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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Lukas on September 02, 2007, 10:25:30 PM

Title: [Bliss Stage] Seattle Central Cell
Post by: Lukas on September 02, 2007, 10:25:30 PM
Most of the players for our regular Wednesday game didn’t show up this week, so Jesse, David, and I started up an impromptu game of Bliss Stage. David opted to be GM, which left Jesse and I as the two pilots/achors.

Here’s a list of the characters that have had screen time so far:

Sister Simone – A former French-Canadian nun and nurse who has kept herself awake via meditation and self-flagellation. Though seemingly kind on the outside, she is ruthless and manipulative in achieving her goals, using guilt, emotional blackmail, and drugs to control the children in her cell.

Rory – A 17-year-old mechanical prodigy who, along with Maurice, is primarily responsible for building and maintaining the ANIMa crčche. He is Shaun’s older brother, and has had a major falling-out with Sister Simone over her making his young sibling into a pilot.

Shaun – A pilot of the Eager Young Soldier template, Shaun fights in order to prove himself the equal of his older brother and make both Rory and Sister Simone proud of him. Shaun has a crush on Janice, Jade’s girlfriend.

Jade – A pilot of the Devoted Lover template, Jade has a girlfriend and young daughter for whom he fights and is oblivious to the growing attraction that his anchor, Bethany, has for him.

Janice – Jade’s girlfriend and the mother of Shakira, his daughter. Her best friend is Bethany, who has become Jade’s anchor.

Bethany – Jade’s anchor, with the Experienced power. Bethany is Janice’s best friend and promised her that, regardless of what else happens, she will keep Jade safe. The longer she anchors for him, though, the more she feels her own attraction for the young pilot growing, leaving her confused and out-of-place.

Lisa – Shaun’s anchor, with the Tempestuous power. Lisa is somewhat wild and disrespectful of authority, but she has latched on to the normally straight-laced Shaun, advocating for him and pushing him to stretch himself as a pilot. Whether she truly cares for him or is just manipulating him for her own ends remains to be seen.

There are a few other characters that have been named and briefly described, but none of them have actually appeared in the game yet. Control of the characters is as follows:

Jesse: Jade, Lisa, Rory
David: Simone, Janice
Lukas: Shaun, Bethany

Having only two pilots, we have but one hope: “I hope that there is a place for humanity in the future of the world."

Setting: We based the cell in the Garfield Community Center in the Central District of Seattle, which is directly across the street from the house in which David and I live. It’s a bunker-like location with lots of room that would be a natural gathering place for people. We took one of the book’s suggestions for the dreamworld, saying that it looks just like the real world area would look if no humans had ever been there, covered in steep hills and numerous trees.

The Enemy: The aliens have never been fully seen. They are like wisps of smoke or swirling clouds of dust caught just in the corner of your eye. The remotes take the form of giant animals or large coordinated groups of normal animals, often with special powers beyond their size and strength.

I'm bad at doing long posts, so I'll add the actions of the first engagement when I have the opportunity.

Title: Re: [Bliss Stage] Seattle Central Cell
Post by: Lukas on September 06, 2007, 11:36:01 PM
One additional bit from setup:

Our primary resources as a cell are the ability to grow our own food (there are several large fields near the community center from which usable soil could be scavenged into greenhouses) and trained medical care from Sister Simone.  There is no regular power; the ANIMa creche is powered by a chain of vehicle and industrial batteries, which are charged with stationary bicycles.  The major lack that the cell has is potable water; while copious amounts of water can be gathered from rain fall, it is heavily polluted and the filtration is time-consuming and difficult.  Trade between the cell and various gangs and enclaves in the city is common, but occasionally devolves into violence.

We started with the recommended briefing and mission actions.  Jade was chosen as first pilot, and he accomplished one of his mission goals ("destroy an enemy remote"), but he ended up with a [-] in pilot safety to do it, so Bethany ended up pulling him out after that.  Shaun completed both his mission actions ("destroy an enemy remote" and "protect the base") and then hotshotted to take Jade's dropped goal of protecting the base and then hotshotted destroying another remote.  The really fun part about this was that Lisa (played by Jesse) kept egging him on to do more, even though he was showing up Jade (Jesse's other character).  In fact, after destroying the second remote, Lisa was still pushing for Shaun to go after another one we had established was in the area.  Story-wise, Shaun was too tired for it; mechanically, I didn't want Shaun to take any more damage that early in the game, since the rolls on both the hotshot goals were kind of bad.  All in all, Jade ended up gaining 1 Trauma, 2 Stress, and around 5 Bliss.  Shaun ended up gaining 2 Trauma, 14 Bliss, and 8 stress, which translated into 2 lost points of Trust!

We weren't sure if Jesse was supposed to get a privileged action, since he didn't accomplish all his mission goals (I know now, from reading around here, that he should), so only I got one.  We ended up having four Interlude actions. The first was between Sister Simone and Jade, with her chastising him for neglecting his own safety and having to be pulled out, while simultaneously stroking his ego about how important he was as a pilot; it ended up being a Stress reducer.  Next (called for via my privileged action) was Shaun and Rory working on some of Rory's equipment together, with Rory affirming his love and pride for his brother, despite disagreeing with him being a pilot, thus adding Trust to the relationship.  There was also a brief spark of jealousy on Rory's part because Sister Simone didn't say anything about how well the creche worked, only how the pilots did; I hope this grows in future sessions.  The third was Bethany and Jade hashing it out over her pulling him from the mission; he ended up forgiving her, not noticing her longing glances or odd turns of phrase; it ended with her suddenly hugging him and then running out of the room, ultimately increasing the Intimacy of their relationship.  Finally, there was an encounter between Sister Simone and Shaun, which in many ways was the opposite of her scene with Jade; she scolded Shaun for taking on too much and pushing himself too hard, then pulled back at the last moment and complimented him on a job well done.  She ended by giving him drugs to "help him sleep better that night."  Creepy!

What worked well for us:

Setup:  I love how easy it is to set up the game.  We went from saying, "Hey, let's try Bliss Stage to being ready to play in under 45 minutes.  The questions for each important setting bit and character type go a long way towards helping with this.  The fact that we also had only three people may have been a factor as well, but I think even with more people (as long as the group is on the same page) it would have gone quickly.

The Authority Figure: The game seems to encourage the Authority Figures to be nasty in some way, since they pretty much have to be in order to have reached the point that the game begins, and we ran with this idea.  I have a feeling that watching a twisted, manipulative, drug-pushing ex-nun warp the minds of children shouldn't be a fun activity, but we had a blast with it!

The Dice:  Everyone got the die mechanics almost immediately, and we really liked how they forced us into hard choices mechanically that reflected the hard choices we had to make narratively.

What we had trouble with:

Triple Narration:  Having three people narrating a given scene was a little rocky for us at first.  It was hard to see where to draw the lines in regard to who was narrating what, particularly when enemies and hazards started popping up.  I think this is partially due to not having played a lot of games with this kind of structure, but it sometimes felt like one of us ended up falling by the wayside in terms of continuing contribution to what was happening, with that person usually being the anchor.

Mixed-Up Examples:  All the mission examples in the book refer to putting dice in the "Nightmare" category, which isn't mentioned anywhere in the actual rules text.  This had us confused for a bit, until we realized that this was the same thing as "Pilot Safety."  This should probably be clarified in future editions of the book.

Starting Bliss:  The text says that Bliss can range from 13-108, but it doesn't explicitly state what starting Bliss is for a pilot;  we assumed it started at either 13 or the pilot's age (since the youngest pilot template is 13 years old) and we chose to go with the latter, but we weren't sure about it.

The session was definitely a success, and we will be playing again when we have the opportunity, possibly adding a couple of other pilots (and players) to the mix, assuming we can do so without breaking what we've already set up.  This game scratches a big genre itch for us, and we're having a lot of fun with it.  If anyone has any specific questions about our play, ask away, and I'll answer them as best I can.

Title: Re: [Bliss Stage] Seattle Central Cell
Post by: Ben Lehman on September 07, 2007, 03:58:58 PM
Sorry about the examples and starting Bliss! You've sussed it out right.

It's cool to hear about your game. I'm not certain that the authority figure has to be fucked up at all. I used to have your viewpoint, but Eero's playtesting group convinced me otherwise.
 I think it's quite possible to play a morally neutral or even heroic authority figure. Part of this is that the GM has to buy into having his own NPC be a protagonist, which is a difficult thing for most GMs to do, I think. This is definitely in the "opinion" territory rather than a game designer speaking from on high, though.

Out of curiosity, how much Bliss did you get?
Do you have plans to meet again?

Oh, hey, I'm meeting you in an hour for a movie, aren't I? I better get back home.