|April 9, 2009||Posted by Phil Vecchione|
A Bit of Background
The Corporation RPG was released in the UK in 2006 by Brutal Games. The game was available in print in the UK, but there was not a US distributor, so we Yanks could only get it directly from Brutal Games, shipped internationally. The PDF was posted on RPGnow, in May of 2008, which was how I first encountered this game.
In the time since its initial release and now, Brutal Games has partnered up with Mongoose Games, publishing an updated version of the game, under their Flaming Cobra brand. With Mongoose providing distribution, hard copy versions of Corporation is now shipping in the US, and an updated PDF has been posted on RPGnow.com.
Disclaimer– Mongoose games was kind enough to provide a copy of the Corporation RPG book for review.
Corporation is a science fiction game set in the 26th century. In that time, the world has been carved up by five giant corporations. These corporations are in a constant struggle with one another and are alternately being held in check and played off of one another by the United International Government (UIG). Players take the role of agents for one of the corporations.
Agents are corporate troubleshooters who are sent on various missions by their corporations. Missions vary but include activities such as stealing, spying, and assassinating. Sometimes the agents work legally, with the support of the UIG, and other times they are sent on black ops missions with no support.
The book is a hard cover 256 page book with a solid binding. The construction of the book is just what you would expect from Mongoose: excellent.
Under the cover, the interior is black and white dominated by a two column layout, with breaks for special text. The pages have a light border which does not interfere with the reading of the book, and the font is clean and easy to read. There are numerous sidebars done in grey that are readable, as well as flavor text in boxes set in italics.
There are numerous artwork pieces that vary in size from small mock ads to full page illustrations of people and places in the 26th century. The artwork does a good job depicting the world of Corporation. The only problem is that most of the artwork is very dark, and in the black and white print, most of it is too dark to fully appreciate. The PDF, which is in full color, really lets the artwork shine.
For The Players
The player’s section of the book comprises about 30% and covers the typical things you would expect: character creation, equipment, cybernetics, telepathic powers, and character advancement. Character creation is very straight forward, and players can get create their first characters in under an hour.
The first chapter introduces you to the agent. Agents start play with a number of advantages, from their R-drug treatments (for regenerating missing limbs) to the chip socket and AI implanted in their skulls. From the start, an agent is superior to an average human. Players will enjoy being a first level badass.
Stats are done in a point buy system, but skills are done in groupings: one skill at level 8, one at level 7, all the way down to four skills at level 1. This ensures that each agent has a range of skills and avoids any min/maxing. Agents get two trainings (read: feats) and points to spend on licenses.
The license system is a unique feature. Agents are able to purchase licenses that grant them certain privileges in the game. For instance, the Public Appropriation License allows an agent to seize a citizen’s property, such as a car, when you need one for a chase. Licenses range from the use of certain weapons, to the ability to search property, all the way to the termination of criminals.
The equipment section has a range of equipment for agents, including weapons, vehicles, and tradecraft. All of the lists will feel a bit thin. There are enough items for starting characters, but you will want more. However, the weapons section has a large variety of weapons. Some of them will remind you of the Unreal Tournament arsenal, including a blade thrower and flack cannon.
The cybernetics section contains a list of possible implants that can be added to an agent. Most of the common types of cybernetics are possible, for example, cybereye, cyberarm, and neural jack, but you will be craving more after character creation. One thing that stands out in this section, is the fact that there is not a humanity system to limit the implanting of cybernetics. Players may buy and augment as much as they want.
Finally. the players section concludes with the chapter on telepathics. With the right training, an agent can possess psionic powers. There are only seven psionic powers in the chapter, but they are mostly for combat. This is one area that is begging for a supplement.
Setting makes up the largest part of the book, weighing in at nearly 40% of the content. The world of Corporation is a sci-fi smorgasbord. Let’s run down a list of the elements that make up the 26th century:
- Faster than light travel
- Man-made planets
- Alien technology
- Artificial Intelligences
- Genetically constructed creatures
- Massive tower cities
- Planetary colonies
- Death sports
This setting is massive in scope, but not in detail. The author does a good job of introducing all the above elements, expounding upon them well, but not to such a degree that there isn’t room for a GM take what is there, and make it his/her own. GMs won’t have any problem coming up with ways to use all these ideas. If anything, the real danger will be introducing too many elements at once; aka the kitchen sink syndrome.
There is a chapter dedicated to the corporations. Each corporation varies in style, goals, and mind-set. Some of the corporations are based on the nations that they absorbed, from the big money Eurasian Incorporated (European Union), to the Puritanical Cowboys of the United Federation (US), to the classic zaibatsu of the Shi Yukiro (Japan). Then there is the Ai-Jin, the construction/organized crime themed corporation. Finally there is Comoros, who may be the closest thing to a “good guy” that you will find in the game. GMs and players will not have problems finding a corporation that fits their style.
The remaining chapters on setting depict various parts of the world of the 26th century and contain information on the world government, the spire cities, interesting locations, travel, and crime. The setting information is inspiring and will leave a GM with more ideas than he/she can handle.
Unfortunately, creating a world in the 26th century is a monumental task, and with less than half of a 256 page book to use, some aspects are sparsely depicted. For instance, the Mecha, known as Cyberlins have only a brief explanation, and some incomplete stats, leaving GMs to fill in the gaps, or wait for the Machines of War supplement that is coming out in the summer.
This is the smallest section of the book, coming in at just under 10%. In these 13 pages is the framework for the mechanics for the game. The core mechanic uses stat + skill to create an action total. Players then roll 2d10 and try to get under the action total. On a successful check, the difference between the action total and the roll forms the XS, which forms the scale for success.
Doubles on the d10s can be a possible critical success on the low end or failure on the high end. The range for criticals can be adjusted up and down. Mastercraft weapons increase the critical range up from double 1s to include higher numbers. On the other end, damaged equipment can fail on doubles smaller than 10.
The combat system for the game is, for the lack of a better word, brutal. On the low end of the system, it’s a bit forgiving. No one is going to die from a single gunshot wound, but once you move pass the entry level pistols, the weapons become far more deadly with weapons like: armor shredding plasma weapons, shield piercing lasers, limb severing blade throwers, and rail guns that shoot through walls.
A clear indication of the severity of the combat system can be seen in the fact that the book contains a section dedicated to limb severing. Between the Shi Yuriko’s ion katanas, the telepathic psi swords, and the blade launchers, limb severing is a real danger. There is a reason why agents are given R-drug treatments to regenerate any missing limbs.
In play testing, I was able to run a few rounds of combat without too much page flipping. The rules are straight forward, and combat moved pretty quickly. The players had fun trying out different moves, powers, and combat drugs. Agents are pretty tough, so they will shrug off a few hits before it gets serious.
If you are a GM who needs detailed rules for different situations, you are going to be a bit uneasy at this “rules-lite” mechanics chapter. What the chapter lacks in detailed rules, it makes up for in a mechanic that is easy to apply in a large variety of situations.
The final 25% of book, the GM section, is full of advice on how to run a Corporation game. What you won’t find in this section are discussions on player dynamics or conflict resolution, but face it. that’s what you come to Gnome Stew for. What you will get in this section is how to run a Corporation game, how to build missions, and how to design installations. In addition, there is a section containing a list of antagonists to toss at your players.
What I really love in this book is the abundance of ideas for adventures. The first, and most notable, is the page of 100 Mission Ideas. Even better, is that the end of most of the setting sections and chapters are a lists of ideas outlining how the element could be used in the game. This is a terrific idea, and one that is not used enough in RPG books. With so many concepts in the book, new and old GMs will be able to grab an idea for a session by letting the book fall open.
Novice GMs will find plenty of information to start writing their first Corporation game, including an introduction adventure tucked into the GM chapter. Experienced GMs will find ideas and elements on nearly every page that can be developed into full sessions.
Overall I found that Corporation was a very interesting world and a concept that was compelling to play. The simple core mechanic provides a flexibility that allows the GM to figure out the right roll at the right time. The setting material in the book is interesting and ample. Players will love being corporate sanctioned bad asses, full of cybernetics, sporting telepathic powers, armed to the teeth, and licensed.
If you are into the cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk genres and are looking for a new game that is action-packed, easy to learn, fun to run, and full of interesting people and places, then your future is Corporation.