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Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
 
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Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
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Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Ethan C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2018 15:34:40

I betatested the system and backed the Kickstarter, and now I get to tell you about my favorite RPG.

You might think that a 500-page book couldn't have a core mechanical system that's simple, fast, easy to learn, and highly flexible. Red Markets is all those things. It combines the best elements of traditional task-resolution skill-based gameplay with innovations from the best of the story game scene. And it puts its mechanic constantly at the service of a tight, focused game theme: everything costs resources. Economics as horror.

Economic horror is a genre that you might not have ever heard of, but you've probably played before. The old school dungeon crawl where you're counting your torches and arrows. The sci fi game where you struggle to fix the oxygen system before you asphyxiate. The childhood game of Monopoly, desperately trying to miss landing on your sister's Boardwalk hotel. Any game where the tension and worry revolves around the questions, "Can I afford this?" "Should I risk this?" "What am I giving up for this?"

Red Markets is about bringing those horrors into the center of the game. The zombie apocalypse setting is there to tap into our strongest mythical story about insecurity and constant danger (and it's brilliantly realized in a distinctive authorial voice, not generic in any way). The world of Red Markets is about the horror of having already lost everything, then discovering that you still have so much left that you can still lose. And the horror of the the everyday, constant need to risk life and limb just to get tomorrow's food on the table.

It's a beautiful game that tells beautiful stories, of tragedy, suffering, endurance, and even sometimes triumph (always hard-earned, never certain). And it depicts the daily, constant struggle that eventually adds up to those stories.

There's much more I could write, about the wonderful modular rules elements you could steal for other games, the possibilities for applying the system to other settings and moods, the fantastic community of players that have already created tons of great additional material for it. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's the best RPG I've ever played. I think if you try it, you'll love it too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Victor B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2018 18:11:56

This game is an achievement. Not only is it a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse, but it gives a player-facing system that allows your group a chance to explore a multitude of horrors: the science-mocking blight and the creatures it has unleashed, the cruelties of the desperate cultures of the Loss, the dystopian government of the Recession, and the extremely relatable mundane terror of an empty wallet. Fantastic production values, superb art, and creators that put a chunk of their souls on the page.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2018 23:31:09

This game is yet another take on the zombie apocalypse. But the designers have added a new wrinkle and integrated it well into gameplay. Fans of the genre will enjoy spotting which elements the game has cherry-picked (the basic premise bears a strong resemblance to George Romero's fourth zombie film 'Land of the Dead'). But writer Caleb Stokes places an emphasis on how free market capitalism would function in a nightmare world (the game's introduction states that it intended as a poverty simulator). The premise is that the characters are scavengers (dubbed 'takers') looting bounty from the ruins of society following a zombie apocalypse (called 'the blight'). What is left of the United States is roughly divided into the Loss (a wasteland full of zombies) and the Recession (what is left of the d government and civilization). The setting is extensively detailed but renders the game heavy on exposition. The first 110 pages of the 487-page book read like an illustrated zombie novel, but are entertaining. The core mechanics use a red and black dice for each roll. If a character rolls a higher number on the black dice, he wins -- if the red is higher, the market wins and the player fails. Rolls can be boosted by spending charges on equipment or will power. Skills also add bonuses to the black. Players also certain disadvantages to their characters -- weak spots (personality flaws) and soft spots (virtues that can be a nuisance). There are set types that a character can play, and each has an intrinsic tough spot -- essentially a fixed pair of characteristics (one an advantage and the other a disadvantage). An example is the hustler. This weasel has a list of connections that he can sometimes call on without needing a skill check. The bad news is that he is often in debt. All I could think of was Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt. Just reading the character creation rules gave me ideas -- a hustler whose soft spot is preserving any books that he finds (they do represent knowledge and culture) and whose weak spot is stocking up on beer or spirits as a creature comfort. This guy would be well-connected but a potential drag during a scavenging run. The game differentiates between a grittier, more realistic style of gaming and a more cinematic approach with roiled options to accommodate them. These are coined 'boom' or 'bust'. The presentation is brisk and simple. Literary quotes meant to illustrate certain themes are scattered throughout the book as hand-written sticky notes. The zombie portion of the book contains some interesting ideas -- there are latent carriers of the zombie virus that are harvested for potential vaccines, for example. But anyone who has seen a Romero film, 28 Days Later or Resident Evil will be on too-familiar ground here. There is a glut in zombie RPGs and the political metaphors in Red Market are not particularly subtle. But on the balance this is is a well-constructed diversion.

See our full ratings for this game at GeeksAGogo.com!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Ian F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2018 17:58:07

No other game I've played captures the stress of managing limited resources as well as this one does, which is all the more impressive given that despite the volume's size, the rules aren't even a little more complicated than they need to be. A lot of the tension comes from the balance between acquiring resources used for character advancement and saving for retirement against the ticking clock that is inevitably depleting sanity which is great for campaign play but I wouldn't recommend playing this as a one shot since it would drastically undermine the stakes that make this game so engaging.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/19/2018 21:06:28

Just finished reading this mammoth of a book and must say I am completely satisfied with my purchase. Well written and quite interesting. I’ve been a fan of RPPR for a couple of years now, but mostly for the CoC and Delta Green scenarios. Now, I’m working my way thru the Red Market episodes because this book has reawakened my love for the post-apocalypse genre. Not only is the fluff interesting (and there is quite a bit of it), the game mechanics are unique and work well. The "social combat" of negotiation is pretty interesting and there is some pretty good Market (think DM/GM) advice given. I'd like to seem more of this game, tho I feel it is a pretty complete product. On the fence? Listen to Red Markets: Brutalists on RPPR. Very entertaining and it’s neat to see how some of the rules evolve during the play testing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Kevin N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2018 22:21:29

This is an incredible game that sets out to bring some really new things to gaming, and nails every one of them. In most traditional games, like D&D, your gear is a huge part of your character and you grab all you can get. In Red Markets, your gear keeps you alive but it can break, or be used up and need replaced (think grenades), or create new risks (noisy toolboxes, blood tests that report the immune to some really scary people). Even your regular workaday zombie-headshotting gun requires maintenance and ammo. Pay the costs, everything keeps working but it's a little less for retirement. Don't pay, maybe you don't make it to retirement.

Another of Red Markets' innovations is that adventuring sucks. No sane person wants to risk their life for loot if they can avoid it, and every character's goal in the game is to have enough money to never go adventuring again - the sooner, the better. There are more cinematic play modes, but the game also has rules I can't recommend enough for driving home how difficult, dirty, dangerous, and stressful it is to live job to job risking your life, all to stop doing that exact thing. It may not sound attractive, but the feeling of accomplishment in overcoming everything a postapocalyptic wasteland can throw at you is really something.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/03/2018 09:00:09

Disclosure as others have done: I backed the kickstarter and have been following the game for years. I only withheld my name on the review by missing a blank and am not trying to be duplicitious. I post most places as "Ken R".

Review: This is a monster of a book. It's become the largest book on my role-playing game shelf, weighing in at nearly 500 pages in hardcover. So this is a long review of a long book. (If you just want the take-home points, scroll down to "Overall:")

Some RPG books are so long because they are jam-packed with spells, feats, and equipment for players in addition to very complex rules. Red Markets isn't one of those books. There's plenty of options for making characters unique, but it's based on their connection to the world more than skill/feat packages. In fact, the base system for Red Markets is quite simple and many of the mechanics are modular - so the game can be as complex as your group wants.

It's not pages and pages of mechanics making the book long. Instead, Red Markets is huge because it's introducing a new genre - economic horror - and the world that brings the genre into focus.

Backstory and introduction: The first sections of the book introduce the world through in-character writing. In very brief: the zombie apocalypse started five years ago, but it's not equally distributed. The US Government decided to cut its losses and barricade off the Mississippi. Everyone West of the Mississippi was left for dead - then legally declared dead. The Eastern half of the country is ruled by an increasingly authoritarian government and is commonly called the Recession. The Western half, "written of as a loss" is called the Loss.

The thing is - and one of my favorite aspects about Red Markets - is that it challenges many of the increasingly set "rules" of zombie apocalypse stories. If you picture a zombie apocalypse movie or show, you probably picture small bands of loners moving through empty cities. Red Markets has that, but it rejects the idea that all technology will fail immediately. It rejects the idea of one gruff survivor making it on their own because they're cold enough to do what needs to be done.

Instead, Red Markets has pockets of near-future technology still working. It has people in the Loss banding together into groups called enclaves against the rest of the world. And most importantly it has the player characters, called Takers. Takers are experts at getting the things that their Enclaves or clients in the Recession want. If they're successful enough, the Takers can even buy their way into the Recession - earning a retirement away from the zombie-infested Loss.

But the Takers aren't just trying to get themselves out. Each character has at least one dependent - a child, spouse, pet, or friend that they are providing for. The Taker has to keep the dependent fed and sheltered. But in return, spending time with a loved one helps keep Takers sane in their dangerous line of work. So Takers are saving to take care of their families as well.

The dependents aren't just notes on the character sheet - they provide tangible benefits by restoring damage to the Taker's psyche. They're also played out in vignette scenes at the table that do a lot to establish the characters' home lives and flesh out the enclave where they live. These can be the most moving scenes in a session as they remind the characters why they keep venturing out into a zombie-infested wasteland.

Dependents also make character death a little more meaningful than it is in other RPGs. In other games, when a player character dies, it can be a major moment. But it can also pull that player out of the game, as they make a new character or just disengage with the story. In Red Markets, if your Taker dies, their dependent is still there. The other players have to decide whether they take care of the dependent - taking on yet another mouth to feed or not. Otherwise, the dependent may have to become a Taker themselves. Now the dependent has to undertake the hard life that the Taker tried to protect them from. It provides an immediate (but potentially emotional) source for replacement characters to fit into the game's ongoing story.

So all of that is the basis for the economic horror. The game's tagline is that "the world has ended, but the rent's still due." Civilization is barely hanging on, but your characters still have to earn - often by doing unsavory and dangerous jobs.

There's more to it, but that should serve as an overview. The writing in the introductory chapters is excellent; the narrative characters have distinct and compelling voices. I don't want to spoil it, but the book presents a stark picture of economic horror even before the zombies show up. There's a lot of it, so if you aren't as interested in the setting material right off the bat, you might want to skip to...

Mechanics: The mechanics are the next major section of the book. As I mentioned, despite the book's size, the core mechanic is simple. You decide to do something, the GM (called the Market in this game) determines what skill applies, you decide how many charges to spend, and you roll two dice. You add the charges to the number on a black die, then see if the total is higher than a red die. If it's higher, you succeeded. If the total is lower or tied, you failed.

Of course, there's more wrinkles to it (like critical hits) but that's the core. The charges mentioned above reflect your resources - anything from bullets in a gun, to bandages in a first aid kit, to the calories from the food you've eaten. Rather than keeping track of every single bullet, band-aid, and can of beans, charges function as an abstraction.

And it works. I have played a lot of RPGs. Many of them consider extensive book-keeping necessary to evoke a sense of scarcity or planning. Red Markets collapses this resource management down to the simplest form that I've seen - and makes it more compelling in the process. Characters run out of the things they need and have to scrounge for more. They have to make due or - if they don't earn enough money - watch their precious equipment break.

It's not a power fantasy game. It's not pages of gun-porn. The more stuff you have, the more you have to pay to keep it working and the harder it becomes to ever escape the Loss. In the end your stuff owns you, too. This fits the economic theme perfectly.

It also means that every roll in the game becomes significant. At the very least, every roll puts charges on the line, and you only have so many.

The book also has some great advice on when to call for a roll versus when not to. In short, the GM should only call for a roll when there's really something at stake and when failure would be interesting.

The game also has extensive advice on putting together jobs for your players. Red Markets' take on zombies (called the Blight) is interesting and compelling. It's a constant, high-stakes mystery that drives researchers insane trying to figure it out. In game terms, you get the shambling hordes (called casualties), terrifyingly fast fresh zombies (Vectors), and one in a million freak occurrences called Aberrants.

As a microbiologist, I love that the Blight acts a little bit more like a real disease than most zombie viruses. (Okay, sure, it violates several laws of physics but most zombie diseases do.) What makes the Blight interesting is that it is not transmitted 100% of the time and it's not actually fatal in all infections. This means that a casualty bite is a secret roll, providing a lot more uncertainty and tension than the "one bite means one bullet" approach.

And when it's not fatal? Some people are Latent - infected but not turned to zombies. (There's a drug that can artificially cause this state, too.) They become immune to further infection but remain contagious to others and immediately turn to vectors upon death. So they're often discriminated against and kept separate from the rest of an enclave. Others are entirely immune to the Blight, which sounds great. But immunes are incredibly valuable for research, so they have to keep their status a secret or risk being harvested for bone marrow for the rest of their lives.

The game is also built around the narrative structure of hitting milestones on the character's path towards retirement (or their demise). I like that the end of the game is in sight (even if distant) from the beginning. Many RPGs don't have a set end state and many campaigns don't actually finish, but Red Markets is always building towards that resolution. Like the rest of the system, it fits with the theme - as the Takers must decide how much to save towards getting out versus how much to spend on staying alive right now.

This all may sound like a lot. But you can get it to the table quickly - when I ran a playtest of the game, everyone was up to speed and ready to play after about 20 minutes using pregenerated characters.

There's even tables at the end of the book, providing you with ways to quickly roll up jobs for your players and example encounters. In fact, the d100 table of encounters is tremendously fun to read and tells you a lot about the Loss. There are a lot of resources available for the game to make it easier on GMs, especially if you venture over to the game's website at http://redmarketsrpg.com/resources/ .

Red Markets also encourages collaborative enclave generation, to make sure that your players care about the community they helped create. If you just want to jump in, there's several very interesting enclaves described in the setting section, too.

If you want examples of how the whole thing works in practice, there are two Actual Play campaigns involving the game's author at Role Playing Public Radio (RPPR). There's also an RPPR series called Game Designer's Workshop that chronicles how the book went from idea to 500 page juggernaut. I found both extremely useful and entertaining, but since they are not part of the book directly, they don't affect the review score. However, if you have any doubts about how compelling economic horror might be, they are excellent resources.

As an aside: if you are just done with zombies, you could reflavor the game to work in a different setting. I think you're missing out because of how rich the setting is and how well it complements the mechanics. But the Profit system that underlies the game is elegant enough that it could be adapted to any setting or campaign where scarcity and difficult choices are the main themes. I know that there are adaptation projects online, if that's your cup of tea.

Production values: This book is an amazing work of art. Many styles are used throughout but it feels like a unified whole. The full-color artwork ranges from propaganda posters to pictures of Takers (and casualties and aberrants) to conceptual splash pages. It's all excellent and it pulls you into the book.

The layout also deserves mention - the formatting makes it easy to find what you need. The font size is larger than many RPG books, while design and side bars are used to more clearly convey information.

The pages are heavy-weight and glossy. I have not seen better quality even from major publishers such as Wizards of the Coast or Paizo. The binding seems very solid - and it has to be, to hold the good-quality paper and thick cover.

I even love the simplicity of the spine on my shelf - like the rest of the book, no detail was overlooked and it comes together in a triumphant whole.

(Note: the above on the physical book refers to the copy that I got through the kickstarter. It can be purchased at Indie Press Revolution. Only the PDF is available here at DriveThruRPG.)

Overall: I've gone on at length about the book because it really excites me, both in terms of the story and the mechanics. It is one of my favorite RPGs, alongside Delta Green and Eclipse Phase.

When running the game, I've found that the enthusiasm is infectious. My players have wanted to plan enclaves, to know more about the Blight and aberrants, and told me how this was the first game where they really cared about their equipment. Different parts of the game click with different players, but I've had an extremely strong positive response.

That said, it's not for everyone. It's not a straightforward dungeon crawl and it's not a power fantasy. Like other horror games such as Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green, characters are more likely to be battered and ground down by their adventures rather than grow stronger after each one. But they keep trying - because there's a chance that they can escape.

I'd recommend this book if you have any interest in a fresh take on zombies or if you've ever stared at bank statements with a sinking feeling in your gut, realizing the numbers aren't going your way. If you would like to abstract that feeling with a set of quick, lethal mechanics in a fascinating setting, I can't recommend Red Markets highly enough. I can't wait to take it off the shelf and run it again.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Derek P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 12:27:07

Fantastic setting with a rules system that allows for over the top action, or gritty horror. Would be a very satisfying game for fans of Shadowrun who wan't a simpler rules system without sacrificing distinctive gear and skills.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Daniel K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/27/2017 07:21:08

Red Markets is an elegant RPG design that draws elements from story, traditional, and the cruel results of the occasional random table. Buy this game! Every element of Red Markets encourages action and role play while resonating with the theme of economic horror. The design maximizes story, character development, action, and creeping economic despair. Everything that would slow down game master preparation or in game actions has been discarded. Combat feels tactical without getting bogged down with details. Resource management is quick and easy - partially because you can't afford much equipment☺

Red Markets has the most engaging background and setting material I've read.   It's a page turner. It is also a really pretty book (for values of pretty that includes horror and zombies).

Characters have an understandable and compelling reason to put themselves at risk. All characters have at least one dependent they want to keep housed and fed, like a younger sibiling or aged mentor. Interacting with dependents provides a measurable game benefit of healing mental damage (and is less expensive than paying to heal through other means).

There are also zombies; but, the real dangers usually involve other people or lack of resources. Thank you if you read this far. Now go buy this book! (Physical copies available at indie press revolution)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Byron D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/20/2017 23:25:57

I cannot say enough good thigs about this title. I somehow managed to find time to fly through this 500 page moster of a book when I was grinding out my last 2 weeks at school. The setting is amazing, the content kept me up at night. The mechanics are both elegant amd innovative. I totally plan on steeling all sorts of things from this book.

Negotations in particular are a facinating way to figure outpayment for a job.

I cannot say enough good things about this book.

I will also say that it has been facinating to listen to the process the athour went through to bring us this book. listen to the game developers workshop on role playing public radio.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Adam H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/18/2017 03:43:39

Disclaimer: I am a long time fan of Role Play Public Radio and backed this project on kickstarter.

At nearly five hundred pages this long this is a mammoth of a book which has been excellently converted into PDF format. The firdst couple of chapters are are world descriptive fluff pieces but they are of an excellent quality and showcase the range and depth of the world that is avvailable for you to create and change as your player groups needs it. This is further exemplified in the character generation and enclave (your hometown) generation where you get to build the whole community an have the players populate it with wild characters who survived the apocalypse.

The rules themselves are very straightfowrad with dice roles primarily happening on the players side, with the results informing the GM on how to structure the narrative. From there with the buy system for rolls it is very easy to up the ante and make for some dire situations for the players. It also has something for those who wish to roleplay with negotiations between the player and GM for jobs being a driving point and plenty of opportunities for in character interaction.

I ver highly advise this system for anyone who wants a good time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Dylan C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/06/2017 03:53:16

This game is great. I like the setting a bunch - the huge amount of official APs really helps for that, of course, by filling in details that even the 500 pages can't contain - but even more than that I like (1) the methodical way the system is laid out, which really gives the sense that the intense playtesting let the author know exactly what rules issues or exceptions needed to be discussed alongside each new rule, and (2) the really elegant marriage of narrative and crunch emphases. RM doesn't try to be all crunch or all story - it's crunchy where it counts, and light and narrative where it doesn't. Don't be surprised if your next campaign after Red Markets strips the zombies away and ends up using the Profit System for some totally different genre. We recently lifted the retirement rules from RM for our Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, for example.

Overall, this game really spoke to me both as a gamer of long experience myself, and as someone who tends to run games for newer players. It's a mature, sharp, conscientious take on gaming and the zombie genre both, and you'll definitely get your money's worth out of this product.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2017 16:56:14

I'm a pretty gigantic fan of this game. I've beta-tested and recorded game sessions. I've run it at PAX West and I'll be running it at Orcacon and other conventions in the future. I run a weekly game of it over Roll20.

One of my favourite things about Red Markets is how easy it is for people to sink into and immediately start exemplifying the premise. There is a beautiful pie chart in the book that explains the balance of play and how the story comes 1/3 from the Market(GM) 1/3 from the players and 1/3 from the dice. When this ratio is working you get very statisfying moments.The core mechanic, spending and rolling, highlights the economic side of every action you can take as a player.

As The Market this game is wonderful for me, low stat/encounter management, interchangeable parts, streamlined procedure and as I dont have to roll dice too often I have energy to describe and create rather than worry about NPC behaviours, various edge case rules, or setting difficulty levels. There are many helpful tables that can serve as raw materials or as inspiration for your own [insert anything]. I lay out suite of potential adventures, the players choose one, and by their own luck and choices have the potential to either win big or lose big.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Jaakko T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/01/2017 15:14:23

The game was extremely hard for first time players. It was allmost inpossible to play with friends who didn't speak english well. In all other ways the game is awesome. It has solid rules and leavs room for RP. The setting also leaves room for a varity of stories.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Red Markets: A Game of Economic Horror
Publisher: Hebanon Games
by Tim D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2017 08:24:40

The setting is near future in a setting that feels almost too real and too likely. The quality of the fiction and the "getting there from here" was profoundly effecting and adds to the relevance of play. The creator has described this as a poverty simulator, and if you let the power and the resonance of that sink in, this game can provide profound moments of beautiful despair, if you let it.

Thankfully, the setting allows for a wide range of approaches to play. You can explore many genres of zombie conflict, be big damn heroes, hold the door against a tide of the undead, Perform an awesome heist, spend time with loved ones. You can do a lot with this setting and system. Still the fiction is powerful and though-provoking and is my favorite part of the whole book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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