The Independents: Corporia

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table has always been a popular one. Part of the legend is that Arthur and his Knights will one day return to the world, bringing Camelot back to life. Of course, this is merely legend. Time moves on, and instead of a shining new Camelot the towers of the corporations have risen to kiss the sky. The legend fades into memory, and Arthur’s promised return is forgotten . . .  until the Flux. Magic bursts upon the world, unleashing sorcery and cryptids that the corporations begin to squabble over. The Knights of the Round Table are returning, reincarnated in new bodies by the Flux . . .  but Arthur is nowhere to be found. You are a member of the Knightwatch, and it’s up to you to maintain the balance between Order and Chaos. Welcome to Corporia.

Corporia is an Ennie nominated tabletop roleplaying game of “genre-bending fiction and futuristic urban fantasy” from Brabblemark Press. Before the events that make Corporia what it is, the setting is one very familiar to any fans of cyberpunk. Corporations have risen to power, and technology is advanced, ubiquitous, and dangerous. Once the Knights of the Round Table begin returning, however, whatever seal kept magic and monsters out of the world gives way. Corporate Order is now hampered by arcane Chaos, with the corporations publicly denying the existence of magic while attempting to harness it. Sir Lancelot, reincarnated as a megacorp CEO, creates the Knightwatch special operations team, gathering his fellow Knights and other talented individuals. Tasked with pursuing justice in a city gone mad, the Knightwatch will have to use blades, bullets, sorcery, and tech as monsters and power-hungry humans try to tear everything apart.

On its DriveThruRPG page Corporia invokes a number of other works to express the feel that it is trying to convey with its setting, among which are Torchwood, Angel, and Shadowrun. After reading Corporia’s core book I can say that these were well-chosen reference points. The Knightwatch are often an investigative as well as offensive force, ostensibly heroes who nevertheless find themselves working for hire in order to survive, inhabiting a world where a skilled hacker can be just as dangerous as a magic user if given the chance. The fact that the knights of old are mixed up in all of this, gifted with the same strengths and burdened by the same oaths as their ancient brethren, is what puts a unique spin on the proceedings.

Gameplay will be familiar to fans of FATE and Savage Worlds. Most rolls will involve adding together a core value and a skill (Strength + Fisticuffs, for example). Once you have that number, you roll 2d6 and keep the highest, adding it the sum of the core value and the skill. If the total exceeds the Target Number set by the GM, then the roll has succeeded. Rolling a 6 means you can keep rolling dice, rolling double 1s is excessively bad, and beating the Target Number by five or more grants you a ‘raise’ which leads to greater success. Characters also have traits that they can use to improve rolls by spending Flux Points, or be forced to adhere to by the GM in exchange for a Flux Point. Unique to Corporia, whenever a character receives or spends a Flux Point they receive the game’s equivalent of experience points to spend on improving their stats and abilities.

Character creation is a relatively straightforward process. First, a player chooses an Archetype. These are not quite classes, but are more like character concepts for the character to adhere to. Examples include Badge, Hacker, Witcher and the Knight-Errant (who represents a reborn Knight of the Round Table). There are generally few restrictions or requirements that come with an Archetype, but they give a player a basic idea for their character and can make certain Assets cheaper (more on that later). Second, the character picks their Traits. Some of these are public and known to everyone, while others are private and known only to the character and perhaps a few trusted allies. Examples provided by the book include Courageous, Generous, Flighty, Double Agent, and Reincarnated as the Opposite Sex, but the imagination is the limit.

Third, the character chooses their Core Competency, which determines how many points are used in character creation for Core Values, Skills, General Assets, and Supernatural Assets. Touched characters lack Supernatural Assets but have stronger Cores and Skills, Fluxed have the most Supernatural Assets but are physically weaker, and the Gifted balance between the two. Once that’s does, you distribute the points granted by your competency however you wish. General Assets are much like feats or talents in some other games, giving the character new resources or abilities or improving ones they already have. Supernatural Assets generally translate to some sort of magic ability, which is in turn very free-form; while example spells are provided, the only true limit to what a spell can do is the what the player and the GM can agree on. With Core Values, Skills, and Assets chosen the character determines their starting Flux Points (equal to the sum of relevant Core Values), grabs their gear, and reports for duty.

Corporia’s greatest strength would seem to be that it is both familiar and new. It pulls from a variety of popular works to inspire its setting, and draws from several well-loved systems. This makes it easy for newcomers to RPGs to get into, as its setting can seem a comfortable one, while veteran players who recognize the mechanical inspiration will feel right at home. At the same time, its unique spin of adding the Camelot mythos to the cyberpunk world makes it stand out from the rest, and the fact that Flux Point use is rewarded with character advancement highly incentivizes players to spend their resources and weave their Traits into the story.

Brabblemark Press sells Corporia on both DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, and you can check out their site for more information in addition to more reviews of the game. Corporia has a few supplements by now, adding more archetypes, Assets, and even some expanded magical options. Brabblemark also provides a number of free resources, including a Quick-Start PDF.

Looking for a world where a trusty laser pistol might only get you so far, until a cryptid shows up that means the cold steel of a sword will serve you better? A world where Order and Chaos struggle against one another, with you stuck in the middle? One of towering skyscrapers and avaricious corporations mixed with ancient magic and mysterious monsters? Then give Corporia a try.

And be careful. Arthur might be MIA, but Morgan le Fay is out there somewhere . . .

Originally posted 2/18/16 on the Mad Adventurers Society!

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