Spot-Checking the Lie, Part 1

2009 Jun 3

Ran a demo of The Bliss-Robed Lie for Dev today, which he seemed to enjoy. Also got some great feedback from him on things to make more explicit in the text. He wasn’t 100% sold on the shot-framing mechanic I have for reading placed dice during fights, but agreed that it might be helpful in some circumstances. Clearly needs to be one of the things looked at during alpha playtesting.

To begin, I had Dev read the short premise I wrote for Meat Lightning, the example Victorian campaign:

Meat Lightning is an example campaign in which the nineteenth century obesssions of galvanism, mesmerism (often called “animal magnetism”), and spiritualism are all aspects of the true science that can free humankind from their fleshy cages. Amidst the appalling poverty and squalor of East London — Whitechapel, Bluegate Fields, Shadwell, Wapping — the Archons mesmerize the lost and forgotten, turning them into agents of the Lie. Meanwhile, aboard an icebreaker far away in the polar north, a few liberated individuals use steampunk science to broadcast their souls into the bodies of the recently deceased, revivifying them in the manner of Dr. Frankenstein and using these animated corpses to fight the Archons and spread the freeing truth.

Dev played “Raven,” the captain of the icebreaker, whose daughter was killed by the archon Asmodeus. We decided that Raven’s crew had recently uncovered information about one of Asmodeus’ key lieutenants, a judge who apparently had a secret opium habit. This judge was the target of the sample mission we ran. Originally I suggested simply taking the judge out, but Dev said he’d rather deliver the judge to one of the angels in the underground (not the subway, the seedy criminal underbelly of the city). Rather than have Raven hotshot that addition during the mission itself, I adjusted the mission outline to include that objective (I think, in future playtests, captains or mission leaders will set the mission objectives and then the GM will add consequences for failure and add unexpected objectives during the mission itself). The objectives looked like this:

1. Get In & Arrive at Opium Den
2. Avoid the Judge’s Bodyguards (suffer harm for not succeeding)
3. Kidnap the Judge
4. Deliver Him to the Angel (if failed, you have to kill the Judge or he gets away)
5. Get Out

So I narrated a bit… Raven being strapped to a metal table like Frankenstein’s monster, firing up the machine, punching the lightning home to London, and then Dev rolled for the first objective. Generally we stuck to the pattern of roll first, then narrate, but there were little interstitial bits of narration that also happened between rolls. I need to do more thinking and playtesting to figure out exactly how to structure a turn (maybe re-read Ben’s instructions too).

Dev jacked in fine and described Raven and her first officer, Karma, sparking to life in the back room of a pharmacy. Cool. I added that some pharmacist had hoodwinked some street people into trying some nefarious drug cocktail and then dumped the bodies in the back room. Dev had the pair sneak out the back and then head down the street towards an opium den catering to upper class clients.

That’s when we hit our first bump. Dev had trouble imagining, fictionally, how the two undead street ladies were going to waltz into this fancy joint. Ladies don’t go to opium dens much. Especially not street ladies. Especially not if they’re undead. But that’s clearly what badasses resurrected by galvanism should do: waltz right in. So we spent five minutes talking about mesmerism and how that works, ultimately deciding that there’s a residual magnetic aura from the galvanism that causes your average mortal to not pay any special attention to crew members unless they unduly call attention to themselves. Basically, those they encounter typically see what they expect to see, until a fight breaks out or crew members make unusual demands, etc. (Now I’m also thinking that maybe it’s actually a supernatural aura, called “The Shroud,” that clings to resurrected bodies, clothing them in mystery but also fancy funeral attire, so characters can be dressed in a sufficiently badass fashion. That would leave mesmerism as a special skill, not something everyone has.)

More notes later.

2 Responses to “Spot-Checking the Lie, Part 1”

  1. That was an interesting read. You closing part about the Shorud reminds me of the Whispering Vault game, that have much the same thing. in WV you play supernatural creatures, that maintain the Chronosphere – and when they enter the earthly realm of humankind, they are hidden by a shroud until they act in an inconspicious manner – however they are forbidden to act in the open by the greater powers, and any attempt to perform public stunts will result in severe punishment.

    The rules system however is quite different.

  2. That’s interesting, Morten. I’ve never read or played Whispering Vault but now I kinda want to. It sounds much more interesting than I ever gave it credit for. In this more Matrix-y hack, acting in the open also brings the greater powers down on you, in this case the Archons who built the world and trap humanity in our fleshy prisons. Clearly I’ll have to give credit to the WV in my “gnostipunk” bibliography.

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