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Organized Crime and Midpoint Criminals
Creating a full thematic track for criminality

This was originally going to be a Town Hall prompt, but I think the boards are probably a better place to write at length and discuss.

It seemed to me as if there may have been a shift in emphasis 3-5 years ago from organized crime conflict being the major plot driver in the Mix to placing more weight on Topside v Mix gameplay and especially on the Hall. Throughout 2019 there gradually seemed to be fewer players available to fill out those roles, and it's felt a bit like the path to them is long and ambiguous enough that characters are often comparatively end-of-life once they do finally secure one of them. What positions do get filled often see quick burn outs and few ready replacements.

Although I thought the conflict itself around Valentines 2019 was a high point in many ways, even if it was a bit of a blood bath, one of the issues I found was only characters with those main coded roles really had any reason to be involved (despite it being thematic that many levels of criminals/associates would have a role) and anyone who got into it as an 'unofficial associate' basically got chewed up, and then there was few in-house people left to step up as the central people moved on.

To that end: Recognizing that there are so many high UE time-rich players to go around to the many relevant factions, I've been wondering lately if having some coded midpoint roles (post ganger, pre syndicate) that are themed to organized crime rather than security/police, might not allow for more of a thematic criminal track so characters are not getting too aimless on the way to the end game. A stepping stone so there is less reliance on ex-judges, ex-cops, ex-corporate security filling out notionally criminal roles, and an option for something other than to be a broke freelancer or cab driver for wannabe goons. No guarantee they move up only through time served, the same standards would apply as before, but more guidance in learning about those roles and being a resource to draw on for those factions in an organized way.

As an example: Characters working for an appropriate and associated front business tied to organized crime, who could operate as muscle or collections or racketeering for their bosses but aren't themselves 'in the family'. Get some support, some weekly income, more independent and more expectations on them than gangers, but not quite so much freedom or responsibility or resources as the end game roles.

+1

I think something like this would add so much to the game!

And just to head off the response I know is coming in advance: Yes, these roles have already existed in the past (and to a lesser extent in the present) and it wasn't a coded system. However I would argue it didn't work well and didn't lend itself to creating a conduit of criminal enterprise. Kind of the opposite, it often led to characters trying to move up being broke, dead, disillusioned or barred from participating. I think the current state of affairs indicates this is something that relies perhaps too heavily on having the right players at the right time otherwise the outcome is less than ideal.

In the end you don't need coded positions for Judges, gangers, CorpSec or anything else; everything is possible with the power of roleplay if you rely on the exceptional players who can carry a theme on their backs. However the reality is that coded roles in gangs, syndicates, the Hall, the corporations and everywhere else are all mechanisms that encourage a common and continual supply of characters moving into and through thematic touchstones which the game is better of having, and that teach players how to embody those roles and give incentives for them to pass that learning on to others in the same track.

They also do this systematically for every new generation of character, year after year, not relying on a single dedicated GM or player pouring their time briefly into things only to have it all evaporate once they're gone. It is the kind of support that allows players to be dedicated and feel their role is valued in pursuing it, and don't end up burned out from thematic contortions along their path.

I wholly agree. I've actually tried to get in with some of these entities in the past, and been turned away for what seems to be -not- knowing how to operate at the appropriate 'level' of play. Having some kind of mid game track to alleviate that would be fantastic for future players reaching that time in city.
In my experience, these criminal factions have a severe lack of direction, and usually anything you do chase of your own volition is often met with a lack of support or even disapproval since it's not seen as faction business. If something like this would also come with some goals to follow and things to do, as I would assume official front businesses would, it'd be a welcome change, as currently I believe this is a large part of the game that is in total limbo at the moment.
From what I've seen lately, there really is just a complete lack of direction concerning organized crime and mid-level criminals. The reality seems to be that a majority of players who are skilled in this arena are either burnt out, forced out, or otherwise segmented from these roles - which is OKAY but there is no one capable to step into these roles. So, the huge gaps lead to stagnation across the game.

In addition, the current meta places importance and comfort in topside jobs/roles which are largely inhabited by skilled PCs who are reactionary rather initiative taking - this has slowly reinforced a culture which is almost entirely reactionary. So, if no one is taking the initiative - nothing is happening.

The result makes for a very stagnant and slow game.

On Batko's point: This seems like good a thread as any to discuss the state of OC in general and ideas for improving it since that's really the objective here; the top idea is just a way to get there. So far as it's my prerogative to open the discussion, please feel free.
Syndicate players are usually told to "do their jobs" which is usually a very specific task but how they conduct their business and expand their syndicate's influence is up to them. Basically you're told, you have this budget, you have guns and armor, and you have a gilded business card: make it work. There's no incentive for me to go out and secure biz above and beyond because 1. there are not many mechanics to do so and 2. all syndicates have a "baseline" power. Especially with architect type of roles that require a very high level understanding of the game and theme, as Reefer said these are not your every day players.

Many times I wanted to hire goons to carry businesses for me but when there is no constant war and chain vatting between rivals, really are there that many businesses that PCs can run by themselves? I concur with the generalized lack of direction for these groups.

I'd like to bring up something that was mentioned at Town Hall and is fairly related to this topic, namely the consequences of the lack of guidance for syndicate play.

My interactions with these factions has ranged from 'okay this was neat RP' to 'wow that made me never want to play the game again' and I'd like to re-iterate something that was said in the Hall. That higher-end conflict often ends up feeling like a game of hot-tag, where people wait for the other person to mess up (read: leave their home). It just makes people not want to engage at all and it certainly had that effect on me. I have zero interest in spending hours watching cameras to try and catch someone. I could think of literally nothing more boring and it very much feels like a thinly veiled excuse to score some gear.

I feel like I've definitely seen players start conflict over the flimsiest of excuses because (I assume) they don't really know what else to do in these positions. These positions are hard to get and are typically players who know what they're doing, but resources and UE aside, they just feel like gang members without all the all the flair and RP. Starting shit or getting involved in shit with gangers is okay (usually) even when you lose. It's usually public, there's usually back and forth, easy to bring other gangs/people in, and so on. Getting involved with these other factions almost always just feels like a one way ticket to getting shroud-killed every time you show your face anywhere. Nobody wants that and no amount of 'losing is fun' changes that.

It's exciting to hear from the Town Hall that some things along the lines discussed here are already in the works (and already happening). I'm looking forward to seeing how that turns out, but as Slither mentioned, please continue to discuss further thoughts and ideas.

For one: This would be more grunt work for the mid-level people to handle rather than bringing out the guy with the 45 and the diamondweave tie, but daily/weekly collections might be a mechanical task for underlings, but rather than shaking down a shop owner for protection chyen, it's a paydirt pickup that gets delivered back wherever.

I'm not very experienced with this system, so this might not be totally appropriate but it seems like a type of work that is thematic and requires players to get out and engage.

I'm sorry to overpost, but -- on the same note:

I'm literally just cribbing ideas from The Sopranos and World of Warcraft but what if all the unaffiliated businesses in the sector could be subject to weekly paydirt pickups, but any of the factions can muscle out the rest to claim them or fight to take them back. They'd almost be like claiming resource nodes that would provide income to the faction itself, but only if they were on the street working week in and week out and running enemies off.

So if people want to lay down roots in their apartment, their opponents are going to start bringing in more chyen. And an organization with weaker muscle might still outwork one with a single elite hitter but hiring more goons and keeping the collections more regular.

Everyone is going to have an easier time with the biz in their proximity so maybe there is one in each respective quarter and then three further afield. Losing control of your local income would be a big reason to force people to get out and defend their territory.

My interactions with these factions has ranged from 'okay this was neat RP' to 'wow that made me never want to play the game again' and I'd like to re-iterate something that was said in the Hall. That higher-end conflict often ends up feeling like a game of hot-tag, where people wait for the other person to mess up (read: leave their home). It just makes people not want to engage at all and it certainly had that effect on me. I have zero interest in spending hours watching cameras to try and catch someone. I could think of literally nothing more boring and it very much feels like a thinly veiled excuse to score some gear.

Just chiming in to say that my experience has matched up exactly with Sly's, minus the "okay this was neat RP" part.

My feelings reflect that of Blackbird71 and Sly's to the point that it made me seriously consider taking a 'vacation' or leaving entirely. It has also driven me to not wish to participate in that sort of thing in the future until there is a change in the culture around it.

I know it is hardly constructive to say there is an issue and not offer a solution, I just wanted to openly put out there that my experiences were negative and I felt like I had pushed pretty far and pretty deep into what was open to offering in that area, either directly in indirectly.

I don't want to like, state the obvious here, but when you're dealing with shadowy organized crime syndicates you're either doing odd jobs for them (even if you're not aware of the fact) or you've gotten their attention (likely not a good thing for your character.)

I'm not saying the culture shouldn't, or couldn't change around syndicates, but they ARE one of the 'big bads' in the game. They're either using you, or you're getting the equivalent of a water cutter aimed in your direction. Maybe if you're *very* lucky, they take a positive interest in you, and you get some give and take in the relationship.

It should also be stated that the cultures between the different syndicates vary pretty wildly. Dealing with party A does not mean your experience will be similar with parties B or C.

To 0x1mm's last post; I think the idea of land/property/turf wars for syndicates could be interesting, but I feel like we would need a better system in place for marking out who owns what and how to 'take' things over than what we have now, which is basically ganger hour arguing about who owns what without any real impact.

@Talon

I don't disagree with you, they are the 'big bads' and particularly in cyberpunk, they should win most of the time. But winning doesn't mean chain-vatting your target with ruthless efficiency, lopping off all their limbs or taking all their things.

Take any decent story. Look at Breaking Bad. (small Breaking Bad spoilers ahead) Tuco is one of the big bads early on in the show. And yet, aside from having Jesse beat up that one time, he doesn't really touch them. Could Tuco not murder Jesse and literally force Walter to work for him against his will? It would be the easiest thing in the world. But he doesn't. Because Breaking Bad isn't a hyper realistic portrayal of gang/drug wars, and neither is Sindome. Both are stories told for entertainment and the story would be terrible (or rather, it wouldn't exist at all) if Tuco simply forced Walter to work for him, or, to be closer to our Sindome examples, simply killed Walt and Jesse both because they were competition. He could have, and probably should have, but he didn't. He was still feared, powerful, and the scenes were immensely tense anytime he was on the screen.

Which is why I brought up guidance for 'villainous' characters. As other people said, the way the player culture drives things simply makes for terrible stories and people not wanting to engage at all (worse, it makes people just not want to play, and we've all seen characters, even recently, driven to leave/die because people have no idea how to fight someone without typing 'kill joebaka') and causes things to be extremely stagnant or unfun until staff members move along plots. I truly believe Sindome would be completely dead if staff didn't run plots, or it would be a very, very small playerbase composed of the half dozen people who actually enjoy playing Sindome like it's a battle royale with a side of RP.

So I absolutely disagree with the popular cultural OOC notion in the game of 'kiss everyone until someone gets mad/stir shit up for no reason'. By all means, stir shit up, but do it for a damn reason, and do it to tell a story, not to win rep or money/gear. I had a character of mine end up in conflict with someone. I could've killed them, they were non-combat, and I had backup if I wanted. You know what I did? Nothing. I waited. And nearly a year later, I had another plot going on that required screwing someone over. So, two birds with one stone. I got my revenge on that person, by looping them into a charade which ended up in a pretty horrifying/theatrical way. The end result is that they still died, at the end. But all of it involved RP, before, during, even after, because I OOC felt bad even though IC my character couldn't care less. So I tried to stay in touch and figure out a way to keep RP going, and most importantly, I had told the story, my character had gotten their revenge, it was done. I moved on and had zero ill will towards that character. I could've kept the charade going, kill them more, figure out how to milk them for gear, whatever. But why?

All in all to say I don't see the drawback of having syndicate enforcer goals be clearer, and more detailed. Less 'kill this guy' and more 'threaten this biz into give you a cut of the profits' or 'ruin this person's rep'. You know that in years of playing, I can maybe count in one hand the times the syndicates are mentioned? This isn't because they're super secret and nobody knows about them, it's because endgame conflict is super meta-y and lacking in RP. It's never 'the Yakuza did so and so' and always 'x killed so and so'. There's no flair or storytelling. And I'm not saying there aren't syndicate characters that do a good job, just that the playerbase drives this meta culture and accepts it, and it's a spiral of 'these people are being awful so I have to be awful or I'll get vatted'. Kill on sight is the lamest shit ever, regardless of the circumstances.

I disagree with the idea that one of the issues with these groups is they're too aggressive, quite the opposite, I would argue the Mix has never been safer, to its detriment.

I do think better support for the street soldiers who are working as muscle could help encourage more activity by softening the losses when they come, but I'd call the current state of things a desert of conflict, not a flood.

There was a recent period in which was probably formative to the experience described in Sly's post, but I don't think that it reflects the current state of affairs as they stand at this time.
@batko, it was my experience across multiple characters when dealing with higher end crime factions. Again, not all of them, but enough that it left a sour taste of endgame conflict.

And because this stuff isn't happening every day doesn't mean it's not the current state of things. Other people are agreeing, so it's clearly not a personal experience or ebb and flow type thing. I've had multiple(!) people I've invited into the game tell me that they felt that the vast majority of the lower end folk are terrified to step on anyone's toes (read: do literally anything involving conflict) and I agree 100%.

I'll amend my statement: I don't think the issue is so much that interactions with these factions are deadly. They are dangerous factions. I don't see an issue with that, except when it's reduced to senselessly killing everyone for free gear. However, the nature of the job for these faction's combat characters is exactly that, and that's where the cold wars of everyone sitting inside and waiting for the other team to show their face comes.

That is to say, I don't think anyone has an issue with dangerous factions being dangerous. I don't think anyone thinks that syndicates, etc, should be less conflict-prone. But what I mostly see being complained about is that PVP is reduced to months-long cold wars that take a serious toll on Mixer gameplay, because it's often that the same characters that are involved in these drying-paint-spectation wars are the ones that actually provide life to Red in the first place.

Is there any solution to that? One solution floated was Breaking and Entering, but I think most people hate that idea. Instead of providing a way for people to force their way in, make it so there are incentives to be on the streets and out of your cube. Staff have said they are working on coded systems to help with this sort of thing, thankfully!

The point 0x1mm is making (I hope I get this right), which has seen some love, is that there's a huge gap between what one may consider to be a ganger-level criminal character and a syndicate-level criminal character. That gap means people burn out before they get there, or they just never make it because they never learn. I agree with that too, and I'm glad it's being worked on.

You've got it exactly right Batko, and your previous remarks in posts and Town Hall discussions very much informed my thinking on this topic.
@Sly

I'm not trying to ruffle feathers here (har, har, I know, terrible) but what you're describing is basically... just the facts of the matter when it comes to SD. When you're talking about combat, yeah, it's heavily tilted in favor of big UE man unga bunga all over little UE man. It should also be reinforced to people from time to time that this -is- a competitive, player versus player game. We don't kill goblins and level up or collect gold coins for the most part. We advance our characters with a mix of scumbaggery, plotting, planning and preparation.

I say this- fully in support of slice of life players. Fully in support of non-combat characters. You do NOT need to scroll red text to win at SD, contrary to popular belief. But you DO need to be a bastard IC at some point in your life, to some other player. Otherwise, you're playing the game setting yourself up to fail; to be a statistic, or one of the player characters who have, in the past, gotten steamrolled and proceeded to quit the game. I think it's a healthy mindset (and good for theme, overall) for players to be wondering when the next time a shadowy alley figure runs into them, or when they get snuffed in the comforts of their own home. How will you react to attack? What is your post-death recovery plan? It keeps you (the player) sharp, and gets you into the mindset of your character, in a world where life is practically worthless unless you're someone with deep pockets and deeper connections.

I encourage current combat god players to give players outs to neck snap situations. I tried very hard to do this as much as possible in my time, and I'm going to be honest here: very, very few people could maintain a level head and focus on playing the game. There were dozens- literally dozens- of instances where I'd kidnapped someone, hauled them out of earshot and signal and in very plain terms, explained that they were going to meet simple demands, or meet their maker. Demands like: A doorcode. Pushing someone to do a job against their will. Betraying a friend to save their own skin. This sort of thing. My experiences are that between 10-20% of the playerbase at the time (a few years ago now) would engage. We would RP, cut a deal, they'd get choked out and have their pockets cleaned, and wake up.. not in genetek. Bruised physically, bruised ego, bruised pockets- but not dead. Live to fight another day. The other 80-90% of the time it was a mix of players no-selling, players not willing to RP their character being in a bad situation, players shutting down because of nerves or having to walk away, or whatever else the reason was. The majority of those characters woke up in genetek to be contacted at a later date, when they weren't going to be suffering from bleed.

Why necksnap them when they don't want to play along, you ask? Simply put, because IC actions have IC consequences, and if there isn't some level of badboy asshole running around, the game gets real boring, real fast. Did I personally necksnap people too often in the past as a member of Organized Crime? Yes, I believe so, in hindsight. Some things could have been handled with debt, leverage, duress and whatnot. These are learning experiences, there isn't a master guide on how to organized crime for dummies. However, I did not go around necksnapping people to line my pockets. Or because of boredom, or just for the sake of it. Staff does not tolerate that behavior, and trust me, they do closely monitor it. When I killed someone intentionally, there was always a reason. (Even if that reason was occasionally mistaken identity or bad data- whoops! Shit happens!)

The other thing I've mentioned before, which I'll bring up again, since it's very relevant to this topic. Kidnapping people, doing extended RP scenes with them, 'teaching them a lesson' and then allowing them to walk away alive- all things asked for in this thread? Those are truly, very challenging and difficult things to successfully pull off. And when you're a big fish and you get caught out, you're not losing a few weeks of effort when you vat out. You could be set back by months, or worse. Because your rivals in other cells are actively searching for you, begging you to make mistakes where you can be caught out and easily killed. And this is the exact kind of thing you look for to capitalize on. It quite literally, takes all of two seconds of SIC coverage for someone to scream bloody murder on public SIC while you're dragging them off to do a scene. You say: "But of course! My character fears for their life! They want to be rescued! It's their survival instinct!" From the other end of the engagement, I can tell you, what you're actually doing is ensuring that you're likely going to die. Sometimes when the maxim of "Play to lose." is passed around, it's this kind of thing that's being referenced. Take risks. Do dumb things. Play into your situation, even if it's a shit hand for your character. Most of the time, the results might be the same, but you MIGHT just be surprised how hard bloodthirsty megachad PVP gods are looking for this stuff to capitalize on.

This isn't an easy topic to talk about. People really get in their feelings with their characters (I know all too well) and want to vent IC, vent in OOC, vent here on the boards. There isn't a simple, easy answer to this perp/victim relationship. Now, I will say: My experiences in doing these things are behind the times. Staff has been amazing and introduced lots of new toys specifically to help facilitate things like kidnapping. Things are changing in regards to these things being discussed. It's going to be up to the playerbase to leverage the tools we've been given. There being less of a cliff wall to face for people who would like to pursue organized crime, and an expansion of systems to expand and allow for more formalized stooge gameplay systems would be a great addition to the game. But also keep in mind, of all the OC people out there active whenever you're playing, they're a very select few number of characters among hundreds of active PC's. They, like other roles of 'true power' in the game, have to live under a GM microscope. They have to explain their actions when it's not clear what they're doing, and ultimately, have to deal with the consequences of their own actions, too. Just some food for thought.

Don't mistake this for another thread about no-RP necksnaps or the infamous shrouded katana slasher, I don't think that's the point, though anyone can correct me if they feel otherwise. The critique is that the very nature of end game PVP has met a state of unsustainably slow pacing as a culture issue. Rather, it's not the killing that's the issue, but the fact that there can be months of time between any actual fights, and it's over in seconds, and during those months between it's just a constant OOCly harrowing experience of camping, waiting, staring at cameras, staying up for hours past what's healthy, just to get a sliver of a chance to do what is needed for you to do in organized crime.
And to elaborate, that trickles down to the rest of the Mix as a result. Random players will be killed for very thin connections to other players because that is the best either side can get. Nothing gets done, and it ends up killing events, killing bars and clubs, and causing the Mix to be comparatively quiet. The reason why I have proposed more direction, and more goals for syndicates is because if they have things to do other than murder eachother, that may indeed make murdering eachother easier, and then as a result, these powerhouses don't have to duke it out by bitchslapping immy bartenders or strippers.
Oh, I'm aware Batko.

I think things are changing for the better. The massive changes to sec systems was a major step in the right direction. I've always felt that cameras kill more RP than they facilitate. I'm a pretty harsh critic. I'd rather pay people to narc in clubs than pay for someone to rig up a camera. The camera generates no RP after installation, whereas that money could be going to PC's for intel.

Prices on gear have been dramatically slashed across the boards. It's never been cheaper to do so-called 'high end' PVP.

There's more combat chrome than ever before. And it's cheaper, too.

Truthfully speaking, I don't believe this to be a code problem. Or even a culture problem. It's a player problem. I mentioned this in the townhall. There's too many people sitting on their hands doing jobs that by all rights, should be 'use it or lose it' in nature. You need a balance of players who drive conflicts, and players who react to conflicts. Right now the balance is extremely skewed in the passive player's favor.

I totally agree that syndicate play could, and probably should be more goal-oriented, but the overall issue of 'it being months between action' isn't solely on the shoulders of syndicate players. Simply put, we need ASSHOLE CHARACTERS both in the mix AND topside, and staff to make it rain candy and chyen on said assholes who want to stir the shit.

Unfortunately, there's a bit of a cultural and access issue that's gatekeeping people, I think. The changes to job cadence have, in my mind, hit people's ability to be upstart chimpras pretty hard. Yes, we can RP and get promotions faster, but some shit simply takes ranks to get done. Leading troops, speaking from (actual) authority from within an organization, embezzlement, spending from expense accounts, etc. It's my perception there's been a bit of a crackdown on reimbursements since I last had a go-around with expensing things regularly (it's been a few years.)

I also think there's an overall inflation issue, and that the money isn't very well distributed amongst the playerbase. Years ago, I can't even have fathomed a player going to a terminal and literally dropping 6-700K on a CAR. You wanted a badass ride? You plotted for that shit, because the list of people who had that kind of money sitting around was real, real slim- and most of the old exploits people did to make those numbers are loooong gone. Now people are flying around 400K AV's and driving 650K cars as their daily driver rides. That is money that could run a truly, absolutely STAGGERING number of plots. I like people having expensive shit that can, and should be stolen, and should be used to flex. But I also feel that at some point of savings buffer, you should be dumping 100% of your income into paying it forwards, putting people's asses to work, and getting shit your character wants done, done. This isn't a code problem, this is on the players.

Maybe I'm too critical of tangible success in the game, or that I'm a 'mix player' at heart. But I do literally get heartbroken seeing enormous sums of money used for housewife RP. Some in moderation? Sure, all for it. Seeing green sector that's supposed to be the home of Johnsons, rocking more bling than blue? BIG OOF. Just my 2 chyen.

It's not a code problem, as in there is nothing coded causing people to do this other than an availability of equipment that makes it a viable strategy. Nobody said it was-- but just because it's not a code problem, doesn't mean code can't fix it, or at least alleviate it.

Rather than using the stick and nerfing one system or the other, the path most likely to help is to implement a system that encourages people to go outside. Forces them, even, if they have a job that requires it. And I think that's what is going on-- but only time will tell. I'm excited to hear more from Staff because they've communicated during Town Hall that they're cooking something up for syndicates code-wise.

These are learning experiences, there isn't a master guide on how to organized crime for dummies.

I think this was kind of the point of the OP:

To that end: Recognizing that there are so many high UE time-rich players to go around to the many relevant factions, I've been wondering lately if having some coded midpoint roles (post ganger, pre syndicate) that are themed to organized crime rather than security/police, might not allow for more of a thematic criminal track so characters are not getting too aimless on the way to the end game. A stepping stone so there is less reliance on ex-judges, ex-cops, ex-corporate security filling out notionally criminal roles, and an option for something other than to be a broke freelancer or cab driver for wannabe goons. No guarantee they move up only through time served, the same standards would apply as before, but more guidance in learning about those roles and being a resource to draw on for those factions in an organized way.

To Blackbird and 0x1mm's point, coded midpoint roles (post danger, pre-syndicate) don't exist. In my mind, this has always really been the design. The midpoint Sindome is the churn. You've made it past the hand-holding, don't drink puddles, and why are you hurling yourself at NPC's repeatedly starting point, however, you aren't ready to run the pack.

This is the time when Architects, Fixers, and Muscle should be tapping you as a resource to see if you're helpful. This is also the time where A LOT of players crumple. A good architect, fixer, or muscle will also be schooling you during this time, but the expectation is you'll also learn from your mistakes.

Most players end up caught between two factions and inevitably perm out, though. The thing I see neglected by so many players is if you offend one strong faction - you must befriend another...and if you piss them all off, you need to find one of the MANY hidden factions to take you in.

The question I'd like to pose is, is this a bad thing? Seriously. Do we want a dome full of poorly trained Max UE PCs leading to more overpowered conga-lined of neck snaps vs RP? For a very long time, the common belief was yes, and it would even itself out.

These days, I'm not so sure.

I think low-ue conflict is my favorite in the game, personally, and probably informs the most learning upon PC's. Lately, I've seen many more low-end PCs take chances which is a good first step. Taking those chances means your next sleeve or next PC will be that much better, and so will you as a player.

So where's the rub?

Real talk time. This problem has existed in one way or another since the syndicates existed. We had some great players set precedents and inform the culture which exists today but its constantly evolving. And most of all, I'd like everyone to hear this loud and clear.

STAFF AND CODE WILL NOT FIX THIS.

Syndicate members putting in the time to RP together and work on the culture ICly and OOCly will.

As many past and present syndicate members have indicated, there is no one way to handle Organized Crime and Midpoint Criminals, but it starts with fostering a story together as a community. You can't do that behind locked doors. Call a meet with your enemies and start figuring it out IC.

I don't personally think any amount of passive encouragement will make players engage in disadvantageous gameplay as a rule even if it's more fun to do so. It's been shown that players will optimize the fun out of a game in favor of what is mechanically advantageous if given the option.

I think there is strong evidence in the game to show that players will preference engaging in the parts of it with better coded support (archetypes with coded mechanics and coded jobs with perks and salaries) and a small amount of mechanical encouragement can go a long way itself in shaping the player culture it impacts.

Thanks, 0x1mm. That sentiment and corroborated study speak for themselves. With that in mind, what coded jobs and mechanics do you all think syndicates should be demonstrating their purview over? Some of the answers are obvious, but I'd love to continue to engage in this exercise as I think it is insightful for players and staff alike to review.
With the caveat that I know staff time, and especially development time, is at a premium:

I think there may be some opportunity at looking at spreading out many of the mechanics and developments that have gone into topside in the last few years, but have not necessarily filtered down. Gameplay systems with major criminal potential like freight and title transfers and firearms controls could be expanded in use and access, paydirt mechanics could be borrowed, and corporations could be used a guidelines for creating more cohesive factions with more opportunities for players of different archetypes to participate.

As one perhaps controversial option: I think these groups could expand their mechanical purview to topside. Organized criminal corruption and infiltration and shakedowns have been a plot theme topside but less so the gameplay reality in recent years, and I think there is opportunity to look at protection rackets similar to gangs but that apply to large sub-megacorp organizations like CHEX or WAI or the NT spaceport, and could be an opportunity to bring the substantial population of CorpSec and WJF into roleplayed (rather than combat) conflicts with organized peer adversaries.

As a more conservative and traditional option: Each sub-syndicate faction controlling their own quarters and engaging in smuggling, protection, grand theft, and hijacking would all be activities that have some already present mechanics. They could have their own biz and interests but also be called up as necessary by the parent groups for enforcement. Control of gambling is another themely potential but I know from the many, many times players have tried to get casino-type operations off the ground there is probably some additional development support needed that might make this impractical. An adaptation of the CorpShare system to track criminal influence might also have some potential as well, but again, dev time.

In less general terms: Options for the actual practice, mechanical daily activities that don't require a ton of new dev time are admittedly tricky. There are a few already present mechanics that I think have a lot of potential if integrated into criminal processes in a more formal, objective-driven way: Freight, hijacking, vehicle title transfers/sales, weapon permitting/sales, fighting over paydirt macguffins, and some version of the lease/corpshare performance tracking system for passive faction incomes.

In terms of each of those, in specific:

I know high-risk freight was in the cards for a while, not sure that is going to stay as-in now, but smuggling has always suffered a little from not having much purpose or profit, and the concept could be married to freight mechanics in a fun way.

Vehicle thefts have always been a bit imbalanced, either too hard or too easy, with all or nothing payoffs, so a possible implementation could be something like a system where a chopshop which lets faction players or their hirelings bring in boosted vehicles for 'sale', with the 'profits' going to their faction overall, and which might also in addition provide a period for the owner to reclaim it for some partial cost. That way there could be a benefit to characters doing hotwiring that isn't a one-sided huge loss/oversized payout binary.

Hijacking has a ton of thematic potential but I'm not sure if the mechanics of it are finished, and if they are, it's questionable as a mid-level criminal task since anyone that has the resources to hijack player freight operations almost certainly also has the resources to just run their own. Expanding the ground-level player freight jobs with NPC couriers that provide any-time-of-day low-level targets to knock over could be a really interesting option that would also train players to go for the big player fish eventually.

Weapon access is already an organized crime mechanic, and it's... okay. I'm on the record for years as not loving it, it feels a bit binary that either you've got the resources to get whatever you want or you don't. I think having organized crime take over distribution and purview of cheap street-grade firearms sales could be a thing, though I also think topside biz should expand to include all of the higher calibre offerings to offset the loss in purview. Fake permits and cloned serials for getting weapons through gates, checkpoints and other filters should also be a purview of criminal groups, though this would be a syndicate mechanic I'd say, not their sub-groups.

I haven't used the paydirt system since it went online so I have no clue what state it is in, but I can imagine this as a 'drop' mechanic where players need to pick something up and bring it somewhere, maybe having to wait out in the open for a courier or whatever else. Not necessarily for a pay-off, but it could be a way of raising faction standing and income. Which, on that note...

My understanding is that corpshare and leases both have automated systems that at least notionally track appropriate player activity, and an adaptation of this system that tracks faction standing and adjusts weekly incomes might be one possibility. This does have the danger of being a win-more mechanic, so it could just track standing rep and then it could be up to the staff to reward/punish players as appropriate for their standings, or the bonuses/penalities could be merely an adjustment of a basic liveable income, or perks when their faction is really bringing in the thematic millions.

Win-more mechanics are, unfortunately, already a pretty big part of syndicate play.

When a fixer has more stock and liquid capital, they can afford to sell at a loss or undercut the competition in anti-competitive ways. This can be hard to turn around, as there's only so many of any given X free and available on the market.

When an architect has hit 'critical mass' of fostering a community of informants, placed assets, people in key roles, etc. then you run into an issue of that network becoming a self-propagating thing as instead of one or two people working this angle of 'expansion of manpower, eyes, ears, hands' you have half a dozen, a dozen, more. The very social and cliqueish nature of these sorts of games also heavily play into this snowballing effect.

Enforcers play a key role in fixing the issues of the above two things getting out of hand. But how? Squeezing lowbie and middleman until they pop and either defect or step away from the competition. This is a very deliberate move. When your rival's fixer decides to start spreading the love and gearing up some key allies, in comes the enforcer to 'liberate' these goods for their own faction. And when a rival faction isn't operating at full capacity, the enforcer is able to potentially get some W's across the table on the rivals in a more direct manner.

Caveat to all this being- even though you're an enforcer and playing the 'syndicate game' and you're playing with other cells directly, what winds up happening are the things that really piss people off, which have been described here and other places in detail. One of the biggest issues is that some % of the playerbase doesn't even realize that they're getting played as pawns or assets on this game board, so when they start getting outside pressure and slapped around a bit, they tend to cry out the loudest. Why am I suddenly having a hard time? Why is someone pissing in my cornflakes? What do these spooky messages about staying away from person X mean? They're my friend, man!?!

One of my take away items from Syndicate play, and one that I'd like to see changed, is that right now, syndicates are basically 'choose a color flag.' There are very minor cultural differences between the active cells, sure. Mechanically they're more or less identical. One cell doesn't codedly have this advantage in X,Y, or Z arena. So besides the charismatic powers and potential to hand out lollipops to people from the cell members themselves, the cells, in my mind, are more or less the same. How would I do this differently? I'm going to make up some silly nonsense below to demonstrate:

You can skip all below if you're not all that interested in 'syndicate culture & biz'

Goofy examples of how we could push theme and custom for cells with a bit of a mechanical tweaking, using existing systems. Make them stand very distinct from one another, make people chase benefits of a cell, and not just signing on for whoever's winning the hardest on any given quarter.

Chinatown: Ahh, hookers & automatics, reminds me of Saigon. 20% lower import costs on automatics, knives, makeup and sex & fashion chrome. 2 hardcoded 'mistress of the night' jobs in their quarter paying $$ and 1 madam of the house job for $$$. These chums specialize in making problems go away in a barbaric, messy and loud manner.

Kyoto: Honorduels and backalley murders: It's all about swords, pachinko and pushing that smack to little billy. 20% lower cost on all long blades, silks and cottons and speed junkie chrome. 2 hardcoded dispensary jobs in their quarter for pushing mid-grade, but always available spread of 2-3 chems. One pusher, one muscle, one manager. $, $$, $$$ in that order. They're very adept at both working and ghosting people without anyone but the target knowing of it. Breaking and entering, dipping, robbery, intel network warfare? They're your go-to.

Gulag: Hard-drinking hardasses with a penchant for ranged warfare and shady clinics. 20% lower cost on all rifles, ripper gear & medical gear. 1 hardcoded unlicensed 'surgeon' job for $$$, 1 'chrome broker' doing $$ weekly, and 1 clinic pusher pumping pain pills for $. These are the chums you go to when you want someone to wake up in a tub of ice or dumped outside a clinic on gold covered in incisions.

San Mayo: They're all about hotrods and handguns: 20% discount on handguns, lead pipes, car & AV parts. 1 Chopshop job, one 'shipping and logistics expert' job, one job spreading their spread of chemical filth to the streets. Their specialty? Non-lethals. Kidnapping, ransom, extortion, GTA, to name a few. But also capable, unbiased moderators and arbitrators- should they be well compensated for their time.

Them avoiding ignorant racist stereotypes is a positive.
Yeah regardless of everything else, I am REALLY opposed to implementing mechanical racial stereotypes
IMO the syndicates being nationally based makes no sense to me. It's supposedly a world where geopolitics have been taken aside in favour of corporate hegemony, just give them their own themes and identities unrelated to such things. It never really comes up as important anyway.
I think if I were to amend Talon's post, I'd say that San Mayo should focus on dealing smack, Little Kyoto should focus on gambling rings and debt collections, and the Gulag should probably be toned down-- having an in-house cyberware surgeon and connect is insanely powerful. Gun running or something would be more fitting.
@TalonCzar made great suggestions about differentiating the syndicates from each other.

My only concern / suggestion is to carefully consider any benefits from discounting specific weapon classes or chrome. Real or not, there is a perceived meta around the 'best' combat build(s). Given that, the last thing the game needs is a faction with discounts or improved access to key elements of those preferred builds.

I'll also point out that chrome cannot be imported by syndicates, so discounts for such would be moot.
@0x1mm, @Bogrin, were your replies directed at me, or directed at the game setting and lore?

@batko, @wonderland, @Hek I didn't mean that this blurb of examples to be taken seriously, literally about five seconds of thought went into how to balance one perk out from another. My point overall was to bring out the culture of the various syndicates that's already there and make it a bit more pronounced for players to latch onto and run with.

Ultimately, Hek, I'm of the opinion that there isn't a 'meta build' that 'wins harder' and that this is a multiplayer game, and that allies and bodies matter more than how one person spent 200 UE into XYZ thing. My point was that currently, we have syndicates that have been stamped out with the exact same cookie-cutter mold. People tend to gravitate to whatever side is winning harder or whatever side is more popular (you'll find that they often go hand-in-hand.) To curtail that behavior, a set of incentives for people to chase that give them a distinct mechanical advantage for choosing one house versus another ultimately isn't a bad thing, in my mind.

If my clan gives me benefits to having and using swords, and my fellow people chasing the jobs also are fans of swording, and we have a bond of blood sealed by swords, then the only logical conclusion is for all of us sword clan people to make a bosuzoku sword biker gang and sword fools. "My sword is the sword that will pierce the heavens!!!" That's way more themely, way more cryo, way more actually interesting than "Man. This house has too many people and the payouts are shit, but at least we win every single fight and we all get to pick over leftovers with no risks to us individually."

I hope I'm getting across the point I was trying to make. That's all.

To clarify Talon, you wrote:

"Ahh, hookers & automatics, reminds me of Saigon. 20% lower import costs on automatics, knives, makeup and sex & fashion chrome. 2 hardcoded 'mistress of the night' jobs in their quarter paying $$ and 1 madam of the house job for $$$. These chums specialize in making problems go away in a barbaric, messy and loud manner."

And I'm saying I realize sometimes IC lingo bleeds into OOC discussions, and the game world design is very American-centric, but I don't think we need to lean on dated stereotypes of the Orient and of American sex tourism to bolster faction design.

Re: XOOC: No, I'm not calling you a racist Talon: I'm saying stereotypes of barbarism and an inherent sexualized femininity an IRL phenomenon of Orientalism, but they're not actually authentic expressions of the social reality, but rather the stereotyped reality propagated by Western popular culture. Discussing them in that way IC and OOC are different contexts and call for different language.

If anyone is interested:

TV Tropes: Asian Hooker Stereotype

CNN: Fetishized, sexualized and marginalized, Asian women are uniquely vulnerable to violence

EXOTIC FEMININITY: PROSTITUTION REVIEWS AND THE SEXUAL STEREOTYPING OF ASIAN WOMEN

Here's how pop culture has perpetuated harmful stereotypes of Asian women

I think it's fair for players to use guarded language when discussing racial stereotypes as gameplay, so we're not actually perpetuating them against players.

There's a shitload of IC info being revealed here.
I am with @beandip on this one.

There is a whole bunch of IC information in this thread that I didn't discover until playing for over a year.

I suggest deleting it.

I've been pretty careful to stick to material with OOC documentation or reference or that is documented somewhere on the site, but if you think any particular post has issues of revealing something you can bring those specific things up with the staff.
I just want active mentors available to teach for the kind of biz mid-high level organized crime entails in game. There are things specific to Sindome that I don't even know I don't know. Without some kind of guide in this field (or any other for that matter), the potential for fostering fabulous rp is diminished, if not impossible for some, in the context of this conversation.

I understand that players burn out, perm out, get pushed out. I've seen it happen multiple times since I made my first long lived character. Lack of mentor-ship in all sorts of things (and not for a lack of looking), often prove unfruitful. Think I spent roughly a year and a half just trying to find a mentor for my character's primary skillset before I realized I was building it incorrectly to be effective.

More so than statting mentor-ship though, strategizing with the resources you have is key. The thing is, again, without a teacher to guide you in effectively using those resources within the limits and boundaries of the game (which also requires mentor-ship a lot of the time), some of them might as well be bricks for all the good they do an untrained player.

Even things as simple as finding hustles outside of the (my opinion) -very- few visible (and almost purely mechanically driven) cash cows monopolized by a handful of specifically skilled characters.

All of these things should be happening as PCs move from newbie to midbie, and before reaching 'old-head' status. Two to three years+, I guess.

I don't -think- it's an experience unique to me, based on some of the posts above, but I've looked and looked and looked for -years- on my current character to solve issues that I consider shared ignorance between my OOC self and my IC persona. More often than not, it's been met with agreeable reception from seasoned characters that then didn't follow through, agreement to teach followed by a swift decent into forever deadness, or, ironically, a lack of player knowledge on my part that led to compromising rp in which potential mentors decided to cease biz altogether (thematic but ultimately disappointing irl).

I think I'm -finally- starting to get just a shred of information pertaining to high end play in the last few months, and that only due to years of rping until people, just through the course of their own rp, happened to be in the right places for me to scrape the surface off for myself.

Truth be told, I have no idea how to solve the issue. Staff don't have time to puppet mentors, except in highly mechanically demanding trades, in my experience. And we covered the points on PC mentors. I don't know that mechanical systems would help, to be honest, because they don't teach you to 'think' within the limits of the game. Or to push those limits as far as they'll go before you hit code wall.

It's 430 am and I can't sleep. I may have just written an exhausting book for you to read. Sorry.