Eclipse Phase: Second Edition by PurpleXVI
IntroOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
So, Eclipse Phase 1.0. I think anyone who's ever heard me pitch in about this game knows I have a lot of critique about it, both writing-wise and system-wise, but ultimately the reason I'm so loud in complaining about it is because it's so close to being good. If it was just a pile of shit through and through, I'd point, laugh and move on, but the game had a lot of great art, inspired writing and creative ideas, so it was frustrating to see the bad parts of it drag it down.
This is the 2.0 version, or the second edition, whichever you prefer. Personally I've been trying to keep my info intake on it low, because I wanted to go into it with as few preconceived notions as possible. So, let's open up the first page and-
-and if anyone reads my reviews, they'll also know that one thing I tend to harp on is piling numbers and values on the player before they actually have a chance in hell of understanding what those numbers and values mean. So my first thought here, and this is literally even before the index, is two-fold. Firstly, as a first-time, I can't make any use of this fucking sheet yet. Secondly, if I'm not a first-time reader and actively looking for this sheet... this is not a place I'd expect it to be. Especially since there is, according to the index, a "Sample Characters" section about 82 pages in.
Anyway, then there's the index, predictably, and the intro fiction. It spans a single character's narrative from just prior to the Fall, to several years after, including their adjustment to the new way the world works after, having a synthmorph body, etc. and while I'm not a huge fan of every line of writing in it, I see what they were going for, and I like that. To ease the reader from something relatively familiar, into something unfamiliar, by using a character going through the same adjustment to ask the questions they have as well.
The art is generally pretty good, too.
What Is Eclipse Phase?
It seems like they are, sadly, running with the same expectation from EP 1.0, which is that you're going to play Firewall agents, at least from this presentation. No support for playing non-metaplot criminals or revolutionaries, Oversight agents, even Project Ozma scumbags, etc. which is a bit of a shame, since I always found the "playing as Firewall"-aspect to be the weakest part of EP 1.0.
The general overview of the setting seems to be much the same. Hypercapitalists vs Hypercommunists and Hyperanarchists.
EP 2.0 posted:
The outer system is the stronghold of the Autonomist Alliance, a mutual-aid network of anarchists and techno-socialists. In these communalist territories, currency is obsolete and unrestricted nanofabrication means that everyone has the necessities and tools they need. People create rather than consume. Reputation, not wealth, mediates the exchange of information and services. Many habitats operate without government, laws, or police, relying instead on voluntary and cooperative structures, real-time online referendums, and collective militias. The outer system is a patchwork of political, economic, and social experimentation.
And maybe it gets more nuanced later, but it sure as hell sounds like the book is going to be full of knob-slobbing the anarchists still.
A Note On Politics posted:
Eclipse Phase delves into numerous political themes; in fact, we start with the premise that everything is political. Like all authors, we write from the perspective of our personal biases. Our specific lens is radical, liberatory, inclusive, and antifascist. If you support bigotry or authoritarianism in any form, Eclipse Phase is not the game for you.
I feel like this note probably made some people pop a vein, though it does remind me of a supposed rumour that they specifically excluded the Ultimates from being playable because "only fascists would play them" or a similar idea. It may even have been in this very thread that I read that. But that's a whole fucking kettle of worms I'll poke at once I reach the Ultimates, because unless they specifically rewrote them for EP2 to be All Fascist, All The Time, they were definitely a lot more nuanced than that in EP1.
Every single man is wearing armor, the only character that's identifiably female wears something skin-tight(or is sleeved in something that allows her to be unarmoured entirely). I guess whoever did the art for Glory is still on board. Looking forward to characters wearing battle-bikinis while dealing with biohazardous infectious environments.
There are several pages of Core Concepts and Themes which are just them dropping in some keywords like GATECRASHING or TITANS or RESLEEVING and then explaining what they are. Personally, I felt like the longer, more setting-lore-laden intro of the original did more to draw me into the game. The more clinical presentation here, personally, hampers my immersion.
Next up they present their three CORE CAMPAIGNS, which are: Be Firewall, go jump through Pandora Gates for fun or Be A Crime Man. So okay, I have to retract what I said earlier, they did in fact make space for being a criminal, conceptually. They also at least acknowledge that someone might want to play something else, other than these three, but, eh, I think of the three, Crime Man Campaign is the only one I'd be particularly tempted to run.
The early Setting Overview is two pages and then straight into mechanics by page 30.
Comparatively, in EP1, we had about 110 pages of fiction, lore, fluff and general scene-setting before our first encounter with mechanics or even any conversations about how to play the game, or how the developers intended for the game to be played. Again, personally, I liked getting dragged into the setting and envisioning what I wanted to do, so that by the time I hit the mechanics I'd be able to... have a frame of reference for them, I suppose? I'd know that "oh, hey, this skill lets me do this cool thing I wanted to do in-setting" or "oh, neat, this thing from the intro fiction is what this thingbobber in the gear section does..." etc. etc.
But at least they're putting mechanics before chargen... and then resuming the fiction... and then resuming the rules again. Because sure, why would I want all of my chargen, rules and equipment in one neat block when I wanted to reference it. No, no, go ahead mister editor man, don't make my experience easy.
Next time: Mechanics. Did they unfuck them?
Game MechanicsOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
So, basics. Exactly like EP1, EP2 rolls with percentile dice. This is inherently neither good or bad, though percentile dice, like all other single-dice mechanics have the advantage of being quick to do, easy to read, have easily-calculable probabilities and very rarely pull any weird-ass dice tricks to complicate things. It's always a roll-under of the TN and the higher you roll without rolling over, the better. D6's and D10's occasionally get pulled out, but mostly for damage numbers.
As a new thing, though, 33's and 66's are now "critical" rolls, either failures or successes depending on whether they fail or succeed normally. I'm not really sure of EP needed this.
Superior Results posted:
For each superior result, choose one of the following. For two superior results, you may choose two of the following or one twice for double the effect:
• Quality: The work is more exact (success) or more sloppy (failure). This may affect subsequent tests by +/− 10.
• Quantity: The test consumes fewer (success) or more (failure) materials or produces fewer or more results.
• Detail: You acquire information that is much more in-depth or nuanced (success) or false (failure).
• Time (task actions only): The action takes a shorter (success) or longer (failure) amount of time, by +/− 25%.
• Covertness: The action is less (success) or more (failure) obvious or draws less or more attention (+/− 10 as appropriate).
• Damage: Successes inflict more (+1d6) damage (failures miss).
And this makes me wonder how much they learned, system-wise from the original EP. See, the thing about the original EP system was that it was kind of crunchy and gear-wanky, plus laden with save-or-dies(or save-or-become-NPC), but the writing implied a more narrative game with the high potential for death simply meaning that a heroic sacrifice was a viable strategy you just got to pull multiple stories in a row(just about every in-lore Firewall story had the crew reduced to one or two, or zero, agents, though generally they still pulled off their goals). It clashed, badly. And caring about the exact materials consumed or how many of [thing] I make feels like we're back to the original sauce of caring too much about minutiae. Maybe I'll turn out to be wrong.
...then in the very next paragraph, doubles are in general also criticals? Why do we need multiple ways to get critical successes/failures? Goddammit EP2, stop fucking up a mechanic as simple as D100-roll-under.
An action turn represents roughly 3 seconds. During each action turn you may undertake one of the following:
• 1 complex action and 1 quick action
• 1 task action and 1 quick action
• 3 quick actions
[whispered]oh noooooooooooooo, they fucked it up.
This is the sort of shit I mean with fiddly minutiae. Like just fucking give me ACTIONS, and X of them PER ROUND or per TURN or whatever. This is not contributing to my feelings of being in a stressful universe full of existential questions and existential dread, or even a fantastic universe full of alien discoveries, weirdnesses and horrors. This just makes me feel like I'm playing fucking X-COM except I'm doing all the calculations by hand.
Automatic actions are always “on,” reflexive, or otherwise require no effort to initiate. This includes base and full movement. Examples: Base move, basic perception, breathing, defending against an attack, dropping prone, dropping something, full move, resisting damage, speaking a simple sentence or two.
Seriously what dumb argument behind the scenes meant that they needed to point out that breathing isn't something players should need to specifically call out that they're doing?
Anyway, the base mechanics verdict: Somehow slightly worse than the original, at least as I remember them.
space juggalo drops his soda and robot man tries to save it
So, Pools are an entirely new thing. Is it a thing we like?
Why yes, conceptually, at least, I fucking love them(mostly), because they represent consumable resources you can use to alter your odds, save yourself, etc. and not in a weedy-ass way, but in a big way. Games generally need more of this shit.
So we've got four: Insight, Vigor, Social and, ugh, Flex. Insight is for mental checks, Vigor for physical, Social for rep and face stuff. Each of them lets us add bonuses pre-roll, negate penalties pre-roll, flip rolls(eg. an 83 to a 38), upgrade normal successes to crits or downgrade critfails to normal fails. Oddly enough, in most games with pools like this, it feels like rerolls are an option, but there's none of that here. Each pool also has some specifics it can do, like Vigor and Insight can give extra actions, Moxie can "ignore social gaffes that the character would know not to make"(if IC the character would know better, why not just warn the PC about that OOC like a non-dickhead GM?) or "ignore trauma," i.e. let you not roleplay something the game wants you to roleplay. The sizes of the pools are determined during chargen(1 to 5 seems to be normal judging by examples), and rather than having a set refresh rate per [period], instead we have two refresh options per 24-hour period.
Either we can take a 10-minute breather to recover 1d6 points(allocated as we please) or an 8-hour snooze(less if our morph permits for it) to refill all our pools.
Considering how central these pools are to giving the player control over the odds(it's literally that or taking their time doing stuff for set bonuses), having the "short breather" recovery be randomized seems kind of... punitive? Just say half the max, or a fixed amount altered by certain mods or morphs or something. Don't have a chance that Jack Shootman, Space Super Shootman, only recovers 1 Shootpoint just before the climactic showdown on top of Shootcorp Monolith on Planet Shoot(it's an exoplanet behind a pandora gate, obviously).
So anyway, next point of order FUCK FLEX POINTS.
Flex Points posted:
•Introduce NPC: A new or existing NPCj oins the scene. Their presence must be plausible. You may define one aspect of this NPC: their morph, factional allegiance, a noteworthy skill, a specific trait, etc. The GM determines the other details.
• Introduce an Item: A previously unnoticed item is added to the scene. Its presence must be plausible. The item cannot be offensive (no weapons) and it must be of Minor (not Rare or Restricted) Complexity. It can be a useful tool, a necessary piece of gear, or even a clue. The GM determines its placement within the scene and the nature of any clues.
• Define the Environment: You may introduce an environmental factor to a scene. Its presence must be plausible. It should provide a new detail that does not drastically alter the scene. Examples include hiding spots, cover, distractions, shelter, or exploitable elements such as a ladder or window.
• Define a Relationship: You may introduce a new, plausible relationship between your character and an existing NPC. This should be a loose/minor connection rather than a close/serious tie. For example, you may have a common friend, shared history, or old but mild rivalry. You may define the rough basics, but the GM determines the finer points and the NPC’s attitude towards your character.
So firstly, I hate this shit. That's personal taste, I realize, but I fucking hate this thing of just letting players hijack the NPC/scene-setting part of things. Like, to me, okay, sorry for this tangent, to me this indicates an adversarial relationship between players and GM, and a lack of trust. A sense that if you go: "Oh, hey, any hiding spot in this space corridor? Maybe I can hide behind a space photocopier?" the GM is just going to go: "NO, JANE SNEAKGOOD, YOU CANNOT SNEAK IN THIS FEATURELESS CUBIST CORRIDOR. YOU MUST SHOOT, SHOOT OR DIE." rather than going: "Oh, yeah, your thing is sneaking, sure, there's a space water cooler to hide behind and also a space potted plant. Roll them dice." That the player needs an explicit scepter of authority to wave at the GM to be allowed to do their thing.
And letting the player place a clue? What? "Okay guy you've created this enticing mystery, with every clue and hint strategically placed with utmost care to allow us to enjoy it as much as possible. Now put down one more, just right here, in fucking front of me. On a platter."
Secondly, if you're gonna do it, you wrap the game around it. You make a collaborative storytelling game. You don't jam it sideways into Crunchy Gearwank Rollfest In Space w/ Spooky & Anarchists. Add it to a FATE game. Add it to your own homebrew, but fucking know where it fits.
first I noticed the cyber-arms, then I noticed all the fucking pouches.
slowly I start to realize that EP2's art is sincerely starting to give me Hunter: the Reckoning flashbacks. the lore text so far is all about how it's a spooky solar system full of horror and bad and ways to die and ghosts and aaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa space ghosts aaaaaaaaaaaaa oh wait just the TITANs oh god that's even worse. but the art is all about determined people with big guns shooting them or performing feats of strong, at least so far. oh yeah and another gratuitous fucking boob window.
Ahem, anyway, character creation. So like in EP1, we have our Ego stats and our Morph stats, i.e. the stats our mind has, and the stat our current body has. These are:
Intuition(Also Wisdom, I guess?)
The six of them map relatively well to D&D stats but for some reason need names that I always get tangled up in, especially since Intuition shortens to INT, which in every other fucking game is intelligence. Show a bit of goddamn awareness, game devs, you're not making games in a fucking vacuum.
In EP1 the Morph/Ego split was kind of a cause of some considerable bookkeeping since they also directly impacted many of your core stats, meaning that all your skill TN's and derived stats needed re-calculating every time you resleeved(hence another argument for dealing with the fucking resleeving mechanics in EP1 as little as possible, fucking goddamn).
There's less of that this time around, but... they kind of bungled it, still? Now, I confess, I jumped a bit ahead to the morphs to see about this. Now... the thing is that to go with the gear-wank, EP1 had like fifty or more morphs once all the books were out(and, again, like five that were worth using, ever. But I'm done harping on that. For now. Honest), but at least the mixture of stats and weird attributes and abilities and pre-included mods made them generally distinct. At my count, EP 2.0 stats with 42 of them.
When EP2 was in the works, some people I knew theorized that they'd strip down the morphs to a few general chassis like ANTHROMORPH, BIOLOGICAL and then you'd slap on modifiers and keywords to differentiate a FLAT, an OLYMPIAN, a NEOTENIC(ugh, yes, they're still in the game, but neo-pigs are not, Ronwayne), a NEO-GORILLA or a NEO-ORANGUTAN. In order to produce variety without producing bloat or bookkeeping. But they didn't do that, they kept all of them, but now there's even less of a point, because the only morph-inherent stats are starting mods, starting wounds, movement speed and bonuses to Vigor/Insight/Moxie/Flex pools. There are three different kinds of fucking neo-Primates, Jesus Christ. Aside from the Neo-Orangutan having Limberness and different health pools, they are more or less indistinguishable. This is bloat. It's fucking bloat.
I'm angry, angry about elf-morphs.
Next time: MORE CHARGEN, probably more me being angry about morphs
Back to ChargenOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
Back to Chargen
Okay, with that out of my system it'll be at least two paragraphs before I start melting down again, promise.
Anyway, Chargen. EP 1.0 basic Chargen was kind of a Lifepath Lite where you started out picking certain skill "packages" based on background, education and ideology, and then in a later supplement they added a proper Lifepath option that tended strongly towards generating extremely OP or extremely garbage characters, since EP 1.0 was a well-designed system where a narrow selection of skills and gear were vastly more useful than the rest of the broad catalogue. EP2 sticks to the original somewhat, you pick a Background, Career and Interest and they constitute your starting skill package. But they don't feel like equal choices, because rather than surrendering a bit of verisimillitude to make them all broadly capable, only, say, two of the Careers actually contain combat skills. And if there's anything I've learned from GM'ing and playing in games for 20+ years, it's that every character needs some access to all three points of the Know-Talk-Kill triangle, otherwise it complicates combat balancing and leaves half the party twiddling their thumbs in the other scenarios, unable to really participate.
(Fake Edit: About 20 pages later it also tells us that point buy exists in a sidebar)
Of interest are also the Lost among the Backgrounds. The Lost were, in-fluff, an attempt at fast-growing a bunch of kids in vats and rapidly accelerating their mental growth as well to quickly supply new citizens. Of course, they all went insane and developed psionic powers that a magic space disease gives you(Watts-McLeod, being infected with it makes you an "async" and it's a disease that moves with your ego, not your morph). Now, conceptually? Fine, fine. Main problem is that psionics in EP1 were more or less universally dogshit garbage. 90% of Asyncs' usefulness was down to the GM, because a bunch of Spooky Space Bullshit was fluffed as having vague-but-often-positive reactions to Asyncs that they wouldn't have to normies. The other 10% were their psi powers which had abilities like Math Good or Stab A Guy For A Lot Less Damage Than Just Shooting Him IF He Has A Biological Brain Otherwise Lol.
There were actually cool and universally useful psi powers, but they were all omega-level, i.e. restricted to NPC Exsurgents infected by the Evil Space Flu.
Anyway, back to the book. If you really hate yourself and want to guarantee that you're useless, the book also supplies a small chart for randomly rolling your Career/Background/Interest.
At chargen it's entirely possible to bump starting skills up to 90, at the very least, even before spending free points, just by picking two synergizing skillsets. This kind of repeats one of the EP1 problems which is that once you get a skill to 90 or so, which you can easily do at chargen, you're... capped there. There's nothing to improve or change about it. John Shootman maxes out his gun skill at chargen and then... his entire character growth is learning anthropology or how to assemble pewter figurines. He cannot further invest in his core character concept. At most you can have 100 in a skill and 30 in its related aptitude, for a roll-under TN of 130, and generally all that can do is reduce difficulty or let you Do Thing Faster without risking instant failure. Maybe they'll elaborate much later, well past the game mechanics chapter(a bold move, let's see if it pays off!), but there's really no way in which a TN of 130 is functionally that much of a boon over a TN of, say, 90.
In part this is because of how the game measures Margin of Success, it's just the number you roll, rather than the difference between TN and roll. If it was the difference, then a TN 130 would be an effective +40 boost on all opposed rolls(which will crop up during combat, at the very least, and many social situations), compared to a 90. EP1 had the Margin of Success thing, actually, which would make the optimums of ability more relevant. Of course it still had the issue that you were likely to reach your maximum right at chargen, but still.
Then you can join a faction, which has zero impact on you, skills-wise. Ultimates are, by the way, gone from this list.
Anyway, we've now generated some skills, and then we generate some stats, or rather, "Aptitudes." Except we don't generate them, we just pick them from one of seven pre-made arrays. Exciting. I have no idea why they did it this way, since it actively prevents certain high-Aptitude combinations unless you spend some of your sparse CP's to boost them.
Speaking of Aptitudes. If you want to fight, you need to go high Reflexes/Dexterity, because of course shooting people, sneaking around people and dodging are all governed by this skill. Meanwhile, poor Somatics/Strength gets dunked as usual. It lets us hit people, move well in micro-gravity and run fast. I know that in EP1, melee combat was a stupid boondoggle to invest in, and I'd be surprised if that has changed.
The game next asks us to calculate how many languages we know, to choose them and then points out that computers handle real-time translation anyway so lol language doesn't matter in 99% of all cases.
Step 10(spending our free extra character points, and it feels like we get a lot less after following the Lifepath-lite than we did in EP1) indicates that "No Skill May Be Raised Above 80," by any combination of skill points and aptitude points. Does this only take effect in step 10 while spending CP's? Or does it also means that if I get a +40 and a +50 from a career and background, then the aptitude boost, it still caps my skill at 80? Could use a bit of clarity in writing. Because a few steps later it says "no skill may be raised above 80 during character creation."
So the game never actually spells out whether there are any diminishing returns from getting the same skill from a background, career and/or interest. Now, earlier it says that the max skill rating is 100, and the max aptitude is 30. It also says that skills and aptitudes add together to give the final rating, which implied to me a total maximum of 130. But during step 10, it describes the aptitude as adding to the skill for the purpose of calculating the skill ceiling of 80, so I guess the ultimate ceiling really is just 100 for both Aptitude+Skill. Maybe this fucking limit would have been great to tell people about during step fucking 1, rather than forcing them to loop back and redo their Background/Career/Interest just because they wanted to be really good at something, you fucks.
Anyway. Aside from some bad writing, and some stuff inherited from the actual mechanics and EP1, the chargen is pretty straightforward. Except for all the things, like fucking Psi, that it tells us we need to browse a couple dozen pages forward to actually know what our choices mean.
also not all the morph art is good
the neotenic on the left looks more like a... honestly I have no idea what the appropriate term is, person who's born half-scale, than a kid's body. not that I'm complaining, FUCK neotenics, except please don't, you fucking criminal
So morphs, I think I bitched about morphs before. But here's the skinny on them from EP1. In EP1 they were split into four types: Biomorphs, Synthmorphs, Pod Morphs and Infomorphs. Biomorphs were 100% organic(augments aside), Synths 100% robotic, Podmorphs were organic shell with a crispy robotic interior and tended to include most of the ones based on alien DNA(like giant squirrels, pitcher plants, nova crabs, etc.) and had most of the ones that were not just "man with extra arm" or "metal man with armor." Infomorphs were if you existed entirely as data.
Now, there were good Biomorphs, though some were clearly better than others. There were good Synthmorphs, though again some were very clearly better than others. There were no good Pod morphs. And Infomorphs you only picked if you wanted your GM to hate you and to have no actual ability to play the game, because even in the most tech-heavy regions you eventually needed someone to go lift or pull a thing.
We've got the same four categories here, though, now with the aptitude boosts removed, they're a lot more equal, though most of the cool pods are not yet in the game again(only nova crabs, hell yeah nova crab) and the remainder are basically Half-Metal Man w/ Gun and Fuck Robot, The Robot That Fucks. Infomorphs still suck shit conceptually, however, thank you.
okay, so "pleasure pod," it's still a hookerbot with a steak rubbed all over it
meanwhile, coolest core game morph in the bidness
They really could not resist wasting our fucking time, though. So. Basically every morph has some pre-fitted modifications. Like a Cortical Stack, basically your brain backup. Which every morph bar one has. And which is listed on every morph bar that one. Rather than just giving that one Morph a "HAS NO STACK"-disadvantage. That one morph is the Flat, btw.
Flats are baseline unmodified humans, born with all of the natural defects, hereditary diseases, and other genetic mutations that evolution so lovingly applies. Flats are increasingly rare outside bioconservative enclaves — most died off with the rest of humanity during the Fall.
Part of the problem here is that a good few of the morphs have as their main reason for being more expensive than the rest, a high Flex pool, which means that if you have a cooperative GM or a GM that peppers their area descriptions with lot of terrain for you to interact with(clearly, for instance, the point of the Bouncer morph having high Flex is so the player can fiat in some terrain for them to do stunts off) that Flex is either no longer necessary, or you won't need to use it for its intended goal and you suddenly have a lot more to do other stuff with.
Balancing-wise, compare the Bouncer and the Olympian which cost the same. The Olympian is more durable and, while the distribution is slightly different, the Olympian has 6 base points in their pools while the Bouncer has 4. What makes up the difference is basically cold resistance, prehensible feet and a built-in oxygen reserve, stuff that it's extremely setting/GM dependent whether comes up at all, while the Olympian is all-round capable.
love the fucking neo-orangutan art, by the way, that's some fucking Chaos Marine shit right there
Same cost you've got the Nova Crab, which has a lower point pool(3, and only in one category) than either the Bouncer or the Olympian, making up for it with a shitload of pre-set mods that are primarily only relevant if you're in space and likely to be depressurized. Which is kind of like being resistant to save-or-dies, in that no GM who knows a fucking thing about his job would pop them on you without you being resistant to it, because no one likes to TPK the party anticlimactically. So your resistance is kind of built into being a player at all, so these are wasted points. Occasionally it could be relevant for taking a shortcut or ambushing someone or whatever, but again, an Olympian can just put on a spacesuit or pay some space dollars to get the same mods.
However, the Nova Crab has giant claws! They do a staggering 2d10 damage! And, oh, wait, the Olympian can just buy a fucking axe(or start with the Scavenger gear pack that has one) that does more damage than that and the Nova Crab doesn't even have anything *coughaSOMbonuscoughlikeinEP1cough* that would let it still have a leg up in case it went to buy a couple of axes for itself.
Now, while looking up these stats, I found the melee weapon stats on page 204, in the melee combat chapter.
I've still yet to figure out how to actually buy gear outside of chargen, though, what the fuck, game. This was much better organized in EP1, I'll note.
Anyway, like in any game with badly mangled chargen, there are Traits. For instance, Acumen, adds +5 to our COG checks, for the cost of 1CP(or 1 MP if we want to waste points having it apply to only one body which the game expects us to lose or drop shortly anyway), while actually buffing our COG by +5 costs 5CP. I assume it's meant so that it only applies to checks that are "pure" COG, i.e. no skill involved, but it could use a bit of clarity-in-wording, by which I mean spelling it out. Alternately the devs are just idiots who didn't notice this broken option. The traits, BTW, also indicate that in a game clearly intended to have regular resleeving, there are still a bunch of dumb checks involved to make sure that you don't become a sobbing wreck whenever you're resleeved.
A large part of the negative traits, because of course there are negative traits, are of the "lol hope the GM forgets I've got this squad of bad guys after me"-kind. Haha, or you could have a morph that's bad at it's save-or-dies vs the TITAN flu! You should pick that one, because any GM that pops those dumb save or dies on you, you should just go ahead and quit the fucking game right there. Also remember how they took out Aptitude modifiers from morphs? They actually didn't, now they're just traits instead! Hope you remember that -5 SOM penalty from Feebleness on your morph! Of course there are like ten different variations on this for each aptitude and both positive and negative and some more specialized than others, like only applying to maths stuff.
Glad to see they recognized and fixed zero of their issues.
Swear to God, even fucking HSD2.0 made more of a positive improvement in places than EP2 so far.
A break from mechanics, time to read some DEEPEST LORE.
One Last Bit of Morphs: The Flex-MechOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
One Last Bit of Morphs: The Flex-Mech
So last time we went over some of the issues with Morphs in general, and specifically with biomorphs and podmorphs(seriously the amount of redundant repeated cyberware in podmorphs that should just have been defined as "part of being a podmorph" is a bit silly). Fundamentally synthmorphs are the same as the other two, except they can choose to ignore pain(for a penalty at "tactile perception tests," how fucking often does that even come up, they get to ignore some degree of wound penalties) and they tend to have inherent armor. But one of them is a departure from the rest in terms of functioning, which is the Flexbot. In EP1, Flexbots were statted like everything else, essentially, and were like a midpoint between nanoswarms and regular synthmorphs, being made out of larger, re-arrangable modules.
Here, they're morphs made out of more morphs. They have a core module, around which more modules are arranged, each of which is statted as a single morph, essentially. They share their pools and their total durability, however, and the only limit to how many modules you can combine appears to be what you can afford(at least as far as I'm reading. At the very least they account for having "10 or more" modules), so you can essentially make an arbitrarily large and durable hell machine if you want. It also says they can integrate "robots," which seems like a vague and undefined term, I mean, does that include other Synthmorphs? Because most of them have names that end in "bot." Since each module also has its own cyberbrain, theoretically nothing is stopping the party from just pooling all their morph points towards just being a single giant juggernaut bot, tumbling across a base or colony, overwhelming and incorporating other machines into their bulk.
This thing is a fucking X-Threat all on its own, and I love it and I hope there are no sidebars later that remove any of what I'm seeing here. Na-nananana-nana, katamari damorphy...
More of the morphs should break the mold like this if they're even being given their own damn entry.
Gear's changed somewhat since EP1, rather than straight-up buying our starting gear, we pick a starting package, then we can swap out the contents with other objects of similar value, or spend our limited CP's on more. Items no longer have an outright price in Space Dollars, instead they've got "gp's." I presume that's Gear Points. Skipping ahead, the GM is meant to give PC's an assortment of GP's for each mission they undertake, defining what they can equip themselves with on that mission(which is basically what was talked about not many posts ago as a good way to make players less attached to their gear, not a bad idea), and which also simplifies the dual economies of EP1 where you could pay with both reputation and credits, making the whole thing kind of a mess to keep track of at times. Generally this seems like an improvement.
Again, though, this seems to only account for a strict mission-based, Firewall-themed approach and less for something where the players operate in the same area for an extended period of time, possibly managing to keep gear intact(there's a small section later saying that if the PC's manage to keep some gear intact, they might be able to sell it/trade it for more GP's on the next mission, or maybe not, if the GM doesn't feel like it. Extremely helpful advice, fuckos. This reccurs for a hell of a lot of rules and sidebars, I'll note: "Hey, here's a rule/theme you should use! oh except not maybe not in fact don't bother if you don't want to."). In fact, it's only later that this indicates how this actually interacts with your starting gear, which is to say that it doesn't really, rather your starting gear is apparently only your starting gear for your first mission/if you're at home, and after that you're just assumed to have multi-use blueprints for all of it. This whole approach makes me wonder why they bothered with the starting gear packs at all.
And then after introducing the GP thing they go back and re-introduce currency(albeit as a more vague "Resources" trait, so less fiddly. The Resources trait gives you a flat bonus to per-mission GP and also the option to buy gear worth a certain amount of GP every period of time. Though it involves some degree of mother-may-I with regards to gear availability. Strictly superior to Rep, though, since Rep has a chance of failing when being used, and money does not.) and rep-buying as well. So now we've got a triple economy rather than a dual.
The gear chapter also has a bunch of vague asides like "oh if you get some rare gear of high quality, it should decrease in quality over time thanks to reasons. no we're not going to advise you on how to do this, or add any rules like nr. of uses for it to decay. lateeeeeer." The vagueness infuriates me more than it should, I can always rule zero shit if I want to, but I want to know how you expected/imagined this to work out ideally. Give me the rules for that. Don't tell me I'll probably need to figure out the details for myself, I fucking know that.
I also want to note that I had to jump approximately 250 pages ahead during the chargen chapter to actually figure out how the gear stuff worked while I was dealing with it. This is not ideal editing.
here's an elaborate system with a triple-economy for acquiring gear but you probably shouldn't really bother using it all that much, except when you should.
Anyway, that's me being angry, angry about gear. Or rather, I'm not upset about the actual rules. I'm more just annoyed at the bad, wibbly way they're written up. The editing in this book is making it feel a lot shoddier than it actually is, I'm noticing, where a brief browse makes something feel confusing, but then you learn that there's actually a decent, easily-parsed system under there if only the editor hadn't been asleep at the wheel causing him to drop a vital paragraph ten pages later than where it would make the most sense.
This is, of course, going to be summarizing. But we start in the year [undefined integer], I'm not sure why both EP1 and EP2 are so unhappy about defining the year. It definitely isn't necessary, but it always struck me as strange, since most sci-fi games don't shy away from that. Anyway, the point is we're in [undefined year], space exploration has started settlements primarily on Mars, Luna and Venus, but with some around Jupiter and in the outer system as well, uploading/resleeving/uplifting is in the early stages of being a cool thing, but of course only for the rich, not for the plebeian masses. Earth's ecosystem isn't having a good time, hypercorps are making fat loads of cash, turning militaries into primarily AI-run ventures controlled by vast supermachines called TITANs seems like a good idea.
Aside from widening wealth disparities, new technologies posed notable risks. Advanced 3D printing enabled access to restricted items such as weapons and drugs. The capability to brew up biowarfare agents at home led to numerous mass-casualty events. Attempts to regulate and restrict new tech only mitigated the situation at best.
and yet in-lore the Anarchists are just wonderful societies where no maniac ever brews up a cauldron of anthrax and fucks their hab over with it hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Then all of a sudden the TITANs slip a cog and decide to go insane, murdering billions of humans, harvesting brains from the survivors, fighting each other(this is known as The Fall, and the calender is now BF, Before Fall, and AF, After Fall), etc. humanity bails from Earth, Earth becomes a quarantined hellzone with zero official survivors, humanity consists of the lucky few to be off Earth during The Fall, the just as lucky few who managed to get evacuated during the Fall and the unlucky majority who only got off Earth as uploaded minds, known as "infugees" who have limited or little access to physical morphs except through slavery or indentured servitude in some form.
To double up the horror, the TITANs also start violating the known laws of reality thanks to the Exsurgent Virus that turns people into monsters, sometimes capable of space magic, and either insane or acting on some inscrutable TITAN plan that almost always seems to involve large numbers of people killed. In EP1 the basic lore coyly suggested it could be a lot of different things but then the GM's fluff said it was clearly caused by intentional alien terrorism except these particular aliens were never detailed, their plans were never revealed and there was never any support for actually dealing with their plots or the TITANs as anything but random events of inscrutable terror because their regulating logic was never revealed or even hinted at. Among the reality violations were the Pandora Gates, which may or may not have been made by the TITANs or been there well before the TITANs were ever built, and those TITANs that managed to slip the Earth blockade before it closed in primarily hopped through those, leaving behind only uncoordinated Exsurgent garbage for humanity to deal with.
Anyway, a couple of years passes, humanity licks their wounds and then the Factors show up. They're slime mold aliens that are very shady about their intentions and tech, arriving either through an unknown Pandora Gate(possible), Faster Than Light travel(likely but they deny it) or slower-than-light travel(plausible but raises yet more questions). The original fluff basically only mentioned them in two books, an aside in the core and then, I believed, in X-Risks, where it was theorized that they were, themselves, refugees just grabbing what they could from trade with humans and then hauling ass out of there whenever what was hunting them caught up. In both books they were criminally mishandled(or rather, wasted, since nothing was done with them), since they were pretty cool, but never used. Encountering intelligent alien life that it was possible to communicate with never seemed to do anything for humanity's communal state of mind, everyone just accepted them as inscrutable traders, shrugged and went on with their lives. They kind of felt like one writer's pet project that no one else wanted to engage with.
From the limited fluff on them presented here, that does not seem to have changed much. They remain, weirdly, a fucking side-note despite how paradigm-shattering it would be to even know they existed.
Slightly Shallower Lore
So now that we're caught up to the Present Day(tm), which is 10AF(all of the existing political structures of EP have coagulated into their current forms just ten years after the essential annihilation of Earth and the loss of something like 90% of humanity's total population, even accounting for infugees. I know they wanted to keep the horrors fresh, but it always felt way too short a span of time for the new status quo to have settled in as solidly as it is. 10 AF should be when humanity's still in survival mode, and governments and coalitions are still forming and collapsing on a daily basis. 20 AF or even 50 AF always felt more believable to me in terms of the state of the system, but that's just me, I guess.), it's time to learn what life is like. And death. And re-life after death. Because the first section is on resleeving!
Basically people aren't terrified of death, murder and violence are mostly treated as property crimes not violations of people's autonomy and freedom to not be fucking killed, people shooting each other is no longer just a videogame, but a normal sport, mostly death just involves a bit of existenial wibbliness immediately post-resleeving and then they get a WELCOME BACK party where people catch them up on anything their backed-up memories missed and then that's kind of it. Also a lot of people are racist against machine morphs since it's considered lower-class as they're often cheaper than biological bodies. It's indicated, fluff-wise, that a lot, if not most, people who resleeve into something other than their birth body eventually need some kind of psychotherapy to deal with it, unless they have the option to buy/sculpt a morph that looks and feels extremely like it.
Basically it's a SOM check to see whether you feel wibbly about it, with no chances of extensive mental trauma or permanent maluses until resleeved. It's a -10 to all actions for at least a day if failed, though(not just physical, as I believe it was in EP1). Bad failures can result in multiple days' worth of penalties, however.
Then a WIL check(at chargen between a 30% and 60% chance to pass it, at base.) to see if having died leaves you feeling wobbly. This means losing some Brain HP if it fails(1d6 or 1d10 depending on how long it was since you last died/how badly you died). Lose too much Brain HP and you go into shock for 1d6 hours and gain a mental illness(you can recover 1d6 Brain HP, or Lucidity(or cure 1 Trauma), to use the actual term, every month if you pass a successful Int check, more if you get therapy. Three months without stress and you can also use a successful Int check to cure yourself of a mental illness.). You will have between 20 and 40 Lucidity at chargen, and losing more than 1/5th of that(4 to 8 Lucidity) in a go(obviously pretty likely from a bad resleeving check...) gets you a Trauma. Traumas are a permanent -10 to all actions until cured.
So uh, clearly while the resleeving is unlikely to directly cause indefinite penalties, the Lucidity loss from resleeving can definitely cause it, and seems quite likely to do it, too.
Also can't get over the fact that like three months of watching movies at home can potentially cure you of the following: Body Dysmorphia, Depression, Schizophrenia, Paranoia, Phobias, PTSD and more! Clearly a nuanced an understanding look at mental illness.
Even when treated, the scars from mental suffering remain. According to some opinions, disorders are never truly eradicated, they are just eased into submission … where they linger beneath the surface, waiting for new traumas to come along.
Which is entirely false in EP2, there are rules for no such things. And that's by no means the end of the Bad Stress Rules for EP2, just the bit I wanted to grab while I was on the subject of Resleeving.///
The next subject is NEW LIFE, i.e. AGI's and Uplifts. AI's are what we have in our time, though more advanced. AGI's are Artificial General Intelligences, i.e. sapient artificial minds. ASI's are Artificial Seed Intelligences, sapient artificial minds that keep building on their own processing power, this is what the TITANs were, and rampancy of such things is a kind of common sci-fi theme. A lot of page space is spent to write: "AGI minds function more or less exactly like human minds, don't sweat the details." and detailing that they function exactly like our brains in, well, pointless detail.
Uplifts are non-humans that have been uplifted to "proper" sapience, longer lifespans, human-sized bodies and often a few extra digits to properly manipulate things(among the known uplifts, including the ones from EP1 that have yet to be repeated here: a bunch of primates, some cetaceans, neanderthals(?), pigs, corvids, parrots, octopusses.).
Together, Uplifts and AGI's tend to be referred to as Mercurials, and often have a shared social movement to not be regarded as sub-human, but at the very least equal to humans, though some also claim superiority to transhumanity. Generally on Venus and farther outsystem than Jupiter, they can generally expect full rights, in Jovian space they can expect no rights, Planetary Consortium and Lunar-Lagrange territory leave specific legislation up to individual habs/cities/corporations which means they're effectively indentured servants or worse in many places. Oddly enough the game kind of justifies some AGI bigotry/racism by clearly stating that they tend to be culled from specific "codelines" which traditionally conform to certain stereotypes such as being lawbreakers, scientists, artists, exhumans, etc. I'm not sure why the game needed this sidebar.
either big people or a small building
NEXT UP: More lore... about the internet.
IT KEEPS LORENING, I mean, happening. I mean here's more setting fluff.Original SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
IT KEEPS LORENING, I mean, happening. I mean here's more setting fluff.
The next bit is about how everyone is extremely online all the time and how the Internet of Things, rather than being declared a war crime, has instead grown to the point where even your fucking candy bar wrapped probably has Wifi so it can tell you how much of the bar is remaining and order you a new one when you're done. The whole Internet of Everything is basically called the Mesh now, just so it sounds a bit more futuristic. It's an interesting setting detail, but also one of the ones that it's easy to forget about. Everyone's constant Mesh input, unless they're Jovians, Neo-Luddites or switch off their Mesh inserts after the first barrage of Consortium ads can put a bit of strain on describing everything. Though it also makes sense that most people would, rather quickly, develop their own arsenal of adblockers and sorters to maintain them with a sane amount of Mesh info rather than an overwhelming amount.
This section also touches on the HYPERPANOPTICON that somewhat complicates running any sort of game with any detail of intrigue anywhere even vaguely civilized, since everything's IOT, everything's a potential surveillance device, and actually doing anything secret would require turning yourself into such a Mesh cold spot that even that, by itself, would be suspicious and point you out to the authorities.
Surveillance, however, is no longer just the province of the elites; it has been democratized. The same interconnectivity and public/ private sensor nets used to track everyday people can be used to monitor authorities. Sousveillance — literally “watching from below” — is a necessary safeguard against abuse and oppression. Everyone has the capability to instantly capture video and share the media widely. It is easier than ever before to expose authorities engaged in crime, corruption, acts of brutality, or sex scandals. Though many elites remain shielded by their privilege, others have seen the end of their careers or even prosecution. Those in power must tread carefully. To prove their integrity, many have adopted new standards of transparency to the public eye. Others, however, rely on social media "influencers" and spin-control teams to protect their images.
the hyperpanopticon is a good thing, actually
I'm not really sure how to take this block of text, it honestly feels so hopelessly naive that it'd fit better in HSD than EP. I just can't wrap my mind around the idea that this level of surveillance would ever serve the people rather than being used as a weapon against them. Though, it'd be a nice change of, well, nuance, if, say, the Planetary Consortium had some degree of internal accountability. Might put them in a light of something slightly less end-stage-capitalism-horror.
So, anyway. Brains. We can edit them like .ini files now, I guess. Also autism, ADHD and Dyslexia(?????) will all be celebrated as merely different ways to exist in the future, rather than potentially life-crippling problems, and no one will use our brain-editing super-capabilities to help the people suffering from these problems.
I mean, okay, I'm not gonna open that can of worms any further. But can we just agree that dyslexia is the odd one out there? It's a literal disability, while you could argue that in a world with a lot more freedom to isolate yourself and not be beholden to current Earth culture/employment requirements, existing with ADHD or autism(at least some kinds) would be a lot easier, dyslexia is just an out-and-out disability. Having ADHD or autism, I could see someone going: "I don't want to be cured of this, because it helps define me." But who the fuck celebrates their dyslexia?
People on the autistic spectrum were among the first to claim the label of neurodiverse. Though many aspects are now reversible, autistic people are free to choose what, if any, changes they wish to make to and for themselves, commonly only treating traits that cause suffering. In some fields, a narrower range of social display and concern is very helpful. Industries like asteroid mining, exoplanet survey, and life in small habitats with few residents can be easier, healthier, and more productive for people with a lower need for social connection.
If you eliminate all the pathologies associated with autism with psychosurgery, leaving just being a bit obsessive and liking to be left alone, is it even autism any longer? "Yes we celebrate your ~neurodiversity~ but only after we edit it to fit in." I feel like there's a statement there and I don't think it's intentional.
Then one paragraph away from celebrating how psychosurgery frees us from being neurotypical, without missing a beat, it launches into how having your brain edited to have no criminal thoughts of a certain kind is part of some penal codes, about how corps mind edit to avoid whistleblowers, spies and disloyal employees and generally every single fucking horror you can imagine from having someone able to edit your fucking brain. I think part of the problem here is how commonplace and easy it makes psychosurgery sound, relatively without danger(I don't think the possibility of psychosurgery going wrong or having unintended consequences is mentioned even once in this section) and not something that requires trained experts. It makes it extremely hard to buy that every single authoritarian or borderline authoritarian state in the system isn't heavily psychosurgerizing their populace for obedience and compliance. Making it a rare and complicated procedure would make it easier to use it for plot hooks, too, instead it's just: "Today Jerry's edited his brain to like licorice more. Good on you, Jerry."
It's funny how after all this relatively soft and poorly-explained sci-fi stuff, the part where the game decides that NO, it's gotta be HARD, SCI, FI, is space travel, explaining that space travel is slow and consumes fuel and is a very precision thing and also that if we spend a month playing videogames on board a spaceship we might have a psychological breakdown. Nice joke, EP, in a hundred pages or so you'll reveal that we cure mental illness precisely by staying alone for three months so we don't accrue any further trauma or stress points. I mean, we have clear communications with an alien species that hardly even uses the same senses we do, achieved in a span of a few short years. We have alien wormholes. We have brain editing. But a space drive would be too sci-fi. Alright.
The section on habs is cool, though, and very handy for someone less experienced with the harder kind of sci-fi. Meathab is still around, by the way, in case anyone wants to visit a huge steak populated by drug addicts and memelords.
The part on nanofabrication is also good, pointing out several important things about nanofabrication: Firstly, you're gonna need a blueprint. Wanna make one yourself? Hope you A) know what you're doing and B) have the time to make the blueprint, that'll probably take weeks for anything that isn't just an inert slab of matter. Secondly, hope you have time, again. If it's bigger than a pair of shoes or a candybar, especially if it involves any complex materials, it won't be done in a few minutes, it'll take a while. Possibly hours. Also a lot of fabbers will be hard-locked to only produce certain blueprints or categories of blueprints, so this isn't going to be System Shock 2 where the same vending machine that gives you a candy bar will also dispense thermobaric rocket warheads. At least not unless you're real good at hacking.
The text also suggests that this will make humanity less eager to hoard things, and less wasteful. Knowing myself, I know that if I could just have a box in the corner of my room spitting out fresh books rather than having to order them, you best believe my home would be covered in books, and I have to make a conscious effort of mind to throw away even stuff I know I'll never use again. Seems more likely you'd open someone's door and get buried in an avalanche of still-warm-from-fabbing(at least you hope that's the source of the warmth) anime figurines.
Yet More Lore MORE LORE
So, hard numbers, only 5% of humanity survived the Fall, and the entire species suffers PTSD even though three weeks of self-care could cure it. And no, I'm not going to get tired of joking about that in response to any statement EP makes about mental illness any time soon. Because fuck that's some stupid writing. Anyway this next chapter just sort of rambles awkwardly and pointlessly about all the things that could destroy us(uplifts, infolife, factors, titans, ourselves, your own skeleton, your own skeleton's ghost) and why we should be afraid. X-Threats from EP1 was, well, the same thing stretched out to an entire book and better written. There it really engaged me, here it just annoys me. It's like reading someone's parody of paranoia.
And at this point it strikes me in concrete words just what it is that's bugging me about all these two-or-three-page lore chapters. It's the fact that three chapters after a chapter lauding the surveilliance because it means we can crowdsource justice and criminal investigation, we get another chapter hissing in terror about the superpanopticon of social media and literal surveillance you have to deal with. And while I can get that idea might be to have multiple biased authors... EP1 did it better. In EP1 it was generally, generally, reasonably clear when it was a "character" speaking to you, rather than godlike narration. But here the characters are so... without character, that it all just feels like narration. So these two clashing chapters don't feel like, say, an Anarchist and a Scum disagreeing on the subject, rather, it feels like two writers who didn't coordinate their sections. If you want to present the disagreeing views... put them in the same fucking chapter, head to head, counter-arguing. Assholes.
Anyway, an actually interesting section and something that can used as a genuine adventure seed is the section on Earth. It starts off with ALL THAT WE LOST FROM LOSING EARTH... which kind of doesn't work unless you play the setting as a lot more post-apocalyptic than it presents itself. ALL THE LOST KNOWLEDGE AND SCIENCE AND ARTS... that certainly don't prevent us from pulling a phased plasma rifle in the 50-megawatt range hot from a fabber forge with the right blueprints or whipping up a hot dozen syringes of cyberheroin or whatever. The generally presented bounty of easily-accessible entertainment, equipment, necessities, employment, etc. really dull whatever feeling they're going for here. But then it gets around to the conflict surrounding Earth, which is that Earth is probably the clearly most dangerous place in Sol at the moment, but even with the damage from the Fall also the most habitable place for humanity, and probably still full of treasures. So the conflict is between the Reclaimers, who want to focus efforts and resources on purging and securing Earth as humanity's again, and the people who feel like they no longer need Earth(or, for instance, in the Consortium's case, that without Earth, they have a better claim to being the new center of humanity). It's nice that they're giving us a baked-in conflict to participate in that people might actually have personal and different opinions on relatively easily, but non-acrimonously.
So uh, after that. Remember what wasn't in EP1? A section on transhuman dicktouching. EP2 has that, a section on transhuman dicktouching. Oh boy. I think this part may just be mostly quotes and I'll let people make up their own minds. I think everyone can tell that I am somewhat negative about this section. There will be the occasional comment, though.
Or, as one philosopher put it just after the Fall, “We’re all genderqueer now.” The XP of them saying this from Luna, with the Earth still burning overhead, remains popular — and controversial.
This is a friendly reminder: gender dysphoria is still a thing. It’s funny that just two hundred years ago people on Earth often assumed you were going to be the gender you were assigned at birth for your whole life. Transgender transition was one of the most radical things you could do; expensive, dangerous, socially ostracising. Now everyone does it and the immortal upper class has their own fucking boutique gender-change BS, resleeving in bodies like new outfits.
Rich people are all about the sex changes now, but people whose lives actually depend on it are still in need. You see, unbeknownst to most Martian gender designers is the fact that some of us still need to be in certain kinds of morphs in order to not go completely insane. If I were sleeved into a “male” body I’d be climbing up the walls; it’d feel wrong, like a second skin I needed to claw off. Everyone may be genderqueer, yadda yadda, but trans people — people who actually need a certain bodily configuration for our mental health — still exist. In huge numbers.
Our needs are met in some places. The Titanian Commonwealth has specific healthcare guidelines for their morph rationing that gives trans people first pick of gender/sex characteristics for any new morphs they may need. Scum swarms? The collective will look after you, and we’ve got whole fucking trans-only ships. On Mars, though? Sucks to be you.
Transphobia isn’t as much of a thing anymore. Even the Jovian Junta lets people transition. But some folks pity us because they think we’re unable to enjoy the full range of gender expression. Well, I got a finger just for them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a drag king show to headline tonight.
I think the weird assumption here is that someone who's not specifically trans/without dysphoria would be able to sleeve into whatever without feeling weird or awkward, like the default is to not have a fixed gender identity, and only Trans people have one, because it's the opposite of what they are??? It feels... off.
Traditional marriage, already rendered a charming anachronism on Earth, went into a steep and terminal decline after the Fall. Even the most conservative elites in the Jovian Republic or the Consortium came to consolidate power in ways besides marriage, so its last utilitarian benefits slowly ebbed away. Functional immortality makes “together forever” feel less like a romantic pledge than a wildly unrealistic expectation. Just as with gender, breaking one psycho-physical barrier sends all the others tumbling down. Dating multiple people at once was already more and more commonplace. After the Fall, it became the norm.
Polyamorous relationships take every conceivable form. Triads or quads of three or four partners, respectively, share a mutual devotion. “Polycules” of intense lovers and some fly-by-night “friends with benefits” are connected in elaborate chemical diagrams of romance.
For immortal upper-class socialites, chasing novelty leads to voracious sex lives that can involve switching partners and morphs multiple times in the course of an evening. For most everyone, however, advanced biomods have all but eliminated sexually transmitted diseases; contraception comes standard these days.
I mean, I know they minimized the potential penalties compared to EP1, but it's still clearly not something you do casually by the actual goddamn rules.
And in case anyone wondered, Synthmorphs can absolutely fuck with the best of them, confirmed by the core rulebook.
however fucking stupid the bulk of this chapter is, this image justifies its existence
How can you stop us when defragging our memories is like masturbation? How do you know I’m not getting off by routing your search query through just the right sets of files? Transhuman laws can’t comprehend logarithmic orgasms.
Generally this entire chapter reads like a right-wing caricature of left-wing sexual attitudes. "IN THE FUTURE EVERYONE WILL HAVE TO FUCK, EVEN THE ROBOTS, AND WE'LL DESTROY ALL MARRIAGE AND MONOGAMY. YOU'LL HAVE TO HAVE TWENTY HUSBANDS. AND YOU'LL BE THE BOTTOM FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM."
Only 20 pages from when we change to a slightly different tenor of deepest lore. Aren't you excited?
It's the Economy, StupidOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
It's the Economy, Stupid
So there are a couple of very, very dull chapters on Space Families and Space Journalists and then we get to Space Money. The intro section for this is, again, dull and then, wonder of wonders... we get a good one. The main reason it's good is that it's actually written with a recognizable voice. Supposedly all of EP2's chapter fluff is either written by characters or excerpts from articles or whatever except literally the voice is so flat and without character that, unlike in EP1, where most chapters generally made it easy to recognize bias, to recognize a speaker imbued with character, this is literally the first time I've gone: "Oh, yeah, it's supposed to be in-fiction fluff rather than divine narration fluff."
When people are motivated to economic activity, they produce all sorts of good things we need. Everything you like, everything you need, and everything on discount sale was all made by motivated workers. Now we need motivated workers to rebuild everything the bad TITANs broke. When people are not motivated they lay about and do nothing and nothing good is made, and then they die. John Ademurewa has seen it. Everyone must participate in the economy so we can rebuild transhumanity and not die.
Firstly there's this chapter written in a way such that it can be read either as completely unironic pro-PC shilling, or as absolutely cutting satire on traditional capitalism in the EP setting. Our narrator here is "John Ademurewa," who describes himself as "a Hypercorp product" and prefers synthmorphs.
Also, many people desire having a body. Users think biomorphs are more comfortable, easier to use, and sexier than synthmorphs. But biomorphs take more resources to produce and maintain. Synthmorphs are very effective and energy-efficient. This makes them very sexy to John Ademurewa! Many people buy fine synthmorphs and are happy for long years. The most popular designs are in the high-efficiency class. These are good starter morphs. Hypercorporations rent these to laborers and sell them to indentured employees upon the completion of their contract. Most people try to upgrade to a new morph with luxury features. It is good they have longterm spending goals! These efficiency synthmorphs are so popular, the media calls them “clanking masses.” Some people are upset about this name. John Ademurewa thinks many different biomorphs are “smelly masses.” John Ademurewa is sorry, that was a rude thing to say.
He's probably an AGI of some sort, but he's an amusing one, describing the system's various economies for us.
Nothing is free, not even food, shelter, medical care, or basic life support. In the LLA and the Republic, consumers who do not participate in the economy will not have currency to purchase basic life-supporting products. These consumers may then permanently divest themselves from the market. This encourages everyone to participate as much as they can.
Most LLA citizens do not have direct access to nanofabrication and so must purchase goods from the hypercorps and habitat administrations that produce them at almost no cost. This makes for considerable profit margins. Excellent! If $firewall_agent remembers how to market around monopolies you will make a good profit in the LLA. Sometimes Lunar habitats have exsurgent outbreaks that drive local market booms, as happened during the Fall! But these opportunities are very rare. Remember, it is against Firewall policy to profit off exsurgent outbreaks you created. This can get you in very much trouble. John Ademurewa knows.
Just look at this magnificent asshole.
Some habitats directly provide free allowances of certain goods or resources, such as food, housing, medical care/maintenance, mesh access, energy, and/or life support. More commonly, habitats charge a tax for which subscribers are granted limited access to nanofabrication. These habitats view it as economically favorable that subscribers do not lose access to life-critical resources due to a temporary lapse in economic activity. These habitats are not as motivated to work hard against the extinction of transhumanity. Sad!
He also doesn't approve of transitional economies since they tend to result in people having basic necessities freely supplied.
Many people use this to acquire personal goods and medical care without participating fully in the economy. The rights of property owners are greatly ignored by citizens. This has undermined many businesses. Venusians were so far from the TITAN attacks they were never motivated to work hard. The failure of this transitional economy can be easily measured. The Constellation has a third as many multi-billionaires per capita compared to the Consortium. Sad!
Just think of all the poor people who don't get the chance to be billionaires. I agree, it's very sad.
Hypercorporations are very easy to set up and dissolve. Some last only hours! Many Firewall agents have set up hypercorporations to hide or profit from their activities. This can be a good way to make money! Just be careful. Hypercorporations can be very competitive. They can deploy sabotage, property damage, misrepresentation, murder, currency manipulation, or other techniques to make themselves more competitive. A citizen committing such acts would be treated as a criminal and punished for interfering with economic activity. Hypercorporations committing such acts are treated with leniency, as they are engaging in market correction! Hypercorporations are considered authorities in this regard, as they own many habitats and police forces.
Please, salute our brave hypercorporations, fighting for our freedoms by blowing up competitors and then saying it was the invisible hand of the free market that made them do it.
In all seriousness, as entertaining as the writing is, it's also actually a very well-written chapter in an informative sense, giving us a good sense of how infugees are abused, how hypercorps have the power they have, how the interior of the PC tends to work, etc. it's laden with things that could be inspiration for games, and the whole section of infugees would make most people eager to go bust out some infomorph slaves.
He also does a good bit to explain how the "traditional" economy varies across the inner system, how some, like Venus and a few LLA habs, are moving towards transitional economies where more basics of life are guaranteed and IP law is less rigidly enforced.
People who follow my advice can accumulate great wealth over the years. Some people have been in the economy for over a century, and own lots of property. They can use their property to acquire more wealth, faster and faster! This is why it is so important to listen to what John Ademurewa has to tell you.
When the Fall came, these people had already purchased property outside of Earth. Their prudent investments made them so much more money when mass genocide spiked off-planet real estate demand. These people now have even more money. Some people say they have more money than there is money. What a dream! Because they are so smart, they can use their money and property to set policy for everyone else. Sometimes these policies may not help workers who are just getting started. But there is nothing to be done, except to amass trillions of credits of wealth over centuries and leverage economic monopolies into political power, in order to establish laws you think are best. The key is patience!
The only thing he doesn't touch much on is the true rep economies, because they pop up in the next chapter. Now, in the original EP, I always felt like the Anarchists were described without any warts whatsoever. The book is clearly still slanted in their favour(a later section really exemplifies it), but at least this time around it's still showing that a rep economy isn't all sunshine and roses.
Essentially, even if you're someone who mostly keeps their head down and just wants to get by, being a bit shy, introverted or committing a single social faux pas because you're in a foreign situation can mark you for life. So much for the enlightened anarchists, I guess. The description of anarchist habs also in some parts seems to realize that anarchist habs that were truly anarchist, with no authorities or oversight, would survive roughly five minutes. Noting that anarchist fabbers tend to maintain production logs that the Anarchist Police(whoever chooses that job, better hope they're competent, I guess) will pore over to see if you've been spending feedstock on making knockoff dragon dildos or nuclear weapons. Sure hope you trust them not to ding the rep you rely on to trade for stuff because they don't like the particular poster you printed for your wall.
Different communities establish different methods for approving use of collective resources. On technosocialist Titan, special requests or changes to allowances are put to an immediate vote over the mesh, based on the value of the request (if public) and the requestor’s reputation. Many habitats have an AI or a review board established to moderate requests. Scum and other anarchist groups rely on more complex, decentralized methods (I know of at least one scum swarm that requires public performances, bake offs, or trial by combat, depending on the day of the week).
I do feel like the Scum in EP1 felt more like Mad Max Warboys with spaceships than fishmalks like they're presented here at times, though. Maybe that was just me.
The fluff also points out that even the ENLIGHTENED ANARCHISTS sometimes end up with literal fistfights over who gets to be first in line for a public fabricator.
Autonomists sometimes have difficulties with long-term projects, as participation initially spikes with interest, then drops off over time or the group gets tied up with political in-fighting. Many cooperatives also suffer from creating monocultures, as individuals with unpopular views are singled out of the social network. Maintaining a diversity of ideologies can be difficult and is expensive in a consensus-driven organization.
Again, I apologize for this post being so quote heavy. But for all the shit I gave the rest of the writing, this is the first time it feels like EP2's writing has both humour and doesn't clearly fellate the authors' favoured political perspective disregarding all actual evidence. Though the writing isn't quite perfect...
While the reputation system rewards pro-social behaviors, it does have its flaws. There are a lot of reasons an individual might not get the rep they deserve: an uncouth manner, unpopular political views, timidity, public failures, modesty, overzealous privacy, work going unpublicized, unsavory morphological features, or just bad luck. Social cliques can unbalance reputation networks, as a small group of associates consistently boost each other’s reputation or publicize each other’s work, while quashing others. Bad actors can use sock puppets and conspirators to game the system. Reputation has a tendency to spike, as particular events catch media attention and go viral. Individuals can hire image managers or even abandon an identity altogether. Time eventually corrects imbalances, as the community forgets past events and reputation scores naturally balance out.
"So the system is actually terrible garbage but, uh, if you don't get murdered by a mob due to social media insanity, eventually people might forget! Honest!"
a day in the inner system: bad, a day in the outer system: good! very nuanced writing, chucklefucks
Be Gay, Do Crime
No seriously, that's basically the sub-header for the next chapter. I'm not fucking with you, look at page 146 if you own the EP2 .PDF.
This chapter's another one that's very good. It doesn't have any real personality to it like the economy one, but what it does have is shitloads of info that's suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper relevant and which the EP1 corebook lacked. Again, it may have come up in Panopticon, the only book I never gave a shit about for EP1, but here's the thing. You know what this chapter has? How fucking law enforcement and crime investigation(and doing crime and getting away with crime) works in the Sol system. Stuff about how laws differ from region to region, about how cross-jurisdictional chases happen, what sort of evidence is accessible to the cops, and how the scum can try to hide it.
Prison has largely been replaced as the preferred method of punishment. In the inner system, most offenders suffer financial consequences: liens, fines, property seizure, and, in extreme cases, indentured servitude. Morphs are considered property, so sentencing can involve the seizure of your own body
This is the sort of thing I love, where EP starts inching up to what I consider some of the hard sci-fi/transhumanity writing greats, when it actually starts considering the consequences of its society and how it might change something as basic as how we perceive our bodies, inextricably as part of us, or just something we own. It's good shit.
Extropia's also persistently great, as it's either AnCap heaven or AnCap hell depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, considering that you have to pay not only to be covered under the law, or to be protected by the cops, or to be seen by a doctor, but also to have access to the communal life support resources.
Take note of the breadth of coverage you select; security firms typically place drone silos around the habitat for emergency EMT services and rapid armed response, but such protections are not available with all plans. Unprotected people can be attacked or robbed at will. Other services such as healthcare, transportation, backups, education, and insurance must also be purchased. To even enter an Extropian habitat, you must sign an access, usage, and life-support rental agreement with the owning entity. Various hypercorps offer package bundles for these services.
As for the autonomists...
There are no police, so trangressions are handled by a community response. This can range from bystanders attempting to diffuse a situation to intervention by an armed posse of nearby residents. The entire community polices itself.
If an investigation is called for, locals will convene an ad-hoc task force to handle the matter. Residents freely carry weapons to deal with anyone who breaks the peace
luv2be investigated by some random moron who read Sherlock Holmes once and whose omegaverse fanfics are in high demand, judged by a guy who watched a lot of Judge Judy but is really popular with the locals and then gunned down by a bunch of heavily armed bystanders because I farted in a slightly threatening way. I honestly think I'd rather have fucking Extropia.
Be gayer, do more crimes
So that was a chapter on the unfun things that can happen to you if you do crime. Next up there's a chapter on what fun things you can do that constitute crimes in space. To summarize!
*Murder is now property damage, if you really want to get those wanted posters up, you have to sink an entire hab and graduate to the level of "enemy combatant" rather than mere criminal.
*Stealing stuff is still a classic way to make people clamour for beating your head in or, in autonomist circles, insisting that you sign up for "voluntary" psychosurgery or get exiled. Because they're too civilized for forced psychosurgery, you see.
*Cracking Space Denuvo is now an even bigger crime since you can, in fact, download a car. You can even download two cars and a nuclear weapon.
*Drugs and gambling are no longer crimes in most places, and sex work has been recognized by most as actual work.
*Stealing, copying and selling egos are also crimes. Unless they're infugees and you're a billionaire, then it's just good business sense. See it's a funny joke because the rich are soulless assholes who'd do it in a heartbeat if they could.
*Oh and, of course, the one thing every faction can agree you should be shot, resleeved, shot again, and then had your cortical stack cracked like a walnut for: Intentionally subjecting everyone to more TITAN assholery by being a careless or greedy fuckwit around their leftovers.
Thirteen Clans of Space Vamp- I Mean, Space CapitalistsOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
Thirteen Clans of Space Vamp- I Mean, Space Capitalists
So this is the FACTIONS!!!!! chapter and honestly for someone new to the game, it might be interesting, but to the rest of us, it's kind of old hat. Still, for anyone here baffled by all the terms we keep going over, here's a rundown.
We start with the Inner System factions:
LLA(Lunar-Lagrange Alliance): Luna and near-Earth environs. They're capitalists and, for some reason, primarily Indian in culture. They have a lot of reclaimers, that's their entire faction theming. Tend to not be blamed for as many crimes as the PC.
The Morningstar Constellation: Venus and Venus-nearby areas. They're capitalism with a human face, i.e. you won't have to pay for your oxygen and some amount of open-source fabber stuff is available. Split from the PC over a disagreement about Venusian terraforming, the MC wanted to terraform at a slower scale that would leave the surface mostly as it was and just make it more easily settled with aerostats and with a novel aerial ecosystem, PC wanted to just wham it with the heavy terraforming gear until it was as Earthlike as possible.
The Planetary Consortium: They're on Mars and they're more or less the generic political villains of the game because the Jovians never get to do anything. They're also host to both Project Ozma, the generic supervillain badguy faction and Oversight, the Lawful Neutral faction that UPHOLDS THE LAW!!!!! whether that means arresting an executive for fucking a space whale without consent or breaking up a union strike.
Tharsis League: I don't know if these guys ever existed in the original, I don't recall them and honestly they don't really have a reason to exist. They're Mars' theoretical-but-toothless non-corporate government. Theoretically they might be roused into something approaching an actual Martian state, but the writing makes this feel extremely unlikely.
And then the Outer System Factions:
Anarchists: The author argues that if being selfish would rock the boat and get everyone drowned, no one would rock the boat, and that's why Anarchism always works and never goes wrong and collectivism is perfect.
The Autonomist Alliance: Not sure why this wasn't just folded in with the Anarchists, since the AA is literally just an organized way of going: "Hello, other Anarchists, I would like some help not getting violated by these capitalists/Jovians/aliens/ultimates. Halp."
Extropians: Extropians are great, because they're literally capitalism with all the brakes off. You dock at an Extropian station? Better be ready to pay a life support subscription before disembarking. You actually disembark? Better sign up for some law, order and policing, otherwise someone can brain you and steal your shit with no repercussions. The only law is contract law. It's great because it's the sort of place where EP approaches Planescape in having philosophical guilds rather than governments, a bunch of maniacs willing to take their philosophy to its utmost limit and live every aspect of their lives by it. While in practice living in an Extropian locale would probably be awful, mostly it comes across as the Planetary Consortium but with just enough of a dose of black humour that you can work with it as a GM rather than it just being a monolith that squelches most options for fun.
The Jovian Republic: EP always feels like it's vague on how well-settled the system was before the Fall, but apparently it was well-settled enough for Russia, China, the US and Chile(?) to have space fleets, and the strength of them were all near Jupiter when the Fall happened. The Chileans and Americans pounced on the other two, destroyed them, and seized all of the embryonic Jovian colonies to create the Jovian Republic. They also, somehow, have the strongest military in the system. This remains weird because their habs are all described as being universally shitty and overcrowded, so strength of numbers would be difficult compared to, say, Titan or Mars, which can colonize most of an entire world if they want to, for healthy growth. They reject a lot of tech the other factions can use, so it's not a tech advantage. Maybe they've still got the remnants of the original space fleets and no one else has managed to build up enough of an actual fleet to challenge their space dominance? Could be, but it sure feels like the other factions weren't lacking the infrastructure for a bunch of other huge projects.
Scum: Space Fishmalk Mafia.
Titanian Commonwealth: Scandinavian Democratic Socialists in Space. They're so perfect that it's a bit offensive. Like they literally have no flaws. Everyone has everything they need, they've got super high tech, they've got no regressive social policies, they're living on one of the better pieces of real estate in our Solar system and they've even got a powerful military. Titan is, as a result, probably the most meaningless location in the game as no one would ever need to go there for any reason except a relaxing holiday.
There are also Social Movements without any specific bases of operation:
The Argonauts: Open-source all knowledge and science. They share all knowledge and require all projects they collaborate on to be open-sourced, but somehow manage to leverage this into having everything from their own habs to their own heavy security force and a massive research budget. I guess Space Patreon pays sweet buckazoids.
Barsoomians: Free Mars agitators.
Bioconservatives: Jovians and Anprims.
Brinkers: They like to be alone.
Exhumans: Gonna turn myself into a big blob of brain OR something out of Alien so some protagonists can come running by and shoot me while I espouse my manifesto that's 90%
Mercurials: Uplifts and AGI's who try to make their own cultures that aren't just copies of human culture. This would make more sense if the game's writing ever gave a sense that neo-octopi, neo-avians, neo-primates, neo-pigs, AGI's, etc. actually thought or experienced in any way markedly different from humans. Instead it just makes them come across as either Uplift-supremacists or borderline-Exhumans.
Reclaimers: Gibe back Earth plz.
Sapients: Not sure, again, why this is even listed as a faction, since it's just "these people think Uplifts deserve equal rights."
Ultimate communities are highly stratified and built around personal achievement. They take literally the Confucian belief of strength from the bottom up: strong individuals make strong communities, and strong communities make strong states.
As before, if you actually read their core philosophy rather than decrying them as fascists out of hand, they're not fundamentally bad, but any sort of ideology like that will tend to attract people who regards themselves as fundamentally strong and therefore others as weak. So it's easy to see why they're an even mix of people in there for personal improvement and giving their best to the world, and people in there so they can get back at the genetrash who bullied them in an MMO last week.
They also get to have this sidebar which is...
In AF 4, a high-ranking Ultimate known as Yasuke, disillusioned with the Ultimates’ drift towards fascism and disdain for the rest of transhumanity, broke from the faction and embarked on musha shugyō, the samurai warrior’s pilgrimage. He wandered the Solar System for the next three years, fighting duels, working mercenary contracts, creating art, and formalizing his neo-bushido philosophy. In time, he attracted followers, in part due to his willingness to train uplifts and AGIs at his isolated dojo in the caldera of Olympus Mons on Mars. Although a tiny faction, the shugyōsha have a formidable reputation as warriors and protectors of working-class Martians — and the undying enmity of the Ultimates, who consider Yasuke a traitor.
...I mean it's definitely some absolute weeb's PC.
After this great art of a guy doing something while a ghost dolphin watches, there's a list of hypercorps which exists almost primarily so you have some names to drop. None of them, Zrbny Group excepted(their thing is that post-Fall they suddenly fired every single employee and now continue to operate in total radio silence. Entirely operated by AI that never communicates out-company but offer very good deals on materials. Spooky.), generate any plot hooks. This leads into the Religion chapter.
Certainly, younger generations took the mask off of religion, seeing that underneath it is just another ideology, and one that did not always adapt quickly to the world's changing values. Religion was one of the most successful early memeplexes in human society, but it did not hold up well in an ecosystem of memeplexes.
"God was a good meme for his time, but he just couldn't hold a candle to planking." According to the author, the TITANs destroyed the rest of humanity's faith because when you're truly in danger and everything is fucked, that's when you become an atheist on the spot.
Catholics: Mostly all evil conservatives. But what about in EP? I kid, but this is seriously how the game presents them since their major stronghold is among the Jovians.
Hindus: Enlightened and thriving. Untouchables are often forced to sleeve into shitty Case morphs, though.
Islam: For some reason, Mars is the primary home of Islam now. They've moved with the times in ways that the setting's Catholics have apparently been unable to.
Judaism: Of course their main goal is to reclaim Israel on Earth.
Mormons: Still preaching.
Pagans: The Jovians apparently have a lot of Wiccans and of course the fucking Asatru are popular on Titan, goddamn.
The New Boys on the Block: Neo-Buddhism(cybernetics are enlightenment), Technocreationism(no mentions of what they believe in except that the Fall was divine punishment), TITAN worship(they become as gods, so maybe they are gods, makes u think...........) and Xenodeism(what if Jesus was actually an alien grey?).
Afterwards there's a System Gazeteer and... seriously the factions already tell you mostly what you need to know. It's the same goddamn planets and space rocks. The only things of note are that Iapetus, a large chunk of Mars and a chunk of Luna are all still considered hazardous areas full of TITAN activity. Oh and some TITAN on Mercury tried to create a literal human centipede for whatever reason and then crashed when it tried to add itself to the party.
Mostly the useful info there is in describing some exoplanets in case you want to run a Gatecrashing campaign. One of the ones it includes is Giza which was also in the Gatecrashing supplement for EP1. It was always one of the oddest additions considering it was one that you literally could not use. See, it was basically a planet full of Alien Omegle Devices, which humans had used plentifully to swap dick pics(I wish I was kidding) with aliens and occasionally get traded blueprints that would explode in their faces when fabbed. Firewall then promptly smuggled a nuke through to blow up the Giza end of the connection so no one could use it, it canonically remains nuked. So there's no connection to the world. You can't visit it. It feels like one guy on the team thought it'd be funny and then everyone else went "NO, THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO REMAIN IN OUR VERY SERIOUS SETTING." so they had it blown up.
cyberbarian vs scorpimancer
We then get abruptly dumped into the combat section. I'll note that we still haven't reached several sections necessary for chargen(gear, async abilities) but they decided combat was where we needed to go next. It starts out by telling us to declare our actions in order of initiative... without telling us how to determine initiative. I wonder if I've just missed it somehow, go to the index, and learn that when we're now on page 202, combat, the place where initiative actually matters, our actual init rules are way the fuck back on page 33 in the middle of chargen, basically. WHY.
Anyway, EP2 is one of those games that loves its fucking rolls. No static defenses for us, every single attack is at minimum an attack roll and a defense roll. Can't have the players not exercising their wrists regularly. Then you roll to see how hard to bonk someone, subtract armor and then hurt 'em real bad if you roll high enough on your damage.
For simplicity's sake, all the weapons and armor are also statted and have their costs listed in this section of the book, rather than the Gear section which is a literal hundred pages further into the book. The costs aren't even replicated there so you can do all your shopping/gearing checkups in one easy part of the book. And no, the 100 pages in between the two have nothing to do with either combat or gear. This is also where the book's typos first throw me for a loop. Now, so far I haven't commented on how shoddy the editing has been in terms of spelling/typos, but there are an embarrassing amount of dropped letters and misspellings compared to most books, even stuff like Kromore I felt had better editing in that regard. But this time it actually interferes, see:
Note the formatting. Every piece of gear has something like Min/R/1 listed for it. The first is the acquisition difficulty if gotten via Rep, the last is the cost if bought with Resources or Gear Points, and the R is if it's something that the locals might ask questions if you try to fab/buy/bring, like a nuclear warhead or a bag of anthrax.
The Rep difficulty and Gear point cost is in lockstep. Min/1, Mod/2, Maj/3 and then all of a sudden just Rare in the middle of it. Which is weird, because there IS a cost listed for Rare stuff... 100 pages later, 5+, but here it's hard to tell if it's intended as a "you can't just buy this" or is a fucking typo, because there are plenty of them as it is.
Also, fuck the EP2 devs. Anyone who's played EP1 will surely remember that a laser sight or smartlink targeting would help you aim a weapon, +10 to hit. Here, they flipped it around, there's a default -10 to hit if you don't have that. Thank you for the ass-backwards extra shit to remember, assholes.
Some of the damage values are also... so a club does 1d10 damage. A thrown baseball? 1d6+1. Hitting someone with a small robot? 1d6. I'm just glad that at least there are actually damage values for using synthmorphs and biomorphs as improvised bludgeoning weapons. Any time you're firing a single-shot weapon, you can use a quick action to aim and a complex to fire. You can always do a quick and a complex action together. With these weapons you have no other good use for your quick action 99% of the time, why not just give those weapons or single-shot attacks a default +10 to hit rather than gating that behind the player remembering to call out an aim? This also invalidates half of Burst Fire, where you can choose to get either +10 to hit or to do +1d10 damage with three shots. There's never any reason to do a +10 to hit burst shot when you can just do a +10 to hit aimed single shot and waste less ammo.
Spray weapons fire in a Cone(they're the only kind that does), at 10 meters or less, Cone weapons(by which they mean Spray weapons but don't write so) do +1d10 damage. Almost all Spray weapons barely have range greater than ten meters, meaning that in almost all situations they'll be getting the bonus. Why not just increase their default damage and make them do less at their extreme range to cut down the number of multipliers players will generally have to keep in mind?
In this chapter's defense, in between the remarkably shitty editing, they do manage to give us weapons to use a slightly larger variety of weapons. Missiles and plasma rifles are now actually competitive with Railgun Machineguns for total damage output. Melee has inexplicably been stripped of it's SOM bonus to damage and isn't really too great a thing to focus on outside of the inherent stealth involved in not having any loud gunfire, since you'll have a hard time chewing through the armor and DUR pools of a lot of morphs in time to make it a stealthy takedown in any case. Still, there's a lot more reason to branch into weapons other than SHOOT BULIT now. But it feels like there are also more moving parts to remember since fiddly shit like reach and size categories impacting melee feels more present than it was in EP1's combat(or maybe I'm just not remembering all the gritty details of that too clearly).
In Conclusion: I hate the combat less, but the editor more. Next time: Space magic?????
The Part That Comes NextOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
The Part That Comes Next
So, to recap, the combat is workable, but feels fiddlier and more laden with hard-to-remember modifiers than EP1's, though that may just be down to the editing, while the weapon balance seems generally improved(though again the editing made it take longer to figure some of it out than I should have). After the combat chapter is the Various Sidemechanics Section, including stuff that we've already bungled into before, like the hilariously mismanaged mental health mechanics. In between this there's also some quite good art.
while I appreciate cool spaceman shooting art I'm really starting to wonder where the spaceman horror aspect is...
There's also stuff like morph sizes and how they affect a bunch of stuff, really very interesting except that only Neo-Avians, Neotenics and a couple of synthmorphs interact with size at all. Even Nova Crabs, who are fucking huge(by their own art and the one size mentioned they should be like five meters long), still count as normal person sized. Thus this whole thing really doesn't matter unless you're adding novel morphs to the game.
Right after that comes the section on social skills which is largely uninteresting except that it includes a bit on using social skills in combat:
Provoke skill can be used in a number of offensive ways during action scenes.The following examples show what you can accomplish with a successful opposed test, pitting your Provoke skill against their WIL Check.
Calm: You temporarily soothe an opponent into pausing hostilities.
Fluster: You discombobulate or confuse an opponent; they suffer –10 to their next action. Increase this by an additional –10 per superior success.
So, to recap. Spares are free Morphs. Nothing indicates that Spares have no communications options, thus, they can speak. Forking yourself is essentially just copy-pasting your brain software. You now have 100 Spares with copies of yourself, and thus copies of all your Aptitudes and Skills. Any time you get into a fight, your Spares all yell at the enemy until they either get calmed down long enough for you to shoot them, or suffer enough cumulative penalties from being Flustered to not be able to act, and then you shoot them, since nothing seems to indicate a maximum penalty they can suffer. Now, the GM can apply all sorts of "reasonable" penalties from an associated table, but as long as you've got your Provoke at its max, it should still rattle out as a 30% chance of success for you, meaning you just need enough rolls that you succeed on where the enemy fails since they will always have at least a 10% chance of failure.
For anyone worshipping at the Altar of Verisimillitude, Eclipse Phase 2 also has no concept of terminal velocity since falling damage increases linearly beyond 8 meters with no upper cap.
EP2 does not in fact feature any sort of swarm missile launchers
The Part That Came Next... On The Internet! In Space. The Space Internet.
Mostly this is repeating shit we already know, like how Everyone And Everything Is Always Online. You're online, your fridge is online, your cat is online, I'm online, the exsurgents are online and shitposting aggressively probably. Unless you're a FILTHY BIOCON in which case you get a penalty for using an external device for your always internet. There's also a section on what people use the Future Space Internet for. Surprise, it's the exactly shit we use it for in 2019, you fuckwit and is probably the most aggressively pointless and useless part of this book unless a physical copy survives the apocalypse and a bunch of cave people pick it up and decide to roleplay as nerds in the far space-future. The Always Being Online is also extremely stupid for the large part of the populace that are in Pods or Synthmorphs since their cyberbrains can quite literally be hacked and someone can delete them from their own brain or steal their bodies. Like, especially a populace whose main existential threat is super-intelligent AI's known for deploying extremely advanced hacks. You'd want to air gap the fuck out of your cyberbrain and only stick with external devices unless you were an incredible moron.
I'll also note that any time someone is doing anything related to data that takes time, there's a note that "if you do this in VR you can do it SUPER FAST because it'll be an ACCELERATED TIME SIMULSPACE," and considering the omnipresence of internet tech it makes me wonder why this isn't just the default time things take and then there could be a note in one place going: "Hey if you're doing this in the space boonies with no VR space internet, it takes X time longer."
Now, I'll give them that the hacking rules feel like they have a more detailed write-up this time around, and that it feels less like "roll computer skill and see what the GM lets you do." and more like an actual part of the system, but does feel cluttered by a bunch of, well, pointless clutter. Like they needed to specifically write up that if you were logged into a system, one of the actions you could take? To log off. Oooooooooooooooooh. Amazing. Idiots.
This is also the first section that really deals with Muses which were always one of my least favourite things about the original EP. To recap, Muses are your personal cyber space secretaries that are always with you, straight from chargen and which you have probably programmed to behave in such a way that you enjoy having them around. In EP1 they were even worse because they were literally separate characters with their own skill ratings, and asking players to play two characters at once is a bit much. Here, they have no skills but instead suggest that the GM roleplay the muses instead. Hope you like having [number of PC's] extra NPC's present in every scene that you need to keep track of! They seriously add nothing to the game except as a fluff point.
Oh and it deals with Infomorphs. Infomorphs are another bad part of the game to even suggest as a PC option. See, imagine you had a PC that didn't have a corporeal body, and could only interact through hacking. Meaning that in any given adventure you would be forced to add an equal amount of hacking content otherwise he'd just be twiddling his thumbs and playing the peanut gallery unless some other PC had a turreted weapon on his morph for him to play with or similar. And even then, if you give him his hacking adventure, he's basically playing a separate game next to the other PC's, never quite touching them.
This post lacked focus because it was an entire section of the book lacking focus, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of fiddly details and manifold dice roll modifiers.
Next time: Did they fuck up Psi again? Of course they fucked up Psi again.
The Space Wizard Casts Space FireballOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
The Space Wizard Casts Space Fireball
So EP1 had Asyncs which were more or less universally a joke. You could only use biomorphs(Exsurgents could have psi and be synthetic, though, so this is a limitation for ?????? reasons) or you'd go insane, and the powers themselves were thoroughly useless. There were a few very niche uses if you were Gatecrashing, some stuff that could be useful in first-encounter situations/with alien tech, but even so only in a very limited sense, and all of one attack power that would let you do less damage than literally any non-improvised weapon and only against biomorphs. Just bringing a knife would have been a better use of your time. Aside from that, Asyncs, as some people have already mentioned, were caused by an offshoot of the Exsurgent virus that didn't turn you into a space blob, as a side effect a bunch of exoplanet stuff was also supposed to have spooky and vague reactions to you. Almost all of them were in the "we wrote some vague shit, mr GM plz finish our essay for us" except for one, a giant fungus planet where asyncs were the only ones not instantly targeted for eating by the local wildlife.
Exsurgents were the ones who got actually useful psi abilities, being able to break the laws of physics to some extent, being proper space wizards, but to access any of their powers you had to reach the "book says you're now an NPC"-level of infection.
Wait, EP has Psi? As in psionics? In their 'hard sci-fi' setting?
As for EP being a hard sci-fi setting. Allow me to fucking cackle my ass off. They've got magic nanoconstruction, magic brain editing, magic FTL gates, utterly effortless genetic engineering, etc. If anything it's where EP tries its damndest to be "hard" to limit your fun(like physical travel speeds to ensure people have to deal with enforced egocasting and resleeving stuff) that stands out the most, rather than the "soft" parts. Now, EP would definitely benefit from being a "harder" setting, where all of these things come with some sort of limits and dangers, like nanofabricators can be hacked to suddenly become gray goo hazards, etc. and thus aren't on every street corner, if brain editing didn't give us "autism, but now it's perfect," if genetic engineering of morphs took more than a couple of years to crank out a perfect, flawless new line, etc. It would give players some limitations to work around, would result in less furious blowjobs for the anarchist factions from the writers, etc.
Anyway, we were here to talk about space wizards and whether EP2 has unfucked them any.
I don't know what happened, all I did was ask them to read the Eclipse Phase async rules...
Note that what's represented in this image is not actually anything that EP psi can cause. While it stays strictly on the telepathy side of things, and even that's fine, at no point does it have any high-tier effects like dropping a room full of people with brain haemorrhages or anything. Not even for the Exsurgents.
So the first change they made is that now, if you have Psi, you also need to have a mental illness, because it was clearly overpowered in EP1 and needed some limitations. Our powers are split into Psi-Chi, which are basically just passive bonuses that tend to be extremely niche and/or extremely dull, and Psi-Gamma, which are active abilities. Also ooooh noooo if we use our powers too much THE INFECTION awakens and forces tedious roleplay limitations on us, oh no. I guess I underestimated EP2 psi, it clearly has time travel powers back to the era of 90's game design where roleplay penalties are an actual thing.
Anyway, our mental illness is split into one of five "strains." There's the Architect(you want to do and try new things, so basically you're a PC), the Beast(you want to go new places and kill new things, so basically you're a PC), the Haunter(you're twitchy and scared), the Stranger(your character is quietly controlled and guided by an external presence, so they're basically a PC) or the Xenomorph(they're now a Xenofurry and want to fursuit as their TRUE XENO IDENTITY and also build their TRUE XENO LAIR and sometimes they make STRANGE XENO GESTURES that would make sense to their XENOSONA but not to NORMIES).
If you use enough Psi Gamma stuff and flub an INFECTION ROLL then the GM gets to take over your character either during downtime or at some vaguely defined "critical point." The latter will always be critical failures, like the infection will never do something weird and alien, like altering your target during a combat to prioritize something else, no, it'll always just straight make you fuck up hardcore. Additionally it may make your brain bleed. Like, what I feel is missing here is that this is the same shit as Exalted's virtues, this just encourages the player to armor up against having to play along with the virus. If this was done right, playing along with the virus would instead give bonuses. Like, say you sate the Xenomorph strain by making your personal quarters basically a swamp or something, sleeving into something similar to what it wants to be, then maybe it'll give you access to special Xenomorph-only powers or give you free boosts to your powers. Instead it's the opposite, you pay a penalty for not playing along, but there's no bonus for playing along. No encouragement. All stick and zero carrot. This is not good game design.
All five strains basically have the same Bad Effects that they can trigger aside from the above. They can make your brain bleed, then they have four options for temporary mental illnesses/defects like hoarding, arrogance, sociopathy, hiding in a closet, sabotaging your friends, etc. and then one Apex Bad Thing that's usually a bit different, like the Beast has a melee combat frenzy(in a game where melee combat is distinctly the inferior choice in most situations), the Haunter hallucinates and the Xenomorph fursuits.
These are all passive benefits, and I won't deny that some of them are undeniably useful. A flat initiative bonus, regaining more pool points on your short recharges and permanent pool increases that go with your ego rather than your morph are all quite strong options.
Likewise, Grok, Xeno-Empathy and Eco-Empathy could all be useful on Gatecrashing-focused campaigns. But aside from those three, none of these let you do anything new, they're just fiddly little bonuses along the lines of 3e D&D feats which primarily interact with an un-necessary subsystem(psionic combat/opposed tests) or give you niche bonuses that you'll be arguing with the GM about forever(like what exactly defines something that gets a bonus from superior calculation or "creative thinking."). I also like Enhanced Memory, the power easily simulated in any online game by just scrolling up in the chat log. Truly impressive.
But hey, you never know, maybe PSI GAMMA, the selection of powers so immense they need to be balanced out by non-consensual fursuiting and brain haemorrhages, will impress us more.
There's definitely a larger selection of things we can actually do, and some of them work quite well with stealthy approaches, like Aphasia and Basilisk Stare to lock down someone so the team can quietly handle them. The main problem is that most security and surveillance is almost entirely likely to be handled by AGI's, bots and pod morphs, all of which have cyberbrains and won't give a shit about your tricks. Though since, per the fluff, they're probably morons who left their brain wifi on, the team's hacker can just delete their brains from a city block over.
However, while all these powers look quite handy, keep in mind that none of them can have a range greater than a few meters and that any time you flub a mental attack, the target is instantly aware that someone tried to affect them, and you can expect that most targets will have at minimum a TN of 45 on their counter roll, upped to a minimum of 75 if they're actively trying to resist being fucked with.
The powers themselves, I'd say, are actually a step up in usefulness from EP1, just... not being usable against a good 60% or so of the setting's potential targets(or possibly more, since most infugees get pod/synthmorphs, not biomorphs, which are generally considered to be somewhat upscale), combined with terrible range options, being relatively easy to resist, your brain bleeding when you try to use the powers and some of these powers being more appropriate for villains than protagonists(like the long-term memory implantation or being able to induce stress damage, I can only imagine the GM crying if the players are forcing him to track developing mental illnesses and other brain stats for random NPC's). Mindlink could serve as a great alternative to brain wifi on ops... except for the 10-meter maximum range limit which kind of negates the usefulness somewhat.
Literally a hacker has more control over machine minds than Asyncs have over biological minds, and there are more machine minds around to affect.
I mean, if they scrapped the moron penalties for actually using your expensive powers, maybe gave asyncs something that affected cyberbrains at all, they wouldn't suck shit. But as it is there's relatively little they do that can't be replicated better and with less extraneous costs by technology.
The main situation where it would be extremely handy would be if you were somehow in a situation with no actual weapons and everyone was in a biomorph, which seems super niche and also like it would have to be constructed specifically to fete the async and punish everyone else.
But wait, what's this???? A THIRD TIER OF PSI????
For exsurgents only. But what fantabulous powers do they get to threaten our protagonists with?
Firstly there's "destroy all synthmorphs and pods within a 10-meter range with no save." That's a pretty fucking strong start. Secondly there's "make anyone who isn't specifically expecting this and have declared they guard against it, and thus get a save, have to roll on a 1d10 table to determine how their becoming KO'd and defenseless is described." Then presumably the Exsurgent teabags them and kills them. There's levitation. Do frosty damage equal to a good weapon with no attack roll or save. Disable a biological morph with no roll or save(presumably there'd still be the psi defense roll, but it doesn't say). Disabling lights and lasers. Turning invisible. Mind control a PC, it doesn't specify that it only affects biomorphs. Set people on fire in a way that functions mechanically exactly like freezing them but does damage faster. And "make PC unplayable by deleting all his memories."
I mean, I wanted some space magic, but somehow this is... dull space magic? Like there's nothing really alien about this. Pretty sure half of these powers are just copied out of Firestarter.
You couldn't even fix Asynchs by giving them access to this because it would generally just give them access to a bunch of dull save-or-die shit. I can appreciate wanting to leave Asynchs with access only to various forms of "telepathy," to maintain a bit of that hard sci-fi cred, but... considering the investment that it requires, at chargen, to have a decent selection of Asynch powers, you're giving up a lot of more conventionally and generally useful stuff for this.
It just feels like it needs a rework from the bottom up. Start making the strains about the carrot rather than the stick, have Psi-Chi be strain-specific boosts you get for playing along. The Architect gives you inspiration for new blueprints, the Beast lets you see the perfect way to tear into an enemy, the Haunter shows you how to keep yourself hidden, the Stranger tells you secrets and the Xenomorph gives you comfort and advice in strange and unfamiliar situations, making you feel more at home there than in familiar ones. Let Psi-Gamma be flavoured by your strain, too, to give it some personality.
The Architect constructs memories and links minds, the Beast terrifies and causes pain, the Haunter blocks you from others perception, the Stranger puppeteers enemies and the Xenomorph twists their minds into new and strange forms of thought. Maybe at apex, each of them gains access to one exsurgent-level power. The Architect can create and reshape matter Ex Nihilo, the Beast can destroy others at a touch, the Haunter can turn physically invisible, the Stranger... something? That's the one that seems to lack the most characterization. The Xenomorph can actively(permanently or not) reshape the host's morph into a shape perfect for its environment(stealth, combat, hostile conditions, blending in, etc.).
Like it feels wasted that they spend time trying to differentiate the five strains in their penalties, but then not at all in what they can actually do.
Also, sidebar on the Lost: Basically a corp went "hyuck what if instead of corporating all those bodiless infugees, we vat-grew a bunch of kids in super-sweet morphs and then ran through through countless cycles of being raised in time-accelerated VR!" and then 90% of the kids turned out to be screaming sociopaths because this was not a smart plan and they all broke out of their cyberprison, killed all the doctors and scattered to the far reaches of the system and they're also all Asynchs and most of them are still at large.
Next: Gear! Gamemastering! Bad Spacemans That Are Not Good! Cute Cybermice!
Minor NotesOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
So, in between reviewing EP2, I've been trying to set up a game of it, and it's been driving us crazy because of how poorly organized the book is. As well as stuff like... on page 217, in the gear chapter, there's the Self-Healing mod for armor that repairs 1d10 points of armor value per hour.
You know what's not in the game anywhere I've been able to find? Any mechanics for armor taking damage from attacks that reduces its armor value. I'll be honest, it might not have been a bad idea that armor can only absorb X damage and then it starts coming apart, just so sufficient volume of small attacks could still eventually wear down large targets, thus making it less hard to accidentally stat enemies that the PC's couldn't hurt, or PC's that cannot be hurt by the enemy. But it's not in there anyway.
The Part After Space Brain Magic: Miscellaneous Stuff
This is the section that deals with psychosurgery and resleeving, we've mostly covered it as asides during the early parts when it was relevant, but the Cliff's Notes is as follows: Resleeving is now more effortless than before, thus making resleeving checks almost purely a formality unless you get unlucky on rolls and it saddles you with enough Stress damage to give you an instant mental illness, which you'll need three months of chilling at home to cure. Which counts for all mental illnesses, by the way.
The rules related to morph acquisition and modding are also here(but not the actual mods, oh no, they're another 30 or so pages ahead), about 240 pages after when you need to reference them during chargen.
There's stuff on forks, at last, including the fact that you can perfectly copy a human mind and personality in about a minute. Hilariously, though, despite it earlier being described how easy it was to prune out the "bad parts" of disabilities like autism and ADHD, thus giving rise to easy peasy suffering-free "neurodivergence," here psychosurgery is instead described as messy and imprecise. The comedy answer that EP2 hits is that both are wrong, in a way. Psychosurgery isn't a danger-free thing you could roll out across an entire population with zero mishaps... but transhumanity's understanding of it is still precise enough that 4 out of 5 edits go off without a hitch, no side-effects or failures, which isn't how I'd expect based on "messy and imprecise."
The fucking inconsistency in the writing is just aggressive.
Now, check this shit out.
The changes incurred by psychosurgery are nebulous and difficult to pin down with game mechanics. Alterations to a character’s personality and mind state are often better handled as roleplaying.
Three pages later, there's a chart laying out all of the psychosurgery procedures as exact mechanics. Oh, yes, so nebulous and hard to pin down that we did it for you. Assholes.
After we're done with the writers being idiots in that way, we get back to why autonomists and anarchists in this setting are morons. The only way to perfectly ID someone is via their ego, i.e. their mind, rather than the body they're in. All of the inner-system states out to and including Titan, of course, keep records to help identify who you are. Anarchists do not, they refuse to keep data on individuals, letting people "control their own data." This means that applying any sort of definitive justice or legal consequences among the anarchists, aside from randomized mob lynchings, is going to be literally impossible since you have no way of perfectly identifying someone as who they are.
Then there's an actually useful and not-garbage section which is on in-system travel, but distinct from the space travel section we had... 190 pages ago. Because there's absolutely a good reason to separate the specific travelling through space from the actual arriving at habitats. I bet. Probably. It's honestly a good section, just badly placed, including a good bit on how to get into habs without permission, for instance. Then right after it there's another section on space travel. And then two sections after that is another part on forcing entry to a hab, right after the part on space combat that they refuse to provide any rules for because they don't feel it's possible to make any good ones.
Maybe that's why the Jovians seem so powerless in play, there's no actual way in the setting's fundamental rules and physics for them to use their superior space fleets.
not sure what these HSD rejects are doing in the book
There is yet another section on rep. In fact get used to the "yet another" line popping up in this review because it feels like everything that is anything is split into at least two chapters and often has important rules or footnotes present elsewhere(and not replicated in the most central section). Mostly the only funny thing here we haven't encountered so far is the types of rep. There's basically a famous rep, an anarchist rep, a science rep, a capitalist rep, an exoplanet rep, a firewall rep and... a criminal rep. Yes, there's a Crime Facebook where you have a popularity rating. You'd figure this would be like the worst thing for any fucking criminal to have. "Better put up this public profile with how cool a criminal I am so other criminals can easily identify me and how trustworthy I am. Oh look there's a friend invite from Oversight McNotACop, sounds legit. Oh no, who could have foreseen that Oversight figured me out!" Like it makes sense for players to be able to have lower-case rep with criminals, but not for them to have upper-case formal Rep with a tracking score and footnotes.
The gear rules are... badly edited? That's about all I can say. You've got about all the gear you expect. Less options for modding morphs than EP1, much vaguer descriptions of what can be synthetic and what can be biomorph stuff. Mostly it's just by implications since it's rarely explicitly spelled out. There are rules for making your GM cry since you can buy combat robots and staff them with ALI's(or your own forks) each of which are fully-statted combatants rather than being abstracted in some way to not make them a huge pain in the ass to deal with. And I do mean literally fully statted, there are no shortcuts to only have their derived values or anything since you might have about a half-dozen different ALI's you could slap into a given robot.
They also leave out stats for stuff that actually matters, like the Dwarf, basically a quadripedal piece of earthmoving equipment that a creative player would absolutely use as a piece of combat equipment in a pinch since it's a massive lump of health which has all sorts of bludgeoning, cutting, burning and dissolving equipment for building purposes(or in this case for clobberin' purposes)... but no weapons stats for any of it.
Dwarfs are quadrupedal walkers, equipped with massive modular industrial tools like boring drills, shovels, hydraulic jacks, jackhammers, scooping arms, acid sprays, and so on.
With a cyberbrain for piloting, they'd be the prime combat synthmorph chassis. They aren't even Rare to buy, just Major, and a lot of planetbound locations would have them accessible... see, this shit. They expect us to improvise with what's lying around, then don't give us any fucking rules for it. Goddamn.
Also remember how they said they weren't going to stat out space combat? They still stat out space combat vessels in this chapter, which gets even funnier because they emphasize the high-realism space combat in the former chapter, with extreme-range missile and railgun engagements being the norm. You know, some hard sci-fi stuff out of an Alastair Reynolds novel. Then in the spacecraft section of course there are also military fighters right out of Star Wars except for lacking deflector shields, even though in combat-as-described they wouldn't really have much of a purpose.
There are also, weirdly enough, stats for scum barges. Like when are the players going to line up and shoot one of those to death? These stats are all stupid, anyway, there are no stats for the larger-than-man-size weaponry that stuff like a Destroyer would likely carry, and thus no actual rules for craft-vs-craft combat. The only stuff their durability is actually useful for would be human-vs-craft combat, and no human weapons can really do relevant damage against them due to their massive armor and health pools. So the stats are useless, they're fucking pointless.
Fuck you, Eclipse Phase 2.
Next Up: The GM Chapters, I Look Forward To This Fresh Bullshit
Running the GameOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: 2nd Edition
Could Purple please post something new?
How do you know the conversation's gone bad? When people are asking me to post more rather than less.
You're probably going to regret it when you 're done reading this post.
Running the Game
So, first step for running the game: Pray that you're playing with a later printing of the book where they've revised the editing. Second step, I guess, is to read this chapter and hope it's better written than the rest.
If you want to run Eclipse Phase, you'll need players to join your game. This may present your first obstacle — the bane of every outsidethe- box GM: many gaming groups are reluctant to play anything other than the leading-brand fantasy roleplaying game. Science-fiction games are a hard sell in particular; everyone has a rough idea of what living in a fantasy setting is like, whereas not everyone groks sci-fi concepts like resleeving or how cylinder habitats work.
Now, I get this problem. I know some GM's whose usual gaming crew only want to play, say, Pathfinder or D&D and who consistently lament that they can't ever get them to play something else(and then I wonder why they stick with a group who never wants to play something they enjoy...), so this is a genuine issue. But something about the way it's presented here just grates on me. It may be that I'm predisposed to seeing most things in this book in a bad light at this point, but you don't need some galaxy brain IQ to understand quickloading and living in a spinning cylinder. Nor are the exact mechanics of an O'Neill Cylinder likely to ever be a super-driving factor in a game except as set dressing.
Then they suggest something hilariously dumb like letting new players use the sample characters, who are more or less all extreme weirdos like Man Who Looks Like Voodoo Doll and Five Kinds of Edgy Nerds Who Really Care About Space Philosophy. Throwing new players into the deep end of the weird shit the setting has seems like the exact opposite of a good way to get them to have fun with it. They also suggest leaving playing the hacker to someone who enjoys playing the wizard in other games and hoo. The two just aren't even remotely comparable. Playing the hacker should be a job for the guy who likes to play a rogue. EP(whether 1 or 2) has nothing even vaguely similar to a wizard in any other setting.
"Players might start to realize that anything could have a save-or-die exsurgent virus in it and start taking elaborate precautions to not be killed by your asshole traps. You should do everything you can to prevent them from protecting themselves, because you're an asshole if you're using exsurgent infections anyway, may as dive into the deep end."
Okay so their actual justification is that the players' precautions will "make the game drag." Well gee maybe there are reasons players are going to take excessive-yet-sensible precautions. Like maybe shitty game design or a bad GM.
A good example of a slow burn story arc is the first season of Stranger Things.
Unfortunately, the plot line of Stranger Things relies on 1980s technology to limit how quickly the characters can get information and make connections. The slow build of dread and unsettling clues in this type of story wouldn’t survive a few characters with smart phones, let alone the technology in Eclipse Phase. In a slow burn arc, the threats and the trails of evidence they leave need to be unconventional and obfuscated. A person who commits a crime in this setting without covering their tracks well can be identified and located quickly.
In the early sessions of a slow burn arc, the evidence encountered by a team needs to be difficult to put together into a clear picture of a threat. Async powers are useful to antagonist NPCs in a slow burn arc, since most psi sleights leave no physical evidence, and therefore their use must be inferred based on circumstances. Novel threats — things there’s no detector for yet — can also fly under the radar of the team’s technology. Some clues might require a multi-session research effort. And clues that fit a motif can gradually reveal their meaning through repetition (e.g., the initially meaningless wall scrawl that turns out to mark an exsurgent clan’s nests).
"Okay, so fundamentally the saving-reloading and the fact that your players are constantly in contact AND can see/hear/smell/touch/taste in every imaginable and unimaginable spectrum means it's hard to scare or surprise them. The solution to this is to use some ass-pull involving technobabble rather than engaging with what we insist are our hard sci-fi constraints."
It's like, firstly, don't give the players tools you don't expect them to use. Secondly, after you give them all the tools to do cool shit, don't ass-pull stuff their toolbox won't handle just because you realize you've painted yourself into a fucking corner by making those tools so ubiquitous and able to cover almost all situations. It's like surprise, motherfuckers, immortality and ubiquitous surveillance kind of short-circuits any sort of even vaguely conventional horror that doesn't involve a supernatural force, which, outside of Asyncs, is a thing that EP explicitly does not invoke at any point.
If Stranger Things was set in the EP setting they'd just have resleeved Will from a backup the moment he went missing and gone about their lives. Alien? "Let me just use the ubiquitous Mesh to see exactly where the monster is and what it does." Aliens? "Oh no, we're short on ammo... let's just fab up another hojillion clips from scrap metal and human feces." Terminator? "Oh, we'll just use the robot's open wifi to upload a fat packet of malware and then wait until it starts shitting out its own bolts and wiring. Plus if it actually kills Sarah Connor we just resleeve her."
The parts of EP that are genuinely scary are the ones involving characters that have no escape hatches. The infugee who can't resleeve or escape his contract. The not-of-majority child whose parents keep him legally a kid for 45 years and who can't even resleeve and run away without their permission. The VR prisoner subjected to horrible psychosurgery. The people trapped on Earth during the Fall whose backups were in the endangered zone along with their embodied selves.
You cannot do horror in EP without removing the resleeving and backup functions in some way or another, or removing player access to them. You know, that ubiquitous tool that you've made a big focus of the setting. Assholes.
Transhumans are creative — dangerously creative — which in part explains the existence of Firewall
"To date we have created 500 variants of extremely white human male sleeves. We're so creative, one of them has a brow piercing. Also I posted a meme the other day." I see more transgressive, creative and revolutionary shit on Twitter every day than on any of the 400-something pages of EP. So the authors patting their super-humanity on the shoulder for uber-creativity feels a bit moronic.
“Splitting the party” has different connotations in Eclipse Phase. At some point your players will attempt to multitask by sending out forks to accomplish multiple things at once. Though this presents a gamemastering challenge, forks can be a blast to play if handled well. The main trick is to not get too fancy with parallel fork plotlines. Run a full scene or even story arc with one group of forks, then return to the other group, then continue alternating until it’s time for them to merge. Don’t try to switch back and forth between two groups of forks acting simultaneously unless you really have a handle on things.
Some players will use forks as a force multiplier if they are short on numbers. Though forks are often stuck as infomorphs, limited by the availability of morphs, players can find ways around this by using bots or hijacking the sleeves of NPCs. In these situations, treat the forks as you would bots, muses, and other secondary characters. Keep the spotlight on the alpha ego and run multiple forks as a group. Forks that stay separate for long periods require careful tracking. You may even want to keep separate character sheets, especially if they earn and spend Rez points. It can be easy to lose track of which fork has what information, so take notes on the key scenes, NPC interactions, and locations each has visited. Over time, divergent forks may need to be graduated into NPC status.
I also love how they don't sense that they've created a major fucking issue for the GM when they need to devote a paragraph just to how you handle and defuse the mechanic in actual play. "The trick is to not get too fancy with plotlines involving one of the core technologies that separate our setting from modern-day Earth."
Because I love needing a fucking spreadsheet to keep track of the 50 clones someone made of themselves, especially when they sleeve them into every available machine nearby for a game that has no fucking mass-combat rules that I'm aware of. Don't encourage players to mob the scene with NPC assistance(even if those NPC's are more of themselves) if your system needs to treat every combatant as someone with a fully detailed PC sheet.
tense investigation and horror scenes. at some point i'm tempted to count up all the art in the EP2 book and see how much of it involves huge guns and combat vs what involves, well, anything else.#
Eclipse Phase player characters are borderline godlike compared to characters in other RPGs. They can acquire information from the mesh that’d take an old tech detective months to sniff out, print any gear they want, fork themselves into a chorus of co-operating alphas, and come back from the dead.
I hate to do this, but... LOL.
Welcome to being, like, a 5th-level wizard or cleric in D&D.
Anyway, this chapter has some important advice like:
"if the players are doing a thing with nano-fabbing that you don't like, have the FBI arrest them or have an angry mob beat them up if they're in anarchist space."
"if the players are doing a thing with forking that you don't like, have the FBI arrest them or have an angry mob beat them up if they're in anarchist space."
"if the players are actually using their toolkit, have some alien or TITAN bullshit arbitrarily disable it or ignore it just so they don't think they can actually win against a TITAN or alien force."
About the only good piece of advice this section has is "if your player makes a hojillion forks of themselves to be suicide bombers and/or do shitty scrub work, have the forks rebel against the original at some point." Though that doesn't carry much weight when the PC can just have spent some downtime making an ideally loyal Beta fork and making hundreds of copies of that instead.
Also if the players die and have to get restored from backup you should totally dock them their rare and important rez points and/or reset their skill levels, thus necessitating players A) engaging in the book-keeping of keeping backup sheets from various timestamps and B) stealing their progress away which is a severely dickhead move. No, bad advice. Go in the corner.
Okay hilariously most of this is literally what the thread just argued about and which I have no desire to bring up again, but there's also the fucking X-Card. Again the fucking X-Card, I feel like I have to complain about this dumb bullshit in every game I review lately. Maybe if you talk with people about what makes them uncomfortable before running the game, aren't a fuckwit and people bring up their discomfort when it starts creeping in rather than when they're at the breaking point, we don't need to play with a fucking safeword. It just feels like an excuse to not be adults. If there's a group where you need the fucking X-Card at all, they're not a group you should be playing with, because either their style of play is so wildly divergent from your sense of fun that it won't work, or they're people you don't feel comfortable discussing your personal red lines with prior to the game.
Also coincidentally it feels like whenever I review a game with the X-Card in it I always have a bunch of other complaints as well.
Anyway they also decide that the best way to describe EP2's dystopias is just to go "it's like Asia." Which while it may be accurate in some parts of the region, in some respects, just feels like a weird kind of tone-deaf generalization and perhaps a tad racist.
Did you know that EP is a super-political game asking HARD QUESTIONS??????? This is why it's primarily focused on fighting the evil Space Flu with giant plasma guns. I find it hard to articulate why their constant claims of being political bother me so much. Maybe it's because they've already so clearly picked a side that I find it hard to buy their claims that they want, in any way, to engender honest discussion. Because all it feels like they're interested in is being praised for having picked the right answer. Also the fact that the politics feel entirely secondary to the game. At no point does the game ever seem to be set up for a political ideology fight, the ideology just determines how hard it is to get guns to shoot at the space monsters and who arrests you for accidentally gunning down civilians in a crossfire. I mean the fact that the supposed post-scarcity shit just uses a slightly more annoying method of currency to buy your shit makes it feel even more like set-dressing and an unwillingness to actually engage with how these different politics should actually affect certain core mechanics.
Of course the thing is that doing so is a fucking huge scope for a game and would shove out all of the space wizards, most of the slime aliens, definitely a good chunk of the space flu, if you wanted to have an overtly political game that actually put the politics front and center and made them what you had to consider. Like I get that. But don't fucking praise yourself at multiple points in the book for having a VERY WOKE AND POLITICAL GAME if you're not willing to fucking commit to the sacrifice that would mean among your pet space aliens and plasma guns.
I guess that's what kind of hits me about all of their TRANSHUMAN THEMES that they claim are center stage. They turn into set dressing because the game never knuckles down and focuses on them.
Anyway, let's have a light-hearted laugh at these fucking idiots writing this dumb shit.
There’s a scene in the first-edition Eclipse Phase scenario Glory where one of the villains feeds a Firewall agent into a meat grinder, extrudes them as noodles, cooks, and eat them. What a lot of people don’t realize is that this scene is meant to be funny. The scene is pure splatterpunk: a form of absurdist humor that works by going completely gonzo with horror elements.
For those with mercifully damaged memories, Glory was a pre-made adventure for EP1. The Cliff's Notes is that the players investigate some shit(and if they fail their rolls are likely to get quite stuck even starting the game), go to a ship, fight a bunch of Space Sex Monsters(always naked, always armed, always armored, book says if you fuck them you catch the Exsurgent virus. There's art of their space vaginas) worshipping a giant ball of alien space vaginas, and if you blow them up or in fact do anything, they infect the entire solar system, so unless you have a black hole on hand you can't really accomplish much.
It has, as the quote says, a scene where a dumb edgelord villain grinds an NPC protag into flesh noodles and eats her.
It's stupid. It's fucking stupid. There's no "over the top comedy" about it, it's just absolutely idiotic and I have no fucking idea why they would try to rehabilitate even the faintest part of that shitty adventure. Or maybe even be slightly introspective and realize that if a lot of people don't laugh at your joke, maybe it isn't fucking funny. And in fact I would wager that "a lot" is "everyone."
Also the writer of Glory is also one of the writers on this. I guess he was very sad no one liked his incredibly trash adventure.
Hey GM if your players die, dock them XP and roll back their stat sheets lol. Also give them individualized and super vaguely defined roleplaying XP bonuses because the party advancing at different rates totally makes for good gameplay and fuck whoever wrote this.
Next time: I get angry and throw shit when I read about all the dumb ways the Exsurgent virus will make us roll save-or-dies in the X-THREATS chapter!!!!!!!!
X-Risks and ThreatsOriginal SA post Eclipse Phase: Second Edition
X-Risks and Threats
headlined by the mighty "may appear in a supplement some day"
This section starts off, rather like the X-Risks book for EP1, by summarizing some of the sorts of X-Threats that Firewall squads might be called on to deal with. Which is a good idea! It actually provides some adventure seeds and suggestions for what a Firewall campaign would actually focus on. Just kind of a shame that in EP1 the detailed delivery of that was kind of a late-lifecycle supplement...
First X-Threat suggestion is Aliens. Could be the Factors, could be Gatecrashers kicking in a door where there's a native welcome committee on the other side, could be people fucking with the Factors and risking a war between them and Humanity in general(though it's extremely vague how much more powerful they are than humans. The text keeps saying "THEY'RE SO MUCH STRONGER AND TECHIER" but as far as I recall that was never actually given any mechanical backing in EP1 where an individual Factor was just a slightly beefier human who could spit poison and gattai into a giant battle worm). Also lol if you think you'll find any help with actual sapient non-Factor aliens, either how to handle first-encounter shit, how to stat them, stats for supposedly-extinct species like the Iktomi in case you want to have a surviving colony of them, any actual authorial fact on what happened to them, etc.
It could also be something Astronomical. I.e. the sun goes nova, a gamma ray burst, a wandering black hole, asteroids and comets aimed for habs, someone intentionally de-orbiting a large moon or hab, etc. Common among these is that many of them are... not something you could do something about. You might be able to evacuate a hab ahead of a solar flare, but gamma ray bursts we probably wouldn't know about until we were all toasted, is my understanding, nor can many of these actually be triggered by any sort of agency that can be stopped. In the "big rocks"-department, there's actually something to be done, however.
Economics, which you could basically shorten to Crime, i.e. someone disrupting supply massively to leave people starving or freezing or whatever. It feels... a lot below what Firewall should be dealing with, especially since self-sufficiency levels, at least in terms of survival basics, are really high in Sol.
Infectious Agents. Basically just the Exsurgent virus, in case it emerges in some form that can infect enough people stealthily enough to spread around. This one's alright. Though I like how medichines and space-medicine are now super-advanced that stuff like the Space Flu is no longer a problem, so they've just upgraded us to the Nano Space Flu and the exact same problems occur again, so having medichines and etc. don't actually change jack shit, fundamentally.
Intelligence Amplification. The situation where some moron builds a new TITAN or an Exhuman actually succeeds at becoming a large enough brain blob to think of a vaguely original thought, or stopping the run-up to said situation. I mean, yes, this is kind of Firewall's core mission, though lol Prometheans. I feel like the Exhuman variety or some of the various hivemind experiments taking off would be more interesting to deal with, since they'd actually focus on the changes that hyper-intellect would make to a human mind, rather than just "robot Cthulhu eats 1d6 cortical stacks every round." Because that's what the TITANs are, they're robo-Cthulhu.
Mega-Engineering. Discovery of a megastructure, or any faction having the expertise to build one by, say, stripping Jupiter apart, could destabilize the system's politics. The main problem with this one is that two have already been discovered, Iapetus, which is a bit spooky but otherwise hasn't done jack shit, and Olaf, an exoplanet which popped up in Gatecrashing and is literally a Jupiter-scale, habitable world at ~1G full of active alien tech. I guess you could argue Olaf hasn't destabilized the setting or started a war for control of it simply because its gate seems to fritz out often, making it hard for anyone to get a foothold. But even so, it seems to sabotage the book's insistence that such a structure would be massively destabilizing to the setting. Secondly, if a faction actually had the dominance to strip apart an entire world for, say, a Ringworld's materials unmolested, that would imply tech and general territorial control that would already have destabilized the setting. Feels like this one should just have been called "politics" instead(that one pops up later, actually).
Memes. Space memes could destroy civilization. Okay, more seriously, what they call "memes" here is more accurately what we, not being idiots, would file under "politics" as well, i.e. a powerful fascist or apartheid state in the Solar system.
Mental Subversion. TITAN memes.
Nanotechnology. Gray Goo scenarios, though everything in the writing so far seems to be completely unconcerned with it. We've got nano-stuff everywhere and apparently it's so well-understood and controlled that there's no chance of it running amok and needing some sort of killswitch or potentially countering agent. The only dangerous nanotech stuff is the stuff actively programmed to be a danger, i.e. TITAN swarms. So again, just TITAN stuff. Nanothreats of any scale tend to be either save-or-dies(exsurgent infections) or "run away real quick"(big waves of omniscient gray goo), so I find them unmotivating to use in any sense.
Politics. If someone goes to war.
Okay so aliens are fucking everywhere and they hate us and will kill us, they already almost succeeded once. A civilization with the power to do massive stellar engineering apparently decided that throwing a plague at us that made Robot Cthulhus with magic powers was a more reliable way to destroy us than just marching over and vaporizing/conquering Earth with their massively superior tech. These aliens are not the Factors, they're the ETI, who are never explained, never detailed, we have no stats for them or any of their tech. Therefore literally no way to involve them in a game we run without inventing them from whole cloth, and they're probably also literally the dullest explanation for the whole exsurgent/TITAN business so why am I not fucking surprised it's the one that the devs made canon in both EP1 and EP2.
Should have just suggested and then left it open-ended, assholes.
This ETI has seeded the galaxy with self-replicating machines known as bracewell probes. These probes lie dormant in every star system, patiently waiting and monitoring for millennia for signs of intelligent life — but not just any signs. In particular, these probes are designed to watch for emerging ASIs and similar singularity- level machine intelligences. The probes are in fact traps, designed to lure ASIs in and then infect them.
Feel like you're ripping Revelation Space off much? Jackasses. The Inhibitors were way more interesting than the ETI.
Also every single dead alien civilization was killed by the ETI and their exsurgent virus destroying their TITAN-equivalents. Actually wait, hang the fuck on. Doesn't that mean the whole Pandora Gate network should be swarming with TITANs? Or non-human Exsurgents as well? You assholes, you didn't even think this through, oh and fuck the Prometheans, again. I probably mentioned it before, but we're re-introduced to them here. They're BENEVOLENT machine gods that never caught the exsurgent virus and are now primarily allied with Firewall. They serve no fucking purpose in the plot at all except in case you want to go: "lol Firewall is a bunch of dense idiots who got scammed by the TITANs they claimed to be holding at bay."
And in fact let's just get back to the fucking TITANs, you know why the TITANs are inscrutable and alien? Not because it fits with the plot, but because it's literally the only way humanity is still alive. The TITANS going "lol we out" and running away for UNFATHOMABLE reasons, rather than having them fightable on a human scale was the only way they could write themselves out of a corner. You know who had a similar scenario? Earthsiege did. Earthsiege and Starsiege. They didn't need any fucking space magic or inscrutability, Prometheus was a rational mind traumatized by close contact with humans(when it helped its creator transfer his consciousness into an immortal machine brain, Prometheus, curious about its father, decided to peek at his thought processes and was horrified and disgusted by the human Id.), humanity had multiple run-ins with it that didn't need any wizardry to parse or resolve. And just because humanity survived the first battles, it didn't end Prometheus as a threat because Prometheus was canny enough to run away to fight another day. The destruction even resulted in the same basically-unrecognizable human society that EP did. Why can't the TITANs just be the same way? I guess it's not spooky enough.
Also no, the secret lore chapter never tells us anything more about the Factors. Have fun making that shit up yourselves.
Remember how nano-stuff was a threat? The first security system is a system that just does 3d10 damage to all nano-things in range. Bzorp, eat shit gray goo. In fact since EMP will dunk it and we can produce arbitrary amount of EMP warheads and grenades(which apparently fuck nano-anything up solid), why is nano-stuff a threat again? In general I'm not even sure why I bothered to give this chapter a headline, it's just five different kind of doors including one that's sort of a mimic with robot tentacles that tries to eat you if you piss it off. Also remember how you were gonna be able to be real useful to the team with wireless hacking? Ha ha no turns out a fucking paintjob can block all wireless Mesh signals if it's the right kind of paint, so any high-security area where you might NEED to wirelessly hack something will of course have tons of this slathered all over the place.
There's also a section on traps, of course including several save-or-die traps(at least, if you're tossed into space and no one's got a vehicle ready to pick you up and you lack the EVA capability to negate the force shoving you away, you're pretty much dead or at least thoroughly lost.). Or traps that require a very specific sensor suite to be active or invisible nanobots will instantly build a cage around you in the air and then start filling the cage with spikes and oh also the cage is about as well-armored as a fucking Scum Barge.
Some Actual Enemies
The only important rules bit here is that groups of enemies get their own Threat pool of rerolls to use in combat, just like players get their Insight, Moxie and Vigor pools. I'm okay with this, it helps defuse the issue of "I set up a decently challenging encounter but they keep rolling critfails, god fucking dammit." just as long as the GM remembers not to use it to ice players double hard when he's already rolling well.
The ETI: They're the Outer Gods, okay? They don't give a shit, or if they do, they're inscrutable, and we can't even scratch them, the book even says they're unlikely to have much, if any, place in almost all games. The book suggests a few actual agendas for the ETI, most of which don't make sense. They could be out to ASSIMILATE CULTURES... by destroying them with their own AI's? Or they could be trying to PROTECT LIFE ON A GRAND SCALE... why not just send an occupation fleet so you don't have to burn them to the ground, then? Anyway, fuck the ETI and fuck the hacks who came up with it.
The Iktomi: Vague spider aliens that left behind a couple of vague artifacts that do vague things. Also some killer spiderbots that can't be communicated with and who exist only to blow up Gatecrashers in the wrong place at the wrong time. They, of course, cannot be hacked, and the game informs us that some of them have mental illnesses, though since they're alien killing machines, I'm not sure how anyone would ever find out.
Exhumans: We've gone over these edgelord idiots before, but are they actually threatening? Their statted guards are useless pushovers. Their ULTRAVIOLET(max threat level) Neurodes are supposed to be bosses who can "think circles around Transhumans," which is supposed to be carte blanche for them to ass-pull infinite amounts of backup plans out of their cybernetic assholes in case anyone ever starts getting the upper hand. Predators are laughable failures that are about as powerful as a single starting PC. Both of the latter have almost the full list of possible augmentations so hope you can fucking remember what 20 different modifications do in the middle of a firefight. Sure would be a shame if you had to page through the book to find them. They also contain "experimental mods" which are completely undetailed and basically just for the GM to make up Exhuman Bullshit with. And no, there are no suggestions for any of these experimental mods.
The Exsurgent Virus: It can Basilisk Hack your Brain, Bio Hack your genetics or Nano Hack your synthmorph, you're never safe. Also no, you can't copy and use the Basilisk hacks as weapons, they've got Super Space God Denuvo in them, and if you somehow get around that everyone will try to blow you up for having one. Stop trying to be creative. They're all save-or-dies, except for the nano-version which has no save, because fuck you, I guess. Also great that the game reminds us that fucking exsurgents will infect us. Thanks, Glory author Jack Graham, you creepy shit. There isn't anything interesting to say about the exsurgent virus(except that, for some reason, you can play someone brainwashed by it as a PC just fine(for a while, anyway), but if it's a physical transformation, hold your horses buckaroo, no PC's allowed.), and we already know that the Psi Epsilon stuff is half and half lame and OP instakill powers. The only interesting variant is the Whisper virus, which gives you bonus pool points if you do what it urges you to, and reduces your pool if you don't. This is actually the only one I think I'd ever consider using.
As for the exsurgents themselves...
Creepers are sentient Femtobot swarms, some TITAN-aligned, others with independent agendas(that they give you no suggestions for interacting with, of course). Probably the heftiest DUR and the strongest-damaging attack in the game(up to 10d10 damage AoE). Shame they never expanded on the independent agendas, PC's encountering a non-hostile Creeper swarm they could, at least partially, cooperate with could be interesting.
Fractal Trolls are insane big lads who attack everyone, but especially machines in a panicked frenzy because they think it's their TITAN torturers returned. Kind of a shame, again, that this did not get expanded on as a potential way of resolving things with them in a non-hostile way rather than just gibbing them. I mean, fuck, you know what? That's really what's heavily missing from all exsurgents, the conflict between: "We should treat them, not just blow them up like videogame enemies" and "they're too dangerous, we have to gib them from a mile away." They're all incurable, completely void of any human/transhuman/uplift traits they might once have had(Fractal Trolls faintly excepted) and usually attack on sight or as soon as you turn your back.
Jellies are D&D slimes that can sometimes shapeshift into their victims' forms with their memories after eating them, potentially interesting except that the ubiquity of scanning equipment means they'd be rumbled in seconds for something as basic as having no Mesh implants. The book even notes how easy their fucking disguise is to see through.
Shifters are the T1000 from Terminator 2 cosplaying as Number 47 from Hitman. All they do is move, hide and kill without even the vaguely implied motives of Fractal Trolls or Creepers. They are EXACTLY as easily rumbled as the Jellies unless they're in an anprim hab or something.
Skriks are what happens if you catch a specific virus that makes you puke up small, evil copies of yourself. Yes, like that bit from Army of Darkness. This keeps happening if you are somehow a moron who doesn't immediately see a doctor after the first time one of them scuttles away into the vents. And no, there's no note to the effect that the "mother" of the Skriks feels any urge to protect them or not just step on the little fuckers the instant he/she/it sees them.
Most skriks carry the exsurgent virus, exposing it to others if they are eaten or exchange bodily fluids (bio pathogen) or releasing it when they die (nanoplague).
DEAR GOD, STOP. I'M NOT GOING TO FUCK A MINIATURE VERSION OF MYSELF. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, AUTHORS.
Snappers are robot centipedes that fight people.
Wastewalkers are tribal exsurgents who wander around the place in groups and kill people. No, they have no culture or in fact anything to make them more interesting than 2d10 orcs guarding a chest in a 50 by 50 foot room.
Whippers are evil sea anemones with legs that try to eat people.
Worms are yet another shapeshifting evil exsurgent, but this time they're psychic rather than jelly or liquid metal. Their only vague hint of personality to distinguish them from the others is that they're extra mean to non-exsurgent asyncs. I'll also note that none of the art, at all, is of non-human exsurgents. For all of the yammering about how neo-whatevers are a BIG IMPORTANT PART OF THE SETTING they're... almost completely unrepresented in the art or generally in the text. It's all about the humans. They get less screentime than halflings in D&D.
I was going to pause here, then scrolled forward and saw I had less than twenty pages to go. So fuck it, let's finish this shit.
The Factors are cool slime molds that look like sea slugs that could have been a focus of the setting, and should have. They are... actually now that I think about it, uh. They're... uh. Listen to this: They're a race of traders that are out to defraud humanity and have a genetic predisposition for "patience, deceit and cunning." They're one quick search replace from being someone's Space Jewish conspiracy theory. Anyway, it's almost certainly unintentional, I really fucking hope. They grow limbs as they need them, they're basically all engineered, and many of them are gestalts made from many minor Factors they can detach for specialty work, and the normal ones can also combo into giant BATTLE FACTORS the size of fuckin' worms from Dune that spit poison, acid and death shards. Neat. Stats-wise they're generic, psi-immune transhumans that regenerate and can vape asthma dust at you. It feels like a missed opportunity, since the Factors are basically all hive minds, to not have them have some interaction with the tentative transhuman hive minds in the system. Generally the Factors have no statted tech which in any way differentiates from human tech, not even, like, guns with different stats or anything. It's really kind of a sad level of they invested into them.
As traders, however, they do seem to carry a wide range of alien artifacts — most opaque in purposes and use. The Factors have established trade agreements with numerous transhuman factions and habitats,
Just, fucking. GIVE US AN EXAMPLE. YOU ASSHOLES. DON'T EXPECT THE PLAYERS AND GM'S TO STAT THE ENTIRE GAME FOR YOU.
Firewall is in this chapter for some reason. The only new info here is that Firewall has a Firewall Facebook which isn't a hilariously huge security risk or anything. Morons.
Project Ozma is Evil Firewall, and thus have about twice the personality and interesting characteristics. They're essentially Space MJ12, secret manipulators with vague amounts of power, money and reach, ostensibly basically anywhere they want to be and able to manipulate anything they want to manipulate. Mostly they fuck around with alien/exoplanet/TITAN stuff, and in EP1's corebook they were intensely vague, they only started getting some characterization by the time of Gatecrashing, I believe, possibly also X-Risks had some stuff on them. Generally they're characterized as being from/drawing money from/controlling the Consortium at some level.
Other Intel Services ostensibly gives som detail on Titanian(2), Jovian(1), Consortium(2) and Argonaut(1) spooks, but generally only gives their purview of operations, at most. Titanian spooks keep Titan safe and are Good Guys, Argonaut spooks keep science safe, Jovian spooks are evil mass-murdering scum that kill without any remorse, Oversight is actually legally responsible if it fucks up or acts too inhumane(automatically making it more of a valid hero faction than Firewall or Project Ozma), Titan's Science Police is like store-brand Firewall, Stellar Intelligence is somehow a corporate CIA that goes half-and-half on a combination of blackmail and actual paid intelligence operations, yet has somehow not been annihilated by Oversight or a coalition of corps that don't want to be blackmailed yet.
The TITANs are just a dull recap of everything we know about the TITANs so far, with stats for some of their non-exsurgent goons, all copy-pastes from the X-Risks book that's already being reviewed.
Now, my main takeaway from reading this opponents chapter is that enemies are generally less dangerous than in EP1. Rather than high 80's and 90's for combat rolls, they've more commonly got 60 or 70, with their Threat pools balancing them out somewhat. The main problem with this is that a lot of them... if they empty out their pools, they end up being kind of... wimpy because the players can relatively easily kite them with their much better basic scores allowing them to win a battle of attrition unless the enemy is specifically regenerating or has something to really even the score, but considering that most of them have effectively the same gear and stats as the players, just a different cosmetic overlay, the players are much more likely to win fights if they're actually statted for winning fights.
Personally, I'm in favour of my players winning fights, I just fear that a lot of them will turn into whiff-fests that drag out if they don't end with alpha strikes in the first five rounds or so.
Also for every enemy they gave them an array of motivations, but considering that basically they all attack on sight, I don't get why. Secondly, a lot of them are "+TITAN Interests." BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE TITANS' INTERESTS, GOALS OR MOTIVATIONS ARE, BECAUSE THEY'RE INSCRUTABLE SPACE GODS.
Whatever, at least this is shit I can easily homebrew my way out of with a bit of writing.
Fucking Eclipse Phase.
Anyway, this review's reached the glossary and appendix, so it's over.
Final Verdict: The writing was better in 1 and its supplements, loot that, slap EP2's system on top, re-add the MoS system, hack in the missing morphs you like, uncap the skill totals and then sigh and get a stiff drink as you sit down to figure out how to respond to each given incident of vague writing or outright unspecified shit.