[Freemarket] X-Altar Puts on a Big Show

Started by Erik Weissengruber, January 07, 2011, 06:01:35 PM

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Erik Weissengruber

I am opening up a thread for a 1-shot extension of a short Freemarket run I conducted back in August.

On the agenda:
- drawing attention to the memory upgrade mechanics
- making the resolution system meaningful
- how to parse a blunt violence scenario into the language of the Freemarketeers. 
- addressing other issues raised here and here

Cross refereces will be made to relevant parts of these threads:
* X-Altar: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30173.0
* Trouble with Something: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30620.0
* The Simple Pleasures School of Everything: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30735.0

Erik Weissengruber

A recent play experience put me in mind of Jared and Luke's comments to the effect that Freemarket is a game in which there is a learning curve and you can learn to get better.

One player at my table quickly sussed out a sweet spot for Calling Group Challenges: when a side is up 6 points it has gone as far as it can go.  There will be the highest level of Effect (3 points) and the highest level of Rebate (3 points).

As the superuser, I am not sure if I should be playing the world and just letting NPCs do what they do, or if I should be figuring out strategic moves to stave off that "6 points and quit" strategy from the players.

I want to find ways to make FM an enjoyable challenge.

Erik Weissengruber

The session went well.

The players were so concerned with preparing for the show that we ran up against my time limit.  We played the MRCZ Tier Challenge as a vote taking place during the big show itself.  (After all, there wasn't much for the PCs to actually DO during the fight).

The memory mash up was done rather hastily on my part.  But I found out that the mash up can be just a starting place, its implications and dramas do NOT have to all be resolved by the end of a session.

For example: Tekla, the woman who was a friend of Caelia's, re-appeared as a character McConnell's life.  But to that was added an action and an object from other persons' memories ("manipulating memories" and "left hand").  This Tekla, I decided, was a Blank, a printed-out simulacrum of the real Tekla.  This Tekla was designed to push McConnell closer the the agenda of a MRCZ who had engaged the X-Altar group on a big real-time space combat simulation.  What was up with the real Tekla, the one who spurned McConnell's advances?  McConnell's player was not that interested in finding out, so the mystery (which I thought would be a grabber) was left to wait for another day.

After starting and few challenges and having the players start a few challenges, it felt like the big show was a natural place for the tier challenge.  I always feel compelled to give a slam-bang conclusion to one-shots but the play advice in the rulebook worked well.  The tier challenge provides a point of focus and reflection for the preceding activities and gives everyone a chance to review, spin, comment upon, and tie together preceding actions.  And it's a nice little moment of uncertainty.

I dropped the ball on using bug chips, but I think I have the mechanics down (finally!)

Erik Weissengruber

QuoteOn the agenda:
- drawing attention to the memory upgrade mechanics
- making the resolution system meaningful
- how to parse a blunt violence scenario into the language of the Freemarketeers.


At the start of the session I had the players go through the procedure of promoting 1 of their Long Term memories into Experience.  That single act tells the Superuser aLOT about what the players are interested in.  All of them chose to KEEP the memories relating to Ryoshi, the baseline capsule dwelling loser who was an NPC in an earlier session that I ran.  Ryoshi had to come back that game and he did.  The jazz musician/linguist who had been questioning his own sexuality after an encounter with Tekla chose remove that memory and gain a point in Social Engineering.  The player signaled a desire to step away from that area.  I knew that I had to bring Tekla back to see if he would do anything with this improved Social Engineering or try to compensate for or return to the questioned sexuality.  He ended up getting a memory flooded into him by the fake Tekla.  McConnell didn't seem to mind so long as he could sleep with Tekla and validate his heterosexuality. 

Making the resolution meaningful

I followed the Simple Pleasures AP example and got our group using the following guidelines to running Challenges

* Describe your intent in broad terms
* Each round say what you attempt in order to reach that intent
* You can make an optional brief response when the cards indicate that things didn't go your way
(and some clever descriptions of what Hazards looked like in fictional terms)
* Role play (whether in 1st person speech or 1st, 2nd, 3rd person narration) the division of flow rebate or lament the loss of flow
* Pick up the fictional consequences of the Challenges ASAP rather then let the card exchange and the flow processing be the end of it

The characters spun the fictional consequences of their challenges into new agendas and the rounds all went smoothly.
(It helps to have a Bridge player in the group)

Blunt Violence

Just isn't interesting in and of itself.  Especially when, unless a character has opted out of the system, they will be revived.
FREX: Ryoshi turned up and wanted to try the hand-built combat robot X-Altar had constructed as a favour to him.  He proceeded to get massacred, both arms ripped off.  But the players did not respond with gonzo violence.  Rather, they did a quick Breaking challenge to slow the robot down long enough to avoid a perfect death and to grant Ryoshi the extreme short-term memories he craves.

This crew was more concerned with making friends, fending off challenges to their status, and ensuring that their clients had a memorable experience than they were in bashing stuff.

The most serious conflict actually took place when the X-Altar crew decided to build their own old-skool robot to work alongside the sleek models printed out by the Combots (who could design killer bots but had absolutely no sense of style -- Voltron stencils for the faceplates?  Puhleeze!).  I had Toethumb Botfixer express real concern that the X-Altars were stepping on his turf.  They made up for it by promising him full access to the hand-build bot by Combots' Thin Slicers.  They did one of those quick flow exchanges, not a real challenge.  But it was a very real and sincere human moment in the midst of all the carnage, sleeping around, stimulant-fueled iron working, and ninja moves.  It was mediated by the mechanics and by the fictional premises of the game.

Make that a transhuman moment.

Erik Weissengruber

Trying to play with what I know about the players (a.k.a. "mindgaming") is a truly crappy way to play.  Responding to changes the player makes to his/her/PC especially in memories made Experience, short-terms bumped to long-term, means the Superuser is responding to what the User has made interesting about the character.

Players can be engaged in the world's preoccupation with ideas, memories, and reputation.  This group of 4 were all about this and bought into the premise vigorously.

Once again, jumping to cards before fictionally engaging flow considerations messed up a scene.  So I rewound the whole situation to do it right.  McConnel was the target of a surprise Flooding/Bleeding.  Out came the cards.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  (fake) Tekla was in a perfect position to get the drop.  But nothing on Freemarket escapes flow.  If Tekla were in negative flow and was trying to run a quick challenge to get her flow going, McConnel could have set the bid very low to frustrate her if he lost.  She would succeed in the moment but not get anywhere to achieving her goal.  McConnel set a marginal bid to keep things interesting but did not mind the flood bleeding or the token flow loss.

Erik Weissengruber


"To the extent that this is universal across all Freemarket game terms (I'm not sure whether it is or isn't), this allows an interesting possibility for melding "immersion" with "playing a game".

A problem I've encountered with "let's get really into character and act accordingly in a realistic setting" is that it's hard to avoid all the vagueries of, well, real life.  You get the sense of transportation, but not the satisfaction and clarity of playing a well-defined game.  Naturally, a solution is to make the setting itself a sort of game.  But that doesn't work for a lot of game concepts.  For Freemarket, though, it totally does."

Bingo.  The players had no problem talking and thinking like Freemarketers.  Within the fiction they were participating in intrinsically-satisfying activities marked by risk, opportunity, under the gaze of spectators appraising their performance -- games, in short.  They got into character and acted in accordance with a really strange and futuristic setting.

Erik Weissengruber

"... n some of the text [edit], I find there to be a tension between driving hard at the player-characters yet somehow being sure that it all works out well for them. It may be simply poor reading on my part, but such an approach seems to involve two (for me) undesirable possbilities fo rmy role: either a friendly face masking a passive-aggressive threat, or a play-fight provocativeness masking a benign presence."

I had been reading lots of Apocalypse World actual play and it informed this session: Play the world as if it were real, play the NPCs as if they were real.  That seemed to work rather than trying to push the characters towards some kind of climactic, violent and/or melodramatic showdown.

The MRCZ challenge is a bit of a coin toss.  If you have collected a lot of hazard you could make it pretty hard for them.  I don't find myself in possession of a lot of bug chips.  So I play as hard as I can but don't have to shut them down.  On the last challenge people were burning experience and geneline to make sure they won.  But I made it clear that a lot of people on the station don't like the speed metal--circus of pain--wanton destruction promoted by MRCZs like Combots and X-Altar.

Jared A. Sorensen

QuoteBut I made it clear that a lot of people on the station don't like the speed metal--circus of pain--wanton destruction promoted by MRCZs like Combots and X-Altar.

As they shouldn't!

I quote David Cronenberg: "I don't think there's anything man wasn't meant to know. There are just some stupid things that people shouldn't do."

Reversible death or not, I'd hate to have anything ripped off of my body.
jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com

Erik Weissengruber

To be fair, I did call one of the MRCZs weighing in on the vote "PeaceWeavers."

It was to be expected that X-Alter took only 2 seconds to shorten that to "Peaceweiners."