Imagine an open sandbox game where the greatest threat to your party isn’t the weapons smuggler shooting you with a rail gun—it’s the damage to the habitat if she misses. Welcome to Eclipse Phase.
A tabletop roleplaying game of conspiracy and horror, Eclipse Phase is hands down one of the most robust and creative game settings I’ve ever run. The game is based upon the classic concept of humanity hooking up A.I.s to the interwebs and, shortly after, finding Earth to be toast. Rather than play in the tattered landscapes of Earth, humanity presses the eject button and heads to the stars. Transhuman science is brought to the forefront in the isolation of space, and the game becomes an absolute mind-bender to both storytell and play.
The Core Rulebook
Every system and setting needs to start off with a strong base book; Posthuman Studios delivers. The basic campaign is that Earth is FUBAR and everyone took their super science into space. Players and NPCs are playing their consciousness, which can be downloaded into different bodies called morphs.
Knowing your characters are immortal upfront changes the dynamic of roleplaying and encounters. It allows players to create robust characters with incredible backgrounds and faction tie-ins. If one gets blasted into the vacuum of space, that character can return, missing only a few memories and grow from the experience.
PCs can swap bodies and try out new features or travel across the solar system by basically emailing themselves. This concept opens the floodgates of GM tools so they can pull out the chainsaws. You can run encounters with real meat behind them and not worry about trashing your entire campaign. Plus, it naturally creates arch-villains that are dynamic and have impact to the players. Grey Xu may only be a punk weapons’ smuggler in a starting adventure, and after the players end her, she can come back again, and again. Of course, nothing is free, and bodies cost money and potentially your sanity. Over time, characters and NPCs grow into unique individuals with history, personal relationships, and a wide array of motivations.
Creating the ultimate conspiracy setting is supported right off the bat with core mechanics. Imagine starting off your players on an adventure where they wake up inside new bodies, knowing they’ve died—and have to investigate their own death. Which brings us to…
Eclipse Phase can be a lot to take in as the concepts presented are inherently thought-provoking. The game’s supplement Sunward allows everyone to have a frame of reference with scientific concepts we are familiar with. The colonization and terraforming of Mars. Research labs on Mercury. Androids and Robots being used on Lunar space stations. It’s a perfect blend of Cowboy Bebop and Blade Runner.
In Sunward, the planets closest to us are flourishing with hyper corporations and densely populated cities, which players explore and investigate as agents of an organization called Firewall.
Remember how humanity was smart enough to hook up A.I. to the internet and almost became extinct? Firewall exists to prevent humans from killing themselves with their own science. You’ll be lifting the veil on what the corporations and the Planetary Consortium are really up to and dealing with companies that want to create psychics or silence Barsoomian revolutions in the name of the all mighty dollar. Sunward provides you with the open sandbox of the inner rim and I feel it’s the perfect place to start in this vast setting. Fair warning… your first game session will be riddled with Total Recall references.
If you are looking for space horror and pushing the boundaries of science, then it’s off to the stars. The further you move away from the sun, the less populated and stranger things become. In Rimward, you still play as Firewall agents, but there are no restrictions on the technology allowed. Want a space octopus body? No problem. Would you like to play 5 clones of yourself concurrently? Go for it. How about run a campaign so twisted that your players’ brains melt? There’s no stopping you.
It’s not just science that becomes strange in the outer rims either. The colonies that exist explore different styles of governing; from anarchy to extropian contract systems. Hyper-corps slip through the cracks and maintain stations in the void, and out here, you KNOW something is up in those secret labs.
Even with these differences, survivalism and exploration remain core concepts throughout all adventures. Just because you’re immortal doesn’t mean you don’t have goals, motivations, and dreams. Or maybe you are so broke that you can only rent a body, so doing some dirty work on the side helps get you closer to that dream machine.
Have any of you played Eclipse Phase? Share some of your stories or your favorite features in the comments below!
Featured Image: Eclipse Phase