My Playtest Campaign: Bright Lights, Long Shadows

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voidstate voidstate's picture
My Playtest Campaign: Bright Lights, Long Shadows

I've persuaded my group to playtest the Transhuman FATE rules and we start with character generation next week. I've long wanted to play Eclipse Phase with a stripped down system and this seems like a great chance.

Too keep things contained and simple, I'm running the game in a single location: Elysium on Mars. And it won't be too high-tech. If my plans work, about halfway through the campaign, we'll make new characters and approach events from the other side, that of the hypercorps. Then the toys really will get taken out of the toybox.

I'll post updates as we play but for now, here's the pitch I gave to my players:

Bright Lights, Long Shadows: Campaign Overview

The setting is Mars. In particular, the misleadingly-named Elysium, a city of nine million egos built along the base of a huge natural chasm near to the Titan Quarantine Zone.

Everyone will be sympathisers with The Movement, an underground revolution against hypercorp domination and corruption.

In Elysium. you live under the oppressive oligarchy of the ageless Zevi Oaxaca-Maartens, monarch in all but name. Imagine Elysium as having the rough-and-readyness of Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City but with a middle-eastern and Indonesian edge. Or maybe an (even) more crime-ridden Jakarta. Or a high-tech Kabul where you live a long way from the corridors of power at the Presidential Palace. And Zevi is a Gaddafi, Assad or Marcos, smiling out from posters and AR graphics across the city.

Systemwide, Elysium is famous for its media but the city’s shining heart is a long way from your Elysium. The glitz of Central is nothing but a harsh light that throws your desperation into harsh detail. A place where celebrities mock your own poverty by their wealth, power and freedom.

The fringes - your Elysium - are characterised by criminal gangs and a large underclass of Indonesians whom Zevi bought cheap after the fall to help rebuild his city. They're nominally free now but have few opportunities. There are also infugees from every Earth country, who Zevi also bought cheap and has made work off their indenture over long periods (and often multiple forks). The outskirts of Elysium are a melting pot of the desperate and downtrodden.

This is not high-tech, glitzy, transhuman Eclipse Phase. At least, not for you. Your's is a dusty, harsh, unjust world, where the rich have everything and the poor are controlled, oppressed and struggle to survive - or even get a body to survive in. Between the criminal gangs, bent cops, corrupt government and uncaring media, only The Movement offers a slim chance of freedom and empowerment. A doomed, impossible chance but the only one you have.

I imagine it as part detective story, part conspiracy thriller, with characters from the gutters struggling against overwhelming odds.

---

voidstate

Ranxerox Ranxerox's picture
Have you read When Gravity Fails?

If you haven't you owe it to yourself to read it. Your campaign description strongly reminds me of this book and it sequels, and they would be a good place to go for inspirations.



jackgraham jackgraham's picture
Awesome! Looking forward to

Awesome! Looking forward to hearing how it goes.

J A C K   G R A H A M :: Hooray for Earth!
  http://eclipsephase.com :: twitter @jackgraham @faketsr :: Google+Jack Graham

voidstate voidstate's picture
Session One Game Report

The Game
We had our first session last night, our regular group: five players and me. I spent the last year off backpacking in Asia so this is the first time I’ve GMed in quite a while. In any case, after an entire evening we pretty much have characters as well as a couple of major plots and some nice locations and NPCs.

The game aspects we eventually settled upon were:

The Last of the Nomads

  • Various gangs are waging war on the nomads in the wastes around Elysium.
  • Hypercorps are behind the attacks, using the gangs to protect themselves from bad publicity.
  • The attacks seem random and pointless. What are they after?

The Enemy Within

  • Something Exurgent-based (perhaps a virus?) is infiltrating the city, using the city’s factionalism to go unnoticed.
  • Have the hypercorps been experimenting on something from the TQZ?

We also came up with some important locations, the mazelike souk, a brothel called Xanadu and a the yearly Experia Rally across the wastes...

And, or course, the characters. We have:

Hamza

Aspects
High Concept: Honest Chindri Nomad Information Dealer
Trouble: Disgraced Myself to Save my Family
My Religion Guides My Actions
+1 (Something to do with being a spider in the centre of a web)

Skills
Great (+4): Kinesics, Rapport [Negotiate]
Good (+3): Deceive, Notice,
Fair (+2): Interface, Investigate, Willpower,
Average (+1): Interest (Religion), Infiltrate, Infosec, Provoke, Survival

Stunts
Eiditic Memory

Rep
Rednecks: 1
The Movement: 1
Criminals: 1

Morph: Ruster
Refresh: 4

Smith

Aspects
High Concept: Gifted Freelance Hacker
Trouble: Argumentative
Reluctant Hero
(Something about maintaining a low profile)

Skills
Great (+4): Infosec [Brute force hacking], Program
Good (+3): Interface, Infiltrate
Fair (+2): Deceive, Notice, Shoot,
Average (+1): Academics (CS), Athletics (Mars gravity), Provoke, Survival, Willpower

Stunts
Situational Awareness

Rep
Criminals: 2
Credit: 1

Morph: Flat
Refresh: 5

Antoine Mirelle

Aspects
High Concept: Hopeful Salvation Army “Paladin”
Trouble: The 9 Lives Syndicate Is The Devil!
Righteous Indignation
+1

Skills
Great (+4): Fight, Interest (Religion)
Good (+3): Profession (Soldier), Somatics
Fair (+2): Athletics (Mars gravity), Notice, Shoot (Kinetic)
Average (+1): Infiltrate, Medicine (Battlefield trauma), Provoke, Survival (Mars), Willpower

Stunts
Brave
Patron (General of the Salvation Army)

Rep
Salvation Army: 1
Criminals: 1
Credits: 1

Morph: Flat
Refresh: 5

(NB. Antoine is a member of the new Salvation Army, formed by a brinker colony as a military organisation who send soldiers to fight injustice)

Chad Han

Aspects
High Concept: Tough Redneck Nanotechnician
Trouble: Lent on by the Tong

Skills
Great (+4): Profession (Engineer), Programming (Nanotech)
Good (+3): Interface, Shoot (Kinetic)
Fair (+2): Athletics, Investigate, Notice
Average (+1): Deceive, Infiltrate, Pilot, Somatics, Willpower

Stunts
Situational Awareness
+1

Rep
The Movement: 1
Criminals: 1
Procariat: 1

Morph: Ruster
Refresh: 4

Orion

Aspects
High Concept: Indentured Gweilo Tong Thief
Trouble: “Just hold that tongue, boy!”
There isn’t a Graft I Don’t Know
How Did He Pull Off That Manoeuvre?

Skills
Great (+4): Athletics (Mars gravity) [Parkour], Infiltrate
Good (+3): Demolitions, Rapport
Fair (+2): Deceive, Kinesics, Notice
Average (+1): Fight (Blades), Interface, Pilot, Somatics, Survival (Mars)

Stunts
Direction Sense
First Impressions

Rep
The Movement: 1
Criminals: 2

Morph: Ruster
Refresh: 4

Doing the first step of Eclipse Phase chargen first was of mixed usefulness. While it helped anchor the characters in the EP setting, it caused some confusion, too. I had to explain a few times that the Motivations we were picking were not Fate Aspects, and were just for inspiration, and because our game was in a specific place, many of the factions were irrelevant. If I did it again, I’d probably have my players pick an EP Background,then just chat about Factions and Motivations without getting drawn into picking them.

Most of the players were unfamiliar with Fate, although most had a played a con game or two. I ran a short Fate Accelerated Edition game a year or so ago for them (in the 40K universe) and some players were concerned about how unbalanced some aspects were in that game. I think I managed to allay some fears by explaining that in this version you have skills, too, and that the Fate Point economy takes care of a lot of possible balance issues. Still, most remained suspicious of the crazy indie game I was foisting on them.

It took quite a while to settle on everyone’s High Concept and Trouble. I was pushing back with a lot of questions if I thought concepts were unclear or phrases could be snappier but we got there eventually, and everyone enjoyed the crossing paths sections (where we simply replaced Firewall with The Movement). However, because there are four phases but only 2 Ego Aspects to be chosen, when it came to translating the stories into aspects, quite a lot of the cool got left by the wayside which seemed a shame. I know the conversion has to save some aspects for Morph Aspects, but I would have preferred there to be a 1:1 correlation between phases and aspects.

Picking skills went fine (although there was a little confusion between fields and specialisations). A couple of the players would have preferred to just have a set number of points for skills (within the confines of the skill pyramid). Would that matter?

For skills, as well, I liked how my players nearly all chose art, academics, interests, and professions skills. I like how in Eclipse Phase characters have to be rounded out with the kind of soft skills real people pursue. Should this be compulsory, or at least have a sidebar or something in the text?

Also, you may have noticed that we have changed the reps a bit to suit the setting. They are now: Criminal, Redneck, The Movement, Hypercorp, Media, Ecologist, Procariat.

Anyway, I now have to find a way of drawing these characters into an engaging plot. They’re all a Barsoomian cell so hopefully some shadowy threats to the people should be enough to intrigue them... [Feel free to PM me any ideas you have!]

Misc. Feedback

One player wanted to have a flat but felt cheated that they don’t get any bonus despite their morph being worse than a splicer.

Circadian Regulation, Neurachem, etc.
Tag: “..This takes up two tag slots.”
Marking it as “Tag (2)” would make the increased cost clearer

Master table of morph aspects needed

p.66 Typo: “sometone”