Red Markets Preorder

Summer is my chance to get a lot of reading done and, having finished reading Star Trek Adventures, I've moved on to Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror by Caleb Stokes of Hebanon Games.

Red Markets is a horror game where the zombie apocalypse was unevenly spread. It is about the have-nots trying to eek out an existence while the haves live within safe zones. It's about groups of Takers completing bounties for supplies, for survival, and for the haves, with the hope of surviving to retirement.

I'm bringing this game up for a couple of reasons:

  1. It's a cool idea for a game and combines a lot of the tropes of modern zombie horror. We've got Dawn of the Dead Remake/28 Days Later fast zombies and Romero slow zombies. We have enclaves just trying to survive.
  2. It has a new take on the genre: The fact that everything isn't The Walking Dead is the real hook of the game, especially when there are plenty of zombie RPGs. Government and society still exists, even if the PCs are mostly cut off from it.
  3. It was developed in a level of transparency that was just astounding and, in my opinion, hasn't been seen since the early days of Evil Hat.
  4. And the creator of the game hit a really rough patch in his Kickstarter.

It is the last two that I wanted to talk about here.

Mr. Stokes is a regular host of Role Playing Public Radio, a well known RPG podcast. The development of Red Markets can be followed through RPPR's semi-regular Game Designer's Workshop episodes where Mr. Stokes and Ross Payton, RPPR's founder and game designer in his own right, discuss various aspects of game design and development.

The Kickstarter updates are also very informative and continues the level of transparency.

Listening to the development of Red Markets is a real lesson for anyone interested in seeing how a game starts as an idea and goes on to become a published product.

The other part is that the Red Markets Kickstarter is one of many Kickstarters that has suffered from the increasing cost of international shipping.

In response to this, Mr. Stokes has gone above and beyond to find better options for his backers. He has done this by splitting the shipment from China and engaging the services of a European fulfillment house…all at his own expense and after enduring no small level of abuse from a number of his backers.

This was a well researched and openly developed project that got hurt by forces beyond its control.

If you want a unique zombie RPG then head over to the Red Markets BackerKit Preorder page and place your order.

Ordering just the PDF and Stretch Goals PDF is, to my mind, like giving him money. But he is also happy for print orders.

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Social Skills and Player Characters

Several years ago, there was a debate about social combat in the gaming community. It stemmed from something that happened during a convention game where one PC attempted to use the a social skill roll to convince another PC to do something. If I recall correctly, the GM didn’t allow it because social skills shouldn’t be affect player characters.

I’m of two minds on this matter. The first I can sum up pretty easily.

First, a player only controls their character in the game world and it isn’t right to have that control taken away from them.

Second, I don’t see how using social skills to control another character’s actions is any different than using combat skills, or any other skill for that matter. Game mechanics represent how characters interact with the setting. The mechanics also allow players to have characters that are different than themselves. The balding, pudgy, middle-aged guy can play a well-muscled warrior even though he’s never lifted anything heavier than his messenger bag (hey, those things can get pretty heavy). Or the high school student can play a Ph. D. in anthropology.

So if the mechanics support being stronger or smarter or better educated than we are in real life then they also allow us to be more persuasive. And the mechanics do…with non-player characters.

When it comes to social skill use between two player characters, I think of physical combat. Combat is another skill use where the outcome impacts the characters, and not always in the way they want. If two player characters fight in a game, there is a clear understanding of where things could lead. It’s understood that a character could be killed or taken out of the game in some other way. The end result is that one character will end up controlling the future of the other character in the game.

Social skills do the same thing, mechanically: control another characters actions.

There are games where social skills are made to affect player characters. There are a number of games Powered by the Apocalypse that do this with the consent of the character that is affected. When a player character uses a social skill (or move) on another player character, an experience point is offered as incentive to the affected player which they get if they allow the result to occur. The affected player can decline the experience point and have their character act however they want or accept the point and go along with the result.

So the key to the use of social skills between player characters may be buy-in and incentive. Games that use tokens or bennies, like FATE or Savage Worlds, may be able to do something similar. Whatever system, I think consent at the table is a must.