Welcome back, dice fondlers! This week we’re leaving behind the besieged lands of Creation and the godlings that will either save it or destroy it (or both).
Instead, we’re heading into an alternate future! One where the characters play as mercenaries plying their trade to eke out a desperate living in a horrifying cycle of poverty, hoping one day they can finally break away and retire somewhere safe. I… wait, what’s that? No, we’re not talking Shadowrun this week; we’re talking about Red Markets. Shadowrun is too cheerful for where we’re going.
Red Markets’ Grim Setting
The world of Red Markets isn’t entirely dissimilar from our own. The first difference most players will notice is the zombies. The second major difference you’ll notice as you flip through the pages of Red Markets are all the financial terms being used to describe the setting. In the world of Red Markets, the Blight caused by the zombies started a chain reaction of government failure that came to be known as the Crash.
In order to protect its people, the government retreated to defensible zones, leaving humanity primarily existing in government-operated sanctuaries. These are collectively known as the Recession. The rest of the world that has fallen to the Blight and the zombies? That’s known as the Loss.
The Cost of Living
The economic themes go even deeper in this game. Most items on your character sheet have charges (limited uses that can be expended). Laptops that can still access the internet have battery life, guns have ammo, and vehicles have fuel. Even gear that doesn’t have resources to expend built-in but requires serious elbow grease draws on your rations.
If you’re put into a conflict where you’re under pressure and need to roll to succeed, you don’t get to roll for free. You actually have to “Buy-A-Roll” using that item’s charges. Situations that are under pressure that don’t require charges in order to buy a roll are almost always called “One-And-Done”, meaning the player gets one roll and one roll only to make this attempt, or else they’ll have to find a way to burn a different kind of resource in order to try again.
Nothing is Free
The dice mechanic itself when rolling is to roll two dice, d10s specifically – one black, one red. The black represents all you opportunities to succeed, the red represents the difficulties lining up against you. Roll both. If the black die + your relevant skill is higher than the red die, you stay in the black and succeed at your task.
With all this market lingo being thrown around, what kind of characters could we possibly be running in this post-apocalyptic landscape? Well, as I mentioned briefly at the beginning, our characters are mercenaries, inhabitants of the Loss, who engage in quasi-illegal trade between the remaining human sanctuaries.
Escape Poverty…And Zombies!
These “Takers” do everything they can to maximize their profits in order to pay for their own survival and that of their Dependents. Every Taker has a goal in mind, whether they tell the others in their Enclave or not, about their plans to get out for good. Every Taker has their eyes on Retirement — that elusive prize where they’ve stacked their Bounty high enough that they can take their loved ones and buy their way out of the Loss and into safety somewhere else. Maybe they earn themselves passage to a remote tropical island to live out their days in peace, maybe they become clients operating out of a government-controlled sanctuary in the Recession. However they escape, or if they escape — that’s all up to your team at the table. Well, your team and the GM, known in this game simply as the Market.
That’s right, all the antagonists that’ll be out for your blood are Market Forces. This game doesn’t let the analogy rest for even a minute.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this flyover of the brilliant poverty simulator with a zombie theme, Red Markets. (Hey, I’m not making fun of them. They call the game that in their own introduction!)
Next week, we’ll continue spelunking through the mad, mad world of RPGs, so until then, remember to…