you to enjoy.

Feel free to cast your votes and influence my decision. All of these entries were great and it's going to be hard to decide without some help!

First up, I present The Cabal:

The Cabal is a criminal cartel that trafficks in black market magic. For the most part, the Cabal simply sells stolen magic at prices just under the standard retail (it's 100% profit to them, after all). The Cabal controls hundreds of small-time, back-alley vendors, dozens of retail franchises, and even has stakes in other cartels (especially ghost cartels). However, selling stolen magic is only part of the Cabal's business. They also employ (or kidnap) psi-researchers and magineers to study the psi-tech they sell and make dangerous modifications. This so-called "black magic" is highly effective (often rivalling even the abilities of powerful psychics) but it is also extremely dangerous. The use of black magic is often addicting and can drive even the sanest user to fits of rage and hallucination after extended use. The Cabal keeps close tabs on all pieces of black magic that they sell and they employ their own rotating force of black-magic-using ghosts and assassins dubbed "warlocks".
The leader of the Cabal, referred to only as Arch even by the highest ranking members, is very thorough veiled by magic and black magic, but in the criminal underworld, rumors fly thick and fast. The latest round of whispers claims that Arch has found a new and powerful backer or partner and that the Cabal is preparing for something big. These rumors can never be trusted, but even the lowest rung street runners have noticed the recent influx of high-level magic and black magic from the Cabal.
Thanks to Andrew Y. for this great submission. I think it's pretty awesome. What do you think?