Shadowrun: Corporate Strengths and Weaknesses

   Next up, it’s a contribution from one of the shadowrun players: it’s not totally reliable in the current setting, but it is consistent with the books…

   Although Shadowrun’s official collection of books describes various corporations operations and areas of focus in detail, they never get around to the kinds of internal strengths and weaknesses each company possesses. The following articles is a general summary of corporate “personalities,” and what different megacorps do and don’t do, and the kind of inside culture you’ll experience at each one.

   Why do this? It’s simple: it helps customize your Shadowruns. If you’re a Gamemaster, this can help you lay out what kinds of defences each corporation would like to have, as well as what kinds of runs they’ll likely offer, or what their competitors would like to disrupt. It helps to have read the book Corporate Shadowfiles or the newer Corporate Download.

Ares Macrotechnology

   Ares, which operates heavily in the North American markets, has long had a relatively good reputation compared to other megacorporations. Whether due to the relative honesty (“We make guns, so you can kill people.”) as a corporate philosophy to its use of Knight-Errant (“If you can’t carry enough guns, we’ll aim some for you.”), Ares has a very straightforward approach to life: “If it competes, compete better. If it fights, fight better. If it explodes… give it some C-12 and watch the fireworks.”

   Ares Macrotech’s big internal strengths reside in smooth internal operations. While the top levels have their vendettas, the lower ranks of the corporation don’t have the same sort of infighting you see at many other megas. Employees are pretty loyal. Even line workers or data pushers often went through a basic-training-like program to get there.

   Ares would rather hire a straightforward plodder who works hard than a devious genius who manipulates events. In their eyes, the former is more reliable and less erratic, and therefore less likely to make business mistakes, compromise company security, or betray the company. Ares plays for the long haul. Wars take years or decades to resolve, and Ares take that into account.

   The countervailing weakness, however, is that Ares gets boxed into its core businesses of arms, security, aerospace, and entertainment. It never became as diversified as most megas (outside Fuchi or Yamatetsu). Runners can frequently scare it away from acquisitions or expansions just by showing them the investment would be unprofitable or uncontrollable (say, with sabotage or theft…) The company acts very predictably on the world stage, always trying to balance other megacorporations so as to protect its turf, even though no one has ever really tried to knee-cap it.

Aztechnology

   Aztechnology has a killer marketing department, both figuratively, and occasionally, literally. (Well, that’s Shadowrunner humor for ya’s.) The Assholes From Aztlan tend to have a strong finger to the ever-shifting winds of public opinion. They respond faster to shifts in demand than any other mega-corporation, and can more easily tailor their line of products in the consumer market. They frequently tap the best advertising firms, along with their own internal resources, to push their target markets along in the most desired direction.

   But the company has two major problems. First, the company is constantly twisted by internal politics. Aztechnology is basically a group of very dirty businessmen feuding for power and turf, not unlike a high-tech, multi-million-nuyen collection of street gangs. This isn’t as open as or as bad as Fuchi is (or was), but the company nonetheless struggles to move forward despite the constant landmines laid by the power-struggles.

   Security-wise, Aztechnology faces its other problem. Nobody likes it. The public doesn’t really care what it does between itself and the other corporations, but those other corporations have long memories. Additionally, Aztechnology has such an aggressive business history and is so internally ruthless than no smaller corporation wants to merge or be bought out by it. Because of this, The Aztlan-based megacorp must constantly be on guard and rarely has any allies, even temporarily, in global markets. Additionally, every other government on the planet has, at best, a warily neutral relationship with Aztlan, and by extension, the reigning corporation.

Fuchi

   Fuchi, unsurprisingly, has always had a strong lead in the Matrix world. No company uses information systems more or better, an this enables them to keep costs down across the board. They have software development teams and hardware manufacturing across the world, all synchronized effectively through the use of the Matrix. Some corporations, even mega-corporations, have relatively simple and straightforward Matrix layouts. Not so Fuchi. Their Matrix side is a tangle of complex interwoven connections so bewildering it takes another computer model to understand!

   However, Fuchi has always been the most internally divided megacorp around. It has three internal factions, and is legally three separate companies, with the three top investors simply merging their operations for power, profit, and protection. Since the three square off against each other more than against other corps, Fuchi has never achieved its full potential.

   Fuchi tends to be strong in Matrix security, where so much of their priceless data resides. The physical side suffers from a relative lack of cash and experience. While Fuchi is no pushover, the company doesn’t inspire the worry like MCT and Aztechnology do. Of course, infiltrating the physical side of a Fuchi complex is often only the beginning. Smart runners also frequently play one faction off the other. If they can create the illusion of another internal feud, local offices may become confused and security holes start to appear as trust breaks down between divisions. Fuchi also can’t stay at high readiness forever, as guards become exhausted from overtime and over-work.

Mistuhama Computer Technologies

   MCT’s big organizational strength is the use of internally-developed technologies and products to support the enterprise as a whole. Or, in non-corp-speak, one end of MCT can easily help out the far side of MCT. If Mitsuhama starts making some new vehicles, it won’t be long before the entire corp moves to take advantage of them. Information sharing is quick, and MCT often has multiple development teams cross-working on the same concepts.

   The company as a whole manages this because it has less internal security than most. MCT emphasizes company loyalty very highly. They take care of those in their employ and they expect everything from the same. MCT employees often see themselves as members of a family, albeit a distant and highly dysfunctional one. This kind of loyalty can hurt Shadowrunners, as it makes life harder for them to get data from inside the corp. However, this can also be turned against MCT. Company citizens may act with less personal discretion and tend to rely heavily on orders from above.

   Security-wise, MCT distinguishes itself by using automated defenses, and they are virtually the only corporation to do so. Fortunately, even MCT must deploy these very, very carefully, with backups for rigger control or internal deactivation. In addition to using a lot of magically security backup, runners facing Mitsuhama can expect numerous security guards of proven loyalty. They won’t fight to the death, but they’ll at least put up a credible amount of fire against intruders.

   The other aspect of MCT security is a common topic of discussion amongst the Shadows. Mitsuhama certainly does have strong ties to the Yakuza. The two share information here and there. MCT often uses the Yaks to get in touch with the Shadow community or do its dirty work, while the Yakuza buy into smaller MCT businesses for money-laundering.

Renraku Computer Systems

   The Big R itself, Renraku continues to survive despite its various setbacks, including the financially-disastrous opening of the Arcology, the financially-disastrous continued operation of the Arcology, and the financially-disastrous if temporary loss of the Arcology. Still, Renraku survives.

   The major elements of Renraku’s success is a better “image” than its Japanese competitors. Renraku is definitely a player, but people see it relatively safe and reliable. Renraku combined that with an expert financing division that taps the cheapest sources of capital worldwide. Because of this, Renraku can survive big short-term losses and still go on to bigger successes. Add in its weirdly diversified nature, and it’s become a sort of un-killable hydra corporation.

   Of course, this does not come without a cost. Renraku just can’t sustain the kind of focused growth that Ares or Aztechnology sees, precisely because it has so many fingers in so many pies. The Arcology project has soaked up a lot of its cash, too, which has put the pinch on North American operations and especially R&D. Runners can expect a lot of half-finished projects or under-used buildings on runs against Renraky, and this can work to their advantage.

Saeder-Krupp

   Saeder-Krupp, the corporation of, well, dragons. One dragon, anyway. As Lowfyr’s personal power base, Saeder-Krupp came out roaring and remains a major world player, particularly in Europe and the Middle East where the Japanese megas don’t have a strong grip.

   Saeder-Krupp has some strange advantages and disadvantages. Since it specializes in heavy industry and raw materials, mostly large-scale mining and refining operations, S-K tends to be more even than other corporations. Even in hard economic times, people have to eat and live somewhere, and S-K is there to supply the raw materials.

   However, the firm’s operations are much more vulnerable to sabotage. S-K relies heavily on distributed factories and quarries that can never be fully guarded. Even if the local operations get nailed down tight, transporting raw materials by the ton across whole continents is a very risky business. The more valuable materials are frequently stolen, so Saeder-Krupp routinely competes with Mitsuhama and Aztechnology for highest annual losses due to theft. In compensation, centralized factories are often heavily guarded and have paranimals around to help. Hellhounds are favorites, as are harpies.

   Lowfyr himself also puts in another weakness, of sorts. He frequently drills down and takes almost direct control of even very small operations for a time. Saeder-Krupp’s middle- and upper-management has an extremely high tension level, and frequently have heart attacks or stress-induced breakdowns.

   Although Saeder-Krupp sometimes carries out revenge hits on shadow teams which mess with it, these are sporadic and reflect Lofwyr’s frustration more than great control over the shadows. If nothing else, the fact that these often fail and continue to be employed means they never did the job in the first place. In some parts of Europe, however, Saeder-Krupp has more underworld resources and runs against it remain rare.

Shiawase

   Shiawase. The Original Megacorp. Also, the looniest pack of back-stabbing crazies the world has ever seen. Run by a squabbling family of ultra-rich Japanese corp-bastards, including one dead family member, Shiawase is both the most and least predictable corporation around. One can never quite be certain what the company will do internally, but its reliance on very established industries means its rarely achieves truly great profits.

   Its security has remained effective by virtue of being ridiculously schizophrenic. Guards may receive heavy security armor and drone backup, but then never get anything beyond light pistols or drones armed with… spotlights. Or, they might get grenades but no bullets, or good guns but nothing more than unarmored uniforms. Training is similarly uneven. Experienced shadowrunners certainly run against Shiawase, but they always have an “Oh God, here we go again.” feeling along with it.

   Shiawase’s only real strengths are that the income stream remains very solid, and that the company’s employees are very loyal. Shiawase has a lot of big projects, and they remain the go-to company for big power and environmental works. Again, it’s not super profitable, but the company is very secure because of it.

Wuxing

   As one of the newer megecorporations, and the only one based out of China, Wuxing has a somewhat different powerbase than most. They reach deeper into central Asia, which most megacorps simply don’t want to bother with. Its close proximity to the natural resources of the various former “–stan” nations give Wuxing an easier time of managing security in that chaotic region.

   Wuxing’s newness has left it, in a very opportunistic position but also a vulnerable one. Its primary strength relies on intercorporate diplomacy. Wuxing convinces other corporations to do business rather than start trade wars, and has had some success in the Pacific Prosperity Group. Chinese business strategies have long relied on personal connections and strategic alliances. Wuxing wants to continue to tradition as it aims to solidify its status as a Triple-A.

   For weaknesses, Wuxing’s biggest is its lack of strengths. Although the company has a heavy shipping component, pirates constantly harass it, both in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Insurance, naval security, and payoffs are all expensive options.

Yamatetsu

   The odd-man-out of the Japanese corporations, Yamatestu is the least Japanese of the major Japanese megacorps. At once part of daily global life and a company most people hardly ever think of, Yamatetsu is a living contradiction in terms.

   This is actually a major source of the company’s strengths. Its headquarters are isolated and the company has almost no image. It works with just about anyone, or not, as it pleases. It has research and products that anyone (and everyone) wants, and these tend toward bleeding-edge, high profit operations. The corporation has branches nearly everywhere.

   The fact that its management is unusually peaceable helps. Yamatetsu doesn’t go in for the level of internal butchery you see at many other major corporations. Not that there aren’t power struggles, but you can be certain that the opposition won’t have you executed. Because of this, playing Yamatestu against itself is very hard.

   On the bright side, Shadowrunners just don’t have the same kind of opposition. Yamatetsu guards often get some free cyber or bioware, but they aren’t out for blood. They want to keep you away from the really important data and researchers, and otherwise just get you off their property. They won’t deploy the big guns except as an last resort, and would rather use knockout weapons than lethal attacks. If they do cause a serious injury, they’ve been known to trade medical attention for information about the mission’s purpose.

   If not, they frequently keep at eye out through their own contacts. Many hospitals, clinics, and even street docs use Yamatetsu products. And of course DocWagon is a Yamatetsu subsidiary. With this, they can watch for injuries similar to the ones suffered by shadowrunners running their stuff, and may then be able to figure out who hired them.

   Yamatestu’s great weakness, though, is that it tends to be a little unprepared for more serious threats than espionage or snatch-n-grab operations. Even with some enhanced guards, the company never really expects big acts of sabotage or even complex corporate maneuvers. Its isolation means it stays behind the shadow-information curve and doesn’t always understand how rivals are playing against it in the world markets.

Federated-Boeing

   Federated-Boeing continues to be the world’s largest single supplier of airplanes, but has also expanded into sea-based products. Although many megacorporations compete with it in one or two areas, nobody offers the comprehensive fleet-based services Boeing does. This makes Federated-Boeing products valuable to major air carriers, who don’t want eighteen separate models of planes from six different corporations. With Federated-Boeing, they can get a few models of planes built en masse, which offers easier and cheaper maintenance.

   Federated Boeing nearly went broke several times over the last hundred years, but managed to barely survive while competitors merged or simply died out; the airplane industry was simply too capital-intensive and too risky.

   The Sixth World offers numerous opportunities for lucrative air- and sea-vehicle sellers. Federated-Boeing still has a risky, capital-intensive business, but the constant demand for warplanes and the latest safety in passenger jets makes for a more secure business model. It also makes ample money from brokerage, where it resells planes from a former customer to a new one. Additionally, the cheap labor supply and weakened unions help Federated-Boeing make money. The corporation pays workers (and even managers) with secure housing in lieu of high wages.

Lone Star Security

   Lone Star services the City of Seattle’s policing needs. After the city police went on strike (itself due to a lack of support in the midst of near-anarchy), they were all fired. Seattle hired Lone as the new City police force, with standard police powers across the entire Metroplex. The former police were forced to reapply as entry-level officers. Many joined or created private security companies instead.

   Lone Star, obviously, isn’t a normal company in any sense. It acts like a strange cross between a horde of rent-a-cops, real police, and a corporation. The company has a hard-boiled attitude and frequently abuses its police powers, since it gets judged by maintaining order and security in the chaotic Sixth World. Lone Star’s leadership has a chauvinistic position towards almost everything (about which more below).

   Lone Star’s biggest strength is clearly its legal powers. Assaulting a Lone Star officer is a serious crime, against which the corporation will retaliate with either brute force or brute legal force. And unlike other corporations, they can get away with driving military vehicles and deploying paramilitary resources in the open, even in major cities. It also has a seriously reliable source of income, since it signs long-term contracts.

   Lone Star has numerous weaknesses, however. It never has enough cash on hand, is spread out all over the place, and has a serious shortage of any magical assets. The best it can do is have the occasional Hellhound K-9 unit, and a few investigation and combat mages. Both types are in constant demand, and it’s hard to tell which they need more.

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