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A Review of Corporation RPG: Fast, Brutal, and GM Friendly

Posted By Phil Vecchione On April 9, 2009 @ 4:00 am In Reviews | 10 Comments

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.

Synopsis

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

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

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:

  • Cybernetics
  • Psionics
  • Faster than light travel
  • Man-made planets
  • Alien technology
  • Artificial Intelligences
  • Mecha
  • Genetically constructed creatures
  • Massive tower cities
  • Planetary colonies
  • Death sports
  • Droids

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.

Mechanics

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.

GM Section

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.

The Verdict

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.

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.




10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "A Review of Corporation RPG: Fast, Brutal, and GM Friendly"

#1 Comment By Scott Martin On April 9, 2009 @ 9:50 am

Any thoughts on if there’s “one stat to rule them all”, or if a balance of stats works out better? For many rules light systems, that’s one issue that trips them up.

It sounds like the book does a good job of sketching the world, but that there’s a lot of details that had to be skimmed over. Could you run the game as is, and would it take an experienced GM to smooth over the thin spots? Are any of the supplements required, or are they all just extensions of ideas and stats?

#2 Comment By DNAphil On April 9, 2009 @ 11:34 am

@Scott Martin

One Stat… I don’t think so. One of the things I liked in the mechanics is that you use one stat for combat. Physical combat uses the Agility attribute, and ranged uses Perception. The system also has combat skills for all the major weapon types: Close Combat, Light firearms, Tactical Weapons, Support Weapons, etc. So being good at Tactical Weapons does not mean you can pick up any weapons and be a combat machine; just tactical weapons.

Campaign World– The world is detailed enough for a novice GM to pick up the game and start running it. What is nice is that it is open enough to accept any GM putting their on spin and adding their own details to it. The GM chapter does a good job about laying out a typical adventure structure.

Supplements– Right now there are not any published supplements, so the game is playable with just the core book. There are two supplements coming out between now and the summer. The first is a Settings Book, that will detail a region of the world, that a campaign can be set in. The second book, is going to be an equipment book. That said, everything you need to get started you can find in the core rules.

#3 Comment By BryanB On April 9, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

@DNAphil – What is your take on the Psionics system? Does it mesh well with the core mechanics or does it seem hastily tacked on with a separate sub-system? Does it feel just like an excuse for “magic” being added to a futuristic setting or is it much deeper than that?

Thanks.

#4 Comment By DNAphil On April 9, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

@BryanB
The Psionics system fits into the game mechanics well. The powers are treated the same as skills, during character creation and advancement. You need the training (feat) Telepathic Training to have access to the Telepathic skills.

With the Psi system being the same as the skill system, the GM has a lot of flexibility for calling for rolls.

They fit will with the setting and the powers available work fine within the setting. It does not feel like someone patched in some magic-substitute, but rather added some powers to make players even more kick-ass.

Have a blade launcher is cool, but being able to summon a Psionic Sword is even cooler.

The one downside, as I mentioned above, is that there feels like there should be more Psionic powers. There is some player created Psi powers on the Brutal Games website, but hopefully Brutal Games will release either a Telepathics book, or a chapter dedicated to more Psionic powers in a future supplement.

#5 Comment By Grungydan On April 9, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

Sooooo, it’s a Shadowrun clone minus the Tolkien races? Or a revamp of Cyberpunk minus a little 80s angst?

I *might* have some idea as to why we’ve never heard of this game. ;-)

#6 Comment By DNAphil On April 12, 2009 @ 6:45 am

Wink and grin aside…

I would say that mechanically this game is much more elegant than Shadowrun, and requires far less dice.

Setting-wise, Shadowrun and Cyberpunk are direct products of the 1980’s cyberpunk movement. Their settings come directly from the writings of Gibson, Sterling and others.

The world of Corporation is not as Cyberpunk as CP2020. While it incorporates cyberpunk elements, I don’t think I would classify it as a cyberpunk game. One of the hallmarks of most cyberpunk writings and RPG’s is their near-future setting. Corporation is a far future game, that has cyberpunk elements, in as much that it was created after the Cyberpunk movement. I would say that Corporation is more post-cyberpunk. Intentionally or not, the world of Corporation has far more in common with the writings of Richard K. Morgan, and Chris Moriarty, than Gibson or Sterling.

#7 Comment By Vikingnewt On August 22, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

Hi, Read the review and felt that I should comment having now gamesmastered approx 15 sessions.

Regarding OneStat – there is no real dominating stat, my players have all been encouraged by the ease of the sandbox the mechanics provide to come up with multiple solutions to varying problems, none of which has given me a headache or resulted in overspecialisation.

another tweak on “onestat” could be “oneskill” however, as skills are assigned in tiers at character creation most players tend to focus very well on 3 of them, with a large amount of overlap on otherskills – once you get to a player group of 4-5 you will guaranteed have every skill covered.

and the addition of choosing one of your top skills as a “professional skill” without chance to critically fail is also nice.

my group is as thus – womanising james bond (sneak and social with unarmed combat specialist) the gadgetteer (sneak, high mechtronics and AI), the pure telepath, and someone who is building an equilibrium style agent.
the final member of the team is a heavy weapons medic/surgeon that was cryofreezed for a crime he didnt commit.

and these are the nutcases i have let rip into an EI themed sandbox game, with the goal being to explore as much as possible about the various aspects.

psionics mesh perfectly with the game, and dont in any way feel like shadowrun, or forced in.

and anything you have said about limb severance and combat i find accurate and enjoyable.

next week my players might run head to head with 3 high level shukiro, packing bladelaunchers and ion katanas… let the limbs hit the floor!

#8 Comment By Phil Vecchione On August 23, 2012 @ 10:24 am

My experiences have been very similar with 3 campaigns under my belt. This system is very light, it is very flexible in terms using it to interpret the actions of the characters, and it is a lot of fun to run.

I have not played much EI, two of my campaign were Ai Jinn, so rather than being slick, smooth, criminals, these Clangers were dirty, violent, sociopaths that were always into something.

Glad you are enjoying what is now one of my top 5 games to play and run.

#9 Comment By cfmgomes On March 22, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

Don´t you think year 2500 is it too far? From what I´ve been reading about this rpg, the plot and the world is not too different from the Cyberpunk (year 2020/30) and Cyberspace (year 2090) scenarios. What do you think about that?

#10 Comment By Phil Vecchione On March 22, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

There is a bit more to the technology besides just cybernetics. There are alien based technologies for faster than light travel and macro construction (building moons and small planets). So 2500 does not feel too far off.

I would also argue that a full neural interface and jacking into cyberspace in the next 6 years seems like its a bit short…but hell if it shows up I will welcome it.


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