Bliss Stage: Therapy is Cheaper Than Total Annihilation

Seven years ago, on September 25, 2013, at around six pm, the world as we knew it ended. The moment my gaming group sat down to play Bliss Stage, a game I’d been dying to play for years, all adult humans on earth were overcome with tiredness and any who fall asleep do not awaken. They no longer respond to the outside world and seem to be trapped in pleasant, happy dreams. We called this The Bliss. Society crumbled as the survivors, all children, turned to looting, violence, and gang warfare. But that was only the beginning.

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This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with teen angst.

The Bliss had been only the beginning. Within two years, giant alien drones began decimating enclaves of humanity. These armored, effectively invulnerable monsters allowed the invaders, creatures that lived in the world of dreams, to attack and destroy us. For the next five years, we ran. We hid in tunnels, fought each other for territory, and died.

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They could look like anything.

But that was not the end. I have gathered a small group of survivors, led by a single adult who has managed to avoid sleeping for seven years, have reverse engineered the alien drone technology and have built the ANIMa, special weapons hat allow teenaged pilots to fight back in the dream world using mechanized battle suits formed from the spirits of friends, lovers, and enemies. These ANIMa pilots are our only hope.

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Pacific Rim staring 14 year old gangsters

The core of the game is the relationship between Pilots and Anchors. The Authority Figure gives a mission, but the Anchor is responsible for guiding a Pilot through a mission and making sure they get home safely.

We will create our group of heroes including Pilots, Anchors, the Authority Figure, and Secondary Characters. As the GM, I play most of them but each player will have at least a Pilot, probably an Anchor, and possibly some secondary characters. We create them as a group then divvy them up to people who want to play them.

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Everyone here would give their lives to stop the aliens, unless we’re upset at each other. Then anything goes.

The rules of the game are very simple. If you’re a Pilot, the only stats you have are Trauma (how hurt you are physically and mentally), Terror (how much danger you are in at any given moment), and Bliss (how likely you are to give up on the waking world and run away forever). Other characters have no stats. They are either fine, harmed, or dead.

The most important scores in the game are for your Pilot’s relationships since you use these to form your giant robot dream mech. A relationship’s Intimacy is how close the relationship is. It can be raised through getting closer to other characters. The more intimate a relationship is, the more powerful it is when integrated into your mech.

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Trust is the durability of the relationship. Keeping Trust high keeps a relationship from being blown off your mech during combat and keeps your friends from abandoning. Stress is the damage to a relationship, the higher this goes the more likely the relationship is to end badly.

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Figure out your issues BEFORE the mission, not DURING.

The game session or Engagement is broken up into a series of actions which we will take turn calling for. It will start with the Authority Figure giving a Briefing Action and proceed directly into a dangerous Mission Action giving all the pilots a chance to defend our base. Afterwards everyone gets a chance to call for Interlude Actions to strengthen their relationships, heal their damaged psyche, or find resources for our group. Sometimes I judge the outcomes, sometimes one of the players does. If two PCs want to have an argument or an in character discussion, it matters significantly to the game and can be a major part of the strategy as well of the story.

In the end, we might succeed in stopping the alien invasion and finding the secrets of the dream world. Or we might all die, victims of our own prejudices. It could go either way.

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If only therapy had entered the equation at some point…

Things that are special about this game:
– Very few stats and very little book keeping
– The GM has very little control over what happens in a mission unless the pilots start having problems
– Every player usually has a couple of characters to manage in addition to their pilot
– When your pilot dies, there is still plenty to do in the game with the backup characters, including turning another character into a pilot or an anchor.
– The dream world is a strange place that is slowly spilling out into our reality, making everything strange.

You can download it at http://www.tao-games.com/bliss-stage/. If you have

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