Welcome to Eclipse Phase

Today I’m going to go into a little more reason why you might want to be over there backing the Eclipse Phase 2E Kickstarter, if you haven’t yet. And why, if you have, you still might want to poke the folks you know to back it if they can.

I’ve already been over the rough of what makes Eclipse Phase an awesome setting; today I’ll be showing a few of the kind of characters EP can support and why even disparate characters might find themselves as part of a team. (You should still make an effort to build a team that’ll work together as well as possible, of course.)

For the first example, take a person who fled the Earth during the days of the Fall as an infomorph, managed to luck out and land a job that paid for a new body before the demand made things like basic synthmorphs out of reach and brought the cheap knock-off case morph into common use, and has spent the years since then trying to forget that they saw Aunt Mary get torn apart by a disassembler swarm. They’re skilled enough at what they need for their job as the only accountant on staff at a local branch of the Cognite hypercorp, but their computer skills really shine when they occasionally get asked to do some side work, breaking into secure mesh networks, usurping control of remote systems, and generally hiding a network security specialist behind the drab facade. Firewall taps them when they uncover evidence of a clandestine research op on their station using “found” TITAN tech and throw the entire database onto the open mesh, resulting in all the local employees getting captured and their egos put into cold storage.

Another one is a socialite, a social media darling who produces weekly XP-casts where he does outrageous things in the name of adrenaline and the deathless glory of transhuman immortality. He often dies, but the Rep and credits he pulls in are more than enough for him to afford backup insurance and replacement morphs, even if they’re literally off the rack. His fame gets him access to circles someone like the hacker-accountant can’t dream of; his exploits make it easy to pass anything he’s involved with as a publicity stunt. Firewall tapped him when he went to fight a regular security bot and found himself facing off against a murderous exsurgent-infected war machine, only to come out victorious by raw luck.

A third is theoretically a bodyguard; she was born as an uplifted raven, but resleeved into a more human form once she got the chance. On the books, she works for a local security firm; the firm itself is a front for a cartel, and she’s one of their enforcerers. A specialist in stealth, three-dimensional thinking, and cleaning up the bloody messes she makes, she’s excellent muscle with little in the way of morals and ethics – but she’s pragmatic, and understands that letting nasty things go bump in the night is a fast ticket to extinction. Firewall tapped her when she murdered a researcher who was trying to buy egos on the black market for use in psychosurgical experiments in creating exhuman minds. Now she occasionally murders people – and others things – when Firewall indicates they need disposed of.

The fourth and last is a victim. He used to be another cog in the system, grinding his way through a potentially endless job as a data analyst for a research crew. When one of the researchers went on vacation and came back with a nasty case of Watts-McLeod infection, he promptly caught it and went undetected while the researcher went off the deep end, screaming about the insects crawling out of the walls. It took another of Firewall’s asyncs to catch him, noticing the patterns of behavior shifting after the incident and how he’d become preternatually adept at reacting to things almost before they happened. Carefully inducted into the conspiracy, he’s the team’s secret ace in the hole, with creepy powers he tries to hide from everyone, even them.

Bringing them together is their proxy – the handler who has their information, who knows how to contact them, and who has the information needed to send them out to keep transhumanity safe. Theirs, in particular, is an ex-intelligence officer who theoretically quit in the days before the Fall; they saw the nightmare as it unfolded and take drugs to sleep without dreaming so that they don’t wake up screaming. This group, they bring together because a cartel that’s rival to the enforcer’s employers is setting up an auction for an apparent alien artifact retrieved from beyond the Pandora Gates. Firewall’s got red flags on it because three pattern analysis systems and an async whose entire psi suite revolves around analyzing and understanding patterns crashed when watching the ten-second video clip of it. The async still hasn’t recovered, the systems are corrupted beyond use. They need a team who can get an invite, break through the security systems, take down the guards, and get out with the relic without being caught by anyone.

The first three are in because each of them fits a specialty; the async is in because his psi suite shows no signs of reacting the way the analyst did, and because sometimes his psi-driven instincts have tipped the odds in a sentinel team’s favor when he’s reflexively shot someone just as they were pulling a gun, or when he’s dodged out of incoming fire before the shooter’s started firing. And, if nothing else, he’s already considered half-lost as a Watts-McLeod infectee. If someone has to carry the artifact, it’ll be him that gets handed the risk. Drop it at a dead drop for another team to collect and make disappear, preferably, and vaporize it with a plasma torch if not.

This might seem like it’s a one-shot, and it certainly could be. However, thanks to the nature of Eclipse Phase, this can easily be a short campaign; you can begin with first assembling the crew if you want to go in that early. Even if you’d rather start with the action, the players will need to collect information, set themselves up as a credible interested party (which may involve faking identities and histories for everyone who isn’t the socialite), get the invitation without showing up and demanding one, and work out a plan to get to the relic and back out without causing the kind of disaster that’ll occupy all the news feeds.

From there, they need to put the plan into action, deal with the inevitable complications, work out what to do with the relic, and possibly have to do something their proxy wasn’t planning for – the relic is a TITAN forgery and they can’t hand it over without risking infection spreading into Firewall, and it’s built so that the exterior is holding something a lot worse so trying to feed it to a disassembler swarm or sublimate it with a plasma torch won’t work. At this point there’ll be other Firewall teams convinced they’ve gone rogue, been subverted, or been corrupted by the relic. So now they’ll have to dodge their own teams, enemy forces, and figure out how to dispose of the relic without it having any chance of slipping into the wrong hands.

You can easily get plenty of plot time out of this, thanks to the way EP ties character advancement to the story. In Pathfinder, much of this would be speed-resolved with a handful of rolls and some in-character bickering, with the longest segment being an inevitable running battle against the original cartel’s forces, some of them turning into surprise exsurgents halfway through the fight. In the Cypher System, the longest segment would be the in-character bickering and pre-plan schmoozing at the auction.

In Eclipse Phase, the longest segment is whichever part you and your group decide to emphasize. I say this as someone who loves all three of the systems involved.

So if this sounds like it might be your cup of tea – a chance to play unusual characters with unusual concepts, in a futuristic setting of horror, intrigue, conspiracy, and fractal nightmares – I encourage you to go give the Kickstarter a pledge. You won’t regret it.

Welcome to Eclipse Phase

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