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PENTEX: Research & Inspiration Company by Company

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  • PENTEX: Research & Inspiration Company by Company

    So, because it came up in another thread, I thought it might be useful to start a thread looking at the various PENTEX subsidiaries and offering up various fictional and non-fictional sources of information and inspiration about each one. That being the history of those industries, interesting events or scandals, corporate cultures, various criticisms (legitimate or otherwise) of the business, and any fictional works that give ideas for potential plot hooks or horrors for the Garou to stumble upon and fight.

    If anyone has any suggestions that I missed, I will gladly add them to each company's listing. Thank you in advance.

    I figure I'll start with the Wikipedia article on Holding Companies, which is what PENTEX is supposed to be, and people can chase links from there to their heart's content.

    Added: As far as corporate culture goes, PENTEX was heavily influenced by the original Robocop (1987) and it's sequel Robocop 2 (1990). (The second one is not as good as the first one, but does continue the wonderful examples of corporate backstabbing and throwing people under the bus.) Also, Michael Crichton's Rising Sun and Disclosure. (The film versions of these are OK, but the books get more in to corporate culture and its pitfalls.)

    More Added: As mentioned by Crowley, the current series Mister Robot also offers up some potential PENTEX ideas.

    ENDRON INTERNATIONAL (Oil, Petroleum and other forms of Energy)

    So, they're the original seed of the whole thing. Hence, it's probably a good idea to understand the history of the petroleum business. For that, I offer up Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a look at the oil industry up until 1990, and it's follow up, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World, which game out in 2011. Also, Upton Sinclair's classic Oil!, which was one of the inspirations for the movie There Will Be Blood (2007). And, of course, no book about the energy industry would be complete without Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (which also has a film version). I haven't seen Deepwater Horizon (2016) yet, so can't comment on it.

    Fiction-wise, the X-Files did a long running thread about an alien virus that thrived in earth's underground petroleum supply, which tied into a number of other business-related conspiracy angles.

    More Added: I've not read Adam Baker's Outpost, about the small crew of an Arctic Ocean oil rig during a global pandemic (and possible zombie apocalypse), but it does get good word of mouth from people I usually find trustworthy. I suspect one can get at least a few ideas about Endron workers going stir crazy or Garou trying to take over an oil platform out of it.

    China Mieville wrote a short story, Covenhithe, as something for The Guardian's anniversary coverage of Deepwater Horizon. I won't spoil it, but it's weird in the way that Mieville's stories usually are, and would make a rather odd chronicle idea.

    Quantum of Solace (2008) involves some oil industry shenanigans, but mostly as part of a larger unrelated conspiracy.

    Ida Tarbell's The History of Standard Oil is a period classic that shaped the way pretty much everyone remembered John D. Rockefeller and his rise to power.

    Knowledge Hub on YouTube has a pretty good summery of Rockefeller here.

    And if you feel up for binge viewing, try finding the tv show Dallas (1978-1991). J.R. Ewing is the early 80s poster boy for the Magnificent Bastard trope, and the sort of man who should be running a PENTEX subsidiary.

    Modern Marvels did a number of episodes about the oil industry (3:07 Oil; 5:10 The Alaskan Oil Pipeline; 6:26 Offshore Oil Drilling; 9:31 Gasoline; 11:08 Oil Firefighting; 11:30 Oil Tankers; 12:41 Lube Job), most of which can probably be found at various places online.

    Outside of their original business of oil, there's also the realm of natural gas. There are more than a few films critical to natural gas production, especially hydraulic fracturing. I can't conscientiously call these documentaries, as these sorts of films usually start with a preselected point of view to push and carefully craft the presentation to sway viewers to that point of view. I believe the proper term for this is "propaganda". That said, they are certainly mineable for ideas of stuff Endron might be up to which Garou can uncover. (I think Gasland was the really big one, IIRC.)

    Even though Endron apparently bought out Atlas International in Book of the Wyrm 2nd ed, I'm going to save them for later, as the nuclear power industry is its own animal, and it gets into things like, for example, General Electric, which is pretty complicated.

    ADDED: Steve Coil's Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power, a look at what is one of (if not the) biggest corporations in the US and some of it's various shenanigans. Also, Daniel Ammann's The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich, a man who's somewhat shady and occasionally weird life has a lot of potential plot hooks for Endron and PENTEX.

    Added 3-11: For those looking for something odd to do with Endron, I offer up the 1976 remake of King Kong. The film is, quite frankly, awful, but for the purpose of this list, the plot involves an oil company (named Petrox, which makes me wonder if this is the original inspiration for PENTEX's name) making an expedition to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean in search of untapped oil deposits. The oil they find is low grade junk, so they decide to bring Kong back as their new company mascot. That's kind of the 70s in a nutshell, I think. But it does offer the interesting idea of an Endron expedition that finds a lost island full of Mokole, Ananasi, Kami, and one of the Great Beasts.


    More to come.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 03-11-2018, 04:41 PM.

  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    My understanding is that this sort of thing isn't uncommon in a number of industries where there's an constant stream of young people desperately wanting to break into the business who can replace casualties (stress and otherwise). Bret Hart once made the comment that professional wrestlers are like circus elephants, getting used up and then taken behind the tent and shot, and it's a sentiment I think applies just as well to certain periods of the RPG industry, comic books, pop music and others.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    So, follow-up to my previous post about abuses in the AAA games industry. Once again, from Jim Sterling: "A Video About Bioware Working Staff To Tears And Calling Its Mental Abuse 'Magic'".

    THIS. THIS is peak Pentex, if I ever saw it. The idea of corporate interests working employees so hard as to given them health problems, to the point they become "stress casualties" (a term usually reserved for military personnel in wartime), is so REAL that Pentex wouldn't need to up the ante to achieve its goals. The only difference between Bioware and Pentex is that Bioware does it out of apathy and greed, whereas Pentex would do it deliberately, with misery and abuse being the primary purpose. If Bioware does this to its workers because they just don't care about anything but profit, imagine what Pentex would be like.

    Frankly, I don't want to imagine it, because the truth is already so terrible.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    And now, here's an article concerning the same subject, that is more recent than the previous one.

    Edit: Actually, there is one issue I have with the article I reference above. That being that it makes the mistake of portraying Gamergate as a matter of "ethics in games journalism".

    It is not, as this Washington Post article and this video by YouTube's Folding Ideas explains.
    Last edited by Bluecho; 03-24-2019, 01:30 AM.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    A few odds and ends.

    I'd talked about the United Fruit Company way back earlier in the thread. A bit I forgot to mention was one of the most disturbing incidents in their history, the 1928 Banana Massacre in Columbia. Much to my surprise, there are no non-fiction books about this incident. However, Jim Yoakum's fiction novel The Banana Massacre is an absurdist tragicomedy inspired by the event, set in a fictional Caribbean island and involving the fictional Choad Banana Company.

    Also, an interesting article about gaming journalists being way to cozy with gaming companies.

    Leave a comment:


  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Originally posted by Bluecho View Post
    I think one of the big issues that plague the games industry is how games media seems unwilling or unable to report critically about it. Sites and publications that work in the industry are often beholden to them, because the publishers are strong enough to keep these news sources over a barrel. Jim Sterling can be as hyperbolically critical as he is because he's supported entirely on Patreon, and he got blacklisted by the whole industry years ago. No receiving of review copies, no press passes, no company execs willing to take his phone calls. Not because he's a jerk - though he is, a bit - but because he doesn't play nice and give nothing but glowing praise.
    Sadly, there seems to be some evidence that this is becoming more and more common in all media journalism.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post

    Just when I think that I've reached the level of no longer being surprised by tastelessness, someone finds another rock layer.

    I'm not a huge gamer, but I've heard about the lootbox thing from various YouTube channels. It struck me as a fairly unethical way to suck money from customers. And yeah, something I'm sure Telus and the WW20 game design company whose name I'm blanking on excel at.

    I can't recall where I heard it, but someone somewhere said, "Show me a way to make money, and I'll show you someone abusing it."
    I think one of the big issues that plague the games industry is how games media seems unwilling or unable to report critically about it. Sites and publications that work in the industry are often beholden to them, because the publishers are strong enough to keep these news sources over a barrel. Jim Sterling can be as hyperbolically critical as he is because he's supported entirely on Patreon, and he got blacklisted by the whole industry years ago. No receiving of review copies, no press passes, no company execs willing to take his phone calls. Not because he's a jerk - though he is, a bit - but because he doesn't play nice and give nothing but glowing praise.

    If this were the World of Darkness, that's exactly the sort of situation a Pentex subsidiary would salivate over. An industry that's not only poorly regulated, but one where the discourse in official channels is so cowed - so dominated by strong publishers - that it takes a great deal of negative backlash (usually grassroots) to get news stories that acknowledge their abuses and bad behavior.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Originally posted by Bluecho View Post

    And I haven't even gotten to what a mess Steam has become. A wretched hive of asset flips (which are annoying), and reprehensible games motivated by edgelord trolling and bigotry (which is bad). Like the school shooting simulators, homophobic propaganda, and sexual assault simulators. (Obviously, watch videos on that at your own risk.)
    Just when I think that I've reached the level of no longer being surprised by tastelessness, someone finds another rock layer.

    I'm not a huge gamer, but I've heard about the lootbox thing from various YouTube channels. It struck me as a fairly unethical way to suck money from customers. And yeah, something I'm sure Telus and the WW20 game design company whose name I'm blanking on excel at.

    I can't recall where I heard it, but someone somewhere said, "Show me a way to make money, and I'll show you someone abusing it."

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    First, this is a great thread and we're all thankful for the exhaustive work you do.

    Second, if I may steer things back towards the video game side of things, I'd like to recommend looking into YouTube personality Jim Sterling (Note: videos are sometimes Not Work Safe). His grandiose comedic persona belies insightful commentary on the current affairs of the industry. As of late, his current bugbears - the flies in his ointment - have been the proliferation of gambling style Loot Boxes (being marketed to children), the degrading of products through a "Live Service" model (that turn games into chores that extract money from consumers), and the general terrible business practices and abuse of employees by publishers. All in the interest of greed rather than need.

    It's an industry where employees are worked to the bone through "crunch time" to get games out, only to be laid off immediately after. Where executives take enormous salaries. Hell, where a company could be taking in record revenue, and still lay hundreds of workers off just to maximize profits. All of which the industry can get away with because video games don't have unions or effective regulations. When governments DO try to regulate - like Belgium recognizing Loot Boxes as gambling - the companies get publicly indignant and try to undermine the validity of said sovereign nation's decision (calling it Belgium's "interpretation" of their law, despite them being the government and they decide what is and is not covered under their law).

    Basically, the games industry is this enormous wasteland of unchecked capitalism, burned out workers, and creative bankruptcy.

    And I haven't even gotten to what a mess Steam has become. A wretched hive of asset flips (which are annoying), and reprehensible games motivated by edgelord trolling and bigotry (which is bad). Like the school shooting simulators, homophobic propaganda, and sexual assault simulators. (Obviously, watch videos on that at your own risk.)

    If this doesn't sound like fertile ground for Pentex, I don't know what is. Although I guess it would be less "fertile" ground, and more "salted".
    Last edited by Bluecho; 03-19-2019, 06:16 AM.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Homogeneity Incorporated

    So, we discussed conversion therapy briefly in the thread earlier (and special thanks to glamourweaver for his input), but I figured it was worth a second look. Public opinion and the law on this subject has been changing to various degrees, especially over the past 20 years since Homogeneity first appeared in Freak Legion. (While I tend to skew fairly conservative, especially in my old age, I've always found anti-gay attitudes fairly alien to me. Part of it is my general libertarian leanings, but in hindsight, I'd honestly also have to say part of it has to do with the influence of the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds, which, as a young nerd, made me view gay people as "one of us" in terms of being subject to unwarranted bullying by society's asshats and were as equally deserving of respect as everyone else. If that makes any sense.) And, quite honestly, a number of conversion therapy programs come across as more than a little Orwellian and creepy.

    Anyway, a few non fiction books on the subject include Peter Gajdic's The Inheritance of Shame and Garrard Conley's Boy Erased (which was made into a 2018 film), both personal memoirs about going through conversion therapy. For those that want to get extremely technical on the subject, there is the text-bookish Sexual Conversion Therapy: Ethical, Clinical and Research Perspectives.

    Fiction wise, there is Emily Danforth's The Miseducation of Cameron Post (which was also made into a 2018 film), and films such as Sunday Sessions (2019) and Fair Haven (2017). A few episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum also deal with the issue as it was in the 1960s.

    For a more comedic take, there is the film But I'm A Cheerleader (1999) and the South Park episode "Cartman Sucks" (season 11, episode 2). [And as a counterpart, the season 6 episode "Death Camp of Tolerance".]

    I suspect that, these days, while a handful of PENTEX executives may personally fund Homogeneity or some successor (probably through one or more cut outs), they probably don't own or operate one themselves. My personal head-canon would be along the lines that Homogeneity's founder suffered a "tragic" death (at the hands of werewolves, PENTEX cleaning crews or some other force) and what was Homogeneity has now been taken over by some sort of Weaver-oriented group (conformity is good, conformity is comfort, conformity is peace) and what PENTEX secretly funds are a number of fronts for various Wyrm cults which feed on shame and self-loathing. But YMMV.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
    Cool. I did not know that.
    I've mentioned the YouTube channel CompanyMan before, and he did an interesting video on them. There's also a followup about Casio.

    Texas Instruments also made Speak and Spell, a learning tool for children popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The World of Darkness version probably, when adults were not around, told children to burn things.
    That, or encouraged them to invite creepy worm-skinned aliens into their homes and touch them with their radioactive Wyrm finger so they can establish contact with their Lovecraftian home dimension.

    I have to admit I can't make evil kitchen appliances interesting, and not also silly. I mean, I suppose the 'fridge could turn into a killing machine and start attacking people - but the mental image is kind of silly. Still, I believe Pentex has its hand in the production of ovens, vacuums, blenders, fridges, etc.
    While there is always the issue of things which deliberately cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning (not from any physical design element but from Bane infestation), one of the most subtle things I keep finding in my research is the everyday environmental impact of the manufacturing process and where the parts come from. Even just encouraging rampant consumerism and planned obsolescence to eat up resources and create more junk is a win for PENTEX.

    (I want to say it was Stephen King's IT that had something that lured a small child into an abandoned refrigerator. There's also the idea of refrigerators which taint the food in them. I know I've seen that somewhere, but can't remember where.)
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 03-15-2019, 10:45 PM.

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  • Grumpy RPG Reviews
    replied
    Cool. I did not know that.

    Texas Instruments also made Speak and Spell, a learning tool for children popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The World of Darkness version probably, when adults were not around, told children to burn things.

    I have to admit I can't make evil kitchen appliances interesting, and not also silly. I mean, I suppose the 'fridge could turn into a killing machine and start attacking people - but the mental image is kind of silly. Still, I believe Pentex has its hand in the production of ovens, vacuums, blenders, fridges, etc.

    Leave a comment:


  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
    This is an interesting thread and I will explore it more later. For now, in my game I added the kitchen appliance company Zettler to the list outfits working for Pentex. It is named for the Malkavian on the Pentex BoD. Evil kitchen appliances doesn't really track with his personality, but Zettler sounds right as a slightly sinister brand name for dish washers, refrigerators, ovens and so forth.
    Something interesting I learned yesterday was that Texas Instruments, mostly famous for making calculators, but who also do a lot of other stuff, got their start doing seismic exploration for the oil industry in the 1930s. So, there's the curious possibility that a PENTEX electronics company could've started as a spin off of ENDRON.

    Leave a comment:


  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Project: Lycaon

    So, I'm not all that familiar with any of the WW20 material, and I'll be perfectly honest that I'm not super wild about most of the Mockery Breeds. But, for people who do like them, there is a fair amount of material out there to go looking for ideas and inspiration.

    As far as PENTEX created breeds go, Werewolf: The Forsaken's War Against the Pure has several potential antagonist shapeshifters, including a roach breed akin to the Samsa who reproduce as a spiritual plague, were-fish deep ones, were-cats, were-bulls, and were-falcons. Even weirder ideas can be found in CoD's World of Darkness: Changing Breeds. (I could easily see PENTEX trying to develop a breed of were-house cats to act as trained seducer-assassins or something who also double as sex-toys for high level executives.)

    The Rifts RPG had a metric ton of genetically engineered animal people, a number of which were detailed in RIFTS Lone Star, a world book about the surviving high tech genetics lab/military fortress that has survived the cataclysms and churns out the Coalition States' armies of DogBoys and other specialized troops. (A lot of this stuff was originally inspired by their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG and its various sourcebooks/spinoffs, including After the Bomb. Obviously, the various incarnations of the TMNT franchise - the 2012 series is my personal favorite - provides a lot of weird ideas for mutant animal designs.)

    Trying to turn animals into people as a form of horror is probably best epitomized by HG Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau. The House of Pain is vivisection at its worst, and the sort of thing that PENTEX scientists are likely to find fun. It has had several film adaptions, with 1932's Island of Lost Souls being one of the best, and the 1996 version being one of the not-so-good. Some other interesting films involving lab-made animal monsters include Man's Best Friend (1993), Splice (2009), The Fly (1986) and The Fly II (1989). Then there is Sssssss (1973), which is just weird.

    I will mention the movie Bats (1999), which is not all that great, but can offer ideas for things going wrong with trying to bring back a dead breed.

    Regarding cockroaches, if you've never read Kafka's The Metamorphosis, it's worth a read. And for the issue of were-roaches, the film Mimic (1997) is a must watch. Less necessary, but interestingly weird is The Nest (1988), about genetically engineered carnivorous super roaches, based on a novel by Gregory Douglas which I've never been able to find.

    With the Yeren were-apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) is a good film in and of itself, as well as a curious look at genetically enhanced apes. Monkey Shines (1988) is also interesting, if a little unfocused. And then there is Shakma (1990), which is not a great film, but does offer an interesting idea for a Yeren hunting a bunch of people in an office building after hours.

    Since it's probably only a matter of time before PENTEX tries to make shark equivalents to the War Wolves, you can probably find ideas from stuff like Deep Blue Sea (1999), 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012) and it's various head-count increasing sequels, Sharktopus (2012) and it's sequels (vs Pteracuda, vs Whalewolf), Snow Shark (2012), Sand Sharks (2011), Avalanche Sharks (2014), Ghost Shark (2013), and oh, god, please make it stop!

    Ahem.

    Then there's the realm of genetically engineered dinosaurs, as seen with the killer mutant dinosaur hybrids in Jurassic World (2015) and its sequel. Because you know that if PENTEX could make killer dinosaurs, they would. And quite honestly, a were-tyrannosaurus rex who's crinos form has a giant head and tiny little arms that can only wield little machine-pistols would be adorably awesome.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Originally posted by Fat Larry View Post


    Robocop is a classic. It's, in my opinion, utterly perfect and still holds up extremely well to this day.

    And while I always thought of Robocop to be more Iteration X and Technocracy, the world of Robocop is 100% Pentex.
    I knew that the remake was going to completely miss the point of the original when I saw that he still had one of his biological hands.

    At some point I plan to do a bit about corporate culture and executives, including stuff like Robocop and American Psycho (and Dilbert).

    Leave a comment:

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