Saturday, 6 October 2012

Off the Shelf: Eclipse Phase

As a fan of hard sci-fi fiction and games I have followed Posthuman Studio's Eclipse Phase roleplaying game with great interest. It is a horror game set in the near-ish future after a catastrophic war against artificial intelligences hell bent on the extinction of the human race. In the years after the war which left the Earth a burnt and unihabitable ruin, the inheritors of humanity have adapted to survival in the most harsh of environments and have evolved into something more (or less) … transhuman.

Eclipse phase is one of those games that I keep in a cherished place on my bookshelf but have never actually run a game of. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly it is a massively complicated game with a huge number of factions and political shenanigans vying for power and position and the technology and techno-speak in the game is rich in the current scientific consensus but is not for every player. I suspect that the game is not a good fit for the role-playing groups I have at the moment. I could be wrong in this.

The second impediment is that the rules system is not one that I like. Whilst it is not too complex it is simulationist and whilst this may  fit with the general technical feel of the background, I am looking for a system that allows my players to engage directly with the story rather than trying to accurately implement the game world. Games I have enjoyed recently have been drama and story driven games such as the excellent Sorcerer, Trail of Cthulhu and Cold City games.

So after stating why I have issues with it what makes me like the game so much?

Well Posthuman games does a great job of selling the background as an engaging and immersive (even cool) sand-box in which to drop players. Each of the rulebooks come with a short story introduction which can be given out to players and will give a great foundation to the feel of the background. The quality of the physical hardback rulebooks is exceptional and on a par if not better than any other game I have owned. The content is detailed and rich describing the setting in great detail without crunch to get in the way.

The Eclipse Phase rule book was published in 2009 and subsequent sourcebooks to further enrich the setting have been published including Sunward (concerning Mars and all the planets and habitats closer to the Sun), Panopticon (spy stuff and uplifted animals), and Gatecrashing (describing the worlds beyond the mysterious Pandora Gates). In part two of this focus on Eclipse Phase I will review the latest publication Rimward which describes the outer system include the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter and beyond.

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