Sic Transit Gloria Ultimates

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Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
Sic Transit Gloria Ultimates

So, it seems that the Ultimates are no longer a "player-accessible" faction, and will be completing the transition to unabashed x-threat that the last few sourcebooks have been teasing.

And, I'm not sure that having some transhuman (non-TITAN/exsurgent/alien) faction that is united for, out-and-out desirous of, and potentially capable of, militarily conquering and subjugating the rest of transhumanity is a Bad Thing for the universe and the metaplot.

But, in positioning the Ultimates as such, they abandon their "good" side; the one that encourages themselves (and the rest of transhumanity) to "be all that you can be," or, to put it in more flowery language, "Per aspera ad astra."

I'd like to see, as part of the Ultimates throwing off their sheep's clothing, a part of them "stay behind," to (in their own minds) act as Exemplars for transhumanity, or who find no challenge in defeating and dominating "genetrash," at least not at "fair" odds. The ones are blazing a trail for the rest of transhumanity to follow. They're not going to necessarily be nice people, but their goals aren't to subjugate transhumanity either. They might thrash you in a contest of skill and talent, but are going to heartily wish you "better show next time" afterwards, and mean it.

I broke this out into its own topic because I noticed I wasn't the only one dismayed about this, and wanted to make sure a discussion about setting didn't get lost in the discussions about mechanics.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Ian Argent wrote:I'd like to

Ian Argent wrote:
I'd like to see, as part of the Ultimates throwing off their sheep's clothing, a part of them "stay behind," to (in their own minds) act as Exemplars for transhumanity, or who find no challenge in defeating and dominating "genetrash," at least not at "fair" odds. The ones are blazing a trail for the rest of transhumanity to follow. They're not going to necessarily be nice people, but their goals aren't to subjugate transhumanity either. They might thrash you in a contest of skill and talent, but are going to heartily wish you "better show next time" afterwards, and mean it.

The biggest shift in the last few years of publication is the emphasis on the Overhumanists, a subfaction that is decidedly hellbent on killing the rest of humanity.

However, I think it's saddening that they have done this at the cost of discussing the Iconics and Exceptionalists, two groups that are relatively non-hostile. Hell, I've used the Iconics as allies in campaigns before... they might share the belief in self-perfection and independent accountability, but they believe it falls on them to help their lessers along the way. This is starkly in contrast to the Exceptionalists' isolationist views, or the Overhumanists' genocidal views.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
A PC Ultimate seems very

A PC Ultimate seems very likely to be of the Iconic sub-faction.

A slight smell of ions....

RobBoyle RobBoyle's picture
So, to be clear on this, the

So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen. If you really wanted to still play an ultimate (hopefully a non-fascist one!), you still can, and it's as easy as choosing the Ultimate Faction motivation in that step -- just as you could with any of the other (mostly smaller) factions we don't include in the list. We just chose not to push them as a primary choice.

Rob Boyle :: Posthuman Studios

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
Yep^^^ I cannot see it other

Yep^^^ I cannot see it other way. Unless all PCs are Ultimates it is hard to justify other
stereotypical subfactions of Ultimates joining stereotypical "Player Party" with their usual motley crew of "genetrash"

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DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
RobBoyle wrote:So, to be

RobBoyle wrote:
So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen...

I'm glad that Ultimates are still playable. I was worried there for a bit.

Edit: I hope they don't make it too hard to play them.

Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
RobBoyle wrote:So, to be

RobBoyle wrote:
So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen. If you really wanted to still play an ultimate (hopefully a non-fascist one!), you still can, and it's as easy as choosing the Ultimate Faction motivation in that step -- just as you could with any of the other (mostly smaller) factions we don't include in the list. We just chose not to push them as a primary choice.

That's why I put it the way that I did - that the Ultimates have been working up to be this "system-conquering" x-threat, filling a niche that has been notably empty in the post-Fall period (the expansionistic polity. The Consortium wants to OWN it all, not RULE it all, from what I've seen), and that's a Fine Thing.

I guess I want to make sure that the "positive" version of their philosophy is still presented and represented.

Grim G Grim G's picture
RobBoyle wrote:So, to be

RobBoyle wrote:
So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen. If you really wanted to still play an ultimate (hopefully a non-fascist one!), you still can, and it's as easy as choosing the Ultimate Faction motivation in that step -- just as you could with any of the other (mostly smaller) factions we don't include in the list. We just chose not to push them as a primary choice.

Would fascism even exist in a future where race is as interchangeable as clothing? Maybe on Luna or in the Jovian Republic, but in my head canon most people see race as an adjective rather than an identity. For example, the "N" word would be used to describe anyone who does something violent and without thought (see that one episode of the Boondocks), and considering how Judaism exists on one obscure habitat, it's much more likely that "Jew" would be a Barsoomian word for corporate types who are greedy and pushing an agenda of corruption.
TheGrue TheGrue's picture
Grim G wrote:RobBoyle wrote

Grim G wrote:
RobBoyle wrote:
So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen. If you really wanted to still play an ultimate (hopefully a non-fascist one!), you still can, and it's as easy as choosing the Ultimate Faction motivation in that step -- just as you could with any of the other (mostly smaller) factions we don't include in the list. We just chose not to push them as a primary choice.

Would fascism even exist in a future where race is as interchangeable as clothing? Maybe on Luna or in the Jovian Republic, but in my head canon most people see race as an adjective rather than an identity. For example, the "N" word would be used to describe anyone who does something violent and without thought (see that one episode of the Boondocks), and considering how Judaism exists on one obscure habitat, it's much more likely that "Jew" would be a Barsoomian word for corporate types who are greedy and pushing an agenda of corruption.

Despite what certain contemporary groups would have you believe, fascism isn't a synonym for racism. Webster defines fascism as

Quote:
a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

According to this definition, race can be a component of fascist regimes, but it is neither a sufficient nor necessary quality. There's plenty of room for fascist ideology in a post-racial transhumanist society.

Thermonuclear Banana Split - A not-really-weekly Eclipse Phase campaign journal.

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Yes fascism can exist in the

Yes fascism can exist in the future. Its an us verses them attitude. Visibly different races is an easy target, but not the only targets. It could be Americans verses Soviet Union. It could be Republicans vs Democrats. It could be Ultimates vs genetrash, or even "humanity" vs soulless transhuman monsters.

Archon79 Archon79's picture
Grim G wrote:RobBoyle wrote

Grim G wrote:
RobBoyle wrote:
So, to be clear on this, the ultimates are not going away, they're included in the book. We simply chose not to list them in the abbreviated section on choosing a faction in chargen. If you really wanted to still play an ultimate (hopefully a non-fascist one!), you still can, and it's as easy as choosing the Ultimate Faction motivation in that step -- just as you could with any of the other (mostly smaller) factions we don't include in the list. We just chose not to push them as a primary choice.

Would fascism even exist in a future where race is as interchangeable as clothing? Maybe on Luna or in the Jovian Republic, but in my head canon most people see race as an adjective rather than an identity. For example, the "N" word would be used to describe anyone who does something violent and without thought (see that one episode of the Boondocks), and considering how Judaism exists on one obscure habitat, it's much more likely that "Jew" would be a Barsoomian word for corporate types who are greedy and pushing an agenda of corruption.

Fascism is not Nazism, (tho they are ofc allied and related ideas) for instance Italian Fascism was not any more racist than the other colonial powers of the time, what sets fascism apart is the belief in conflict and war as a moral good, the total mobilization of the state and private sectors towards the goal of national struggle, and the superiority of the Nation and People as fixed ideas, yes this leads to racist and violent behaviour, in our world, because race, nation and religion are linked ideas, however in a world where race was a dead meme, and so was the nation state, distilling out the 'strength through purity, united by a powerful, militaristic party organisation, with conflict as a moral good, whether that be war, or monuments or science, is a valid comparison. The Ubermensch idea appealed, as well as the Leader Cult, the Ultimates have varying amounts of both.

Grim G Grim G's picture
Fair point

I figured fascism wasn't just about race (thought it's the only thing us unenlightened think about). Still, removing Ultimates from the faction list (as unimportant as it is) seems like a bit much. I mean, if fascism is an "us vs them" thing (minus the authoritarian part), then you can argue that anyone with an ideology is a fascist who doesn't get violent over their views.

Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
Softening of stance

Having glanced over the initial statement that set me off, Rob, you've somewhat softened your stance from "we don't want players to play ultimates" to "we won't fully support them playing "non-fascist" ultimates."

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Yeah, I'm opposed to their

Yeah, I'm opposed to their removal as a playable faction. The Ultimates are an interesting faction; one of the few that engage in maximal morphological freedom and self-improvement. They should be a source of X-Risks, but so should every faction; that's a part of the point of them even being in the game.

The Ultimates, as a general rule, are probably going to come across as chauvinistic bullies (because many, perhaps almost all of them, will be; you don't get healthy mindsets by telling people "You are the best and can do whatever you want to other people in your pursuit of transcendance"), but they represent an interesting set of ideas that can and should be available for players and GMs to address.

I also don't really get the suggestion that the Ultimates are fascists. Fascism is only similar to the Ultimates on a superficial level, because both groups are chauvinists who believe that certain people are superior to others. Fascists, though, believe in the subsumation of the individual to the greater whole; into the volk, the state, the faith, whatever. Ultimates are radical individualists and egoists, who see the pursuit of self-improvement and immortality as the only worthwhile pursuit, with all those who refuse to pursue such things as essentially being fodder. They're viciously amoral and worship Der Wille Zur Macht, but they don't believe might makes right, as there is no "right" to be had. An Ultimate simply acknowledges that someone else had the power to take something; there is no moral argument to be made beyond that.

The Jovian Republic is textbook fascist, in the classic military dictator style; the individual subsumed into the whole, with a general practice of autarky and a worship of the faceless, servile citizen as the ideal.




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DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Well, fascism is more of a

Well, fascism is more of a hostile, violent, and fearful thing. You don't think that the other should be allowed to exist. You don't care about the means...

I need to check my facts to make sure I'm getting this right.

TheGrue TheGrue's picture
DivineWrath wrote:Well,

DivineWrath wrote:
Well, fascism is more of a hostile, violent, and fearful thing. You don't think that the other should be allowed to exist. You don't care about the means...

I need to check my facts to make sure I'm getting this right.

Hmmm, when you put it that way, fascism starts to remind me of some other ideological movements I've heard of...

Thermonuclear Banana Split - A not-really-weekly Eclipse Phase campaign journal.

Grim G Grim G's picture
This guy^

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
Yeah, I'm opposed to their removal as a playable faction. The Ultimates are an interesting faction; one of the few that engage in maximal morphological freedom and self-improvement. They should be a source of X-Risks, but so should every faction; that's a part of the point of them even being in the game.

The Ultimates, as a general rule, are probably going to come across as chauvinistic bullies (because many, perhaps almost all of them, will be; you don't get healthy mindsets by telling people "You are the best and can do whatever you want to other people in your pursuit of transcendance"), but they represent an interesting set of ideas that can and should be available for players and GMs to address.

I also don't really get the suggestion that the Ultimates are fascists. Fascism is only similar to the Ultimates on a superficial level, because both groups are chauvinists who believe that certain people are superior to others. Fascists, though, believe in the subsumation of the individual to the greater whole; into the volk, the state, the faith, whatever. Ultimates are radical individualists and egoists, who see the pursuit of self-improvement and immortality as the only worthwhile pursuit, with all those who refuse to pursue such things as essentially being fodder. They're viciously amoral and worship Der Wille Zur Macht, but they don't believe might makes right, as there is no "right" to be had. An Ultimate simply acknowledges that someone else had the power to take something; there is no moral argument to be made beyond that.

The Jovian Republic is textbook fascist, in the classic military dictator style; the individual subsumed into the whole, with a general practice of autarky and a worship of the faceless, servile citizen as the ideal.


I imagine Ultimates as gym jocks who make fun of fat people online, much like a friend of mine. But I'm still friends with the guy because he's funny, smart, and doesn't say it to their faces like a dick. I imagine Ultimates have some sort of modesty, at least in habs where they're the minority.
Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
I don't really get how the

I don't really get how the Ultimates are fascists though. My understanding is the fascism is characterized by authoritarian nationalism and statism, and, by my understanding, the Ultimates are somewhere between a PMC and a warrior brotherhood.

The ultimates as written in Rimward and X Risks don't seem to have a strong central leader (The Demiurge Manu Bhattacharya doesn't appear to be a real dictator, and seems pretty hands off). They just seem to individualistic to fit my understanding of fascism. I am definitely not an expert here though, so maybe this kind of hardline superiority thing still fits without the social organization aspects.

Grim G Grim G's picture
TheGrue wrote:DivineWrath

TheGrue wrote:
DivineWrath wrote:
Well, fascism is more of a hostile, violent, and fearful thing. You don't think that the other should be allowed to exist. You don't care about the means...

I need to check my facts to make sure I'm getting this right.

Hmmm, when you put it that way, fascism starts to remind me of some other ideological movements I've heard of...


Commies? Or the Antifa idiots that make anarchists like myself want to promote an old and dried up meme of a frog holding a Jude star out of spite?
TheGrue TheGrue's picture
Grim G wrote:TheGrue wrote

Grim G wrote:
TheGrue wrote:
DivineWrath wrote:
Well, fascism is more of a hostile, violent, and fearful thing. You don't think that the other should be allowed to exist. You don't care about the means...

I need to check my facts to make sure I'm getting this right.

Hmmm, when you put it that way, fascism starts to remind me of some other ideological movements I've heard of...


Commies? Or the Antifa idiots that make anarchists like myself want to promote an old and dried up meme of a frog holding a Jude star out of spite?

Old memes never die, they just fade away.

Thermonuclear Banana Split - A not-really-weekly Eclipse Phase campaign journal.

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Trappedinwikipedia wrote:I

Trappedinwikipedia wrote:
I don't really get how the Ultimates are fascists though. My understanding is the fascism is characterized by authoritarian nationalism and statism, and, by my understanding, the Ultimates are somewhere between a PMC and a warrior brotherhood.

The ultimates as written in Rimward and X Risks don't seem to have a strong central leader (The Demiurge Manu Bhattacharya doesn't appear to be a real dictator, and seems pretty hands off). They just seem to individualistic to fit my understanding of fascism. I am definitely not an expert here though, so maybe this kind of hardline superiority thing still fits without the social organization aspects.

The Ultimates really aren't fascists. They're chauvinistic assholes, something that most people mistake for fascism, because all fascists are chauvinistic assholes. It's just not true in the inverse; not all chauvinistic assholes are fascists.

What the Ultimates definitely are is potentially violently authoritarian, as their philosophy explicitly says such is allowable without any particular caveats. Ultimates ostensibly view violence for self-aggrandizement, instead of self-improvement, as so much pissing in the wind, but that's as close as they get to a moral condemnation.




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DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
I think I was mixing fascism

I think I was mixing fascism with authoritarianism. Fascism has many things about it that authoritarians would back. So fascism tends to have some flavors of authoritarianism. However, authoritarians are their own thing and will back other systems of government or political ideologies.

Fascism seems to view violence as a tool of purity. In Italy before WW2, they used force to remove communism. This was before Jews became a target. Many Jews in Italy at that time did well before Mussolini decided to become better friends with the Nazi party in Germany.

We're all authoritarian to some extent, some more than others. We can all fall into traps that bring out our authoritarian side. Authoritarians are more fearful and vindictive. The are more easily convinced that any problem you pick is the greatest problem we face, and they are more forgiving of their leaders. For instance, many Nazis did not believe that Hitler had any knowledge of the genocide of the Jews. Generally, a good counter for authoritarians is education and new experiences. Colleges are good places for that to happen.

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
It's another one of those

It's another one of those "All of A are B, but not all of B are A" things; all fascists are authoritarians, but not all authoritarians are fascists.




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Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
I get the impression the

I get the impression the removal of the Ultimates as a playable faction has less to do with them fitting a dictionary definition of fascism and more to do with the way people seem to uncritically embrace them and selectively ignore what the Ultimates are actually consequentially about for the sake of a romanticized vision of them.

I get how that might make them uncomfortable. The game does a rather good job of being harsh on illusions that the Planetary Consortium or the Jovian Republic are uncritical good guys. It is not so good about doing that with Anarchist groups, but anarchist groups are sufficiently broad that there isn't really a huge amount of harm done there.

But people seem to really buy into the Ultimates in an uncritical fashion which is deeply unsettling, so I get where the discomfort is coming from.

Again, it's mostly a non-issue because factions are not what they were in 1e.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
It should have occurred to me

It should have occurred to me earlier, but it seems like Singularity Seekers are in a similar position as the Ultimates.

A slight smell of ions....

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Given the world's actual

Given the world's actual history with anarchism, I wouldn't say that uncritical embracing of it can be said to be harmless. The setting itself features a fairly significant number of anarchist terrorist groups, yet never actually addresses this any time anarchist politics are brought up or discussed. Even the Jovian section of Rimward, written from the perspective of a Jovian loyalist, calls anarchist suicide bombers detonating themselves around civilians (who lack back-ups in many cases, I might add) "freedom fighters".

I also don't know where the books ever paint the hypercorps or the Jovian Republic as being the "good guys". They're pretty unambiguous in painting these groups as villainous, with the PC outright contemplating using mind-controlling drugs in the water supply, and the Jovian Republic naming one of its major habs after friggin' Pinochet.

Eclipse Phase needs its moral greys. It needs diversity of politics and factions, warts and all. The Planetary Consortium comes closest to getting this just right; just at the right edge of cynical, where your average person's quality of life is reasonable but, ultimately, there's a systemic blight and unfairness that perpetuates oligarchic hegemony and allows what amounts to outright slavery. At the same time, the PC has also managed to provide the most good (and goods) for the most people; caring for more souls than all the rest of the system combined.

We need the same sorts of critical glances at other habs and polities; to highlight the good AND the bad.

The Ultimates are just one more faction on the list. They're the voice for nihilism in the system; reminding everyone that they exist in a cold, uncaring universe, and that humanistic assumptions of morality aren't actually universal constants. They represent a breaking of the mould and giving the question of self-definition to us.

Turns out most of them chose to be assholes, but such is life.




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Theliel Theliel's picture
Axel the Chimeric wrote:It's

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
It's another one of those "All of A are B, but not all of B are A" things; all fascists are authoritarians, but not all authoritarians are fascists.

Well, I consider the Ultimates to be closer to Japanese 'fascism' than the German version - they are dedicated to self improvement uber alis, but also have their own memes, memes which lean heavily on alt-right racist memes of today: Genetrash, et. al.
They're authoritarian as fuck (the military is authoritarian as fuck, so military societies are authoritarian as fuck) but what pushes them ever closer to the fascist side of the house is the creeping "and the genetrash are filling up space that we could be using" or "tolerating the unknowing and unwilling, who are functionally identical, puts us all at risk as they are simply waiting to be used by our true enemies, the exsurgents"

Fascism is more than just authoritarianism, and one of the keys is a pervasive enemy that is neigh unstoppable and simultaneously trivially easy to defeat by our heroes.

I'm comfortable calling the Ultimates authoritarian morph purists who're sliding headlong into fascism. They're starting to identify 'problems' that need to be 'solved' with a 'final solution' that will just make everything all better. It's just specifically not the ethno-nationalism of the nazi party, and it lacks the nationalistic theology of the Italian, Spanish or Jovian variety.

So yeah - Space Imperial Japan fascists got pulled from the list. Space Francoist (with an American skin) Spanish fascists, and let us be clear here - the Jovian Junta is absolutely an nationalist-theology backed fascist government patterned after Franco complete with integration of religion into the justification of governance - gets a pass.

But, I mean, when you're getting murdered because you aren't 'pure' enough to join up, they're all Space Nazis.

Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
That's certainly a dividing line

Francoist Spain vs Imperial Japan is definitely a strong and dividing line as to why PCs from the Jovians are supported by the system and PCs from the Ultimates are not.

But if the Ultimates are transitioning from Meiji to (early) Showa; what of the remnant samurai, the ones who still have their individual honor as distinct from the national honor?

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
I think your comparison of

I think your comparison of the Ultimates to fascists is skin-deep, at best, Theliel. Especially when you compare the Ultimates to Imperial Japan.

Remember, fascism is defined by the fasces; the binding of the many to the one. Subsumation of the individual into the greater whole is a critical part of fascism. It is, indeed, one of the critical parts of Imperial Japan, where the individual has little to no worth in comparison to the state (and the God-Emperor); where sacrifice of the self for the greater good is considered a noble virtue.

Likewise, racism defines itself on the supposed innate superiority of one group to another by virtue of birth, and that an insurmountable gulf lies between the two. This is not something that exists in either sense in EP; both in that innate superiority is no longer supposed (a Menton IS better than a Splicer when it comes to cognition; it simply is), and that this gulf is insurmountable (you can get tweaks or even simply resleeve).

The Ultimates are not fascist. They are not racist. They cannot readily be either of these things without massive changes to their philosophy.

Ultimates are radical egoists and, hence, strong individualists. They do not believe in any higher goal than the self; no greater virtue than the evolution of the self. There is no noble purpose in sacrificing oneself for the state, the volk, the gods, etc., because such things are illusory. Only the self is certain and real. The Ultimates work together out of a philosophy of rational self-interest, not because they believe in any cause greater than themselves.

Likewise, the Ultimates are not prejudiced by origins (in theory, at least). Anyone and everyone could be one of them. That's really the point. They look down on people because they see those people as weak for choosing to not be like them, which, one could argue, makes them xenophobic, but one can't compare their xenophobia to the racism we're familiar with today. Trying to do so actually enters really uncomfortable territory, because the Ultimates can demonstrate objectively that their morphs are smarter, stronger... Better.

The Ultimates aren't fascists. They're nihilists. And they might honestly be correct on some points. People refusing to improve themselves and prepare for the return of the TITANs actually does create fresh vectors for exploitation. The idea that they should just sit back and accept this glaring weakness that could cost them their eternal existences is something that most people might accept, but it's not something the Ultimates do. It's the same argument that's made about controlling nanofabbers, on a far grander scale.




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Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
Axel the Chimeric wrote:Given

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
Given the world's actual history with anarchism, I wouldn't say that uncritical embracing of it can be said to be harmless.

I suppose I agree, but my point was really that people are sufficiently skeptical going into the books that they don't uncritically embrace anarchism because of their positionality.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
The setting itself features a fairly significant number of anarchist terrorist groups, yet never actually addresses this any time anarchist politics are brought up or discussed. Even the Jovian section of Rimward, written from the perspective of a Jovian loyalist, calls anarchist suicide bombers detonating themselves around civilians (who lack back-ups in many cases, I might add) "freedom fighters".

More discussion of this should happen!

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
I also don't know where the books ever paint the hypercorps or the Jovian Republic as being the "good guys". They're pretty unambiguous in painting these groups as villainous, with the PC outright contemplating using mind-controlling drugs in the water supply, and the Jovian Republic naming one of its major habs after friggin' Pinochet.

I... Don't know if you got this from my post, because my point was that the books do not paint the PC or the Jovians in a positive light, so it's much harder for people to 'drink the kool aid' from their sections. They feel comfortable that people who are reading them are doing so from a critical position rather than an uncritical one. The method by which they do so is heavy-handed, but you're never going to walk away from an eclipse phase book with a textual reading that suggests that the PC or the JR are unvarnished good guys.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
Eclipse Phase needs its moral greys. It needs diversity of politics and factions, warts and all. The Planetary Consortium comes closest to getting this just right; just at the right edge of cynical, where your average person's quality of life is reasonable but, ultimately, there's a systemic blight and unfairness that perpetuates oligarchic hegemony and allows what amounts to outright slavery. At the same time, the PC has also managed to provide the most good (and goods) for the most people; caring for more souls than all the rest of the system combined.

Yes.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
We need the same sorts of critical glances at other habs and polities; to highlight the good AND the bad.

I think separating things into a dichotomous good or bad is part of the problem, but critical glances at the polities are good.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
The Ultimates are just one more faction on the list. They're the voice for nihilism in the system; reminding everyone that they exist in a cold, uncaring universe, and that humanistic assumptions of morality aren't actually universal constants. They represent a breaking of the mould and giving the question of self-definition to us.

Turns out most of them chose to be assholes, but such is life.

Sure! So it's a good thing that the books might trend towards being more self-aware about that fact, so as to prevent people from drinking the kool-aid and thinking that the Ultimates are all that, because that isn't actually a moral grey, and it seemed like in practice too many people were coming at them and thinking they're right without exploring the consequences of what that kind of acceptance might mean...

... Which leads rather nicely into exploring those consequences when you get the opportunity to discuss what the Ultimates as a faction look like in action. Accordingly, it might be what some in the Firewall community call an existential threat.

Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
x-threats

All the factions (except, arguably, the Jovians) harbor x-threat potential as a faction. A few factions (as few as 2 in the early part of the metaplot) are dedicated x-threats (exhumans and singularity seekers; discounting exsurgents).

The Jovians are only an actual x-threat if there is another x-threat that requires transhumanity to rapidly and universally "evolve." Otherwise they're kinda pathetic remnants of a pathetic ideology. Their direct x-threat potential (as noted in "x-threats") was purged and is skulking around in the outer rim staring into the abyss as the abyss stares back at them. The Titanians are more of an x-threat, in that they allow people to meddle with Iapetus. IMO of course.

I keep saying, people seem to want a full-up faction dedicated to self-improvement without the "untermenchen" baggage of what the Ultimates are apparently evolving into. I'm fine with the Ultimates turning into Space Nazis (and the Jovians being Space Francoists, for that matter). Do they have to take the non-Nazi, non-Nihilist (the ones present pre-Fall, like the ones that sent ALL the stacks up the elevator, including the ones that scrabbled for the food, in that one short story). At the worst, sometimes brutal, but egalitarian in their brutality.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Leetsepeak wrote:Sure! So it

Leetsepeak wrote:
Sure! So it's a good thing that the books might trend towards being more self-aware about that fact, so as to prevent people from drinking the kool-aid and thinking that the Ultimates are all that, because that isn't actually a moral grey, and it seemed like in practice too many people were coming at them and thinking they're right without exploring the consequences of what that kind of acceptance might mean...

By that logic, the presence of the Drow in D&D raises the possibility of people "drinking the Kool-Aid" and worshipping Lolth the Spider God.

That's bananas.

I don't think anyone read the Ultimates sections in 1st Edition and thought they were good guys. Anti-heroes of an interesting kind, sure... but doubtful that anyone thinks they're a morally-kind faction.

That said, it's a pretty hypocritical judgment to not want to "encourage" their portrayal as potential protagonists within a campaign setting where the PCs are expected to act as criminals and terrorists in support of a secret conspiracy hellbent on protecting the human race from threats at ANY cost.

Imagine if the Gene Roddenberry estate demanded that Star Trek fans stop wearing, speaking or celebrating Klingon because they're a violent tribal race? Should Star Trek fans just accept that? Because that's what's happening here.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

MagisterCrow MagisterCrow's picture
Huh...

Did not expect this topic to take off like it did...

My two cents is this: I like the ultimates as a faction. They present an interesting play opportunity. They have a unique dynamic that presents a different struggle. My friend plays one mostly because of their aim at self-perfection and improvement. He's...not really transhumanist, but his view is "hey, if it improves my life, why not?"

Are they fascists? By political definition...kinda. They have the whole 'we are superior' mentality, tend to look down on those outside their circles, and have an almost religious reverence of Bhattacharya. If the rumors about them are true, then they'd be both an X-threat and...generally horrible.

That said, they also are highly individualistic, seem to almost encourage inner factionalism, and, perhaps most importantly, still consider themselves transhuman.

I'm not saying they need to be listed as a faction, but I also don't want them becoming, as one of the books lists, "exhumans with a code of conduct." I'm a little worried because, where the Jovians have expanded and turned into a far more nuanced faction that now makes sense to have in Firewall, I feel like Ultimates may be going the opposite, where all the various nuances get overridden in favor of 'new antagonist faction.'

Honestly, that one worries me less from a game perspective and more for the future of the faction. Being honest, as antagonists, they present little that isn't already covered by other factions. Threat of taking over? You've got the Consortium for that. Destroying transhumanity for being weak/not as evolved? Exhumans. Ideological rival that does a lot of what you do already? OZMA. Taking over the gate network is about the only thing I see, and that's a narrow threat for an interesting faction.

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
I see the Ultimates as being

I see the Ultimates as being related to the Clans from Battletech, but without the requirement of being born into the movement and without the strict caste hierarchy.

They're kind of like an incarnation of Plato's utopia; a place where the best X does the thing that an X does. If you're not the best X, you try to make yourself the best X, or you don't have a place in the Ultimates.

That's not necessarily a place that you want to be forced to live in, but the Ultimates are very far non-authoritarian (despite the fact that they have clear command structures; the difference is that they do not seek maximum control of individuals' lives; individuals take maximum control of their lives). Of course, they do tend to pursue similar interest and methods, but that's more of a consequence of the sampling size we see in terms of material regarding the Ultimates and their warrior-philosopher schtick.

Of course, the Overhumanists are bad, but I'd argue that they're not even real Ultimates.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.

Decivre Decivre's picture
SquireNed wrote:Of course,

SquireNed wrote:
I see the Ultimates as being related to the Clans from Battletech, but without the requirement of being born into the movement and without the strict caste hierarchy.

Absolutely this. In fact, I'd argue that they're a better interpretation of the concept; the Ultimates were never hindered by some ham-fisted honor code used as a means to balance the game.

SquireNed wrote:
Of course, the Overhumanists are bad, but I'd argue that they're not even real Ultimates.

Sure they are, they are just the worst fanatics of the faction.

You can think of it in the context of broader religious groups. Iconics are the moderates of the Ultimate ideology, Exceptionalists are the fundamentalists, and Overhumanists are the violent zealots. A well-designed faction is going to have seedy elements. This isn't an upbeat setting, it's transhuman horror... no point in looking for clean factions.

Besides, the Ultimates have been grim since the get-go. The core book mentions how they put their indentures into deaf flats, so they can be more easily controlled (or arguably, so they could keep primitive humanity as pets).

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
Decivre wrote:

Decivre wrote:

By that logic, the presence of the Drow in D&D raises the possibility of people "drinking the Kool-Aid" and worshipping Lolth the Spider God.

Whuh?

Decivre wrote:
That's bananas.

I agree that's bananas, but that's not what I was talking about, the Drow are the same as the Jovians or the PC in this situation thaT I outlined above.

I think an important consideration here is to consider what has actually been done. That Rob and company are not putting the Ultimates in the list of playable factions is a decision that's been made. If you want to ignore that decision, it is very easy to do so. If you want to understand why they did that, you need to try to look at it from their perspective. This is not about a logical argument being made for or against the Ultimates, but a matter of personal comfort based on their personal perspective as the people making the game.

Decivre wrote:
I don't think anyone read the Ultimates sections in 1st Edition and thought they were good guys. Anti-heroes of an interesting kind, sure... but doubtful that anyone thinks they're a morally-kind faction.

I think that posts in this thread are suggestive of a far more romantic view of them, and that the concerns that might play a part in the decision to change them are rooted in that and real world situations.

Decivre wrote:
That said, it's a pretty hypocritical judgment to not want to "encourage" their portrayal as potential protagonists within a campaign setting where the PCs are expected to act as criminals and terrorists in support of a secret conspiracy hellbent on protecting the human race from threats at ANY cost.

Sure! I think that there's room for contradiction here, if you look at it from some kind of situation of abstract principle rather than practice. I'm pretty sure that in the framework of the books and of the fanbase that the devs believe people are fully aware of the morally questionable nature of Firewall. I think they are much less confident in the same position being taken by the fanbase with regards to the Ultimates.

Decivre wrote:
Imagine if the Gene Roddenberry estate demanded that Star Trek fans stop wearing, speaking or celebrating Klingon because they're a violent tribal race? Should Star Trek fans just accept that? Because that's what's happening here.

Man, that would be crazy. I don't really know how useful the comparison is, because I don't think there's concern in the contemporary political situation informing a personal decision to not allow people to act like Klingons because they feel uncomfortable abetting what they perceive as a problematic ideology. It's the Drow thing again, where you're kind of missing the forest for the trees. What's the actual objection that might fuel the decision to remove the Ultimates? Because I don't think the examples you're providing even remotely attempt to interrogate that question.

Like, I think it's totally fine to disagree on whether the Ultimates are a 'problematic ideology' but if you approach this by trying to make these comparisons which ignore the particulars which are material for the actual decision, that just seems self-defeating if you want to do something besides stew in your displeasure.

EDIT: To be clear, I'd play an Ultimate again! I think they are interesting. I'm not surprised by this decision really, and I think that given the ease with which you can play an Ultimate anyway, I don't think protesting the decision on the basis of a real marginalization of the group actually makes sense. I think the best way to get a point across to the developers if you would prefer that they not remove the Ultimates as a playable faction would be to understand why they removed them in the first place. I promise you the answer to that question does not lie in abstract comparisons with Klingons and Drow.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Leetsepeak wrote:I agree that

Leetsepeak wrote:
I agree that's bananas, but that's not what I was talking about, the Drow are the same as the Jovians or the PC in this situation thaT I outlined above.

I think an important consideration here is to consider what has actually been done. That Rob and company are not putting the Ultimates in the list of playable factions is a decision that's been made. If you want to ignore that decision, it is very easy to do so. If you want to understand why they did that, you need to try to look at it from their perspective. This is not about a logical argument being made for or against the Ultimates, but a matter of personal comfort based on their personal perspective as the people making the game.


The similarity I see is in the context of the society portrayed. The Drow are portrayed as a matriarchal race of slavers who worship a demon goddess. There's literally nothing ambiguous about the malice and evil of the entire race's culture, and yet they are set as a playable core race for the new edition (and have arguably been one of the more popular playable races since 2nd Edition thanks to Drizzt).

If anything, the Drow example is a more absurd example of what is here. Eclipse Phase is a setting of muddy morality, whereas D&D has objective good and evil as forces.

That said, I have zero doubt that nothing that is said in this thread will change the minds of the writers. But a forum is for expression regardless, and it's an interesting topic to discuss.

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think that posts in this thread are suggestive of a far more romantic view of them, and that the concerns that might play a part in the decision to change them are rooted in that and real world situations.

Which is exactly why this bothers me. I'm already bothered by how much the president is screwing my country up. I hate that he's screwing one of my favorite games up as well.

And I disagree with the assumption of romanticism. Firewall is the central focus of the setting, and yet I don't even think that they are romanticized. The setting isn't very romantic or idealized by any margin. It's a pretty horrific system, and the unknowing civilians are portrayed as cattle for the slaughter of horrors hiding in wait without their knowledge. Groups like the Jovians and Ultimates highlight interesting strategies against these horrors at great cost (loss of liberty, hostile ideology).

Leetsepeak wrote:
Man, that would be crazy. I don't really know how useful the comparison is, because I don't think there's concern in the contemporary political situation informing a personal decision to not allow people to act like Klingons because they feel uncomfortable abetting what they perceive as a problematic ideology. It's the Drow thing again, where you're kind of missing the forest for the trees. What's the actual objection that might fuel the decision to remove the Ultimates? Because I don't think the examples you're providing even remotely attempt to interrogate that question.

Like, I think it's totally fine to disagree on whether the Ultimates are a 'problematic ideology' but if you approach this by trying to make these comparisons which ignore the particulars which are material for the actual decision, that just seems self-defeating if you want to do something besides stew in your displeasure.


Again, you're making this a discussion about whether people like the ideology of the Ultimates, rather than about whether people like them as a faction. There's a distinction between these two things that you're missing, and this is the issue.

There are countless factions, races, groups throughout fiction that can be seen as definitively antagonistic... Klingons, Borg, Tieflings, Drow, Ultimates, Zerg... many of which have horrific social orders which we all likely loath, whether they be violent, hive minded, or worse. But people still come to like them, without needing to buy into their views and values. Even villains can have fanbases.

But to that end, rebellion against the norm is a staple of fiction. This decision locks out interesting character choices... defiant civilian who grew up in the slums of Aspis, Iconic Ducti working in resistance to the Overhumanists, liberated Ultimate indenture seeking revenge on his owner through climbing the ranks....

And please don't exaggerate the reactions of people in this thread. I doubt anyone is saying they pulled support for the game over this decision. This is just a bunch of people voicing their opinion on the subject. Faction mechanics are loose, so people here will play Ultimates if they want to... nothing can stop that. I think they just dislike the shift in how they are portrayed. I personally liked how they used to be portrayed as an insular society slowly being overtaken by zealots with each later release. Now it seems that Posthuman would rather portray them as an organization solely made up of zealots already hellbent on destruction, and that feels downright one-dimensional.

We already know the justification. They aren't playable because they are fascist. Got that. Our problem is that this raises more questions. Why are Jovians still playable? If we're avoiding fascist groups because we don't want to support fascism, is the Consortium and Luna still playable because the devs support hypercapitalism and indentured servitude? My guess is no, but then one has to wonder why fascism is being treated differently. Note that I do not support fascism anymore or less than I support indentured servitude. I oppose both in equal measure. Which is why I am as opposed to removing the Ultimates as I am to removing the Planetary Consortium. We should handle both topics with equal parts caution and maturity.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
Decivre wrote:

Decivre wrote:

The similarity I see is in the context of the society portrayed. The Drow are portrayed as a matriarchal race of slavers who worship a demon goddess. There's literally nothing ambiguous about the malice and evil of the entire race's culture, and yet they are set as a playable core race for the new edition (and have arguably been one of the more popular playable races since 2nd Edition thanks to Drizzt).

I have no insight into the reasoning for their inclusion, but if I had to guess, I suspect that putting Posthuman in the situation of running D&D, they would not remove the Drow either, because like the PC or the Jovians they don't feel like people are buying into their ideology as correct or in an uncritical fashion.

Decivre wrote:
If anything, the Drow example is a more absurd example of what is here. Eclipse Phase is a setting of muddy morality, whereas D&D has objective good and evil as forces.

Yeah, I really don't know why you keep making these comparisons. It furnishes the point that the Drow are not representative of the same issue that Posthuman might have with the Ultimates. They're objectively evil in game, there is no kool-aid to drink there because there isn't really a way to rationalize it textually.

Decivre wrote:
Which is exactly why this bothers me. I'm already bothered by how much the president is screwing my country up. I hate that he's screwing one of my favorite games up as well.

Blaming him might be a bit too simplistic.

Decivre wrote:
And I disagree with the assumption of romanticism. Firewall is the central focus of the setting, and yet I don't even think that they are romanticized. The setting isn't very romantic or idealized by any margin. It's a pretty horrific system, and the unknowing civilians are portrayed as cattle for the slaughter of horrors hiding in wait without their knowledge. Groups like the Jovians and Ultimates highlight interesting strategies against these horrors at great cost (loss of liberty, hostile ideology).

I think you should re-read what I said carefully.

Decivre wrote:
And I disagree with the assumption of romanticism. Firewall is the central focus of the setting, and yet I don't even think that they are romanticized.

Presumably that plays a part in why they feel comfortable letting people play Firewall, unlike the Ultimates.

Decivre wrote:
The setting isn't very romantic or idealized by any margin.

I think so too! It's a pity that in spite of including that ambiguity that people romanticize the Ultimates in the fashion that they do rather than critically interrogate them. That people are throwing out No True Scotsman and the like is a testament to that.

Decivre wrote:
It's a pretty horrific system, and the unknowing civilians are portrayed as cattle for the slaughter of horrors hiding in wait without their knowledge. Groups like the Jovians and Ultimates highlight interesting strategies against these horrors at great cost (loss of liberty, hostile ideology).

I'm glad you can see that.

Decivre wrote:
Again, you're making this a discussion about whether people like the ideology of the Ultimates, rather than about whether people like them as a faction. There's a distinction between these two things that you're missing, and this is the issue.

Okay, let me frame it for you another way. If you critically analyze what the developers have said, why do you think they removed the Ultimates? If you make a serious effort to answer that question, I think you'll get where I'm coming from.

I also think that the faction is probably not the hill to die on because even if the ideology is perfect or pure or good, the faction is the place where the Overhumanists exist and the Ultimates are what they are in practice, which is what we've seen in Firewall and presumably will see in the 2e books.

Decivre wrote:
There are countless factions, races, groups throughout fiction that can be seen as definitively antagonistic... Klingons, Borg, Tieflings, Drow, Ultimates, Zerg... many of which have horrific social orders which we all likely loath, whether they be violent, hive minded, or worse. But people still come to like them, without needing to buy into their views and values. Even villains can have fanbases.

I don't think the problem is that people are obligated to buy into their views and values to like them. More factions than the Ultimates would have been removed if that were the case.

I suspect the decision to remove them is rooted in the problem of people buying into their views and values and not wanting to feel complicit in that. The practice of romanticizing the Ultimates and simply declaring the Overhumanists to be bad at being Ultimates.

Again, it isn't about the theory, but a reaction to the practice. You can theoretically compare this to the Drow until the cows come home, but I don't think anyone has ever been concerned about people actually buying into the shit that the Drow say or do as being good.

The EP fandom and the Ultimates on the other hand... Yeah, yikes.

And obviously, not every fan of the Ultimates is uncritical! But obviously, the developers feel that enough of them have not been critical that they feel uncomfortable continuing to make them available. Whether you think that's right or wrong is up to you. I find myself caught between the feeling that I would rather they be available and continue the line they've been following for them being x-risks because I think that's interesting, but I'm capable of seeing why they are uncomfortable and sympathizing with that as well.

Decivre wrote:
But to that end, rebellion against the norm is a staple of fiction. This decision locks out interesting character choices... defiant civilian who grew up in the slums of Aspis, Iconic Ducti working in resistance to the Overhumanists, liberated Ultimate indenture seeking revenge on his owner through climbing the ranks....

I think these are all compelling ideas! I think it's a shame that people feel like they can't play them, but I don't think I would stop someone if they wanted to play them in my games. But, my sensibilities are not the developers, and they have concerns about the game that have to incorporate a broader point of view than what I like at my table, and I respect the difference between those two things.

Decivre wrote:
And please don't exaggerate the reactions of people in this thread.

Sorry if I gave the impression I was doing that.

Decivre wrote:
I think they just dislike the shift in how they are portrayed. I personally liked how they used to be portrayed as an insular society slowly being overtaken by zealots with each later release. Now it seems that Posthuman would rather portray them as an organization solely made up of zealots already hellbent on destruction, and that feels downright one-dimensional.

I think this viewpoint is a tragedy, because fans of the Ultimates should've been clamoring for the potential conflict that helps turn the Ultimates from a romanticized warrior-poet group into one which has to navigate their identity in a complex fashion. If you want to explore the fractures of Ultimate identity, there has never been a better time than in an Eclipse Phase which shows the faction in action and allows you to ask tough questions about what the ideology and the faction mean in the face of all that.

Plus, it capitalizes on what makes the Ultimates different from everybody else! It's the best thing that could've possibly happened, making them unique from the other polities in terms of their relationships in a way that puts their ideology and their faction members to the test. Playing an Ultimate just got more interesting than it ever has before. If there's a reason to lament the loss of the Ultimates as a playable faction, it's because the books won't explicitly support this incredible new opportunity to try to explore just how complicated it really is.

MagisterCrow MagisterCrow's picture
I don't see the Ultimates

I don't see the Ultimates being portrayed overly romantically, but, as I said, with the nuance that was presented originally. The idea that "they're fascists" and that's the end of it makes them...really boring and evil rather than a nuanced potential threat.

You want an example, look at the original description of exhumans. They were originally basically just a bunch of guys looking to become posthuman. It states some, not all, have an antagonistic view of the former species. Some actively attack and antagonize transhuman settlements.

Now? Now they're "we want to be better than humanity and subjugate/destroy all of them!" Look at the original description of Neurodes vs how they get portrayed in X-Threats. And this is why a lot of people ask why they were included in Transhuman as a faction option.

Ultimates initially were portrayed as people saying they were fascists. Some material presented that as one side of their faction, but also other sub-factions and the highly individualistic nature of each. Now it's handed down as 'yeah, they're fascists.' My worry is that it's going to override the narrative completely and just turn them into exhumans.

I mean, if in Eclipse Phase 2, they're just fascists and we remove all the other stuff about individualism, pushing the limits, and the philosophy...then yeah, they're just fascists and that's it. The developers control that narrative, but I have stated why I think it's a bad move to make the Ultimates an entirely antagonistic faction.

One other issue that I think I raised in the other thread is that this also effectively makes all factions aiming to push their transhuman limits antagonists. It effectively says "well, this far, you're still transhuman. Any further and you're evil." Seems...kinda against the transhuman themes of the game...I'm pretty sure this part is unintentional, but I think it's worth considering.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Leetsepeak wrote:I have no

Leetsepeak wrote:
I have no insight into the reasoning for their inclusion, but if I had to guess, I suspect that putting Posthuman in the situation of running D&D, they would not remove the Drow either, because like the PC or the Jovians they don't feel like people are buying into their ideology as correct or in an uncritical fashion.

Judging from other EP communities, the Jovians also have encouraged a number of people that seem to like their political views and ideologies. So-called "Joveposts" have been a staple of the chan threads for a long while.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Yeah, I really don't know why you keep making these comparisons. It furnishes the point that the Drow are not representative of the same issue that Posthuman might have with the Ultimates. They're objectively evil in game, there is no kool-aid to drink there because there isn't really a way to rationalize it textually.

You very much underestimate the potential for people to rationalize things. If vampire subculture has taught me anything, it's that not even fiction is a limitation on lifestyle.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Blaming him might be a bit too simplistic.

It's like the whole Slavery and Civil War debate. Sure there are other reasons for the Civil War... but it's really hard to ignore the big one.

The same is true in recent days, but that's a discussion for another board.

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think you should re-read what I said carefully.

I read it quite carefully, and I think this is exactly where the division in the discussion lies. You see any portrayal of them other than totally negative and despotic as "romantic". Romanticism is about treating them in a positive light. There's a wide berth between positive and usable.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Presumably that plays a part in why they feel comfortable letting people play Firewall, unlike the Ultimates.

So a group of unabashed criminals and terrorists treated in a better light than the Ultimates is fine because it isn't romanticized, but a group explicitly stated to be fascistic since day 1 is too romanticized for use by characters?

That makes absolutely no sense.

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think so too! It's a pity that in spite of including that ambiguity that people romanticize the Ultimates in the fashion that they do rather than critically interrogate them. That people are throwing out No True Scotsman and the like is a testament to that.

Which brings us back to square one: why are the Jovians still in the core book?

Leetsepeak wrote:
Okay, let me frame it for you another way. If you critically analyze what the developers have said, why do you think they removed the Ultimates? If you make a serious effort to answer that question, I think you'll get where I'm coming from.

I also think that the faction is probably not the hill to die on because even if the ideology is perfect or pure or good, the faction is the place where the Overhumanists exist and the Ultimates are what they are in practice, which is what we've seen in Firewall and presumably will see in the 2e books.


Your point? OZMA exists in the PC, yet the PC is still a usable faction. Did OZMA become heroes in this edition, because last I checked they were treated as the biggest human antagonists to Firewall.

This is incongruous. If evil subfactions should make factions unplayable, that should exclude a multitude of groups still present... Hypercorps (OZMA), Criminals (Nine Lives), Mercurials (Purists), Luna (ol' fashioned Nationalism)....

As for your other remark, note that unless you're actually going to spell out your point, I'm probably not going to figure it out. People don't see the world the same, so apparently there is something obvious to you that is not obvious to me. Perhaps detailing that could further the conversation.

Leetsepeak wrote:
The EP fandom and the Ultimates on the other hand... Yeah, yikes.

Again, I see this as overblown. People do Klingon weddings and Shakespearean plays. If enough of a fanbase opens up that people start doing Ultimate-themed stuff, I don't see a problem with it. Obviously so long as it's not people murdered by someone screaming "gene-trash" at them... but that's equally true about people actually making real bladed Klingon weapons to murder people.

To be frank, I only know a few other Ultimates fans, and I've yet to hear of any of them actually declare honest support for the fascist elements of the ideology. Mostly it's adoration for the self-perfection aspects of their views. Shouldn't the devs be happy that the playerbase has clung to the only good part of their views?

I think this is a bad reaction to a problem not present.

Leetsepeak wrote:
And obviously, not every fan of the Ultimates is uncritical! But obviously, the developers feel that enough of them have not been critical that they feel uncomfortable continuing to make them available. Whether you think that's right or wrong is up to you. I find myself caught between the feeling that I would rather they be available and continue the line they've been following for them being x-risks because I think that's interesting, but I'm capable of seeing why they are uncomfortable and sympathizing with that as well.

I wouldn't have accepted the decision if I didn't sympathize, but that doesn't mean I think it a wise decision.

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think these are all compelling ideas! I think it's a shame that people feel like they can't play them, but I don't think I would stop someone if they wanted to play them in my games. But, my sensibilities are not the developers, and they have concerns about the game that have to incorporate a broader point of view than what I like at my table, and I respect the difference between those two things.

How does narrowing down the points of view portrayed in the game help incorporate a broader point of view?

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think this viewpoint is a tragedy, because fans of the Ultimates should've been clamoring for the potential conflict that helps turn the Ultimates from a romanticized warrior-poet group into one which has to navigate their identity in a complex fashion.

We didn't clamour because we were okay with the way things were going. I personally have no problem with the faction being portrayed as having problems. Never have.

But now the problems are the only thing being portrayed. What happened to the in-depth look in Rimward, or even the semi-dismissive-yet-playable portrayal in the core book? It's like the devs have decided only the material from Firewall/X-Risks matters. That's what I don't like.

Leetsepeak wrote:
If you want to explore the fractures of Ultimate identity, there has never been a better time than in an Eclipse Phase which shows the faction in action and allows you to ask tough questions about what the ideology and the faction mean in the face of all that.

If it's never been a better time, then why aren't they playable?

Leetsepeak wrote:
Plus, it capitalizes on what makes the Ultimates different from everybody else! It's the best thing that could've possibly happened, making them unique from the other polities in terms of their relationships in a way that puts their ideology and their faction members to the test. Playing an Ultimate just got more interesting than it ever has before. If there's a reason to lament the loss of the Ultimates as a playable faction, it's because the books won't explicitly support this incredible new opportunity to try to explore just how complicated it really is.

In what way is it better that the Ultimates are now solely represented by their largest subfaction?

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Baribal Baribal's picture
What is the mechanism of Ultimate policy?

While we're at it, does anybody have a source on how agenda-setting happens within the Ultimates? I distinctly remember Rimward stating that for any given mission or project, everybody is invited to pitch in and disagree heartily, until a decision is reached, at which point everybody is supposed to fully subordinate themselves to the plan that was reached. How such missions and projects are created, though, and how people are assigned to the planning phase, would shine a light on what really makes Ultimates tick. If it's a matter of the Demiurge relaying his visions, the Autarchs sprinkling their magic sauce on that, and the Ducti jumping executing so as to show themselves qualified to move up the ranks, then that could indeed be likened, or degenerate into, fascism. If, however, the Demiurge is puckishly giving cryptic speeches so that those who hear them start to think for themselves instead, the Autarchs are an advisory board of philosophers, and the Ducti are picking up project ideas from the general discussion among the Exemplars, that would be, well, the opposite. I assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle?

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Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
Decivre wrote:

Decivre wrote:

Judging from other EP communities, the Jovians also have encouraged a number of people that seem to like their political views and ideologies. So-called "Joveposts" have been a staple of the chan threads for a long while.

I don't think the devs are looking at 4chan shitposting for this sort of thing. I suspect if there's 'fault' for their apprehension about the Ultimates, the blame for that lies at the feet of people that you'd find on here more than people you'd find on there.

Decivre wrote:
You very much underestimate the potential for people to rationalize things. If vampire subculture has taught me anything, it's that not even fiction is a limitation on lifestyle.

I think people are capable of rationalizing almost anything. That enough people didn't in this case to make the developers uncomfortable is not really related to that potential.

Decivre wrote:
It's like the whole Slavery and Civil War debate. Sure there are other reasons for the Civil War... but it's really hard to ignore the big one.

The same is true in recent days, but that's a discussion for another board.

I think you misunderstood. Blaming him is too simplistic because it minimizes the culpability of other elements of society for enabling things by turning him into a wicker man for the issue.

The Civil War was about Slavery. More specifically, it was about slavery as an element of white supremacy, and white supremacy is something that more than just slave owners were complicit in. That was my point.

Decivre wrote:
I read it quite carefully, and I think this is exactly where the division in the discussion lies. You see any portrayal of them other than totally negative and despotic as "romantic". Romanticism is about treating them in a positive light. There's a wide berth between positive and usable.

Perhaps I should clarify. I don't see the portrayal of them in 1e as necessarily romanticized. I see the reception of 1e's ambiguity by enough members of the community as romanticized that the developers are personally uncomfortable with listing them as a primary playable faction. My point of view in this is rooted in what happened rather than what could have happened.

But as an added complication, it might be that the way the corebook talked about them or the fact that they were not actually doing anything to act on their unique position that helped to create the problem that leads to the developers specifically being uncomfortable with the Ultimates as playable in 2e.

Decivre wrote:
So a group of unabashed criminals and terrorists treated in a better light than the Ultimates is fine because it isn't romanticized, but a group explicitly stated to be fascistic since day 1 is too romanticized for use by characters?

That makes absolutely no sense.

I think you may have misunderstood what I said. The reason why they might be comfortable with the Jovians or with Firewall being playable is because they don't feel like their fanbase has been seduced by Firewall or the Jovians to actually buy into their ideology. They appear to believe otherwise about the Ultimates.

I would hazard a guess that these feelings have to do with how they've been received in the community.

Decivre wrote:
Which brings us back to square one: why are the Jovians still in the core book?

Who knows the actual reason? Rob Boyle and Adam Jury, I'm sure. For my part, I think it's because they do not feel that people are drinking the kool aid when it comes to them, that people are self-aware when they make Jovian characters.

That would be completely consistent with the decision they made about the Ultimates, because it isn't based on a hard litmus test of fascism. It seems pretty clear to me that it's a holistic choice made based upon personal comfort. If you keep interrogating it in other frameworks, you're just gonna come up empty. If nothing else, I really hope you understand that point. If you try to approach the removal of the Ultimates as a choice made according to a hard rule or theory as opposed to a practice/observation/feeling, you are gonna keep hitting a wall where it doesn't make sense and you're mad.

Decivre wrote:
Your point? OZMA exists in the PC, yet the PC is still a usable faction. Did OZMA become heroes in this edition, because last I checked they were treated as the biggest human antagonists to Firewall.

This is incongruous. If evil subfactions should make factions unplayable, that should exclude a multitude of groups still present... Hypercorps (OZMA), Criminals (Nine Lives), Mercurials (Purists), Luna (ol' fashioned Nationalism)....

That's a fair cop.

Decivre wrote:
As for your other remark, note that unless you're actually going to spell out your point, I'm probably not going to figure it out. People don't see the world the same, so apparently there is something obvious to you that is not obvious to me. Perhaps detailing that could further the conversation.

Well, I guess I can point out that I keep using words like "feel" and "received" deliberately. Like I just said above, if you approach the removal of the Ultimates like there's some kind of hard rule about fascism at play here, I don't think you're actually going to understand why the developers felt uncomfortable about them.

Decivre wrote:
Again, I see this as overblown. People do Klingon weddings and Shakespearean plays.

If you can't see the obvious problem with comparing these things, I don't know if I can help you with that. A Shakespeare Play and a Klingon Wedding to my knowledge do not reflect an internalization of ideology at any stage, and that is presumably the thing that is making the developers feel uncomfortable.

Decivre wrote:
If enough of a fanbase opens up that people start doing Ultimate-themed stuff, I don't see a problem with it.

That you don't see the potential problem from the perspective of the developers is part of the problem.

Decivre wrote:
Obviously so long as it's not people murdered by someone screaming "gene-trash" at them... but that's equally true about people actually making real bladed Klingon weapons to murder people.

I think their discomfort doesn't stem from the belief that people will literally go out and murder people, but that their work has served as an ideological reinforcement for a kind of worldview which they feel is deeply abhorrent and seductive. Hence the whole 'drinking the koolaid' thing. If Jovian Shitposts are the best we can come up with for people internalizing the Jovian Republic, then I'm sure they're patting themselves on the back for their success.

That people are so eager to just ignore the 'extremists' of the Ultimates, the complicity that the more moderate members of the faction have in cooperating with them and the implications of their willful association with one another is a distasteful thing and I can imagine that plays a big role in their discomfort with the Ultimates.

Decivre wrote:
To be frank, I only know a few other Ultimates fans, and I've yet to hear of any of them actually declare honest support for the fascist elements of the ideology. Mostly it's adoration for the self-perfection aspects of their views. Shouldn't the devs be happy that the playerbase has clung to the only good part of their views?

... Speak of the devil! The problem, I suspect, isn't that people declare honest support for the fascist elements of their ideology, but rather they fail to acknowledge the ways in which the ideology facilitates that way of thinking and the complicity of those moderate members, especially because the Ultimates are actually a cohesive faction.

If I had to guess, they are deeply horrified that people aren't thinking more about the 'good parts of their views' and how those might facilitate the bad parts, which is part of the whole problem.

Decivre wrote:
I think this is a bad reaction to a problem not present.

That you think its absent strikes me as symptomatic of the same issue.

Decivre wrote:
How does narrowing down the points of view portrayed in the game help incorporate a broader point of view?

Adds a lot more flavor. Who are the Ultimates? If the text tells you their philosophy and then tells you what the faction is actually doing, the conflict or theoretical dissonance between those things creates entire new dimensions for the portrayal of the Ultimates as characters. How does an Ultimate navigate a Solar System which is hostile to their ideology on the basis of their faction's actions? How do they relate to the faction in light of what they're doing? How do they square away a continuous relationship with the faction knowing about those tendencies? Do they separate from them and form their own faction? Do they try to reform them from within? What personal responsibility do they have in that conflict, if any, and how does their perspective change when they have to square it away with these actions?

Putting the Ultimates in a state of conflict with the rest of the system helps make them distinct from everyone else, builds on the tendencies already described in existing material (i.e. it's a natural outgrowth of existing behaviors) that puts Ultimate characters in a really interesting position vis-a-vis the rest of the Solar System.

Decivre wrote:
We didn't clamour because we were okay with the way things were going. I personally have no problem with the faction being portrayed as having problems. Never have.

Then I don't see why you aren't excited. This is the way things were going. This is where the Ultimates were building towards.

Decivre wrote:
But now the problems are the only thing being portrayed. What happened to the in-depth look in Rimward, or even the semi-dismissive-yet-playable portrayal in the core book? It's like the devs have decided only the material from Firewall/X-Risks matters. That's what I don't like.

I think the material in Firewall and X-Risks gives the material from the 1e corebook and Rimward a new depth. Maybe put another way, do you think the overhumanists being in charge makes the other factions stop existing? How are they handling these changes? Are they cooperating or resisting? Those are interesting question, way more interesting than the mere fact of their existence.

Decivre wrote:
If it's never been a better time, then why aren't they playable?

I've provided my guesses. Like I said, I think it's actually a shame, because it would be interesting.

Decivre wrote:

In what way is it better that the Ultimates are now solely represented by their largest subfaction?

I love this question. From the perspective of a writer, it means that the Ultimates are obligated to define themselves in the context of the actions of that subfaction as rendered by the faction they control. This is adversity. This is difficulty. This is the heart and soul of good storytelling. The Ultimates finally have some of the promise conflict in Rimward catalyzed into an interesting situation to explore that makes their polities and the relationships they have with their neighbors utterly unique from everyone else.

Like I said, part of the shame of this is that it has never been a more interesting time to play an Ultimate than what 2e heralds.

Separate from that, I sympathize with the anxieties which must have impelled the personal choice not to list them in the corebook.

People are capable of having complex opinions.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Leetsepeak wrote:Perhaps I

Leetsepeak wrote:
Perhaps I should clarify. I don't see the portrayal of them in 1e as necessarily romanticized. I see the reception of 1e's ambiguity by enough members of the community as romanticized that the developers are personally uncomfortable with listing them as a primary playable faction. My point of view in this is rooted in what happened rather than what could have happened.

But as an added complication, it might be that the way the corebook talked about them or the fact that they were not actually doing anything to act on their unique position that helped to create the problem that leads to the developers specifically being uncomfortable with the Ultimates as playable in 2e.


I see, so you're saying it's possible that this shift is due to the fact that the devs were expecting or hoping for one response regarding this faction from the fanbase, but instead got another that they disapprove of?

I can see that, but I still disagree with the resolution. It's the proverbial splitting of the baby to make two mother's happy: I don't really see who wins. Hopefully there's at least a chance they'll be revisited in a future book.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Well, I guess I can point out that I keep using words like "feel" and "received" deliberately. Like I just said above, if you approach the removal of the Ultimates like there's some kind of hard rule about fascism at play here, I don't think you're actually going to understand why the developers felt uncomfortable about them.

True, but that's likely because I don't really understand the motive behind it. Clearly I've been out of the loop for a while, as releases have been slow and I haven't exactly had much time to play in recent years. The announcement of the second edition drew me back to these forums.

So yes, it's possible I simply do not know the context of these decisions. But I don't think that knowing the context would change my mind. Not just due to my liking the faction, but also because I always considered the setting to be quite inclusive.

Honest statement here: I truly didn't know they'd be releasing new backgrounds in later sourcebooks for the first edition. I thought every single faction was inclusively represented in the core book. Brinker was such a generic faction that it pretty much fit anything that wasn't explicitly covered by one of the others (the Exhumans are brinkers since they largely live on the fringes of society, for example).

I actually liked this aspect of the setting because it reminded me of why I liked Battletech so much. A setting full of moral grays, where nobody is singled out as a big bad (even the TITANs' motives are questioned). Picking a faction becomes like picking a football team, right down to the questionable histories.

Leetsepeak wrote:
If you can't see the obvious problem with comparing these things, I don't know if I can help you with that. A Shakespeare Play and a Klingon Wedding to my knowledge do not reflect an internalization of ideology at any stage, and that is presumably the thing that is making the developers feel uncomfortable.

Let me clarify: Shakespearean plays, biblical verse, and marital rites have all been translated into the language of a violent science fiction warrior race. The death toll hasn't risen, a new despotic society inspired by the Klingons hasn't formed, and no one "drank the kool-aid".

We haven't even gotten to Ultimate weddings yet. We're nowhere near kool-aid drinking levels.

Leetsepeak wrote:
That people are so eager to just ignore the 'extremists' of the Ultimates, the complicity that the more moderate members of the faction have in cooperating with them and the implications of their willful association with one another is a distasteful thing and I can imagine that plays a big role in their discomfort with the Ultimates.

How can you ignore the extremists? The overhumanists have been nearly the only thing discussed for two entire publications. The Exceptionalists have taken a backseat to everything despite being the faction of the Demiurge, and the only mention of the Iconics at all has been in Rimward.

Maybe the fanbase would be more interested in the Overhumanists if they weren't the only thing discussed. Other groups and movers, especially Iconics, remain unexplored aspects of the faction. Do people tend to discuss mysteries or things already explored?

Leetsepeak wrote:
... Speak of the devil! The problem, I suspect, isn't that people declare honest support for the fascist elements of their ideology, but rather they fail to acknowledge the ways in which the ideology facilitates that way of thinking and the complicity of those moderate members, especially because the Ultimates are actually a cohesive faction.

If I had to guess, they are deeply horrified that people aren't thinking more about the 'good parts of their views' and how those might facilitate the bad parts, which is part of the whole problem.


Couldn't the same be said for every faction? That could be said about anything at all. Even the virtues of anarchy could be used to potentially mask and facilitate horrible things.

That which can be a tool of good can just as easily be a tool of evil. Tyranny is not the power you wield, but the intent you wield it with.

Leetsepeak wrote:
That you think its absent strikes me as symptomatic of the same issue.

Are true-blue violent eugenicists a thing that actually happened on this board recently? Is this something that was actually a thing? Cuz you have me searching google out of worry.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Adds a lot more flavor. Who are the Ultimates? If the text tells you their philosophy and then tells you what the faction is actually doing, the conflict or theoretical dissonance between those things creates entire new dimensions for the portrayal of the Ultimates as characters. How does an Ultimate navigate a Solar System which is hostile to their ideology on the basis of their faction's actions? How do they relate to the faction in light of what they're doing? How do they square away a continuous relationship with the faction knowing about those tendencies? Do they separate from them and form their own faction? Do they try to reform them from within? What personal responsibility do they have in that conflict, if any, and how does their perspective change when they have to square it away with these actions?

Let me reiterate: how is flavor added when nuance is eliminated? They've whittled down the Ultimate schools of thought to seemingly one. How does this loss of diversity make more flavor?

As far as I can tell, they are whittling the faction down to its worst stereotype.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Putting the Ultimates in a state of conflict with the rest of the system helps make them distinct from everyone else, builds on the tendencies already described in existing material (i.e. it's a natural outgrowth of existing behaviors) that puts Ultimate characters in a really interesting position vis-a-vis the rest of the Solar System.

I disagree with this. The Ultimates carved a reputation for security that has essentially defined their success as a mercenary outfit post-fall. And while their endgame might be to do something ambitious and dangerous, it seems rather simplistic that they would lay this sinister card on the table right away.

Leetsepeak wrote:
Then I don't see why you aren't excited. This is the way things were going. This is where the Ultimates were building towards.

If I would have known that the Ultimates would cease to be a group that the core book would support, I would not have supported it. It would have been nice to have gotten a caveat in Firewall and X-Risks that "if you don't complain about these Ultimates, we're just gonna stop allowing them as a protagonist faction", I would have voiced an opinion on it.

Will they do this to every faction they decide to have a negative story arc on? Are the Titanians going away after a scenario is made regarding Titanian intelligence?

Leetsepeak wrote:
I think the material in Firewall and X-Risks gives the material from the 1e corebook and Rimward a new depth. Maybe put another way, do you think the overhumanists being in charge makes the other factions stop existing? How are they handling these changes? Are they cooperating or resisting? Those are interesting question, way more interesting than the mere fact of their existence.

Agreed. But I doubt they'll be engaging those questions in this new Edition. If they were, it's likely that they would have made them a faction in core.

The Ultimates are simplifying, not getting more complex.

Leetsepeak wrote:
I love this question. From the perspective of a writer, it means that the Ultimates are obligated to define themselves in the context of the actions of that subfaction as rendered by the faction they control. This is adversity. This is difficulty. This is the heart and soul of good storytelling. The Ultimates finally have some of the promise conflict in Rimward catalyzed into an interesting situation to explore that makes their polities and the relationships they have with their neighbors utterly unique from everyone else.

From the sound of things, the conflict will be the only focus. That to me is the shame, because while I don't mind the idea of focusing on this major growing potential conflict between them and the system, I want it to start off at a slow boil. Their depiction went from wary to nuanced, then gradually to suspicious then hostile. As if we were watching the tension rise with each new release.

Now, tension seems to be starting high and the Ultimates treated as villainous from the get-go. That doesn't seem more interesting to me. I'd rather the complex faction in a state of decay over the simple and violent faction assumed already lost.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Decimator Decimator's picture
.

So I have a wild idea on this; now hear me out:
Maybe we could not convert the faction into a bunch of Nazis?

Doesn't that fix all the issues?

Grim G Grim G's picture
Decimator wrote:So I have a

Decimator wrote:
So I have a wild idea on this; now hear me out:
Maybe we could not convert the faction into a bunch of Nazis?

Doesn't that fix all the issues?


I honestly don't even know what they're debating up there. Too many words.
CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
Yeah I've got lost somewhere

Yeah I've got lost somewhere in the middle with so much chopped up citations. But they made few fair points. I guess it will have to wait for the editing wars on Official EP Wiki ;-)

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Baribal Baribal's picture
Even if the Powers That Be

Even if the Powers That Be decide to go ahead with the fascistization of the Ultimates despite the rather universal outcry that I've seen on here (has actually *anybody* argued for it?), we are still free to make up Homebrew stuff about those guys who embody what we liked about the Ultimates, and not that stuff that we don't. Or vice-versa, for that matter; we can homebrew whatever we want.

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Decivre Decivre's picture
Baribal wrote:Even if the

Baribal wrote:
Even if the Powers That Be decide to go ahead with the fascistization of the Ultimates despite the rather universal outcry that I've seen on here (has actually *anybody* argued for it?), we are still free to make up Homebrew stuff about those guys who embody what we liked about the Ultimates, and not that stuff that we don't. Or vice-versa, for that matter; we can homebrew whatever we want.

I think everyone is aware of that, as homebrewing factions is easy. But this thread was made for voicing an opinion on the topic. When in Rome....

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Kojak Kojak's picture
Honestly, I feel like the

Honestly, I feel like the obvious solution here is to figuratively split the baby: have the Ultimates undergo a literal civil war, ending in them splitting into two factions, the Overhumanist-equivalent and the Iconic-equivalent. Seems like everyone gets what they want, that way.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

Decivre Decivre's picture
Kojak wrote:Honestly, I feel

Kojak wrote:
Honestly, I feel like the obvious solution here is to figuratively split the baby: have the Ultimates undergo a literal civil war, ending in them splitting into two factions, the Overhumanist-equivalent and the Iconic-equivalent. Seems like everyone gets what they want, that way.

I like the idea of the schism happening sometime after 10 AF, as part of the plot. That said, maybe it would be a compromise to discuss the Iconics as a separate group. One on the verge of being ousted, rather than already separate from the Ultimates.

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Ian Argent Ian Argent's picture
Kojak wrote:Honestly, I feel

Kojak wrote:
Honestly, I feel like the obvious solution here is to figuratively split the baby: have the Ultimates undergo a literal civil war, ending in them splitting into two factions, the Overhumanist-equivalent and the Iconic-equivalent. Seems like everyone gets what they want, that way.

That was basically my thought.

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