"Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

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red_eric red_eric's picture
"Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I keep fantasizing about actually running a game of EP for a group, but one thing that has always seemed a bit daunting is getting players who are unfamiliar with the numerous (and often exotic) concepts of transhumanist sci-fi – AI, uplifts, resleeving, nanotechnology, muses, augmented reality, forks, posthumanism, consciousness modification, etc – up to speed.

One way to avoid making players absorb a large amount of information before the game begins would be to have them start with characters who are similarly clueless about the the setting, and then the gradual introduction to the wider world of 10AF (and all it's strangeness and horror) can be done in the course of the game.

The ideal scenario for this would be something like having everyone wake up from some form of suspended animation to a post-apocalyptic earth, and then let them struggle to survive and figure out what the hell happened. Something like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" meets "28 days later" (with a dash of Kurt Russell thrown in). If the characters start as baseline humans from the 21st century, each new technology can be a plot point in its own right. They can be introduced to an uplifted animal in one story, a hostile nano-swarm in the next, and so on. A grand finale (and a way to drive home the trauma of the Fall) would involve discovering that the only way they can escape the Earth is by *dying* – destructive uploading and egocasting themselves off-world.

Since this seems like a fairly obvious idea, I'm curious – has anyone else started a campaign this way? How did it go?

Also, I appeal to the wisdom of the forum community to help me come up with excuses for why someone would wind up in suspended animation for a century or two and then wake up 10 years after the fall, with a body that is workable enough to make it through a survival-horror adventure. What kinds of people would get iced for so long? Criminals? People with terminal illnesses or injuries? The jaded rich?

Help me come up with crazy stuff to throw at characters struggling to make sense of a post-Fall Earth!

CodeBreaker CodeBreaker's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I once did a one off "Get you up to speed" Eclipse Phase adventure that was basically the first few episodes of the anime "Blue Gender" but EP-ified, if you have seen it. It is basically the scenario you described.

The players woke up in a facility from suspension pods to the sounds of explosions, fighting and general chaos. Firewall Agent 1 bursts into the room while her friends shoot away at some big bads and told the players that they have to come with her if they want to live. She gives them all a gun, and they had a bawdy good time watching a few Firewall Agents get eaten by nanoswarms and other nasties while they made their way topside to a short range VTOL. The players got into the VTOL, flew about for some time towards supposed safety before being attacked by what was basically a TITAN Dragon (I like to mix fantasy with Sci-Fi :p). VTOL went down, Firewall Agent 1 died just after telling them that they have to make there way northwards where a big fancy rocket will take them into space.

All jazzed up with "We survived a Dragon attack!" nerves they made there way north, encountered a few survivors getting attacked by a large TITAN war machine (They decided not to get involved, which was annoying because I had intended to use those survivors as their get away). Instead the survivors got stomped on. The players did manage to get to the facility I wanted them at (I seem to remember them hijacking a train) but then found out that it wasn't a rocket they would be getting on, it was instead a brain scanner. They had a nice long conversation between themselves about "If I do this, is it really me?" before they decided to all use it.

Ended it there without going into if they actually made it off Earth. I intend to bring them back one day as a group the players (Now playing actual Firewall agents doing Firewall type things) have to rescue for some reason or other. It was really good fun, took 3 sessions to do and my players still talk about it.

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Xahn Borealis Xahn Borealis's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I love that Kurt Russell counts as a scifi concept as opposed to an actor. "I don't know why, but that game reminded me a lot of Kurt Russell. It just seemed like the sort of thing he'd be in." :D

I think Sunward has a small plot hook for characters sleeving on Earth. Simply describe the pre-Fall turmoil, resource wars, ecological devastation and then have them go into cryo to escape just as the TITANs begin their attack.




I want that planet back

Extrasolar Angel Extrasolar Angel's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

It's even cooler if they wake up in some facility beneath an European city, have to fight their way through metro and underground system full of Titan-puppets, savage transhumanist gangs and occassional Titan-war bot, only to break through from the steamy tunnels to a ice ridden surface desolated by arctic wind.

Raise your hands to the sky and break the chains. With transhumanism we can smash the matriarchy together.

The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

This style of intro is definitely the way I'd like to start my EP game. It's just so much easier to unfurl the universe gradually via the characters' discoveries, as opposed to hitting the players with a massive data dump of nosebleed-inducing magnitude (leading to the problems discussed in this thread). With so much to take in I think it's very important to give players (and myself!) ample time to ponder and chin-stroke over the tremendous implications of the settings' major elements.

I've had an intro scenario sketched out for a while now involving the players awakening from stasis not quite on Earth, but aboard a spacecraft returning to it from a mysteriously much-longer-than-planned trip to the edge of the solar system. Finally returning from Who Knows Where, they are awakened by the onboard computer (which has somehow evolved during their nap into a fully-fledged AI with inscrutable motives) and find themselves locked on course for the LEO barricade, and the unrecognisable Earth beyond.

I intend to have the ship's onboard AI be a TITAN/Promethean-related entity of some sort, having somehow achieved self-awareness via its long, mysterious dialogue with Earth throughout the long space flight. And during this period of unmonitored self-modification it has decided (or been instructed?) to undertake weird experiments upon the sleeping bodies of the crew; those who didn't die (i.e. the players) find themselves modified up to transhuman norms, so to speak, with the ship AI riding shotgun in each of their brains.

The nature of the AI's genesis and it's motives will remain highly ambiguous. But it will get them through the barricade intact, and it will be their only ally -albeit a hugely untrustworthy one- in the cursed, maddening hellscape that was once southern Florida (n.b. gigantic cyber-alligator encounter to follow).


Time will perfect matter.

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I can think of a few 'how did the characters start here' scenarios.

One, the characters are people with uncurable diseases, put into suspended animation until some conditions are met (optimistically, a cure). The facility is almost completely automated, and the patients never died. In this case, the facility is running out of power. As it has received no response to its requests to HQ for additional power plant fuel, it has enacted emergency procedures - defrost those categorized as least critical, to preserve power for the most critical patients. The PCs wake up in hospital gowns, in a dark, automated, and not especially friendly medical facility, with large parts now collapsed or shut off. If you go with this, one character should be named Walt.

The other possibility is the characters wake up outside of a strange facility. They have no previous memories, or previous memories which are completely incongruous with where they find themselves now. There's no explanation of where they came from or how they got here. They may have appropriate equipment, maybe not. Later on, you can append a background which is most amusing for you (the easy one being 'they were made by TITANs for reasons unknown').

King Shere King Shere's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

Another scenario,

The "wakeup" PCs are inside a emergency pod/shuttle that is currently reentering into the atmosphere. Some of the PCs may be (unknowingly) emergency personas that were activated to ensure the passengers safety - and will only be "active" until the survivors get back to orbit.

If and When the survivors are back home, the next challenge may be "rescuing" the emergency personas from their arrogant and unsympathetic originals. Especially if the survivors teamed well and/ or formed emotional bonds with each other.



"To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult."
Plutarch

red_eric red_eric's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

Thanks for all the ideas! I think the suggestion of an automated medical facility waking up its "least critical" patients is good – that would explain why the characters in particular were awakened, and why they are in (relatively) good enough shape to go on an adventure.

Does anyone here have a decent knowledge of terminal or degenerative diseases? I could always just handwave something ("if you don't inject one of these vials every 6 hours, the mitochondria in your cells start breaking down... there are about a dozen doses left"), but incorporating real-world medical conditions would be especially creepy.

Another thing I've been hung up on is – how to contrive a set of circumstances so that the characters get frozen at some point in the past but then are never awakened at any point prior to or leading up to the Fall, despite all the huge medical advances made in that time?

Possible solution: the characters *were* cured and revived, decades ago – by being sleeved into new bodies! Their defective "originals" (complete with brains), were secretly kept on ice by the medical hypercorp doing the work, for research purposes. This is very illegal, and (should the PCs survive and get off earth) could result in a class-action lawsuit or worse against those responsible.

So, somewhere out in the Solar System, divergent copies of at least some of the PCs have been active for decades. What kind of people have they become in the interim period? Will they turn out to be unexpected allies, or fearsome antagonists (especially if any of the PCs is ruthless or has secrets that their copy wouldn't want getting out)?

icekatze icekatze's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

hi hi

Although character backgrounds are never entirely conducive to this idea, I have always thought it would be a great campaign opener to start out on Earth during the Fall. The characters are trying to make it to the space elevator while avoiding TITAN created dangers all around. The intent is that unless the players are exceptionally brilliant or lucky, that they don't survive to reach the space elevator and end up being broadcast off the surface. If one of the players dies before the total party kill, they can tag along as an infomorph. After everyone dies, we fast forward ten years and everyone is waking up together in a strange place, with strange machines and strange people telling them strange things.

This serves several purposes, getting the players used to the idea of their characters getting killed horribly, giving them first hand experience of how horrifying the dangers out there really are, and to give the Fall a tangible sense of reality.

The Doctor The Doctor's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

Another possibility might involve the players being resleeved after their corpsicles were discovered and found to be in reasonably good shape. Perhaps only their heads were put into suspension, perhaps their entire bodies were. Due to the fact that whole bodies are frozen head-downward so that the heads would be the last to defrost in the event that the liquid nitrogen could not be topped off in time, this may have been the only viable method of destructively uploading their minds because their bodies could not be resuscitated. Perhaps they were among the first to colonize the moon or another planet and thus the first to die before resleeving technology became prevalent. The Fall precluded their being resleeved, what with a war going on and all, and thus they were lost but recently rediscovered.

I was always partial to such games not starting off with heavy combat, but the horror that comes with discovering that the world you knew is several hundred to a few thousand years in the past, probably along with everyone the characters knew from that time. Maybe. A lot can change in three thousand years.



OneTrikPony OneTrikPony's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

It would be easy enough to just have the characters take the reinstantiated background and wake them up as infomorphs on Venus, Sleeved indentures on Luna or Mars, or brand new citizens of the Titanian common wealth. That way they can get used to the setting without being in immediate danger.

Tangentially:
AAAAARRRRGH! :( Why is this line of thinking even necessary? Why is it so friken difficult to get players to just read the damned book? The setting material is less than 100 pages of fairly compelling and interesting writing.

Mea Culpa: My mode of speech can make others feel uninvited to argue or participate. This is the EXACT opposite of what I intend when I post.

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I actually like that my characters don't read the book. The background of the game is really one filled with constant wonder and discovery. Just reading the book TO them makes up 40% of my game, and they love it. It's once they read the book and start asking 'why can't I just fab a device that does THIS' that GMing gets tough.

The Doctor The Doctor's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

OneTrikPony wrote:
AAAAARRRRGH! :( Why is this line of thinking even necessary? Why is it so friken difficult to get players to just read the damned book? The setting material is less than 100 pages of fairly compelling and interesting writing.

I ask the same question at least once a month.



CodeBreaker CodeBreaker's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

The trouble is that a lot of players don't really want to think about the world their characters live in. They are more than happy to go to the session, play their role, talk about the subject matter, but they are not interested enough to go out and really delve into it. You must also remember that the people on these forums are all, basically, the same kind of person. We are all interested enough in the game to go online, look for the forums and talk about it. So we don't really get to hear the voices of those who are happy to just tag along with whatever simply because they are not the kind of person who talks about pen and paper roleplay games over the internet with their fellow geeks :p

Edit: And we should accept that. Some people just do not have the time, or the energy, or (and I mean this in the nicest way possible) the intellectual motivation to spend a few hours reading a roleplay setting.

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nikleonard nikleonard's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

I completely agree. Not everybody have the time to go to a roleplaying session, and read 100+ pages of setting (even if it's a very good reading). Even I had to resort to an iPod Touch for reading in all the spare time I had (bathroom included) and understanding the system and the setting.
A introductory scene during the fall, especially considering that in the first game session one can't play a lot because of the time lost in creating the characters, is a very good way to introduce the players to the setting and giving them personal motivations to continue playing (and, hopefully, joining Firewall if you want to).

Playing Eclipse Phase the "Chilean Way"...

red_eric red_eric's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

This is my take on things too. The fact is, Eclipse Phase as a game requires a fair amount of buy-in from the players to work properly. This goes beyond just reading the rules (every game calls for that) – there are a whole set of concepts relating to science, technology, and philosophy to be absorbed. This isn't a flaw – on the contrary, it's what makes the game so interesting. The steeper climb pays off with a better view from the summit, so to speak.

But given that EP asks a bit more of its players than a casual game of D&D or whatever, I'm interested in any ideas about how to introduce players unfamiliar with the genre, without overwhelming them.

OneTrikPony OneTrikPony's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

red_eric wrote:
This is my take on things too. The fact is, Eclipse Phase as a game requires a fair amount of buy-in from the players to work properly. This goes beyond just reading the rules (every game calls for that) – there are a whole set of concepts relating to science, technology, and philosophy to be absorbed. This isn't a flaw – on the contrary, it's what makes the game so interesting. The steeper climb pays off with a better view from the summit, so to speak.

But given that EP asks a bit more of its players than a casual game of D&D or whatever, I'm interested in any ideas about how to introduce players unfamiliar with the genre, without overwhelming them.


IDK; I'm not convinced that the buy-in is all that expensive compaired to other games I've played like Shadowrun, Earthdawn, or even the Eberon setting for DnD. I recall it used to be pure hell to GM shadowrun for a new player. I guess I'm primarily attracted to games with deep settings so maybe I just don't understand.

EP does have the benefit of several avenues to introduce new players to the game as new characters so I expect that will help alot.

Mea Culpa: My mode of speech can make others feel uninvited to argue or participate. This is the EXACT opposite of what I intend when I post.

Tachi Tachi's picture
Re: "Escape from Earth," Kurt Russell style!

After spending quite some time trying, and failing, to get a Shadowrun game going, I finally ended up with an Eclipse Phase game by accident. I started it with the PCs as special forces troops. We played a dozen sessions in the prefall era, just so they could get used to the concepts a little at a time. Then the Fall came, and they were right in the middle of it for the next dozen sessions, ending with a marathon all-day gaming session.

I had detailed the NPCs in most ot their company pretty well, with their entire platoon, 28 NPCs and 5 PCs, all having their own character sheet. Then I fed them into the sausage grinder that is the Fall. Started slow, as it didn't all happen at once. I had each platoon, including theirs, doing different tangent missions in the story. By the time of the PCs third mission the company had been reconsolidated as two platoons, with some central NPCs from their platoon dying, and me writing up new sheets for the replacements from 1st and 2nd platoons. Then it got ugly. After several more missions, and more casualties, I had the two short platoons left secure a Promethian in danger and transport it's, fairly large, computer self to an exfil off-planet.

Then the remaining platoon, being at the spaceport, found itself pressed into service, along with quite a few others - almost a full army corps of clerks, cooks, and anyone with a gun - to defend it, the surrounding area, and the several million civillians trying to board a shuttle or get backed-up off planet, from a horde of incoming Titan toys. The PCs of course, being SF soldiers, and therefore:

1. Military Property
2. Highly developed weapons systems representing large investments in money and training

have already been backed-up off planet. They were therefore free to act like lunatics during the apocalypse, which they proceeded to do. Kids were loaded on shuttles (not all of which made it out), all adults who were backed-up were handed weapons, given a 2 minute briefing on how to use them and fighting from fixed defenses, and sent to the front. Considering themselves 'on deadly ground', they all fought for over a week straight (civilian cannon fodder dying by the thousands), three of the PCs dying along the way (at which point they were handed a sheet from one of the surviving NPCs from their platoon). As the slow but steady attrition continued and the players watched 'their' world be destroyed and everyone they know die in dozens of different ugly ways, a few of them told me it felt like there was an almost palpable sense of impending doom. That made me very happy.

It ended with a huge final battle, and a fighting withdrawl to the Go-To-Hell nuke, in which the last of them fought to the death, all the players but one switching to several different NPCs as they each died multiple times. It was beautiful.

Without any dice trickery or outright cheating, the last defender was one of the original PCs. The last man, or in this case, woman (and she's never let anyone forget it), detonated the nuke, giving the last survivors, and herself, a 'clean death', which I suppose it was when compared to being messily killed and forcibly uploaded like ALL the other PCs...

Then I resleeved them immediately after the Fall and brought them into Firewall on the ground floor.

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I don't shoot a man for being incompetent in the Devil's work. I shoot him for being c