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Author Topic: [Bliss Stage] Kilbirnie Resistance Cell  (Read 8766 times)
hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« on: August 22, 2007, 03:09:55 PM »

So I got the book on Monday night, read it through, and pitched it to my Tuesday night group as a one-off game (while one of our regular members was away).

I felt the laying out of the setting worked great.  That "Right now, right as we're sitting down to play this game" stuff is gold, Ben.

I laid out the character sheets for the pilots in the Final Act scenario, and described who they were.  Then I asked who they wanted to play.

Silence.

"Who do you like?" I asked.

"... I don't like any of them," said Gino. "I hate them all. They're all dicks."

Whoa. Turns out that likeable characters are pretty damn important to our group. Right then and there, I had to make sure Gino was fine was continuing to play. We agreed that we'd go for half an hour and see how he felt. Don't worry - the game turned out pretty well from here, and we agreed we're interested in playing more Bliss Stage. We'll just set up our own characters, make sure we like them, and then let the war take its toll on them.

But, man, that freaked me out.

Anyway, assigning characters went quite slowly.  Once it was all done, I started the Briefing Action, and immediately got into the character of Jim Preston.  I assigned Gino as first pilot - that had been my intention all along because I felt he would really get the game, and set a good tone.  Now, I felt it was important to see if he was going to be engaged by the mechanics.

The process for the first mission actually worked pretty well.

Because none of the players had had a chance to read the book, there was a lot of me explaining how an action worked, lots of the players getting oriented on how much they could describe and in what voice, and hesistancy in assembling and describing their ANIMas. I would say it took maybe 10 minutes to lay all the ground work for starting the Mission Action for real.

Throughout the game, I observed (and we talked about later) a tension between anchor and pilot about how much the anchor could describe of what was going on in the dream world.  To begin with, they laid things out and lots and lots of detail, but as the mission went on the anchor got cut out of the process - reduced to asking questions, dominated by the pilot, or shut out by the GM and other players when the nightmare took control.

To start with, Gino's pilot and Svend's anchor engaged in simple description and looking around the dreamworld (as well as some nice in-character stuff). But building to crisis points was effortless, as Svend indicated that he was picking up an odd signal and asked Gino whether he was seen anything strange. From there we had a horde of demons bursting out of the sky - and it was obvious that they were decoys, trying to distract the pilot from the real alien threat to the resistance cell's base

Allocating dice took a little getting used to, but understanding the consequences of where you'd put the dice came quickly after reading the first set of results. Gino rolled crap, didn't achieve the first mission goal (Prevent the enemy from reaching the base), the nightmares took control of the dream, and several relationships to damage.

I would say that Gino was fully engaged by the time he was having to make the decisions about where to allocate his dice.

Just as an aside: the rules don't seem to clearly spell out the default number of dice that are allocated to each category. It's in there but I had to read pages 96-97 five times to understand that you put ONE dice on each card, unless you're threatening them, etc.

In the second Mission Action, Gino's pilot got into an argument with Svend's anchor about their unborn child, and the anchor forcibly ejected him ("I want my kid to grow up with a father") just after Gino'd completed Goal 1 of the mission.

Then Svend became the new pilot to finish off the mission, and Wayne stepped up as anchor. Svend choose Gino's pilot as a relationship. When their relationship got damaged, it pushed Gino over the edge and he blissed out. This was, like, the third action of the game.

I think we're all shocked that someone bottomed out so quickly, and that Gino (who had been pulled out of the dreamworld, and didn't seem to be an immediate danger) would be basically killed by what had happened with Svend.  This raised some questions about how things worked in the Bliss Stage world, but we brushed of them because they were tangential to where the emotion is in the story were going.

However, I think it was a great lesson about being careful than choosing the relationships you form your ANIMa out of - and that those decisions would become really interesting in long-term play.

Gino read through the list of options for Blissing Out, and chose to fall asleep with a smile on his face.  Then in his Resolution Action, he narrated his pilot floating to his feet, possessed by the aliens, and giving a speech about how they could never be defeated.

I wanted to be clear on this, so I asked him, "Are you resolving the hope by saying the aliens can't be defeated?"

"Yep."

Whoa. That hit me hard, and I think the others too. It was a great illustration of the power of the Hopes.

Following that, Svend set up an Interlude Action using his privilege.  He wanted to relieve some stress on his relationship with another pilot, but ended up having an argument with his brother that we Judged had defined their relationship and therefore built trust.

First off, it was cool how the Interlude Action went in a different direction from what we all expected. Second, it was intense. Coming off the death of Gino's pilot, centring on a jealous brother warning a pilot away from his sister. It was great, gripping, teen-angsty role playing from Celeste, Gino, and Svend.

We'd been playing for about an hour and we ended things there, rather than go onto the next, longer mission and leave it unresolved. I felt we had encapsulated the Bliss Stage experience. Afterwards, we had a really good conversation about what had and hadn't worked, congratulated each other on really awesome moments, and agreed that it would be good to play again - with our own (likable!) characters.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Skywalker
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2007, 03:34:33 PM »

Quote
"Who do you like?" I asked.

"... I don't like any of them," said Gino. "I hate them all. They're all dicks."

Strangely enough this is very in genre. Evaneglion is notorious for having a enthralling cast of pretty unlikeable characters. So I understand the concern, but I guess this may be partially by design.

Quote
Just as an aside: the rules don't seem to clearly spell out the default number of dice that are allocated to each category. It's in there but I had to read pages 96-97 five times to understand that you put ONE dice on each card, unless you're threatening them, etc.

I reread the pages again last night. Though it is somehwat buried, there is a paragrapgh that spells this out with some clarity. I miised it to on the first read though as I think it arrives at a time in the text where it is not clear what it means.

Quote
Gino read through the list of options for Blissing Out, and chose to fall asleep with a smile on his face.  Then in his Resolution Action, he narrated his pilot floating to his feet, possessed by the aliens, and giving a speech about how they could never be defeated.

Interesting choice. Blissing out is a very open way to write your PC out of the game, and for the one shot I think it was good for ben to raise the Bliss high so this could happen within the session.

I think given some experience, the Blissing Out ending can really add a lot. For example with Gino, I could see how his violent ejection from his ANIMa added to his loss of relationship with another pilot (perhaps a rival or stabilsing influence) could cause him to do a number of things like go insane, decide to leave the base etc.

Perhaps Svend's pilot PC even sabotaged his ANIMa. Gino could call that as his resolution action and leave Svend trying to call for a break in trust and a follow up action Smiley
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New Zealand Outpost of RPG Thought: http://gametime.livejournal.com
Skywalker
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2007, 04:16:21 PM »

I reread the pages again last night. Though it is somehwat buried, there is a paragrapgh that spells this out with some clarity. I miised it to on the first read though as I think it arrives at a time in the text where it is not clear what it means.

It is at the bottom of page 97. I think the issue is that it is buried at the end of the Threatened and Traumitised section without any heading, though it really justifies its own section probably before the T&T section as it is the "core" of the mechanic. Leaving it until after makes it difficult to find and difficult to understand how T&T works on the first read.
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New Zealand Outpost of RPG Thought: http://gametime.livejournal.com
hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2007, 05:29:00 PM »

Absolutely, Luke. I think it'd be best placed directly under Chris' dialogue on page 96. A single short paragraph there, explaining the default of one die per card, would have helped me a lot at that point in reading the rules.

---

I also noticed that running Bliss Stage was some of the easiest GMing I've done. I liked how the rules emphasise the GM's role in finding consensus. The actions have clear instructions about when the GM should get involved. I found myself able to sit back, watch, and enjoy for long stretches, and it was always obvious when I should step forward.

It really felt ... relaxing, like taking my hands off the handlebars of a bicycle and just cruising along.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Skywalker
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2007, 07:48:31 PM »

Yeah it is on the top of my pile of RPGs I might be able to run even with a 1 month old baby Smiley It really looks like a breeze to run.
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New Zealand Outpost of RPG Thought: http://gametime.livejournal.com
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2007, 04:29:01 PM »

Yay!

I wrote a big post in response to this with lots of questions and insights and such. But then it was eaten by the Forge.

So I'm just going to say: Wow. This is really great to read. It's wonderful to see the game realized so well, all the way around the world.

I'm curious why Gino thought Sara was a bad person ... She's the only one where I can't see it.

yrs--
--Ben
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hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2007, 12:25:23 AM »

I'll let Gino answer that if he wants to, Ben. I can remember asking him a similar question, but I can't remember what his answer was.

---

After thinking about how it feels to GM Bliss Stage, I've been musing. I'm suddenly aware of the variety of ways I handle the GM role in the different games I run. Those games create totally different energies through, I guess, Techniques (to try and apply Big Model terminology).

InSpectres - I'm circling round the players, occasionally lobbing hand-grenades into their midst. Techniques: stay alert for opportunities for Stress Checks, and for Skill Rolls (whenever any of the PCs tries to do anything).

PTA - I'm often leaning in, encouraging, commenting, nudging towards conflict. A suggester and prompter. Equally often, leaning back, listening to the scene take shape. Techniques: encourage fan mail, push NPCs' agendas, stay alert for conflicts and signal that they've begun.

Sorceror - constantly pushing, provoking the players into defining their characters. Techniques: Introduce Bangs, stay alert for Humanity check opportunities,

Universalis - contribute as and when I'm inspired to, initiate complications when it's to my advantage.

... But now I look at all those, the basic act of what I do seems the same through all of them - I'm paying attention for an opportunity to activate a particular part of the rules.

I totally don't get why they feel so different in play.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2007, 12:26:00 AM »

Oh yes, and I'd love to hear any insights, and answer any questions.
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2007, 07:32:00 AM »

How would you characterize Bliss Stage GMing, in the same short sentences?

You mention, off-hand, "what worked and what didn't." Would you mind summarizing that for me?

yrs--
--Ben
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hix
Member

Posts: 531

Steve Hickey


« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2007, 12:46:23 PM »

I'd describe the Bliss Stage GM as a fascinated observer of the drama, who gives the occasional hard shove when directed by the rules (playing the nightmares, playing other characters, designing missions).  They're also a guide during the session - but that role would have been reduced in our game if we'd all had a chance to read the rules.

As a point of comparison I'd say the Producer in a game of PTA is also a fascinated observer, but when I'm Producing I feel far more focused on picking up on the nuances and implications of every single scene and figuring out how I feed that back into future scenes.

-- -- --

I reckon what's different between all these GM roles, for me, is that the responsibility for generating story is distributed between all the players in different ways. 

In Sorcerer, a GM is like an opposing chess player - although it's a game of chess where the objective behind each move is to make your opponent look cool, deepen their story, and provide opportunities to make meaningful decisions.  The story feels generated in the switches between player to GM back to player.

In PTA and InSpectres, the stories emerge primarily from the players while the GM is either a collaborator or the cause of adversity (although players can fulfil this role too).  Either way, that pressure to be the spotlighted source of story is reduced.  And it's completely eliminated in Universalis.

Because of the highly personal nature of Bliss Stage, every single scene is about relationships.  In Mission Actions, the ANIMa is obviously formed out of relationships but even more important is that dialogue between pilot and anchor .  It's really quite an intimate game, and as a GM I realise now that I found myself respecting that intimacy and really stepping back from making comments and suggestions. 

The story, in this game, comes from how people feel, treat, and damage each other.  As a GM, probably the most important contributions I can make is that that are to figure out the most meaningful relationships to threaten in a Mission Action, design missions that will be relevant to the players, and call for Interlude Actions involving relationships that I and others are interested in developing.  In our game of Final Act, I only got to do the first of these - and even then it was at only the most basic level (because we hadn't had time to develop the players' affections for other characters).
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Cheers,
Steve

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs
GreatWolf
Member

Posts: 1155

designer of Dirty Secrets


WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2007, 05:49:51 PM »

I'd describe the Bliss Stage GM as a fascinated observer of the drama, who gives the occasional hard shove when directed by the rules (playing the nightmares, playing other characters, designing missions).  They're also a guide during the session - but that role would have been reduced in our game if we'd all had a chance to read the rules.

<snip>

The story, in this game, comes from how people feel, treat, and damage each other.  As a GM, probably the most important contributions I can make is that that are to figure out the most meaningful relationships to threaten in a Mission Action, design missions that will be relevant to the players, and call for Interlude Actions involving relationships that I and others are interested in developing.  In our game of Final Act, I only got to do the first of these - and even then it was at only the most basic level (because we hadn't had time to develop the players' affections for other characters).

I'm working on writing up an Actual Play report, based on our first two sessions of Bliss Stage.  (One prep session and one session of actual play.)  I'm planning on spinning out my thoughts on being a Bliss Stage GM, but I'll pitch out a preview.

I think that, in Bliss Stage, the GM's most important role is to play the war.  And war has no mercy on anyone.

I'm curious to discover if further play will prove me right or not.
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
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