So, there has been a feverish level of discussion as of late by the community surrounding syndicates. Generally, most of the suggestions have been to keep, or slightly augment, the current system. This post will outline a complete revamp of the system and status quo within the city, to be closer to media depictions such as Goodfellas, Sleeping Dogs, and Yakuza.
THE NEW STRUCTURE
I propose completely revamping syndicates to no longer be super-small (in terms of playercount) groups hiding in the shadows, but rather the larger structures of organized crime within the city. Have them supplant some of the street gangs. I think that some non-syndicate gangs should still exist and have turf, but it should not longer be just the street gangs with visibility.
I think an implementation of a system analogous to real life organized crime should take place, with larger organizations consisting of smaller groups within. Take the critically acclaimed game Sleeping Dogs for instance. The main character joins the Triad organization Sun On Yee, which is itself just one of many Triads within Hong Kong. Within the Sun On Yee though, there are levels of hierarchy. At the top is the Dragonhead, who controls all, and (in addition to advisors and direct subordinates) he has his Red Poles. These are essentially the next level down of gang leaders. They have their own families and subordinates, with their own hierarchy. The Red Poles also compete with one another for territory and power. A similar system to this exists in media depicting countless other organized crime groups.
The way this would look in Sindome is have the lower level families and groups within Syndicates become more visible, and sort of take on the role that current street gangs hold. The upper echelons of the syndicates would still remain shadowy string-pullers and likely keep a hands-off approach for most low-level things (for instance, in Sleeping Dogs the Dragonhead's identity is a big secret). The names and identities of these smaller groups and families would likely depend on the specific syndicate.
WHY GO TO ALL THIS EFFORT?
Right now there seems to be much debate about the direction, role, and incentives for syndicate players. With this revamp, not only will things feel more authentic for the average player, the current type of syndicate player would have so many more hooks. Being towards the top of an actual organization comprised of players gives much more tangible power, as well as more things to care about and work towards. It also gives more incentive for things to not turn into "rocket tag," as all out warfare would genuinely result in large bloodbaths; it would be more analogous to real life in the way that these big organizations fear starting a war because of the cost on their goons.
As it stands the syndicates RP doesn't have to become any less shadowy. In the Yakuza games for instance, everyone may know about the Tojo, but they don't know who really runs things, they just see the street goons who are part of families of just a few guys. It will allow for MUCH more intricate web-weaving, as the ones at the top have to steer these large organizations in the right direction, while achieving their own personal goals. I think it will also allow for more easily accessible and RP-understandable mentoring, as there are more direct routes for low level characters to interact with high level.
I am also in favor of instilling more cultural identity into the syndicates with this change. Have staff and current syndicates research into the real traditions and behavior of the Triads, Yakuza, Bratva, etc, and bring that flavor into the game. Give a real identity even down to the average goons who are involved, and it will help those at the top feel more of an identity.
It will also give more reason for why some syndicates would be "untouchable" in a way by the law, because they could have a very real affect on lowering visible crime and violence, since they are steering a large amount of players. Maybe a lot of internal infighting between families in the Yakuza would attract the attention of the Judges, leading to them leaning on the head of the entire organization.
THE SHORT AND SWEET
Having levels of crime and secrecy is fun and cool. Working your way up into the world of crime is the subject of countless depictions in fiction. I think this new system could allow for a tangible feeling to that, moreso that the current ganger and syndicate system gives. I also think it will give those who have reached the top more tangible feelings of power, and more weight to their position. Not only that, it will give people who want more variety of RP a better chance at finding it. Keeping the street gang type RP, but also allowing the low-level Yakuza goon type RP, hands stuffed into the pocket of a cheap suit, arrogantly flashing the family badge. If people want a change, lets give them a big one.