Sic Transit Gloria Ultimates

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Decimator Decimator'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'd prefer that the Ultimates retain their internal divisions as described in Rimward. Internal divisions are interesting.

eaton eaton's picture
Quote:Honestly, I feel like

Quote:
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.

As someone who's got some players rolling as Ultimate-inspired homebrew faction members, this seems like a pretty cool solution.
RampantRoomba RampantRoomba'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.

Seconding this. I'm a bit surprised it wasn't a shoe-in possibility in the new books.

MagisterCrow MagisterCrow's picture
I agree with either not

I agree with either not making the ultimates fascists or having an ultimate civil war...the latter of which sounds like a Marvel comic...but still

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Who knew that words can make something u

I kinda like the Ultimates, but I think I understand the decision to make them more X-Threat-y.
The way I see it, the Ultimates suffer from being a fairly complex concept that's difficult to properly present in-game.

On the CharGen thread, CordialUltimate2 said:

CordialUltimate2 wrote:
Remember that Ultimates are a full fledged faction. That means they are not a loose confederation of wandering samurai (bleh), but a nation of its own with researchers, engineers, teachers, scholars, children, entertainers and much more. In the X-risk there is a sidebar about them having a possibility of running away through the gates into the galaxy to build human civilization of their own. Could a Evil Mercenary Company #145, consisting of fascist bushido jerk-offs do that?

So I currently play an Ultimate/ex-Ultimate (hard to say) Nanotech Researcher who has only passable combat skills, but was considered a fully fledged member of the Ultimates for his competence in other skills.

Rimward states that Ultimates consider almost any sort of competence usefull. So you could be a Habitat Worker Ultimate. A freaking just poet-poet Ultimate. A xenoinsectology Ultimate, whatever suits you.
It's a harmful stereotype that they are all MRDR-jacked overhumanists.

(Quick side note - Wandering Samurai because they have the combination of Martial Skill and Appreciation For Culture which is often found in Asian Cinema. Ever seen the Spear-Duel and Arrow/Calligraphy scenes in "Hero"?)

Agree with a good chunk of this (Kids? Entertainers?), but actually giving this screen time in a campaign that isn't focused on the faction is very difficult.
If they're NPCs, then their martial traits tend to overshadow their other aspects, if those other aspects show up at all: even if they're a HabTech, they're a HabTech who is also a BadAss - or the GM (AKA Me) has to stop the game to explain why.

PCs have more potential, but again the tendency is towards SuperHuman GunBunny - and for many players, that's where things stop: they see the Ultimate faction and start quoting Aliens.

The Jovians aren't necessarilly any 'nicer', but they're a hell of a lot easier to use.

So I like that the Ultimates aren't an explicit option any more - they're a more advanced character concept better suited for players who have some experience with the game and interest in the faction, rather than being the go-to for new players who want to be space marines.

To use D&D terminology - they used to be Drow, now they're a Prestige Class.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

Decivre Decivre's picture
ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
(Quick side note - Wandering Samurai because they have the combination of Martial Skill and Appreciation For Culture which is often found in Asian Cinema. Ever seen the Spear-Duel and Arrow/Calligraphy scenes in "Hero"?)

Agree with a good chunk of this (Kids? Entertainers?), but actually giving this screen time in a campaign that isn't focused on the faction is very difficult.
If they're NPCs, then their martial traits tend to overshadow their other aspects, if those other aspects show up at all: even if they're a HabTech, they're a HabTech who is also a BadAss - or the GM (AKA Me) has to stop the game to explain why.


I absolutely agree with this. The insular nature of the faction means that unless you are one already, you're gonna be kept out of the loop for much of the plot.

I've always considered the Ultimates to be a hard-mode setting for the game. You're cast into the campaign as the member of a reputable order of violent mercenaries and scholars. You're just as likely to die at the hands of a biomorph death machine in a mere sparring match as you are to do so against a TITAN horror in real battle. Your every social peer is a genetic marvel par excellence, and most of them are part of an extremist sub-faction. Allegiance is genocide, betrayal is suicide, and everyone's in it to win it... welcome to the Ultimates.

Even if you decide to "go rogue" and travel with other factions as part of a Firewall campaign, you carry with you the stigma of being an Ultimate as well as the expectation to act accordingly. Many people will be weirded out by the "Ultimate with a heart of gold", and your Ultimate peers will see you as eccentric at best. The book implies that if you've joined Firewall, you have virtually no chance at getting closer to the inner circle (no one has ever done both, the Ultimates are too distrusting of people not absolutely loyal to the cause first and foremost).

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

CordialUltimate2 CordialUltimate2's picture
Yeah I was aware of both of

Yeah I was aware of both of these issues when I created my character. I even wasted almost 100 CP for Networking: Ultimates and Allies: Ultimates trait which I didn't even got to use once.
So I taxed myself for this character concept pretty hard. And now I also noticed that I lack skills to roleplay nuances of the "Ultimate with a heart of gold".
So I was going to defend the Ultimates as a faction but for most people that means I'm a Nazi lover. I have no heart to discuss​ that. So I will abstain from input on the topic from now on.

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Kojak Kojak's picture
As somebody who's non-EP

As somebody who's non-EP experience is pretty much solely with the Battletech universe, I have to say that in a weird way the Ultimates remind of the Draconis Combine. I mean, are they fascists? Sure, but they're colorful fascists and sometimes that's fun to play in a fictional setting. And I want to be clear, I say that as someone who despises fascism and other right-wing ideologies, authoritarianism of all varieties, and has ancestors who died in the Holocaust. I get why, with the rise of the neo-fascists in the West, PH+ would want to shy away from something like the Ultimates, really I do. But I think it would be a shame to ditch a fun and interesting part of the setting just because assholes want to misuse it to advance their own brand of nonsense.

"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
CordialUltimate2 wrote:Yeah I

CordialUltimate2 wrote:
Yeah I was aware of both of these issues when I created my character. I even wasted almost 100 CP for Networking: Ultimates and Allies: Ultimates trait which I didn't even got to use once.
So I taxed myself for this character concept pretty hard. And now I also noticed that I lack skills to roleplay nuances of the "Ultimate with a heart of gold".
So I was going to defend the Ultimates as a faction but for most people that means I'm a Nazi lover. I have no heart to discuss​ that. So I will abstain from input on the topic from now on.

Right? Thanks to the material in Firewall and X-Risks, you either want to topple the faction or you're as bad as the overhumanists. Even an Iconic that wants reform is still a fascist....

What I think is a shame is that worse societies exist in other settings. Shadowrun has countries where human sacrifice and slavery is still legal. Exalted's Realm has a rigid caste system based around bloodline. The Clans in Battletech have a literal eugenics program, and are exactly as fascist (as was the Draconis Combine, thank you Kojak).

This feels like a family-friendly decision. I don't want my transhuman horror to be family-friendly.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Kojak Kojak's picture
I actually want to delineate

I actually want to delineate one thing here: the devs' issue with the Ultimates is not because they're evil, so I don't think comparisons to things like the Drow or Aztlan are apt. Those are fantastical entities to a degree that is staggeringly obvious, whereas there really is an issue of neo-fascists with ideas uncomfortably close to the Overhumanists' becoming a major political force in the West. It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

"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:I actually want

Kojak wrote:
I actually want to delineate one thing here: the devs' issue with the Ultimates is not because they're evil, so I don't think comparisons to things like the Drow or Aztlan are apt. Those are fantastical entities to a degree that is staggeringly obvious, whereas there really is an issue of neo-fascists with ideas uncomfortably close to the Overhumanists' becoming a major political force in the West. It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

I know, and I wish I could just accept that. But I think of all the times in the past that games and shows I liked and series I followed were altered or even abruptly ended due to events at the time. This feels like that, like we'd be getting a different and better game if we were in a different society, but we must just accept because it is.

This is Heroes season 2 all over again.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

RampantRoomba RampantRoomba's picture
Decivre wrote:Kojak wrote:I

Decivre wrote:
Kojak wrote:
I actually want to delineate one thing here: the devs' issue with the Ultimates is not because they're evil, so I don't think comparisons to things like the Drow or Aztlan are apt. Those are fantastical entities to a degree that is staggeringly obvious, whereas there really is an issue of neo-fascists with ideas uncomfortably close to the Overhumanists' becoming a major political force in the West. It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

I know, and I wish I could just accept that. But I think of all the times in the past that games and shows I liked and series I followed were altered or even abruptly ended due to events at the time. This feels like that, like we'd be getting a different and better game if we were in a different society, but we must just accept because it is.

This is Heroes season 2 all over again.

I would agree with you except for the parts in 1E involving the clunky views on religion (Judaism didn't survive the fall of Earth but Islam did, despite them both having their holy lands very concretely put on Terra Firma? WTF? By this logic Catholicism should have gone extinct along with Vatican City, but nooooope it's around Jupiter.)

Eclipse Phase has many strengths but also weaknesses, and some of those weaknesses have been there from the beginning even during better times.

Kojak Kojak's picture
RampantRoomba wrote:I would

RampantRoomba wrote:
I would agree with you except for the parts in 1E involving the clunky views on religion (Judaism didn't survive the fall of Earth but Islam did, despite them both having their holy lands very concretely put on Terra Firma? WTF? By this logic Catholicism should have gone extinct along with Vatican City, but nooooope it's around Jupiter.)

Eclipse Phase has many strengths but also weaknesses, and some of those weaknesses have been there from the beginning even during better times.

What are you talking about? Jews are still around in Eclipse Phase, there's literally a hab called Horeb that houses the Israeli government-in-exile. But it's not surprising that there wouldn't be many of us left, given that both Christians and Muslims outnumber us by a couple of orders of magnitude. There are currently (depending on how you count) about 14-18 million Jews worldwide, whereas the Christians and Muslims are clocking in at 2.4 and 1.6 billion, respectively. When 95% of humanity gets wiped out, yeah, probably there wouldn't be a lot of Jews left, it's just a numbers game at that point.

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

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Kojak wrote:It's just that I

Kojak wrote:
It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

Looking at this thread, i have my doubts.

I put on my slopes and wizard tracks.

Decivre Decivre's picture
GreyBrother wrote:Looking at

Deleted

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Reading your response,

Reading your response, Decivre, makes me remember the post that said something about forests and trees in this very thread.

I put on my slopes and wizard tracks.

Decivre Decivre's picture
I'm not too comfortable with

I'm not too comfortable with where the thread has gone. At this point, it feels like the conversation is circling. The prevailing statement is "the devs have decided that people who like the Ultimates support fascism", and the response to every person who opposes this view is "you're one of the good ones, but...."

I doubt there's a point in continuing on.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

GreyBrother GreyBrother's picture
Decivre wrote:I'm not too

Decivre wrote:
I'm not too comfortable with where the thread has gone.

I agree with this.

I put on my slopes and wizard tracks.

RampantRoomba RampantRoomba's picture
Kojak wrote:RampantRoomba

Kojak wrote:
RampantRoomba wrote:
I would agree with you except for the parts in 1E involving the clunky views on religion (Judaism didn't survive the fall of Earth but Islam did, despite them both having their holy lands very concretely put on Terra Firma? WTF? By this logic Catholicism should have gone extinct along with Vatican City, but nooooope it's around Jupiter.)

Eclipse Phase has many strengths but also weaknesses, and some of those weaknesses have been there from the beginning even during better times.

What are you talking about? Jews are still around in Eclipse Phase, there's literally a hab called Horeb that houses the Israeli government-in-exile. But it's not surprising that there wouldn't be many of us left, given that both Christians and Muslims outnumber us by a couple of orders of magnitude. There are currently (depending on how you count) about 14-18 million Jews worldwide, whereas the Christians and Muslims are clocking in at 2.4 and 1.6 billion, respectively. When 95% of humanity gets wiped out, yeah, probably there wouldn't be a lot of Jews left, it's just a numbers game at that point.

I did indeed remember Horeb, I was just referring to Judaism as a religion rather than Jews as a demographic in terms of prevailance. Horeb doesn't have much sway in the setting, though given your post there (I thought Judaism had more adherents, apologies) it makes more sense now. I concede to your explanation. Sincere apologies for my open ignorance.

That much said, this leads me to another problem I have with EP, which is apparently that I don't have the kind of time to devote to EP to pick up little details like this. I can enjoy D&D without knowing volumes of setting info about Eberron or Forgotten Realms or whatever because of the rules-agnostic nature of the system whereas controversial threads like this often wind up hinging on one or more party's encyclopedic knowledge of the setting. I mean, I *imagine* it's possible to make a setting-agnostic version of EP's rules, but Hell if I have the time for it.

That's all I have to say for the moment that doesn't involve long, drawn-out arguments with the authors. I have other problems with EP's writing that don't go into Godwin territory. Suffice it to say I applaud them for being swift and responsible businesspeople (as seen with my Singularity char generator order) and for their open-sourced business model, but really find it annoying keeping up with the logic of some of their decisions like this one RE: Ultimates.

ubik2 ubik2's picture
Ultimates still an option

My reading of this is that while the developers are no longer funneling players into the Ultimate faction, there's nothing that keeps you from choosing that faction if you want to. It's just not listed as one of the normal options.

It makes me think of the difference between telling your kid to jump in a puddle (which you may not, because he'll get wet and dirty), and letting him jump in the puddle if he wants (which you still can).

It sounds like the lore is going to have the Ultimates involved in more adversarial things, but that's just some extra drama for your character if you're an Ultimate (either backing them, or part of a more friendly splinter faction).

Kojak Kojak's picture
RampantRoomba wrote:I did

RampantRoomba wrote:
I did indeed remember Horeb, I was just referring to Judaism as a religion rather than Jews as a demographic in terms of prevailance. Horeb doesn't have much sway in the setting, though given your post there (I thought Judaism had more adherents, apologies) it makes more sense now. I concede to your explanation. Sincere apologies for my open ignorance.

It's cool, man, as a Jew I've found that people usually assume there are *way* more of us then there actually are just because we always get mentioned in the same breath as the other major religions. But we're actually a very small ethnic group; there are twice as many Sikhs as Jews, for example. We don't proselytize and conversion is rare, plus I don't know if you've heard but we've gotten into a couple of pickles over the years. ;-) So our numbers have always been kept pretty low.

"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:It's cool, man,

ubik2 wrote:
It sounds like the lore is going to have the Ultimates involved in more adversarial things, but that's just some extra drama for your character if you're an Ultimate (either backing them, or part of a more friendly splinter faction).

Yeah, but whereas the friendly splinter faction was already in the fluff material (barely), they seem to be getting retconned largely out and the two worst subfactions are getting an emphasis.

Kojak wrote:
It's cool, man, as a Jew I've found that people usually assume there are *way* more of us then there actually are just because we always get mentioned in the same breath as the other major religions. But we're actually a very small ethnic group; there are twice as many Sikhs as Jews, for example. We don't proselytize and conversion is rare, plus I don't know if you've heard but we've gotten into a couple of pickles over the years. ;-) So our numbers have always been kept pretty low.

The pickles are the big one. Many races deal with stereotypes. So few deal with racial conspiracy theories.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

kindalas kindalas's picture
I read this last night and

I read this thread last night and was ready to head out bans or at least warnings.

But I slept on it and I think that there is a lot of honest conversation from people who have strong feelings about the ultimates and their, incompletely defined, transition from first to second edition.

I'd like to take a moment to reinforce that insinuations that playing/liking/enjoying the Ultimates doesn't make someone's personal beliefs match that group. There is a lot to be said about playing characters and telling stories about a group that is different from your real life self.

Basically play nice, the Ultimates aren't going away from what I've read of Rob's posts in this thread they will remain a playable faction in the universe, they'll just be different.

This is a moderator voice post. I will be following this thread intently. I am happy to see so much passion for Eclipse Phase.

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Decimator Decimator's picture
kindalas wrote:Basically play

kindalas wrote:
Basically play nice, the Ultimates aren't going away from what I've read of Rob's posts in this thread they will remain a playable faction in the universe, they'll just be different.

...I am happy to see so much passion for Eclipse Phase.

You hit it right on the nose about passion. I love this game, and simply feel that it cheapens the Ultimates to make the Overhumanist faction steamroll the others. I like the Ultimates being individualistic, and subsuming the subfactions into a fascist swarm defeats that.

But perhaps the real problem is that I feel "designated villains" cheapen the setting as a whole.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Decimator wrote:But perhaps

Decimator wrote:
But perhaps the real problem is that I feel "designated villains" cheapen the setting as a whole.

This is my problem. Even in the original game, there were already a ton of designated villains. OZMA, TITANs, Nine Lives, Exhumans and even the Minervan fleet are villains you really can't negotiate with, and have little nuance beyond wanting you dead. Why the Ultimates have to become a new one is beyond me.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

UnitOmega UnitOmega's picture
Maybe PS is trying harder to

Maybe PS is trying harder to get people to take them seriously when they say "And the Ultimates evil master plan is to take over all the Gates and launch an interstellar empire! No really guys!".

Spoiler: I'm never going to take that seriously. Next you'll be telling me the Jovians are going to try and launch a reconquista of the Solar System next week.

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MagisterCrow MagisterCrow's picture
Decimator wrote:But perhaps

Decimator wrote:
But perhaps the real problem is that I feel "designated villains" cheapen the setting as a whole.

Soooo much this.

I liked how the Jovians moved from "why the hell would you play these?" to "Ok, I can see why you'd maybe help Firewall." I intensely disliked how exhumans moved from "some factions hate transhumanity" to "eats babies."

I get that threats need to be real, and I get that factions at war don't really stop to consider if everyone on the other side is evil, but the whole point of Firewall is supposed to be desperation making for strange bedfellows.

eaton eaton's picture
Quote:I intensely disliked

Quote:
I intensely disliked how exhumans moved from "some factions hate transhumanity" to "eats babies."

Hey, hey, hey.

Enough with the baby-eating-shaming.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
eaton wrote:Quote:I intensely

eaton wrote:
Quote:
I intensely disliked how exhumans moved from "some factions hate transhumanity" to "eats babies."

Hey, hey, hey.

Enough with the baby-eating-shaming.

Not super relevant, but now I'm reminded of a short story from elsewhere on the internet about baby-eating aliens. It's told as a first contact story between said aliens and humans, to highlight mutually incompatible ethics as a possible result of having to deal with other species.

A slight smell of ions....

Dilf_Pickle Dilf_Pickle's picture
It's all in the details

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.

This is unfortunate, IMO, because inclusion in the list of chargen protagonist factions implies that there are subtleties in a given faction that are worth exploring. This is one of the major justifications for a nuanced view of the Jovians, for example.

Leetsepeak wrote:
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!

[off-topic] It's tough to talk about "anarchist politics"; the term is a classic oxymoron. Anarchists in EP are a giant mostly-blank canvas because they can be anything the GM decides, good or bad. A lot of people seem to read the theoretical underpinnings of techno-anarchism as described in EP1, and think that anarchism is being glorified because the theoretical explanation only lists positives. Of course it does: nobody's going to design a new economic or political system to have flaws! [/off topic]

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.

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

Subtleties aside, I wholeheartedly agree that EP needs moral greys.

ThatWhichNeverWas wrote:
So I like that the Ultimates aren't an explicit option any more - they're a more advanced character concept better suited for players who have some experience with the game and interest in the faction, rather than being the go-to for new players who want to be space marines.

To use D&D terminology - they used to be Drow, now they're a Prestige Class.

There's an argument for this: we already have advanced chargen (point buy), and possibly advanced morphs and advanced gear (newbies might not have enough experience to avoid egocast-induced-buyer's-regret). Advanced factions would round out that selection.

Kojak wrote:
I get why, with the rise of the neo-fascists in the West, PH+ would want to shy away from something like the Ultimates, really I do. But I think it would be a shame to ditch a fun and interesting part of the setting just because assholes want to misuse it to advance their own brand of nonsense.

Is that really what all this is about? I don't see anything about neo-fascism relating to self-improvement. This strikes me as just silly.

Dilf_Pickle Dilf_Pickle's picture
A Fist Full of QFTs

MagisterCrow wrote:
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.

Indeed, the Ultimates were in much the same boats the Jovians seemed to be; maligned in anarchist popular opinion, but with some hints of sympathetic aspects hidden in the fluff. This move is a negative one, to my eyes.

Leetsepeak wrote:

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.

What issue?

Leetsepeak wrote:

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 have become less nuanced in EP2 so far, not more.

And now, a list of narrative options that, IMO, are all broadly superior to EP2's take on things:

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?

Decivre wrote:
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.

Decimator wrote:
I'd prefer that the Ultimates retain their internal divisions as described in Rimward. Internal divisions are interesting.
Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Dilf_Pickle wrote:[off-topic]

Dilf_Pickle wrote:
[off-topic] It's tough to talk about "anarchist politics"; the term is a classic oxymoron. Anarchists in EP are a giant mostly-blank canvas because they can be anything the GM decides, good or bad. A lot of people seem to read the theoretical underpinnings of techno-anarchism as described in EP1, and think that anarchism is being glorified because the theoretical explanation only lists positives. Of course it does: nobody's going to design a new economic or political system to have flaws! [/off topic]

If only current economists didn't think to design their economic systems to be flawed!

Apologies for the sarcasm, but that statement stood out to me. People may not design systems to be flawed, but systems are flawed just the same. No-one's discovered a perfect economic system yet, nor a perfect political system, and to say that anarchists don't have politics is to ignore the libraries worth of texts written by anarchists and about anarchism as a political philosophy.

Anarchism is diverse. So is a capitalist economic system. So is representative government. So is every political philosophy. We get the political systems of these explored and the conceptual struggles therein, so why not for anarchists?

I know this should probably go elsewhere, but it's relevant to how things are portrayed in EP. Moral greys are necessary. Any time we see a setting in the system, we should always be given the answers to the questions of "What is the status quo?", "Who is trying to maintain it?", and "Who is trying to change it?". Ideally, there should be reasons players might want to lean to either side of things.

Without the answers to those questions, the setting ends up... Bland. The Ultimates are just one more victim of this trend of smoothing out the complexities of the questions the books themselves hint at asking.




[@-rep +1, f-rep +2]

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Axel the Chimeric wrote

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
Anarchism is diverse. So is a capitalist economic system. So is representative government. So is every political philosophy. We get the political systems of these explored and the conceptual struggles therein, so why not for anarchists?

I know this should probably go elsewhere, but it's relevant to how things are portrayed in EP. Moral greys are necessary. Any time we see a setting in the system, we should always be given the answers to the questions of "What is the status quo?", "Who is trying to maintain it?", and "Who is trying to change it?". Ideally, there should be reasons players might want to lean to either side of things.

Without the answers to those questions, the setting ends up... Bland. The Ultimates are just one more victim of this trend of smoothing out the complexities of the questions the books themselves hint at asking.

Very well put, I would say. Some of our concerns may also partly stem from how familiar each of us is with the various ancillary material that inspires Eclipse Phase. For instance, my impression of the Hypercorps in the Planetary Alliance is strongly colored by my understanding of Shadowrun's setting, where after 5 editions of work, they've developed complex, and admittedly conflicting portraits of nearly a dozen major mega corporations. Having read a lot of it, the basic setup of the Planetary Alliance makes sense to me, I can easily create new material to show it in both bad and good lights depending what I need for the session.

Compare to say, the Titinian Commonwealth. I have a much weaker background of exposure to the technoliberal and somewhat anarchist ideals and styles of Titan, but I've read on alternative election systems and about the modern nordic countries. It's hard, but not impossible for me to wrap my head around what it's like to live there during a major election cycle, or what academic life is like from a students perspective.

Then I come and see things like pure Anarchists and the Ultimates, and their whole setup is very new to me. I don't really visualize what the day to day of a typical Anarchist beehive hab is like, for instance, other than my exposure to such through Eclipse Phase. Extropia looks really interesting, but I've recently read forum threads pointing how how 'completely free market" isn't actually the standard setup for the Circle-A. So my understanding of the flaws, their weak points, the attack-able surfaces of their social structure, don't really carry over to the more common Brinker colony.

Mostly, I want to read about these different places of the setting, see how they work, and how they break when you have things like enemy spies, or a really clever Exurgent who doesn't go right to smashy-smashy.

A slight smell of ions....

Dilf_Pickle Dilf_Pickle's picture
[off-topic again]

Axel the Chimeric wrote:

Dilf Pickle wrote:
[off-topic] [...] Of course [Anarchism looks good on paper]: nobody's going to design a new economic or political system to have flaws! [/off topic]

If only current economists didn't think to design their economic systems to be flawed!

Apologies for the sarcasm, but that statement stood out to me.

I don't know why you're apologising. You're not being sarcastic: you're getting my point. Theoretical descriptions of any system will necessarily fail to address difficulties in application. This does not mean that it's safe to assume that said systems are perfect.

TL;DR In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

Axel the Chimeric wrote:

[...] the libraries worth of texts written by anarchists and about anarchism as a political philosophy

...are theory, not practice.

[/off-topic again]

Axel the Chimeric wrote:
I know this should probably go elsewhere, but it's relevant to how things are portrayed in EP. Moral greys are necessary. [...] "What is the status quo?", "Who is trying to maintain it?", and "Who is trying to change it?". Ideally, there should be reasons players might want to lean to either side of things.

Without the answers to those questions, the setting ends up... Bland. The Ultimates are just one more victim of this trend of smoothing out the complexities of the questions the books themselves hint at asking.

I have to agree here. Among the new Faction options, "good" and "evil"
members of each come to mind in an instant, except perhaps for Argonaut and Criminal which require a few seconds of thought. The same should go for the Ultimates, IMO, even if they're shunted off to an 'advanced chargen' sub-section.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Dilf_Pickle wrote:...are

Dilf_Pickle wrote:
...are theory, not practice.

While I agree with your overall point (that a fictionalized version of something cannot take into account the unknown real flaws of said something, even in the case of deconstruction), it should be noted that some anarchist theory has also worked in practice.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Decivre wrote:Dilf_Pickle

Decivre wrote:
Dilf_Pickle wrote:
...are theory, not practice.

While I agree with your overall point (that a fictionalized version of something cannot take into account the unknown real flaws of said something, even in the case of deconstruction), it should be noted that some anarchist theory has also worked in practice.

Do you have some sources on that? Sounds like very interesting reading.

A slight smell of ions....

eaton eaton's picture
https://history.stackexchange

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/14212/has-there-ever-been-a-successful-anarchy And https://listverse.com/2016/06/29/10-instances-of-anarchist-societies-that-actually-worked/ had some interesting it's to follow up on; it's also worth noting that most of the discrete anarchist communities in EP are very small compared to modern political nation states. Post-fall political structures are also pretty young.

Earlier comments got me thinking about about familiarity with certain tropes from other fiction and games. The Jovian, for example, clicked right into my memories of John LeCarre novels. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Splicer, anyone?

Decivre Decivre's picture
o11o1 wrote:Do you have some

o11o1 wrote:
Do you have some sources on that? Sounds like very interesting reading.

Material-wise, not really, but it's not hard to find organizations that utilize elements of anarchist theory.

Worker cooperatives, employee-owned corporations like Mondragon Corporation and WinCo, Rojava, Zomia, Slab City, MAREZ and Abahlali baseMjondolo's occupied government lands all today utilize anarchist social structure to some degree. Especially interesting is Rojava and how it has adapted to the tumultuous nature of northern Syria.

Beyond that, the biggest adaptation of anarchist thought to the modern world is decentralization. While the most beneficial use of this has been in non-profit and non-business entities like WikiLeaks, the open-source community and the Pirate Party; it's also the basis for the very 7th Generation warfare techniques that brought us kicking and screaming into the PATRIOT Act Age.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Maudova Maudova's picture
GreyBrother wrote:Kojak wrote

GreyBrother wrote:
Kojak wrote:
It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

Looking at this thread, i have my doubts.

There needs to be a like button.

~Alpha Fork Initialized.
P.S. I often post from my phone as I travel extensively for work. Please forgive typos and grammar issues.

kindalas kindalas's picture
I'll say it again.

Maudova wrote:
GreyBrother wrote:
Kojak wrote:
It's just that I think that your average intermediate-to-advanced EP player is mature enough to handle the nuance involved without internalizing the actual ideology.

Looking at this thread, i have my doubts.

There needs to be a like button.

There was already a warning about this kind of insulation.

Maudova take a break from this particular discussion.

Kindalas

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o11o1 o11o1's picture
eaton wrote:https://history

eaton wrote:
https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/14212/has-there-ever-been-a-successful-anarchy And https://listverse.com/2016/06/29/10-instances-of-anarchist-societies-that-actually-worked/ had some interesting it's to follow up on; it's also worth noting that most of the discrete anarchist communities in EP are very small compared to modern political nation states. Post-fall political structures are also pretty young.

Earlier comments got me thinking about about familiarity with certain tropes from other fiction and games. The Jovian, for example, clicked right into my memories of John LeCarre novels. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Splicer, anyone?

Good reading. I do notice a trend with these societies: they tend to be either overpowered by the nearby "Actual state" in fairly short order, or adopt a system that looks markedly similar to a set of tribal chieftans and elders who have a light touch perhaps, but do seem to provide some sort of heirarchy.

Presumably these positions in an EP hab are mediated by the members respective scores within the Circle-A network? Such that the person on the habitat with the highest rep score is "de facto chief of our tribe" ? This seems very much like "anarchy" is a loaded term that is easy to misunderstand. I would view this sort of structure with tags like "Mildly tribal", "Direct Democracy", or alternatively that the High-rep council is really a highly meritocratic form of representative democracy, where the rising and falling approval ratings replace the more traditional system of elections and terms of static length.

Of course, as soon as you codify that, and make it official, A) you're sort of drifting from the creed of the autonomous alliance (yes? I'm not sure if I'm correct on this) and B) cheaters and rep-manipulators are going to pop out of the woodwork in any hab of more than two hundred people.

Regarding the point of larger polities tending to take over nearby habitats, this is likely why the major 'anarchist' habitats tend to be heavily armed, to discourage being invaded just as much to provide for their own policing.

Now, since this is the Ultimate's thread and I should swing back on topic, the above points seem like they influence the goals of any given Ultimate: that you must personally be strong enough to resist the efforts of external people trying to take from you and yours, and that said strength should be a strong component of how to arrange the high-rep councils. Which now pulls us towards a "villainous" possible answer to the problem: find the -best- ultimate of your tribe, and admit that he/she/xe/it has earned the right to be the true chief, by dint of strength and wit. The more sway their words hold, the more your society drifts from being council-run, to be autocrat-run.

This also implies that habitats of Ultimate's where the top contenders are very close in power to each other will trend away from the autocrat answer, and back towards the "council of our best" solution. At least, up until someone manages to arrange a sufficiently deniable (or irresistible) coup upon their competitors.

Naturally, an autocrat ultimate who is on top, will find it very strongly in their interests to claim first dibs on any and all further improvements to the self, and suppress their underlings from "Catching up" to them by way of better morphs and augments.

A slight smell of ions....

eaton eaton's picture
Quote:Good reading. I do

Quote:
Good reading. I do notice a trend with these societies: they tend to be either overpowered by the nearby "Actual state" in fairly short order, or adopt a system that looks markedly similar to a set of tribal chieftans and elders who have a light touch perhaps, but do seem to provide some sort of heirarchy.

Yeah, that's… definitely the historical trend.

What I find interesting in the EP universe is that one of the basic limitations of novel political systems has been overcome: the hard limit on unclaimed land. It's fairly easy (by EP standards) for a few dozen like-minded folks to set up a tin can hab in the belt and try to scrape out a living without infringing on another polity's already-claimed territory. At that scale, without the risk of a next door neighbor kicking over your sand castle, I can see almost any political system working for a while.

Not as well-versed in the Ultimates fluff, so I'm mostly listening to that side of the discussion with interest. I've always been of the "Anarchists aren't being overhyped in the core book, they're just well-suited for the 'scattered pockets of survivors and weird-ass border habitats' niche" school of thought, and wanted to weigh in when that came up. In my headcanon, I can see the Ultimates' ethos being incompatible with the PC's hypercapitalism as well, just from a different angle.

Decivre Decivre's picture
o11o1 wrote:Good reading. I

o11o1 wrote:
Good reading. I do notice a trend with these societies: they tend to be either overpowered by the nearby "Actual state" in fairly short order, or adopt a system that looks markedly similar to a set of tribal chieftans and elders who have a light touch perhaps, but do seem to provide some sort of heirarchy.

Presumably these positions in an EP hab are mediated by the members respective scores within the Circle-A network? Such that the person on the habitat with the highest rep score is "de facto chief of our tribe" ? This seems very much like "anarchy" is a loaded term that is easy to misunderstand. I would view this sort of structure with tags like "Mildly tribal", "Direct Democracy", or alternatively that the High-rep council is really a highly meritocratic form of representative democracy, where the rising and falling approval ratings replace the more traditional system of elections and terms of static length.


For the most part. The biggest difference between an anarchist society and most other legal polities is the lack of formal law. While there will inevitably be people who become leaders of the pack (an inevitability regardless of society), the structure is still much looser and the power provided more fluid. Whereas in a traditional state they have complex impeachment proceedings, in an anarchist society your power goes away when everyone starts saying "shut the fuck up, man. We don't care what you say, anymore."

Anarchist schools of thought argue that this is a significant advantage. The fluidity of the shift in power means that consolidation of said power is less likely. Opponents would argue that this fluidity only lasts so long as no one gets the bright idea to utilize unethical force to retain said power.

One could also argue that modern society is moving closer toward this, with people in the modern day facing boycotts and job loss when they violate the informal laws of our culture. To some extent, we're already under the effects of a proto-reputation network.

o11o1 wrote:
Of course, as soon as you codify that, and make it official, A) you're sort of drifting from the creed of the autonomous alliance (yes? I'm not sure if I'm correct on this) and B) cheaters and rep-manipulators are going to pop out of the woodwork in any hab of more than two hundred people.

Regarding the point of larger polities tending to take over nearby habitats, this is likely why the major 'anarchist' habitats tend to be heavily armed, to discourage being invaded just as much to provide for their own policing.


Nah, most anarchist societies will retain their lack of legal rigidity. Codification will likely not occur, outside of the reputation network's mechanics. In a sense, you can think of Circle-A as the informal legal framework of anarchist societies... Autonomist Alliance nations simply overlay that with a secondary legal frameworks where applicable. But many places will stick to the basics.

While cheaters will definitely exist in such a society, I doubt it'll be the same sort of cheating that most people are thinking nowadays. Instead, I think that most reputation "gaming" will be more about controlling the narrative of events to spin things in your favor, and less about playing the math of the system. This will especially become true when these networks are hybridized with ALI systems.

Basically, reputation networks will make politicians of all of us.

o11o1 wrote:
Now, since this is the Ultimate's thread and I should swing back on topic, the above points seem like they influence the goals of any given Ultimate: that you must personally be strong enough to resist the efforts of external people trying to take from you and yours, and that said strength should be a strong component of how to arrange the high-rep councils. Which now pulls us towards a "villainous" possible answer to the problem: find the -best- ultimate of your tribe, and admit that he/she/xe/it has earned the right to be the true chief, by dint of strength and wit. The more sway their words hold, the more your society drifts from being council-run, to be autocrat-run.

This also implies that habitats of Ultimate's where the top contenders are very close in power to each other will trend away from the autocrat answer, and back towards the "council of our best" solution. At least, up until someone manages to arrange a sufficiently deniable (or irresistible) coup upon their competitors.

Naturally, an autocrat ultimate who is on top, will find it very strongly in their interests to claim first dibs on any and all further improvements to the self, and suppress their underlings from "Catching up" to them by way of better morphs and augments.


I originally saw a lot of potential parallels between Ultimate society and gamer culture. The individualism, social competitiveness and obsession with optimal hardware all ring of it.* To me, it made a lot of sense that they would divide into clan-like units, each vying for prestige against the others (and with members competing amongst themselves as well).

Later characterization made it more like a traditional militaristic society with transhuman overtones, which isn't bad but felt to me like a downgrade. It became all the more saddening when the Rajput were released in Firewall... Rajput works less like a rank and more like a game achievement, which felt like a throwback to the individualist way they were.

*To be honest, I found it very bizarre that Gamergate happened AND the Ultimates decidedly moved away from the similarities to gamer culture.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

jackgraham jackgraham's picture
Complete Book of Humanoids

It's possible people have read too much into our omitting them as a suggested faction during chargen. If EP were D&D, I think playing an Ultimate is a bit like playing one of the "evil" humanoid races, like hobgoblins. They're not one of your standard heroic character types, but if you've got an interesting concept, go for it.

This is just my personal take, but I don't see them as fascists in the usual, 20th century European sense. The socioeconomic "physics model" of EP is such that straight-up Nazis would never gain the kind of reach the Ultimates have. They've more in common with someone like Yukio Mishima. (And Alastair Reynolds' Ultras, who are one of the inspirations for the faction).

Are they ruthless, elitist, and undemocratic? Yeah. Can the faction's activities be condemned on moral grounds? Also yeah. But from a practical standpoint, their success so far presents a challenge to the beliefs of other factions, and as such, they're interesting. So play a hobgoblin if you want. Just have a good backstory, and understand that we consider them an advanced option, and as such not something we're going to put in Core as a suggested faction for any game.

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TheGrue TheGrue's picture
jackgraham wrote:. (And

jackgraham wrote:
. (And Alastair Reynolds' Ultras, who are one of the inspirations for the faction).

Really? In what way? Because other than a vaguely similar name I see very little in common between the Ultimates and Reynolds' Ultras. Insofar as the Ultras even have a unifying culture, the very last thing I would call it is "undemocratic", nor do I recall the Ultras showing a particular interest in the wider affairs of humanity. They've more in common with Brinkers than Ultimates.

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

MagisterCrow MagisterCrow's picture
jackgraham wrote:It's

jackgraham wrote:
It's possible people have read too much into our omitting them as a suggested faction during chargen.

In our defense, this is the internet. In my personal defense, I have a degree in comparative literature.

Quote:
So play a hobgoblin if you want. Just have a good backstory, and understand that we consider them an advanced option, and as such not something we're going to put in Core as a suggested faction for any game.

If the stance is that they're a more 'advanced' faction for players to work with...ok, that's fair. I think most people were turned off by the initial reason given which was "they're fascists and we don't want people playing fascists." Not overloading the core book is understandable, though.

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
I think their appeal was that

I think their appeal was that they came across as space Spartans. Basically a military force (mercenary) that emphasized excellence without much of an agenda.

Rereading the core rulebook, there were some warning signs that they are not nice. Maybe the fact the setting information only gave them about a quarter page (see p. 82) works to their advantage. With so little said about them, readers would fill in the blanks.

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