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Red Markets is a game of economic horror, where the world has ended and the rent is still due.
Red Markets is a game of economic horror, where the world has ended and the rent is still due.
1,448 backers pledged $72,248 to help bring this project to life.

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The tools of a Taker
The tools of a Taker

 

Red Markets is a tabletop RPG about economic horror.

In Red Markets, characters risk their lives trading between the massive quarantine zones containing a zombie outbreak and the remains of civilization. They are Takers: mercenary entrepreneurs unwilling to accept their abandonment. Bound together into competing crews, each seeks to profit from mankind’s near-extinction before it claims them. They must hustle, scheme, and scam as hard as they fight if they hope to survive the competing factions and undead hordes the GM throws at them.

Takers that are quick, clever, or brutal enough might live to see retirement in a safe zone, but many discover too late that the cycle of poverty proves harder to escape than the hordes of undead.

Red Markets uses the traditional zombie genre to tell a story about surviving on the wrong end of the economy. It’s cut-throat capitalism with its knife on your neck.

Pulling bounty, taking Casualties ... another day at the office.
Pulling bounty, taking Casualties ... another day at the office.

 

The game takes place in the near-future, amidst a doomsday-in-progress.

When the tired joke of the zombie apocalypse clawed its way up from the dirt of the subconscious into terrifying reality, the cultural obsession killed as many as it saved. Some knew to aim for the head ... but just as many denied death’s existence until it tore them to pieces. The media, forgetting their own history of click-bait bullshit, screamed “zombies!” and were ignored in turn. When the warnings weren’t wrong, they weren’t believed. “The Romero Effect” dragged the slaughter on for months, until the end seemed certain. 

But capitalism loves a good disaster. Our logistics system saved us, and our apocalypse, like everything else, was unevenly distributed. 

Five years after the Crash, humanity has survived by leaving itself behind. The world is now divided: infected and clean, living and dead, haves and have-nots, The Recession and The Loss

Takers live in the Loss, the wrong-side of that divide. They’re trapped in a world where even the apocalypse offers no escape from the everyday grind. It’s a world where combating nightmares becomes another item on the to-do list, where all the luxuries of an old reality taunt you from behind a fence. In the Loss, going to hell and going to work are one and the same. The mundane threats of poverty join ranks with actual monsters, and they all seek to consume you.
The border of the Loss and the Recession
The border of the Loss and the Recession

 

  • Economic Horror: The life of the average RPG hero would be a nightmare of terror and uncertainty. In Red Markets, danger isn’t sought out; it is farmed to prevent starvation. Every group of characters has a unifying financial motivation baked in from the start, and their heroism is that much more noble for constantly threatening to tip over into greed. 
  • The Hustle: A bite is deadly, but so is risking it for too little reward. Characters must negotiate for uncertain compensation every session, placing as much weight on subtle, social actions as combat skills.
  • The Blight: The disease which creates the setting’s monsters is of unknown origin, inscrutable matter, and mysterious design. Most of the infected are slow and dumb, but they all start out as sprinting, tool-using cannibals. Sometimes it creates Aberrants that defy physics, biology, and every other one of God’s laws. A few people are mysteriously immune, while others become asymptomatic plague carriers. Much of Red Markets' supernatural terror comes from the unknown, and this allows gamemasters ample room to cater the setting to their needs and keep encounters fresh. 
  • Diverse Competition: Sometimes zombies are the best-case scenario. Characters are just as likely to encounter more insidious foes, such as rogue political factions, eschatology cults, rival crews, and spies from the Recession. 
  • Intrigue: The Loss is the new frontier. Every government and corporation has its agents infiltrating the survivors, maneuvering to stake claims for the day the quarantine ends. Characters must decide whether to resist these land-grabbers or hire themselves out to their deep pockets.
  • Pirate Culture: Players are encouraged to do anything and everything that might keep the kids fed and the zeds dead. Scavenging goods, performing services, running small businesses, speculative investment – Red Markets features plot hooks and rules for whatever mode of economic production the group thinks might help them survive. 
  • Inclusive Characters: The institutions of the old world picked favorites when rescuing their citizens. Those from the margins of society were disproportionately abandoned: minorities, genders, orientations, and beliefs society would rather forget. But The Loss only discriminates against the unprofitable, and the near-extinction of humanity may bring about a more just world in the long run … if the characters have the will to build it. 
  • Near-future Flexibility: No luddite lasts long in the Red Markets. Successful Takers scout zombie hordes with drones and use robotic walkers to carry their loot. They negotiate for jobs over super-cooled wi-fi internet servers suspended on weather balloons and trade in crypto currency. They replace their gnawed off limbs with prosthetic arms capable of crushing skulls. If there’s a working prototype in the real-world, it exists in Red Markets and can be used in the fight. 
  • Profiteers or Saviors: Depending on who you ask, Takers got their names from undertakers – people who make it their job to dispose of the dead – or as just a synonym for thieves. Are they no more than sociopaths exploiting tragedy for their own gain? The reputation a crew lives up to depends on the characters, but heroism has a price. How much can they afford?
Trading on an uncertain future ...
Trading on an uncertain future ...

 

Profit is the RPG mechanic debuting with Red Markets. The dice mechanic uses two 10-sided dice of different colors called Red and Black. Succeeding on a roll means landing “in the Black” using luck or resources gambled to modify the result. Failure means landing “in the Red.” In short, players need profit to succeed. 

At the basic level, a new player need only be able to answer one question: is one number higher than the other? This simplicity speeds up play and keeps the game moving quickly without sacrificing its economic focus. 

But groups seeking more complex play aren’t left out. Profit is a modular system with scalable difficulty and complexity. The same 2d10 roll used to determine success can generate a dizzying array of game information: mapping supply/demand curves for local goods, determining hit locations and damage, placing wandering enemies, selecting roleplaying prompts. Profit can randomly generate entire encounters, scenarios, settings, and more! Or it can be simplified down to a simple "higher or lower?" success/failure resolution mechanic. Either way, a roll of Black and Red is all you ever need.

No amount of pay is worth going up against an Aberrant
No amount of pay is worth going up against an Aberrant

 

  • Every Number Makes a Moment: All the “crunch” in Profit is story-oriented. Gear is never just stuff; it’s a grating financial burden, a psychological fetish, or a miraculous reprieve. An attack never merely hits; players know where it hit, how hard, and how to cater their roleplaying accordingly. A character’s ability to earn doesn’t just keep them living; it keeps them sane and feeds a family of dependent NPCs. Every shifting value on the character sheet alters the life it represents, each personality transforming under the demands of living in The Loss. 
  • Materialist Philosophy: Profit turns the “dungeon-crawling” ethos of old-school RPGs into a source of personal horror. The quality of a group’s gear determines its survival, but owing your life to a thing ain’t easy. Every piece of gear costs to purchase and to maintain. Profit’s materialist philosophy challenges players to do the most with the least because debt is as deadly as any monster. 
  • Complex, Strategic Social Combat: Negotiating the price of a job involves complex social combat that depends as much on nuanced roleplaying as lucky dice. Like every good business, the group that hopes to survive must strike a balance between the soft skills (like manipulating clients) and the hard skills (like decapitating zombies). 
  • Player-generated Setting and Content: The GM doesn't have to do everything. Groups start campaign play by generating their own enclave, determining its location, history, economy, politics, etc. And any group can generate a Score: a method of GM-less scenario design that lets players determine a job’s elements while still allowing for plenty of surprise during play.
  • Interpersonal Systems: Coworkers are not comrades. Cooperation may be required for survival, but characters don’t have to like each other along the way. Rivalry works as well at the table as friendship because the difficulty of surviving the Market demands a minimum level of synergy. Profit features rules to prompt great roleplaying from the group and expands the variety of inter-party relationships players can craft. 
  • Modular Design and Scalable Difficulty: Red Markets can be about killing zombies. Or Red Markets can be about complex socio-political intrigue, corporate sabotage, family drama, currency exchange schemes … and killing zombies. Players can control the biggest badasses in the Loss, or they can play a running cycle of doomed fools torn apart in a rogue-like meat grinder. The length, structure, and difficulty of each session depends on which sub-systems your group uses to construct a personalized game engine catered to taste. 
  • Quick and Easy Scenario Design: Need a zombie dungeon? Print out some blueprints or reference a local landmark: the ruins of the Loss are the big box stores and factories of your hometown. Need an encounter? Roll for one on the d100 table, or inspire yourself with our d10 encounter themes. Need more enemies? Let the dice generate them. The streamlined scenario design allows GMs to prepare multiple scenarios for every game, giving the group a choice of adventures based on player taste, character ethics, or highest bidder. 
  • Thematic Integrity: Every roll in Profit is designed to reinforce the theme of economic horror. The swingy 2d10 dice mechanic and the power of material goods to improve the chances of success make every action an exercise in weighing cost, risk, and reward.
A Crusader cult, gone mad in search of a cure and hunting test subjects
A Crusader cult, gone mad in search of a cure and hunting test subjects

 

Red Markets' design – from inception to publication – is entirely transparent, recorded, and already available. Since it was conceived, the goal of the game has been to bring as many fans into the process as possible, as often as possible. Kickstarter is just the most recent method utilized to get Red Markets into the hands of as many players as possible. 

The entire development cycle for the game has been recorded under the name RPPR Game Designer’s Workshop, with dozens of playtest APs  already recorded and available on RPPR Actual Play (and even more available to backers). A four-month beta playtest with over 200 participants wrapped up earlier this year, and consistent development updates are released on the Hebanon Games blog. Finally, Red Markets will be licensed under Creative Commons Share/Share-Alike/Noncommercial, removing as many obstacles to play as possible while still providing a high-quality product. 

The rules have been written, playtested, and playtested again. Numerous examples of play can be found all over the internet as instructional aides and free entertainment. The Profit system is ready to challenge your gaming group and the setting is ready to immerse players in the world of Red Markets

But completion of the book requires art, layout, editing, and additional writing, all of which we want our backers to help shape. To this end, the campaign will be limiting physical rewards and utilizing Print On Demand from DTRPG.com. While POD options will remain available if the campaign earns enough to fund a traditional print run, shipping of backer rewards will shift over to a fulfillment service (such as BackerKit) in the event of such generosity. This will allow us to reduce the costs of physical rewards for everyone.  

 In short, every dollar will go towards bettering the book, improving the play experience, or increasing the value of rewards for our backers. We need your help to bring the best possible version of Red Markets into existence. 

A sample from the DHQS reeducation initiative
A sample from the DHQS reeducation initiative

 

 

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We perform an offset print run for the hardcover edition of Red Markets and secure distribution for brick-and-mortar gaming stores. By expanding out from the POD option, we can lower the cost per unit, eliminate the need for all backers at Believer-level and above to pay for printing, and reduce after-KS costs to paying shipping through BackerKit. An off-set run not only makes physical reward tiers cheaper for the hardcover edition, but it expands the game’s community by attracting new players as they browse the shelves of their local game shop. (Softcover backers will still receive DTRPG codes that provide the book at cost of printing + shipping. No new costs are accrued as a result of this stretch goal). A more detailed explanation of how off-set printing works can be found in this update.

Red Markets is now in full-color! With the print run reducing our per unit cost, we can afford to show off the work of our talented artists as it was meant to be seen. As an added benefit, we can now incorporate color into our graphic design to make the game even easier to reference and learn. All hardcover books receive the upgrade to color for free. Softcover backers will still receive DTRPG codes that provide the book at cost of printing + shipping, but everyone will now have the option to print softcovers in color or B+W. (Please note: printing the softcover book in color will be more expensive than B+W, but shipping costs will not increase).

“The Trades” is an in-setting publication put out by the Moths: the world’s most successful Taker crew. This PDF, formatted like a webzine, greatly expands the list of corporations, factions, and governmental agencies seeking to profit from the Loss. Each new addition comes with its own plot hooks, job leads, and rumors for use in your home game. The whole document is interspersed with in-setting advertisements, Taker-memes, and catalog entries for equipment that expands the game’s already sizable gear list. Written by Ross Payton, “The Trades” is the ultimate handout for groups using Red Markets rules for collaboratively-designed scenarios. Email your players an issue of “The Trades,” then pour over the classifieds in-character and plan your next score at the table.

Part style-guide and part meta-analysis, this stretch goals has Caleb Stokes take everyone on a tour through the Profit System. It won't be a prescription or how-to, but rather a schematic for people looking to hack the Red Markets mechanics into different settings. "Gaming the System" dissects the different success ratings, the probability curve, and ways to alter both. It discusses other systems that influenced Profit's design and what hackers can learn from them. We'll get into the guts of the gear system and discuss how to create a list of items that reflects the material reality of your world. We'll talk about how the game's meta-economy works and how to alter it to adjust the game's difficulty. Finally, the game's designer performs a short hack as an example of the principles previously discussed. From there, it's up to individual hackers to get working translating Profit into other settings and wowing the community with their creativity on the LifeLines forums. 

The Pareto Principle hypothesizes that 80% of every outcome in an organization derives from 20% of its inputs. The enclave of 80/20 believes this management principle is the only reason they've survived this long, and their entire economy is designed to incentivize the top 20% of earners...while neglecting everyone else. Written by Kyle Carty, This PDF is stated out like other pregenerated enclaves, including a full description of the setting's location, politics, economic needs, and the variety of contracts ready for play. But in addition to the typical enclave opportunities, the 80/20 PDF includes rules for the enclave's specific tax plan. Takers that earn in the bottom 80% get their every payday leeched by the brutal taxation. But earn enough to reach the top 20% of earners? Suddenly the tax burden is alleviated by the enclave paying for rations, supplying gear, and actively helping in negotiations. In the 80/20 enclave, crawling out of the gutter has never been more difficult, and making it to the top stirs up more controversy about the Taker profession than ever before.

Bites, bullets, and bad deals ... each more deadly than the last
Bites, bullets, and bad deals ... each more deadly than the last

 

Red Markets needs enough funding to exist, but it’s downright greedy for players. We need to get word about the game out to as many people as possible! Backers that help us spread the word improve their rewards at no additional cost. So we’re putting out a Social Bounty! 

Here’s how it works. Help promote the game in any of the following ways and earn one Social Bounty

If you post a link on any of the above sites to a blog post promoting the Kickstarter, reviewing the beta playtest, or hosting a picture of your group playing Red Markets, you earn 100 Social Bounty

If you run a podcast, schedule an interview with Caleb, and post it before the end of the Kickstarter, you earn 200 Social Bounty for the cause! As Social Bounty accrues, we’ll unlock a variety of stretch goals to be released to fans FOR FREE. 

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Our ultimate goal
Our ultimate goal

 

Writer/Managing Editor: Caleb Stokes 

Hi! I’m Caleb Stokes. I’m the founder and owner of Hebanon Games, an indie RPG publishing company dedicated to supplemental releases and original products. Red Markets is Hebanon Games second major Kickstarter project. The first book, No Security: Horror Scenarios in the Great Depression, funded for $6805 with the help of 250 backers. The book is now available for sale at DTRPG in print, and PDFs of the individual scenarios are available on a pay-what-you-want basis.

I’ve also participated in other major Kickstarters as consultant, primary author, and contributing freelance author. For example, my campaign book for Greg Stolze’s Better Angels (No Soul Left Behind) funded for $13,283 with 376 backers. Though the good people at Arc Dream ran the campaign, I was responsible for the video, promotion, and authorship of the whole 250+ page book. 

In a similar role, I’ve made smaller contributions to other major RPG projects in the past, including Transhuman for Posthuman Studios and the recent Delta Green RPG campaign. In addition to freelancing for other RPG studios and running Hebanon Games, I’m a frequent contributor at Ross Payton’s Role Playing Public Radio, one of the longest running RPG podcasts online. There, in addition to joining the cast of players, I co-host a podcast specifically about the development of Red Markets called RPPR Game Designer's Workshop. I’ve also recorded numerous playtests of the system, many of which are released and available for free download now

Editor: Laura Briskin

Laura works as a cataloging librarian, writer, editor, and actual play podcastor. You can hear her group’s playtest campaign of Red Markets over at www.technicaldifficultiespod.com, follow her blog on writing and gaming, follow here on tumblr, or bother her on twitter at @LauraB_Writes 

Layout and Graphic Design: Kathryn Perez

Kat is a voice actress and graphic designer that also works as a librarian. She’s done voice work for Codename: Cygnus, various radio ads, and has done graphic design for various companies and universities. Her primary duty on Red Markets is asset creation. Her intense attention to detail makes her an invaluable asset to the team. She’s also been known to stream video games in her spare time here, and her voice reel can be heard here.

Layout and Graphic Design: Kyle Carty

Kyle is a writer and graphic designer who daylights as an accountant. He’s freelanced for SlangDesign and ENWorld in various capacities. In 2013, Kyle created an entire card game from the ground up. Dreams of Typhon’s Kickstarter was a success. Kyle’s primary responsibilities for Red Markets are layout and asset management. Kyle’s other work can be seen on Tumblr and on Facebook

Voice Acting: Faust Kells

Faust Kells is a Voice Actor, Youtuber, and Writer. He narrates a wide variety of audiobooks, including Amazon Best Seller 'The Dungeoneers'. He is also part of the illustrated tabletop video series Thrilling Intent. He lives in Springfield, MO, an area that will certainly fall when the Crash comes down.

Artist: Kim Van Deun

Kim is an illustrator and concept artist whose first RPG game, The Dark Eye, sparked her ambition to become a fantasy illustrator. After some years of being an academic researcher, she decided to throw away the steady paycheck and embarked on a journey into the land of RPGs, TCGs, and computer games as a full-time freelance illustrator. Clients include Catalyst Game Labs, Mongoose Publishing, Schwalb Entertainment, Hyacinth Games and Robotic Potato. Portfolios can be found on http://www.eyesintheforest.com/ and https://eyesintheforest.artstation.com/ or you can follow her blog https://eyesintheforest.wordpress.com/

Artist: Patsy McDowell 

Patsy McDowell is an Irish illustrator currently residing in London. He has contributed work to Base Raiders, Ruin and various other RPPR-related projects regularly since graduating from the University of Westminster in 2014. Some of his work can be found on his blog. One day he will quit his day job, but not today.

Artist: Christopher Cirillo 

Chris Cirillo is a cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer by trade and recently delved into the world of podcasting. He’s created pieces for several RPGs and supplements such as No Security, Base Raiders, and its supplement "Boiling Point" to name a few. On top of game art, he wrote and illustrated the webcomic “Digital Celluloid” for over 4 years, contributed several entries to anthologies by Gurukitty Studios, and illustrates the title cards for each episode of his podcast “Al Dente Rigamortis” where, along with his co-host, he discuss a different creepypasta every week. His work can be found on DeviantArt and Tumblr.

Artist: James Beatham 

James Beatham is a freelance illustrator. He has done art and merchandising work for singer-songwriter Jack Garratt. More of his work can be found at jamesbeatham.com

Artist: Michael Plondaya 

Michael Plondaya is a illustrator, concept artist, and biologist. He's worked on personal projects like the Oddfield Survival Guide and the Monster Initiative where he is planning to illustrate all the monster tokens in a certain magic card game. He wrote and illustrated a booklet for 826 Valencia called How to Fight the Ocean, and is doing concept work for an upcoming game called A Dragon Named Coal. Currently he is working on several RPGs, one called Odd Roads which deals with travel, horror, and big rig trucks.

You can find his fractured works on Tumblr, support him on Patreon , or get a taste at his Gumroad.

Artist: Darrell Claunch 

Darrell Claunch is an ex-video game artist/current visual effects artist who is spending more and more of his time as an illustrator. As a game artist, he worked on over two dozen titles on the Nintendo handhelds for publishers such as Popcap, Nickelodeon, and the Jim Henson company. As a visual effects artist, he has added shine and beautified shots for such feature films and television shows as Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Mad Max Fury Road, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Trek Into Darkness, Life of Pi, Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, and over 40 other titles. His illustration work thus far consists of cover art for the RPG game Base Raiders and several indie movie posters. He is always on the lookout for his next project and a better, stronger coffee. Find him at knights-end.com or his DeviantArt.

 

Risks and challenges

The complete rules and a truncated setting description have already been proofread, edited, and extensively play-tested (10+ iterations and counting). A playable PDF preview of the game will be available to all Dependent-level and above backers upon completion of the Kickstarter.

As we don’t yet know how big we can afford to make the book, the remainder of the setting material has yet to be written. However, illustration, page design, and editing tasks can and will be assigned the second the Kickstarter meets its goal. With 250+ pages written and ready, Hebanon Games is managing deadlines to keep contributors working steadily in order to complete the project as soon as possible.

We will be using Lightning Source LLC for print-on-demand and distribution, as well as distributing backer codes for backer copies through their website drivethrurpg.com. If the project is successful enough, we will be using established fulfillment services such as BackerKit to reduce post-campaign costs to customers.Though fulfillment of physical rewards is where indie publishers often encounter the most trouble, Red Markets doesn’t anticipate any problems getting the books to backers.

Hebanon Games is an independent operation run by a small crew of talented people. Realistically, illnesses and other personal issues may delay production of the book until conflicts can be resolved or replacements hired. Similarly, if this campaign is an unprecedented, unpredictable success, the fulfillment of stretch goals could further delay the distribution of all rewards to backers.

The campaign has taken this into account by promising pessimistic deadlines in the campaign. It is our sincere hope to have the project complete well-before the dates listed. If for some reason that isn't possible, any delay will be clearly communicated through our updates and various social media accounts. If the campaign succeeds beyond our wildest dreams, completion of the book will remain the singular focus. The corebook will remain the priority, and rewards unrelated to playing Red Markets have been minimized or eliminated in order to ensure we are prepared for any unanticipated demand.

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    You get preview AP podcasts of an entire playtest campaign, access to the preview document with the complete playable rules, and the right to suggest one Taker name on a random table of NPCs.

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    You get a dice set ready for Red Markets play (5 Red/5 Black d10s), plus the softcover book and all Taker rewards.

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    You get a dice set ready for Red Markets play (5 Red/5 Black d10s), plus the hardcover book and all Believer rewards.

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    You get an e-copy and audiobook of Home Team, a novella by the game’s author set in the Red Markets universe. Latents also get the hardcover book, the dice, and all Vector rewards.

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    You get all rewards at the Latent level AND a limited edition, hand-crafted Red Markets dice tin to hold your Reds and Blacks.

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    You get a ticket to an online game of Red Markets run by a member of the RPPR playtest group, plus all rewards at the Latent level.

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    You get to join author Caleb Stokes for a Red Markets game at GenCon 2016, plus all rewards at the Latent level.

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    Steward

    You get to collaborate with Caleb Stokes and the artists to get your Red Markets character into the book! We will insert the Taker you help design into one of the book's illustrations. Stewards also receive all rewards at the Latent level.

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    Enclave Leader

    Work with Caleb and the artists to get an entire survivor community added into the book! We will collaborate with you on art and a short description of an enclave to include in the setting’s notable places. Enclave Leaders also receive all rewards at the Latent level.

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    Mr. JOLS

    Caleb Stokes will fly to your home anywhere in the continental United States, run Red Markets for your group, and hang out with your gaming group for the weekend. This package also includes all rewards for the Immune level, as well.

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Funding period

- (30 days)