Corporia: Themes

I promised yesterday that I’d start to talk a little about the ‘theme’ of the Corporia role-playing game project. The dictionary, of course, presents multiple definitions of the word, which doesn’t make it easy to nail down its meaning, and I believe many people interpret the term differently. In this case, I’m going to use it to express the dominant concepts of the game.

As you may have seen from previous posts (particularly 1, 2, and 3), the Corporia RPG takes place about 30 years in the future – though I may leave this exact year unidentified. The forces of magic (Chaos), not seen since the Middle Ages, are returning to menace the corporate-run Earth (Order; having a few aspects of Cyberpunk and Shadowrun). The cities are simultaneously utopia and dystopia, with a great number (oh, let’s say… 99%) of the populace living in heaven (with free internet, environmentally friendly tech, good law enforcement) while serving in hell (with heavily regulated speech, tech making people insular, subscription-based police services). The creature comforts make it easy for many citizens to become settled in their habits with little hope of advancement in their jobs, much like how view domestic servants are portrayed in the classic Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey dramas. With the corporations also controlling the media outlets, the reports of Chaotic events are more easily suppressed, while the corps rush to master what seems to be a new energy source.

I dubbed the Chaos magics as “the Flux”, partly because of the “fluctuations” in the amounts of magic that appear, but mostly since I’ve always liked the word and wanted to use it in something I wrote. Then, having decided that the corporations (who control the media outlets) would need an explanation of these events, I though back to the comic books of my youth and came up with “cosmic radiation” that the mega-corps say causes these manifestations and so-called mutations. Imagine my surprise when I searched for cosmic rays on Wikipedia and found they actually used the term “cosmic ray flux”! That’s a bit of nice symmetry there.

Players take on the roles of characters who can subconsciously manipulate the Flux, portrayed both by their “Flux dice” (2d6, keep the highest) they roll and the “Flux Points” that can be earned and spent to sway events.

Sample character concepts include: Badges (lawmen), Corporates, Drones (criminals sentenced to wage-slavery or prison), Hackers (able to dive into the ‘net and battle living Virtual Intelligences – and bring their allies with them, after a fashion), Headhunters (assassins for hire), Journos, Knights-Errant (reincarnated knights of King Arthur’s court), Radicals, Runners, Scientists, Sorcerers (spells based on the Order of tech and matter), and Witches/Wizards (with spells based on the Chaotic aspects of nature and mental abilities). Those of you who’ve played D&D: Dark Sun wizards may see where the latter is going, though I won’t ruin it for the rest of you.

To make adventuring concepts easier for both the players and the Director (i.e., the Dungeon Master; I thought CEO a little too trite), the players are all employees of Lake Industries and its Knightwatch private security division. (Shades of Delta Green, for you Cthulhu fans.) Certain high-level L.I. execs are particularly interested in containing the forces of Chaos, which show even less regard for human life than do the forces of Order. Electric spirits, living artificial life, vampires, werewolves, fey, and worse are all returning in some form or another.

Of course, King Arthur will appear and fix it all, right? Maybe, if anyone could find him. The players know that he should be back – but not where he is or why he hasn’t revealed himself. Then, even when he is found, he may not be much help…  The Director will know the secrets, even having the task of finding Arthur be part of the players’ adventures. I’ll specifically present Arthur in ways that allow the players to still be the heroes, without being overshadowed by the legend.

Like the Torchwood series of which I’m a fan, I believe Corporia should also involve hard choices. What will the players do if, for example, the rampaging energy spirit has possessed a small child? What happens when the Knightwatch come stomping in to capture a werewolf – a loving mother and her family’s only support? The conflicts between characters and monsters should be equally as exciting as the moral conflicts the players will face, and the tension it may cause between their characters.

Okay, I think that’s a good start for now. I’d love to hear your feedback and comments and – as always – feel free to spread the word about this project!

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