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[Bliss Stage] We wrap Bliss Stage

Started by GreatWolf, September 18, 2007, 06:14:20 PM

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GreatWolf

...incoming transmission ...
... Peoria Resistance Group...

Bliss Stage makes me think of this.

Broadcast Archive: 

I love the design of the Ignition Stage book.  It's small, white, and friendly to hold.  I'm conflicted on the lack of title on the front of the book, but I don't really care that much.  It's an elegant object.

So, imagine my distress when I discovered that a drop of coffee had somehow worked its way through the top of my satchel and left a brown spot right in the middle of the front of the book.  Argh!I guess that I'll just call it battle damage.  So now, my Bliss Stage book has one point of Trauma.  I wonder how a book gets Trauma relief?

Last night, we finished our Bliss Stage campaign.  It was good and bad and difficult and thought-provoking, and everyone got what they wanted, except maybe me, but that's probably a good thing, and anyways I learned about myself because I didn't get what I wanted, so that's good, too.

So suit up, strap in, and prepare for launch!

Pods of Darkness

I wanted to keep the pressure on, so I started us with a briefing action.  Jared summons Marcus and tells him to go track down those alien growth pods and destroy them.  Jared is really not doing well at this point.  He is tired and strung out, and he is slowly losing control of everything.  But Marcus goes anyways.


Mission Brief
...begin briefing...

Pods of Darkness
Locate alien growth pods (must be done first)
   If failed, remaining goals fail
Establish psychic shield
   This is a secret goal
Destroy alien growth pods
   If succeeded and no psychic shield, one character is harmed.
Destroy alien growth pods
   If succeeded and no psychic shield, one character is harmed.
Evade alien patrol
   If failed, wild card goal.  Pilot must improvise something.
   This is a secret goal
...end briefing...

The mission was largely uneventful, except for the moment where Marcus was lost to anchor contact while trying to hack together a psychic shield out of his power mace.  I did invoke Panic during his attempt to evade the alien patrol, which finally worked out for me.  In the past, when I've invoked Panic, the player has rolled minimal neutral results, which means that Panic has actually helped out the player.  This time, not so much.  But still, Marcus burst from hiding and flattened the alien attacker.

By the end of the mission, Marcus was only a couple points away from Blissing out.


A Change at the Top

After the mission, Marcus went looking for Jared to express some concerns with how things were being run.  He's feeling like the group is taking too many risks.  Instead, Jared completely comes apart on him, sobbing that it's all too hard.  Marcus tries to encourage him, but Jared just walks off.  Marcus sighs and slumps into Jared's chair.  Trauma Relief.

Yeah, we're not always subtle with our symbolism.

So, when Jude came in to find Jared, he found Marcus instead.  Jude and Marcus talk about the future.  Jude and Leah want to leave.  They don't think that the city is a good place to try to raise a family.  Instead, they want to find a safer place to be.  Maybe raise horses.  At first, Marcus isn't really sure if it's a good idea, but eventually he tells Jude that it's his decision.  "It's your family, not mine."  Jude leaves, but Jared overheard it all.  Trust Breaking with Jared, but Trust Building with Jude.

That broke Marcus's relationship with Jared, forcing him to Bliss Out.

So, Gabrielle narrated the resolution action with Marcus.  Jared comes storming back into the room and accuses Marcus of usurping his position and stuff like that.  Marcus finally confronts Jared about how he is being a bad leader.  Instead of listening, Jared cusses out Marcus and dashes from the room.

Marcus became the new authority figure.  So Gabrielle became the new GM, and she was able to resolve our Hope.

Yes, we can establish a stable community...somewhere else.

So Marcus grabbed Jude and said, "Let's have a group meeting to discuss leaving.  Round up everyone."

And Jude said, "Yes, sir" and did it.


Infiltrators

But it was not yet time for peace.  Marcus came to see Jude the next day.  They had spotted incoming aliens, and he needed Jude out in an ANIMa.  So Jude launched.

Because Gabrielle was now the GM, I received ownership of Leah, her anchor.  So, for the first time, I was able to anchor a mission.  Yay!

Mission Brief
...begin briefing...

Infiltrators
Destroy alien brain probe
   Must be done first
   If failed, Kay blisses out
Locate other probes
   If successful, destroy other probes
Repair destroyed sensor package
...end briefing...

The aliens were playing for keeps.  They had sent probes to kill the children as retaliation for the raid on the alien growth pods.  So Jude ran around, destroying probes.  During the fight, Jude's electro-chain was ripped off his ANIMa.  (That's his relationship with Jude.)  So, to replace it, Jude manifested his relationship with Marcus as a strong arm that fired expanding balls of laser from its palm.

Again, we know our symbolism.

But then Marcus spoke into the mike.  He needed Jude to go north and repair the sensor package that had been disabled in the assault.  So Jude headed north and was able to repair the sensors.  But alien slime climbed up his arm, melting it away.  So Jude started yelling, "Eject!  Eject!"

Jude had Blissed Out.


Our Happy Home

That was the end for Jude.  He and Leah packed up their few belongings and headed north.  They were gone for a year, but they found a place to live near Rockford.  There was an old campground, fairly secure and beautiful.  So then, they returned to Peoria to gather the rest of the group.

Then they left Peoria.

Jared was already gone.  He had vanished one day, abandoning Eve and Hope.  So now, Eve is a single mother, but the community is helping her with her daughter.

Beth gave birth to a boy.  Leah has given birth to a little girl, and Jude is just ga-ga over her.

Joseph refused to let the Bigelow Boys benefit from their hard work, so he set fires in the base.  Flames licked the sky as they began their exodus to the north.  Looking back, one of them saw an alien remote, striding through the ruins, highlighted by the burning city.

But now they are safe.  They are careful to stay off the grid so that the aliens can't locate them.  And yeah, all they are doing is growing herbs and raising horses.  But they are also teaching their children how to fight.

And one day, they will finish what their parents started.


Post-Game Reflections

First, just to get this out of the way:

Ben!  I played a girl!  Are you happy now!!!?!?!??111eleventyone

Actually, the most awkward part of the experience was actually trying to step into a character that had been characterized by someone else for so long.  Had I been doing so from the beginning, it might not have been so odd.

Gabrielle noted that, in the end, our group raised horses and grew gardens.  It's such a girly ending.  She pities me.

We didn't realize that we could end the game whenever we wanted after we were done to one remaining pilot.  In some ways, the ending would have been more powerful if it had come immediately on the heels of Marcus taking over as leader.  But, the last mission gave him an opportunity to demonstrate his superior leadership skills.

Now, for the biggest item of discussion:  the ending.

At first, I didn't like the ending.  It felt...weak, somehow.  I kept wanting there to be something else to make it satisfying to me, and it wasn't really coming.

We ended up having a serious discussion about it.  In my mind, the group had taken the cowards' route.  They ran, when they should have fought.  In the end, the ground that had been fought for was lost.  They should have stayed.  Even if they had lost, it would have been a noble end.

Gabrielle and Crystal argued the other way.  What else was the group supposed to do?  They were out of pilots, and they were slowly losing.  Plus, they couldn't keep out the Bigelow Boys forever.  They said that I needed to think multi-generationally about this.  The group hasn't given up the fight.  But they needed to withdraw for a while, regroup, and train their children to be better warriors than they had been able to be.  And what good is a noble end if the aliens win?  Crystal put it most forcefully:  if they had stayed, would they have been fighting for victory, or just for their pride?

Made me think, it did.  And in the end, I think that Crystal and Gabrielle are right.  But, at the same time, it feels a lot like behavior that I do not like in others.  Rather than being willing to take on serious issues, people hide away.  At the same time, sometimes what looks like hiding is really just a temporary withdrawal, until a true victory can be won.

This is a major point for me, and it's something that I'll be mulling over for a while.


Conclusion

Joseph says it's time to go.  I've already been broadcasting too long, and he's concerned that the aliens will be able to triangulate our position.  Time to bug out and work our way towards home.  So, for the Peoria Resistance Group, this is Seth Ben-Ezra.

See you on the other side.

...end transmission...
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

GreatWolf

One Rules Question

We did have one rules question pop up.  When a relationship receives a (-) result in a mission, do you apply the Stress or the Trust loss first?  Here's the example.  A relationship has 3 Trust and 3 Stress.  If it gains 1 Stress and loses 1 Trust, is the final result:

a)    1 Trust and 0 Stress
b)   1 Trust and 1 Stress
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Christoph Boeckle

Great APs as usual Seth!
I have never been really interested in giant robot fiction, but Bliss Stage has got me interested, even more so thanks to your play reports.

Your post-game reflection resonates with some experience I had playing Clinton's Paladin ([Paladin 40K] #2: Nurgle (why did I feel bad?)) two years ago. We had actually discussed it together at the time!

A new interpretation I have grown to take on that situation and similar ones is that when players in a group are addressing premise, chances are great that they don't have the same opinions on how it should be addressed.
Seems like what could have happened in your ending. And you can't do anything about it. That's a really tough part in story now that I'm slowly coming to accept better (I used to be the GM a lot in participationist play and that small Paladin campaign was my first steps out of it). Sometimes the story that just happened does not agree with me, and that's it. I need to get over it and go on.
Your post-game reflection is perhaps what you needed to go on, just like I needed to talk to the players and focus an AP report on it.

Some form of "I will not abandon you" done well, in my book.
Regards,
Christoph

Gabrielle

I feel like I should have a lot to say, but I fear Seth already said it all for me. Most of it anyway.

It was an odd feeling to suddenly move into the GM seat at the end of the story. For some reason when we role play the seating configuration is important. Whether it's simply how we were sitting when we started and just haven't changed or if it's more purposeful we sit in the same places around the table each time we play. For Bliss Stage Crystal and I sat across from each other and Seth sat at the head of the table. We would set up the Anchor console on one side and then just switch seats when we changed who was Anchoring, but after the mission we went back to our regular seats. And then suddenly Marcus Bliss out and I was the GM. Jude had to run a mission then and Seth needed to sit at the console so I sat in his chair. I had never realized how different the game looked from the side. There was radio chatter and camaraderie going across the table that I was completely excluded from mostly because of where I was sitting. I was sitting outside of mission looking in. And I was trying to call down badness on the Pilot I had just been rooting for. It was too sudden and stressful an experience to be heady, but given more time I think I could get used to it.

I have thought since the first session that Bliss Stage is the perfect game for us. I regularly feel bad for Seth because we are the group he can consistently role play with and we are such girly women. Crystal and I are women focused on crafting a home into a haven and raising children. This affects the stories we tell and what we care about. We set our resistance group up with a multitude of possibilities for conflict and then we went and picked all the stresses involving marriage and babies. That's because that's what Crystal and I are focused on. And we are suckers for babies. Seth, on the other hand, was able to make us stop talking about our character's feelings by making us run missions. We got to emote and have charming conversations in character and Seth got to make us stop and go blow stuff up. Yes this is an oversimplification, but it is closer to the truth than not.

Thank you, Ben, for giving us this game. I had a very fine role playing experience and I would definitely play again, though I perhaps with a slightly different group.

GreatWolf

Man, those threads are a blast from the past.  I'm reading    
[Paladin+W40K] #1: Khorne (Introduction to the game)
, and now it looks like a primer for playing Dogs in the Vineyard.

But anyways, to the point at hand.

Quote from: Christoph Boeckle on September 19, 2007, 10:54:14 AM
A new interpretation I have grown to take on that situation and similar ones is that when players in a group are addressing premise, chances are great that they don't have the same opinions on how it should be addressed.
Seems like what could have happened in your ending. And you can't do anything about it. That's a really tough part in story now that I'm slowly coming to accept better (I used to be the GM a lot in participationist play and that small Paladin campaign was my first steps out of it). Sometimes the story that just happened does not agree with me, and that's it. I need to get over it and go on.
Your post-game reflection is perhaps what you needed to go on, just like I needed to talk to the players and focus an AP report on it.

I agree with what you're saying, though I want to pitch out an important clarification.  I'm specifically not saying that my rights as a co-creator were somehow trampled upon.  Absolutely not!  This was a functional and enjoyable session.

Rather, I'm talking from an audience perspective, which is what post-game reflection is all about.  This is the time, after the movie is finished or the book is closed, that you evaluate the story that you've just viewed or read.  How did this make me feel?  What did I like or not like?  Why is that?

And yes, you're absolutely correct that this style of play requires that players be willing to embrace story outcomes that they didn't actually like.  But, beyond that, I'm trying to model how post-game reflection can be helpful as part of your life by taking the time with your fellow players to pick apart why you didn't like the outcome.

This is a major area of potential development in roleplaying that I'd like to see expanded.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

GreatWolf

Quote from: Gabrielle on September 19, 2007, 02:26:25 PM
It was an odd feeling to suddenly move into the GM seat at the end of the story. For some reason when we role play the seating configuration is important. Whether it's simply how we were sitting when we started and just haven't changed or if it's more purposeful we sit in the same places around the table each time we play. For Bliss Stage Crystal and I sat across from each other and Seth sat at the head of the table. We would set up the Anchor console on one side and then just switch seats when we changed who was Anchoring, but after the mission we went back to our regular seats. And then suddenly Marcus Bliss out and I was the GM. Jude had to run a mission then and Seth needed to sit at the console so I sat in his chair. I had never realized how different the game looked from the side. There was radio chatter and camaraderie going across the table that I was completely excluded from mostly because of where I was sitting. I was sitting outside of mission looking in. And I was trying to call down badness on the Pilot I had just been rooting for. It was too sudden and stressful an experience to be heady, but given more time I think I could get used to it.

That's right!  We have pictures of me at the Anchor console.  Have to get those up.

And this moves nicely into something that I forgot in my original post.  The GM transition is a really cool idea, and I liked the dynamic that Gabrielle describes.  In some ways, Jared was my "pilot" in the game, and when I lost the GM role, I felt the transfer of authority.  (Switching seats helped with this, too.)  The table dynamic shifted when Marcus took over, and it was very cool.

However, there is a potential problem, in that the new GM doesn't actually have any prep work done.  For our game, I simply handed over the last mission that I had prepared, which worked out okay.  Gabrielle exercised veto power over a couple goals, and that was that.  However, had the game continued, it could have been awkward, simply because Gabrielle would have needed either to hack together more missions on the spot or close out the engagement to give her more prep time.

So, any suggestions for handling this transition?

Finally, over here I wrote this:

Quote
On the one hand, being a GM in this game isn't really much different from being a player.  I even get my own special character.  The players get pilots; I get an authority figure.  (As an aside, I loved the rule about a player being able to assume the GM role by having his pilot become the new authority figure.)  So, in some ways, I don't do much different from the other players.

Except one thing.

I think that, in Bliss Stage, it's my job to be the War.

Here's what I mean.  Interludes are all about the various characters dealing with their issues.  However, they are all part of this war, and that means that they have to do things that they don't like doing or don't want to do.  I think that it's my job to increase that stress.

This shows up in two ways.  First, I'm laying out missions with no real care for what the future holds for our characters.  I figure that we will simply do them in the order that I prep them.  That's the force of Necessity.  These things Must Be Done.  If you can't deal with it, well, then that's really just too bad.

However, if I can take advantage of the characters' situation somehow and use a mission to exacerbate it, well, so much the better.  That's what I did with Dawn Patrol.  Originally, I went with that title because it seemed evocative.  However, after Marcus and Beth had their fight, I had to force that mission on Marcus.

I figure that playing the authority figure is similar.  He needs to be the advocate of what is Necessary and demand it of the characters.  How they react is up to them.

And, after all, isn't accepting the Necessary part of growing up?

Now, at the end of the game, I think that I still stand by this.  Really, my biggest input as GM was in mission design and pacing.  So, as the game went on, I increased the pace at which I gave the pilots missions.  I pressed them at different rates, and I increased the stakes of the missions.  Toward the end, consequences for mission failure included character death on a fairly regular basis.  You could feel this at the table, too.  Gabrielle and Crystal would both push their pilots to the edge to make sure that someone else didn't end up paying the price for their failure.

All that being said, it might be nice to have a more sympathetic authority figure next time around.  This time we had a slacker grown-up.  Next time it would be nifty to have an ubercool grown-up who actually has it together and is a good leader.

Just a thought.
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

GreatWolf

Oh, and as promised, pictures of me at the Anchor console:

Me looking really dopey
Me looking less dopey

(I hate pictures of myself.)
Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown

Christoph Boeckle

Yes Seth, we agree and I like your refinements. I don't quite see how this could be a major area of development in RPGs, but it should certainly be addressed by the group. I'll be looking out for this topic of discussion in the future.
Regards,
Christoph