While the corporations, privateers, institutes, trading consortiums, aid groups and secret societies controlled by players jockey for control and influence throughout the solar system, they are doing such against a backdrop of existing political entities.
The solar system of ORG is comprised of a large number of distinct national polities, each with technical sovereignty over one or more regions. "Technical" sovereignty because ultimately, it is the actions of the various player orgs that call the real shots.
(Be sure to check out the Solarian Encyclopedia if you are interested in learning about the background and political relationships in more detail).
So how do players' actions affect the national polities of Org, and vice versa?
Every national polity - for example, "The Free State of Mars" or "The Sedna All-Thing" or "The Eastern Federation" - is defined by the regional territory it occupies, its diplomatic state with the various other polities, and the Reputation each player has accumulated with that polity.
There is a lot of history standing behind most of the national polities of Org which represents a sort of background diplomatic state that two polities will tend towards, all other things being equal. For example, the background diplomatic state of the Eastern Federation and State is one of Hostility. If no player were ever to run any political, cultural, or military tasks on either the Eastern Federation or State, their diplomatic state will slowly creep towards Hostility.
There are five diplomatic states that any pair of national polities can be in:
- No Opinion
Each of these five diplomatic states governs what tasks can be available in the regions occupied by a polity.
For example, if the Eastern Federation and State are currently in a state of Hostility, tasks such as "Transport Prisoners of War for the Eastern Federation" may not be available, though "Bombard Eastern Federation Outlying Colony" will be. Were the Eastern Federation and State to be at a state of Mixed diplomatic relations, the above-mentioned bombard task might not be available, though sabotage and supply of insurgent tasks might still be.
When a player's org acts in a hostile way against a national polity, that polity and to a lesser extent, that polity's friends will take offense, lowering your Reputation with those polities. At the same time, polities hostile to the polity you acted against will raise your Reputation with those polities. Because the alliances and hostilities of the national polities will inevitably be irregular, this can make for a very delicate game for players who must pick and choose carefully what polities to help and what polities to oppose.
In addition, as all the players in the game conduct tasks for or against different polities, these tasks in aggregate will slowly shift the diplomatic states of each of the polities. While the Mars Republic and the Free State of Mars begin the game in a state of civil war, and, in truth, will tend to slip back into such a state, if players are aggressive in their use of lobbying tasks, developmental aid, relief programs and the like, the Mars Republic and the Free State of Mars can be nudged out of open war and into a diplomatic state of hostility, or even mixed or friendly.
Players that are, for example, relying on selling naval ships or war supplies to a polity may suddenly find themselves out of contracts if the polities they have been supplying suddenly find themselves no longer at war with their neighbors. Clever alliances can manipulate this political dynamic to benefit themselves and damage their rivals in the various rankings.
Reputation itself is essentially a special kind of non-transferable currency and measure of a player's org's standing with a particular polity. Maintaining a certain minimum Reputation can be a prerequisite for some tasks - for example, to obtain Letters of Marque, essentially giving the player's org legal cover to engage in military operations against another polity, or certain more rewarding contracting opportunities. Reputation is also necessary for various other activities such as obtaining xenoarchaeological survey consent or getting access to certain items particular to individual polities.
Many of the higher value tasks that reward Reputation with a polity are a double-edged sword, however - they represent critical needs of the polity, so failing can actually cost you Reputation with that polity, meaning that you need to measure some degree of caution with assigning too-junior agents or untested ships to these kinds of tasks.
If all of this sounds like one complication too many for you, never fear; while all categories have at least some tasks that impact your org's Reputation with various polities, the degree to which this is true varies greatly. The Political and Military categories, for example, touch Reputation extensively, while Research and Commercial have many fewer such connections.
Regardless of whether you are actively attempting to influence the policies of a (or many) national polity, other players will be, and those actions can have a real and lasting impact on your own options, opportunities, and overall strategy, so it is a good thing to keep at least one eye on, even if you yourself are not hip-deep in the politics of the solar system.