Eclipse Phase is a post-apocalyptic roleplaying game of transhuman conspiracy and horror. Humans are enhanced and improved, but humanity is battered and bitterly divided. Technology allows the re-shaping of bodies and minds and liberates us from material needs, but also creates opportunities for oppression and puts the capability for mass destruction in the hands of everyone. Many threats lurk in the devastated habitats of the Fall, dangers both familiar and alien.
What Is A Roleplaying Game?Edit
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie or a television show where a character does something really stupid, like heading into a basement at night when the character knows the serial killer is around? The whole time, you’re thinking: “I wouldn’t walk down those creepy stairs to the dark basement, especially without a flashlight. I’d do X, Y, or Z instead!” Since you’re in the passenger’s seat for the plot you’re reading or watching, however, you simply have to sit back and let it unfold. What if you could take hold of the driver’s seat? What if you could take the plot in the direction you’d choose? That is the essence of a roleplaying game.
A roleplaying game (or RPG, for short) is part improvisational theater, part storytelling, and part game. A single person (the gamemaster) runs the game for a group of players that pretend to be characters in a fictitious world. The world could be a mystery game set in the 1920s that takes you adventuring around the globe, a fantasy realm inhabited by dragons and trolls and sword-wielding barbarians, or a science fiction setting with aliens and spaceship and world-crushing weaponry. The players pick a setting that they find cool and want to play in. The players then craft their own characters, providing a detailed history and personality to bring each to life. These characters have a set of statistics (numerical values) that represent skills, attributes, and other abilities. The gamemaster then explains the situation in which the characters find themselves. The players, through their characters, interact with the storyline and each others’ characters, acting out the plot. As the players roleplay through some scenarios, the gamemaster will probably ask a given player to roll some dice and the resulting numbers will determine the success or failure of a character’s attempted action. The gamemaster uses the rules of the game to interpret the dice rolls and the outcome of the character’s actions.
As a group exercise, the players control the storyline (the adventure), which evolves much like any movie or book but within the flexible plot created by the gamemaster. This gamemaster plot provides a framework and ideas for potential courses of action and outcomes, but it is simply an outline of what might happen—it is not concrete until the players become involved. If you don’t want to walk down those stairs, you don’t. If you think you can talk yourself out of a situation in place of pulling a gun, then try and make it happen. The script of any roleplaying session is written by the players, and the story, based upon the character’s actions and their responses to the events of the plot, will constantly change and evolve.
The best part is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to play an RPG. Some games may involve more combat and dice rolling-related situations, where other games may involve more storytelling and improvised dialogue to resolve a situation. Each group of players decides for themselves the type and style of game they enjoy playing!
What is Transhumanism?Edit
Transhumanism is a term used synonymously to mean “human enhancement.” It is an international cultural and intellectual movement that endorses the use of science and technology to enhance the human condition, both mentally and physically. In support of this, transhumanism also embraces using emerging technologies to eliminate the undesirable elements of the human condition such as aging, disabilities, diseases, and involuntary death. Many transhumanists believe these technologies will be arriving in our near future at an exponentially accelerated pace and work to promote universal access to and democratic
control of such technologies. In the long scheme of things, transhumanism can also be considered the transitional period between the current human condition and an entity so far advanced in capabilities (both physical and mental faculties) as to merit the label “posthuman.”
As a theme, transhumanism embraces heady questions. What defines human? What does it mean to defeat death? If minds are software, where do you draw the line with programming them? If machines and animals can also be raised to sentience, what are our responsibilities to them? If you can copy yourself, where does “you” end and someone new begin? What are the potentials of these technologies in terms of both oppressive control and liberation? How will these technologies change our society, our cultures, and our lives?
Several themes pervade Eclipse Phase, some of which the reader may not be intimately familiar with. The following helps define these themes so that as players read further into this rulebook, they gain a solid understanding of how Eclipse Phase builds on such themes to create its unique setting and the setting uses a lot of unique Terminology as well.
Post-apocalyptic is a term used to describe fiction set after a cataclysmic event has ended human civilization as we know it (usually accompanied by loss of human life on an almost unthinkable scale). The exact mechanism of the disaster is usually unimportant: nuclear war, plague, asteroid strike, and so on. The importance of the theme is the human condition. If the world we know is torn away from us and humans suffer horrors beyond imagining in this transformation to a post-apocalyptic setting, how does humanity cope? Do we survive and thrive and overcome? Or do we lose our own humanity in the process, or ultimately fall to extinction? Those are the questions that drive this genre.
To Conspire means “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end.” As such, a conspiracy theory attributes the ultimate cause of an event or a chain of events (whether political, societal or historical) to a secret group of individuals with immense power (including political, wealth and so on) who hide their activities from public view while manipulating events to achieve their goals, regardless of consequences. Many conspiracy theories contend that a host of the greatest events of history were initiated and ultimately controlled by such secret organizations. Of equal importance is the silent struggle between clandestine groups, waging a secret war behind the scenes to determine who influences the future.
Horror takes many forms, but in Eclipse Phase it is more psychological than gore. It is the uncertainty of survival, the suspense of finding malevolent things among the stars, the fear of the unknown, the dread of facing Things That Should Not Be, the revulsion when encountering alien things, and the sickening realization of the wrong and ghastly things that transhumans are capable of doing to themselves and each other. Horror also arises both from the comprehension that there are scary things beyond our understanding inhabiting our universe and that transhumanity may be its own worst enemy. Despite all of the technological tools and advances available to future transhumans, they still face terrors like losing control of their own identities, their perceptions, and their mental faculties—not to mention their future as a species.
Eclipse Phase takes all of these themes and weaves them together in a transhuman setting. The postapocalyptic angle covers the understanding of all that transhumanity has lost, the fight against extinction, and how much of that is a struggle against our own nature. The conspiracy side delves into the nature of the secret organizations that play key roles in determining transhumanity’s future and how the actions of determined individuals can change the lives of many. The horror perspective explores the results of humanity’s self-inflicted transformations and how some of these changes effectively make us non-human. Tying it all together is an awareness of the massive indifference and the terriblealien-nessthat pervades the universe and how transhumanity is insignificant against such a backdrop.
Offsetting these themes, however, Eclipse Phase also asserts that there is still hope, that there is still something worth fighting for, and that transhumanity can pave its own path toward the future.
But How Do You Actually Play?Edit
To play a game ofEclipse Phase, you need the following:
- A group of players and a place to meet (real life or online!)
- One player to act as the gamemaster
- The contents of this book
- Something for everyone to take notes with (notepads, laptops, whatever!)
- Two 10-sided dice per player (or a digital equivalent)
A Group of Players and a Place to MeetEdit
While roleplaying games are flexible enough to allow any number of people, most gaming groups number around four to eight players. That number of people brings a good mix of personalities to the table and ensures great cooperative play.
Once a group of players have determined to play Eclipse Phase, they’ll need to designate someone as the gamemaster (see below). Then they’ll need to determine a time and place to meet.
Most roleplaying groups meet once a week at a regularly scheduled time and place: 7:00 PM, Thursday night, Rob’s house, for example. However, each group determines where, how they’ll play, and how often. One group may decide they can only get together once a month, while another group is so excited to dive into the story potential of Eclipse Phase that they want to meet twice a week (they decide to rotate between their houses, though, so as not to overload a particular player). If a group is lucky enough to have a favorite local gaming store that supports in-store play, the group might meet there. Other gaming groups meet in libraries, common rooms at their school, bookstores that have generously-sized “reading rooms,” quiet restaurants, and so on. Whatever fits for your gaming group, make it work!
When getting together for a game, most RPGs use the phrase “gaming session.” The length of each gaming session is completely dependent upon the consensus of the playing group, as well as the limitations of the locale where they’re playing. The particular story that unfolds in a given session can also impact a session’s length. If playing in a game store, the group may only have a four-hour slot and the gamemaster
and group may have determined—through several sessions of play—that this is a perfect time frame to enjoy the story they’re participating in each week. Another group, however, may want an even shorter length of time. Yet another group may decide that while they’ll usually do four-hour sessions, once a month they’ll set aside an entire Saturday for a great all-day gaming session. Players will need to dive in and start playing and be flexible to decide what will provide the ultimate enjoyment for their gaming group.
While the camaraderie of a shared experience of playing face-to-face with a group of friends remainsthe strength of roleplaying games, groups need not confine themselves to a single mode of play. There are myriad options that can be used. Email, instant messages, message boards, video chats, phone/voip calls, text messages, wikis, (micro-)blogs: any and all of these can be utilized to play the game without having warm bodies in seats directly across the table from one another.
Finally, when playing groups meet for the first time, they should generate their characters (as opposed to generating characters by themselves). While a gaming group can decide to generate characters individually, often it is far easier once the players are together. This allows those more experienced in roleplaying games to help those new to RPGs. Even more important, it enables the entire group to tailor the characters so there is not too much overlap in capabilities and style. After all, with the wealth of character opportunities available, you don’t want to show up at the table with an almost identical character to the player next to you.
Once a group has been organized, someone needs to step up and take the reins of the gamemaster. Some groups have a single gamemaster that runs all their gaming sessions month after month. Other groups rotate a gamemaster, with a single gamemaster running a given portion of the unfolding story for several sessions before handing the work off to another player. Once again, the participants should be flexible. Some groups may have the perfect person who loves the work involved and is more than willing to run session after session, while other groups may decide that they all want to take turns both as the gamemaster and as players.
The gamemaster controls the story. They keep track of what is supposed to happen when, describes events as they occur so that the players (as characters) can react to them, keep track of other characters in the game (referred to as non-player characters, or NPCs), and resolve attempts to take action using the game system. The game system comes into play when characters seek to use their skills or otherwise do something that requires a test to see whether or not they succeed. Specific rules are presented for situations that involve rolling dice to determine the outcome (seeGame Mechanics, p. 112).
The gamemaster describes the world as the characters see it, functioning as their eyes, ears, and other senses. Gamemastering is not easy, but the thrill of creating an adventure that engages the other players’
imaginations, testing their gaming skills and their characters’ skills in the game world, makes it worthwhile. Posthuman Studios will follow the publication of Eclipse Phasewith supporting supplements and adventures to help this process along, but experienced gamemasters can always adapt the game universe to suit their own styles. In fact, since Eclipse Phaseis published under a Creative Commons License (see p. 5), players are encouraged to tailor the universe to their style of play and also to share that with other players. You never know when a specific choice you’ve made in the running of a campaign is exactly what another gamemaster and his group is looking for.
Whether a gamemaster or player, you’ll need a way to track information. Players will be generating characters and making changes to those characters from session to session. Meanwhile, the gamemaster will have a host of information to track: notes on how the story is unfolding due to player character interaction that you’ll need to fold into next week’s session; changes to NPCs; changes to player characters that the players are not yet aware off (such as a character has been mind hacked but doesn’t yet know it); and so on.
Additionally, some groups enjoy a synopsis of each session that can be compiled and read at a later time in order to enjoy and share their exploits, just as you might fileshare clips from your favorite video game to show off your skill in taking the bad guy down (traditionally this has been called “bluebooking”). This can be particularly useful if a player was unable to attend a given session, providing a quick re-cap that they can read before attending the next gaming session and thus avoiding a bog-down up-front as that player tries to catch up on current events in the game. The session scribe can be a shared responsibility or assigned, all based upon what a given playing group finds works best for them. Likewise, some gaming groups audio-record their entire game session, both for later reference and for “actual play” podcasts.
The old standard of a pencil and paper still works wonders. A host of additional technologies, however, provide many new options for players. From a text file on a laptop to a shared wiki, the ability to track large amounts of information in a quick and useful fashion—while simultaneously making appropriate information available to each player from session to session—significantly decreases how much time everyone needs to spend tracking information. That time can now be redirected into the enjoyment of participating in a great story.
As described in the Game Mechanics section (p. 112), two ten-sided dice are required to play Eclipse Phase. While most players enjoy the feel of tossing dice onto a table, there are many other mechanisms for rolling two ten-sided dice to achieve a 00 to 99 result. Players who make heavy use of any online technologies for game play—such as using online chatting or video blogging—should find it easy to track down and implement a quick dice-rolling program.
All too often, it’s easy for someone looking at an RPG to be intimidated. So many concepts to grasp, so many ideas that seem overwhelming. Just as described underWhat is a Roleplaying Game?, however, how often have you read a book or watched that movie and decided that you would have done it better? That’s your imagination at work. Just dive in and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can immerse yourself in the Eclipse Phase universe. Soon you’ll be spinning stories with the best of them.
Also, don’t forget to tap your resources. Your gaming group is your best resource. What’s going on, ideas for how to handle a situation, or how to take on a bad guy: these are just some of the things that can and should be discussed by the gaming group in between sessions, and each is an opportunity to strengthen your imagination.
Another resource is simply watching TV or reading a good book. Pay attention to how the story is put together, how the characters are built, and how the plot unfolds. Push your imagination and soon you’ll be figuring out subplots and who the bad guy is long before it’s revealed. Knowing how a story is put together enables you to put together your own stories during each gaming session.
Finally, the [www.eclipsephase.com official site for Eclipse Phase]. If you have questions about the game or want to see how another group of players handles a given situation, post on the forums. The online community can be just as helpful and enjoyable as a local gaming group.
What Do Players Do?Edit
The players can take on a variety of roles in Eclipse Phase. Due to advances in digital mind emulation technology, uploading, and downloading into new morphs (physical bodies, biological or synthetic), it is possible to literally be a new person from session to session. With bodies taking on the role of gear, players can customize their forms for the task at hand.
Where Does It Take Place?Edit
While Eclipse Phase is set in the not-too-distant future, the changes that have taken place due to the advancements of technology have transformed the Earth and its inhabitants almost beyond recognition. As players dive into the universe, they’ll generally encounter a variety of Campaign Settings.
Where To Go From Here?Edit
Now that you know what this game is about, we suggest that you next read the Time of Eclipse to get a feel for the game’s default setting (which you are, of course, free to change to suit your whims). Then read the Game Mechanics to get a grasp of the rules. After that, you can move on to Character Creation and Advancement and create your first character!