Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Company

Megacorporations are evil. We all know that. I'm not sure when we started knowing they were evil or what the cause of the epiphany was. But the RPGPundit has correctly (IMHO) pointed out that MCorps are always evil these days and since I needed a post idea I decided to take another look at Megacorporations.

The evil reputation of such bodies probably started with the British East India Corporation which made a fortune dealing in warfare, drugs, graft, and silk among other commodities. I really can't get into everything this marvelously lucrative and immoral institution did here. Go research them. Suffice to say they make any company you come up with look like a second rate imitation ... if you really make them as evil as you can. Because you are an amateur and these guys were professionals who literally wrote the book. Unless some real world despot is reading this ...

Let's look at some of these tropes. As an example I'll use the Traveller's Aid Society. If you recall I recently tried slinging mud at that august yet innocuous organization.

The Company is up to far more than you can know!
True to some extent. I showed that the membership dues would hardly go towards paying for the high passage dividends of the paid members let alone freebies and the staffing and maintenance of the hostels at A and B starports, The TAS is definitely into some nix level financing and loans and probably owns all manner of banks. One fall out of this is that there are banks around to make ship loans and further trade and well ... travel. But giving much more favorable rates to fellow banks and corporations and making huge profits on business deals is hardly Evil. Though maybe it is evil at times.

The Company is a monolithic organization!
Due to distance, lag of communication and sheer size the TAS can't know what is going on at every establishment and among its other secondary businesses (shipyards, berthing facilities, banks etc.). Even the subsector management can't know what is going on everywhere all the time. Hostel owners for example have a pretty free hand unless they wind up on the news (pretty hard since the TAS also owns the major news service).

TAS does give the impression of a single seamless organization. The hostels are all very similar in layout and construction. They have common protocols and procedures (salisbury steak second Threeday of every month). But this is to provide a cultural anchor to people who do a lot of traveling and some stable little sanctuary that will feel like home.

This can seem a little freaky to some. Especially when the concierge and staff go Pokémon and use makeup or even cosmetic surgery to look the same. Seeing Concierge Dmitrios on port after port gets a little creepy.

There is cooperation between the various departments which may not appear to be of the same company. Screw with Second Bank of Backwater and the hostel will provide no support. Maybe your activities two planets down the main will be presented to local law enforcement or your ship will suffer an accident in its berth. But don't expect high tech mercs on your tail. This hostel just doesn't have that kind of stuff on hand. Unless the merc commander who is a member in on planet ...

In any case if you leave the planet in which that unfortunate affair occurred in what was once the TAS hostel and keep away from the A and B ports you should be okay. Except you're going to eat the loss of your high passage dividend every two months. You need to still make your ship payments somewhere and there's that spyware that gets loaded onto your computer by the TAS News Service app!

Let me revise that 'can't be everywhere' to can't know everything going on but can keep any eye on people who messed with them.

The Company only cares about profit!
True to some extent. The TAS has to stay in the black to keep its operations running. If it gives out too many freebies or too many people default on loans or get their newsfeed by hacking and it goes broke no more tickets or salisbury steaks. So yes TAS cares about profit and if you didn't then why do you charge for hauling freight and bodies across the parsecs? Money doesn't make the galaxy turn but it is the axis it spins on.

The Company is Evil!
What do you mean by Evil? The TAS is not engaging in forbidden genetic experiments (okay maybe they are cloning those concierges). The TAS doesn't try to take over governments (not enough profit and too much work). But you can find something you can point a finger at with any organization that size.

Let's say we've established that the TAS owns institutions making ship loans. Those ships have to make a profit and one of the highest profit operations is low passage. So the ships are required to have low berths onboard as a condition of the loan.

Low berths kill sometimes. There are two insurances against passenger death, a ship's doctor and a waiver running 84 pages of single spaced micro font. Making the low berths safe would just cost too much, almost as much as a stateroom or more. But it's cool. There's always a line of losers wanting transportation off planet. They know the risks. Besides, if you travel asleep you aren't really a traveller and the TAS could care less about you.

Is that Evil? Is it merely evil? Are the ship captains who provide low passage Evil/evil? A person who lost friends and relatives to low passage might consider the practice a blight on the transportation industry and demand the TAS (the guys who own the banks providing ships etc. unknown to most of the public) take a stand on the practice and condemn it.

So the TAS either stops loading their financed ships with low berths and comes clean, or keeps quiet or condemns it and assumes people will forget this in another week before their connection to the low berth conspiracy is found out.

Some companies might buy the person with the grievance off. Some might have them blackmailed, frightened or killed if they continue. This is not really necessary in the case of the TAS. They are the major source of news, remember. This conspiracy talk need not get beyond this rabble rouser's home planet. On planet  ... well the TAS hostel has very good relationships with the local government and news feeds. It can be quietly hushed up until people find a new cause like psionics taking jobs away from normal citizens.

The rabble rouser might not stay quiet though and need protection or evidence to prove his claims. this would probably be handled by the management for that planet. If they sent word of the activities to the subsector or sector manager the situation could be out of hand before they received orders. In fact the upper management might be very upset with that planet manager for his hamfisted actions and instead opt to create a charitable organization to help the families of people killed by low berths.

This keeps the TAS image looking good and can be financed by charitable citizens meaning the TAS pays only for start up and some token payments once in a while when this news breaks again. Even if the connection between the TAS and the ship financiers becomes widespread knowledge they can make the case that the connection was only between a few worlds' hostels and simply sell that particular bank while pointing to their charitable organization as a sign of their good intent.

Is that Evil? I don't know but it is probably the point where the player characters come in.