Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Factions in the Survival Paradigm

NEW YORK, 2PM EST (BREAKING) Renegade pilots allegedly stand down during dual Category-4 events GIGANT SURGE and HAMMER EMERGENT as kaiju attempt to breach prototype General Engineering Materials (GEM -1750) bunkers. GEM spokespeople are reportedly requesting TacNet (QZXX -132) provide identifying information for all pilots refusing to engage, citing "attempted stock manipulation" on the eve of the official rollout of GEM's new CONDOR armored real estate project - of which the San Diego and Houston bunkers were the flagship models.
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In any city under the Survival Paradigm, there are always two simultaneous crises. One is the obvious - kaiju. Each worse than the last, always barely outscraping your response capacity in some novel and horrible way. The toll is always manageable (for those in power) and devastating (for you).

The other crisis is the ever-hungry jaws of disaster capital, which in this world of perpetual disaster has become the primary financial engine of the planet. Investors always have a scheme, and they aren't just looking to make pennies on the dollar here - they're playing for all the marbles. If they're a big player, they want to kneecap another big player and become even bigger. If they're small-time, they want this plan to break them into the big time. And they're willing to break anything in their way - the planet; the city; your friends; you.

GMs should have two simultaneous and intertwined plots going on. One involves the kaiju and their escalating threat; perhaps a new development to protect the city, or a way to make the kaiju think twice about next time. The other involves the hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and megacorporate interests playing with the city like a connect-four board.
This isn't a game about shadowy conspiracies like SEELE or the Illuminati controlling the world from behind the scenes. While the specific details of any corporate plan will be obscure, financially obtuse, and most certainly difficult to stop, the powers that be rely on sheer scale to protect themselves - not secrecy. The people destroying the world have names, addresses, Twitter accounts, and public IPOs. And they all hate each other, but not enough to stop punching the little guys (you) in the process.
All the information about their schemes is public, especially if you know where to look. Journalists have made careers investigating these stories, then lost their careers and lives breaking these stories. Or, more often, they've kept their careers, and no one's cared. Nestle keeps on using child slaves, Coca-Cola keeps on hiring death squads to murder dissidents, everyone and their mother has a tax shelter on a private island, and you add a few more atrocities to what you know about the world. There's no New World Order. There's the same awful world order as always, just spinning closer to destruction than ever before, while a handful of fuckers loudly flaunt how rich they've gotten by destroying it.
by Eddie Mendoza

HOUSTON, 2:30PM CST GIGANT SURGE event resolved (estimated casualties 9000).

SAN DIEGO,  3:45PM PST HAMMER EMERGENT event resolved (estimated casualties 15000).

NEW YORK, 6:45PM EST (UPDATE) Both prototype luxury CONDOR bunkers have been destroyed, after which point pilots on the ground handily dispatched both kaiju with minimal casualties. Collaboration between pilots has been alleged by both GEM and TacNet, the latter of whom has released all personal information on pilots connected to their command network during the engagements to the SEC under the "GameStop Law" of 2021 that allows retaliatory action by endangered corporations on charges of suspected collective stock manipulation. Commensurate federal investigations have been opened... (DEVELOPING)
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The Survival Paradigm is an international treaty, signed in 202X as a response to the rapidly escalating threat of kaiju attacks. It formally acts as a statement of intent to maintain the existence of humanity as a species and organized global civilization, declaring a global state of emergency and ceasefire on all human wars until the cessation of the Kaiju Crisis. To this end, it establishes a variety of international councils to manage resources and ensure cooperation of various nation-state and corporate actors.
Paradigm Coordination Council
Coordination is the main body of the Survival Paradigm, as a 15-member security council of major stakeholders in global defense. Five seats are permanently held by nation-states, representing almost 4 billion people worldwide - the United States of America, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of India, the Federative Republic of Brazil, and a composite delegation representing the European Union as a single actor. Five more are permanently reserved for leading corporations in the mechtech sector; while these initially were rotating seats, they have stabilized within the past decade to be held by the GATES: General Engineering Materials, Aerospace Northern, TacNet, Eka, and Stormwatch. The final five seats are yearly rotating seats held by either nation-states or corporations, recently trending towards a 2/3 split.
The Coordination Council chooses priorities for research and tactical response, declares regional and continental states of heightened emergency for high-category kaiju, and intercedes in humanitarian crises to resolve them to the benefit of the Paradigm. Deployment of paranuclear weapons must be authorized by the PCC, due to their vast collateral damage costs and unknown effects on the environment, collective subconscious, and/or fabric of reality.
Warmer World, Colder War (email newsletter, 202X)
...rumors persist that the Russian Federation was cut out of the PCC's permanent seats by the demand of the United States, who refused to sign onto the Paradigm unless they crippled the political power of their longtime rival...

Minimum Viable Path to GATEhood? (excerpt from Financial Times article, 203X)
...corporations constantly vie for the prestige and power of becoming the "Sixth GATE", and startup pitches often include their path to GATEhood through gaining a seat on the PCC...

Paradigm Development Council 
Development is the research and finance arm of the Paradigm. Nation-state signatories pay tithes into a collective Paradigm defense fund, which is then distributed by grants to a variety of research conglomerates and promising mechtech corporations. After the dissolution or repurposing of global militaries, the PDC gained access to the military budgets of its signatory nations - and through the PDC, so did big business.
The PDC is the primary source of income for the GATES and the rest of the mechtech sector. While all have diversified into some combination of national and municipal defense contracts, consumer products, corporate partnerships, and land rents, PDC funds are the kingmakers of the corporate world. As such, council membership is fully infested with lobbyists performing regulatory capture on the largest scale. Boondoggles and moonshots can be fully funded in a matter of days, if you just know the right people and convince the giant pots of money that your project will be the one that can raise their bottom line.
Decades After Dissolution, NATO Remains Global Powerhouse (excerpt from Huffington Post article, 203X)
...despite this, it does not go unnoticed that 4 of the 5 GATES are North American, and the 5th (GEM) is based in the EU. This gives the former NATO countries outsize power in the Paradigm, and the accompanying preferential response capabilities and resource distribution. The interests of NATO remain the interests of global capital...
Public-Private Partnerships: Public Protection or Protection Rackets? (excerpt from political science undergraduate thesis paper, class of 202X)
...the United States, Canada, UK, and Australia all operate under the TacNet model of distributed kaiju defense. This model - full privatization - is incredibly rare in the rest of the world. China and Russia (among others) relegate kaiju defense to their national militaries, deploying within conventional command hierarchies and providing salaries and benefits to their pilots. The European Union, India, and Brazil follow a combined-arms approach, with militaries hiring private mech contractors to execute anti-kaiju operations within a particular region or city. In this essay I will...
Paradigm Adjudication Council
Adjudication was established as a judicial body for mediating conflict between governments and corporations without resorting to wasteful military engagements. Low-level disputes are mediated through regional judiciaries, drawing legal personnel from existing systems. Higher-level disputes are settled through courts with between three and nine judges.

When a dispute cannot be settled out of court and judges believe that a decision in favor of either party will jeopardize the stability and impartiality of Adjudication, they have reintroduced the controversial practice of trial by combat. Each party nominates a mech pilot to fight in their stead, and the first to forcibly deactivate their opponent in the arena is declared victorious and given preferential terms by the judges. These gladiatorial trials have become high entertainment - prosecutors and defenders on the international circuit are equally experts in the field of law and the field of battle. Because these conflicts are between nations and corporations, they do not lack for funding, and trials-by-combat are as often expos for new mechtech as they are attempts to enforce one's will on the international scene.

Imperial Legacies and the Truth About "Pirates" (clipping from anarchist zine)
While all human wars are under "indefinite ceasefire", imperial paramilitary operations continue as private military contractors make their reputations and fortunes protecting supply lines. Hired ostensibly to prevent kaiju interference and protect local population centers, they don't discriminate between kaiju and human "pirates" - and often deem kaiju attacks too dangerous for their pilots, forcing underequipped and desperate local fireteams into the meat grinder in their stead.
The terminology of "pirates" is also a misnomer - these supply lines are just the most recent evolution of extractive plunder from the colonies to the imperial core, and anyone striking back against the continued imperial looting of already-impoverished nations are executed for Paradigm violations with extreme prejudice...

Suited Up: Inside the Lives of the Modern Gladiators (excerpt from dust jacket)
...contains exclusive interviews with both the prosecution and the surviving family members of the defense in the infamous VOID CHIMERA reparations trial, chronicling the extensive blackmail, bribery, and sabotage on both sides leading up to the climactic confrontation and its interruption by the Category-4 kaiju FUSION RIPPER...

by Vu Hoang Hiep

NEW YORK, 8:00PM EST (UPDATE) Trading in both TacNet and GEM stock has been frozen to "preserve the integrity of public defense". CEOs of all five GATES have given statements to the media in full support of maximum federal penalties for all pilots who allegedly "abandoned their duties as defenders of the American people". GEM has suspended its CONDOR project pending the results of its subsequent lawsuits. TacNet has deactivated all suspected collaborating pilots' TacNet accounts, and is reportedly hiring high-profile private contractors from firms like Eka (EKAA, +663) to supplement tactical demands in relevant metropolitan areas. Eka is notable for its highly polished social media presence, eccentric billionaire founder Jan Tomas, and high-collateral-damage combat record.
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To populate a city with factions for a Survival Paradigm campaign, roll 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and 1d20 on the following table. If you roll the same faction twice, there's an internal conflict boiling over where people are forced to take sides - whether between different branches, feuding executives, or the workers and management. Then, roll 2 Relations for each faction to see who they're interacting with and what they're trying to do.
If two factions are related to each other in seemingly conflicting ways, remember that the factions are made of lots of people and none have perfect information on the other's goals. Wheels within wheels ceaselessly turn, grinding us all to dust. If one faction rolls that it's trying to undermine or defraud itself, there's internal conflict - someone is trying to pull a fast one on their own people.

Factions (d20)
1. General Engineering Materials (GEM). Controls entry-level mech fabrication, Eschaton core mass production, kaiju corpse harvesting and processing, TacNet's pilot supply contracts. Constructs millions of modular mech chassis a year. Facilities include factories, kaiju processing plants, prototype subscription-service bunkers. Wants to expand into real-estate - specifically launch bays and bunker construction - to vertically integrate all infrastructure in the urban battle space.
2. Aerospace Northern. Formerly Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop; forced to merge after Paradigm forced radical reinvestment from NATO militaries into mech sector. Controls advanced mechtech development, military holdover patents and facilities, elite mercenary supply contracts. Focuses on bleeding-edge prototype tech, including paranuclear weapons, Wants to be as big as it was when it was the primary contractor for the United States military, instead of just one of five.
3. TacNet. "Uber for mech pilots". Controls the app, uses vast profits to contract GEM for mech manufacturing and Stormwatch for algorithmic kaiju event prediction. Vital nexus of capital in the mechtech sector, and the de-facto tactical coordinator in all United States combat zones. Wants the status quo to stay stable as long as possible, actively kneecaps corporations trying to rise to the GATES. Has heavily-fortified tactical command bunkers in all major metropolitan areas, and invests in launch bays for rapid response (renting a berth isn't cheap).
4. Eka. Mercenary company turned bespoke mech manufacturer, media darling with incredible PR department and army of online stans. Deploys their own fireteams to prove their proprietary "kaiju-inspired" tech in real combat conditions; high-casuality engagements are nevertheless flashy and impressive tech demos. Jan Tomas, controversial and high-profile entrepreneur founder, makes constant media appearances to keep Eka in the media - made his initial fortune in the crash after the first kaiju emergences. Isn't profitable; kept afloat by vast VC streams and needs those flows to remain intact.
5. Stormwatch. Controls the largest server clusters in the world, manages orbital infrastructure. Provides hosting for TacNet, develops/deploys/operates the advance kaiju warning satellite network, space launch systems, AI predictive systems, paranuclear orbital weapons platforms. All this tech comes out of their R&D wing, STAR Group (STormwatch Advanced Research). Funnel promising student projects directly from university campuses into STAR, providing great benefits and vast resources in exchange for exclusive rights.
6. Municipal government. In the end, it always comes back to the city. State capacity handles everything it's too difficult or not glamorous enough to privatize; like roads and sewer systems and power lines. Depending on who's in power, they might be trying to sell off even the unprofitable parts, or trying to claw back a little of the capacity their predecessors divested in order to provide for the citizenry. Either way, the mayor's office is a vital chokepoint for anyone trying to ensure corporate dominance - with the stroke of a pen, they can give you the keys to the city, and send your rivals packing.
7. Startup. Galvanized by low interest rates, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, and the PDC pour trillions of dollars into every idea that seems vaguely promising or sounds good on paper. The key buzzwords to make a cool billion change every few months, and the business plans seem to only get stranger over time. Attitude and aesthetic are what gets a startup off the ground, but don't make profit - not that any of their founders seem to understand.
8. Hedge fund. These piles of money exist only to grow as quickly as possible. Their managers make shrewd investments in companies they believe are the future - but are quick to hang them out to dry if it becomes apparent their money will be wasted. Slick, greasy, willing to do anything to keep their investments safe and their dividends flowing in. It's not like anyone will regulate them for making an end-run around such petty things as "legality" - they have the money to field the best corporate lawyers (and Adjudication gladiators) available.
9. Real estate magnate. Land is the ultimate source of capital. Everyone needs to sleep somewhere; every corporation needs physical space for factories and server farms and offices; every government needs space for bureaucrats. The Kaiju Era has made real estate a riskier proposition, what with giant monsters shredding entire neighborhoods, but this just means that landlords have grown more cutthroat and brutal. Rents on shielded kaiju-safe condos with integrated bunkers are sky-high, and the slums that grow around devastated areas are the only option for anyone who's lost their home to a kaiju - a monopoly that slumlords are more than happy to exploit.
10. Local politician. Every political party has a political opponent, whether the established Party-in-Opposition or a political outsider rising on the strength of their demagoguery. Opposition politicians have an agenda, don't like the way things are being run, and are willing to make waves to get their way - especially if they have an extensive war chest from interested parties.
11. Mercenary company. There's strength in numbers. The alternative to TacNet, mercenary pilots are contracted by states and corporations with money to burn and hard targets that need an extra layer of defense. PMCs differ in their symbology, tactics, tolerance for collateral damage, and PR history - but if a company wants to survive, they need a certain ruthlessness that refuses to consider humanitarian goals when they conflict with their mission.
12. Criminal syndicate. Deprivation creates a demand for smuggling; hard times create a demand for illicit substances; a dangerous world creates an opening for protection rackets. Syndicates crop up everywhere, operating under the radar with impunity in a world that has much bigger fish to fry. They might be less exploitative, on net, than the corporations. They might follow some sort of code. There's a million reasons to get involved with criminals - but it always paints a target on your back, and there's no honor among thieves.
13. Kaiju Responders' Union. Unionized with the air line pilots association, KRU-ALPA (under the AFL-CIO) is the premier mech pilot union in the states. Naturally, TacNet hates them, as do the rest of the GATES and their regulatory capture stranglehold on mechtech development and production. Despite the vast array of unstoppable forces deployed against them both on and off the battlefield, they've won some important concessions: mandatory corp-funded search and recovery services for KRU-registered pilots after battles, free chassis repairs to original specs, and corporate coverage of 50% of pilot funeral expenses.
Most pilots aren't KRU. They've been scared out of it by TacNet's marketing and higher bounties for non-union pilots, or they're gunning for GATES sponsorships (few make it, but those who do are rock stars), or they've joined a mercenary corp for lucrative state contracts. KRU also tends to get the brunt of media blame when ops go very, very wrong.
14. Military remnants. The dissolution of military apparatuses under the Paradigm and mass reallocation of state/manufacturing capacity to kaiju defense left a whole lot of material and disgruntled soldiers behind. While many retrained to become mech pilots or cops, military bases are covered in old hardware that still works just fine. Whether arms dealers, local mercenaries, criminal syndicates in their own right, or political extremists demanding a return to the good old pre-Paradigm days of imperial conquest and overseas slaughter, ex-military troops are a wild card searching for a home in a world that deems them obsolete.
15. Paradigm Coordination Council. Coordination steps in when an area is under increasing kaiju threat; sending military officials to work with local stakeholders and prepare a large-scale defense plan that ensures the threat is neutralized with minimal damage to Paradigm signatories. Signatories include: corporations and governments. Notable exclusions: people. High-risk neighborhoods are designated "ablative buffer zones", entire fireteams of pilots are thrown at the threat as acceptable casualties for reconnaissance missions, the brutal utilitarian calculus of necropolitics deems some lives to matter and some to not. Property is protected. You are not. And the threat is approaching regardless.
16. Paradigm Development Council. Development typically acts on an international scale, but local municipalities are useful testbeds for new initiatives and technology. If there's a big contract in the offering, they often turn cities into free-enterprise zones where each bidding corporation tries their hand at a proof-of-concept pilot program for several months. Whoever's most effective gets the contract - and everyone who gets shafted has to live with it.
17. Paradigm Adjudication Council. They have a presence everywhere there's likely to be skirmishes between corporate and state interests. While local branches try to stay under the radar, every so often a major case emerges that everyone knows will end in trial by combat. When the media starts baying for blood, they ramp up the coverage, and the trial's progress becomes a daily news update.
18. Rapture Futures, LLC. A research group approaching the current eschaton from a divinity studies perspective. Surprisingly widespread, their research projects investigate the strange side-effects of the Eschaton Core - and while they were founded by highly conservative think-tanks, recent sweeping changes in leadership have opened up opportunities for progressive researchers to make waves. Notably not funded by the PDC, but well-funded regardless.
19. University. The Kaiju Era has opened up a universe of questions, and entire fields of science are mutating to approach them. Department heads and enterprising graduate students can get a lot of money if they play their cards right, and sometimes they ask the right questions to get world-shaking answers. Corporations are always scouting for the best-and-brightest, and students often end up taking on pilot gigs on the side to make rent.
20. Cult. Between the Kaiju Era Neo-Gnostics, the Church of the Sainted Pilot, kaiju worshippers, the Techno-Rationalists, prosperity gospel evangelists, Marxist-Calvinists, and devotees of the American civil religion (praise the Checks and the Balances and the Commander in Chief!), there's a million burgeoning sects scraping the symbolism of these endless end-times for believers and tithes. They might be trying to build a new world, or might just prophesize the end of this one - but they have a way of growing and metastasizing and bubbling over at the worst possible moment.
Relations (d10)
1. Undercutting...
2. Pushing ... out of the area
3. Contracted by...
4. Advertising against...
5. Trying to acquire...
6. Allied with...
7. Blackmailing...
8. Defrauding...
9. Bribing...
10. Funding...

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