GameKnights - The Official homepage of Wednesday Night Game Night

Forums 2.0 BETA

Search Forums

Pages:1

Viewing Topic: Eclipse Phase - Page 1
#0: 05-24-2011 @ 01:31:43 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1991#1991

MachVergilMachVergil

MachVergil Photo.
  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Okay so, at this point I think everyone heard this over vent, but just in case, a couple of weeks ago I went hunting for a new RPG to look into.  I still like D&D4th, but after all the years of playing it I am starting to feel a little burned out on it, specifically fantasy settings in general.  After a couple of trips to 21C, I came home with two rulebooks, one for a game called Eclipse Phase, and the other the 20th Anniversary Edition of ShadowRun.   At this point I've read most of the way through the Eclipse Phase rulebook (I still have to make it through the rest of the Gear and "For Game Masters" chapters), but I think I've read enough to give a pretty solid impression of the game. Once I finish it completely I'll switch over to reading Shadow Run, and report back with my feelings on that.

Here are my thoughts on Eclipse Phase in the mean time.

The Bottom Line For Those Who Don't Want To Read A Lot:

Eclipse Phase is an interesting Sci-Fi RPG that, based solely on it's setting I want to play in, but has mechanics that gives me pause.  It's highly possible that I'm spoiled at this point by the decades upon decades of refinement and tradition powering D&D, and when I look at an RPG that lacks that now, instead of openness I see potential room for broken characters or scenarios where game masters can accidentally overdo it on their players.  At the end of the day though, Eclipse Phase is an RPG, not a video game, so the power of it's role playing is probably more important than it's mechanical systems that we, as the people playing it, can modify as we see fit, and in that area, it has it where it counts.

Okay so what is Eclilpse Phase?

Eclipse Phase is a Pen & Paper RPG set in the far future 10 years after a cataclysmic event called "The Fall."  We're not given a clear picture as to what year in real time the Fall occurred, but it sounds like late in the 21st Century as the book makes no mention to a 22nd Century and extensive reference to the 20th and 21st century.  Either way, during the Fall a military AI system known as "Total Information Tactical Awareness Networks" or TITANs manipulated the wealthy nations and corporations of the world to make war on each other so no one would notice when the machines struck.  The TITANs invented every manner of weapon to obliterate humanity, from chemical warfare to nuclear weapons, from biological warfare, to nano-tech swarms and nano-tech virus.  The Earth could not withstand the onslaught and the human nations countered with every weapon they had, scarring the Earth in the process.  Those who survived were captured by the TITANs who forcibly uploaded their minds for some sinister, unknown purpose.  As it became more and more clear that humanity would lose, they began an all out evacuation to their orbital habitats, some forced to only be able to evacuate their mind as digital software, leaving their bodies behind to die on Earth.  Even their colonies throughout the solar system were not safe however, and it looked like all of humanity was doomed.

Then the TITANs vanished.  For reasons still unknown their onslaught stopped, leaving less than 10% of humanity to try and and survive in the solar system.  The survivors worked quickly to establish themselves and 10 years later, what's left of humanity is alive and kicking, forming alliances, building new habitats, interacting with alien cultures, and diving through alien gates called "Pandora gates" to find a new homeworld.  Others also call for the re-habitation of Earth, but the majority are still so afraid of the Fall they'd just as soon leave it to rot for now.

So What do I play?

Your character in Eclipse Phase, regardless of what part of the solar system they come from, is recruited by a powerful, but secretive agency known as Firewall that works to protect what's left of humanity from threats seen and unseen, from within and without.   This provides players the opportunity to play heroes of all sorts of moral and social backgrounds, yet still work together towards a common, important goal: survival.

Eclipse Phase uses a more open-ended form of character creation not-unlike Big Eyes Small Mouth where players spend points as they see fit to build their character.  The game lacks classes so it's up to players to decide what role they want their character to fill in a team and how good at it they are. 

That's not to say that there aren't diverse options however.  Players start by choosing their character's background, which is basically indicating how they survived The Fall.  Were they someone who made it out of Earth on a space ship?  Were they force to upload their digital consciousness and work and an indentured Infomorph (digital being) to earn their new body?  Were they already in space during the Fall? Their background also determines if they are something else than human, like perhaps an Artifical General Intelligence or an Uplifted animal, or a member of the unfortunate "Lost Generation."

Players then choose their faction which determines what part of the solar system they live in and, possibly what ideologies they subscribe to.  Inner System characters live under the rule of the Hypercorps and their Planetary Consortium in economies based on old-school capitalism who feel like trading some freedom for security is worth it.  Meanwhile those who live in the outer system live in autonomous collectives that believe in anarchist and socialist principles.  There are exceptions of course, and places in between, but that's the broad picture.

Players then spend their points, first on base aptitudes (Cognition, Coordination, Intuition, Reflexes, Savvy, Somatics, and Willpower), then on Customizing their character.  Customizations include further improving your aptitudes, improving your "moxie" (more on this ahead), buying Psi powers, acquiring skills, specializing skills, choosing traits (which are kind of like feats, except they come in both positive and negative variety), increasing your starting cash or reputation with factions.  There are some guidelines on this to help you make a viable character - a minimum amount of points must be spent on active skills and knowledge skills, and there are a few skills that are highlighted as things everyone should take (like "Fray" which you use to dodge attacks).  If you don't have enough points to get what you want, you can take negative traits to increase your customization points like Defects in Big Eyes Small Mouth.

Players also get to choose their "morph" which is their physical form.  See, in Eclipse Phase, your character's "ego", which can be backed up and downloaded into other bodies is different from their physical body, which is their "morph."  It's common in this setting for a single "ego" to go through several "morphs" in one life time, sometimes out of need and other times to avoid death.  It's here in character creation that you indicate your starting "Morph" and the number of available ones are staggering.  You can be a normal human if you want, though most are at least "splicers" who have been genetically engineered free of defects and fitted with some pretty universal cybernetic implants. From there you can be all kinds of things from half-living, half robots called Pods, to full machines called "Synthmorphs," to smart animals called "Uplifts." Within each there's variations, like the war-built female only Fury Biomorphs, to being a sentient swarm of nano-machines. Not all morphs are created equal, but the better ones are much more expensive or rare to find, or may require a specific background (For example, one must be one of the Lost Generation to use the Futra morph).

Players can then spend their starting cash on Gear, and gear in this game is extensive. Not only does it include the obvious items like tools, armor, and weapons, you can also buy more implants for your character, or supplies of drugs that can temporarily give your character amazing boosts in effectiveness, toxins that will devastate your foes, and software your character can use to improve their mind.

Players then choose their motivations.  These help flesh out your character and help tell the game master what kinds of things your character strives for.  Successfully meeting these motivations in role play can provide your character with bonus rewards while failing them can lead to the changing of motivations.  Players are free to work with the GM to make up their own motivations and they can be as abstract as "Reclaim Earth" or "AI Rights" to as specific as "Release a Number 1 Song on the Venus Music Network."

After that you just flesh out your character, answering the question "Why would Firewall want my character to work for them" and then you're ready to go!

It should be noted that Eclipse Phase also lacks levels.  As the players complete objectives, the game master hands out "Rez Pionts" which are basically used to further improve your character in ways similar to how customization points are used during character creation (though certain options are locked after character creation).

How do I play?

Eclipse Phase has it's own mechanical systems - it's not based off any popular, existing RPG framework, though it does bare similarities.  At it's core, Eclipse Phase is a d100 system, relying on 2d10 for it's results.  Nearly every roll is a test against a skill level (or an aptitude times something) that players must roll equal to or under.  Trying to hack into a secure network? Try to roll equal to or under your Infosec skill.  The gamemaster adds modifiers to the target number, not the roll, to determine difficulty.  So if it's a very secure network, you might need to roll equal to or under your Infosec skill -10.

For the most part this stays straightforward - roll equal to or under the target number or skill on d100.  There is one case where it gets weird though - opposed tests.  According to the rulebook, when you roll an opposed test against another character, you both roll vs your own skill (so your Infosec vs their Infosec).  If one player succeeds and the other fails, the succeeding player wins.  If both players succeed however, the player with the highest, not the lowest roll wins.  I think this is done to represent the idea that the higher roller has a higher overall skill, so they could roll higher and still win.  The problem with this is that some tests do worry about the "Margin of Success" or "Margin of Failure" which is still determined by how much less the character rolled than their target number.  So if two characters with Infosec skill of 60 opposed each other, and character 1 rolled a 54 and character 2 rolled a 35, character 1 should win the opposed test, but character 2 has a higher margin of success.  Personally if I was to run this game I'd treat all opposed rolls as Margin of Success tests just to avoid this confusion.

From a combat standpoint there's also some unique elements.  First, characters have effectively both Mental and Physical hit points.  When a character's physical hit points run out, their body is disabled, and if it takes too much more damage it could die.  However if a character takes too much mental damage (stress) this could result from irrecoverable brain-death that will force the player to use a backup from before the trauma inducing incident. 

Characters also have two thresholds, a "Wound Threshold" and a "Trauma Threshold." Any time a character takes damage in a single attack greater to or equal to either threshold you suffer either a "Wound" or "Trauma" as appropriate.  Each wound applies a cumulative -10 modifier on all actions and will persist until treated or until the character has rested to heal it (time it takes to do that is modified by the character's implants and mods as well as availability of treatment).  Characters who suffer a wound must also pass a test or be knocked over.  If they suffer two wounds at once they need to make a test or be rendered instantly unconscious.

It should be noted that the most popular morph among Transhumans, the "Splicer" for all it's genetic augmentations, still only has 30 max hitpoints and a wound threshold of 6.  In a game where a basic pistol does 2d10 damage, it puts a big encouragement to consider armor and the "Fray" skill if you want your character to hold their own in a fight.  (As a basis of comparison, Synths, or full on robot forms, start with 40 max HP and a wound threshold of 8 and a built in armor of 6/6, meaning it reduces incoming kinetic or energy damage by 6 points).

In addition, if characters suffer more stress than their Trauma Threshold, they suffer a Trauma.  Traumas not only inflict the -10 modifier on all actions and the character gains a low-grade mental derangement.  As characters stack up traumas, these derangement upgrade to full on disorders, which could take some serious time and psychiatric help to cure.  Derangement include things like anxiety, narcissism, and hysteria, while disorders include things like addictions, ADHD, Insomnia, and PTSD. There's no quick way to repair mental damage - the fastest way involves submitted to either psycho-surgery or psychotherapy.  Luckily, direct stress damage is generally rare (except when dealing with characters with PSI powers),  and tends to be more caused by stressful experiences (like being tortured, betrayal, experiencing your own death, witnesses acts of extreme violence, failing in pursuit of a motivational goal, etc - there is a whole table for 'stressful experiences'). 

As you can see, combat in Eclipse Phase is not the drawn out, HP draining slugfest it is in D&D4.  Each attack has the potential to do real damage to a target, between wounds and traumas, unless players specialize for combat.

Equipment of course has an effect on all this too.  Characters can get implants or drugs that increase their pain tolerance, ignoring their first wound.  They can gain hardening to certain mental stresses.  They can equip armor (some of which that stacks with other armors) to gain extra protection in combat.  They can equip various cloaking devices to hide from sight. They can equip weapons and then customize them with various attachments or ammo types for more damage or functionality.  They can also buy "Skillsofts" - software that uses nano-machines to temporarily re-write their brain so their ability with a certain skill is better.

When characters do die, they can use various ways to get back into the action.  If even just the head can be recovered and put in medical status, a Healing vat can repair the entire body, including any added implants in a matter of weeks. Many bodies come with a "Cortical Stack" which can be surgically removed from the corpse and then used to download the character's ego into a new body.  Even still many characters have "Backup Insurance" where they back up their ego to a database before embarking on a dangerous journey.  If they don't return, the insurance agency downloads the backup into a new morph for the character and they can continue their life, though they will be aware that there's a blank spot in their memory for the missing days.  Sometimes too the scarcity of certain morphs means their new morph might not be the same - it could be of a different sex, or a used morph that picked up an addiction from it's previous owner.

In addition, some characters have the ability to use Psi, or psychic powers.  How they gained these powers is they have been somehow infected with an "Exsurgent Virus" strain.  These virii are known to transform their victims, usually into something inhuman and violent, but for reasons unknown this strain simply gives the user these bizarre powers and then dies, leaving them with their new gifts. Those who acknowledge the existence of Psi may therefore be very suspicious of it, fearing infection themselves (though it's not transmittable from an already mutated subject), while others see it as a lucky gift to be used to their advantage.  Psi characters can use various powers, some of which are passive improvements to themselves or others, while other powers are offensive mind reads, mind controls, or mental stress attacks.  The more active powers inflict stress on the Psi user however, who has to be careful not the exert themselves.  Luckily, Psi users can get an easy power that lets them recover from stress easily, effectively turning their stress tolerance into their "magic points." The downside however is that they themselves are more susceptible to psionic powers and other mental stresses due to their infection.

Another thing to note is that while some Morphs might seem better than others, no morph is perfect.  For example, synthetic morphs (robots) have the benefit of being immune to various diseases and Psi powers due to their lack of organic parts.  However, this lack of organic parts means their ego is stored in a cyberbrain, which is subject to software hacks and electronic warfare in ways that biomorph egos are not. Certain nano-machine attacks are also designed to target and ruin synth morhps while leaving the biomorphs alone.

Eclipse Phase is not designed for use on a grid map with minatures.  However, all ranges, speeds, etc are given in meters, so it is easy to imagine playing the game on a grid map where each square represents 1 meter and going from there.  Still it plays more like an older RPG as opposed to D&D's approach of becoming half RPG, half tactical miniatures game.

Praises and Critiques

There's a lot I like about Eclipse Phase.  It has a very unique and different setting which I appreciate, and it seems to be focused on making sure there is some level of fesability to their Science Fiction.  Not only does the game revel in its future, it also considered the socioeconomic effects of these future technologies.  If we can fabricate anything we want with nanomachines, for example, why keep using currency?  If a person can switch bodies so easily, how do you track them? If humanity lives so far apart now, how do they communicate and travel abroad when their communication and travel is still limited by light speed?  With ubiquitous surveillance and 24/7 wireless internet connectivity built into nearly everything they wear and use, how does one maintain a sense of privacy? Based solely on it's setting, Eclipse Phase is an exciting place that I'd love to run/play in.

Pretty much all of my issues with the game come from it's systems.  I mentioned above my concern with opposed test, which can be overcome with a quick house rule.  Other issues are a bit more difficult.  For example, because a good amount of your character's capabilities are limited by, if not out and out determined by your morph, it can be a time consuming process to alter your character sheet for your new morph, resulting in "resleeving" not being as easy mechanically as it is in character.  This compounds the other problem that due to the amount of time it would take for a space ship to travel from one end of the Solar System to another, parties of completely diverse background are just completely not practical unless everyone has to ditch their home habitat and send their ego to the one the adventure is happening in, which again requires "resleeving." 

UPDATE REGARDING ABOVE ISSUE: I've since learned things (info for Gamemasters) that make it clear that this issue won't be as big of a deal in an adventure as I thought it would be.  Still, leaving the issue above though.

Then there are things that are "concerns," but might not be that big of a deal once you start playing.  For example, the amount of guidance given to a potential game master on how to run the game is... well weird.  On the one hand the game goes through great lengths at the book's end to hand out all these spoilers of remaining mysteries to gamemasters to use as hooks for their adventures (this includes providing some stats for "monsters"), but no overarching guidance is given on how an adventure should be structured UPDATE: I've actually gone through half of this 'for DMs' chapter and layred within the "spoilers" are genuine ideas and guidance for how an adventure could go, specifically on how Firewall tends to run an op, should everything go according to plan.   Furthermore, the lack of classes makes me worry that it will be really easy for some players to accidentally create characters who are absurdly more or less powerful than their team mates, creating an inconsistent power levels for the game master to handle.  

The lack of classes also makes it interesting in that there isn't any guidance on how to build a good party.  Now this is actually a point I kind of like as a game master as it means that I can come up with adventures that tailor to the party.  For example, if the party plays nothing but combat capable characters, than clearly they are a Firewall team chosen for their ability to go to dangerous places and kick ass.  If the party has a lot of specialist, than that encourages adventures more akin to special ops or grand heists.

Finally I'm still divided on the whole 'traumas' thing.  Looking at it from a raw gameplay standpoint it's a fascinating system can help to keep the experience of RPing a given character changing and dynamic over time.  At the same time though, there's something in my gut that makes me feel like it's insensitive to the people who actually suffer these disorders that the game is encouraging us to roleplay having mental issues that real people have real issues dealing with.   Again though, it provides a setting that is trying to focus on horror and mystery in the far future some realism, as it stands to reason that if you saw something that you know was the creation of machines that nearly ended mankind, you should probably be afraid of the damn thing.

This post was edited by machvergil on May 25, 2011, 9:46 am


We set Wednesdays on Fire!
#1: 05-24-2011 @ 05:04:18 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1992#1992

RenairenRenairen

  • Real Name:Dave
  • Joined:2010-09-01

>.>

<.<

Can I play? Maybe?


#2: 05-24-2011 @ 06:24:27 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1995#1995

Misharum KittumMisharum Kittum

Misharum Kittum Photo.
  • Real Name:Tim
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Well crap, I don't know if anyone else really remembers my character Phoenix (a.k.a. Ryan Dahl), but nearly all the technology I came up with to drive his "reincarnations" are in this game.

 

That being said, there are some things about that system that, while cool in concept, did create problems in BESM. Particularly the one about divergent power levels. I know at one point I created a character totally and 100% within BESM's rules without taking a large amount of defects that was literally one shotting most foes we fought, and he had two attacks per round. That could definitely wind up being a problem in this system. It sounds like a great system to role play in, but a potentially troublesome one to fight in.

This post was edited by Misharum Kittum on May 24, 2011, 8:27 pm


Justice and Truth
#3: 05-25-2011 @ 06:55:28 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1998#1998

MachVergilMachVergil

MachVergil Photo.
  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Well crap, I don't know if anyone else really remembers my character Phoenix (a.k.a. Ryan Dahl), but nearly all the technology I came up with to drive his "reincarnations" are in this game.

I do I do!  If it makes you feel any better, I had also been thinking about using characters whose minds are backed-up as software and downloaded into a new body as villains in my "life's work" back in High School before I ever met you, so I had a similar "ah crap" when you first described Pheonix to me. 

Also The Matrix?  Where AI's decide it's time to fuck over humanity?  Yeah "Life's Work" was gonna do something with that except in space.  Wait.  DAMN IT ECLIPSE PHASE.

I remember remarking to my dad how sad I was that I felt like The Matrix stole my villain idea and he pointed out to me that The Matrix was not the first time Machines had been used as a nemesis to mankind, nor would it be the last.  So long as my villains had a different character to them (and they did) no one would think I was ripping them off.

Same holds true for your Phoenix idea.  I think by the time we were born the seed of the idea that maybe someday we could back up our brains to a computer was well implanted into our psyche and it's no mystery that a lot of people are thinking about it for possible fiction archs.  The important thing is Phoenix had a different story, and was a different character, than what's being expressed in Eclipse Phase, or anything else that features similar tech concepts.

And if not, just look at EVERY SINGLE IP BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT HAS EVER MADE.  They are all basically fanfiction-mash-ups of their favorite settings edited so that they seem familiar yet original that they work on over and over until they become something unique.  After all, Warcraft 1 WAS going to be a Warhammer RTS if GamesWorkshop hadn't chickened out.

That being said, there are some things about that system that, while cool in concept, did create problems in BESM. Particularly the one about divergent power levels. I know at one point I created a character totally and 100% within BESM's rules without taking a large amount of defects that was literally one shotting most foes we fought, and he had two attacks per round. That could definitely wind up being a problem in this system. It sounds like a great system to role play in, but a potentially troublesome one to fight in.

Yeah, I'm of the mindset that Eclipse Phase's developers had a bigger budget for play-testing so the vulgar differentials in power won't be as bad.  That said yes, there is totally going to be a combat effectiveness difference between a normal human with no armor and a heavy pistol vs a Carapace Armored Robot-Spider armed with an Assault Railgun Rifle fitted with X-ray vision.  However, that also said, said Robot-Spider character probably spent so many points on being a bad-ass in a fight that if you asked him to Hack something he'd be screwed.  

I think the goal here is to have a party dynamic more like what you see in Section 9 in GitS:SAC, which is to say not everyone on the team is there to fight shit.  Hell, really only Batou and Saitou are dedicated combat models, Motoko is just so awesome at stealth and agility that she compensates for her lighter combat ability, and meanwhile Pazu, Togusa, Ishikawa, and Borma are on the team for investigative/hacking reasons.  Sure they all know how to handle a gun and chase down a perp, but when the cybernetic war machine shows up they back the hell away to let Batou, Saitou, or Major Kusanagi deal with it.    In Eclipse Phase, I could totally see a team of 5 consisting of two people who are there to mix it up, 1 hacker specialist, 1 medical specialist, and 1 specialist in whatever-the-fuck-we're-doing be it searching for TITAN relics or making contact with aliens or maybe diffusing a bomb.  That's not to say that the game out-and-out recommends or enforces that party dynamic, it's just an option. 

That being said I will admit that the thing I do really like about D&D4 is how every class has a purpose in combat when it pops up, so at no point does anyone need to feel like "Ahh!  We're fighting! I suck at that!" (unless they are role playing that way of course).

Updates to the above assessment:
I read about half of the "Spoiler" chapter last night and learned some new things.  From the things I learned my concerns regarding a lack of adventure guidance should be noted as being less severe. Additionally, I've learned that my concerns regarding players having to pay out-of-pocket for 're-sleeving' at another habitat were unfounded - it sounds like Firewall will fill the bill on that when needed.


We set Wednesdays on Fire!
#4: 05-25-2011 @ 08:23:28 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=1999#1999

Misharum KittumMisharum Kittum

Misharum Kittum Photo.
  • Real Name:Tim
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Hehe, as far as re-used tropes and machines that destroy humanity go, in the Dune series there are a group of cyborgs who work with the thinking machines. They call themselves Titans.

Anyway, all in all it definitely sounds like a fun system and setting that I'd like to play in at some point.


Justice and Truth
#5: 05-25-2011 @ 08:38:20 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=2001#2001

RenairenRenairen

  • Real Name:Dave
  • Joined:2010-09-01

Found a 'almost total' .pdf collection. Read through a good part of the Revised book's mechanics. Pistols that shoot dozens of micronized fletches and 'reduce a good portion of the target to mist'?

Hell yes I need an anti-villain.


#6: 05-25-2011 @ 10:05:38 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=2003#2003

DominionDominion

Dominion Photo.
  • Real Name:Mark
  • Joined:2010-01-22

Looks like a very interesting game and system. Sounds like their are some concerns on party and character balance but who knows, perhaps they work out in game. I'd definitely like to give the system a shot sometime if that was at all possible.

Found a 'almost total' .pdf collection. Read through a good part of the Revised book's mechanics. Pistols that shoot dozens of micronized fletches and 'reduce a good portion of the target to mist'?

According to their website the game is released under a creative commons license and having pdfs of it all sounds completely legal. I should go find a copy myself.


"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock and roll." Shigeru Miyamoto

Pages:1