So after a long hiatus my group has started having regular Sunday Night any-system gaming sessions, and I started these off tonight by running Eclipse Phase with some pre-gens since none of them were very familiar with the system or the setting. It went really well, we had a great time despite the short session length.
- Kaius, "the face" - a social-skill focused criminal in a sylph morph without much money but a fair bit of rep. The player played him a lot more erudite than I expected but still with plenty of, er, ethical flexibility.
- Morgan, "the muscle" - a re-instantiated veteran soldier, infugee of the Fall, who managed to escape infomorph servitude (mostly) thanks to having valuable wetwork skills. I put him in a "combat pod" morph (a homebrewed-up mass-produced neutered security morph that was once run by a habitat peace-keeping AI before "military-capable AIs" went out of vogue with the Fall) to maintain a sense of disconnect from full biological function.
- Syx, "the sneak" - an anarchist saboteur in a ghost morph, the player didn't embrace the political fanaticism as much as I would have liked but definitely enjoyed chameleon capabilities and some nanofilament trickery.
- Siouxsie, "the tech" - a scumborn artist in a Splicer with a couple of slave drones, pretty young for a Sentinel; she spent most of the session in infomorph form, see below.
The pre-gens didn't have names or gender identities (I wanted the players to supply those), but had pretty solid (though brief) history/backstory to explain their motivations and skill focuses. I had a lot of fun answering some back and forth about the setting as they fleshed these guys out. The game ran well even though I took some roleplaying liberties that might have been a bit railroady, but I think worked nonetheless. After going over the basics of the setting (Ghost in the Shell meets a Cowboy Bebop-ish solar system but with one toe dipped in hard science fiction and the other in Event Horizon) I started the game sort of in media res, wanting to set the pace quickly both because we had limited time and also to get them invested.
I described the carnival setting and genetically-diverse environment aboard the scum barge Ecstatic Metamorphosis (for both the pre-gens and the general plot I ended up borrowing liberally from the quick-start adventure), but quickly zoomed in to Morgan, running combat diagnostics in a dark corner just up the walkway from an egocasting storefront, loading his suppressed SMG, and described what things looked like through his Augmented Reality: his muse running threat analyses at everything he looked at, and a feed being linked to his visual spectrum of a man in an office arguing with another man. That man was Kaius, and I switched the focus to him, as he's trying his best to negotiate some grey market commodity in the same storefront, turning on his pheromonal implants as much as he can since it's clear he's after something valuable. Then I zoom up through the structure where Syx is cutting her way into the ventilation, negotiating crawlspaces not meant for morphs or anything beyond maintenance bots, as she's looking for a backdoor into the facility.
Finally I told Siouxsie's player that her character had recently woken up in a white featureless space, with an aching headache and no immediate memories of how she got there. I explained that there was a boring-looking lady there patiently and persistently asking her inane psychological questions. "Like what?" She asked. "Uh, like, you're walking in the desert... and you come across a tortoise, and you reach down, and put the tortoise on it's back, so it's helpless and baking in the sun. How do you feel?" But no-one got the reference (aww..).
Nevertheless, the players grokked what was going on pretty much immediately. They were after the Tech's stolen cortical stack, which was being interrogated in a locked simulspace by an AI to determine potential uses and exploitability. I let everybody make a few rolls according to their respective situations to help get a sense of the rules and slightly broaden their picture of what was going on, and then went ahead and "wound back the clock" to about ten hours earlier.
Whereupon I showed them the message they each individually received from Firewall telling them what they were after (A TITAN-artifact WMD) and to hook up and coordinate with each other. This gave them the opportunity to roleplay the meetup and brag a bit about respective abilities and gear, and I had each of them come up with the story as to how their character had been recruited by firewall in the first place.
Then I pulled them back to the egocasting infiltration, explaining that Siouxsie had somehow managed to recently acquire the ship data that had arrived with the illegal weapon, but not before her cortical stack had somehow gotten pulled. Everyone besides Siouxsie was willing to wait on Kaius doing the talking, and he managed to persuade the egocasting rep to admit that they dealt in black-market egonapping and had recently purchased a stolen - and "still bloody" - stack from some local gangsters. However the reprasentative was clearly pushing for an exorbitant ransom price, either in credits or rep, which the party just plain didn't have.
Meanwhile Siouxsie was trying to hack her way out of the locked simulspace (I told her that she kept an exploit-scanning algorithm safely hidden away as a childhood memory of playing with a bear cub) but despite her high skill rating, with the watchful eye of the AI, some crappy modifiers and some unlucky dice-rolling she wasn't having much luck. Syx was trying some hacking of her own with a hardwire connection on the structure's data feed but though she wasn't having any luck with narrowing down the physical location of Siousxie's stack she was uncovering some second-level data showing some nasty ego-hacking, dubious darkcasting services and links to the Nine Lives Cartel and some of the seedier stuff they did with kidnapped forks.
Then I "rewound" the game about four hours to Siouxsie (still with her body) and Syx making their way through the zero-g section of the Ecstatic Metamorphosis trying to sniff the import/export and dock-scanning data from the scum operations center. I had a lot of fun with this, describing how an autonomous collective might run a largely jury-rigged floating grey market with all sorts of traffic of varying degrees of conspicuousness. The volunteer traffic-controller ended up being a fat gypsy in a train-engineer's outfit who managed the systems purely as an organizational hobby and set him up as a primary innocent who managed "very delicate" communications and connections. Morgan was once again cooling his heels waiting to be called in as backup when things went south while Kaius wasn't having much luck with his criminal connections.
Syx surprisingly had some social success with the Engineer, enough to pull him away from his console and off towards a habitat lookout while Siouxsie and her muse cracked their knuckles and went after the ship-scanning data. She finds evidence of rampant bribery and data forgery but several layers down she finds anomalous energy readings that her muse finds match up to known potential TITAN threat signatures. Unfortunately someone else scanning the system as well figures out what she's up to and triggers an intrusion alert.
From a metagaming level this is where I knew I was in a potentially tight spot, I'd narrated myself into a corner where I and everyone else at the table knew that Siouxsie was probably about to die and lose her cortical stack, but I wanted to keep the dice-rolling and decision-making out in the open and not be too obvious with the railroad. Whether I was successful or not, I was certainly lucky as the players (whether on purpose to play along with me or not, I'm not sure) decided to stay separated and Siouxsie made a freefall break for it, managing to escape the office but not escape a hacked security bot that was slaved to someone who was tracking their investigation attempts. The security bot didn't have any weaponry more powerful than freezer foam pellets, but left her conveniently stuck to a wall where 1 or 2 more ordinary and greedy criminals wandered by and pulled her stack to sell to the Nine Lives front. The soldier tried his best to get there before that happened but got a critical failure on his freerunning roll, very convenient for me.
Then there was some hand-waved fast-forwarding to the story back to the present. Siouxsies body, still alive but having suffered brain-death due to spinal injury, stuck into a healing vat where nanobots begin stitching her back together. Kaius and Morgan out on the prowl, shaking down the local gangsters to track the kidnapped stack. Finally making their way to the darkcasting Nine Lives front, planning their op, back to the start of the game, and then back to now.
Siousxie finally succeeds at her exploit scanning test and manages to tear out of the locked simulspace and into the cartel's local data network, interfacing both with her muse and the mesh, greeting the other party members with a long-time-no-see-what-happened. Unfortunately the memory inhibitors break and she's given a rush of unpleasant realizations of her recent death, but manages to shake the worse repercussions of suffering a trauma. Meanwhile Morgan tracks a seedy executive-type and his henchman slumming his way into the storefront and obviously waving around a lot of clout, pulling the Cartel rep away from Kaius.
Morgan's player decides the henchman is an old enemy of his, a neotonic cybersamurai type with claws and a surly attitude named Drexl, a real nasty piece of work in a small package. He gets into the "let's make a distraction" phase of the plan(?) and busts into the storefront, getting into a shouting match with Kaius right in front of Drexl's face and trying to put him on edge. That's when the op shifts into things-go-crazy gear and we had a fun time closing out the session with a bit of controlled chaos between the mercenary henchmen, cartel enforcers, the trigger-happy rep, and the party. The Rep get Syx's shock gloves to the nuts, Kaius gets a mess of scandalous blackmailable memory data from the exec, Morgan gets into a knock-down drag-out with Drexl, and Siouxsie's manages to find her cortical stack through a visual feed while coordinating the timely arrival of some scum enforcers as well as a nicely bow-tied data package of barge-kick-offable Nine Lives intel.
the session went great, I've got some ideas as to where to go next, but I'd love to hear some thoughts and/or critique!