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Eclipse Phase

Entry updated 19 January 2017. Tagged: Game.

Role Playing Game (2009). Posthuman Studios. Designed by Rob Boyle, John Snead, Brian Cross, Jack Graham, Lars Blumenstein.

Eclipse Phase is a game of Posthuman terror. The setting is a complexly inhabited solar system after the Fall, a war against rogue AIs which ended only when the enemy escaped to the stars, taking with them millions of forcibly Uploaded human minds. Earth is a deadly wasteland, surrendered to roving packs of self improving war machines. The survivors of the Fall exist in colonies scattered throughout the system, where they have created new economies based on Nanotechnology and new societies ranging from corporate semi-democracies to anarchist cooperatives and libertarian associations (see Libertarian SF). Their mental and physical natures have been profoundly altered; the mind has been separated from the body by the ability to record personalities and instal them in new biological or cybernetic shells, making humans and their Uplifted cousins effectively postmortal. But this is not a world in which people feel safe. Instead it is a future in which a single individual can devastate a city, where the universe seems not only menacing but incomprehensible, and the extinction of humanity is an ever present danger.

Player characters are typically members of an organization known as Firewall, a conspiracy which attempts to preserve the human species by whatever means necessary. The game's mechanics are well constructed, with an elegantly designed split between its representations of characters' mental abilities and those of the bodies they wear. Interestingly, the texts which describe the rules and their background can be freely distributed and altered by electronic means on the basis that players who appreciate them may make a voluntary payment; similar approaches have been taken by Marcus Rowland for Forgotten Futures (1993) and by Cory Doctorow for his fiction. Considered as a work of science fiction, Eclipse Phase depicts a future that is far more intricate than that associated with Traveller or other games inspired by more traditional forms of Space Opera. As with Transhuman Space (2002), it is instead influenced by works of modern Hard SF which accept the broad limits of our current scientific understanding while exploring extreme social and technological possibilities within that scope. Thus the game's milieu remixes ideas from early twenty-first century novels by Charles Stross, Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Richard Morgan and Walter Jon Williams, with elements drawn from such older works as Ghost in the Shell (1995), Frederik Pohl's Heechee books and John Varley's Eight Worlds. Nevertheless, Eclipse Phase presents an original and compelling vision of the future, of a world in which the continuing existence of posthumanity is threatened by its inability to control the products of its own technologies, by the Basilisks and killer nanoswarms of a dark Singularity.

Related works: Lack (2010 ebook chap) and Melt (2010 ebook chap), both by Rob Boyle and Davidson Cole, as well as An Infinite Horizon (2010 ebook chap) by Steve Mohan and El Destino Verde (2011 ebook chap) by Jack Graham, are short pieces of fiction excerpted from Eclipse Phase sourcebooks and published separately. [NT]


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