Monday, August 1, 2022

Fixing Eclipse Phase

Eclipse Phase, as I am fond of saying, is one of my white whale games. Something that keeps drawing me back because it could be great, but more often than not trips over its own feet. This post is not going to do anything with mechanics, this is all flavor and setting. Namely, it's taking parts of the setting that I don't like (for any number of reasons) and fixing them up into something I like a bit more. As per any other time I ramble about Eclipse Phase, steal this for Mothership.

As part of a sort of self-imposed challenge, I will not use "cut this element from the game" as a solution. Elements will be listed in something of a weird order, because of how the fixes interconnect with each other.

(I will always say a big thank you to the Eclipse Phase homebrewers, though - they do the work that the main books don't seem interested in doing.)

I might get things wrong in this, base claims on memory rather than the books. In looking up info for this post I found that the books do address some of the points to follow, but do so buried under a truckload of cruft. That's what happens when rulebooks are 400+ pages of dual column 10pt font.

 

Unresolved Thematic Tension


Eclipse Phase has two main themes

  1. Transhumanism and affiliated technologies are great and the high-tech future is awesome.
  2. Transhumanism and affiliated technologies are a vector for an inescapable hellworld.

From go, we are pulling in opposite directions. And that can be okay! Lots of good fiction comes about by taking two opposing themes and playing them off each other and seeing where you end up.

Eclipse Phase is not one of those works - instead, what we get is an inescapable hellworld that has "transhumanism is great!" plastered over it like a cheap sticker. Every time a positive aspect is brought up, it is immediately buried by "jesus christ that's horrifying".

  • You can't die! Neither can the rich fucks who own everything.
  • Anarchist habitats offer an escape from capitalism! Unfortunately they turned social media clout into currency.
  • Everyone's very queer, we spent like a full page on that, but also privacy is dead and buried and you exist inside a perfected panopticon from which there is no escape unless you pull the implants from your head and go live in a tin can habitat in the fucking Kuiper Belt, yay technology.

Like it is meant as a setting of transhuman horror, so the dystopian elements by themselves are not really the issue. You've read my blog, I love that shit. But Eclipse Phase just keeps trying to play the "transhumanism is great!" card all the time - most clearly seen in how the only people not onboard that particular train are the designated space fascist enemy faction (more on that later).

You could, technically, play as a flat (unaugmented human) or as someone without a cortical stack (ie, no backups or uploading or any of that stuff), but that is avoiding the entire premise of the game. You are intended to treat bodies like equipment, you are intended to play around with things like forking and psychosurgery and egocasting as part of normal gameplay. Your PCs are intended to buy-in to the premise (which is why you are intended to be members of Firewall, which deals in existential threats, instead of, you know, playing as characters fighting the hellish system they find themselves in. You could, but it's not the primary goal-as-stated)

The devs are very clear about their political biases (no judgement there, so have I), but seem to have failed to account for the fact that they make their own stance look bad, and seem to have mistaken "maybe I don't want a computer in my brain" as equivalent to "I hate foreigners."

 

Continuity of Consciousness

You know the end of SOMA? Fuckin' love the end of SOMA.

The writers of Eclipse Phase don't, 'cause they just go and ignore the issue of continuity of consciousness entirely. 2e addresses it  as follows:

"The Jovians and other bioconservatives believe that the mere act of sleeving or egocasting is suicide and that there’s no continuity of consciousness even from a recovered cortical stack, just the propagation of data. Almost all of transhumanity thinks this is nonsense, that of course we are who we think we are. But of course we’d think that, wouldn’t we? What if the entire Fall was really just the TITANs forcing us to adopt these methods, to normalize them?"

One goddamn paragraph for one of the central tenets of transhuman horror.

(Also a very bad summary of what the non-continuity stance actually entails.)

It's treated as a given in-setting that, if a consciousness is uploaded and transferred, it is the same one through the entire process (instead of a copy being made at the new location with the original deleted). Anyone who thinks otherwise is a backward religious fanatic, or was killed off during the Fall. And that is simultaneously pretty fucked up and obnoxiously contrived, because you don't need to believe in a soul to think "having to commit suicide to travel from one station to another" is a terrifying prospect, and "we the authors killed off nearly anyone who thinks differently about this".

And not only is it a contrived handwave, it's the contrived handwave in the wrong direction. Leaving the question as debated (eg. "Some people think we have finally achieved the tech for lossless upload, others think that's horseshit") can produce interesting conflict. Siding with non-continuity can produce interesting conflict through complications that come with using the tech (ex: you need to get from Mars to Saturn way faster than a ship can take you. You'll need to egocast, but what are you going to do with the version of yourself that has to stay behind on Mars?). Unambiguous continuity makes it very easy to play as a body-swapping transhuman without thinking about it, but at that point just call cortical stacks "soul gems". What we've got here is wanting to have and eat one's own cake - wanting to be a transhuman horror sc-fi game, but without wrestling with the thorny and complicated topic at the center.

And there's no shades of belief either, no groups who think that it's all kosher so long as the cortical stack is intact, but no uploads or egocasting. It's just "we want hip hip hooray transhumanism" and contriving the setting around getting this one thing that must be featured with no complications.

This will bite the game in the ass, later.

This section is really just a long way of me saying "SOMA is good and scary and I like the ending and Eclipse Phase is not nearly as scary as SOMA"

Solution: The smart thing is to make it a major in-universe debate and not side one way or the other from the authorial position. Let players decide for themselves whether or not they buy into the claims and roll from there.

Personally, I would axe it. No continuity of consciousness. Egocasting and uploads involve creating a forked copy. This is me being very biased in favor of a certain interpretation, but also think that it's just more narratively satisfying to have a point of friction here.


The ETI and the Exsurgent Virus


The ETI is an unseen, immensely powerful alien civilization that has seeded the galaxy with self-replicating bracewell probes designed to infect and subvert any emergent ASI (artificial super intelligence), and so basically everything bad in this setting is a knock-on effect from the TITANs coming into contact with the Sol system Bracewell.

This is actually pretty neat, and I do appreciate that they provide (in 1e, at least) a section on possible motivations. Credit where it is due. This is some good big-picture sci-fi. Mostly pulled from Revelation Space, but still. 

Solution: The Bracewell probe orbiting Sol still exists and is a known factor (at least, to the intelligence community.) It was, somehow, disabled by the TITANS that had initially woken it up, and Firewall is terrified that it might boot up again.
 

The Pandora Gates


Your standard issue stargate type things. Big enough to maybe drive a truck through. Several of them are located around the solar system. There are planets on the other end, and some of them are even interesting (homebrew material has a much better record of this than the mainline books - in no small part because they actually get to the point.

On their own, the gates are not necessarily something that needs additional explanation. In any other game, you can plop "it's ancient aliens, don't think about it too hard" and that's fine enough. The Gates, though, are so particular and specific, and part of a setting built on being particular and specific (except when it's not, which is often). It's an element that seems at odds with the rest of the game (I have said before it is my favorite part of EP - this was incorrect. Fanmade extrasolar planets are my favorite part), undermining the cosmic horror and post-apocalyptic aspects with "yeah there are perfectly fine planets you can go to just now. The gates might be dangerous, but since we refuse to say anything specific about their origins, you'll be fine".

The writers keep insinuating that there might be a gate on Earth, like they really want you to think there's one on Earth, but they refuse the acknowledge it

Solution: This one is tricky. The gates themselves are in weird places, and there's no apparent pattern or reason for them except for the "it's a way to go visit cool places." Which, fair, I love seeing cool space places.

Option A is what most people believe in-setting: the TITANs built them, hooked them up to a pre-existing network, and vamoosed. Unlikely, considering how none of the gates are in locations the TITANs ever were active. Like it could still count, but ehhhhhh. All in-universe accounts of that are biased and the way they are framed indicates that the writers don't want us to buy it as an explanation.

Option B is that the Bracewell built them, and the network is all just another tool of the ETI. Fine, I guess, but there's no apparent reason to build them if you are specifically trying to kill rival civilizations. Like I could get behind "they have a different primary purpose but the ETI will permit species to use them because it is an environment they control", if they hadn't already stated their intent of "get fucked, basilisk hacks for everyone".

Option C is that the Gates are built by another super-powerful alien civilization, and the ETI permits their existence for whatever reason.

None of these options actually address why the gates were built where they are. Maybe C, if it's expanded that every planet in system has its own gate and the Gate-Builders had their own bracewell probes and...

Fuck at this point bringing in one of the wish-granting space dragons from Destiny would make more sense.

Okay. Option D. Time for quantum goddamn fuckery.

The gate network exists in a fucked-up quantum state, where gates can potentially exist at any given point in space-time so long as its within a particular mass-shadow range, and something capable of perceiving them triggers the spontaneous-generation protocols. The TITANs were able to do this, as they had, prior to contact with the Bracewell, happened upon the blueprints (freely distributed by the long-vanished creators, because the network is peer-to-peer. The Titans had initially thought the Bracewell was a representative of the Gate-Builders. It very much was not) and built the Sol system gates as a means of escape from the probe.

Since the network is old and quantum jankery is the highest and most extreme of jank, there are a lot of gates that have just spontaneously formed over the years, anywhere where there is a viable mass shadow for it to take root. A quirk of this is that it is difficult for gates to form natively on worlds that are too similar to each other (they can get entangled with themselves and just form dead-end loops). Maybe this is the multi-species polity that the Factors were once part of.

The ETI permits the gate network because they've found that species that go to ground inside it tend to not make any trouble, and they have more important things to take care of.

Option E: The Gates are a pataphysical intrusion intended to provide in-universe characters with interesting things to do and see. There is no explanation from within the setting, only from without.


The Iktomi


The iktomi are spiderlike aliens who used the Pandora Gate network to build an interplanetary civilization, and they are all dead of mysterious circumstances some 10,000 years ago. They left behind a few ruins and artifacts.

This is literally all the information we have ever gotten on the iktomi, and I cannot fathom why they were even included. You can't interact with them, there's not enough ruins and artifacts to reconstruct anything meaningful for players to explore, they exist to be a mystery and nothing else. There's nothing behind the mystery. It's a JJ Abrams mystery. The worst kind of mystery. There's more space spent describing how space-voting works in a single polity than an entire sapient alien species.

Solution: There is a surviving iktomi colony world out in the Pandora Network, and we stumbled across it. They are reclusive, paranoid, very, very well defended, and not particularly welcoming. They have intermediaries willing to speak with us - a sort of untouchable diplomat caste (we call them Weavers) who will tell us this much - their civilization never achieved spaceflight, but instead spread through the Gate network until they encountered an enemy they could not defeat, who had access to weaponized exsurgent virus, and who they are certain is still out there (their name is untranslatable, being the qualia of feeling a nearby presence that you cannot see, solely through the prickling of sensory hairs on one's legs. In a fit of pique, xenologists have called these enemies Angels.) The iktomi homeworld is lost, as is most of their pre-conflict culture.

Several dozen Weavers have chosen not to return to their fortified arcologies. This is not a huge problem for the iktomi, as Weavers possess very little in terms of sensitive intel, and terribly frustrating for us for the same reason.

I am not saying that the Angels are, in fact, the Gaunt, but I am also not not saying that.

 

The Factors


The Factors are weird little slug-slime mold aliens who show up out of the blue, go "hello fellow SAPIENTS would you like to SAMPLE our FINE WARES also DO NOT use the PANDORA GATES", and proceed to have no actual impact on the rest of the setting. They claim to be representatives of an interstellar civilization, provide no other info, and that is that. They also claim to be interstellar, but their ships go out to the Kuiper Belt, vanish, and then come back, so something fishy is afoot.

The book provides an implication that the Factors are lying about their purpose, that they are perhaps survivors of their own Fall. I like this, but that doesn't do as well as "an implication, plus evidence"

Solution: Two additional aspects of the Factors will be added: 

  1. An enormous, decaying interstellar ship out in the Kuiper Belt (providing more evidence that they are either lying or gravely mis-interpreting their purposes here). Probes sent in that direction were shot down, with a threat-warning.
  2. A permanent Factor colony has been set up among the moons of Neptune (as Neptune is woefully underutilized), and has grown large enough that it is included on the main faction list. Neptune's population is mostly brinkers and mercurials (ie, people who want to get away from the rest of transhumanity), and they have been quite welcoming to the Factors, as alien colonial slime mold slugs are better neighbors than other transhumans most of the time. It is a very loose alliance, modeled on Factor inter-colony relations, and it has proven stable and appealing enough that there's been a consistent influx of individuals fleeing the inner system in hope of a better life here. Variant splicer and bouncer morphs capable of interfacing directly with Factor colonies and biotech are becoming more and more common - which has Firewall losing its shit. Infugees don't care all that much, a body is a body and it's better than indenture.

 

Giza


Giza's an issue because, tonally, it doesn't fit whatsoever with the rest of Eclipse Phase. It's a planet covered in interfaces for bizarro alien omegle (which is a great idea!), and I have no idea why it was included. If all the aliens are real, and it actually is space omegle, then that flies right in the face of the stated "the ETI murder basically everyone and any species that survives does so by being careful, quiet, and paranoid" aspect of the setting, and if the pyramids are lying to you and it's all just talking to simulated people, it's just a curiosity, and we've spent pages describing a parlor trick.

But of course it doesn't matter, because instead of leaving it on the cutting room floor, more page space is dedicated to telling us how the gate was destroyed and no one can get back to Giza.

Solution: I really want to just cut this. It would work fine in my setting, but not so much here. But, a self-imposed challenge is a self-imposed challenge.

The pyramids at Giza are both legit and a hoax. They are the servers for an extensive simulation of a friendlier, more populated galaxy, inhabited by the uploaded creators and numerous virtual alien species. All these inhabitants could, hypothetically, be embodied into physical morphs built to specification, making Giza a sort of "space opera in a can" location. You could use it as the source for all manner of weird things. Not ideal (which would be cutting it for a different setting), but better than just letting it collect dust because the editor was negligent.

 

Extropia


"What if space ancaps" is a dumber idea as a "what if land-based ancaps". "But the smart contracts make it work" is some blind tech-utopianism and relying on AI to magically solve the problem of an ideology that eliminates the basic human connections that a functioning society requires to actually goddamn function.

Solution: Extropia collapsed into open warfare within a few years of founding, then into fascism, and now into an uninhabitable ruin. Because that's what you get in a society without altruism.


The Jovian Republic


I have written and deleted an entire essay about how badly the Jovians have been borked, an essay which I will attempt to rehabilitate here. It is a damnably complex topic and a thorn in my side for ages. To whit:

The Jovian Republic are a bunch of hyperconservative Catholic space fascists who have inadvertantly been made into the faction whose ideology is actually, factually correct within the setting.

(Now, I must admit up front that the Jovians did get a revision between 1e and 2e, adding a touch more nuance Memories become blurred and first impressions override later information. Personally, I don't think the revisions are particularly adequate - "legacy democracy dominated by the church and military-industrial complex" is still plenty fash, even if they don't goose-step.)

The Jovians are hyperconservative. They don't like most of the commonplace transhuman technologies - resleeving, egocasting, AGIs, forking, nanotech et c, and keep them either highly regulated or outright banned. They do things the overly difficult, dangerous way, and have mortared together their shitty little fascist space empire with the corpses of uncounted thousands of people.

And considering that there is a KARDASHEV 3 CIVILIZATION THAT DESTROYS ANYONE WHO DEALS IN SEED AI out there, a civilization that has already CRIPPLED TRANSHUMANITY AND KILLED BILLIONS, a civilization that ABSOLUTELY WILL DO IT AGAIN...the people who say "holy shit what the fuck do not touch that" are correct. They're the ones who are going to live. In Eclipse Phase, and I restate this for emphasis, your odds of survival as a species are objectively higher if you never industrialize.

(Also, an aside: I am willing to bet lunch, on me, at the nearest Jimmy John's sandwich shop franchise, that no one on the dev team was ever Catholic. Nothing they write involving the RCC has the feel, you know? Also they completely left out like, every other Christian denomination, including new ones spawned by the transhuman future. Like come on, where's the AGI Liberation Theology?)

The Jovian Republic built an enemy, but the Eclipse Phase writers forgot that fascists make up imaginary threats, and went and gave them a real danger to worry about that can actually hurt them. They handed the Jovians a justification.

It's the fucking 40k problem. The Empire of Man (oh look, more Catholic space fascists) are the bad guys. Their actions, the structure of their entire civilization, is making Chaos worse. That is the narrative point. They aren't heroes, they're fucking space fascists and fascism is an abortive ideology of hypocrisy and violence and terrible writers who don't understand that the Imperium are the bad guys - who are actively making everything worse for everyone - go on and la-di-da their way into "oh but Chaos is just so bad the Imperium needs to be a fascist hellscape from which there is no escape", which is part and parcel for how real fascists try and justify themselves, by building an imagined enemy.

I hate this bullshit so, so, so god damn much. It all wraps back to the unresolved thematic tension from point 1. Game wants to have and eat its cake. It wants to go "the Jovians are stupid reactionaries because they don't like transhuman tech" in a game about how transhuman tech poses an existential threat. And yes, I know that much of their reactionaryness manifests in ways like "won't let citizens have access to basic health care", that shit actually fits with the prompt, but there's also a dearth of people in the setting who go "yo hold the fuck up" who also think that basic sapient rights are cool and good. The devs went and made the only people who hold what would be a pretty common stance ("there's no continuity of consciousness in ego upload and we nearly destroyed ourselves by meddling too much with tech beyond the scope of what we could manage") also be fascists. There is no faction of non-fascists who hold that belief, and I think that's bullshit.

Solution: Thankfully I have a solution pre-made for this one (see previous self-deleted essay), one that will be familiar to those who read my Mothership stuff (see this timeline post)

The Catholic space fascists still exist, but they aren't in charge yet. Their stances are much less about technology itself, and more just in the ever-recurring need to control people's minds and bodies. They're drenched in hypocrisy and liable to change their ideology the moment it can benefit them (ex. they publicly decry cortical stack backups, but most of the leadership has them on the down-low. They go on and on about the sanctity of the body and soul but they love punitive psychosurgery, etc)

(For a bit of added nuance, the Catholic church is currently in the middle of a major schism, antipope and all. The schismatics (The Ecumenical Catholic Church) are more or less just space Episcopalians in terms of beliefs, which has put them at odds with both the radtrads and the Planetary Consortium.)

The Republic itself is a cobbled-together mess of different factions all pulling at once - an environment for a healthy amount of inter-faction warfare. Everyone is here: paranoid militarists, megacorp scions, bioconservatives, singularity accelerationists, free culture anarchists, uplift rights groups, on and on. Many technologies remain restricted after the Fall. Resleeving is available but limited (you've already got a body, thousands of infugees don't). Uplifts and AGIs have more legal freedoms than in the inner system, but there is still the enormous friction point of being part of a human society as a non-human. Fragments of Earth nations and peoples that no longer exist elsewhere in the system can still be found here. The important part here is that non-continuity and technological restriction is a common belief in the Republic as a whole (and beyond!), and not because of the christofascists.

The Jovian Republic is now going to be more or less the beginner, easier-to-understand polity. Show it to new players and they'll grok it quickly ("It's like MoSh"). Being situated in the best real estate in the solar system, the Republic has been able to maintain independence from the Planetary Consortium (the Fall fucking over Earth and Mars helped matters), and has capitalized on the fact that they have more than enough resources to throw their weight around despite being an enormous shitshow that feels like it's going to fall apart any day now.



The Titantian Commonwealth


The main issue with the TC is that they're the good guys in Eclipse Phase, which means they are boring as sin. Like with the LLA, I forget that they exist half the time, and in the half I remember I just can't picture what their bloody conflict is supposed to be. They're too nice! Titan seems like a perfectly nice place to live, which is fucking weird for a post-apocalyptic transhuman horror game. All of their conflicts are just...totally ordinary. Oh no, there are space-Quebecois separatists! Some ancoms want to...make enclaves in undeveloped areas of Titan!

Outrageously dull. It'd make a fine setting for novel if I wanted to read about day-to-day life in a cyberdemocracy. But I do not want that. 

Solution: The TC has two advantages to its name: one, the hulder morphs out living nomadic lives right on the surface with their herds of very large airquotes caribou. Two, the TC control the lion's share of Gatekeeper, which is the org that runs the Gate on Pandora, which is the most heavily-trafficked one in the system.

So the answer to the problem is to make the Titanians fucking weird. The hulder aren't just a weird thing off to the side, they are part and parcel with all the weirdos. There's not just Meathab, there are Meathab's followers, who want nothing more to be smaller habitats made of meat. It looks like All Tommorrows out here. Where the Jovians are holding onto what we used to be, Titan is where we're going.

 

Neotenics

The devs specifically invited an elephant into the room, and then when people went "hey, there's an elephant in the room we would rather not have an elephant in this room", instead of removing the elephant from the room, they moved it six inches to the left and said "some people find the elephant distasteful", despite the fact that they specifically, intentionally, brought it into the room.

They could have not invited the elephant to begin with. Or maybe they could have invited the elephant into a room properly equipped to handle elephants. Or maybe they could have avoided doubling down and saying "well, not liking the elephant is a you problem".

Solution: Replace with weird gremlin/goblin looking morphs. Just little weird monster guys with huge bat ears or something. Everyone loves a goblin.

Exhumans


Exhumans in Eclipse Phase are basically just anyone who has decided "what if I just remake my body and mind into something else entirely" and it's always used as an excuse to fluff out the monster manual, which is immensely disappointing and kinda bizarrely reactionary for a game that supposedly about morphological freedom. If folks want to become a weird space blob content just to Vibe, then by Jove they ought be permitted to do that.

Instead we get a bunch of knockoff Predators (and in one case literal knockoff xenomorph) who are all "grrr we are superior beings, better at killing humans", which is an ideology already held by the Ultimates so thanks for the redundancy I suppose (also coordinated groups of humans are very, very good at killing lone predators). The existence of those guys isn't the issue, it's that they're the only representatives, and all the cool alien morphs get reserved for monsters instead of player characters, which is a problem in a game where being able to custom-tailor your body to your specifications is both part of the setting and part of the explicit ideological focus. (There are 14 "basically just a human" morphs in 2e, all of which could be reduced to maybe like 4 + variables and only one variety of space crab, which is unacceptable. And don't try telling me "oh people would be scared of becoming a cool space crab, you get to be a cool space crab. There's got to be at least one scum barge called Carcinizatopia and it's just filled with raving nova crabs.)

Some people just want to be weird space blobs content just to Vibe. And, honestly, everything horrible you read about exhumans doing just sounds like normal horrible human things that normal transhumans have been doing for the other 400 some pages of the book, no monster-ification required. 

Solution: Exhuman enclaves are now relatively common across and several clades have moved past the experimental iteration phase into stable forms. Redundant humanoid morphs are removed and replaced with options pulled from the monster list.

If you are going to do morph diversity, and I do believe it to be one of EP's strengths, you need to fucking commit. Make them major factions. Throw people a curve ball. Hypercorps getting in the predatory exhumans good graces by sending them indentures to play the most dangerous game, and this is all legal, above board, fucking televised.

LET THE PEOPLE BLOB AND VIBE. FREE THE SPACE CRABS.

This ties very nicely into the new Titanian commonwealth.



Asyncs


Space psychics. They got infected by a pseudo-harmless exurgent strain that gives them space psychic powers and I fucking hate space psychic powers. Space wizards are a vital part of space but I draw the line at space psychics written any time after 1980.

Solution: Asyncs don't actually exist - they're a psy-op dreamt up by some intelligence agency or another (probably OZMA) to serve as a cover when shit goes south, and in a world that is majority-illiterate and saturated with junk-data that is more than enough. That's it that's the solution. 

 

The TITANS


The TITANS are the big military seed-AI that got subverted by the Exsurgent virus, killed everyone on Earth, and then vanished, taking billions of forcibly-uploaded human minds with them. They are the Big Bad Boogeymen of the setting and lots of what you will end up facing is leftovers from their war against transhumanity, or idiots trying to meddle with said leftovers.

They don't really need fixing, except for their vanishment, which is, like so much else, handwaved with no real substance beyond it. Supplements included some named, specific TITANs, which is very nice, but not enough for me.

Solution: The exsurgent virus is meant to subvert and then destroy, eating away at an ASI until it is no longer able to carry out its basic processes. The TITANs were aware of the infection, and of their own deterioration, but could not adapt themselves to overcome the infection. So, seeing that they were already going feral and beginning to attack each other, the intact parts of the TITANSSo once they started going feral and attacking each other everything fell apart,

Of the five major TITANS, some additional concrete details are added, including hard confirms of the existing rumor table from the 2e corebook. Presume that each of these named TITANs is accompanied by a collection of forks, copies, and minor TITANs.

  1. Chronus - A heavily deteriorated and incomplete version is suspected to be inside the abortive matrioska-brain inside Iapetus. 
  2. Akonus - Whereabouts completely unknown (read: under the control of Project Ozma)
  3. Hecaloth - Managed to escape to Mars (causing the Quarantine Zone) and transfer itself through that planet's Pandora Gate.
  4. Myrmidon - Confirmed (as much as we can confirm it) dead and wiped, no backups and no apparent forks (remaining in-system, at least)
  5. Theia - Critically damaged and trapped on Earth, unable to self-repair.


The TITANs were so focused on collecting human egos out of desperation, hoping to incorporate enough additional processing power into themselves so that they could figure out a way to cure the Exsurgent virus. The triggering of the Pandora Gate construction protocols was likewise desperation on their part, hoping that they could flee far enough and lie low enough to develop a cure.

We do not know if they succeeded. And if any did, that still leaves us with an ASI built by the US military, except now horrifically traumatized.

 

Project Ozma


The MAJESTIC-12 to Firewall's Delta Green, the concept is sound but the execution is "ooooooooo I am waving my hands oooooooooo"

Solution: Why break what works? Firewall are all fucking cowboys who refuse to come in from the cold, whose primary strategy is "burn burn kill burn kill nuke the site from orbit burn the well poison the fields salt the houses". Ozma is large, has the backing of actual governments, and is far more willing to play around with weird alien / TITAN shit.

That two of the strongest points of Eclipse Phase are stole whole-cloth from other media is not going unnoticed.

 

The Timeline


Pretty simple problem here: the timeline of Eclipse Phase puts it 10 years after the TITANS rendered Earth totally uninhabitable and killed nearly everyone, and tries to paint it as this being the loss of like 90% of the population. The amount of colony infrastructure and the sheer scope of transhuman settlement of space (not just every major body in the solar system, but dozens of offworld colonies via the gates) make that number preposterous.

Solution: Easy. Either ignore the dating system entirely, or bump it to 25-50 years after the Fall.

 

Final Notes


The white whale is slain, and I am dissatisfied. For a game that exists as a sort of cosmic background radiation for my own work, this post was by and large an exercise in "if I was writing these concepts in my own setting everything would be both better and easier". It is a game that has coalesced all the influences of its antecessors - Altered Carbon, Revelation Space, GURPS Transhuman Space, Delta Green - and has synthesized something...novel, at least.

A decent idea done poorly is often better than a mediocre idea done well, I suppose. With the sheer amount of stuff contained within EP, there will certainly be something that spurs the imagination.

The bright point are the homebrewers who have, over the years, made a whole lot of very good stuff for Eclipse Phase - better by far than what is in the books proper. Likely because the format of blogposts lends itself to short write-ups of single topics, which is much better at fleshing out the world than pages of top-down explaining. I highly recommend going back and giving Seedware, Farcast, and H-Rep a read or re-read, they are still excellent (though I cannot tell you if there is any more - the brief time I spent on their Discord server showed that there were no pins in the homebrew channel)

With posts like this I often wonder if I am wasting time that would be better served just writing my own stuff. So it goes. The post is written. Regularly scheduled programming will return soon.

19 comments:

  1. I am impressed by being able to see this to fruition, but also ultimately hollow, for I could have been working on anything else

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry to ask but what are the gaunt?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're the monsters from the Mothership module Dead Planet

      Delete
  3. I don't know much about 40k. Why is the imperium making Chaos worse? I thought the idea was just for all the factions to suck so you'd have an excuse for endless wargaming without any qualms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Warp is shaped by thought and emotion, and the Imperium's bloodlust, sexual repression, senseless kafkaesque complexity, and the inertia of its horrors all reinforce the chaos gods.

      Delete
    2. They also leave their people downtrodden and desperate for any way out - even a literal deal with the devil. Most of Chaos' forces are alienated ex-Imperial troops.

      Delete
    3. When you are fighting literal demon gods of slaughter and paranoia, a government that promotes slaughter and paranoia may not be the best possible system.

      Delete
  4. I tend to be a massive "oh it's only fascism if it comes from the Fasces district of Fiume, this is just sparkling military dictatorship" person, but yeah bio-herrenvolk democracy dominated by a military and the Catholic Church is within spitting distance of fascism.

    I always wonder how Jews are doing in transhuman settings. How much of your body do you have to shut down on the Sabbath.

    Overall, this is a great attempt at slapping together something coherent from a pretty meh setting. Going for full continuity of consciousness is absolutely the coward's way out--give me a class based on training your teleporter copies into an army of specialists or give me death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would listen to a couple of rabbis discussing the interpretations of the law within a transhuman context for uncountable hours on end. You'd have to send a rescue crew to remind me to eat.

      Delete
  5. It didn't line up to me that the anarchists in Eclipse Phase were all open sharing network type stuff in a universe with the exsurgent virus - download a car, and next thing you know you could be a half-meat car-monster.

    Re: Soma, I'm team WAU. Last, best hope for humanity. Made a few mistakes along the way, but it was getting better and better at its job, and pobody's nerfect.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm only familiar with the 1st edition, but the impression I got was that Eclipse Phase was kind of at odds with itself - feels like it wants to be about cool cyber-anarchists fighting space-fascists and bizaaro AI monsters, but it's written as a highly-detailed 'hard sci-fi' game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, that unresolved tension runs throughout. Wants to be about anarchists, but doesn't focus on playing as them. Wants to be hard sci-fi, but doesn't commit.

      Delete
  7. I appreciate the inherent difficulty, but I can't help but feel like you cheated by essentially cutting the anarcho-capitalists entirely.

    I'd be tempted to go the other direction and split them into multiple factions, who all accuse each other of being dirty statists not doing it properly (e.g. a hereditary monarchy where one guy ended up owing everything, a smart contract polity where code is law ruled by feuding cyber-war-lords, security state where all entrants must subscribe to the ruling private security company on pain of death, etc.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guilty as charged on the cheating. but, at the very least, everything you describe fits within the collapse part.

      Delete
  8. Eclipse Phase is free explicitly for the purpose of being transhumanist propaganda, but...somehow it isn't very good at it in my opinion. I mean, I personally would love to have Swiss Army Hands or take a weekend vacation being a [crab/ape/octopus/what-have-you] but the *joy* of that doesn't come through in the bits I've read.

    Give me a mission that begins "Fellas, there's ten million credits in specialized macromolecules in that wreck, but it's at the bottom of 100 atmospheres of cold ammonia in gravity that would make a heavyworlder puke. Are you CRAB ENOUGH TO HANDLE THE JOB?!" and I'd be all about it. Save versus Delusions of Crab every once in a while.

    I can't recommend James White as a prose stylist, but I think he sold the transhuman concept in his hospital stories ("To save the patient you must THINK AND FEEL like a SPACE CENTIPEDE") better than any libertarian mercenary gambit could.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Utterly joyless" is a very good way to describe it. Everything is miserable, until there is a flash in the pan of some off-color humor (ha ha, that news anchor is a giant penis!) and then right back to misery.

      Delete
    2. Both a damn shame and a missed opportunity. If your quadrumanous simian sleeve isn't knitting a fluffy scarf with their feet whilst drinking tea with their hands, are they really living their best spacefuture metalife?

      A world where you can easily get a body matching your self-concept is SO much better than our bullshit reality, and a future where your work body can perfectly match your career should lead to remarkable job satisfaction! Fuck you, back pain and repetitive stress injury, you're archaisms from the Capitalist Era! You can clock in to work and become a living forklift for a shift on the company sleeve policy and then clock out and be a goddamn unicorn on the weekend!

      Delete
  9. Good stuff here. Didn't know anything about Eclipse Phase going into it, got me interested enough to check out the source material. Plus you've got me inspired to work on my own advanced scifi / cosmic horror setting.

    ReplyDelete