Taste the donut: FreeMarket RPG beta available

There’s still some capacity in the “Colony Program,” a.k.a. beta-PDF giveaway, for FreeMarket, the transhumanist RPG by Luke Crane of Burning Wheel and Jared Sorenson of inSpectres, Action Castle and many others. The beta is capped at 1000 copies, just like the lavish print edition planned for next year.

Me, I think everyone who’s interested in the technology of roleplaying should have a look at this. It’s the first game I know of that truly reverses “kill them and take their stuff” – all the way into “no one can die and you want to give them all presents.” And yes, it makes that work, turning it into a tense, motivating, probably hilarious saga of social climbing and idealisms of all sorts. It’s the most developed, wide-ranging and at times gleefully evil take on the concept “all combat is social combat” that I’ve yet seen. I’m surprised it isn’t catching more hate from the usual Internet suspects, because it is a direct and vicious frontal assault on roleplaying’s indulgence of the Geek Social Fallacies.


  1. The goofy thing is, those social fallacies don’t fit into the geeks I know much at all. Ostracism seems to be one of the few common traits among all the geek groups I’ve seen, and friendships last but are often sacrificed on the altar of forward mobility. There are elements of truth in some of them (there are certain jerks who should probably get the boot, but when you have so few people you get that sort of toleration with just about any group, unfortunately. That, and there seems to be a multiple inclusion problem with this, because often the ostracizing should be done on an ostracizer, if I read it correctly), but it seems more like a description of a specific group of geeks rather than some insight into geek culture as a whole. Thus, newsflash, even geeks aren’t all alike.

  2. From the article’s intro: “I want to note that I’m not trying to say that every geek subscribes to every one of the fallacies I outline here; every individual subscribes to a different set of ideas, and adheres to any given idea with a different amount of zeal.” (I notice that whenever geeks perceive you as making any kind of generalization about geeks, they leap up to point out all the exceptions – because the snobbery by which geeks are victimized is the worst kind of generalization, so we learn instinctually that generalization is bad even though it’s actually useful and necessary. We are frequently harmed by our insistence that detailed accuracy matters way more than a good story.)

    I think FreeMarket has a lot to offer GSF victims and the more sociopathic strain of geeks alike – it’s a comprehensive social simulator rather than a combat simulator. Whether anyone will be enticed by that offer is another story.

    John: no, just a fictional blog – no gameplay on the ARGish end of things.

  3. That’s my point, it’s not very useful. It’s a very narrow interpretation of the behavioral patterns in geek culture, and so it comes off more as a weak joke than a serious study that’s meant to be useful or necessary. I don’t think geeks should get a pass on criticism; some of the more questionable human beings I know happen to live in the strange bubbles of repetitive television references and mindless worship of their latest geek fad. But because it tries to put it into this high concept framework, it misses out on the subcultures that would make the article actually resonate. It wouldn’t have taken much, either.

    That intro implies that what a geek is falls into one of those categories, when my point is that I don’t even think the generalization is accurate enough to feel genuine. Yeah, even generalizations need to have some stab at reality. Those concepts may fit with some people, but putting it to numbers and very specific character types just comes off as silly, and doesn’t give the more insular geek crowd the slap in the face they genuinely need.

  4. It’s worrying to think that you might be right – that people are like Tolstoy’s maxim about families, normal ones all alike and weird ones all too different to take advantage of the power of strong, unified statements. Kinda puts the kibosh on those plans for armed revolution, you know?

    But I do think there’s a middle ground, and that you shouldn’t mistake your own geek-o-sphere for the absolute truth to which all theories should be compared. It’s an easy mistake to make (maybe an inevitable one given the way our hindbrains all work) and I am certainly prone to making it myself. Nothing short of a sweeping, well-funded, vaguely creepy nationwide study would tell us anything resembling the truth about geek culture. (Although I like Benjamin Nugent’s book American Nerd: The Story of my People.)

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