I decided to re-read this book because the kickstarter for a new edition was going on. It took me longer than I had hoped to get through it in part because of numerous other things that I was devoting time to, but I did finally finish reading it again. My basic impression remains the same.
I love the setting, but I dislike the rules. Anyway here are my thoughts on the book.
This is a short piece of fiction that gives some background about the setting and some ideas on how the game should play. I had forgotten how much I liked this story and the tone that they set with it for the game as a whole. If I were to run a game in this setting, I would so use aspects of this in the adventure to set the tone for the campaign. I wont spoil the story for you if you haven’t read it.
Enter the Singularity
This is your basic information on what the setting is like and what a role-playing game is. It also covers terminology that is used in the game which is quite useful and sets you up for the rest of the book.
A Time of Eclipse
This is probably the single longest chapter in the book and it covers the history of the setting, or at least the important things that “everyone knows” that lead us to the current time. We also get sections on the various regional cultures, technology, power structures, law enforcement, economies, habitats and region of inhabited space. There is also information on the various factions that are competing for power or attempting to protect those that survived the fall from extinction.
There is a lot of great material here, and it gives you a good grounding in what life is like in the setting and who some of the major powers are. It also does this without restraining you too much or dictating who will be the antagonists of any story1.
The basic story is that the world was undergoing environmental collapse and the various nations were fighting each other while the largest corporations where merging together and leaving Earth. Then a set of AI super computers called Titans had a hard singularity takeoff and turned against the humans and nearly destroyed the Earth and all of the humans. Now Earth is uninhabitable and a small fraction of the human race survived.
This chapter covers the basic mechanics of the system. In general this is a percentage system where you try to roll under a target number. The target number is either a skill or a combination of attributes. If you get doubles then you get a critical result. For example if your skill is 45 and you roll a 00, 11, 22, 33, or 44 you get a critical success (00 is 0 not 100). If you got 55, 66, 77, 88, or 99 you get a critical failure (99 is always a critical failure).
The other thing that can be important is the Margin of Success and Margin of Failure. These are calculated as every 10 points above or below the target number that you want to roll under.
After this we get some information on the distinction on Morph stats and Ego stats and how some things are associated with the Ego and thus always available to the character, and somethings are specific to the Morph and only available when you are occupying that Morph.
We end this chapter with a section on the types of things that the characters will use to get jobs done.
I understand the decisions that they made in regards to the mechanics, but I ma not sure that I like them. Especially the calculating of the Margin of Success/Margin of Failure
Character Creations and Advancement
This section covers the creation and advancement of the characters. Eclipse Phase makes use of a point-buy system which is fine, I just think they set the number of points you have to spend way too high.
This chapter starts you with choosing a concept, a background, and then a faction. The background and faction give you certain skills and preferred Morphs (Bodies) to start in. We get a section on the various types of Morphs that are available2.
Following that we get a section on Positive and Negative traits that you can purchase. Skills that can be purchased and the various pieces of gear. All of these come from the same pool of points. It is important to note that some of these things that you can buy are related to the morph and not the ego which means you can lose them if you switch bodies.
Motivations are also discussed in this chapter which earn you points as you work towards them towards advancement of abilities.
This chapter is a selection of sample characters that you can use as templates or as is to get started playing right away. It has a fairly good selection of options.
As the chapter title suggests, this section is all about skills. There are two types of skills Aptitudes and Learned. Aptitudes are those skills that are intrinsic to your body. The ability to lift heavy weights, react quickly to stimuli, etc. You can improve these, but only so much through training. Learned skills have a default value based on your Aptitude, but are not limited as to how far you can improve them and they are taken with you as you change Morphs.
The skill list is fairly comprehensive3, and some skills require the choice of specific fields such as the Language and Profession skills. All in all this is what you would expect.
Action and Combat
This chapter covers combat. All the normal rules are here that you would expect. The system uses contested rolls to resolve combat so the attacker rolls an offensive skill like Kinetic Weapons and the defender rolls a defensive skill like Fray and whoever rolls the highest, but still under their skill wins. Again I am not the most fond of contested rolls because that slows things down.
We also get various rules on environmental damages, how different gravities can impact things, rules on knock down and all the other things that you might have come up in combat.
This chapter also covers health and healing and mental health (it is a horror setting). Again nothing surprising in either of these sections. Again nothing surprising in any of these sections.
This chapter covers two things Psi which occurs in people infected with some strains of Exsurgent Viruses and Psychosurgery. The Psi abilities are broken down into two levels. The first level is mostly sensory and the second level allow the manipulation the environment in minor ways. For the most part none of these have dramatic effects.
The Psychosurgery comes into play because the setting treats your mind like software and you can edit the software/mind removing memories or make a copies of your mind to run through simulations to try out various tweaks to cure insanities or other unwanted behavior.
This chapter covers the “new” peer-to-peer network that replaced what was the Internet after the fall. In this chapter we get information on how you can interact with it, how it is used, and the AIs that exist there as well as the Infomorphs (people without a body).
There are rules in this section for using the Mesh to do online research, tracking of targets, and hacking.
This chapter covers topics such as forking your ego which is making a copy possibly with edits so that it can perform some task while you do something else. An example of this would be beaming a fork to a different habitat to have a real-time conversation with a resident there and having it re-turn and be merged back into your mind instead of having a long distance conversation where the round trip for the signal might take minutes or longer.
We also get rules on backing up your ego so if your character dies, you can be resleeved into a new body with hopefully few if any of your memories lost.
We also get rules on switching bodies, morph brokerage, and transportation by sending your mind (Egocasting) to another station and occupying a body there.
We finish this chapter up with Nanofabrication, Security, and Reputation and Social Networks. Nanofabrication has caused most of the system to stop using money and to move to a Reputation based economy. All of which is covered in these sections.
As the name states, this chapter covers gear and the rules around said gear. We get information on various augmentations, drugs and chemicals, everyday technology, weapons, and robots and vehicles. For a science fiction type setting I find this chapter to be particularly short which I did like. Yet it still covers everything that needs to be covered from the point of view of the setting.
This chapter covers the setting’s secrets. Such as who/what really caused the fall. The secrets behind Firewall. The Exhumans, a faction of transhumans that want to become posthuman. The Exsurgent viruses that are roaming the solar system.
This chapter finishes with some things that will help with the administration and vbook-keeping for running a game in the setting.
We finish off the book with a selection of tables, references, index, and a character sheet.
Overall I really enjoyed the setting. The rules, while serviceable, are just not to my tastes. Which is why I would probably convert this to a different system if I was going to use it. The last thing that is important to note is that this version is released under a Creative Commons license so you can find free legal copies on the Internet in various places with little effort.
Now that the second edition kickstarter has finished, I am looking forward to what changes they have made in it, though I doubt that it will change my overall opinion of the system since it did not sound like they were going to make extensive changes.
- I have heard many complaints about the Jovian Junta being too much of a caricature, but as I read the section on them, I didn’t find them so. In fact there are a number of places in this chapter that seemed downright prescient. ↩
- I have a soft spot for the Swarmanoid. ↩
- It is longer than I would have liked. I mean is there really that much of a difference between shooting a gun and a laser? ↩