Author Topic: Red Markets Alpha Playtest  (Read 94492 times)

Cthuluzord

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Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« on: January 31, 2014, 06:27:34 PM »
Okay, I'm at the point where I've written more than enough rules for Red Markets to break, change, and discard. Doing anything more would be building on uncertain foundations. Here's what I've got written up so far.

Drafted
•   Basic Mechanics
•   Terminology (my personal zombie nomenclature)
•   Tools (tags for gear and rules for spending charges)
•   Gear list
•   Casualties (rules for fighting zombies)
•   Combat
•   Humanity (Sanity system, basically)
•   Negotiations (the social combat mechanic to determine prices)
•   Outfit Sheet (character sheet for the company owned by the PCs)
•   Reputation (how your outfit is perceived, and how it helps or harms you)
•   Character Backgrounds (think in terms of classes or races in traditional RPGs)
•   Character sheet
•   Truncated Setting Description (see below)

I'm going to wait and see how all of that (about 25K words worth) holds up before going on to write the other stuff that will need to be beta-tested

Not Yet Drafted

•   Short fiction
•   Style-guide (will need it for the drafting process, and it will let me farm out portions as freelancing if the KS does well, finished the project faster)
•   Expanded Setting Description (this will be IC voice from metaplot characters, describing the Recession safe zones, Enclaves, The Loss, International setting, and continental US)
•   Competition (cultists, military, rival outfits, and other human enemies)
•   Aberrant (special zombies not to be trifled with...think zombie animals or Zombie jesus for Land of the Dead, plus other monsters as designed by Caleb)
•   Enclave Rules (running contracts out of a community settlement instead of a self-contained base)
•   Interlude Rules (a story telling mechanic akin to a road movie, used while travelling to jobs. There’s something similar to what I’m shooting for in the Savage Worlds Ultimate Edition)
•   Travel Rules and Random Encounters (d100 random roll tables!!! Mwhahahaha!!!)
•   Vehicle Rules (AUTODUEL!!!)
•   Mass Combat Rules
•   Contacts (Networking and reputation economy stuff)
•   Markets (not everyone is capitalist anymore: how do you transfer the rules to barter, controlled, or socialist economies?)
•   Character Advancement
•   Character Generation

Now, it might seem a little odd not to have those last two finished before the Alpha starts, but let me explain my thinking: since the game is about economics, achieving a balance early in the game is key. If players get powerful later through smart decisions and saving Bounty (the in-game currency), there are many options the GM has to make the game more challenging. But if they are too powerful or too weak from the start, the game won't work. I need to find a base number of starting character points and bounty to give level-one's, so to speak. Only after I have that baseline can I codify a process for creating a unique character concept as a player-facing choice.

Furthermore, people are going to think up character concepts I've never dreamed of before. If I can build as many of those into the system from the start and balance them with the game's and setting's economy, Red Markets is going to be more fun to play.

So I'm posting a description of the setting in this thread so people can pitch character concepts that might fit in with the world of Red Markets. I really encourage the RPPR crew to describe what they want to play here, but pitching is open to everyone. I'll try to build each character, then give that described character to the player that pitched it, or draw it at random for another playtest. There are going to be a lot of one-shots before we try the more extended play; the more varied individual characters we have to choose from, the better.

INSTRUCTIONS: read the setting descriptions (next few post), then write up as detailed a character concept as you care to in this thread. Since you don't really know about the mechanics, keep the description narrative. What does the character do well? Why are they a Taker? What happened to trap them out in the Loss? What is their retirement plan? How did they come to meet their crew? Who are their dependents? Do they live in an Enclave, the Recession, or back at the base?

I'll build the character and we'll throw it into a one-shot when we start alpha testing in a month or so. I really look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with, and I hope to get this out of the way so I can give a beta to everyone's home group soon.

Thanks!

UPDATE:

Red Markets is ready to play. We are six sessions into the macro playtest, and I've got 115 pages of rules ready to go. Things are going well with the RPPR crew, and I’m psyched to run some games for fans. It looks like GenCon scheduling is solidifying, so here’s what I’m thinking:

I’m doing panel talks at 11am and 1pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at GenCon (please come!). I need to keep evenings free for the RPPR meet-up, the Posthuman Freelancer meeting, traditional Glancy game, and the off-chance I could convince some experienced designers to try it out. That means Red Markets playtests will start about 2:30 pm and end around 6:30 pm. That will give me time to leave the Crown Plaza, make it to an open play-space coordinated through GroupMe (I feel shitty selling tickets to an unfinished game, and tables might all be taken when we arrive somewhere), and run the game before shuttling off to wherever I need to be that evening. I could also run games Wednesday night (depending on when we get in), or after the RPPR meet up (depending on my GenCon endurance roll).

So Red Markets playtests will be unofficial games, played where space is available, from 2:30-6:30 Thurs-Sat. If you are attending the con and want a spot, let me know. I will offer space as available.

Meanwhile, in the future...

If you want to rules to playtest with your own group, I've been filing away every request. I know who you are if you've already told me. I have the “Playing Red Markets” rules done (well, ready to edit, at least), but I’m writing the GM section as we continue recording the RPPR campaign. Additionally, there are no scenarios written outside of my chicken-scratch notebooks. The full workings of a beta playtest won’t be done until I get the school-year wrapped up, but it will certainly be done before GenCon. So if you’re one of those noble souls and want to try the game with some rando’s at the con, you’ll have the ability to do so. Ross might also be running some after-hours Red Markets adventure, to make sure I’m selling a game and not me as a GM.

Fair warning for those looking to playtest at home: I am asking for some dedication. I don’t have time to parse the rules down into the condensed nuggets offered as betas by big studios, and I don’t want to delay the start of the KS any longer by trying to do so. Running the game will basically require reading 2/3rds of the book in a draft format, having your group make characters or copy pregens, and giving one or two example scenarios a shot. It’ll be a big packet for a playtest, bigger so if you’re group is beautiful enough to try one of the campaign modes.

That said, we've got a bitching character sheet done, along with a bunch of helpful handouts, cheat-sheets, manipulatives, and hard-won advice. I also want to see about distributing a preview AP to playtesters, so they can at least hear the game as I envision it as they parse the text. You should all be able to have fun with at least a session or two before something breaks, and I’m eager to get finished so I can hear everyone’s experiences. More on the closed RPPR forum beta as it develops.
Alright, that’s all. Let me know in the thread if you want A) to play at GenCon or B) copy of a future beta and haven’t messaged me yet.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: July 09, 2015, 01:35:36 AM by clockworkjoe »

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2014, 06:29:21 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes

The Blight

Here’s everything we know about it, or have been allowed to know:

0: Classification:

We don’t know what it is. It behaves like a virus or bacteria for large portions of its life cycle, but develops complex physical structures given a long enough timeline, suggesting some sort of asexually reproducing parasite. But, unlike anything else in the animal kingdom, the damn thing seems to violate the Conservation of Energy, producing kinetic force even in cases where the infected hasn’t ingested protein or any other food source. It’s either the most remarkably efficient organism ever – converting energy from photosynthesis, heat absorption, and a number of other sources simultaneously – or a manmade substance engineered and yet to be understood. People are throwing around the word nanotechnology a lot lately…

Then there are the Aberrant, which, if they actually exist, imply everything from alien fungus to supernatural plague to new stage of human evolution.

Like I said, WE DON’T KNOW. Or, as an even more unsettling possibility, someone knows and doesn’t want to tell.

1: Infection:

Infection occurs from direct contact with infected fluids: spit, blood, saliva, sexual fluids, or pure Blight (that black stuff they bleed). Not every bite or exposure is enough; five years of hindsight have produced documented cases of exposure without infection, which were later proven not to be Latency or Immunity when a second exposure produced full-transformation.

Immunity complicates things immensely, as we know it exists but have no idea why. Certain individuals can’t be infected no matter how many exposures occur. Science has determined that it has something to do with bone marrow, and they’ve determined that a processed form designed for direct injection can cause Blight in the midst of initial viral amplification to go dormant (thus developing the drug Supressin K-7864). Other than that, the Immune share no known commonality: they have no common sex, upbringing, diet, race, age, blood type, or ancestry. Medical science is racing to find the magic factor…usually by cutting it out of the poor bastards with document Immunity. A lot of doctors regret the thousands of potential golden guinea pigs shot for harmless wounds (cold bites, as they are called) during the initial outbreak.

The injection of Supressin K-7864 directly after a hot bite can prevent the development of symptoms, though the Latent condition has also been recorded as occurring inexplicably and spontaneously. Latents are infection carriers, able to spread the Blight by all the same means of a Casualty, but they retain their mental faculties and life. The Blight amplifies in the system without attacking the brain, entering a dormant state. The only sign of Latency is persistent necrosis around the bite area, caused during the transition from active Blight to its dormant/reproductive state. A single kiss from a Latent loved one has been the cause of many an outbreak, and their blood remains another valuable resource in researching the Blight. Worse, the continual reproduction of the Blight even in its dormant states means that, after the death of a Latent, the virus goes live within seconds.

This creates a Vector, which is the fate of 98% of the population after receiving a hot bite.

2. Vectors

Upon infection, the Blight cells (or whatever they are) amplify in the bloodstream at a speed unprecedented in the history of viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Some documented cases report as many as a couple of days passing before full transformation, but many transform within a matter of minutes. The process is so fast that many victims, torn apart by other Vectors, are eventually reanimated into Casualties even after death; hot Blight needs only a partial journey through the circulatory system before reanimation becomes inevitable.

In cases where the body is infected but escapes violent death, the cells of the victim serve as fuel for the Blight as it attacks and converts blood vessels first. This leads to the hemorrhaging and bloody vomit typical of the freshly infected.

Once distributed throughout the circulatory system, the primary activity occurs in the brain. Dilation of pupils become irregular and is followed by a sense of euphoria, then confusion, muscle tremors, and slurred speech. The hormonal dump follows – a pituitary explosion of stress chemicals – and leads to the first violent tendencies. Predatory instincts develop around the time all higher brain functions begin to completely break down. This causes the unfortunate, psychologically scarring “apologies” victims commonly report as being screamed by some Vectors when they first begin to infect, kill, and eat loved ones.

Vectors are extremely fast and very infectious. They bleed from every orifice and wound, and their fluids are in the midst of a frenzy of Blight reproduction that can carry over to victims easily. All governors of physical exertion are destroyed in the corruption of the brain, meaning that even physically weak individuals can move with uncharacteristic speed and ignore mortal trauma for disturbing amounts of time.

The Vectors remain dependant upon the brain stem to function. As with all Casualties, a headshot is the only way to ensure immobility.

3. Death

Due to combination internal hemorrhaging, trauma, overexertion, exposure, dehydration, and starvation, all Vectors qualify for medical definitions of death within a matter of hours or days after transformation. The actual time of death is difficult to pinpoint since the corpse remains animate. Signs include slowed hemorrhaging, stiffness due to rigor, gastrointestinal bloating, and a pallid skin tone.

In all but the most robust individuals, transition from Vector to Casualty involves a period of torpor where the corpse appears inanimate and still. Twitching may occur, but the overwhelming predatory instinct that define Blight infection relax for a number of hours as the victim enters the so-called “puppet” stage.

4. Casualties
 
According to pre-Recession science, dead things cannot move. The dead have no way to metabolize energy into electrical impulses to trigger muscle twitch. Technically, that logic holds even though the dead walk and kill the living.

The Blight uses it’s torpor to focus on metabolizing dead flesh, either consumed during the Vector phase or from the victim’s own tissues, into “strands.” These black, fibrous monofilaments duplicate throughout the body rampantly, occasionally even bursting from the flesh in the form of black spines or bulbous tumors. The purpose, near as we can tell, is to form a redundant nervous and musculature system on the wasted anatomy of the human’s. These strands originate in the stomach, quickly metabolizing consumed proteins and the victims own intestines (thus the gaunt look typical of most Casualties). A separate clutch develops in the cortex, mirroring human neurophysiology almost exactly.

When the strands have infiltrated all muscle tissues, they begin to excrete a viscous, liquefied form of the Blight known colloquially as “juice.” This substance has remarkable preservative properties unseen in other organic compounds and serves to pickle the dead flesh rotting around it. While not a perfect chemical, the black juice preserves the tissues of the dead victims for many years beyond the human norm and makes consuming the dead flesh toxic to all carrion eaters, even those not directly susceptible to Blight infection.

When the torpor ends, the Blight has essentially become a multiple-cellular parasite, sending nerve impulses down its strands to trigger unsophisticated muscle twitch reactions in the host. It’s suggested that the drive to consume flesh arises from the metabolic need to fuel these electrical impulses, but if this is the case, the Blight has the most remarkably efficient metabolism imaginable, approaching a 1-to-1 transfer ratio. Other theories posit that starving Casualties supplement their energy needs through some sort of photosynthesis located in the breeches of Blight strands, or that the creature operates off a form of heat absorption.

Regardless, the durable strands “puppet” the corpse around, now typically referred to as a Casualty, and repeat the behavior of a Vector, albeit slower and less coordinated. The strands are so redundant and resistant to damage that only total body destruction can render the body immobile. Thankfully, the impulses that drive the creature forward are routed through the central location of the brain, meaning that destruction of the brain stem or separation of the head will render the body inert.

5. The Aberrant

The existence of Aberrant types is widely debated in the medical community. No active specimens have ever been recovered, but supposed witnesses account this to the remarkable danger posed by these creatures. Accounts vary wildly and smack of urban legend, but enough reports occur simultaneously in geographically distinct areas to suggest at least some validity to the claims.

If the Aberrant do exist, they suggest that the Blight is entering a new evolutionary stage or has some even more complex stage of its lifecycle. As the existence of run-of-the-mill Casualties is problematic enough and reported sightings are rarely reputable, the scientific community has done very little work trying to categorize this supposed final stage.

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2014, 06:30:43 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes

The Crash

So that’s what we know about the Blight so far: five years and a mountain range of corpses later.

Back when it started, the only thing certain was that people were eating each other. And we knew what that reminded us of.

Honestly, the zombie movies killed as many of us as they saved. It’s a hell of trip to scroll through the old news archives and watch the transition. In the first week, the article titles were enthusiastic click-bait, almost gleeful to report acts of “supposed” cannibalism. But then they devolve to skeptical disbelief, earnest pleading, and, finally, dire and clinical evacuation orders.

The films initially caused overconfidence. In the early days, certain fools treated  the outbreaks like sport, confidently leaving their homes with nothing but a hunting rifle and getting run down by the sprinting, screaming, and insane Vectors. The slowness wasn't there yet; not enough time had passed to enter torpor. It took days for the infection to kill its host, and another after that for the rigor to set in. We thought they'd never slow down in those first weeks, that they would run the whole race down. We were almost right.

And we couldn't figure out how it had come from every direction at once. The only explanation was a God-ordered apocalypse (it still might be). None of us considered Latency. None of us considered that a few people might be Immune, or that the infection might not take hold with every exposure. After all, what self-respecting pandemic advertises the second it hits a host? Better to let some run, go home, give their family sloppy kisses, and then eat the neighbors. We know this now, a few years and a lot of dead relatives too late. The few statistics gathered in the fallback in the Recession suggest that humans killed more Latent and Immune than the monsters did. A bite meant a bullet back then, regardless. In many places, it still does.

The movies were responsible for the insane paranoia and overreaction: the terror of a cultural nightmare suddenly realized. Entire towns were wiped out without a single confirmed report of infection. Hoarding and looting started almost immediately when there was still plenty left. It wasn't like now, where morality is for dead men and legends, and the rest of us are trapped in the math of the Loss. People thought being a survivor meant being an asshole, just because that’s what Romero had taught them.

But we knew to aim for the head, though. We knew that quarantine would lead to hard choices, ruthless betrayals necessary for the survival of a species. We knew that a virus that behaves like a fungus, and a bacteria, and a parasite, AND an animal was too far beyond our scope to cure, and we didn't waste time trying. We knew what we were seeing by the second day of news reports, and we aimed for the head. That’s probably the only reason anyone is left alive.

At least the movies provided some advice, which is more than could be said for every other form of existent media. Early panic led to the suppression of the news outlets, outright censorship and government lies meant to “protect us” from ourselves. Thus came our ironic term for the zombies: Casualties, the bloodless alternative to the word we were all thinking. “LA took Casualties” or “St. Louis lists Casualties” or your hometown “…now had Casualties to report.” And by report, they meant scream helplessly into a webcam as they were eaten alive.

I think it was Zisek who said that we can all imagine the end of the world, but nobody can imagine an end to capitalism. Turns out he was dead on. Before long, our leaders were using the term “need to know” more for profit than protection, trying to get rich from the war before ensuring it could be won. They told to all get underground. Hole-up. The cavalry was on its way.

But then LifeLines came online and the Gnat set us straight. We learned that the new reality was just more of the old. Death remained a constant...but so did Taxes.

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2014, 06:31:36 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes.

Ubiq and LifeLines

Austin Palbicke grew up in a rural Texas trailer with no internet and less opportunity. He didn't see his first functioning Wifi connections until he switched high schools at 16, but he was instantly hooked. By the time he grew into a multi-billionaire through his software start-ups, he had already planned the Ubiq system in his head. "Nobody, no matter how poor," he said at the launch, "has to be cut-off anymore." If we Takers could still believe in anything, we'd inscribe that under a stained glass window in the church built for the poor dead bastard.

Ubiq utilizes thousands of high altitude weather balloons composed of prototype synthetic fabrics, each carrying a solar-powered, self-sustaining satellite transmitter and server. Solar winds shift the balloon cloud at all points around the globe, an ever-shifting pattern of coverage that is unbreakable for more than a few minutes at a time. The signal was meant to be everywhere, and everything could be managed from the Ubiq compound built in the Colorado mountains: an entirely green tech start-up city powered by an experimental geo-thermal reactor that cost more to build than the GDP of most developed nations. It was in beta when the Crash started, and as Ubiq programmers transmitted desperate pleas for help over the snarls of their cannibalistic coworkers outside, it looked like it was never going to get beyond the testing phase.

But then, after weeks with the power out, after starving in pitch-black basements under the government orders, the signal came back on. What few laptops could be charged suddenly had email. Cellphones, long since abandoned, had reception. All survivors needed was a hand crank or a solar panel...

One of the programmers had survived and, somehow, gotten Ubiq online. She called herself Gnat. Her forum was the LifeLines. She whispered the truth in all our ears.

Ubiq had been keeping an eye on everything while the rest of us huddled inside. The government blackout, the destruction of the United States, was just a stall tactic. They were marshaling forces, pulling back to beyond the Mississippi in preparation for the establishment of the safe zones. Gnat had found their traffic since they worm piggybacking signals using backdoors the NSA had wormed into the Ubiq signal, and all of us got to see their plans.

Fall back. Order everyone to stay inside at all costs. Use the entirety of the armed forces to secure the Mississippi and cordon off infected Eastern cities. And wait. Wait until the infected died and their puppeteer-ed corpses got dry, brittle, and slow. Wait for torpor and rigor to set in...then clear them out of the Eastern states using every round in the armory and every soldier that had ever enlisted. Launch a full-scale assault to take back the country, but only half of it. The West was to be cut off like a gangrenous limb.

Gnat posted their emails, then told us to run.

The rush on the bridges over the Mississippi was insanity. People thronged. Fresh outbreaks occurred. The Blight’s body count paled in comparison to those desperate fools that tried to swim across the river. Realizing the dam would break, the government backpedaled and set up checkpoints, stripping and checking all comers for infection. They'd never meant to abandon us, they claimed. This was all part of a plan. They called it the Recession.

But even when all the power was out, before they knew Gnat had their number, they never wrote down their plans to nuke the Eastern Canadian cities. Pre-preemptive genocide, they called it later. When the sun rose in the North in the middle of the night, then again, and again, those of us still waiting at the bridges knew that they were done making concessions. The bridges were blown and mined a few hours later; the border shut down. The West was closed off by a mighty river and a 200 mile long manned wall spanning from its mouth to the Great Lakes. And there was no one left in the North to become infected.

The country was divided: those of us safe in the Recession...and those of us written off as the Loss.

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2014, 06:33:29 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes.

The Recession

The American tactic was copied around the world in countries with enough life in them still to try. Everywhere, people retreated over rivers and behind mountains. Brazil retreated behind the Pa Rana and Amazon. The Philippines and Papua New Guinea became a war zone as China and other Asiatic nations fought for the previous island space. The Australians joined the island struggle after it had cleansed the infection from its own borders in a land grab. Japan and New Zealand closed their borders England recovered and became a giant hodge-podge of European refuges, along with the parts of Scandanavia protected by cold and Sweden behind its mountains. The remains of Russia retreated to the Urals. Alaska – long since thought dead in the death throes of Canadian military retaliation – somehow survived, opened the strategic oil reserve, and promptly seceded from the Union. The Middle East’s militarized culture and protection by the Suez and fertile-crescent rivers fared quite well and continued to supply the world with oil at a substantially increased price.

Collectively, these truncated and surviving states became known as The Recession. Everything else was The Loss, as in "written off as" ... including the hundreds-of-thousands left alive on the wrong side of the line.

They didn't have time to mourn, or perhaps didn't care to. In the United States, the availability of natural resources, international trade, and farmland was reduced by over 50%, yet the population those markets were meant to support was exponentially larger than the government had planned on. Famine and plague were rampant. Outbreaks still occurred in the safe zones and had to be put down quickly, with extreme prejudice. Whole cities had to be reclaimed and gutted of their infrastructure, redesigned into easily cut-off blocks according to the new aesthetic of Quarin-techture. The currency had collapsed. Entire industries had to be rebuilt or abandoned entirely.

With much to do, the government didn't even have time for revenge. Ubiq was declared a terrorist network, access punishable with the forced-labor and slavery of the newly simplified penal system. The crime was listed as "treasonous propaganda." How dare Gnat tell the world there were people left alive in the Loss? They were all Casualties now, infected now and forever. Anything else was a poisonous lie and punishable by death.

It's not like the Feds could actually do anything about it. Anyone with a battery and a phone could access LifeLines, and missiles sent to blow up weather balloons still use fuel that no one could afford. A DOS attack would deny the government access to Ubiq too, meaning that they’d have to rely solely other their half-destroyed network structure.

They did attempt to retake Ubiq City once with a special operations squadron. Gnat told us about it. The ones still left alive work for her now.

They had better luck enforcing the other new laws. Like outlawing all Latents, corralling their infection risk into camps or prisons or mass graves. Or conscripting everyone with a demonstrated immunity into "medical service," testing them like animals for a cure and farming out their bone marrow to produce Supressin K-7864. Any male between the ages 16 and 22 got thrown into 2 years of compulsory military service or shot for “desertion of duty” under the new, perfectly-legal mandates. And it’s not like they could have been going to school anyway, as the Department of Education dissolved overnight. Between the misery, depression, and overwhelming need of the Recession population, a new golden age of Crime dawned, too hungry to get ahead to worry about possible forced labor or street execution if anyone bothered to catch them.

Hardly anyone escaped the pain of the Recession. If you lived in the East, you probably lost your job, or had soldiers take over your home, or were forced to live with 3 refugee families crammed into your living room. If you fled before the borders closed, you had almost no possessions and were likely living out of your dead car in the massive parking lots of the new refugee camps. Food and clean water became the only worthwhile currency, so the military started issuing ration dollars.

But the 1% still did fine. Those with enough money to have enough power always found themselves stocked, and nobody was turning their mansions into factories anytime soon.

Career military did well too. They certainly were in demand more than every. Armed forces were the only ones assured ammo, food, and fuel. They needed it all to start establishing settlements in the Loss, retaking fracking facilities and factories to produce the drone farming equipment needed to get the Midwest feeding people again. The risk certainly justified their rewards, but it’s hard not to suspect corruption when Generals start driving around in Lamborghini’s instead of jeeps.

The new order became clear: work, die, or get rich enough to leave humanity behind.

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2014, 06:34:52 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes.

The Department of Homeland Quarantine and Stewardship

A couple years into the hell of Recession America, the government formed a new organization: The Department of Homeland Quarantine and Stewardship. The DHQS was a blanket operation charged with assisting the military in maintaining the quarantine, the CDC in researching the Blight, secretly supplying strategic Enclaves to lure dead of the Recession borders air establishing forward reclamation settlements, and, most importantly, assessing the Loss.

In short, it was an organization spread so thin that it was doomed to fail before it existed and easier to cheat than an online age-restriction prompt.

The DHQS, aside from having the most “don’t-fuck-with-us” soldiers ever to rape the Loss, is really known for creating the Bounty system. See, even with the Blight’s unnatural preservation of dead flesh, the Casualties weren't completely immune to the elements. In studies (that the public never got to see), it was predicted that the infection couldn't keep anything moving and biting form more than twenty years, even in the best of conditions. So, if the government could go twenty years without a new infection out in the Loss, the Blight should have burned itself out completely, and mankind would be set to reclaim the world with ease.

Yeah…right. But people bought into it. Even false hope is better than none, I guess.

A futures exchange emerged, quite literally. People began speculating on the possible reclamation of the Loss. And why not? After all, who would claim all that unclaimed property? Was it subject to probate and inheritance? Can a corpse, if it is moving and has a partial neural imprint surviving in the form of a monsterous infection, still own property? What about all that abandoned real estate? Vast tracts of valuable land and oil rights were now up for grab. Who gets control of Ubiq when they finally find a way to blast Gnat out of her mountain fortress?

But exactly how much could be looted and how much was still legally owned by survivors? Who made it into the Recession? They didn’t exactly have time to take a census during the evacuation. How many have been born since and what are the lines of inheritance? Who owns business property when the corporate entity is, for all intents and purposes, dead? Do you have to pay property and income tax on holdings that can’t be physically accessed without being shot for violating quarantine?

Early attempts by the DHQS to establish legal precedent for answering “the government gets it” caused a huge backlash. The markets, still depressed from the near-apocalypse, dipped even lower as the US appeared to be lurching towards totalitarianism. Productivity plummeted. Riots spread faster than outbreaks, and the military was loathe to help. The generals and other power players certainly wanted to get rich off reclamation, but they wanted to retire with their loot, not hand it over and spend the golden years in a mobile home.

So the DHQS went in the other direction. Income and property tax would be suspended until proof of ownership could be established, and then reinstituted at a reduced rate in exchange for personal salvage rights. All other property without proof of ownership would revert to the government.

The next outrage was the obvious risk of corruption such a system presented. What was required for proof? No attempt had been made to quantify the number of survivors? No one knew who was next in line of inheritance with so many families shattered and scattered? And, the truth everyone knew but wasn’t allowed to say, what about the survivors still left alive out in the Loss?

Thus, the Bounty system was implemented. Former ID would be collected from living survivors in the Recession to establish proof of life: driver’s licenses, birth certificates, anything issued before the Blight. The government knew that a lot of these documents were moldering in safe deposit boxes behind the Mississippi and other had been burned for heat. But still, if you could prove you were alive and owned it, it was yours when the mythical twenty years rolled around.

The real money was in proving who had died. Fencemen, the militia police force charged with clearing Casualties that managed to get across the river, found that most people evacuated their homes carrying a wallet before they got bite. Fish around in a decapitated zombie’s pocket, find their ID, and you’ve either got instant proof of property the government can now seize, or a ticket to a fat inheritance for some lucky refugee.

The DHQS announced a bounty system: any ID recovered off a dead Casualty was now worth a standardized number of ration dollars, adjusted for inflation. The idiots had accidently established a new defacto currency that the government and the people wanted in equal measure… and the abandoned, supposedly-dead bastards stuck in the Loss had access to the majority of it.

The Red Markets had already been long established by the time Bounty was announced, but they were barter only affairs. Now there was an exchange rate between the Recession and the Loss. Abandoned documents, survey-able property, and all the dead man’s IDs you could kill for – it finally became possible to not only survive in the wastelands, but thrive there as well.

The Takers were born.

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2014, 06:35:42 PM »
Please note that what follows is a VERY rough draft and subject to extensive change before publication. Red Markets is the intellectual property of Hebanon Games and Caleb Stokes.

The Red Markets

Food canned on day one of the Crash had, at best, two years before expiration. MRE’s have five years if kept in the best possible storage conditions. The hardiest antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines lost effectiveness or become toxic after four years. Bottled water can evaporate.

All this is to say that, while a lot of people managed to live in the Loss after the borders closed, a great many of them died in ways that had nothing to do with Casualties. There was this idea of self-sufficiency left over from before; this wet-dream fantasy held by corporate drones that said a hardened person could survive the apocalypse with nothing but a personal garden, some defensible walls, and hard work. But for the majority of human life, a septic paper-cut could send a person to the grave, and that same unforgiving bullshit had returned to the world in a big way.

Don’t get me wrong: a lot of people were ripped apart and eaten alive. But even more starved when their local grocery store went sour or ran out of loot. Thousands died of dysentery from bad water. Hardened soldiers got killed because they ran out of ammo, and medical doctors froze to death because they couldn’t sew a coat.

Self-sufficiency has always been a myth. At best, it’s an ideal to strive for, but humanity broke off into specializations and castes for reasons of survival. There are only so many hours in a day and so many calories in each individual, which meant that those that tried to do it all often ended up dead or undead.

Those that survived did so by setting up trade almost immediately. People held up in bookstores sold survival manuals for the food they couldn’t grow in concrete floors. Survivalist nuts in control of gunsmiths sold ammo for the raw materials to make...more ammo. Even the drug cartels plied their narcotic recreation for vital resources like water. Everybody needed something survive, and Gnat opened up the LifeLines forum so we could all find out who had it.

Sure, there were still psychos and loners: the raiders, cultists, living cannibals, and rogue military elements. But they were just another need to be met. Purchase protection with gas. Provide shelter in exchange for those rifles. It was a story as old as human civilization.

Within months of the evacuation, the most defensible locations solidified their power struggles and became Enclaves. Chain-store distribution centers and industrial zones became the new cities of the Loss, hot spots for bartering goods and services. Everyone may have been half-insane with fear and under constant threat, but they still needed to eat. The few brave enough to venture outside the walls to facilitate trade or fetch resources for the Enclaves became known as Undertakers: those who deal with the dead.

By the time the Bounty system came online, Gnat had already distributed underground documentaries online about all those still-not-dead folks the governments had left to die. She used Ubiq’s satellite imagery to prove that the settlements of these non-citizens was the only thing keeping the Mississippi line from being overrun by Casualties. We were already the secret everybody knew in the Recession, and then the bumblers at DHQS gave us a way to communicate.

Things in the Recession were far from rosy too. Nobody was in much danger of getting eaten, but most of the Free Parking ghettos dotted down the Eastern line were in worse shape than most Enclaves, denied basic resources the scavenger cities could just pick up off the ground. People needed food, water, and documents they could sell to the government for better housing or luxury items. Oligarchs wanted to lay early claim to salvage and data stores to build their future empires. Even the government needed “contractors” familiar enough with the terrain to do jobs their military units were getting wiped out trying.

Meanwhile, the Loss needed things our barter infrastructure couldn’t produce: birth control, vehicles, specialized ammo, Supressin K-7864, and, most of all, safety. Enough Bounty could buy a new identity; an actual home on a real city street; a job that didn’t involve the ability to score headshots on the run.

Ask your average denizen of the Loss what they think about the Recession and you’re bound to learn about all those new curse words we’ve invented since the Crash. But while those assholes may have left us to die, nothing can bring people together like the universal impulse to fuck over and rob our fellow man. Thus the Red Markets were born, a totally illegal, yet completely accepted, underground economy between the Loss and the Recession. The safe zoners began calling undertakers by the pejorative Takers, and we didn’t mind; it was shorter. Time is Bounty.

Things are far from easy, mind you. Ubiq and the LifeLines make finding jobs remotely simple so long as you can find the juice, but delivery sure is a bitch. Performing any kind of service sucks when things are trying to eat you, and goods have to be smuggled across the Mississippi. The latter means dodging mined waters, bridges, and fencelines, all whilst avoiding getting shot by the military for violating quarintine. If you’re lucky, the poor border guard will have family back home benefitting from the trade and let your crew by with nothing but a bloodtest and a bribe.

Once over the river, it’s pretty easy to blend into a tent city and avoid getting detected. Then all there is to worry about is your Latent infecting someone and causing a massive outbreak, or your Immune body getting snatched up for medical experiments, or your client ditched out before paying, or your “comrade” Takers killing you to snag a contract, or…

Well, you get the picture.

But survive long enough, and there’s a shiny new life waiting on the shelf just for you, or at least that’s what they keep telling me…

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2014, 06:38:22 PM »
A Taker’s Motto

What you ask me? Why we doin’ this?! You fuckin’ kidding, citizen?

Y’all took our lives. You stole our chance and left us to die. But now you want some of that sweet old life so you can…what? Understand why? Appease your ‘survivor’s’ guilt? As if you even know what that word fucking means.

Well, we got a rhyme out here: asking why’s a good way to die, figuring out how matters right now. The Loss is ours now; how y’all planning on getting it back?

I’ma say this once, and you make sure all your citizen-ass buddies sitting at home hear it too: we done took all your shit, and now we fixin’ to take ALL yo’ shit, know what I'm sayin'?. We gonna take care of the dead, take back the world, and take care of our own. And if you soft-handed, fence-watching bitches try and stop us? We gonna take you out.

Why we out here doing this? Because we’re Takers.

Pay up


-- Casual-Tee of the D-Town Takers, from the documentary The Great Repression: Life in the Loss

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2014, 06:40:24 PM »
Okay, that's it  :P

I hope those of you interested enough to read all that (thanks, btw) found something that got you thinking of character concepts. I look forward to reading pitches and trying to design your ideas in the character generation system.

Thanks again for all the help and support, RPPR guys. I always appreciate it.

Kamen

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2014, 08:16:55 PM »
Holy shit dude, I fucking love it. I'm legit excited for all of this.

 I could go on and on about how rad all this sounds, but I'll hold back for now. Tomorrow sometime I'll type up some stuff for the mechanic character I mentioned in the other thread and try and flesh him out a little. Can't wait to see what everybody comes up with!

Tadanori Oyama

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2014, 09:56:09 PM »
My Saturday will be spent doing this now. Excellent.

I will be reading through this.

I made Caleb's posts into a PDF so I can read it on my phone easier but I can't attach it to my post.

Question: Caleb, would you object if I made a PDF available to everyone via an external link?
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 10:00:10 PM by Tadanori Oyama »

Cthuluzord

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2014, 09:49:31 AM »
I'd be fine with that, Tad. Just be sure to include the disclaimer at the top about it being a rough draft, subject to change, and protected intellectual property, ok?

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2014, 12:49:13 PM »
Excellent. There's the PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3he8CJfYGjSZVVoa3Azbk9pU28/edit?usp=sharing

For those not used to Google Drive you can click on the downward facing arrow in the upper left corner, next to the print button, to download the PDF.

Kamen

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2014, 05:14:27 PM »
Ok, here we go...

Finn Mayweather is an auto mechanic; gasoline and oil in his veins since childhood. From go-karts and tractor lawnmowers to 1970 Chevelle SS 396 Turbo-Jet V8s and Peterbilt 379s, if its internal combustion, he can fix it... or at least he would if he could get the parts. Being stuck in the Loss puts a damper on readily available auto parts, not that those in the Recession have it that much better, but technically Detroit, or whats left of it, is on that side of the Mississippi. Finn does what he can though, usually trading his mechanical expertise to local Takers with vehicles for needed supplies and occasionally joining trusted outfits on ventures out of the Enid, Oklahoma Enclave he currently resides in to gather useable parts. Sure there's lots of gridlock cities on the highways, but vehicles are just as susceptible to "expiration" as most anything else, leave a car unattended too long in harsh conditions and the acid rain and oxidization will eat up anything useful.

So that's been Finn's life for the most part, gather parts, fix vehicles, and survive, up until recently. See, about three years ago he met a girl, Miranda, who arrived in the Enclave with a Taker caravan, and about 6 months later they were a couple. Two and half years later they're still together, but now there's complications, Miranda is pregnant and there's no way Finn wants his fledgling family out in the Loss. They've been able to work for enough supplies for themselves, but ensuring a safe and healthy newborn is a serious gamble out here. So, Finn has come to a decision, hook up with a Taker outfit in town and build up enough Bounty to buy their way into the Recession. He's met quite a few Takers before talking about bribing their way across the Mississippi, though how successful they were is up in the air. Still he doesn't see much other course of action, between his repair skills and previous experience, even if it was just going a few miles outside of the Enid safe zone for an alternator or a water pump, Finn is sure he can gather enough to make it to safety and a better life for his family.

Just a few things regarding skills, Finn obviously has a lot of know-how when it comes to vehicle repairs, engines are his thing, along with the rest of the vehicle, so I figure things like internal combustion generators and the like he'd have some knowledge of as well, since its just a hop over concept wise. He's not the greatest at combat, but knows the basics of firearm use and to shoot Vectors/Casualties in the head. I figure since Finn is located in Enid, OK and that Vance Air Force Base is nearby that there would be a few survivors from the base that could help secure at least part of the area and train able-bodied citizens in basic security and weapon usage. That's about all I got, feel free to leave comments and suggestions. Thanks!

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Re: Red Markets Alpha Playtest
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2014, 06:02:59 PM »
That's great! That's exactly the kind of stuff I'm looking for. Thanks and keep 'em coming!