Eclipse Phase GM’s Blog – 16th May 2012

Last session the team traced exsurgent Damon Brandt to the aquatic habitat Atlantica. They found he had dark-casted his ego there using the services of a criminal orca named Bandit. With this knowledge and the Mesh ID of a Firwall sentinel named Grey Man on Atlantica the team prepared to egocast there to catch the target before he could infect the habitat with the Dagon strain of the Exsurgent virus.

I should first confess that I spent no time at all between the last session and this one plotting out what was going to happen on Atlantica. I had a vague idea of what the habitat was like and who some of the important NPCs were, but when the session began I didn’t even have a concrete plan for what Brandt would do on his arrival to the habitat.

People were initially confused about how the habitat worked so I spent a few minutes drawing a diagram to demonstrate the overall structure of Atlantica. I think this was useful in giving a starting point for the players’ imaginations, as was the illustration of Atlantica in Panopticon Volume 1.

The first part of the session was absorbed with speaking with Grey Man to organise the egocast to Atlantica and resleeving on arrival. Something I quite enjoyed was the way that the habitat’s specific environment made some morphs quite rare or impossible to obtain (e.g. slitheroids, ghost morphs) and others trivial (neo-dolphins, neo-porpoises). Two of the group elected to obtain Takko morphs (robotic octopodes), one a neo-orca, one a flexbot (a modular re-shapeable robotic morph) and one a Menton (a humanoid morph with enlarged cranial capacity).

Of course the group also wanted specific enhancements such as armour, cyberclaws and so forth; the most unusual request was a pair of Great White smart sharks. While their contact could obtain a lot of what they needed I had him tell the group that they would need to source the more offensive items on their lists from the ‘black market’; otherwise it would be hard to sell their cover as tourists from Locus.

We then dealt with the resleeving itself. This was quite a lengthy process as I wanted to evoke a feel for each player of the morph he would be wearing for the mission. In some cases they were wearing morphs that were completely novel to the characters. In addition to this there are three rolls that must be made every time someone resleeves and a certain amount of book-keeping in regard to stress taken from Alienation and Lack. In total it must have taken about an hour just to get everyone sleeved and operational on the new habitat.

The highlight of this scene for me was the resleeving of the Sylph socialite into a neo-orca body. The first Integration test resulted in a critical failure so I had the resleeving technician offer to start again. On the second attempt the failure was less severe but the character, Harry, would be afflicted with a -10 modifier to all physical actions for the next three days as a result of the poor roll.

I also enjoyed playing whalesong and describing how these sounds could be heard echoing and reverberating around the entire habitat. Blondie, who has an aversion to uplift cetaceans, used AR overlays to filter the noise out of his sensorium of course.

While Jason, the Menton and a specialist in VR and AR simulation and surveillance, began to mingle with other scientists in the arcologies on the ‘floor’ of the habitat (and similtaneously started a comprehensive surveillance operation) the rest of the group proceeded to meet with Bandit one at a time.

I introduced a small gang of ‘criminal’ dolphins on guard outside Bandit’s emporium, one of which introduced itself as Jimmy The Squid. Wholeheartedly embracing the Chicago gangster archetype I proceeded to voice him as if he were a reject from a Jimmy Cagney movie. After I described him as having a scar over his eye and sucking on some kind of plastic tube (like a cigarette) one of my players was inspired to draw this:

I’m sort of in two minds about this. On the one hand my players obviously enjoyed the characterisation and concept of Jimmy the Squid but on the other he was a pretty funny character.

On reading other people’s Actual Plays and game logs I do sometimes wonder if I introduce too much humour into my game. Then again, I do think that the humour serves as a pleasing contrast to the darker elements that feature so prominently in Eclipse Phase. Ultimately my players’ response is the key factor and it was obvious that they had a good time with Jimmy the Squid.

Bandit on the other hand was a pretty serious character. I enjoyed playing out the scene where he met the player sleeved in a Neo-Orca, who went to Bandit to obtain his great white smart sharks. Bandit disapproved of a clumsy human with no Guanxi coming to him in an Orca sleeve (especially due to the history of the sleeve in question, though that’s something the players aren’t aware of yet…) and proceeded to be coldly disrespectful towards Harry as a result. This was compounded by the fact that Harry tried to impress him by performing some underwater athletics and blundered badly, damaging the walls of the cavern. As part of his revenge, Bandit stealthily placed a tracking device on Harry in the shape of a water louse.

I then got to use metagaming to build tension! Blaine (The Guy) met up with Jimmy the Squid to find out where he could get fitted with cyberclaws. During this conversation Jimmy gloated about some orca who’d be “In for a big surprise, see?” when he got the great white smart sharks he requested.

Harry’s player actually head-desked, a moment of great joy for me.

Anyway, a few hours later Harry took possession of his smart sharks and everything seems to be fine… for now. I love building up the tension for the player while his character is completely oblivious!

Meanwhile Az-Tec, the group’s hacker, also met with Bandit to acquire a Skulker morph and to try to find out more about the arrival of Damon Brandt. Az-Tec is extremely well known on the Guanxi network and Bandit treated him with due respect. Part of this involved lending him a dolphin named Flossie to show him around.

Az-Tec, of course, hacked into Flossie’s mesh inserts to find out what she knew of Damon Brandt, and on the spur of the moment I decided that this would be a good time to make her a potential ally for the group. So I explained how she had multiple mesh IDs ready to go on her inserts and how her reputation on those other IDs indicated that she tends to be a part of the unofficial ‘police force’ looking out for the habitat’s best interests.

She knew something about Brandt but didn’t have his current whereabouts or the sleeve he wore out of Bandit’s place. Az-Tec asked her a few leading questions and she decided to put him in touch with someone who might be able to help him. On cross-referencing the mesh ID she gave him, Az-Tec found that she’d just put him in contact with her own alternative identity.

So the session ended with the group having made a few contacts and found a few clues, with the brunt of the investigatory work to begin in the next session.

In general the session seemed to have gone over pretty well with the players, who I hoped enjoyed the change of scenery that Atlantica had to offer.

8 thoughts on “Eclipse Phase GM’s Blog – 16th May 2012

  1. I sense Shas is leaving anonymous comments

    twas a good game 🙂 tho I often totally miss opportunities to use social skills as leverage on other characters and NPC’s in this system.

  2. I like how you used player knowledge and character knowledge to create tension; it’s easy — and in some games, a good idea — to fall into the habit of only telling players what their characters would know, but it does cut off some interesting storytelling techniques.

    On a related note, have you ever used a scene that had no player characters present? That does seem a step too far for me, but I could see how it might work.

  3. I’ve never done a full-length “cut scene” where the group aren’t present but I’ve occasionally briefly summarised something happening elsewhere that they don’t know about: “Meanwhile your enemy sits in his dark lair and turns his attention to your destruction. As a plan forms he smiles darkly and summons his minions.”

    Alternatively I’ve used this to show the antagonist reacting to the players’ actions to give them the satisfaction of seeing how annoyed he is to be thwarted. Used sparingly this can be quite successful but I wouldn’t want to do it for more than a minute at a time.

  4. P.S. Making the consequences of the sharks not happen immediately increased the tension too. They were fine on delivery but the player knows something is wrong while the character is blissfully unaware; now the player is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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