One of the problems any space-faring sci-fi game has to deal with is how to handle space travel and space combat. Both of these can be significant glitches in an RPG setting. Space travel can mean a long delay between action, as the players must board a ship to get from one setting locale to another. Planets and space stations are not stationary objects, however, and so travel time can very between the same two places by a matter of months or more, as their orbits take them nearer to or further from each other. Add in the many different types of potential spaceship drives, and you have another complication. Some games deal with this by including charts and complex mathematics, actually requiring you to do the math to figure out how long your journey from Mars to Saturn will take.
Space combat is an even trickier beast. There are entire games built around space combat alone, and most of them are quite complex. Tracking relativistic movement in a three-dimensional environment where numerous scientific and technological factors (gravity wells, drive types, targeting systems, weapon ranges, etc) play an important role is tricky stuff. On top of this, if you’re seeking to be realistic, than space combat is likely to be a deadly affair. One missile or well-aimed laser or even a high-speed collision with some debris can mean the end of your ship–and your whole party of PCs along with it. And the role of the characters within space combat is yet another issue–quite often, unless it’s a game heavy in space combat–your character may have no role to play within the battle. It’s not unusual for the lives of an entire team of PCs to rest upon a couple of die rolls made by the one player who happens to be the pilot or gunner.
When designing Eclipse Phase, our goal was to minimize all of this fuss. We didn’t want long journeys between stations to drag out game play. We didn’t want to bog down the game with complex space combat rules. We feel spaceships should be treated as settings rather than collections of stats and that spaceship combat should be dramatic window-dressing, a plot device rather than a guillotine hanging over the character’s necks should one of them make a bad roll.
Luckily, Eclipse Phase already has the built-in aspect of mind emulation and uploading, so we have a ready alternative. Want to get from Luna to Venus? Back up your ego, trade in your body, and get securely beamed over to Venus, where you will be downloaded into a new body of your choice. Though such travel isn’t necessarily cheap or without its drawbacks, it certainly allows us to bypass some of the problems above. Likewise, if your travel plans don’t exactly require physical activity, you can perhaps get by with sending a fork of yourself, a digital partial copy that you can integrate back in later.
This isn’t to say that Eclipse Phase won’t have some details on ships and space travel/combat, but we’ll be keeping such things light. If there’s demand, we can always explore it in a supplement. In the meantime, there are easier ways to get around.
photo credit: NASA