Wednesday, August 21, 2019

LET'S LOOK AT: Eclipse Phase, Second Edition

Hot off the presses, it's the long-stewing second edition of my favorite gigantic mess of a game.

Let's Get This Out of the Way First

Too much text. Goes without saying, was endemic to 1e and remains so here. Way too much shit in the book, written for people who are already into the game or the idea of the game. Referees trying to run it for the unfamiliar and uninitiated have to do extra work. Some of the text is actually good, but it's certainly not well organized. Easy to become overwhelmed. The overwhelming bulk of the book is setting and background or cultural information and it is presented with terrible inefficiency. You can throw out pages and pages and pages of it. Clunky, clumsy, overwrought and inadequate at once. The lessons of using material culture to sketch an evocative universe are nowhere to be found.

Point goes to Mothership, no question.


There's so much here that Referees will have more than they could ever need and can pick and choose to their liking. This is a good thing conceptually, but the aforementioned terrible information presentation means you've got to sift through it. At the very least it contains material from all the major setting supplements of 1e. It's still written in a lot of in-universe voice, mixed results. No major changes to background lore.

Still, I am fond of a good deal of it - it's issues are the kind that inspire me to fix them. The gazetteer section is probably the most useful. You can strip that right out for Mothership.

I had to delete an entire subsection of this review about how the Jovians are a thematic mess and lazy writing and how to fix them but I can save that for another time and another post.

Basic Gameplay Stuff

1d100 roll under your skill plus any difficulty modifiers, same as before. Crits are still on doubles, but they added a step between where you can get a superior result added (from a list) if you succeed while rolling above 33, or two if you succeed rolling above 66.

They cut down the skill list to 21, thank all gods above and below.

I do like how bodily and mental health follow the same tracks: you can take X damage before incapacitation, if you take Y damage in one go you will gain a penalizing wound or trauma, and if you hit Z you're dead.

As with everything, there's too much chaff, but the core is doable. I can work with it. The quickstart rules cover everything I need.

Character Creation

My god, it's full of stars. They fixed it.

The damnable point-buy system is out, skill packages as found in the Transhuman supplement are the default. Pick a background, pick a career, pick an interest, pick your aptitudes, pick a gear package. Boom, done.

The attribute names are still a bit weird and clunky (cognition, intuition, reflex, savvy, somatics, will) but they've got them down to six now, and they are paired off into three pairs to use with the Pools. Pools are cool - you get a certain number of refreshable points (Insight, Moxie, Vigor, Flex, determined by your morph) that you can use to:
  • Cancel out modifiers on a roll
  • Add +20% to a roll's target number
  • Flip digits on a d100
  • Upgrade a success to a superior result
  • Get +5% to all skill rolls for a single aptitude for 24 hours
  • Things specific to that pool.
Flex Pool is where things get fun, as those allow you to introduce an NPC, item, environmental detail, or relationship.

You get two short pool recharges (1d6 points, choose where they go) and one full recharge per day.

THE IMPORTANT PART: you can now switch morphs (you know, engage with the core conceit of the game) without rewriting your entire character sheet. Morphs give you pools, your health stats, and implants, and that's it. Not attribute bonuses like in 1e. They actually feel like gear (being able to purchase multiple morphs at chargen helps further).

I still don't like the gribblyness of purchasing attributes and flaws and spending additional points, but you know, that's not a big deal.

The important thing is that this makes me want to run this game. I actually feel like it's possible to get other people invested and involved.

Final Verdict

They unfucked the character creation. You can just toss out almost everything not in the quickstart rules and go just fine with a few basic tables. Use what you want from the setting and ignore the rest. I want to run it, then I want to hack it, then I want to steal whatever I can for Mothership.

It's all still Creative Commons, which is great. Even more so now that I don't have to call that fact the saving grace of the game.

I cannot overstate how important it is that they unfucked character creation.


  1. To follow will likely be some sample characters or playing around with the setting.

  2. One day Mothership will assimilate all other horror sci-fi games, and then nobody will be able to stop it!

  3. I never looked very closely at Eclipse Phase before now. The 3 "pools" sound a little similar to Numenera, but with some general uses as well as the class/pool-specific ones.

  4. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Jovians (and any of the other cultures of the Eclipseverse) if you feel so inclined.

  5. What happened to your post about the Jovians? I saw it on my blogroll, but it was gone when I tried to read it.

    1. After sleeping on it, I wasn't happy with the end result and canned it.