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Author Topic: [Freemarket] X-Altar and the Arts of Memory and of Promotion  (Read 5369 times)
Erik Weissengruber
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« on: August 15, 2010, 02:58:42 PM »

On Thursday the 12 I and 3 friends started up a short run of Freemarket.  I am scheduled to run it at an upcoming convention and wanted to get familiar with play procedures.

I hope to draw some conclusions from our 3 sessions of play.  As of now, I haven't developed any noteworthy insights into the game.  Our 1st session reminded me of some persistent habits that still get in the way of my gaming.

Character Creation
Pre game discussion had led to some pretty strong character concepts.  Fixing the details took time though.  Each step of character creation allows players to introduce Color elements about their PCs, Color which serves as cross-player inspiration for the next steps.  Having everyone work out and then present each part of their character (general concept, genetic substrata, etc.) did'nt create major deviations from originally announced concepts but bolted the characters more closely together and to the setting.

The characters:
* Caecilia (played by S) is a mystical zen inventor
* Koruto Uesuton (played by R) is a military otaku/weapons manufacturer
* Ninja 12 (B) is a ninja delivery girl (vat grown, part of a 12-pak, gifted away by her father because she is too accident prone to work with the clan)
* Maqqam McConnel is a jazz musician linguist (and NPC created by myself so that I could get familiar with the character creation process.  But my habit of trying to put pressure on player-side decisions made itself manifest.  I wanted them to have a proficient Ephemerist even if it should have been them who decided if they needed one or not.

[McConnel was a tribute to recently departed Canadian jazz great Rob McConnel]

MRCZ Creation
An in-game "tribe" or "clan" or "corporation" or "pirate ship" that your characters form to carry out some collective goal or to provide a network that will allow you to realize your personal goals.  From the tribes and herobands of Heroquest 1.0 to the pirate ships of Poison'd and the party of WHFRP3, the idea of a collective mega-PC is an interesting new trend that deserves further thought.

The players came up with the following MRCZ:

X-Altar (track its changes at http://donut.wikia.com/wiki/X-Alter):

Level: Tier 1 (starting level
Purpose:
    * Provide intense, unique, and transformative adventure experiences
Background:
    * X-Altar is a newly formed MRCZ.
Tags:
    * Flooding/Bleeding
    * Analog
    * Carnival of Pain
Needs:
    * Sexy specialist
    * Tout
    * Space

I believe I maintained proper tact here and let the players come up with the concept for their mini-corporation.  I did put my foot down and rule out a name that would have been to unwieldy ("Exxxtreeeeeeeme!!!").  But they themselves came up with a MRCZ whose activities center on the creation/deletion/modification of individual memories (using a skill called Flooding/Bleeding) rather than on media communication (produced by the skill Ephemera).  Some commentators worry that creating the intensely self-defined and self-modified PCs first and then forcing them to get together in a group would create chaos but ours worked really well.

Note: the group is not a bunch of ruthless min-maxers.  They could have made all sorts of choices about character or MRCZ to make sure that they started off with a high in-game currency called "flow."  They were more interested in creating concepts that jibed together.

Finishing Character Creation

After you create your character and your MRCZ you return to the character one more time.  At this point you decide the characters' important memories.  People who keep saying MRCZs should be designed first to prevent incoherence are missing the feedback loop to ensure that Color is consistent:  character --> MRCZ --> character.

If you can't understand why your Yoga instructor is hooking up with designers of military-grade exoskelletons, memories of pre-game events are a great way to do it.  And this all comes about by feeding off of each other's Colour.

These were the memories as they stood at the end of the game.  The players uniformly turned in game experiences into short term memories.

Koruto Uesuton
Long Term
- As a boy, I watched a different war film every day in my parent's theatre
- Dr. Krauss, Martian War Veteran, taught me how to implant military grade mobs
- The Mechanical Baristas stole my flamethrower mob and turned it into a whipped cream dispenser

Caecilia
Long Term
- During my first acid trip with the Pink Chrysanthemum MRCZ at the Shu Temple, I realised I'm made of the same stuff as the universe and am the universe.
- I escaped the Saturn Orbiter Disaster with Tekla the Podiatrist
- I rejected the legendary seducer Maqqam

Ninja12
Long Term
- I was traded to Colt out my set by Master because I kept coming out left-handed
- Ryoshi told me I had a special walk and I shadowed him aroudn the station for a year
- Yesterday, a new immigrant gave me a package to deliver but left the station before giving instruction to whom

The System
Ohhboy did I make some gaffes.
1) No Love for McConnel
Firstly, I started off a Shaping challenge (body language) without actually having the skill.  I had a piece of technology that could assist me in doing such a challenge.  However, I had made the mistake of thinking that all items on my character sheet can serve as resources for the Intention, Initiation, or resolution of a conflict.  That ain't the way it works in Freemarket.  I either activate one of my experiences OR some aspect of my geneline to start the conflict.  You can engage technology in a second phase of conflict resolution but you can't start that way.  A neat bit of game design that feeds into the overall goal of a science fiction game that doesn't fetishize your gear list.
  McConnel tried to seduce Caecilia to get over a recent bad break up.  As this was just a "give the system a shake" session we hadn't really built up emotional stakes in the fictional world.  So I dug into the values of one of the players. S is a self-described "queer nerdy girl" and so having a fictional male character engage her fictional female PC was a bit of mind-gamery on my part to get her to step on up and work at preventing an outcome that she as a player would find disappointing.  A bit obnoxious?  I still wonder.  S bounced the ball back in my court by adding a stake during the hi-risk resolution of a tied resolution: McConnel stood to walk out of the conflict questioning his own sexuality.  She won the contest by a sliver.  Good play on S's part but I hope the mindgamery didn't overstep the bounds of friendship.
2) Ninja 12, Where are You?
Ninja 12 used a bit of tech to help her find out the name of the person to whom she was supposed to deliver a package.  I flubbed the narration of the result.  She used a neat piece of hearing technology to pick at a high frequency hum on the device.  I came up with a cockamamey explanation as to how she was able to decipher words from this hum.  But in a game with super-sophisticated tech it is hard to set limits on what characters can and cannot do without coming across like you are trying to censor the fiction.  A little more care next time.
3) Military Otaku Colt practices Cultivating (making or growing instead of asking the computer to print something out).  He came up with some ninja throwing stars, with the tags: Wetwork, throwing stars, shiny (the GM got to add a 3rd tag).  He gifted them to Ninja 12's father and earned a 10 point flow bonus.

Next session I will try to run some in-game challenges rather than rely on person-to-person mind gaming and -- now that I know the system -- will try to run some competitive conflicts.

More later.





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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2010, 07:25:08 AM »

The "and the Arts of Memory and Promotion" refers to my agenda for the next few sessions.

I want to engage the game's fiction and mechanics for memories, especially in relationship to the game's fiction and mechanics for dealing with the spread of ideas.

Memories are singular.  They originate in a character -- that character's player (the player "user" or the GM "superuser") describes either a long-term or short-term memory.  Characters can carry about a maximum of 3 of each at any one time.  At the start of a session a player may move a memory up into an "Experience" (the skills characters use).  The Flooding/Bleeding Experience allows a use to manipulate the memories.

Our MRCZ isn't interested in producing Ephemera that effect a whole community.  They want to enhance/change/remove the memories of individuals and gain a reputation for that.  But they are attempting to build a public reputation for a private experience, and clients will (should?  perhaps?) want exclusivity. 

I will engage this fiction and the mechanics in a more focused fashion next session.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2010, 04:14:48 PM »

The rules ask you to take a place, a person, and an object and combine them in a sentence that establishes a challenge for a user to face in an upcoming session.  Then the person involved in the challenge should be given a motivation to interact with a user, that person should also be tied to a MRCZ, and any places should be turned into locations on the stages.  The challenge can also represent a re-take on a previous memory. 

Here is my mashup

_________________________

Caecilia (S) is a mystical zen inventor
- Place: Uesuton's old theatre
- Person: "Sa," the recipient of the lethal package from the mysterious immigrant
- Object: Flamethrower mob
- Challenge:
- Memory Being Entangled: "I rejected the legendary seducer McCaam"

Koruto Uesuton (R) is a military otaku/weapons manufacturer
- Place: Saturn
- Person: The Master Ninja
- Object: Saturn Orbiter
- Challenge:
- Memory Being Entangled: "Dr. Krauss, Martian War Veteran, taught me how to implant military grade mobs"

Ninja 12 (B) is a ninja delivery girl
- Place: Dr. Phybes's Clockwork Coffetorium
- Person: Ryoshi
- Object: Pink Chrysanthemum acid
- Challenge
- Memory Being Entangled: Ryoshi told me I had a special walk and I shadowed him around the station for a year

Actually, the challenges will need more thought.  Any suggestions?

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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 01:22:20 AM »

Caecilia (S) is a mystical zen inventor
- Place: Uesuton's old theatre
- Person: "Sa," the recipient of the lethal package from the mysterious immigrant
- Object: Flamethrower mob
- Challenge: Sa was imperfectly deathed by the package delivered by Ninja 12.  Sa is looking for revenge and wants to learn the name of the immigrant who sent it AND to deliver payback using the Flamethrower mob created by Koruto.  He wants Caecilia's help in getting both.  He picked Caecilia as the X-Altar member to approach because of the way she kept Maqqam in line.  Sa's MRCZ, Sportsplex1 has the space X-Altar might need for a large-scale event.
- Memory Being Entangled: "I rejected the legendary seducer Maqqam"

Koruto Uesuton (R) is a military otaku/weapons manufacturer
- Place: Mars
- Person: Tekla the Podiatrist
- Object: Saturn Orbiter
- Challenge: Tekla barely survived a recent disaster with the Saturn Orbiter observatory pod.  The SOjurners, the MRCZ whose project the Orbiter was, are recycling the residual tech.  They need help in creating mobs to help them with their new Orbiter project, one that requires military-grade technology.  A martian immigrant, Tekla knew of Krauss on Mars and figures that his pupil will be able to help her out.  The analog nature of X-Altar's technology is of great interest to the SOjurners.
- Memory Being Entangled: "Dr. Krauss, Martian War Veteran, taught me how to implant military grade mobs"

Ninja 12 (B) is a ninja delivery girl
- Place: Dr. Phybes's Clockwork Coffetorium
- Person: Ryoshi
- Object: Pink Chrysanthemum acid
- Challenge: Ryoshi is back in Ninja 12's life.  He has become a flat-liner, with no MRCZ to engage him.  He is however, willing to trade some of his memories for a service: Ninja 12 has to break into the Shu temple and get him the Chrysanthemum acid, which the Temple reserves only for participants in its religious rites.  Ryoshi has some odd memories about violence, disorientation, and danger that might be of interest to X-Altar.
- Memory Being Entangled: Ryoshi told me I had a special walk and I shadowed him around the station for a year

Looks like I still have some prep to do: stat out my superuser characters and their MRCZs.

I was going to kick off the session with my NPC McConnel engaging the MRCZ on some flooding/bleeding.  But that is too "GM-side."  The rules say build challenges out of the players' memories and follow the rules I shall, rather than relying on stock techniques acquired from other games.
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Paul T
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2010, 12:25:00 PM »

Erik,

We played a hacked version of Lady Blackbird together about a month ago!

I enjoyed this Actual Play report, and it sounds like you and your friends are having a good time with Freemarket. I don't have enough experience with the game to add anything terribly intelligent, but I'm posting to say that I'm very pleasantly surprised to see a in-game tribute to Rob McConnell. Too many people don't know who he was!

Thanks.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2010, 01:03:55 PM »

We will see how things go tonight.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2010, 11:53:49 AM »

Hi Erik,

Today is my love-letter to Jared on the Forge, apparently. I've composed posts about InSpectres, Lacuna, and now Freemarket in the space of two hours.

I was greatly disappointed not to be able to participate in a real Freemarket demo at GenCon, due to time issues and fatigue. Jared and I were both so beleaguered with customers and chit-chat that we couldn't spend much time despite being booth-neighbors. The little I got to do only made me interested in doing more.

Here's my question: what sort of play or approach to GMing really puts pressure on the characters? And as I see it, a related question: does it matter to anyone what memories become concrete, aside from gaining better chances at succeeding with later resolutions?

I know that when I get around to playing, I plan to do it quite seriously and long-term. So these questions are practical; I want to get an idea of what I should be able to expect. I guess I'm asking whether memories are important in a thematic and creative sense, and whether as GM I should be pushing hard along these lines. As I'm seeing it now, which is admittedly minimal, Freemarket is starting to look like a fruitful cross between Bugtown from Those Annoying Post Bros and le mon mouri (see my threads Beef injection: Sean Demory's Le Mon Mouri, Two [censored] at once!, [Le Mon Mouri / kill puppies] Dang!, and Dang #3 (Le Mon Mouri) from ages ago).

Let me know if I'm totally off-base about this.

Best, Ron
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2010, 04:56:38 PM »

Quote
Here's my question: what sort of play or approach to GMing really puts pressure on the characters? And as I see it, a related question: does it matter to anyone what memories become concrete, aside from gaining better chances at succeeding with later resolutions?

Memories matter.  Ninja 12 got around to visiting an old pal who had gone "flatline" -- living in a capsule hotel, taking what he needs from a simple food and clothing printer, but not engaging in station life.  He was willing to give up some bizarre recent memories in return for access to some exclusive drugs.  So Ninja 12 took him back to X-Altar headquarters.  Ninja 12 was willing to keep one of these memories alive in a long-term memory slot.  Caecilia was willing to host one as well.  But Kotoru balked.  Again, in-game and meta-game language mash into each other A LOT during this game, I wasn't sure if it was the player voicing thoughts through his character, or it was the player himself speaking, but he said something like "I don't want weird stuff like that in my head or to have me think that I was the one suffering that weirdness."  He took the memory and broke it down into 3 points of Data for later use.  The choice of having your character now think "I was the one who witnessed a deranged slaughter by the Leopard Knights MRCZ" is a difficult one.  Carrying around a memory that you don't like is like being a surrogate mother for a couple that you despise. 

Quote
I know that when I get around to playing, I plan to do it quite seriously and long-term.

Even by session two, people had started to grok the mechanics in an intuitive way.  It didn't take much time.  People started realizing how that losing a challenge got them bug chips for later challenges and they started weighing their options more carefully.  They also got hooked into the practice of exchanging long-term memories for improvements to their skillset. Maybe by session three they would have gotten into the habit of jotting down little short term memories for possible promotion into long-term ones.  Once they started to see how I did my scenario prep out of their long-term memories, they might have been more conscious of their decisions.  And they were ready for a MRCZ tier challenge by session three or four.  My bet is that by session six they would have been able to balance immediate challenge mechanics, mid-term reward mechanics, end/start of session mechanics, and strategies for medium and long-term play.  Every player had at least a digital copy of the rules.  But as with the Burning games there is no substitute for stepping into the mechanics and FEEL how they start changing your behaviour as a gamer.

Advice:
- remember that a tie means that you start again with new cards.  Don't make the mistake I did and think that previous cards still counted for margins of victory
- always remember to set flow costs AND to make flow setting part of the fiction.  On several occasions I just started tossing out cards to see who won the conflict.  Nuh-unh.  Offering a flow bid, reacting to a flow bid, mustering flow as you try to accomplish some go and the Aggregate or interested parties watch -- these are all happening in the fiction and that fictional reality can only be supported by following the rules


Quote
So these questions are practical; I want to get an idea of what I should be able to expect. I guess I'm asking whether memories are important in a thematic and creative sense, and whether as GM I should be pushing hard along these lines.
Quote

I have never looked at the games you cite at the end of your post, so I can't comment.

But absolutely concentrate on memories.  I was doing prep before the session and coming up with all sorts of loopy conspiratorial connections between the memories my players had assigned their "users."  But when I was superusing during the session I just played up my challenges to the memories and NOT the elaborate backstory I had created for them.  That stimulated the players into pursuing their own goals.

Examples to follow in subsequent post.

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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2010, 05:18:29 PM »

Arggh!  A computer feeb should not mess with HTML tags!

Let's address memories and play:
   
Quote
Caecilia (S) is a mystical zen inventor
- Place: Uesuton's old theatre
- Person: "Sa," the recipient of the lethal package from the mysterious immigrant
- Object: Flamethrower mob
- Challenge: Sa was imperfectly deathed by the package delivered by Ninja 12.  Sa is looking for revenge and wants to learn the name of the immigrant who sent it AND to deliver payback using the Flamethrower mob created by Koruto.  He wants Caecilia's help in getting both.  He picked Caecilia as the X-Altar member to approach because of the way she kept Maqqam in line.  Sa's MRCZ, Sportsplex1 has the space X-Altar might need for a large-scale event.
- Memory Being Entangled: "I rejected the legendary seducer Maqqam"

In this case I took a person from Ninja 12's memories, an object from Koruto, and a place from Koruto's past.  But Sa's desire to get Caecilia to work with him was motivated by a short-term memory from the past session that S, Caecilia's player, had bumped up to long-term.

Seeing the player make the choice of bumping up a memory to long-term is a good clue about what the superuser should be latching onto.

S. played Caecilia as being concerned that Sa had some sort of romantic attraction to Caecilia but I had Sa express simply and plainly that it was the way she confronted the emotional manipulation that made him think her a trustworthy person.

When Caecilia and Sa showed up at the MRCZ they were engaged by the other users right away.  B. played Ninja 12 as both wary of Sa and unwilling to co-operate in divulging any information about the person who had sent the lethal package (ninja deliveryperson ethics and all that).  R. continued to flesh out Kotoru by suggesting an alternative for the Flamethrower Mob, the Acid Spitball mob (Tags: wetwork/acid spit sacs/occasional backfire [the tag I added]).  Kotoru had a memory about the Mechanical Barista's demeaning his lethal mob by using it to make frothy coffee drinks, and had decided that this mob was no longer cool.  And Caecilia role played convincing her MRCZ mates to help her help Sa.  I just sat back and watched S. do this in character.  She argued quite persuasively about how helping Sa would help the MRCZ accomplish its goals.  Now, her character won an in-game reward of 5 Flow for making this happen.  So there was a satisfying parallelism between Caecilia's fictional engagement of her MRCZ mates, S.'s intelligent persuasion of R. and B. for going along with her plans, the in-game granting of flow for completion of a negotiation and the currency reward for S.'s choices as a player.

Now, did the players learn the details about the connection between Sa's involvement with nasty activities on Mars and an anarcho-terrorist MRCZ on the station?  Nah.  They engaged with the homunculus I cobbled together out of their disparate memories and sent tottering towards them, and caused the emergence of new fictional possibilities that I had not foreseen, and they made interesting creative actions as consequences of their engagement, and in S. and R.'s cases there were substantial in-game rewards for their character's actions and personal rewards for working with the game's mechanics (if their laughter, smiles, excited voices, etc. can be considered reliable indicators of what are unarguably private, interior states).
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2010, 05:35:48 PM »

Quote
I hope to draw some conclusions from our 3 sessions of play

We have had to cut it at two.  But broad conclusions are
- use the memory mash-up as scenario prep: the text as it stands and the procedures it recommends work well
- give the players time to get a feel for the mechanics
- the reward systems encourage players to do interesting things with memories, including other players' memories
- don't make everything a card-resolved conflict/seek out high-stakes conflicts for the deployment of the mechanic
This became apparent when I had the X-Altar's talk to a MRCZ that wanted to experience what it was like fighting a 0-G battle with security bots (they have lunatic dreams about messing with the station).  The X-Altar's had arranged a space and were looking to provide an experience.  I was about to use a Negotiation challenge to work out the details, but it seemed forced: each knew exactly what the other had to offer and there was little room for wiggling.  Everyone was ready to go and there seemed no fictional or player stakes involved. When one of the players suggested enlisting the help of a MRCZ that had access to combat robots, I invented the COMBOTS and created a challenge where there was plenty of wiggle room for compromise and there were high stakes (20 flow risked by a low-flow character).  Kotoru won the challenge by offering X-Altar's participation in the upcoming SOjurners battle with 0-G security bots.  And he offered the inclusion of kick-ass combat bots as a gift to the SOjurners.  This act of gifting allowed his depleted flow to rise. 

Kudos to Jared and Luke: bidding mechanics have a long history in card games and in game-like economic behaviour.  It is nice to see them implemented in both the mechanics and the fiction of an RPG.

Quote
I want to engage the game's fiction and mechanics for memories, especially in relationship to the game's fiction and mechanics for dealing with the spread of ideas.

Mechanically: the characters created a promo video out of the video feed from a combat where Kotoru's hand-made ninja stars were deployed.  It was an excuse to try the group challenge mechanics.  They created a lame commercial using Thin Slicing and it only engaged 1 MRCZ.  As I had made up several MRCZ names using the session prep rules, I chose one of them to be fans of X-Altar.  So a connection between the SOjurners and X-Altar (in addition to the friendship between the SOjurners' Tekla and X-Altar's Caeceilia) was forged.

Fictionally:  The players were working the divide between letting people know what they were up to and reserving choice memories and experiences for their discerning customers.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2010, 05:36:08 PM »

Oh yeah:

I really, really, really had fun.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2010, 07:22:43 AM »

Some more notes:

- If you want back up for areas where you have no expertise or geneline you should go for Tech NOT Interface.  My advice during user creation was bollocks.  Interface can help you be really, really cyber good at the stuff your Experiences and Geneline have prepared you for.  But if you are out of your comfort zone, your only option is to Burn that interface and if your interface has no tag relevant to the current conflict, it fries and is not reset at the end of the session.  Use cool tech for your ace in the hole, hail mary, get outta jail free card

- Players became aware of this and could easily have played out in-game actions to get them the desired tech.  The game allows the posthumans to compensate suboptimal user-creation choices.  And bad advice from the superuser.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2010, 05:42:53 AM »

I believe I maintained proper tact here and let the players come up with the concept for their mini-corporation.  I did put my foot down and rule out a name that would have been to unwieldy ("Exxxtreeeeeeeme!!!"). 

That's a perfectly fine name for a MRCZ, btw. USERS? DO YOU HEAR ME?

They can always change it if they do well in the next MRCZ review.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2010, 05:44:02 AM »

Ok, you fit
"?????????????????????????
???????????????????????????
???????????????????????????
???????????????????????????
???????????????????????????
??????????"
in the little box you provided for MRCZ names.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2010, 05:49:46 AM »

In the first game we ran a number of group challenges and the users were always careful about using victory levels to get flow rebate.

Thus people were always getting out of challenges with at least everything they staked.

But I got careless and started acting as ever EVERY victorious challenge got you your stake back.  No, no, no.  Unless you pay for rebate you LOSE flow.  And that cost gets pretty expensive when you undertake solo challenges.

So I was really softening the economics of flow.  Going by the rules forces players to be proactive about setting up flow-friendly fiction.  The game risks becoming a simple card game if the driver "must get flow to fund the challenges that could create the reality my character's wants" is short circuted.
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