There was a time when the highest law of any land was the decrees put down by national governments, and all bodies in national borders, individuals and corporations alike, were subject to those laws. But there was a time even before that when the only law of the world was power, and you could do what you wanted as long as you had the strength to keep anyone from stopping you (of course, history’s full of evidence that this has always been the case, even when national governments held sway). The state of the Sixth World, then, isn’t really anything new. It’s just the latest iteration of the might-makes-right way of doing things. The only real change is that once upon a time governments were able to restrain corporations, or at least enforce some limits. Not any more.
There’s a lot of legal history we could cover to help you see how we got to this point, but in the end it boils down to one word: extraterritoriality. That’s the word that allows corporations to say that whatever happens in their holdings, on the buildings and lands they own, is subject to their laws —and no one else’s. Gaining extraterritorial status was a long-held dream of many of the world’s largest corporations, and when judicial decisions in nations across the world gave it to them, they spent several years pissing on themselves and each other in utter delirium. Then they figured out their infighting was cutting into their bottom lines, so they stopped fighting one another and concentrated on pissing on the rest of us.

Not every corporation in the world has extraterritorial status. To understand who does, you have to know about the Corporate Court, the body the megacorporations created when they realized they were spending too much time solving their disputes by ravaging en- tire small countries. The Corporate Court is sometimes mocked as a toothless entity, a puppet of the world’s largest megacorps, but it manages —usually— to keep open warfare between the corps from breaking out, and that’s at least worth something.

As part of its duties, the Court has created a ranking system to tell you how big and powerful a particular corp is:

  • At the bottom are the unrated corps, ranging from the commlink repair business two guys named Mitch started in the back of their Ford Americar to companies that stretch from coast to coast of the world’s largest nations but don’t cross any borders.
  • To get the lowest ranking the corp gives out, the A-ranking, you’ve got to be a multinational, doing substantive business in more than one country. And no, occasionally selling a bag of WafoCrisps to a shepherd in New Zealand doesn’t count.
  • The next step, becoming an AA-ranked corporation, is the one that gets you the big prize of extraterritoriality. To get to this point, you’ve got to show that you’re big in several nations, you’re tough, and you can take the drek the really big boys may dish out at you when they’re in a pissy mood.
  • Then you’ve got the top rank, the AAAs. The Big Ten. They’re not necessarily the largest megacorporations on Earth, but their size, their diversity, and their power set them apart. That, and the fact that they somehow convinced the other megas to give them a seat on the Corporate Court. Because that’s who populates the Court, justices from the Big Ten. They are the powers that shape the world, and everyone, shadowrunner or not, knows their names, because they’re the centers from which nuyen flows —and where most of the nuyen normally ends up.


The Big Ten

What you need to understand is that these guys are bigger than big. Think of the world’s largest manufacturer of computer equipment. Then add in a powerful magic supplies broker. Throw in a few banks, an insurance firm, an entertainment conglomerate, and a snack-food giant, and you’re still not a tenth of the way to forming one of the Big Ten. They employ millions of people and control trillions of nuyen. They have dozens of subsidiaries that, on their own, would be AA- or A-rated corporations. Each and every one of them owns a piece of land within one hundred kilometers of you, un- less you’re in the Sahara, the Amazon, or at the bottom of the ocean. And maybe even then. And each of them has convinced their employees that the safe haven they offer is worth decades of low-paying, mundane, soul-sucking work. They command the armies of the wageslaves of the world, and one way we shadowrunners know who we are is that we know we’re not them. Of course, just like them, we sell our time and sometimes our lives dancing to the megacorporations’ tune. They have the nuyen, and we want it, which means they determine what the rules of the game are. We just play it.


Shadows of Europe Shmngg LeGoSS