As a roleplaying game, the Syndicate can be used for one-shot
scenarios as well as for long-time campaigns. This chapter
concentrates mainly on campaign ideas, and ideas and examples for independent
or campaign scenarios.
This chapter also has some tips and information for game masters on
how to handle various situations in the game.
A campaign typically has an overall idea or story behind it, and it is
situated in a certain region or culture; or at least social level. Here
are some general ideas for possible campaings.
- Independent Mercenaries
The characters are independent professionals or just loners, who do
various tasks offered or invented by characters themselves. They can be
journalists, street fighters, hit men or just rock singers. The
campaign is usually set to a certain country or city, and does not have
any big effects on the world.
This is the traditional Syndicate campaign. It gives the greatest
number of selections and choices to the players, but can have some
problems, mainly with motivation and work.
- Specialists for Hire
- Characters are free specialists in neutral battleground, where
several companies battle for political influence. Suitable places are
countries and areas which have not yet fallen into total corporate
control. Characters have contacts
to various people arranging them jobs, to steal stuff, to hunt and to
guard important people. Their loyalty is bought with money, and the
ally of the previous day can be the enemy on the next day.
- Truth Fighters
- The world is corrupt, corporations and govenrments lie to us.
The only way to general public to see the light is to dig the truth
out and tell it to everyone. Characters are mainly media reporters,
but can also be rock stars or agents of some companies trying to
defame other corporations.
- Characters are fighting against global companies, nature
exploitation and pollution. Their main weapon is the truth,
using real-time sattellite links and pirate channels to send
real information what is happening in 3rd world or in corporate mine.
Sabotage, attentions and assasinations are also their ways to
slow down the globalization.
- Professional Agents
The characters are working for some corporation, police, government or
other organization, which pays their fees, provides equipment and expects the
job to get done. The characters should not have any motivation problems,
and depending on the campaign. they could travel all around the world,
or just sit in the same city for the entire campaign.
For a campaign like this, all players should have free, or maybe
forced, agent status to reflect the backup from the organization they work
- Corporate Pacific
- Pacific Ocean is the major area for corporate seaweed production
and reserach, and especially for deep sea exploration. There are
hundreds of small islands, and some of them are owned or rented by
bigger corporations, creating their own little nations therein. The
characters are corporate agents either hired by the other companies,
doing espionage and sabotage, or hired by the local company, hunting
- Special Forces
- Characters are SWAT forces of the near-future. Their job is as
assigned by their headquarters, like freeing hostages, stopping
terrorists and guarding important persons.
- Covert Forces
- Characters are secret agents of some intelligence agency like
European security forces. Their job is to do unauthorized illegal
actions in own or other countries, mainly assasinations, sabotage and
sabotage. They have hidden support amoing officials and unknown
resources behind them.
- Forced Agents
All, or at least most, player characters are forced to take on an assignment
or several. They may not be happy, and secretly they
may try to foil their employers' plans or try to escape. If they succeed, the
campaign is partly over, and should be transformed to another type, with
maybe a couple of powerful enemies for each character.
For apparent reasons, most characters should have forced agent
disadvantage. Most of the campaign detailed previously can include
forced agents, but their motivation is a bit different.
- Street People
Living in the gangland, suburbs or in the shadows of the gigantic
corporate skyscrapers is the everyday of the character. They life is
a daily struggle with street gangs, and they are just making their
living in the midst of low-life, or maybe they are trying to get away,
to find a better place in the world. They are now and then hired by
corporate agents to do shitwork, like sabotage or brutal attacks, but
nothing too fancy.
When playing a campaign like this, 20cp maybe a bit too much, and
GM should check out a bit what he is giving to players.
- Street Kings
- Characters are leading their own gang, trying to make it bigger
and more powerful, controlling the city portion they are interested in.
They live for thrills and most important things in the life are
action, joy and style.
- Rural Wanderers
The characters are brigands, mercenaries or other weirdos moving across
the barred landscape of the devastated third nations or other parts of
the world in the state of anarchy. Quite probably they have never seen any
cyberware, nor functional caseless automatic rifle.
This is not an ideal campaign for Syndicate. I recommend using
some external guide for rural adventures, like Taiga.
Although the main system mainly describes heavy-realistic world with
cinematic flavors in success rates (for player characters),
Syndicate can be played in many ways, some of which are represented here.
- Quite Realistic
This is the classic Syndicate style, where things are quite
realistic. Normal physical laws are honoured, and things are not
exaggerated too much. Enemies act quite reasonably, and the world is
- Hong Kong
As Quite Realistic, but ammunition is quite limitless. Clips have to be
changed very rarely, unless the character is Ammo Hog (see 3.6.2),
and most people can do Kung Fu, doing back flips while shooting
(and hitting something)
- Very Cinematic
Can be as Hong Kong, but the main points are, that every place has extra
gasoline, bullet hits make the target fly, and the enemies have stupid,
enormous plans to destroy the entire world or at least one significant country.
The characters are not the center of the world, and even when they are
strong, there are always stronger ones: do not mess with the Big Ones.
Most organizations should have dozens of armed guards, and bigger ones
can have attack helicopters, armed hitmen and cyber killers at their
disposal. Make scenarios dangerous, tasking but still possible. And
success does not always mean blowing up the entire opposition.
When arming up the opposition, it is a good idea to think for a moment,
how would a certified law agency set up things. They would most probably have
a PGS and a homer (tracking bug) in each of their guns, so characters must do
some engineering before using those guns. And gun ballistics firing patters
are stored into their data banks, so if you ever use that gun, it can be tracked
And when talking about the computer systems, we do not recommend using Hollywood
stylish 'a 5 year old kid can guess the password' system, but instead closed
and sealed systems within corporate system, requiring a real expert to do the job,
usually with some confidental data obtained via stealing or spying. And now, there
is not usually a central computer which can be used to control everything from
elevators to lightning and temperature.
Also remember that corporations might have access to local telephone systems and
they can locate any GTS which is on-line. Or control some satellite and use it
to take quite accurate pictures.
If and when the characters assault a corporate station, remember that
corporate stealth combat helicopters arrive in 5-15 minutes, depending
on location. So, be quick or be dead. And you better have some ways to
conceal your identity, beforehand or afterwards.
And if, or better yet, when the characters fail, do not let them get
away too easily. They must have hidden their tracks very well, or must do
much work afterwards. And if they do not, waste them. Otherwise
our world isn't very logical if it is easy to get away with almost anything.
Here is a selection of sample opposition of the dark future. Any
secondary, free or professional non-fighting skills are left out, they
can be invented when needed to.
This is a typical employee of a private security services. Standard
police or mob member use similar statistics.
Showoff, drug addiction and/or violent
Cheap or stolen street bike
A young gangster from a street gang. Drives around with (stolen) bike
and steals property, fights with other gangs and uses drugs.
Sectek Piranha Covert sm
Hollow point 9mm ammo
Ultrafiber black suit
A professional corporate agent, never working alone. They usually
use black armored cars, have shock-troop backup and license to carry
guns and send ordinary polices away.
All possible eye and ear systems
Memory, Access Ware
This is a sample prototype of an artificial creation. It has a
synth-skin covering a durable metal skeleton with immense strength
Now, this is the
tough part for some people: how to handle combat
and firefights in RPG system without any system. Well, there is mainly
to ways to do that:
- Use some preferred combat system from other RPG, board game or use
a computer game to simulate the combat
- Try to cope with it, with all the information you know about combat and
I prefer and recommend the second option. All systems are, after all,
unrealistic and slow things down. You just cannot make models from everything which
is possible in a firefight, and ultimately they all result in people shooting
at each other until the other one is dead. No, better to use your own freeform
combat system - it is not a problem if your only reference to firefights are from
Hollywood movies, as campaigns like that can be very enjoyable. Just
make that clear to your players. Of course, if you have completely NO
idea how firefights work, then perhaps you should use option 1 until
you know better.
The problem with freeform combat systems is, according to most
objections I have heard of, that it is not well defined, fair and
equal, like same situation twice may result in different
judgements. And it is completely under judgement of the GM, who
decides everything, like there is no random factor in combat.
Well, partially true. But first of all, if fear of unfairness is your
major concern, you won't be using the RIP system at the first place,
right? And in combat there are so many factories that result are never
alike, plus combatants never know the exact values of their advisory.
The problem may arise when two player characters are fighting each
other, but that is not a very common situation and then you can just
put players to roll dice etc. like usually.
But now that you have encouraged to give a try to freeform combat, how
it is done? Here are some guidelines to do it:
- No combat rounds. Ask from player what does his character do when
character's last action is finished, he notices something new or
otherwise the world interacts with him.
- Likewise players should be allowed to interrupt any 'timeflow'
with stating their action (warning: this can be a bit unfair to
some slower players, so if you like them, you might want to ask now
and then from all players, if they do anything about the situation. I
- To keep things a bit organized, you might want to handle things with
sequent actions, like each player one by one and then handling any
NPCs, and then starting all again, possibly skipping those who
initiated a longer action
- One good way to handle firing (in a bit cinematic campaigns)
from the opposition is that players are hit on d6 roll of 6 as long as they are
moving or have something in between themselves and the shooters.
When there are only one player partaking a combat, things are easy,
but multiple players make things a bit harder. And remember, you may
want to limit conversation between players in fast combat
situation. And when asking for an action, wait only a few seconds for
Combat is not fair. Nor should Syndicate combat be.
Many people in 20th century thought that all serious computer work
will be done in virtual reality in near future. They were wrong.
Virtual reality is used to make things easier for humans, to abstract
data things and make it possible to do various basic tasks without
knowing too much about computer systems. But for real hackers it is
slow, restricted and does not show everything. Think it as an advanced
WWW or file browser system.
This does not mean that heavy duty computer people do not use it -
they do, but not for everything. In real work, they combine virtual reality
file and thread handling with old fashioned visual output. This of course
depends on project they are working at, as they usually need to work on one level
lower than the targeted system.
Anyway, cybersurfing it is not an adventure moving in a speed of light
and thought. When executing things, human brain always loses to
computer speed. When selecting new things, it loses. But human brain
can adapt, learn (well, intelligent systems can, too) and is better to
think out new ways to handle the situation, to improvise. Thus, the
computer skill reflects the character's general knowledge about
computer systems, software, hardware, networking, intelligent systems
etc. - with higher skill levels the character can think out more
solutions and new ideas, or faster. Then it is only a matter of
thought to execute these new ideas.
So, when things start to happen, they usually happen immediately, when
compared to real world. What does take time and is noticed in real
- Breaking into systems, when brute force processes try to break
security codes and defense processes
- Lagged and slow connection. Yes, you still have line breaks, slow
bandwidth and things like that in near-future. Do not even hope that
your VirtuaScape is fast as a thought. And wireless systems have problems
with radio frequences, jamming and range.
- When a new decision or plan must be made. Think think think and
time goes by.
And now, computer hacking should not ever take major portion of game
time. The hacker just states what he tries to do, possible some dice
are rolled and GM should return to him when something happens, like
the action is successful or something unexpected happens. And because
more sensitive corporate systems are usually sealed off, the hacker
must physically enter the area and tap to computer therein. Or send
someone to do that for him and put up a wireless modem, which then
broadcasts signal which can be tracked down. But wireless modem is
much slower than hardlined terminal.
Seeking data: especially this should not take any game time,
just determine some time and possibly roll the dice and give
results. Remember that information overflow is the real problem, and
the real expert is needed to find the exact and wanted information.
Tapping optical fibers: in theory, tapping an optical fiber
is very simple: just cut a small slice into it and start to listen. The
original net will not even notice that. However, things in practise are
not that simple because of course the corporations know that it is
so simple. So fibers are behind corporate walls, hidden in underground
tubes or are made of some special expensive material. Or they are put into
a sealed pipe with nerve gas. Or there is a small current in the pipe and
if it is broken just for a millisecond, an alarm starts. So, certain precaution
is needed when trying to tap into corporate system.
Brain frying: no, there exits no black ice to fry your
brain. Of course a too strong current can fry your brain. And in
theory it is possible to create programs that put brains
into comatose or catanotic state. However, such programs are very hard to do and
are usually filtered by the interface, which also prevents any too
powerful surges. However, filters can be nullified by either
mechanically modifying the interface (trodes, cyberlink) or
delibaretely shutting them down (only in few systems, usually requires
some physical switch so that programs cannot do that) to gain optimum
performance. But this is very dangerous play, so nobody does it by
free will, right?
GM note: unless players state otherwise, it is a good idea to
expect that all normal safe-guards are in effect and all trode systems
etc. are send-only. If the player specifically shuts them down, his
netsurfing can improve a bit, but then he should not screw that -
defense systems will not anymore just trace and disconnect him.
However, if a character is running wetware recordings, he is just
asking for trouble unless he checks out the recording
beforehand. However, not all hidden traps are noticied by checking
programs. Or the wetware might be run against character when he is
held captive. Such devious programs include hidden triggers like
character falling into comatose when he sees too much green color, or
is forced to shoot someone when he sees him. Hopefully these programs
are very hard to tailor and their working percentage is even less than
change for the victim to get permanent brain damage.
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- Syndicate: The Corporate Future (c) Kalle Marjola 1997,2000. All rights reserved.