[Bliss Stage] Tensions, and thoughts from the game

This is cross-posted to the Forge. You may find the discussion there interesting.

…tracking signal…
…re-establishing link…

…static…

…squick out…alien goo…melting pieces of…justifying…battle damage.

Tensions Relieved and Heightened

Back to interludes. Marcus and Beth had a quick interlude immediately after mission, hugging and holding each other. I called this Stress Relief, too. This was good, because they were on the verge of losing a point of Trust.

Then I called for an interlude. Jude is coming back into base from visiting Rachel, when Joseph confronts him. I actually have ownership of Joseph, which meant that Gabrielle was Judge for the interlude. This was cool; I had thought that I would end up being Judge all the time and was glad to have been wrong about that.

Joseph doesn’t like the Bigelow Boys, so he doesn’t trust Jude. Now, with Jude coming back from who-knows-where, Joseph tries to put the fear into him. Nothing quite like a big ol’ knife to scare someone. Joseph even used it to scratch Jude on the arm, right where his Bigelow Boys’ tattoo is.

Gabrielle called it Intimacy Building. Funny, but true.

Some thoughts on missions

The Bliss Stage mission system is really cool. There’s immersion in spades, if you like that kind of thing, but there’s also an appropriate amount of strategy, too. Bliss Stage makes mechanized combat narrative without losing actual tactical concerns.

For those who don’t know, essentially the anchor and pilot talk to each other in character for the entire mission. It’s a combination of the Operator from The Matrix and the radio chatter between an armored vehicle and base. It was a little tricky at first, but we’re getting the hang of it. Give us another session, and it will probably be second nature.

We started doing other things to help us get into the moment. First, we laid out the various character cards in the shape of a mech, putting the pilot at the head, the anchor as the body, and the other characters in the appropriate locations for their equipment. So, Crystal’s head-mounted cancer gun went above her pilot. Gabrielle’s Really Big Gun was mounted on her mech’s left hand, so the card went on the left.

Also, while Crystal was anchoring, she actually picked up an old keyboard and set it on the table in front of her. Then, as she ran control work, she could type on the keyboard and gesture at various imaginary displays in front of her.

From a tactical perspective, I appreciated how you want to power up your mech by getting the right amount of dice. Unused dice mostly turn into Bliss, so you don’t want too many of them around. However, you do want enough positive dice to put into your various mission categories. But then, each piece you add to your mech becomes another piece that you have to defend. And, of course, “0” results on unused dice don’t turn into Bliss, so maybe it’s better to put the “-“ dice into battle damage to your mech instead of Bliss for your pilot….

And then there’s trauma. As your pilot becomes more injured, the GM gets to pick mission categories to threaten, making them harder to win. The player has to assign two dice to a category, and then take the lower result. This just makes a bad situation worse. There are other nasty things that you can do with trauma, but I haven’t had the chance to try them out…yet.

So, a big thumbs up on the mission rules, Ben!

Some thoughts on being the GM

Over here, there was some discussion of what it means to be the GM in Bliss Stage. I was planning on writing a little about that, so here’s my take on being GM.

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?

Reflections on the game

I talked a lot about mission actions, but Gabrielle had a moment of realization in an interlude that I wanted to share.

Marcus is Gabrielle’s pilot, so she got to play his side of the Marcus/Beth argument. Crystal didn’t go easy, either, as she fully played up the emotional, irrational woman role. (She fully acknowledges that she has played this role in real life from time to time.) Marcus wasn’t just floundering; Gabrielle was floundering.

We ended up talking about this a little after the game, with Gabrielle having a little more sympathy for men. But also, she said that the incident made her realize that she doesn’t know how to deal with emotional people at all. It was a moment of self-awareness prompted by the game, so I thought that I’d share.

But for now, this is Seth Ben-Ezra, of the Peoria Resistance Group, signing off.

…end transmission…

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