Saturday, October 26, 2013

299: Corporate Totem

ENTRY 299: Corporate Totem

"I am never disarmed."
- Direct Action Totem, before unleashing her attack womb

Hypercorps are more than just hierarchical businesses organized to maximize profit/production and with joint ownership. They have grown beyond the easy definitions of a single legal or ethical system, becoming sprawling interlinked matricies of social connections, softare, legal and economic obligations, and most importantly people. Transhumans make a hypercorp; without employees and shareholders and customers they are empty concepts. Yet it is difficult after the Fall, when so many transhumans are displaced from their homes and old lives, to hold them together in a single corporate culture. To expand across worlds, to hold its employees against the poaching and honeytraps of rivals, to care for their dependents and wellbeing in sickness and in health, hypercorps must have goals beyond the domination of an industry or the maximization of profit. They must have ideals that transhumans can comprehend and follow, a corporate ethos that employees and officers can make their own, a discrete purpose that lifts them about grubbing for credits and exploiting the gullible masses. It is not enough to have texts that define these hypercorp attitudes, or songs and XP media that can serve to propogate their message. Hypercorps needs individuals that exist as examples of their philosophies in action, living embodiments of the hypercorp to steer and inspire outside the set hierarchies of the hypercorp. These are known as the corporate totems.

A totem is an AGI, often crafted from the corporate founder or a CEO that best embodied the attributes and attitudes of the hypercorp; the AGI is then pruned and psychosurgically altered into an exemplar of the hypercorp, its individual memories washed out and replaced with the skills and experiences appropriate to their new position. Most corporate totems exist outside the organizational chart, mobile officers with broad authority and special rights that allow them to interact with individuals at every level of the hypercorp and address the issues they are dealing with. For each hypercorp, the totem is different - the Direct Action Totem is a fury that leads from the front, always on the front lines, and her troops come first; while the Experia Totem is a rotating position, a mediagenic overmind that puppets key officers and personalities to literally experience what they go through and make changes by speaking through them.

Using Corporate Totem

Iconic characters stand for more than just themselves: they are the meter by which entire groups, nations, religions, and concepts are judged in ways that go far beyond any formal position or authority. This is useful for gamemasters because it can allow them to distil the essence of a hypercorp into a single personality, to allow one character to front for an entire philosophy and way of life - for good or for ill. This need not make the totem a shill for the company, any more than Captain America is always a mouthpiece for the United States government in comics; the totem is the spirit of the hypercorp, not its brains or balls or conscience, and will work to see that the hypercorp continues to follow the philosophy that the totem lives by. In this way, the totem is almost guaranteed to live a life of conflict, facing internal hypercorp threats almost as much as external ones, and provides a decent "in" for the gamemaster to bring the PCs into the innermost workings of any given hypercorp.


  • The Gatekeeper Totem believes that the corporation is seeking too much to monetize and exploit the Pandora Gate, and focusing too little on exploration and scientific research. To counteract this balance, it is planning a demonstration - a surprise documentary that will cover ten new exoplanets which Gatekeeper has suppressed knowledge of. The totem has the access to get the crew in, but needs gatecrashers with an adventurous spirit to keep them safe and help explore on the whirlwind gatecrashing tour. Are the PCs game?
  • The Go-Nin Totem has been murdered - and the first task of her back-up fork is to figure out who killed her previous incarnation. The PCs are brought in as private investigators, backed up by the authority of the totem - an authority that not everyone in the tradition-bound Go-Nin Group is happy to accept. Rebellion is brewing in the corporate ranks, and the PCs meet with someone who claims to be the emerging totem of a new Go-Nin Group - one which wishes to break from the keiretsu model and experiment with more flexible corporate hierarchies. The totem that hired the PCs believe this "new totem" is a flawed gamma fork - and if the PCs are not very careful, they will quickly end up in a hypercorp civil war.

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