Eclipse Phase: X-Risks

Today, after taking a day down after the deep review of Gods of the Fall, I’m going to lightly review the latest Eclipse Phase sourcebook, X-Risks. Being what it is, X-Risks is Creative Commons and the Posthumans tend to seed their books themselves, so if you want to check it out yourself you can do so. If you like what you see, though, do please buy the books so they can keep making new ones.

X-Risks is primarily a book for the GM; the early segment can be beneficial for the players, as it contains a nice section written both in-character (a thing I deeply enjoy about the Eclipse Phase books) and with an eye for explaining how Firewall – and, by extension, other groups familiar with existential threats to transhumanity – tends to handle situations. After this initial point, however, while things remain largely in-world, most of the information is for a GM’s use.

In the first segment, they cover X-risks from the point of view of sentinels and routers, and remark how things considered an x-risk by one group’s contact won’t even get a glance from another. A bioconservative who sends a sentinel team to go investigate and root out a radical morph designer working with a controversial psychosurgeon will get eyes rolled at them by those who embrace morphological freedom, while the biocons might snort at a collectivist who sends teams to get dirt on hypercorps to keep them from pushing hypercapitalism any further out into the system.

They finish it off by introducing a rating system for x-risks that I absolutely love, and providing a list of examples, where they rank on the rating chart, and what could possibly be done about each of them. Intermixed are the conversation logs and annotations that make the EP universe feel so alive, including a theoretical snippet on arranging a lot of small space rocks on orbits that lead them into a much larger asteroid strike seemingly from nowhere.

This section get followed up by Active Threat Reports, which is partly in-character segments a GM can gleefully mine to provide the players with info and partly descriptive information on both general categories (exhumans, the exsurgent virus, TITANs, and the Factors) and specific threats. At least one of these I recognize as information drawn from a podcast I’ve listened to; the Haunted Stars derive from RPPR’s Know Evil campaign. Other specific threats include neo-primitives looking to scour the world via reprogrammed TITAN tech, biocons that make the Jovians look reasonable, and a particularly deranged group of Ultimates looking to cleanse the system of ‘genetrash’.

Past that, we get a Threat Recognition Guide; this is a listing of fluff, image, and stats for a variety of threats. Things covered include xenofauna, exhuman creations, TITAN creations,  and exsurgent horrors. The occasional nightmare brewed up by supposedly sane and rational transhumans who no doubt have perfectly justifiable reasons for it is tossed in for fun. Many of these can be reflavored a bit to fit with other threat types, as well – xenofauna can make excellent exsurgent horrors, TITAN creations can be twisted a little to make them exhuman designs, and so on.

After that, we get the GM-specific material. As usual, the Posthumans don’t stint on providing solid and useful material for GMs to put to use. Starting from a frank discussion about how to use existential threats in general, where they talk about how using the kinds of dangers that qualify every time a sentinel team pokes their noses out the door can make it seem like the universe is nothing but alien tentacles and machine minds, they move on to how to build threats and dangers for gameplay.

From there, rules for using swarms get put up, with attention paid to transhuman-designed nanoswarms – dangerous in their own respect, and a great deal more common than any other swarm the group is like to encounter – TITAN nanoswarms that can do far more complex things than transhuman designs, and femtoswarms that should rightly terrify everyone about grey goo scenarios.

They move along to exsurgent infection after that, going over infection ratings, the different vectors the virus can take, and the iteraction of infection with resleeving and backups, as well as attempting to use psychosurgery to deal with the mental infections. (Let’s just say that the virus isn’t easy to handle, yeah?) They then go into some detail on some specific strains of the virus, with some drawn from published scenarios and others seeming to be brand new to this sourcebook, like the Moabite strain and the Babel strain.

We then get something entirely new: Psi-Gamma sleights. Previously treated as GM fiat, as far as I can recall, with either outrageous effects or horrific backlashes from failed checks, they provide us with a sampling of nine sleights for the psychically powerful exsurgents out there. A particularly nasty one is Delay Infection, allowing an exsurgent to casually transfer a biological strain of the virus to someone while delaying the infection onset for a time, helping ensure that the exsurgent doesn’t get suspected.

A short section on Factor technology – nothing major, just some notes and a few details on how hard it is for a transhuman to use – and then a section on traps, with rules for spotting them and thoughts on how time consuming the kind of exhaustive searches players like to do can actually be. We get about two pages of sample traps – more than enough to help you build your own if you want to, and plenty for those who want drag-and-drop modular pieces – before we head into the GM-specific section on those particular threats mentioned earlier.

As usual with these – Gatecrashing being another with this model – the GM material includes plot hooks and secrets that a GM can use to hook their players into a story involving one of these x-risk groups. The neoprimitives come with a section on a particularly brutal kind of nanoswarm the group uses, while the ultra-biocons have a nasty suit of high-grade armor that comes packed with a dormant nanoswarm waiting to be activated to eat the occupant, as well as a small TITAN bomb that basically spews part of a stellar core through a small wormhole for a moment. Of particular interest are the Symbils – a faction of ASI aligned to neither the TITANs nor the Prometheans, who seem to be transhumanity-friendly.

Lastly, we have xenofungal threats; these range from naturally evolved horrors that happen to have some level of compatability with transhumanity by sheer chance and a horrible level of aggression toward other forms of life to some deliberately engineered by exhumans, exsurgents, and/or TITANs to be particularly fond of infecting transhumans. One appears to be drawn from an EP module, but the others are new to me. Fun stuff!

After a table of threats by rating, we get the index and then the book wraps up. All in all well worth a read for any GM who wants to run a sci-fi game, as the Posthuman crew do a good job of providing world detail, fluff about the sourcebook topic, and a fair supply of creative and malevolent ideas.

And since you can go pick up a copy for free to check it out, there’s really no reason not to check it out. Just be sure to buy it if you like it!

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Eclipse Phase: X-Risks

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