GM's Corner 08 - Red Markets Episodes 13-15

Now that the Takers had their massive amount of Bounty, they had to design their Mr. JOLS – their Score that would render all of them independently wealthy in the Recession. The Mr. JOLS process, like the process for designing Scores, works really well as a collaborative tool to make an adventure. The players are making a mission they want to do, while the GM manipulates things behind the scenes to make their hard final mission even harder.

The players’ idea of raiding a vertical farming startup seemed like fun, but I needed a challenge worthy of the series finale. After starting the Delta County Avengers storyline in earlier sessions they seemed to be a perfect fit for a cinematic fight near the end of the campaign. I had intended on them being a minor nuisance throughout the campaign, but with how thoroughly demoralized they had become at the hands of The Reformers, their rage became an excellent weapon.

All throughout the campaign I had wanted to better test the combat rules against human opponents, but the players had either used charisma skills to talk opponents down or crippled their enemies so fast a protracted fight wasn’t happening. The closest was the fight against the DCA in the beer plant, but even then the players had ruined DCA limbs and left them to be devoured by zombies. Not that this was a major concern; as a play test this was a unique set of circumstances that were hopefully helpful for Caleb as he prepared the next version of the rules, but coming from my background in RPGs I had been hoping for more combat.

The fight outside the startup was the fight I had been wanting. By adding combat NPCs to the party, the players were more effective against the DCA and we were able to get a lengthy fight, with players, NPCs, human enemies, Vectors, and Casualties all in play. In the end the fight was thrilling and would have been an excellent end to the campaign…

If I hadn’t had them wrap up my meta plot. In all honesty, it might have been a better move to leave things there, but as I had accidentally given them so much Bounty and had started to establish the end game, I felt I had to finish it. So I shoehorned in roughly four sessions worth of exposition into 20 minutes of post fight chat. They had also managed to avoid directly fighting the Aberrant I had created, so the end of Session 15 was a little lackluster. I should have had the courage to let go and either let them live with the consequences or thrown the Aberrant at them anyway, but that was Monday morning GMing that I’ll be mindful of in future campaigns.

Regardless, as a new GM, I’m thankful that these issues did not derail or ruin the game. My players still had fun, this chunk of the campaign was still good, and the conclusion of The Reformers was about to begin.

GM's Corner 06: Red Markets Episodes 9-12

News: The Red Markets Kickstarter is live! Help us reach the offset print run stretch goal, so we can get a full-color print run of the book.

Coming to tabletop role-playing through video gaming, one of the things that always strikes my fancy is the ‘boss fight’ concept; the player not just facing adversity through run-of-the-mill enemies, but fights or encounters that demand strategy and focus are what pull me in. When creating jobs for Red Markets I was drawn to the concept of Aberrants, though I wanted to be cautious in how I designed them. Without knowing the specific rules I did not want to go too far from the design that had been given, but I also wanted to include these bosses for the players to encounter.

My chief aspect of design in the Aberrants I made for the Legal Tender campaign revolved around the concept of the secondary Blight nervous system in a Casualty. The black strands are a very evocative element and were the central idea around the monsters I created. The Mole Variant from the Little Pittsburg job came about as a means of the strands hardening and covering body parts, thus providing natural weapons.

While trying to think of a new job, I was struggling to find a core concept. I needed more jobs that involved the main storyline, as I didn’t know how much longer the campaign would last and I needed ways to drop hints. I came up with using the plastic for the licenses as a draw for a job, but how to integrate it? Living near a candy factory I contemplated wrappers, thus a need for huge rolls of plastic. But what would be the challenge? Could I create an Aberrant? If so, what was unique about it? I pondered a means of creating an Aberrant with a ranged attack, but how so? I reflected on how Vectors are made, and ways to die in a candy factory. Somehow, my mind wandered to being boiled alive in molten candy, and thus the Candyman was born.

As a means of further evolving the monster, I gave him the cult; a group of Archivists who kept feeding sugar to the vats. Some were mad from seeing such a monster and became worshippers, others tended to their crazed friends and studied this monster that didn’t attack them. I made them all Latents for two reasons: first, as a possible reason why the Candyman wouldn’t attack them. Second, as a means to continuously perpetuate the Candyman once the Aberrant broke down from being constantly encased in napalm-like sugar. The key aspect I wanted to take in is that, horrifyingly, the process to becoming an Aberrant is repeatable if the circumstances are right.

Thinking back months later, I might not have fleshed out the creature and cult as much as I had wanted to. The motivations of the cult seem murky, and by not fighting the Candyman they didn’t see the projectiles or the carnage he could have caused. However, the fear instilled by seeing the crazy cultists and the threat of what was on the USB drive (CCTV footage of the original Candyman becoming Candyman, causing a massive self-control check), combined with the rising and eventual proven fear of the Candyman, elicited the reactions I wanted and left me satisfied with my work. And after hearing about the Ganglia in Episode 9 of the Brutalists, I had become more confident in the designs I had created for the campaign.

What was unsatisfactory was when I botched the score rules and let the players negotiate for the bottles from the brewery. They made so much Bounty they lept from the first Milestone to their last, and could’ve even left without completing a Mr. JOLS. I now had a story to finish and not much time to do it in. However, there are many ways to skin a cat, and the Mr. JOLS was the start of a grand conclusion...