Eclipse Phase is one of my absolute favorite RPG settings. Humanity is now transhumanity—functionally immortal thanks to regular backups, and inclusive of digital consciousnesses and uplifted animals—but our unchecked advancement lost us the Earth and scatterd the survivors across the solar system. The setting is both deep and broad enough to support campaigns based around political conspiracies, psychological horror, interstellar exploration, post-apocalyptic survival, and plain old “dungeon delving” for lost treasures among terrifying creatures. I’ve spent more time reading this game than running it, sucked in by world-building so thoughtful and detailed that it feels like it was written by a futuristic (and slightly obsessive) anthropologist. Unfortunately, even the upcoming second edition’s relatively simpler rules are more complex than I typically prefer. So I did what I do in these situations: I went looking for hacks with simpler rules, and I also hacked some myself. Repeatedly.
My first Eclipse Phase hack, The Basilisk Hack, is based on the rules from the first edition of The Black Hack. I posted here about it just a few days ago, and thought I was done with all this for a while. You know my motto, though: Why hack a game once when you can hack it three times? (Though it’s possible I’m confusing “motto” with “desperate cry for help.”)
Seeing how little work I had left to wrap up The Basilisk Hack spurred me to finish edits on Into the Eclipse, a hack of Into the Odd and the upcoming Electric Bastionland. It’s a simpler rule set than The Black Hack, with no character classes, less dice rolling, and some elements that make it well suited to horror. These rules don’t include instructions for creating enemies, but the same principles from Into the Odd apply: stat them like PCs, give them some basic drive, and make them weird and unique (or adapt them directly from Eclipse Phase books).
Spiral Phase is a hack of Spiralis, itself a hack of Cthulhu Dark (and evidence that I’m running out of names for my own hacks here). It’s the most bare-bones conversion here, but there’s something very appealing to me about stripping away everything from the rules but just a few things tracking your character’s slow progression into ruin. Fun!
This game also presented an interesting design challenge in that Cthulhu Dark hacks tend to have you roll a die if what you’re attempting is “within human capabilities.” Transhuman capabilities are tough to define, however: your teammates could include a talking octopus that reads minds, an intelligent cloud of nanobots, two of the same person in separate bodies, and a giant, vacuum-sealed crab with a computerized brain.
Additional Eclipse Phase hacks
This post (and finally writing up two of the three hacks above) was inspired by a privately shared Google+ thread asking for Eclipse Phase hacks. Here are some others that came up in the course of that conversation:
Eclipse Phase FU (Freeform/Universal) is built on the super-simple and descriptive FU system. I used this to run my own first game of Eclipse Phase, and had a blast. The rules are a little more loose/interpretive than I wanted for the setting, though, and I don’t know how to leave well enough alone, so I went on to hack EP a few more times.
Eclipse Phase Apocalypse (Powered by the Apocalypse) adapts a number of moves from Apocalypse World. The website-based rules are a little tricky to navigate, but it’s a really comprehensive hack that informed my take on the hacks above.
EclipseSHOE (Gumshoe) is on hiatus until the second edition of Eclipse Phase itself is out, but has been actively in playtesting.
Instadeath’s Eclipse Phase Hack (D&D/OSR) is a super simple hack following a review of Eclipse Phase, giving a sense of its design goals.
Scum Barge (Fiasco) is a playset by Jack Graham, a writer and designer on Eclipse Phase. He notes, “I actually recommend against using the included optional tilts, but I left them in because some of them are funny.”
Stars Without Number (D&D/OSR) is not explicitly an Eclipse Phase hack, but the chapter on transhumanism is extremely easily adapted to run Eclipse Phase. The next time I want something with more in-depth rules for this setting, this is what I’m most likely to run.
And of course, Eclipse Phase will soon be launching its own heavily playtested second edition with some simplified rules. That’s worth checking out if the first edition was just a little too much for your tastes. I haven’t looked at the playtest materials in a while, but what I last saw reminded me of some of the fiddlier parts of the Cypher System (i.e., resolution based around managing multiple ability-linked currencies), and we know how that turned out for me. Regardless of whether I run the second edition, though, we’ve already established what kind of nerd I am—expect me to read that edition cover to cover, too.