by Bob Greenwade
Any corporation -- whether a superhero group built as a corporation, or a regular corporation with (or without) agents to do its bidding -- may be built as a character. After all, a corporation is merely a legal, artificial "person," with most of the same legal rights as a regular "person."
These rules only apply to legal corporations, whether they function as businesses or are superhero groups merely organized as legal corporations. Superhero (or villain) groups legally organized as partnerships (like the Champions), social clubs (like most villain groups), or sole proprietorships (as with Dr. Destroyer's outfit) should be built as they always have.
You may also notice that these rules have a slant toward superhero groups built as corporations. This is intentional, since a disproportionately large number of corporations built with these rules will probably be superhero groups. However, the rules still apply just as well to regular business corporations and non-profit corporations.
The only exception to this is PRE; a corporation as a unit may have an extra 5 or 10 points of PRE (or more, with the GM's permission) to represent how impressive, or how respected, it is as a whole. This is generally taken with the -1 Limitation Only to Add to PRE Attacks. Someone making a PRE Attack in the corporation's name can then add +1d6 per +5 PRE the group has, provided he's identified as a member. (This is similar to what often happens in fiction when an FBI, CIA, or other government agent shows his identification.)
The -1 Limitation Only to Defend PRE Attacks would represent a group that has a high morale and sense of teamwork. As long as they're members of the group, they may use this PRE to defend PRE Attacks. The group may also have PRE with the -1/2 Limitation Only to Add to or Defend PRE Attacks, to represent both of these effects.
The group may also take PRE without any Limitations, which would also allow additions to the group's PRE-Based Skills (as discussed below). However, note that the group's base PRE of 10 may only be applied toward the group's PRE-Based Skills, and may not be used to add to or defend PRE Attacks -- though the GM may use an optional rule that when the group as a whole is making a PRE Attack and has a PRE higher than the highest PRE in the group, the group's PRE (and only the group's PRE) is used for the attack.
Just as PRE is the only Characteristic that a corporate entity may have, so PRE-Based Skills are the only true Skills that its members may use independent of (or complementary to) their own abilities. The Skill Roll for any corporation assumes a base value of 10 PRE, or an 11- Roll if no extra PRE is bought. In addition to the effects listed, a group's Skill Rolls may always be used as complementary Skills to a character's identical Skills. In any event, to use a group's Skills, the individual has to either be already known as a member of the group, or properly identify himself as such.
This is considerably different from having Followers for a Base or Vehicle. A Base's Followers help keep up the facility, doing maintenance, security, and other functions needed to keep up the Base. Similarly, a Vehicle's Followers work with or on the machine itself, either operating it or maintaining it. A group's Followers will go with the group to help them carry out missions, and may even help them by going on patrol with them, performing investigations, etc. If you ask a Base's or Vehicle's Followers to do this kind of stuff (unless it has to do with the Base or Vehicle itself), and you'll probably be told that it's not in the job description.
Followers don't necessarily have to be combat-oriented agents, either, especially in the case of a business corporation. For example, a corporation with an accounting staff of 64, all bought as 25-point normals, would pay 35 points for them. They would have to pay points for any Followers that aren't specifically attached to a Base or Vehicle (that is, maintenance personnel and localized security guards).
Whenever a member he leaves the corporation, he loses any Fringe Benefits it has. However, if the GM has charged him points to use the corporate Fringe Benefits, he may use the points to buy some Contacts or group Skills he'd otherwise lose, saying that he'd keep those abilities because of his good history with the group.
When taken by a business corporation, this Perk represents the level of income and available funding it has available. This often has little to do with the overall worth of the company; a corporation with a very high overall value could have most of it tied up in fixed assets, leaving very little left over for a Money Perk, while one with only a moderate value could have quite a bit in liquid assets.
The GM should never allow a PC group to just buy a 15 point Money Perk in order to declare itself Filthy Rich. The Perk should instead reflect things that have happened in the course of the campaign; if the group starts getting a large income and becomes able to afford expensive stuff, let them spend 5 points to have some money (and this really isn't unreasonable for the average superhero team), probably paid for by a new or expanded Watched or Reputation Disadvantage.
As noted later, a group or corporation may also take a Money Disadvantage, to represent financial troubles that the group is having.
Bases are quite common things for groups to have, and in fact it's advisable for a group that works together regularly over a period of time to have one. For that matter, a base is probably the first thing that a PC group will want to buy. Similarly, virtually every business corporation will need to have at least one Base, and many will have motor pools of vehicles. In the latter case, the corporation may spend +5 points for every 2× vehicles of the same point value (or, if the GM wants to be a little more chintzy about it, for every 2× vehicles of the identical type).
Note that a Vehicle owned by a group is used by the group for transportation anywhere; if a Vehicle is attached to ("owned" by) a Base (such as an elevator to travel from one floor to another, a shuttle tube to transport between locations, or a small fleet of golf carts to get from one end of the base to the other), then the Vehicle should only be used for transportation within the base, and not outside.
Another option for Powers owned by a group has to do with magical, mystical, and miraculous Powers. For example, there may be a demon (or type of demon) that any member of a particular cultic group is able to Summon, but only as long as he's a member of that group. A church or temple (especially in a fantasy campaign) can have healing powers that its members (or at least its clergy) have access to in its name, but lose when they leave the group (or the clergyhood).
In either case, it's fairly common for certain Powers owned by a group to require more than one member to accomplish. This can represent a weapon or piece of equipment with complex controls, or a complex magic spell, or any other situation where two or more people are needed to do something. For each person above the first required to operate a Power owned by a Group, the Power takes a -1 Limitation. If missing a person merely makes operation of the Power more difficult (say, it requires ×2 END, or takes a -2 OCV penalty), the Limitation is -1/2.
Individual characters may contribute points to a group if the group is organized as a corporation. In effect, the character is buying stock in the corporation (and should have enough of the Money perk to do so). The character may sell the stock, losing the influence he has over the group's operation but gaining some other things (perhaps buying off a related personal Hunted, gaining some Money, or earning a Contact in the person who bought him out).
More than one individual character may contribute points to the corporate group, but they are all subject to this rule. They serve as the corporation's stockholders, and will have a hand in electing its Board of Directors. NPCs -- even unidentified, "general public" PCs, or for that matter other corporations -- may own shares of stock. If the heroes are the sole stockholders, they may even elect themselves Board of Directors, in which case the organization is always subject to their collective decisions.
Example: Wingate Industries, the Corporation which owns and operates the hero group Second Authority, is owned 60% by Cassandra Wingate, who is secretly Fireburst, Second Authority's leader. The other 40% is owned by miscellaneous members of the public.
Since Second Authority is a subsidiary of Wingate Industries, it can put as many of its points as it wants (which, basically, means as many of its points as Fireburst's player wants) into the team's resources. It can even sell some of the team's stock to its members, or anyone else. It's decided that each team member will own 5% as part of the employment deal, and Wingate Industries itself will retain the remaining 65%.
As with Followers, Vehicles, Bases, and other such things, each point spent by a character (or parent organization) is worth 5 points to the receiving organization, until the "lesser" organization has more points from the owner's contribution than the owner has in Total Points. At this point, each point contributed costs 1 point. (Note that a character who gains experience while paying for corporate holdings at the one-for-one rate will get some of his points refunded as the experience accumulates.)
All of this is in addition to any corporate Perks such as being a major stockholder, corporate officer, or CEO (as described in the Corporations sourcebook).
Example: Fireburst's player decides that Wingate Industries should have 200 base points, which requires that 40 points be spent by its shareholders. Since she holds 60% of the shares, she spends 24 points, which is worth 120 points to the corporation. (Since Fireburst is built on considerably more than 120 points total, she doesn't have to pay any at the one-for-one rate.) The other shareholders spend a combined total of 16 points to give the corporation the remaining 80.
In turn, it's decided that the group Second Authority will have 100 points from contributed points, requiring 20 points to be spent by its shareholders. Each member -- including Fireburst -- spends 1 point on this, each worth 5 points to the team, while Wingate Industries spends the remaining 13 points, worth 65 points to the team.
On the other hand, a DNPC for a superhero group is involved with the group itself. He will tend to go where the group goes, hiding in their base or stowing away on their vehicle if he needs to. He might be an employee of the group with some useful skills, such as a butler or computer tech, or just a superhero groupie who keeps getting into trouble.
Examples of good superhero group DNPCs would be a police liaison, a reporter on special assignment, a team mascot, etc.
Similarly, a group in itself can be Watched by someone who has little or no interest in the individual members. This usually represents a group with government connections (whether sanctioned by, deputized by, or just frequently working with them), but other Watchers are possible as well.
Example: A group that is a corporation will, simply because of this, be Watched by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) on an 8 or less. The SEC is More Powerful then the characters as Watchers go, and has extensive non-combat influence (since it can revoke their charter and bring criminal charges against them if they misbehave seriously enough), and so is worth 10 points as a Watcher.
Example: A group of heroes that has been deputized by the county sheriff will be Watched by the sheriff's office on an 11 or less. Though the sheriff would be much less powerful as a Hunter, as a Watcher he's More Powerful, especially since he can revoke the characters' Police Powers perk if he smells something fishy -- or worse, if something more serious goes wrong. Since the Roll is 11 or less, he's worth 13 points as a Watcher.
A corporation will also often be Watched by its primary competitors. Most of these competitors are As Powerful as the corporation (unless one is very significantly larger or smaller than the other), with Non-Combat Influence.
Lastly, a corporation that is a subsidiary of another corporation will be Watched by the parent company, and usually on a Roll higher than 8 or less.
If the competition is particularly nasty, trying outright to destroy the corporation, it would be upgraded to a Hunted. In this case it would be Less Powerful unless the GM determines that the competition stands a very good chance at actually destroying the company.
Example: The Clown Syndicate, as a group, has an absolute Code Against Killing. The Vaude-Villain, one of the group's members, has a Code Against Killing, but it doesn't apply (for him personally) in desperate situations. But he has to obey the group's Code Against Killing, even in desperate situations, because it's part of the group's rules.
The intensity of the group's Psychological Limitation can also represent how severe the punishment is for breaking the bylaw or code of ethics. For example, breaking a Moderate Limitation would be punishable by certain sanctions, such as demerits or brief suspension; breaking a Strong Limitation would be punishable by fines and suspension for longer terms; and breaking a Total Limitation would call for a punishment of expulsion, confinement, or even death. This is more of a general rule of thumb than an absolute rule, however.
Regular business corporations may also have Psychological Limitations, but only for things that are not mandated by law (as a Code Against Racial Discrimination would be).
Similarly, a business corporation often has a Rivalry going with its competitors. This is usually a generalized Rivalry, though it may be specific to a company that is in some way the leader in the industry, or that the company (or its leadership) has a particular interest in hurting.
This is a good corporate Disadvantage for a Mystic Masters campaign, and might also be used properly by a Dark Champions vigilante team.
Pts Perks 13 Point Contribution to Second Authority 20 Point Contribution to WinCo 50 500 25-point Followers (factory & office staff) 35 32 50-point Followers (professional staff) 45 64 75-point Followers (roving security staff) 68 340-point Base (corporate HQ & factory) 40 64 50-point vehicles (motor pool) 25 2 100-point vehicles (corporate jets) 2 Concealed Weapons Permit (for security staff) 5 Security Clearance (for engineers) 10 Money 308 Total
Pts Disadvantages 120 Contributed Points: Cassandra Wingate 80 Contributed Points: Other Stockholders 20 Code of Honesty (comm, total) 15 Reputation: Honest Corporation, 14- 10 Watched by SEC, 8- 10 Watched by Lockley International, 11- 10 Watched by VIPER, 8- 8 Watched by BLADE, Inc., 8- 5 Watched by SimCorp, 8- 15 Hunted by Montgomery International, 8- 10 Hunted by the Anti-Tech League, 8- 10 Rivalry vs. Montgomery International 10 Rivalry vs. other competitors 308 TotalAbbreviation: WinInd
Primary Operation: Electronics and weapon systems
Primary Competitors: Montgomery International, Lockley International, SimCorp
Worth: $41.2 billion
HQ Location: Seattle, WA
Head: Cassandra Wingate, President/CEO
Hunted/Watched: 15 Pts (As Pow, Lim, NCI, 11-)/5 Pts (As Pow, Lim, NCI, Question, 11-)
Background/Description: Most people (in the Champions Universe, anyway) are familiar with the name of John Wingate Jr. (later John Wingate II) as the man who developed many of the more innovative weapons systems used during World War II. He was, in fact, the most significant Negro (as African-Americans were called back then) in any major industry. Starting with little more than some ideas and a loan from his father's bank (Puget Bank, one of the first black-owned bank in the nation), John started a weapons manufacturing company that won many government contracts. Soon Wingate Arms was one of the more familiar names in the industry, even if it was one of the smallest of the successful companies.
During the mid-1970s, when America was pulling out of Vietnam (marking the end, for now at least, of major military conflicts in American history) and the Information Age was dawning, John saw the potential for the emerging technology of personal electronic systems. The computer industry, while well under way in terms of development and production, was still in relative infancy as far as being organized as an industry was concerned.
His engineering staff also saw a unique potential market for computers that few others saw at the time: once the computers could be miniaturized enough to be portable (as they have only recently become in the real world), they could be installed in personal items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, running shoes, and even the weapons that Wingate Arms already made. Changing the name of the company to Wingate Industries, he gave the go- ahead to add computerized systems to the company's roster.
Within ten years, John's dream of a vitalized company was a happy reality. While still prohibitively expensive for most people, all of the above-mentioned computerized personal items were ready to be manufactured. While the running shoe project has been put on hold for the time being, the other items have been made for special patients in the small lab on the two floors below the executive offices in the corporation's Seattle tower. Meanwhile, special weapons for the military and law enforcement are still being made at the plant in Federal Way.
The bad news came in 1984, when the aircraft carrying John home from a business convention in New York crashed. With him were his wife, Susan, and their son, John III. Father and son were dead at the scene, and Susan was left a quadraplegic, leaving their daughter, Cassandra, to take the reins of the company, as well as to continue the family line.
The terms of John II's will required John and Cassandra to each hold at least 30% of the company's stock until 15 years after his death, with one escape. Either could sell, with the other having the first option to buy and the corporation itself the second, and they could only sell the entire block (though they could break it up if they were selling it publicly). With John III also dead, his 30% went to Cassandra, with the same restrictions -- she had to either keep the whole 60%, sell it back into the corporation, or release it publicly. She was, in effect, stuck (thanks to the complicated terms of her father's will) with control of the company, or none of it at all.
She chose the former, and has done well with it. Based on some paperwork done by her brother before his death, she's not only recognized America's superheroes as a resource for revenue and goodwill, but also the good they generally do for society. She's successfully invested in two subsidiaries for Wingate Industries to capitalize on it.
One is Second Authority, a superhero team which she secretly leads as Fireburst. While this team's activities do include defending Wingate Industries (and WinCo) from industrial espionage and sabotage, it actually spends much more of its time fighting crime in general, assisting in disaster relief, taking part in search-and-rescue operations, and similar activities that not only help the image of Wingate Industries, but more importantly to generally improve life in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The group is known to operate from the top floor of the parent company's corporate tower, and keep of its non-airborne vehicles on the third (sub-parking) basement. (Second Authority will be given a detailed treatment seperately, both as a corporate subsidiary and as a superhero group.)
The other subsidiary is WinCo, a company that manufactures marketed goods licensed from superheroes and superhero groups for publicity and financial purposes. Among the things WinCo makes at its manufacturing complex on the outskirts of Lynnwood are action figures and vehicles, toy mock-ups of weapons and equipment, trading cards, playing cards, posters, life-sized cardboard cutouts, bumper stickers, T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, sleepwear, beach towels, mugs, lunchboxes, and various other personal items. It also sublicenses comic books, clothing patterns, mass-produced children's (and adults') Halloween costumes, parade floats, playing cards, board games, role-playing game supplements, and other things to appropriate companies. Besides Second Authority, it handles the US and Canadian marketing for Zen Team (Allies), plus all marketing for the Sentinels, the Protectors, and all other superhero teams located in the West Coast states (at least, those that have been published so far). This marketing alone has made Second Authority almost self-supporting, and their service in saving Wingate Industries from corporate espionage and sabotage (as well as other damage) has more than made up the difference.
Pts Perks 5 Money 35 64 25-point Followers (factory & office staff) 20 4 50-point Followers (professional staff) 30 8 75-point Followers (roving security staff) 40 200-point Base 130 Total
Pts Disadvantages 100 Contributed Points from Wingate Industries 20 Code of Honesty 10 Watched by the SEC 130 TotalIn addition to these two corporate subsidiaries, Cassandra established the John Wingate Foundation as a not-for-profit organization. When she did this, she intentionally didn't specify which of the three John Wingates in her family she was naming it after -- her banking grandfather, her weapon- manufacturing father, or her superhero-supporting older brother -- because she was, in fact, naming it for all three.
The Foundation's goal is, in that spirit, threefold. In the name of John Wingate I, the Foundation provides low-interest loans for people who want to get a start in business, but have little or no capital of their own. In the name of John Wingate II, it provides special support (including special contributions of non- lethal weapons as well as financial contributions to intervention and diversion programs) to police departments and other law enforcement agencies. In the name of John Wingate III (whose idea Second Authority originally was), the Foundation provides financial relief to people who suffer injury or property loss in the course of battles between paranormals (whether heroes, villains, vigilantes, nusiances, agents, or whatever kind of people were involved). (This relief fund concentrates on damage done with heroes marketed through WinCo, but is by no means limited to that notable list.)
While Wingate Industries provides enough money for the Foundation's basic administration, the small business loans are better than self-supporting, and superhero-supporting industrialists (along with some of America's wealthier superheroes, such as Captain Glory, Defender, and Fireburst, using their wealthy civilian identities -- these three also make themselves available as spokespeople for the Foundation) make most of the contributions for the other two areas. If a player character wishes to make a contribution, monies may be specified for one of the three funds, or just given generally.
Pts Perks 10 Money 5 Contact: Cassandra Wingate (Fireburst), 14- 2 Contact: James Harmon IV (Defender), 11- 2 Contact: Frank Lewis (Captain Glory), 11- 25 16 25-point Followers (office staff) 9 45-point Base 53 Total
Pts Disadvantages 13 Watched by Wingate Industries, 11- 20 Hunted by Spectrum, 8- 20 Hunted by Master Control, 8- 53 TotalIn the decade (and more) since her family's death, Cassandra has made herself the third wealthiest African-American woman in the country (after a certain talk show hostess, and a certain dreadlocked comedienne). She is also among the best-loved, having a reputation for honesty and integrity that most other companies envy. In fact, the Code of Ethics which she orignally published for internal use has, despite its remarkably short length, been published for general use (under the title of Ethical Standards in the Corporate World, later expanded into the full-length book The Ethical Business) become a model for policies of honesty at several other corporations, including Armbruster Industries, Eye-Tech Identification Systems, Future Scope, and Tran Defense Systems (all from Corporations).
Her success and reputation has, of course, earned her the jealousy, if not the wrath, of some of her competitors. Less- than-ethical companies such as BLADE, Lockley International, and SimCorp see her as a potential patsy, and keep sending their corporate spies in. With some help from Second Authority and some from independent security specialists, she's managed to keep those spies out of the company's files, at least for the most part. (VIPER did get through one time in 1989 to steal the plans and prototypes for some non-lethal, but nonetheless very effective, weapons. Based on these, the VR-10 "Fat Lady" sonic rifle appeared in the hands of VIPER agents the very next year, and the ID-01 "Dispel" invisibility negator and the TC-01 "Slimer" entangle carbine weren't far behind. The company was able to retrieve most of the lost date for their versions of these weapons, which have been made available to UNTIL, PRIMUS, SAT, and superheroes. It wasn't so fortunate with the preliminary plans for the I-02 "Stealth" weapon, which VIPER finished development on independently. For more data on these, see the VIPER supplement.)
Montgomery International has been even more vicious, at times trying to outright destroy the company (in part because of the competition, and in part because Wingate Industries supports superheroes, who Randolph Montgomery secretly but passionately hates as a class). Cassandra, through her involvement in Second Authority, has learned that Randolph Montgomery actually is Master Control, but has no reliable proof to back her up. She has, at times, intentionally provoked Master Control into attacking Wingate holdings so she can be in a better position to get that proof and bring Montgomery down.
Still, Wingate Industries employs over 700 people in the Seattle- Tacoma area (including those working for the subsidiaries and the Foundation), and is not going to be easily put down.
Campaign Use: A superhero team may approach (or be approached by) WinCo to market their image. WinCo will be particularly interested in hero teams located on the West Coast, but they're not terribly picky about this. If the group has a reputation (both publicly and within the superhero community) for honesty and integrity, then the group's a good candidate not only for WinCo marketing, but for product endorsements as well. This will generate some funds that they can use for fighting crime, and will make them more recognizable and quite probably more popular.
The John Wingate Foundation can also be called upon to provide starting capital for a corporate supergroup, needed special equipment to help the group do its job, or financial assistance for peripheral damage after a battle.
The main body of Wingate Industries can also be a good source for certain mildly exotic weapons systems, provided that the character has the money to pay for it. Geography permitting, a significant NPC or PC might even be a current (or former) Wingate Industries employee.
Slogan: For Your Sake
Optional Version: Cassandra hasn't been the same since her family's death. She believes that someone intentionally killed them, and has been quietly growing obsessed with trying to find out who. Most recently she's focussed her attentions on Randolph Montgomery, especially since Second Authority discovered his secret life as Master Control. As her obsession has grown, she's led more and more provocations against Montgomery, but with the corporation as a whole and with Second Authority. The other members of the group, who are the only people privy to her secret identity, have been growing concerned for her.
Scenario Idea: Randolph Montgomery decides to destroy Wingate Industries through insinuation. He begins by hiring some actor/thugs to impersonate Second Authority, committing crimes with electromechanical equipment designed to duplicate the team's powers. He may even go so far as to contact Mindlocke, and have her alter the imposters' mental patterns to make them think they actually are Second Authority.
Naturally, the belief that this group is actually a bunch of criminals will not only destroy public confidence in Second Authority (causing WinCo sales to drop off considerably), but will affect the entire company. In fact, some government contracts are up for renewal soon, and this won't bode well for Wingate at all (especially with Jeremiah Relm now sitting on the Senate Defense Committee).
Naturally, when the magazine SuperHype gets ahold of this story, they proceed to absolutely crucify the team. The Seattle police begins an investigation (as might the FBI, depending on the crimes committed) into Second Authority's activities, but the initial negative press leads them to ignore, or even supress, evidence that might clear them and point to the true culprit.
Under these circumstances, Wingate Industries people will be unable to do any more than cursory investigations, and even their lawyers will be looked upon with suspicion. Cassandra asks (or hires, if appropriate) the PCs to investigate the matter.
If, in the course of this investigation, the PCs meet up with the fake Authoritarians, use the Competent Normal stats from the Champions rulebook (or Type 3 Street Thugs from Justice, Not Law), with gadgets that roughly duplicate their powers at about 2/3 the number of active points; any powers not bought through a Focus in the original character will be bought with an IIF (or, if appropriate, an IAF) for the imposter.
In some cases, errors will be made in the weaknesses; for example, Immobilon's imposter has an electromagnetic exoskeleton that gives him impressive strength and the ability to stick in one spot, but doesn't make him dependent on being connected to the ground to use his great strength (thus enabling him to run at full speed, or even be in mid-air, when using it). If the PCs are familiar with Second Authority, they may be notice these discrepencies and be able to tell, at least in a general sense, what's going on. If not, they may attack the imposters at full power, with potentially fatal results. While Master Control may fail to bring discredit to Second Authority, he may thus succeed where the player characters are concerned.
(Note: Since this depends on having statistics for Second Authority, and I don't have those posted yet, you can either make up your own version, or use this scenario with the Cyberknights instead, using their connections with Future Scope.)
This article is © 1996-2000 by Bob Greenwade. E-mail me if you have any comments or questions.