Eclipse Phase

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Eclipse Phase
Eplogo.png
RPG published by
Posthuman Studios
Rule System Custom d100
(roll under)
Authors Rob Boyle,
Brian Cross.
First Publication 2009

Your mind is software. Program it.
Your body is a shell. Change it.
Death is a disease. Cure it.
Extinction is approaching. Fight it.


Eclipse phase is a Transhumanist RPG published by Posthuman Studios. It was released in 2009 and all Eclipse Phase products (including printed rulebooks/sourcebooks and PDFs) by Posthuman Studios are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. This means it's actually legal to go out and download it and share it with whoever you want. The game is set around 10 years after the singularity (called the Fall in the game) renders earth a nano-technological wasteland, and trans-humanity lives scattered around the solar system. Characters typically work for a shadowy organization called 'Firewall', who are attempting to ensure the survival of the solar system.

The game was originally published by Catalyst Game Labs but is now published by Posthuman Studios. They are currently accepting your Kickstarter monies to fund a second edition. Interestingly, while the first edition was billed as "a game of transhuman horror," the second edition is called "a game of transhuman survival." This suggests that they might be toning town the game's cosmic horror elements.

Setting

In the not too distant future...

There was a massive war between first world nations and corporations, then the singularity happened, and a bunch of seed AIs called the TITANs went crazy, Earth had to be evacuated. Now everybody lives elsewhere - on the partially terraformed surface of Mars, on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, floating above the clouds of Venus, or in space stations and hollowed out asteroids across the solar system. Nanotech is readily available, people can copy their minds to computers, and humans uplifted a couple of species (mostly different types of apes, birds, and cetaceans) into human-level sentience through genetic engineering.

There are several Wormholes (possibly left behind by the Titans) that link to various other solar systems, called Pandora Gates. They might be tranhumanity's ticket to survival as a species by allowing expansion to varied locations throughout the galaxy, or they might be a trap or Trojan horse that will lead to death and horrible Cthulhu-style alien threats. Who knows?

Some aliens calling themselves 'The Factors' appeared, claiming to represent the rest of galactic civilization, but they are very mysterious and possibly completely manipulative assholes who want to fuck humanity over. Or maybe they're helpful - who knows?

There's an odd thing called the Exurgent virus (possibly left behind by the TITANs), that's basically everything horrible about nanoplagues and the Warp that you could ever imagine, rolled into a single ever-changing threat that seems guided by unknowable intelligences to better improve itself and screw with everybody else through intense body horror and mental reprogramming. On the other hand, it's so incredibly advanced that understanding it would be a huge leap forwards for science, and the Watts-McLeod strain might just be a relatively safe and easy path to functional psychic powers. Or it might all be an even more insidious horrible trap. Who knows?

The solar system alone contains more factions and sub-factions than your average Drow city, and they trust each other about as much as the Drow do. They almost all believe that they have the only safe and functional methods to avoid transhumanity's extinction (and make huge profits along the way, in most cases) and/or improve safety and quality of life for everyone. Or maybe they're all wrong, and everything will end in a huge war throughout the solar system. Who knows?

If you didn't get it by now, there's a reason why Eclipse Phase is generally considered a mystery/horror game. It's full of the stuff! If the ethical and practical implications of some of the stuff that can be done with transhumanity's technology doesn't scare you, the Exurgents and Titan threats will. And the setting itself is absurdly full of plot hooks and conspiracies to get repeatedly killed by have fun with.

Also there are space-whales living in the sun, and all kinds of weird ass fucking to be had. Especially if you join a Scum swarm, or any of the other groups who use the incredible potential offered by transhumanity's technology to do weird shit going from absolutely crazy sex to pseudo-Darwinian "enhanced natural selection" through cannibalism and fighting to the death repeatedly.

This game's setting is incredibly well developed and thought out (except for the one big gaping plothole; see below) and overall it's quite a nice read. The fact that the PDFs are free is nice too.

The catch

In case you haven't noticed, there's a pretty big flaw in the setting's premise and logic, it's infamous for tying the Eclipse Phase forums in intellectual knots, and you should probably decide early on how you're going to handle it. You see, the centerpiece of the Eclipse Phase version of transhumanism is the ability to translate human consciousness into data and copy it between bodies and across interplanetary data links. The operative words here are translate and copy. It's the same philosophical issue that people have been raising with Star Trek transporters for decades; you're trusting a computer to use your brain to make something that kinda sorta acts like you, kill you, and then let the copy go on with its life thinking it's you, all while deluding yourself into thinking the copy that's left behind after you die is, in fact, you. The thing that makes it a real killer is what while Star Trek is about as far as you can go into soft sci-fi without crossing over into outright science fantasy, Eclipse Phase at least pretends to be hard sci-fi, even with the Stargates and space whales living in the sun. Moreover, Eclipse Phase goes beyond simple transportation into duplicating and modifying people with egoware, resleeving and the forking mechanics, which makes it much harder to handwave away the implications as Star Trek does.

When you put it all together, the idea that people are habitually committing suicide just to get around the solar system or do a specific job better is completely fucking absurd. Nobody with any kind of survival instinct would want to do it, and the fact that much of the setting is built around people doing it regularly just gives further credence to the /tg/ theory that the Jovians are right and everyone else in the setting is an inhuman abomination. These issues are pretty darn basic philosophical and existential roadblocks to transhumanism that people have been writing about since forever, and the developers haven't given nearly enough support to reconciling them in a satisfactory manner. Unfortunately, trying to excise the whole mess also forces you to excise a lot of the coolest parts of the setting (like the crime family that's all forks of the same chick) so you're going to have to find a compromise that you and your group can live with. Some possible approaches are:

  1. Ignore it. The Eclipse Phase forum has done all kinds of sophistry trying to dance around the philosophical concept that a copy of a consciousness is not the same thing as the original, so you'll be in good company. If you've come this far you may find this intellectually off-putting, however.
  2. Embrace it. The various Eclipse Phase books do actually note that the huddled masses of transhumanity think the more esoteric stuff like forking and egocasting are weird and only resleeve when their existing bodies are about to die, so it's not that big of a stretch to just say that the upper crust of transhuman society that the PCs are assumed to belong to by default is so jaded and (for lack of a better term) degenerate that occupational suicide is small potatoes. (This is also more or less the approach to mind uploading taken by GURPS Transhuman Space.) This lets you put focus on the existential horror inherent to what the PCs do to themselves and juxtapose it with the more cosmic threat of the TITANs.
  3. Flip the script. This is the Jovian option that gets bandied about so often; ordinary humans just trying to save their souls in a solar system full of Cthuloid horrors that are still just human enough to enact a twisted parody of civilization while they wait for their TITAN masters to return. The downside of this option, of course, is that you're consigning a lot of player options to GM use only and that the very nature of the setting and system make unaltered humans pretty much suck.

Books

Eclipse Phase: The core rulebook with the general information on the setting.

Sunward: A sourcebook focusing on the inner solar system, detailing the Sun and its whale-like Suryas, the nomadic miners of Mercury, the city-states of Venus, the fallen Earth, the Moon and associated space stations, the first autonomists of Extropia, with the particular focus on the Big Boy of the sandbox: the Planetary Consortium of Mars.

Gatecrashing: A sourcebook focusing on Pandora Gates, the totally not Star Gates that lead to places outside of the Solar system, one of which is giant dyson sphere big enough to fake being a planet. Discover the majesties of the universe as it tries to kill you.

Panopticon: A sourcebook focusing on the various facets of Transhuman culture, particularly the titular total surveillance of everyone by everybody. Big brother is watching you, but also every soccer mom stuck as a bored infolife, every wannabe stalker who thinks your morph fits their fetish, every preachy neighbour with "values", every sleazy paparazzi, every scam artist looking for a mark...

Rimward: A sourcebook focusing on the outer Solar System and the various Autonomist factions that set up shop there, in particular the Titanian Commonwealth, while also trying to make the Jovian Republic into more than the paranoid luddite nazis. Also, briefly touches on Firewall, since it is their main playground.

Transhuman: A Player guide with the more streamlined character generation rules, which was one of the biggest weaknesses of the core rulebook. Also has more information on Transhuman culture that didn't initially make the cut in Panopticon. Random tables for the random table gods!

Firewall: A sourcebook focusing on the default protagonist faction, the loose underground organization fighting against the extinction of humanity. Helps with differentiating them from these guys

The Eclipse Phase website also has several mini-sourcebooks about little things like the Titan Quarantine Zone on Mars or a scum swarm called the Stars Our Destination, a Morph Recognition Guide with pictures and rules for every Morph in the game found throughout the sourcebooks, a list of NPCs ready to use, and a few adventures.

Characters

One of the more unique things about Eclipse Phase is the differentiation between a character's Ego (mind) and Morph (body). Given the ability to upload a character's brain to a digital repository, characters can make back-ups of their personality and if one body dies, simply swap into a new one. This allows combat to be highly lethal without having to introduce new characters constantly, similar to the 6-pack system of Paranoia.

Morphs are also more varied than many standard RPGs, ranging from unaltered humans to robotic "shells" to swarms of nanotech to genetically engineered octopi.

Notable Morphs

Eclipse Phase has lots of Morphs to choose from, many of which can be invaluable to specific character builds or allow for great player options and/or roleplaying. On the other hand, the game also has a bunch of relatively hilarious ones, that players or GMs like to bitch about.

Furies: The most combat-oriented biomorph available. They are quick, fast, strong, and usually biologically female, to introduce strong wymynz to the setting offset their natural aggressiveness.

Reapers: An armoured disk with four arms, each capable of fucking your shit up. It can also maneuver in microgravity, due to having small thrusters. Reapers are forbidden on most habitats because people fear their sheer potential for badassness. For extra lulz, visit a Scum Barge with one of these things and four flamethrowers installed and when they object, burn them all down while shouting something about your morphological freedom. The Ultimates love these babies, and few other people like the Ultimates. I wonder why?

Swarmanoids: A swarm composed of thousands of insect-sized microbots that share one consciousness. Awesome in theory, but have fun arguing about the intricacies of the sensory input of the damn thing, or watch your player stack every fucking implant in the book on the swarm and then try to electrocute a thousand enemies at once. That the Swarmanoid has special rules on fucking everything, including picking up fucking crates, doesn't help. Just introduce strong winds and watch the Swarmanoid get literally pulled apart and die if it pisses you off too much. Or use EMP's. Normal synths can survive those, but Swarmanoids get positively rekt by them.

Novacrabs: For when you want to play a man-sized sapient spider crab. To stay in-character and catch the spirit of the developers, then complain loudly about how no one in the inner system wants to hang out with you just because you're a giant fucking monster crab from hell. MUH MORPHOLOGICAL FREEDOM! There's also a spider tank Morph out there, for when your Novacrab player decides to keep trolling you while adding enough combat utility to solo a small army to his PC.

Takkos: No, not Mexican. It's a robot octopus morph designed for uplifted octopi. There are some humans who use them too, because being a robot octopus is fucking awesome and sleeving into a synthmorph is a lot less stressful than turning yourself into an actual octopus. There are all kinds of lulz you can get up to with 8 arms that can stick to walls, like shooting 4 guns at once or crawling into places nobody else could dream of reaching. Like the Reaper this morph also has thrusters built-in so it can "swim" through microgravity.

Jenkins: Jenkins look like 75% human and 25% rat, making them the ugliest motherfuckers around in a universe that has the Novacrab. They also stink like shit, to the point where you can't remove their smell from furniture if they sit on it for a longer time. The scum's are particularly fond of this morph and are known for rubbing themselves on visitors to make them smell as bad as they do, for teh trullz. This is usually followed by whining about how it's the policy of most Hypercorps to glass them on sight, just because they hate lazy, degenerate assholes FREEDOM. These guys were deliberately designed to be as annoying as possible, but also for massively enhanced sexual stamina and to cater for a bunch of weird fetishes. They were obviously designed by the Scum. The only worse thing is Griefers, a (throwaway) Morph that literally has an Anonymous mask on its illustration and that exists only to harass people and do some quick brainhacking to make politicians masturbate in public.

Suryas: Eclipse Phase has a lot of odd morphs for those who want to explore areas with harsh environmental conditions, from the centaur guys you can have on the frigid surface of Titan to the odd synthmorphs you might want to use to fly among the rings of Saturn for months on end. Suryas, however, are even odder. While most people might want one of the specially designed robot bodies for this, it is entirely possible to become a red space whale that uses magnetic field shenanigans to fly around in the Sun's corona. And yes, there is a humanoid version you can use to go surfing on a space whale inside the Sun.

Firewall

The default protagonist faction, dedicated to fight against the x-risks and other threats to humanity by any means neccessary. Before The Fall, there were many anti-x-risks orgnization and state agencies who were not taken seriously, and after the shit hit the fan the remnants of these groups met and founded Firewall. Think a mashup of spy-thriller-style "highest-clearance-level" government organizations, the leadership of X-COM, the Imperial Inquisition, a dash of the SCP Foundation, and a heaping helping of ethical shadowrunning. They are extremely compartmentalized in order to avoid the House of Cards situation, to the point that it is more accurate to say that there are lots of different groups that identify themselves as Firewall who are barely connected with each other (and then only by equally loose councils).

If you're wondering how they stayed relevant against other more organized factions, a friendly ASI's (the Super AI like the TITANs) influence might have had a hand in it.

Your typical PCs are Firewall Sentinels, a team of agents who are tasked to assess the potential problem without drawing too much attention and, if possible, neutralize it. If something is way above their capabilities or things goes south, the min-maxed all-combat-all-the-time Erasure teams are called in to purge everything in general vicinity, including the Sentinels if they are unlucky.

To avoid subversion and to increase recruiting pools, Firewall's internal political structure is much closer to that of the Imperial Inquisition than say, The Laundry or the Men In Black. Firewall cells do go rogue, they sometimes end up fighting each other, and Firewall has "puritans" and "radicals" who argue over what can be used and what must be destroyed.

Notable Factions (roughly Sunward to Rimward)

Morningstar Constellation: An alliance of floating city-states of Venus that used to be ruled by the Planetary Consortium, but decided to say fuck you to Mars and formed their own nation. Essentially a "neutral" version of the "Evil" Mars, or at least that is what the biased narrators all say. Decided to prevent their world being terraformed because they liked clouds.

Lunar-Lagrange Alliance:: The former colonies on the Moon and nearby space that house the remnants of Old Earth Governments. This decaying state is the most conservative transhuman, non-jovian state in the system, and has the largest amount of people wanting to reclaim Earth.

Mars: As the closest place that needs only minimal technological aid for humans to live, the bulk of Fall refugees naturally came here first. After ten years, two distinct faction now live on Mars:

  • Inter-Planetary Consortium: PROFITPROFITPROFIT...profit? PROFIT! All the wealthiest and coolest bastards got together on Mars after The Fall and formed this super-club. They don't use slaves for menial labor jobs. They employ indentured infuegees in tasks they wouldn't trust a self-aware AI to do. Sure, they sometimes extend a persons contract for arbitrary reasons like "Letting anti-corporate terrorists damage valuable property." But can you blame them? they're trying to run a business here, not some charity. There are various interesting corporations within the Consortium.
  • Barsoomians: The blue collar working class of the planet Mars. I guess they should called red-collared since they have to deal with the rusty dust storm. Anyways, their needs aren't always met by the Consortium, who they share Mars with. Besides being Populists, most Barsoomians don't have much in common with each other than speaking like Texans and having Korean names. Some of them are actually Islamic Terraforming Engineers, who roam the planet and, in a role reversal, dodge giant explosions thrown at them by corporations.

Jovian Republic: Take a South American Junta republic (secret police, Elected Dictators), combine it with the worst aspects of McCarthy-era North 'Murrica politics (Red Scare-style Paranoia, Lobbyists, Military Dominance) and put all that in orbit around the planet Jupiter. What do you get? This faction. The biggest reason you should respect these luddites is that they'll never be eaten by a swarm of self replicating nanobots of their own design. Another reason they deserve respect is that in combat they employ the equivalent of Imperial Guardsmen: Unaugmented human fodder armed with simple robust weapons and balls of steel, though recently this shifted to just-as-augmented Jovians who think that they sold their souls to the devil for the sake of their country. Politically, these guys are a "republic" in the Classical Age Greek sense of the word, as in: If you have fulfilled mandatory military service or are the offspring of a politician, then you get to vote. If not, NO VOTE FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU AREN'T A CITIZEN, YOU'RE A USELESS CIVILIAN. What are you voting on? You're voting for a Senator who will hopefully vote yes on the bill to give your space station some radiation shielding. Seriously.

Unfortunately, they'll never be expanded on - the designers have noted in the forums that they like to keep a 'big bad guy' faction for Space Sweden to face off against despite all the interesting possibilities inherent in the idea of transhuman rejectionists in a world full of transhumans. The fact that this faction just happens to be a strawman of the designers' political opponents is Exhibit A in the case for Eclipse Phase being SJW propaganda first and an RPG setting second. Because of this and the fact that the rest of the game's fluff accidentally implies that the Jovians are right to be so paranoid, and that they're the only people who aren't TITAN sleeper agents waiting to happen, many fa/tg/uys have expressed interest in the idea of a Jovian-centric game where a party of unaltered humans set out to Make The Solar System Great Again like a sci-fi Fist of the North Star.

Autonomist Alliance: The loose bloc of anarchists, whose main stated ideal is to restart progress of knowledge and humanity by taking off the shackles of entrenched traditions enforced by old governments, thought in practice in most cases it amounts to people just wanting to get away from Earth. Obviously, they got a substantial membership boost after the Fall. Despite appearances, autonomists owe their continued existence to Jovians who consider everything beyond orbit of Jupiter their sphere of influence. And who on at least one occasion stopped Consortium takeover of Autonomist hab, and whose control of Jupiter gravity well prevents other factions from moving large amount of military hardware to outer system.

Notable members of the Alliance are:

  • Firewall: The default protagonist faction. It is an underground organization dedicated to fighting x-risks, extinction level threats to humanity, formed by the remnants of the similar national porgrams who were not taken seriously before The Fall. It is very loosely organized, with individual cells barely working together for the sake of secrecy, if they even know of each other at all.
  • Extropians: The First Autonomists living in the space station Extropia orbiting close to the asteroid belt. Unlike the rest of anarchists who have communists leanings, these are the followers of extreme free market capitalism with no standardization or regulation whatsoever.
  • Titanian Commonwealth: Scandinavia IN SPACE! This communist-technocratic nation is the only autonomist faction large enough to qualify as an actual nation. Follows (or tries to) the principles of direct democracy. The only currency outside of the reputation economy is the kroner, which can only be invested in research projects. Their influence has been steadily growing since the fall and other autonomist factions are getting little worried that they might end up as Commonwealth satellites. But Titanians have no such ambitions, yet...
  • Argonauts: Essentially a loose cooperation of scientists doing whatever they want. Sometimes they go a little too far and have to rescued and/or purged.
  • Mercurials: A movement comprised of Uplifts, AGIs, Infomorhps and other non-humans who advocate for equal rights with transhumans. Of course, some also want special or outright superior rights, but much of this is brushed aside as hardcore revolutionaries or fringe anti-humanists.
  • Space Station Anarchists: Anarchy only works as a viable system of government under specific conditions: like aboard a self-sufficient space station. Even then, things don't always work out. However, Post-Fall, most space station inhabitants have a vested interest in each-other's well-being.
  • Scum Barge Nomads: Similar to the anarchists but way more hedonist and cray-cray. Seriously, they have ships called "Lick me, I'm Delicious" and "Rule 34," and that's just to fuck with the poor gal who's giving them permission to dock. Okay, some of them aren't totally crazy but a lot of them are. Before I tell you anything, consider this: about 2/3rds of transhumanity got killed (or worse) by the TITANs and deep down the scum are a little tiny bit traumatized. That's why they have their yiffing futa rave pit orgies in a zero-g recreational drug lab. Seriously, you guys, that's totally the reason. It takes their minds off the horrors of The Fall, which they probably didn't see personally. But perma-death is a scary possibility no matter how far from Earth you fly, whether it's by the guns of the corporations or by the blades of TITAN-spawned horrors. The important thing is to enjoy life, which is what the Scum try to do every artificial day cycle.
  • The Ultimates: Buddhist modified super soldier mercenaries who live around Uranus, who seek perfection by pushing the ever changing limits of mind and swappable bodies. While many of them actually follow that philosophy, many of them are also your garden variety "master-race supremacists". They are extremely pragmatic, and have no problem with cutting out peoples cortical stacks en masse, to "evacuate" more people. Frequently employed by corps or oligarchs, these warriors have, at very least one time, taken over hab they were hired to protect. Needless to say their clients learned from such occasions and Ultimates recently landed contract "to secure mankind's extrasolar colonies...." Are confirmed to be removed as a viable player character option in the upcoming second edition, because the developers decided that the Ultimates promoted playing as a fascist and because of that they had to go. Seriously, that's exactly what they said.
  • Brinkers: Survivalist and isolationist types who live in many places, but primarily out in the farthest reaches of the solar system, generally around and between Uranus and Neptune. Some of them are hermits, some of them are extremophiles, some of them are radicals, some of them are exiled or being hunted, and some of them would just rather sit eternity out in a bar at the end of the universe. They're so far from the sun that they have to either harvest their own fusible hydrogen or have it shipped out.

Mass Effect-Eclipse Phase

/tg/, in its infinte wisdom, decided to combine the setting of Eclipse phase with the Galaxy of Mass Effect. The result was some very good threads and some high quality writefaggotry. Now if only someone who knew where it is could show the rest of us plebs...

For plebs: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=Eclipse%20Phase

Start here: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/8224490/

Path of Totality

A certain fan of the game called Anders Sandberg is noteworthy for getting shit done, big time. He has created a metric ton worth of background information and homebrew rules for the game, including historical information, new corporations, characters and everything else under the sun.

Honorable mention goes to the cognoweapons he designed. To most people, a deployed cognoweapon looks like random, incoherent static, but for the specific person it was individually tailored to, it is literally like PTSD mixed with TEH RAEP. As if this wasn't grimdark enough, the best way of creating cognoweapons is to run someone's ego through a so-called hellcube, a quantum computer that will torture the ego in a million different ways at once to see which one is the most painful. This is the kind of sickfuckery that would make Urien Rakarth nod in acknowledgement.

External links

Eclipse Phase Homepage
Creative Commons Release Information