We finally got to play the Freemarket characters that we made a few weeks ago. The game was supposed to be a 1 session demo as we have been doing during our Pilgrimage of new games these last few months.
Well, the session turned out a LOT better than most of us expected given how alien some aspect of the game appeared to us before playing it. Chances are this may become a short campaign instead of a one-shot.
Let’s dive in.
Jack Knife (Yan): Multi-Talented Body-Artist. Experienced creative printer, ephemerist and interface designer (hard/software Implants) who’s been around the station a few times.
Paul Demetrios (PM): OCD Investigator. Hacker and Thin-slicer that NEVER lets something go unsolved (unless made to forget it, an apparently common occurrence).
Coleco (Franky): An Old-World Tools Replicator. A cultivation and recycling expert, can create tech pieces of unparallel beauty with discarded scrap.
Flint (Mike): An Enlightened Interface Fetishist. Illuminated by the sayings of the Prophet of the New Order, he seeks perfection through Interface!
Welcome Home Bros!
The game strongly encourages the GM to introduce the setting by describing the PCs new digs. As a Tier 1 MRCZ (an archaic acronym from the Station’s construction era, pronounced “Mercy”), the characters get an upgrade from capsule pods and communal areas. They get to share living and working areas with another Tier one MRCZ in a wagon-sized cargo container.
The game also urges the GM to create tension right off the bat by making the other MRCZ into something completely different (and possibly at cross-purposes) from the players’ own. That why I made the neighbours into a small Krishna revivalist cult using their songs and millennial manipulation techniques to create a second coming of whatever they thought Krishnas were supposed to be about.
I didn’t have to do anything else… Jack Knife was already sick and tired of the endless droning chant and dove for the matter printer on their half of the pod.
Challenge 1: What’s that Smell?
Chatty: So what’s your goal here?
Yan: Jack wants to create a soundproof partition.
Chatty (Thinking aloud) : Hmmm, is it enough of a stake to make it into a challenge? Hells yeah! You’re all broke Flow wise (the Station’s influence-based commodity) and I want to drive you nuts with this shtick! Let’s do this.
Freemarket’s task resolution system is called a Challenge. You only do them when players (or key NPCs) want to bring about change to anything on the Station and there’s someone at the table opposed to that change.
In our case, all the players chipped in some Flow to create a bitchin’ flexible soundproof partition out of the dog-sized matter printer. This was a team challenge, with all players playing against me. I represented the flaws in the badly maintained printer and some hidden viruses left by playfully malicious ex-occupants of the cargo pod.
Challenges are performed by having players play a narrative-splashed card-scoring mini-game using the decks packed with the game (explaining, in part, its 60$ price tag). Going into the details of this mechanic would derail the whole post away from its purpose, but suffice it to say that once we grokked it, everything became a fast-paced, engrossing risks-vs-benefits scoring race against the opposing team.
In our case, I brought the printing challenge to an end by conceding a Minor success to the PCs. After describing how everyone got the printer to work semi-correctly, I explained to Yan that their margin of victory was so slim that all they could do was impose one of three tags to the freshly printed partition… I’d get to set the other two.
I also indicated that nobody’s Flow would be reimbursed, sending some players into negatives and putting them in danger of being voted off the Station.
(You read that right, Freemarket has some Reality TV elements. The actions of all MRCZ are, usually, public and subjected to going viral, becoming trends or subject of intense scrutiny.)
Chatty: So what tag are you…
Chatty: So, that leaves two… lets make them…. Smelly (all players groaned) and… Inflammable!
Aside two: I made a mistake here. I forgot that all pieces of technology built in the game must have one tag corresponding to one of the 14 “skills”… I’ll fix it here. The partition stats are thus:
NullNoise MRCZ pod partition, Tags: Ghosting (that’s Stealth), Soundproof, Smelly.
Interlude 1: Family Memories Pileup!
While hilarious, that last challenge didn’t really create a lot of hooks to start the adventure, so I dug in my Memory Mashup notes (the process I described at the end of my last post) to pull a few hooks to get things started.
Chatty: Franky, Coleco’s brother Miro, who you thought was somewhere else in the Solar System just pinged your PC. He needs your help with some piece of old tech he ‘found”.
Franky: What the hell? He’s on the station? Let him come…I guess.
Turns out Miro had a piece of ancient motherboard that he wanted the players to hack and extract data in it. When the players realized how much Flow it would cost them to do that, they all balked! They all had low balances, some only barely above zero by having friended (yes, like in Facebook) most of the MRCZ’s members.
Seeing that they would likely have to postpone this task, I dug back into my pile of Mashed Memories (I had 3 more) and pulled the next one. It ended up being a boring dead end (It was too vague and had no fun leads) so I picked the next one.
Miro: Yeah so, I don’t know if it’s any help, but have you guys heard about the Grindstone Cowboys MRCZ yet? They apparently got their hands on a new “Sex Toy” design and have started mass producing them. They’re going to gift them all to a 2nd Gen dude named Korg who makes wild experiments with Blanks (i.e. Printed, artificial humans).
Mike: Hey, Korg is Flint’s creator!
Franky: WTF!?! I made that toy yesterday and it was supposed to be discretely delivered to a member of the Ambassador MRCZ. I wanna ping her!
Chatty: She says she never got it and she’s about to “frown” you for reneging on a contract.
Franky: What’s frowning?
Chatty: Oh, a frownie is a formal token of disapproval…it’s worth -3 Flow.
Franky: Crap no, I’m at 1!
See that? That was all done with the players long/short term memories. It took me about 10 minutes before the game to come up with these hooks. So awesome.
So what the players decided to do was to handcraft the Ambassador a new, better toy. In order to generate the needed flow to undertake this endeavour, Coleco gave his Retro-Phasor gun to his brother (everyone knew he was a no good, two timer… but hey). Thus Coleco gained an instant 10 Flow.
Yup, you gain Flow in Freemarket by friending people, gifting them stuff, filling contractual obligations and winning team challenges by a large margin (the central computer, in its programmed socially-driven benevolence, rewards cooperation). Flow is then used to start all challenges (or survive challenges against you) and to petition the Central Computer for a MRCZ tier upgrade.
The other players exchanged more friendship requests among themselves and braced for the challenge.
Challenge 2: Are Those Brass Keys or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
Chatty: Okay, what’s your goal?
Franky: We want to create a better, sleeker sex toy for the Ambassador. Something made of Clockworks and Brass!
Chatty: A Steampunk Dildo huh?
After we recovered from generalized hilarity, we agreed it was a good challenge. By then, everyone had huge stupid grins. The game’s mission was accomplished, Freemarket had been adopted.
The challenge pitted everyone in the party, helping Franky hand craft his “masterpiece” by merging together (i.e. Recycling) two different pieces of tech, namely pieces of the busted matter printer and knick-knacks of dumb material strewn here and there in the pod.
My side of the challenge represented the material’s low grade, distraction caused by the partition’s smell and the challenge of achieving Franky’s vision with so few good parts. They won the challenge by a landslide, each scoring a lot of Flow.
Chatty: Well done gang, you now get to give it three tags, one of which must be one of the 14 skills. I’d saw that a sex toy is definitively “ephemera”.
And I give you:
The Steam Stallion Mk I, Tags: Ephemera, Filling, Orgasmic.
Yes, we’re a bunch of 13 year olds… sigh. 🙂
Interlude 2: Plowing and Plotting
Coleco gifted the toy to the soon to be very happy Ambassador. Bolstered by all that Flow, the group set out to plan their next move on those thieving Grindstone Cowboys.
At that point, I had noticed that Mike had had a very unlucky card streak so far and had been, more or less, the only player yet to have some spotlight time. So I nudged the group so he got involved in the next scene’s planning. Oddly enough, according to his recent memories, he had a very good reason to visit the Grindstone Cowboys… He wanted to obtain someone’s interface. Except he couldn’t quite exactly remember which one… and on whom.
Did I tell you I really like this game?
Up next, Ghosting and Breaking challenges within the Grand HQ of the Tier 6 Grindstone Cowboys MRCZ!