Chatty Play’s: Freemarket Part 2, The Steam Stallion

We finally got to play the Freemarket characters that we made a few weeks ago. The game was supposed to be a 1 session demo as we have been doing during our Pilgrimage of new games these last few months.

Well, the session turned out a LOT better than most of us expected given how alien some aspect of the game appeared to us before playing it.  Chances are this may become a short campaign instead of a one-shot.

Let’s dive in.

Dramatis Persona:

Jack Knife (Yan): Multi-Talented Body-Artist.  Experienced creative printer, ephemerist and interface designer (hard/software Implants) who’s been around the station a few times.

Paul Demetrios (PM): OCD Investigator.  Hacker and Thin-slicer that NEVER lets something go unsolved (unless made to forget it, an apparently common occurrence).

Coleco (Franky): An Old-World Tools Replicator.  A cultivation and recycling expert, can create tech pieces of unparallel beauty with discarded scrap.

Flint (Mike): An Enlightened Interface Fetishist. Illuminated by the sayings of the Prophet of the New Order, he seeks perfection through Interface!

Welcome Home Bros!

The game strongly encourages the GM to introduce the setting by describing the PCs new digs.  As a Tier 1 MRCZ (an archaic acronym from the Station’s construction era, pronounced “Mercy”), the characters get an upgrade from capsule pods and communal areas. They get to share living and working areas with another Tier one MRCZ in a wagon-sized cargo container.

The game also urges the GM to create tension right off the bat by making the other MRCZ into something completely different (and possibly at cross-purposes) from the players’ own.  That why I made the neighbours into a small Krishna revivalist cult using their songs and millennial manipulation techniques to create a second coming of whatever they thought  Krishnas were supposed to be about.

I didn’t have to do anything else… Jack Knife was already sick and tired of the endless droning chant and dove for the matter printer on their half of the pod.

Challenge 1: What’s that Smell?

Chatty: So what’s your goal here?

Yan: Jack wants to create a soundproof partition.

Chatty (Thinking aloud) : Hmmm, is it enough of a stake to make it into a challenge?  Hells yeah! You’re all broke Flow wise (the Station’s influence-based commodity) and I want to drive you nuts with this shtick! Let’s do this.

Freemarket’s task resolution system is called a Challenge.  You only do them when players (or key NPCs) want to bring about change to anything on the Station and there’s someone at the table opposed to that change.

In our case, all the players chipped in some Flow to create a bitchin’ flexible soundproof partition out of the dog-sized matter printer.  This was a team challenge, with all players playing against me.  I represented the flaws in the badly maintained printer and some hidden viruses left by playfully malicious ex-occupants of the cargo pod.

Challenges are performed by having players play a narrative-splashed card-scoring mini-game using the decks packed with the game (explaining, in part, its 60$ price tag).  Going into the details of this mechanic would derail the whole post away from its purpose, but suffice it to say that once we grokked it, everything became a fast-paced, engrossing risks-vs-benefits scoring race against the opposing team.

In our case, I brought the printing challenge to an end  by conceding a Minor success to the PCs.  After describing how everyone got the printer to work semi-correctly, I explained to Yan that their margin of victory was so slim that all they could do was impose one of three tags to the freshly printed partition… I’d get to set the other two.

I also indicated that nobody’s Flow would be reimbursed, sending some players into negatives and putting them in danger of being voted off the Station.

(You read that right, Freemarket has some Reality TV elements. The actions of all MRCZ are, usually, public and subjected to going viral, becoming trends or subject of intense scrutiny.)

Chatty: So what tag are you…


Chatty: So, that leaves two… lets make them…. Smelly (all players groaned) and… Inflammable!

Aside two: I made a mistake here.  I forgot that all pieces of technology built in the game must have one tag corresponding to one of the 14 “skills”… I’ll fix it here.  The partition stats are thus:

NullNoise MRCZ pod partition, Tags: Ghosting (that’s Stealth), Soundproof, Smelly.

Interlude 1: Family Memories Pileup!

While hilarious, that last challenge didn’t really create a lot of hooks to start the adventure, so I dug in my Memory Mashup notes (the process I described at the end of my last post) to pull a few hooks to get things started.

Chatty: Franky, Coleco’s brother Miro, who you thought was somewhere else in the Solar System just pinged your PC. He needs your help with some piece of old tech he ‘found”.

Franky: What the hell? He’s on the station? Let him come…I guess.

Turns out Miro had a piece of ancient motherboard that he wanted the players to hack and extract data in it.  When the players realized how much Flow it would cost them to do that, they all balked! They all had low balances, some only barely above zero by having friended (yes, like in Facebook) most of the MRCZ’s members.

Seeing that they would likely have to postpone this task, I dug back into my pile of Mashed Memories (I had 3 more) and pulled the next one.  It ended up being a boring dead end (It was too vague and had no fun leads) so I picked the next one.

Miro: Yeah so, I don’t know if it’s any help, but have you guys heard about the Grindstone Cowboys MRCZ yet?  They apparently got their hands on a new “Sex Toy” design and have started mass producing them. They’re going to gift them all to a 2nd Gen dude named Korg who makes wild experiments with Blanks (i.e. Printed, artificial humans).

Mike: Hey, Korg is Flint’s creator!

Franky: WTF!?! I made that toy yesterday and it was supposed to be discretely delivered to a member of the Ambassador MRCZ.  I wanna ping her!

Chatty: She says she never got it and she’s about to “frown” you for reneging on a contract.

Franky: What’s frowning?

Chatty: Oh, a frownie is a formal token of disapproval…it’s worth  -3 Flow.

Franky: Crap no, I’m at 1!

See that? That was all done with the players long/short term memories. It took me about 10 minutes before the game to come up with these hooks.  So awesome.

So what the players decided to do was to handcraft the Ambassador a new, better toy.  In order to generate the needed flow to undertake this endeavour, Coleco gave his Retro-Phasor gun to his brother (everyone knew he was a no good, two timer… but hey). Thus Coleco gained an instant 10 Flow.

Yup, you gain Flow in Freemarket by friending people, gifting them stuff, filling contractual obligations and winning team challenges by a large margin (the central computer, in its programmed socially-driven benevolence, rewards cooperation). Flow is then used to start all challenges (or survive challenges against you) and to petition the Central Computer for a MRCZ tier upgrade.

The other players exchanged more friendship requests among themselves and braced for the challenge.

Challenge 2: Are Those Brass Keys or Are You Just  Happy to See Me?

Chatty: Okay, what’s your goal?

Franky: We want to create a better, sleeker sex toy for the Ambassador.  Something made of Clockworks and Brass!

Others: Yeah!

Chatty: A Steampunk Dildo huh?

After we recovered from generalized hilarity, we agreed it was a good challenge. By then, everyone had huge stupid grins.  The game’s mission was accomplished, Freemarket had been adopted.

The challenge pitted everyone in the party, helping Franky hand craft his “masterpiece” by merging together (i.e. Recycling) two different pieces of tech, namely pieces of the busted matter printer and knick-knacks of dumb material strewn here and there in the pod.

My side of the challenge represented the material’s low grade, distraction caused by the partition’s smell and the challenge of achieving Franky’s vision with so few good parts.  They won the challenge by a landslide, each scoring a lot of Flow.

Chatty: Well done gang, you now get to give it three tags, one of which must be one of the 14 skills. I’d saw that a sex toy is definitively “ephemera”.


And I give you:

The Steam Stallion Mk I, Tags: Ephemera, Filling, Orgasmic.

Yes, we’re a bunch of 13 year olds… sigh. 🙂

Interlude 2: Plowing and Plotting

Coleco gifted the toy to the soon to be very happy Ambassador. Bolstered by all that Flow, the group set out to plan their next move on those thieving Grindstone Cowboys.

At that point, I had noticed that Mike had had a very unlucky card streak so far and had been, more or less, the only player yet to have some spotlight time.  So I nudged the group so he got involved in the next scene’s planning.  Oddly enough, according to his recent memories, he had a very good reason to visit the Grindstone Cowboys… He wanted to obtain someone’s interface. Except he couldn’t quite exactly remember which one… and on whom.

Did I tell you I really like this game?

Up next, Ghosting and Breaking challenges within the Grand HQ of the Tier 6 Grindstone Cowboys MRCZ!


  1. that is made of so much awesome. I will have to pick up this game and give it a try.

  2. Something that Chatty didn’t touch on is how important the creation of the sex toy became. We were about to start the challenge when he reminded us that if we didn’t have a sufficient victory margin, he would choose one of the tags in our place. This ability to mess with the opposing team is really fun.

    See, an explosive sex toy caters to a very specific clientele only…

  3. BeefGriller says:

    Excellent post, Chatty! I’ve read a few blogs and the main Freemarket site, but have always wondered what an actual session would be like. You’ve done a great job here answering that question. I may just have to get Freemarket now.

  4. Great stuff! I have yet to hear of a Freemarket play experience that wasn’t wildly awesome and hilarious yet still intensely fun and engaging, a combination which would be nearly impossible with any other system. Makes me wish I’d bought Freemarket at 10-10-10, but I have too many great games I still need to play.

    Looking forward to more!

  5. @Shinobicow: You should consider it, it is a very worthy game.

    @PM: The game’s example features a cultivation challenge where a pumpkin is grown. Turns out the final result was an Ephemeral, Huge, Hallucinogenic pumpkin. (and it was used to make pastries)

    In hindsight, the Wall challenge would have allowed Yan to only choose the 1st tag, which would HAVE to have been an experience (likely Ghosting) and I would have chosen the other two. Which I’d likely have said: White Noise and Smelly 🙂

    @Rafe: While I agree 100% with you, I realize that like Mouseguard and Burning Wheel, a new GM really needs to carefully read the game’s rules to “get” it enough to simulate the stories you heard about at BurningCon. I got to play it at Gen Con and I had read it cover to cover twice before I tackled a game.

  6. To answer the question you posed last night on Twitter:

    No, I can’t think of another system that could handle the crafting and distribution od sex toys the this seems to have.

  7. @Shinobicow: It’s very much worth trying!

    @PM: The skills/tags/memory economy of this game are far more structured than I initially thought. As I review the rules in my “lessons” learned exercise, I realize that Frank should have done a Cultivation challenge. Recycling to merge 2 things together requires the PCs/allies to have 2 pieces of unbroken tech and any tags the player get to pick after the challenge must be taken from the tags either items already have.

    (That’s all right, no game breaking biggie)

    @Beef: Hey thanks! I’m happy I helped give you a clearer picture of how the game plays.

    @Rafe: Yeah, the game is this perfect mix of silliness and intensity that I seek in games. It really harkens me back to my Paranoia GMing days, without the crazy AI. The game is not easy to learn and just one read-through isn’t enough (like most RPGs that aren’t FUDGE, come to think of it)

    @Seamus: Follow up question. Do you think you would enjoy playing such a game?

  8. Given the seeming open endedness of the system, I’d totally get in on that. Is it an easy learning curve?

  9. I’m intrigued by this game. Having not played any games like Burning Wheel or Mouse Guard with group resolution mechanics, I always find it interesting to hear play reports about them.

    So what would it take for you to GM an online session with random players (either pulled from commenting here or followers on Twitter)?

  10. Dammit, Chatty, this game sounds awesome and I can’t afford a copy right now. . .

    These are great play reports!

  11. @Jeremy: As you can see from the pic above, the game’s resolution system is a card mini-game with the very specific rule of “don’t shuffle a deck until you flip it’s last card”. Makes online gaming awkward until some very enterprising soul codes an app.

    That being said, I’d totally GM an online game for my fans/reader but that would either be in the context of some sort of “Critical-Con” or some sort of Child’s Play thing.

    @Patrick: Thanks man, I appreciate. Yes, that game can be beyond a few budgets but it’s so worth the cost. Seeing it’s 75$ now, I’m happy I had such a good deal at Gen Con.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChattyDM, RPG Bloggers Network. RPG Bloggers Network said: Chatty Play’s: Freemarket Part 2, The Steam Stallion from Critical Hits » RPG #RPG […]

  2. […] the second half of our Freemarket game.  You can follow my post on character creation here and my recounting of the first half here.  Let’s conclude our David vs Goliath story of stolen sex toys designs, covetous enlightened […]