A Newcomer's Questions

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Noble Pigeon Noble Pigeon's picture
A Newcomer's Questions

Hey there!

So in my hunt to find some good science fiction RPGs, I stumbled upon Eclipse Phase one day. Normally it takes me a while to get sucked into a world's setting. Think of it as enjoying a big meal piecemeal, one thoughtful, bite at a time.

Not so much EP. Here I tore into the lobster dinner with a hithero unseen viciousness when I first heard about it from RPG.net. For the rest of the day I was engrossed in the book and cancelled our college D&D game for this game after getting the players sufficiently excited, since all we've played in the last semester and summer break has been D&D. Which is fun and all, but this setting intrigues me, for many reasons.

However, I did have some questions I wanted to ask since I'm still learning about the setting and I've only gotten a little into the core book:

-If the TITANs had a physical form, what kind of form do you think that would be? Should I be thinking along the lines of GLaDOS for reference or something else entirely?

-Any word on the sequel supplement to Sunward? Not sure what it's going to be called: Outerward perhaps? I'd definitely like to see more on the Jovian Republic and the Titanian Commonwealth.

-As a GM I wanted to ask: any tips on running the first game of EP smoothly?

-Saving the best (ugh) for last: I'd like to ask a question pertaining to religion, which doesn't end well too often in my experience. Still, I'll take the risks since you guys seem like mature people and ask: in the section discussing certain pre-Fall religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), why did only Islam seem to "adopt a more liberal, even secular view" to the changes transhumanity underwent, whereas the first two became "shadows of their former selves"? Now bear with me, I'm not holding one over the other or trying to make some subtle statement about Islam.

It's just, the book never really goes into detail why Islam seemed to adapt relatively better than the other two. Objectively speaking, I see no reason why one would be particularly better adapted for transhumanist changes than others. It seems like the book does try to explain the first two as having "rigid structures and dogmas" attributing to their big decline, but those seem to be oversimplifying it way too much since you could use the same sweeping statement for Islam. I don't like generalizing whole people as having a single static, unchanging, monolithic mindset. I know dang well that they all have their more tolerant and progressive people as they do their more...well, not so tolerant ways of thinking as well.

"Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.”
-Abraham Lincoln, State of the Union address

Tnargraef Tnargraef's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

For Titans I would recommend thinking of HP Lovecraft's Mythos personally. An intelligence far beyond that of the norm that the human mind can't really comprehend the full details of their horror. It should be noted that TITAN brains are so big that they can only really do the Mass Effect 2 Harbinger bit as a comparison.

I can't really comment on the 2nd.

For the third. Always remember the most important Rule: Have fun.
Make sure to ask the players what they're expecting and get to know what they're really looking to do. You can help cater to their ideas with good discussion.
Be willing to admit you don't know everything.
Sometimes the magic of Handwavium is awesome, but too much can be ick.
Avoid making the players feel insignificant. You want them to feel really pumped up and awesome...Eventually you might crush that with the weight of reality, but give it time before you do.
Talk to your players. Don't reveal all the details, but talking and discussion about their ideas and how they felt the game went can greatly increase how well you and they perform overall.

For the fourth question: I don't put too much thought into it unless I was going to use it. For all intents and purposes, somewhere out there is a group of Hell's Angel Biker Christians riding cyberdragons through space playing a heavy metal violins while singing Hymns in my book. If it was pertinent that to one of my players, then I'd look into it more myself, but I'm usually just silly and don't really do much.

Anarhista Anarhista's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

Noble Pigeon wrote:

...I'd like to ask a question pertaining to religion, which doesn't end well too often in my experience. Still, I'll take the risks since you guys seem like mature people and ask: in the section discussing certain pre-Fall religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), why did only Islam seem to "adopt a more liberal, even secular view" to the changes transhumanity underwent, whereas the first two became "shadows of their former selves"? Now bear with me, I'm not holding one over the other or trying to make some subtle statement about Islam.

It's just, the book never really goes into detail why Islam seemed to adapt relatively better than the other two. Objectively speaking, I see no reason why one would be particularly better adapted for transhumanist changes than others. It seems like the book does try to explain the first two as having "rigid structures and dogmas" attributing to their big decline, but those seem to be oversimplifying it way too much since you could use the same sweeping statement for Islam. I don't like generalizing whole people as having a single static, unchanging, monolithic mindset. I know dang well that they all have their more tolerant and progressive people as they do their more...well, not so tolerant ways of thinking as well.

Islam was 'leader' in progressive ways of life (stimulating intellectual progress and better society) and it's holy book is collection of (some say) most beautiful verses so current situation is more because socio-political situation of Islamic countries. That being said Islam is centuries old and its 'progressive' ways are 'little' outdated and verses can be notoriously bad interpreted... As someone noticed, authors hoped (trans)humanity would get rid it self of religion shackles but I seriously doubt this to be the future...

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

Re TITAN forms: I'm of the persuasion that they were nebulous, emergent software constructs dispersed throughout all transhuman information networks, and as such were without any definite physical self. Physical form is strictly for the toposophically retarded. If we could point at them, we'd know where to shoot, the threat would be comprehensible and the war winnable.

Re Rimward: Last I read, delayed, though expected this year. Updates are periodically posted in the News subforum.

Re running games: I have no idea. I've been into this setting for a while now, and I only know half the rules and formulating the most rudimentary of plotlines frequently baffles me.

Re Islam: From a setting design perspective, I think the primary reason for the survival of Islam is an aesthetic choice to make the Martian desert cultures more relatable. With Earth lost, the largest landmass transhumanity is left with is desert. The culture, garb, activities and architecture we, the game's overwhelmingly Western audience, most readily associate with desert landscapes are Islamic. You can come up with any amount of diegetic narratives for Muslim diaspora, memetic adaptation to AI, nano, resleeving, etc., but the main reason behind the decision is that Mars needs robot Sufis.


Time will perfect matter.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-If the TITANs had a physical form, what kind of form do you think that would be? Should I be thinking along the lines of GLaDOS for reference or something else entirely?

I either imagined them has being super-massive data systems housed in a giant armed and armored satellite. Or a massive autonomous facility on Earth that houses a massive computation cluster. Either way, I picture them as being immense. Think a satellite visible from the ground, or a facility that borders on superstructure.

As for their post-singularity forms, no clue. It could be damn near anything, especially since they have access to computronium.

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-Any word on the sequel supplement to Sunward? Not sure what it's going to be called: Outerward perhaps? I'd definitely like to see more on the Jovian Republic and the Titanian Commonwealth.

The book is called Rimward, and it will hopefully be coming out later this year.

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-As a GM I wanted to ask: any tips on running the first game of EP smoothly?

Use the quickstart. If gives you a small sample of a multitude of scenarios that characters will face, and so it gives you an opportunity to explore a number of setting elements. Characters face up against TITAN weapons, swarms, get a chance to resleeve, and plenty more.

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-Saving the best (ugh) for last: I'd like to ask a question pertaining to religion, which doesn't end well too often in my experience. Still, I'll take the risks since you guys seem like mature people and ask: in the section discussing certain pre-Fall religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), why did only Islam seem to "adopt a more liberal, even secular view" to the changes transhumanity underwent, whereas the first two became "shadows of their former selves"? Now bear with me, I'm not holding one over the other or trying to make some subtle statement about Islam.

It's just, the book never really goes into detail why Islam seemed to adapt relatively better than the other two. Objectively speaking, I see no reason why one would be particularly better adapted for transhumanist changes than others. It seems like the book does try to explain the first two as having "rigid structures and dogmas" attributing to their big decline, but those seem to be oversimplifying it way too much since you could use the same sweeping statement for Islam. I don't like generalizing whole people as having a single static, unchanging, monolithic mindset. I know dang well that they all have their more tolerant and progressive people as they do their more...well, not so tolerant ways of thinking as well.

Islam sits in an unusual spot when it comes to the classification of religions. Generally, one can split religions into Eastern and Western religious structures. Western religions tend to be more centralized, with more strict traditions, and having a far stricter dogma. Eastern religions tend to be far more adaptable simply by merit of the fact that eastern faiths rarely have dogmatic structures; questioning faith has been an inherent part of Eastern religion.

Islam is a bizarre hybridization of the two concepts, mixing Eastern animism with Western (mono)theism. Furthermore, it has a number of other nuances that set it a bit apart from many other Western religions. A distinction that significantly separates it from Christianity is that it never underwent a period of unification like the Christian church did. Caliphates tended to have a more lax hold on Muslim orthodoxy, so Muslim philosophical views tended to be more broad. Furthermore, the birth of Islam occurred right around one of the earliest "scientific" revolutions; the same one that brought about Algebra and the second wave of astronomy.

Islam surviving is not an inherently dramatic event. Islam tends toward decentralization, and often thrives even when the establishment of a Mosque is a non-option. Furthermore, it is far less paranoid of upcoming technologies than Christianity tends to be… despite the transition towards stem cell research and genetic engineering, the majority of the backlash from these burgeoning technologies has been Christian in nature. Islam has either been receptive or quiet with regards to it.

Due note that Christianity still survives in Eclipse Phase. The Jovian Republic is decidedly based on North and South American social structures, which are predominantly Christian. So it's likely that the Junta is either heavily influenced, or potentially even jointly governed, by some variation of Christian Orthodoxy. Furthermore, there are likely plenty of other Christian sects divided amongst the various societies in the setting. The setting merely assumes that of the Western faiths, Islam made it out the most intact.

In that same vein, 95% of humanity was wiped out, but that doesn't mean that the setting is discriminatory against 95% of our species.

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

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-If the TITANs had a physical form, what kind of form do you think that would be? Should I be thinking along the lines of GLaDOS for reference or something else entirely?

Anything they liked or got the hands on, really. I tend to imagine that at first they just took over normal infrastructure, running behind the facade of ordinary automation, corporate mainframes, nanotech equipment, brains of very enhanced transhumans, other AGIs. As they expanded and the need for subtlety disappeared they started making new servers and remote controlled bodies - big sapphire mainframes, nanoswarms, fractals. Then they began to go truly weird as they went beyond mere nanotechnology. At this point they might have moved into the territory of things that no longer made perceptual sense to transhumans - nonexistent colors, designs that just crash perception - or were impossible to see (femtotech constructs? near perfect invisibility?)

So a TITAN might be an ordinary looking mainframe, some bizarre advanced nanostructure, or just a piece of distortion.

Quote:
As a GM I wanted to ask: any tips on running the first game of EP smoothly?

Stage the revelations about the world, game system and technologies so that the players have a chance to get used to the more radical aspects - rep systems, nanoprinting, resleeving, psychosurgery, forking.

But make sure they don't get stuck on certain assumptions about how things work: it is sometimes good to throw them straight into the weirdness or show them just how many normal assumptions are no longer true.

The "you all wake up from old backups/with amnesia" trick is not a bad one.

Extropian

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

Welcome!

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-If the TITANs had a physical form, what kind of form do you think that would be? Should I be thinking along the lines of GLaDOS for reference or something else entirely?

I don't think they would have a physical form. Some of their descriptions mentions that their programs are too large and vast to be even sleeved in a physical morph (the kind that humans could use). Their programing demands incredible processing power to run all those intelligence improving software, and their increased intelligences need incredible processing power in turn. Chances are, a single main frame or super computer wouldn't be enough; they would have to network several of them together to not feel mentally retarded.

The Portal games were interesting I grant you that, but the TITANs are very different from GLaDOS, or anything we could imagine. Getting them to explain what their day to day lives would be like, would be like trying to explain to a cave man what our lives are like. Plus it is hinted that their programing was modified by some alien intelligence which doesn't help us understand them.

I'm going to point out that in "Gatecrashing" one of the gate world descriptions mentions that a promethean, a human friendly seed AI, was trying to make a giant supercomputer using planets as materials.

Noble Pigeon wrote:
-Any word on the sequel supplement to Sunward? Not sure what it's going to be called: Outerward perhaps? I'd definitely like to see more on the Jovian Republic and the Titanian Commonwealth.

There is no mention of a release date at this point. The devs mentioned that they ran into some trouble that they haven't been able to easily resolve. The book will be ready when its ready.

They did mention that this delay shouldn't affect the schedule of the other books being developed though.

jackgraham jackgraham's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

1. We've described them as taking over big mainframes in some cases, but with the possibilities of pre-Fall EP tech for distributed computing, some of them probably spread their neural nets over multiple processing nodes, too. Good luck destroying something like that. Their appendages in the physical world are whatever physical systems they can take over, but during the Fall they later created their own factories to mass produce military robots of their own design, such as the headhunters.

2. You won't have much longer to wait for Rimward.

3. Depends on your players. If they can sit through a 20-30 minute spiel on the most important points of the setting and retain enough of it to function, go that route. Important points to cover are resleeving & backups, augmented reality, nanofabrication, reputation, and the deadliness of combat. Then give them pre-gens and run the module that comes with the Quick Start Rules.

If they're impatient and you're enterprising, the alternative is to make pregens and start with a subset of the total universe. For example, if you start out with an exoplanet team cut off from the Mesh, with limited supplies, you pare down the options, making things less complex.

4. R/e Islam vs. other Abrahamic religions -- no idea. I think you're referring to something Brian Cross wrote in the core book, and he hasn't really elaborated on it. Other writers have since come along and referenced religion/cults/etc. quite a bit, so I wouldn't dwell on it. In the back of my head, I imagine Islam in the mid-to-late 21st century as having undergone an intellectual renaissance & liberalization akin to what it experienced during the middle ages. But I don't know if that was anything like Brian's intent.

The Arab/Islamic flavor of Mars was something I threw in later. I had in my head the Asian spaghetti western feel of Cowboy Bebop to some extent, with the souks of Martian cities inspired by a scene where Spike visits such a place.

J A C K   G R A H A M :: Hooray for Earth!
  http://eclipsephase.com :: twitter @jackgraham @faketsr :: Google+Jack Graham

EccentricOwl EccentricOwl's picture
Re: A Newcomer's Questions

The eternal question on how to run a good game:

Have fun. Yeah, everyone says it, but really. Try to use one or two big mechanics per session to introduce them to your group. Session 1, introduce reputation networks and nanomachines. Session 2, introduce sleeving and combat. Session 3, introduce egocasting or some other major mechanic.

If the group really doesn't like the rules (and there are a LOT of them, mind you) then hand-wave them and go with abstractions. If your group complains that the Reputation system is broken or something then just go with something easier and make them spend points in it or something.

Find cool adventures and use the cool plot threads - it really is all about expectation of what you and the players want to get out of it!