Syndicate

Some might cost a littleSome might cost a lotBut I’m the Million Dollar ManAnd you WILL be bought!

-Ted DiBiase, “The Million Dollar Man”

Reckoning

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. No one knows this better than the Syndicate. For more than a century (perhaps more) they have not only selflessly (well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) bankrolled the rest of the Convention’s projects, but masterminded the roll out of global economy the likes of which make history blush. The forecasts were rosy, but then the Anomaly came. No one expected it. That’s why it’s an Anomaly. Sure, a few execs in the off-world Constructs were lost, but Syndicate concerns were always earthly. Anomalies of this magnitude, however, are expensive. An anomaly deviates from the standard, and one this big is bound to have an impact. In the ensuing chaos the Syndicate found itself juggling plates. One side of the Convention, the ones watching that global hypereconomy, suddenly were putting out fires across the globe as the entire thing went tits up. The other side, the one that turns all that hypereconomic larges into Technocratic paychecks, was suddenly called upon to dig deep, until it hurt, to keep the Union unified. If the Reckoning clarified one thing to the Syndicate its that they are the unsung heroes of the Technocracy,  and their time has come.

Current Status

The Syndicate has always maintained that Earth comes first. That’s where the money is after all. What few Horizon Constructs the Convention maintained were liquidated in order to stem the bleeding. That isn’t to say that the Anomaly wasn’t a problem. Many of the Convention’s wealthiest Matrices were lost as a result, and the resulting debts caused the delayed but no less painful hypereconomic crash of 2007.  Of course the newly assertive NWO attempted to discredit the Syndicate, blaming them for the crash, but the Syndicate had other problems. They had outsourced themselves into the other Conventions, and so their struggles became the Syndicate’s. They spent the better part of the last 10 years restructuring debt, cutting excess projects, and fending off incursions by the New World Order.

The Civil War

Years of countless meetings, managing the egos of so-called genius creators, and playing midwife to a better future finally broke the Syndicate’s patience. Loans were approved, favors granted, and credit extended. It was all going well until the Anomaly. The Syndicate had to dig deep, till it hurt, in order to keep the Union unified. The Technocracy had gotten used to the Syndicate operating as silent partners and secret benefactors, and being satisfied so long as the returns were good. As the various Conventions spun out of control it became clear to Syndicate leadership that change was afoot. The Syndicate blamed the New World Order’s stale Cold War approach to leading the Union for the Anomaly and the dismal response to Pogroms of the 1990s. The Technocracy believes itself to be a rational institution, but the Syndicate realize that it is riddled with Desire just like any other institution. Sure, it’s Desires are stable ones, but the dream of a safe united world of the NWO or the perfection of body through medicine or machine of Iteration X and the Progenitors, or even the wonder and awe that drives the Void Engineers towards space. All of this is undergirded by the work of the Syndicate. If the Syndicate is the foundation that the Union relies upon then why aren’t they calling the shots?

So the Syndicate took their shot. In the early 2000s, the Syndicate began calling in debts and favors, began demanding a seat at the table, began regular inspections of starts-ups and labs; in short, they began dictating terms. Gone are the days of blank checks, silent partnerships, and handshake deals. The Syndicate wanted implicitly what had always been implicitly understood: control. If you believe the Syndicate, the reason the Technocracy’s victory was a hollow one was a matter of priorities. The Order’s hopelessly antiquated Cold War agenda did not keep up with the times. The 21st century Ascension War can’t be won with cloak and dagger intrigue, top down control, and men in small rooms deciding the fate of the masses. The so-called Shepherds of Humanity still think you can control everything, but the 21st requires finesse. Control will only drive the Masses away from us. The new Ascension War is like jazz. Sure, there are some basic themes, but requires you to direct confluence of ideas, emotions, and desires rather than control them. To do that you have to listen to the other players, and that includes the Masses. Cleaving closely to their hypereconomic principals, the Syndicate says that if the Technocracy truly wants to win the Ascension War they must listen and respond to the desires of the Masses rather than retread the old narratives of the New World Order. The trick is making the Technocracy’s agenda indistinguishable from the desires of the Masses. Isn’t that what they’ve been saying all along? Who better to lead the Union to that bright future than the Syndicate?

To cut to the chase, the New World Order disagreed.  Resistance was met with threats, and those threats were backed up by force. The New World Order, for their part, refused to take a step back, and for a few years it looked like the Union would split in two. Were it not for the return of Pleiades, and the Reykjavik Accords the Union very well may have split or be down one Convention. If you ask Syndicate now they simply say the air needed to be cleared, and that they’ve put aside the recent grudges in favor of unity. Others think that the recent past is just another debt waiting to be paid, and that the Convention is waiting for the right moment to call it in. That aside, the Syndicate now plays a far more active role in leading the Technocracy than it has in the past, sharing or even sometimes competing with the NWO for leadership.

Special Projects Division

If you know, you don’t. If you only think you know, then you really don’t. Special Projects Division was a pervasive whisper in the Convention for decades, if not longer. Whispers either become a scream, or get lost in the noise. In the case of SPD the latter happened. No one talks about Special Projects, if they know what is good for them, and the finance streams that lead to anything remotely like that died out during the Anomaly. Those few willing to risk their necks and follow that money are never heard from again.

Methodologies

  • Disbursements – It is in Disbursements that the roots of the Civil War can be found. For a time, the NWO set policy and shaped the Time Table, and Disbursements turned the big ideas into a reality through the fine art of budgeting. As time went on, the NWO’s Cold War distinctions between institutions began to erode while funding needs only increased. In Symposiums across the world, the NWO began to accuse the Syndicate of suborning their agenda by intentionally dissolving the traditional boundaries between say, state, industry, and academia, for example. To the Syndicate, the NWO was simply behind the curve. The partnership began to make less and less sense, and there were those executions at the hands of the NOW in the 1990s…(it’s not about that though, really) Disbursements, with its ear to the ground and its emphasis on the bottom line, wanted more control. They wanted the agenda to be dictated not by egg-headed policymakers toiling in the abstract, but with information drawn from the streets. Accusations turned into threats…and well you know the rest. Disbursements has always been despised, a fact the Methodology takes a perverse pride in, but it is now coupled with diva attitudes. They aren’t wrong, but who says money shouldn’t influence policy? Money is policy. There isn’t any difference. Never was. Disbursements is no longer content to negotiate allocations behind the scenes, allowing the quixotic dreams of the other Conventions to go unmolested by the harsh realities of the Bottom Line. The Syndicate has always had a vision, but the difference is they aren’t playing nice anymore. Disbursements now ensures on all levels of the Union that they are consulted before any moves are made. A threat Disbursements various Divisions are more than willing to enforce, if needed.
  • Enforcers – When other Methodologies say no it is the Enforcers that demonstrate that they mean it. With the line between illicit enterprises and licit businesses significantly softened, the Enforcers have grown by leaps and bounds. More and more, the Methodology begins to resemble a serpent biting its tail. Still, they’ve remain good earners, and their muscle was crucial during the Civil War. Sure, the different divisions still exist, but anyone who deals with them simply calls them Legal as the Enforcers has seen their boundaries collapse. Legal Division is, in many ways, a mirror of certain aspects of the NWO. That probably explains the animosity between the two. This also explains why the borders between this Methodology’s parts have increasingly blurred. During the Civil War, Legal was at the vanguard of the resistance against NWO incursions, and they increasingly began to rely on Extralegal and Extranational. The Anomaly and shifts within the Masses caused a centralized power and reliance on family ties to be eroded in favor of  transactional of structures and informal of relationships in crime groups. In short, what was once a gang is now a government and vice versa. The Enforcers over see it all, and the money still flows.
  • Financiers – Everyone needs a scapegoat and the Financiers were the Union’s. After all, it was their globalized scheming that lead to the hypereconomic crash. Some say were it not for that the Civil War could have been avoided, but the Financiers push back that the this is simply can excuse to advance an agenda years in the making. Also, it’s not like they were working alone. The other Methodologies have their share of the blame as well, but the hypereconomic crash gave the NWO the opening they needed to discredit all the hard work the Financiers had done. The Financiers took this as a severe insult. After all, their work to knit the world’s economies together transcended culture and spoke the language everyone speaks: money. They demonstrated that the NWO was all talk when it came to the world part of the Order. Financiers reputations took a beating from the NWO’s disinformation campaign in the form of anti-globalization noises from the Masses. Media Control is doing what they can to quell them, and really, the WTO and Occupy Wallstreet were nothingburgers that bit the NWO in the ass as much as the Financiers. While these protests may have pricked the consciences of some, progress continues unabated. People still want expensive shit as much as they want new sanitation projects and medicine, and the best way for everyone to rise is free trade. The protests are already dying down. Now that the crash and the Civil War is behind them, the Financiers are getting back to what they do best: funding the future.
  • Media Control – If the medium is the message then media control is the flux on which everything floats. From the implementation of the Time Table to spinning the latest deviant breach, Media Control uses their magic to sell the ideas of the other Conventions to the Masses. Media Control was shaped less by the Civil War, and more by the other Crash of the Digital Web. White Monday was an opportunity for Media Control to assert itself in an area that had once been the domain of Iteration X and the Virtual Adepts. With the Masses embracing the DRM and media friendly Web 2.0, Media Control grew by leaps and bounds. The ways in which the Civil War did impact Media Control was the on-again-off-again rivalry between Media Control and the Feed. Media Control might have some nice tricks up their sleeve, but they aren’t seeing the big picture. The Internet isn’t a beast to be harnessed, but a current you surf on. Media Control doesn’t concern itself with what happened, it’s concerned with taking advantage of what is happening, and that gives them an edge over the competition.
  • Special Projects Division – Special Projects Division with its plethora of expensive Horizon Constructs was hit hard by the Anomaly. Despite this, they continue to be productive contributors to the Syndicate cause. Official word is that the Anomaly disrupted off-world supply chains, and the Methodology continues to struggle to restore them. Deviant sabotage, materials shortages, and a lack of operatives trained in off-world Procedures are among the many excuses heard. It’s best not to ask. While they are no longer producing the hypertech that they used to, SPD’s checks continue to clear. While this would normally raise red flags, SPD has always secured it own funding so…it’s business as usual. Everything’s fine. It’s just taking longer than usual to get up and running.

Syndicate In L.A.

The history of the Syndicate begins with Farmers & Merchants, one of Los Angele’s oldest banks founded in 1871. Seeking  a home to fund the nascent Master Plan of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Founder Charlemagne Southworth quietly insinuated Disbursements within LA’s finest banking institution. From there, the Convention proceeded to spread its tendrils across Southern California financial institutions and houses of finance. From this conspiracy the Convention built an invisible fortress within Southern California from which it now operates.

As one of Southern California’s finest examples of the early “temples of finance”, the two-story Morgan and Walls designed building is reminiscent of a Roman temple with its entrance is lined Corinthian pilasters topped by a large triangular pediment, a nod to the Syndicate’s Roman roots. Operating as a bank until its closure in the late 1980s, the building now functions primarily as a special events and banquet facility, and film location. Deep within, the Syndicate’s still maintains a secret apartment known as the Annex where the Convention conducts its most important business. The Annex survived the consolidations mostly out of reverence for one of the last standing reminders of the original Olvera Construct.

Today, the Syndicate exists like a mycelium beneath the skin of Los Angeles, and there is very little that their influence does not touch.  Government, crime, higher education, entertainment, and aerospace  all trace at least some of their funding to the Syndicate. Unlike the other Traditions who’s goals or tells can be easily located if one knows where to look, the Syndicate is everywhere and nowhere.

The Syndicate is lead by VPO Harlow Haywood, but everyone just calls him Haywood.

  • The Syndicate is lead by VPO Harlow Haywood, but everyone just calls him Haywood. An enigma, even for Technocrats, Haywood may have lived in Paris, New York, Toronto, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, but he isn’t from anywhere, at least not that anyone can tell. Even his strangely captivating dialect, one part Queen’s English, one part Jackie O, yet neither of those things, his way of speaking is shot through with wealth. If the mythology Haywood puts forth about himself he started off in retail in New York in the 1950s, but moved up the ranks, but was an early adopter of the futurism of Silicon Valley.  If the myth is correct, Haywood crossed over from the worldly concerns of the Masses, and into the upper echelons of the Technocracy sometime in the 1980s when he took over as the Syndicate’s Symposium representative in the City of Angels. Don’t let his gentile and effete manners fool you, however. Sure, his vast knowledge of Los Angeles fashion history is dazzling and seemingly prescient understanding of what the Masses truly want is visionary, but Haywood is said to have left a trail of blood on his way up the ladder. Many Technocrats of all ranks have been wined and dined by Haywood and his rather extensive entourage of beautiful and influential people within the confines of his legendary Casa de los Espejos in the Hollywood Hills, but for every Technocrat that has been charmed there are two more that have suffered is wrath. You see Haywood doesn’t just have a vision, he has Vision. He claims to have been received this gift from Founder Charlemagne Southworth, and has been….shall we says, active within Symposium in ensuring Southworth’s legacy within the Master Plan.  Haywood countenances nothing short of perfection, and those who do not meet his standards are met first with offers, then with steel. While his temper was something of an open secret, the Los Angeles Technocracy got a front row seat to what he’s capable of when roused during the Civil War. When the Chancellor Atanasaoff called the strike teams to Farmers and Merchant, Haywood rained fire down upon them through a mix of hypereconomic warfare, and Enforcer muscle. Things have been smoothed over for the sake of the Master Plan, but the Chancellor and the VPO’s relationship remains frosty.
  • The Olvera Group – The shadowy Olvera Group extends directly from Founder Southworth himself, and have held the purse strings of the Technocracy ever since. Their many agents are legion, but the Farmers and Merchants Matrices and the flood Primal Energy from LA’s Quintessence rich ley lines rests firmly in the grasp of Southworth’s three disciples known only as the Triumvirate. You don’t know them. You haven’t met them. They meet only with Haywood, and only when they deign to do so. The rest of the Disbursements Methodology virtually worships these giants of finance like planets of a solar system orbit a sun. They operate solely through proxies and intermediaries, and their actions are more divined rather than seen. No formal divisions exist within the group, but  seasoned technocrats who have witnessed the Olvera Group in action have given name to observed patterns. The three arms are referred to in colloquial whispers as La Bolsa, La Hacha, and Los Titiriteros.
    • La Bolsa aka the Purse seems to house Assessment and Procurements. Of the three arms, La Bolsa is the most obvious which isn’t saying much. To a large degree the Syndicate functionaries approve and deny funding, but there are certain circumstance where Technocrats notice more…debate. Requests get escalated or tied up for more than a week to suddenly be approved or denied for seemingly no or very mysterious reasons. Likewise, certain goods and gear are watched over by armed “angels” to ensure they reach their destinations safely.
    • La Hacha aka the axe may or may not house Extraction and/or Reorganization Divisions, but some Technocrats have reported elite amalgams of what look to be something like elite Enforcers interfering with anyone who gets too close to the Convention’s Primal Energy stores, or come calling when debts are owed. Similarly, La Hacha comes for under performing or rouge Amalgams to “assist” them in finding the right path, usually with force. The Union is full of La Hacha tall tales created as a result of the Civil War and the Pogrom.
    • Los Titiriteros –  The puppeteers are believed to house Assessments and/or Procurments, but that is an over simplification of their activities. Los Titiriteros simply do what needs to be done. Like their name implies, they pull strings in order to ensure things go smoothly. Doesn’t sound like much, and when they do their job it certainly appears that way, but experienced agents have seen a few serious quagmires and tangles mysteriously resolve themselves on their own. Perhaps this is a testament to the Union’s ability to put mission before personal gain, or perhaps a backroom deal was made. LOs Titiriteros are the stuff conspiracies are made of.
  • Atlas  – Los Angeles is a city of a thousand dreams, and Atlas Ventures has green lit or crushed more than a few of them – but not directly. Operating through a host of VC firms and front companies up and down the West Coast, Atlas Ventures quietly pulls the strings on a huge variety of projects from film production to high tech to environmental concerns to politics to aerospace.  The thing you need to understand about Atlas is that it doesn’t really exist or if it does, it  exists like Italy in the Middle Ages. Atlas is the largest wing of the Syndicate in Los Angeles, and it is a roiling kingdom at war with itself in a Dawrinian struggle for prestige and profit. The name comes from a local Syndicate joke that suggested all of Los Angeles rests on the shoulders of this division. The name stuck, and today within this this volatile pressure cookers, the money men and women make or break their bones, and supply the invisible capital to make dreams a reality.  Atlas runs on an overheated mess of competing agendas where only the most persistent and bullheaded idea get attention. Everything in the Convention, eventually, crosses the desk of  someone in Atlas. To say that this fast moving division has leadership is something of can overstatement.  The Board has the ultimate authority over what gets green-lit and what gets dumped, and the Chair oversees the Board.  Board membership is the ultimate prize for many members of the Syndicate as it confers a kind of “made man” status. The current Chair is Margret Newbear who took over from the previous Chair, Edwin Olhaus, after his unfortunate hospitalization and subsequent coma.
  • Varo – Varo was once just another warring kingdom within Atlas before it struck out on its own. Once upon a time, media, films, news, television, and newspapers all rose or fell on their own merits or stubborn will of their champions within Atlas.  With the arrival of the Internet all that changed. Media became increasingly tangled making the distinction between say a Pepsi ad a music video and a video game difficult to make. The sheer amount of media Los Angeles produces has become impossible to manage, but Varo was created to try. After years of complaining to the Board, Project Varo disentangled itself from the intrigue of Atlas to form its own Amalgam solely focused on Los Angeles’s media landscape. Varo is lead by Chairwoman Crystal Sinclair aka Dr. Sinclair (as in spin doctor), and two Managers, Reggie Rockwell and Josephine Woolridge.
  • El Acuerdo – The Syndicate might be everywhere and nowhere, but no where is this more true than the El Acuerdo. Made up largely of Enforcers, the Agreement is really more an informal system of favors, blurred lines, spies, information powerbrokers, legal enterprises and criminal conspiracies that have all been yoked under an understandings manufactured by the Enlightened. This agreement maintains a paper thin line between the Syndicate’s legal aspects and its less than legal aspects, which if we’re being honest. barely exists in the World of Darkness LA. The Agreement isn’t an entity or corporation. It has no headquarters. I has no leadership or chain of command. Each amalgam operates on its own commanding hordes of T-0s and Sleepers in their machinations. For those under Syndicate control the mere mention of El Acuerdo is enough to bring warring sides to cooperate temporarily.  That’s the agreement. The Union comes first, even if you don’t know what it is. All you need to know is that there is an agreement.  with the understanding that, if needed, the individual operatives do what they can for the cause of the Technocratic Union. The Enforcers are perhaps he largest Methodology in Los Angeles, but no one is sure how far the conspiracy has spread. Some say it is as far north as Vancouver and as far south as El Salvador.

Appendix

Primal Ventures

  • What are Primal Ventures
    • The Syndicate finds Primal Energy in places where humans generate value in new and powerful ways. Primal Energy is not merely the emission of resource points or the product of complex reactors, but is produced by the economic actions of humanity at large. Those who study Primal Utility are able to identify the nexus-points of these economic keystones and take their profits in pure, fundamental value — equivalent in most ways to any other form of Primal Energy. These nexus-points, more permanent than Wellsprings but more ephemeral than Nodes, are called Primal Ventures in hypereconomic jargon.
  • Requirements
    • Syndicate membership
    • Primal Utility
    • Previous Editions of Mage and M20 imply that Primal Ventures function similarly to the Node background so these rules endeavor to mirror. Primal Ventures not not Nodes, however, so these House Rules attempt to reflect the differences.
    • Primal Ventures may be purchased as a Background. This Background represents the off-screen hustle, Resources investment, and sweat equity the character has put into these Ventures.
    • Ventures may be represented by one large corporation, several start-ups, a string of franchises, or some other business dealings of the player’s choosing. The nature of the Venture or Ventures should be detailed in the character’s notes. This note should include the spread of points. The player may put all their eggs in one basket, or spread them out across numerous Ventures.
    • The Good News
      • Like Nodes, Primal Ventures produce a certain amount of free Primal Energy and Currency (aka Tass) per week that can be safely harvested. The amount of Primal Energy produced is the same as what it would be if the Venture were a Node.
      • Unlike Nodes, Primal Ventures can be “squeezed” for every drop of Primal Utility. While this kills the Venture, its a fast and easy way to gain copious amounts of Primal Utility (see below).
      • Also unlike Nodes, Primal Ventures are somewhat more secure in that only the Syndicate can make use of them. Other Technocrats or even other mages might recognize the Venture’s potential, but simply do not have the proper vision and training to exploit them. To do so they would have to join the “winning” team.
    • The Bad News
      • The nature of Primal Ventures is less stable than that of a Node. Risk and volatility are always a factor, and past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Do not invest any Primal Energy you are not willing to lose.
      • Unlike Nodes, who’s roots drink from the primordial well of the Tellurian, Primal Ventures are created by human activities, creativity, and productivity. As a result of their origins, Ventures are more delicate than Nodes. While a Node will eventually replenish itself if all of its Quintessence is taken, a Primal Venture can actually be destroyed if over harvested.
      • The Syndicate maintains certain Primal Ventures for the good of the Union, and these are sacrosanct, but Personal Primal Ventures are another matter – these Ventures can be attacked. Though they may brag in hints, Syndicate members go to great lengths to keep the details of their Primal Ventures a secret from their fellow Technocrats lest someone else come and skim the cream before they can. Best to keep the secrets of your portfolio a secret!
    • System:
      • Extracting Primal Energy into your Genius Venture only requires you interact with the business in some fashion, such as attending a board meeting, taking a tour, making a purchase etc. Think of this as the hypereconomic version of meditating at a Node.
      • To extract beyond your Genius rating requires the following:
        • 1. A personal connection with the Venture in question as per the chart in M20 pg. 527.
        • 2. Primal Utility – Exploit Primal Utility
          • Success: Multiply successes x 2 to determine how many points of Primal Energy are extracted.
            • Note: The mage may only safely extract up to the maximum weekly yield of their Venture just like as if it were a Node, but more may be available!

              • Should the mage score enough successes to extract more than the weekly yield of Primal Energy they may do the following:
                • Leave it in the Venture. This does not require any roll. The mage is simply maintaining the health of the Venture.
                • Go for the greed! Dig a little deeper and take more. If they choose this they may extract up to the Venture’s rating in additional Primal Energy.
                  • If less than half of the Venture’s rating is taken in this fashion then the Venture becomes ill in some fashion. Bad press, a low earning quarter, a CEO retirement, something to that effect. The Storyteller should work with the player to figure out something suitably bad!
                  • If more than half the Venture’s rating is taken then the Venture’s health is is in serious trouble. The Venture is essentially on life support, and will require support to sustain it. The Storyteller may require a Hypereconomic, Finance or other suitable rolls on the part of the mage to keep it alive. If they refuse to help it then they loose a point of Primal Ventures at the end of the quarter.
                    • Draining a Venture to the point of ill health tends to draw attention to the Venture leaving it open to attack from other Syndicate members, or even other mages. Be careful!
          • Failure: No Primal Energy is extracted.
          • Botch: Market Crash! The Primal Venture is harmed in some way by the extraction. This causes notable harm to both the Venture and those that work for it. As a result of the Market Crash, the character loses one point of Primal Venture. This can also incur unpleasant Resonances and even  Quiet from the suffering it caused.
            • Note: The Venture Background may be rebuilt through time and effort OR through an XP purchase. Player’s choice.
      • Squeezing Ventures
        • Syndicate members may intentionally cause a Market Crash to their own Venture, sacrificing it for some quick and dirty Currency. Doing so requires the following:
          • 1. A personal connection with the Venture in question as per the chart in M20 pg. 527.
          • 2. Primal Utility – Exploit Primal Utility
            • System: Same as above, but add the Primal Venture’s rating to the successes.
          • Primal Energy extracted in such a brutal manner becomes tainted with dark Resonances.