FreeMarket (aka Project Donut) In Free Beta

It’s been a long time, but the new game by Jared Sorenson (octaNe, InSpectres) and Luke Crane (Burning Wheel) is out in public beta.  The game, which was referred to as “Project Donut” for some time, is now called FreeMarket.  It’s a colorful game of transhumanist life aboard a 80,000+ person space station.  It’s a more lighthearted take on the other new game in that genre that’s on my radar, Eclipse Phase (and what came before: Underground, GURPS Transhuman Space…).

Anyway, if you go register you can d/l the beta (if you’re one of the first 1000, they’re at 288 now).  It looks interesting – it’s definitely an “indie RPG.”  Character generation has a lot of “tagging” (in the Web 2.0/Spirit of the Century sense) and the mechanics are part board game, part RPG.

I’ll post more once I’ve had time to digest the mechanics, but here’s the basics.  In general, on the station everyone’s basic needs are taken care of and you’re trying to get “flow” – think of it as in-world “rep” or “karma” like on a forum.  Even death is pretty much always reversible in this super high tech world, mainly you kill someone just so they lose some short term memories.  Combat is not distinct in the rules from other conflicts (from memetic hacking to agriculture) which are commoditized into “Challenges”; a special card deck and tokens are used to resolve those.  Your and your group’s flow is raised or lowered thereby.

Your character is in a group called a MRCZ (pronounced “mercy”) which is a voluntary birds-of-a-feather organization like an online clan or guild.  You are good at things like “wetwork,” “ephemera,” and “thin slicing” – yes, there’s a big glossary included.  It seems fun and not as complex and heavy as Eclipse Phase or GURPS: Transhuman Space.

If I have one major concern, it’s the same concern shared with a lot of indie games – they come up with an interesting setup, new way to conceive a character, an innovative mechanic – and then leave coming up with scenarios totally up to you.  Some of this is in the name of being player driven, but I’ve seen groups have a hard time with just “here’s a cool character and cool setting, go…”  More adventure seeds and “things that could happen” are needed – they really only tangentially brush on that in 2 pages of the 150 in the rulebook.  I would recommend sitting down and generating at LEAST 5 pages of that kind of thing, and more setting detail too.  There’s some basics but for such a complex location it’s quite bare bones.  You don’t have to go “full trad” and have a keyed map of the station, but an example street (if that’s what they have there) with interesting locations/people/etc. would be a huge boost to not just reading the game, thinking “clever!” and playing it once, but actually trying to use it for real ongoing gameplay.

5 responses to “FreeMarket (aka Project Donut) In Free Beta

  1. Everything you need to play is provided for you as soon as new characters are made… it’s quite intentional and has nothing to do with trad/indie hoopla.

    • I don’t think you understood my concern. You have “everything you need to play” in the same sense that the D&D PHB provides “everything you need to play,” but this game seems very low on setting detail and adventure seeds. Now that I’m a space pumpkin farmer or whatever, what are the kinds of adventures/scenarios I might expect in this brave new world?

      I mention indie because I find this to be a common problem with indie high-concept games, from octaNe to Cold City. You can make a cool character, there’s some innovative mechanics, there’s a colorful broad brush description of the setting, and then “you go make it all up.” Which is fine, but I like more from the game itself. It’s a little too much “go pretend you’re a pirate” for me.

      For FreeMarket I specifically outline what would be helpful – more micro level information. Descriptions of a sample ‘street’ with what kind of people/businesses/etc one might find on the station. Ideas for what adventures/missions/MRCZ goals/whatnot might look like.

  2. I think the problem is more general: How are people who are not familiar with the genre conventions and tropes of the game supposed to get a good game going?

    Everyone knows pirates and zombies, most people have a good idea of fantasy, but when you get into even slightly esoteric territory, which transhumanist sci-fi definitely qualifies as, a bit more hand-holding goes a long, long way to making a game accessible.

    We don’t need “What Is Roleplaying?” sections anymore, but we very often need “What Is Gearpunk Western, and What Do You Do With It?” sections and the like.

  3. Hey guys, thanks for the comments.

    FreeMarket is currently in editing and will go on sale for pre-orders in March. The limited edition box set should be out at GenCon, if not earlier.

    – Jared

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