Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Wiki Showcase: Aristocratic Background Lens - Corporate Heirs

When my patrons voted for aristocracy, I held a poll for what sort of aristocratic lenses they'd like to see, and we had a four way tie for second.  One of the tied-for-second choices was: Corporate Heirs.

So far, we've only seen aristocracy-as-aristocracy, but really, the background is about being one of the well-heeled of the Galaxy, someone with money and social influence who gets to attend the nicest parties in the nicest outfits and gets to worry about their manners. So far we've based that in blood and lineage and psychic power, fitting for Psi-Wars as inspired by Star Wars, which itself was emulating fantasy, swashbuckling and Ruritanian romance.

But Psi-Wars talks a lot about corporations (as does the later installments of Star Wars, it must be noted).  I talk about them because they're a good way to introduce disruption to aristocracy, as you begin to shift from "old money" to "new money," and capitalism regularly creates (or at least underlines) social upheaval in its cycles of creative destruction.  And Psi-Wars begins to gain something of a cyberpunk edge to it, a sense of more modernity when compared to Star Wars.  GURPS thrusts this upon us, in part, thanks to how it handles tech levels, but it's something I've personally wanted to explore, because it differentiates the setting from Star Wars, and because a cyber-samurai dueling a psychic space knight is a wonderful image.

Certainly, groups like the Hyperium Mining Guild and ARC draw inspiration from corporations like Dune's CHOAM; less modern corporation than medieval guild or aristocratic collective for sharing profits, but companies like Syntech could fit in the glass towers of Neo-Tokyo.  These companies give us different technological profiles (which we've been exploring recently), but they could also give us story seeds ("Syntech has hired you to smuggle this cargo to the Umbral Rim, no questions asked."), and we can explore the people behind them.  Thus: the Corporate Heirs.

A "Corporate Heir" in this context is anyone with sufficient connections to a company to enjoy the wealth and power of that connection without actually working there: the son of the business owner, or the wife, or the mistress.  They have money and people want to impress them which translates, effectively, to status.  They are, however, still in a world dominated by the "old blood" aristocracy.  They may have money and influence, but they tend to lack class, breeding, honor and "fighting spirit." They're a merchant class, not a warrior class.  This gives them the ability to innovate and think outside the box while the aristocracy tends to be stuck in its old ways, but it also tends to give you self-centered party animals who run away from trouble rather than, like those irritatingly brave Knights of House Kain, towards the trouble.

I like them as a pallete cleanser for the aristocracy.  You can sprinkle them at your parties to remind people that the age of the aristocrat in Psi-Wars is beginning to pass away.  You can play as one, and instead of having your aristocratic father talk about what a disappointment you are to the family, you can have your corporate father talk about what a disappointment you are to the company, but instead of proving him wrong by mastering a force sword style, you'll do it by creating an amazing new invention.

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