Aug 302010
 

Just before I went to Origins, I started hearing about a game that was previously unfamiliar to me. The name Eclipse Phase began bouncing around my brain, and the more I saw of it, the more interested I was. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one. Eclipse Phase won not only an Origins Award this year, but also took home two Silver ENnies and one Gold ENnie at GenCon. I got my hands on a copy of the Eclipse Phase book at Origins, and I have finally had the time to give it the reading it deserves.

Your Mind is Software        Program It

Eclipse Phase is a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction-based story of Transhumanity. What’s transhumanity? Basically, technology has advanced to the point that no one need permanently die. You back up your consciousness, your Ego, and resleeve yourself into a new body, your Morph, almost any time you need to. Indeed, you might not eve need a body, choosing to live as an Infomorph. You might even be an animal, uplifted to sentience and posessing capabilities and intelligence that rival or surpass most “humans.” Your mind can be augmented, your body can change if you have the credit to change it, and you are effectively immortal.

It all sounds great until you realize that world around your ancestors knew is no more. Earth is a smoking ruin of its former self, thanks to the rise of malicious AIs knows at TITANs. The TITANs nearly wiped transhumanity from the solar system, and then… they just left. In their wake, transhumaity has found wormhole-based Pandora Gates, has spread throughout nearly all of the known solar system, and has even established small footholds on distant planets. The hold that transhumanity has on its collective existence is a precarious one, and any number of threats, both internal and external could send things over the brink.

Your Body is a Shell        Change It

The first thing that struck me about the Eclipse Phase book was the overall design of the book. The art, the ways the pages are laid out, the style of it, it all oozes professionalism and it all really gives the reader a good feel for the aesthetics of the setting.

An Example Page from the Book

The quality that you see above is carried out throughout the book. It is easy to read and follow, and also gives you a good idea of what to expect from the setting. Excellent, all around. As well, the art is very good, and presents some very compelling images that, again, give you a really good feel for the world of Eclipse Phase.

The World as They Know It

The other thing that struck me as different from most RPGs is the writing. It’s not that RPG writing is, as a rule, bad; It’s that the writing in Eclipse Phase is so bloody good. When reviewing a book, especially one that is heavy on the crunchy mechanics, and especially if you’re likely to not have a chance to playtest it, I tend to read pretty quickly. I get a really good idea of what a given section has to offer, and then, most times, I move on.

No so with Eclipse Phase. With this book, I read far more than I expected to, just because it was so compelling. The detail given for the setting is impressive, but it’s far from overwhelming. You want to read what they’ve written, and it’s no surprise that the Gold ENnie that Posthuman Studios won for this game was for the writing. There were a few typos, and a sentece or two that I would re-work, but I have a BA in English, so I tend to be picky. Still and all, I’m anxious to read their newest supplements, if only so I can get more details about the compelling world that they have crafted.

Death is a Disease Cure It

The mechanics and the crunchy bits seem to be pretty manageable. The resolution mechanic is always a percentile roll versus some type of target number. Those target numbers can take some math to derive, but it’s not like you’re going to need a calculator at the table.

Where the crunch really comes in to play is in character creation. There are a ton of options to choose from, which is appropriate given how much customization a given person can undertake in the game world. However, for a starting player or GM, it’s going to take some time and a lot of accounting to get all of the character options taken care of. For example, take a look at the sidebar on this page the details the step-by-step process for character creation.

Character Creation Detailed

Now, many systems have detailed character creation processes, and I’m sure that once you get the system down, it’ll be second-nature; it is in most RPGs. Still, from the jump, it looks like a lot of work, and when I interviewed Rob Boyle at Origins, he admitted as much. That doesn’t make it a bad system, it’s just something to be aware of.

Extinction is Approaching        Fight It

Everything in this book practically begs you to play it. The future they describe is both enticing and horrifying. They ask extremely interesting questions about what it means to be human, what someone’s motivations will be if they can effectively live forever, all covered by the looming horror of the unknown. Are the TITANs really gone? What about Earth? Is it reclaimable? Should it be reclaimed?

The book seems to explicitly refrain from telling you what the plot of your campaign should be. What they give you instead is a metric ton of plot hooks, all interwoven throughout the book. Almost any given page of the book can spark an idea for an adventure or an entire campaign.

The goal, ultimately, is to survive.

And, something that bears mentioning, just because of its pure awesomeness. Eclipse Phase is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. To quote Posthuman Studio’s own words:

What this means is that you are free to copy, share, and remix the text and artwork within these books and PDFs (with the exceptions noted below) under the following conditions:

1) You do so only for noncommercial purposes;
2) You attribute Posthuman Studios (see below);
3) You license any derivatives under the same license.

What this means is that you are free to copy, share, and remix the text and artwork within these books and PDFs (with the exceptions noted below) under the following conditions: 1) You do so only for noncommercial purposes; 2) You attribute Posthuman Studios (see below); 3) You license any derivatives under the same license.
In other words: pure awesome. I respect the hell out of any company that is so proud of what they do, so confident of its success, and so supportive of the gaming community that they give it away for free. That makes me want to buy things from them. It makes me feel like they’ve got my back as a gamer, and that, as long as I follow a few simple rules, if I get a great idea inspired by their products, I’m not going to get shot down by them if I want to share my work with others.
Simply great.

Final Rating

I would love to have a chance to play this game. Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars with no hesitation.

Eclipse Phase is published by Posthuman Studios in conjunction with Sandstorm Productions. You can buy this book for somewhere around $50 USD. Also, it is completely legal to torrent everything they do, so check it out!

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, Eclipse Phase,  Posthuman Studios, Sandstorm, reviews[/tags]

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About Tracy

I love games, and I love to write about games. Hopefully when I write about games, you'll find something to like. I actively play Pathfinder and Savage Worlds, but am always willing to give something new a try. Follow me on Twitter, and check out my openly developed campaign setting for Pathfinder, Savage World, and Fate: Sand & Steam.

  10 Responses to “Enter the Singularity – Eclipse Phase Book Review”

  1. Nice! I’ve been waiting on this review for a while, I think I’m going to have to pick it up.

  2. Well, while being a relative term …

  3. I picked this up at GenCon this year, and have enjoyed reading it. I am not in a place to run a new game yet, but this one will stay in the on deck circle.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tracy and Tracy, RPG Bloggers Network. RPG Bloggers Network said: Enter the Singularity – Eclipse Phase Book Review from Troll in the Corner » Role… http://goo.gl/fb/dQ2fJ #RPG [...]

  5. It only gets better. I had a friend nab me a copy of Sunward, the new book for Eclipse Phase, at Gencon and it’s also suitably awesome. Not a drop in quality from the core rule at all. I love reading more details into at part of the setting, Mars especially. It also has a nice balance of fun to read fluffy bits and fun to use crunchy bits. I don’t think it’s really available in dead tree format for general sale yet, but it’s worth nabbing the PDF that ~is~ on sale.

  6. I’ve got the Sunward PDF in my review queue as well. =) It’s further down the list since I just covered Eclipse Phase, but I am going to be to looking at it in the not-too-distant future.

  7. There is a fan made Excel character sheet available on the Eclipse Phase forums.

    It helps negate the potential headaches of character generation math.

    http://www.eclipsephase.com/character-sheet-jmobius

  8. I downloaded the sheet. If I ever get to play in an EP game, I’m sure this will come in handy.

  9. I actually picked up this book a couple months ago, but got sidetracked in reading it by the Dresden Files RPG. It looks like a very good system, too bad I don’t know anyone around here who has even heard of it, let alone wants to play.

  10. Jared, beat them over the head and drag them to your gaming cave. There, they’ll wake with Eclipse Phase character sheets in front of them and your manic gaze shooting down the table.

    Wait, that might not be the best idea in the world. Either that, or it’s the perfect way to get new players to your game. Try it and let me know. =)

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