Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy.   Posted by Promethian.Group: 0
Promethian
 GM, 154 posts
Sat 18 Jun 2016
at 12:45
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Bullshit is a GMs best tool in the toolkit. Also post game notes.
Promethian
 GM, 156 posts
Sat 18 Jun 2016
at 14:02
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
http://eclipsephase.com/resources
Elaine Pereira
 player, 80 posts
Mon 20 Jun 2016
at 03:08
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Warning: This kind of rambles...

Rojikoma:
Hey everybody, I was wondering if you'd all help me out on a meat-space game of Eclipse Phase I'm planning on running.

After running EP for my RL group, listening to a bunch of podcasts, and running it online, I can say that you're actually focusing on the right things.  The setting, tone, and environment of EP is vastly more important to the game than the crunchy rules.  Yes, the crunchy bits can be nice to know about, but if you're weak on them just tell a story that doesn't care about them as much.

Instead of a team of Firewall heavies farcasting in to kick some ass, tell the story of a group of miners that came across something terrible.  Tell the tale of some indentured infugees having to escape from their bondage.  Gear is only as important to the story as you want it to be - and I'd suggest making it less important if you're starting out or new to it.

In a lot of ways, the modules that are out there for EP are actually kind of terrible for a first-time GM.  They're DENSE and assume that you, as the GM, can run a multilevel political scenario as well as a fairly crunchy tactical game.  They're great to play in, and they're great to see run well, of course.  However, starting out?  It's a lot.

I highly suggest that the first session of an EP campaign be a loosely connected oneshot.  Use pre-generated characters and have the PCs play as the guys that (probably) all died before they got there.

Or do a Forced Retirement RP-heavy scenario like this one: http://actualplay.roleplayingp...e-forced-retirement/

(In short, the PCs are a hardcore Firewall erasure team.  They've just been sleeved out of cold storage by the AI of their Operation FORCED RETIREMENT redoubt because contact has been lost with Earth and things are going crazy.  The PCs have to decide which, if any, faction they're going to side with - and possibly how they're going to deal with the doublecross afterward.)

Backing up on all of that, I'll say that the most important thing about a game of Eclipse Phase is having a group of players that are invested in it.  EP has a lot in common with horror games in that it's easy for an uninvested player to derail.  EP is a whole lot closer to CoC in space (or, especially, Delta Green in space) than it is to any traditional "sci-fi" RPG.  This is another good reason to start off a campaign with a one-shot or two before anything else.

You also need to decide what tone you're going to go for, what themes you want to explore, and all of that, before you really get into it.  Be clear about these things ahead of time.  If you want to run a game that delves into the plight of the common Jovians and how they face true mortality in a universe where everyone else is essentially immortal... the guy that shows up with the Hidden Concern assassin sleeved into an octomorph is probably going to derail that.

Also, if you haven't done so already, you would probably be doing yourself a favor by listening to some RPPR actual plays of EP (one is linked above).  They're not perfect on the rules (in part because the rules have changed slightly over time, but in part because they just didn't know them or mixed them up with similar games), but they can really get the tone down.

Rojikoma:
And also, a thing I sometimes hate about GMing a game is that I might go months before I can reveal to another human being my super intricate plan to crush the PCs.  And half the time, they end up going off in some entirely new direction and I never get to tell anybody.

I've been running games, off and on, for about 20 years now.  Most of that time, I was pretty bad at it.  Writing out complex scenarios is, usually, a mistake.  Unfortunately, so is the purely "sandbox" style where the PCs get to decide on exactly what happens and when.

The actual best style for GMing that I've found is a hybrid of the two.  Design your world with a broad brush, settle on a handful of specifics to get things started, design the opposition, give said opposition a "this is what happens if the PCs never oppose us", and then give the PCs a reason to oppose them.  You'll also want to design some generic allies and foes that you can drop in as needed.  One thing I've heard that's stuck with me is a GM saying "I give my players problems, but it's their job to give me the solutions".  The key difference to this approach is that the foes rarely want to crush the PCs directly - they want to succeed at whatever their nefarious goal was.  The PCs are just an obstacle to those plans.

Also, keep in mind that different people have different frames of reference.  One example that sticks with me was a game of Dark Matter I played at Gencon long ago.  I've forgotten most of the details, save that at one point we tried to dispose of some dead enemies in a lake.  We cut them open, stuffed them full of rocks, sewed them up, and tossed them in... only for them to be clearly visible at the bottom of the lake (which I think was named Crystal Lake, really).  As a person from the southeast US, the idea of a body of water bigger than a swimming pool that you could see the bottom of was completely alien to me.  Maybe the GM was being a bit of a toolbag, but it still taught me that I can't always assume that things are the same for everyone involved in a conversation.

Come to think of it, Gencon also taught me another important lesson via Living Greyhawk.  It was one of the very first scenarios for LG, back the year that 3.0 launched.  The biggest thing I remember about the scenario is that the PCs are meant to investigate some children disappearing near dark in the canals area.  The scenario assumed that the PCs would look around a bit, give up, and go off to some library where a wererat would try to eat them or something.  Not our group.  Missing children?  Well, we have a halfling, a wig, and a dress... what else do you need?  Anyway, our cunning plan totally worked - and got us about 1/3 xp and treasure because we skipped most of the scenario.  The lesson from that one was that the players do not think the same way as you do.  Don't assume that their plans are going to be anything like your plans, or that they're reactions will be like yours.  Prep too much stuff at your own peril (it's better to make it modular, so you can drop in what you need and recycle the rest later).

If you're doing mysteries, also be very aware of the Three Clue Rule: http://thealexandrian.net/word...ames/three-clue-rule
Jon Evans
 player, 114 posts
Mon 20 Jun 2016
at 12:44
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
I am going to add to what Elaine said: The PC's will screw up the plotline. Always. They will nuke that vital clue with a plasma rifle, completely ignore the cluebook NPC, make friends with the bad guys, etc etc. Never have a fixed scenario, because it will never be used. General guidelines are your friend. Your world should be a dynamic thing. "Okay, so they put an antimatter missile into the Planetary Consortium HQ. Who else knows knows that the shipload of Titan bits is headed for Mars?"
Elaine Pereira
 player, 81 posts
Mon 20 Jun 2016
at 14:02
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Yeah, this approach is even more important in EP where the game changes vastly depending on what characters are at the table.

Which is another reason to advocate for the one-shot lead-in with pregens, actually.  If you toss out pregens, you have a lot more control over the toolbox the players will have for their first scenario.

Come to think of it... here.  I put together this scenario for a con game that never happened.  It's meant to be a session 0 kind of half-tutorial half-scenario thing.  You might find it useful, if so, feel free to use it.  The general idea is that by breaking the game down into smaller chunks, you can teach the system and a bit of the setting at the same time.

Scenario: https://www.dropbox.com/s/620h...CG%20Module.pdf?dl=0
Player Handout 1: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nvrp...Handout%201.pdf?dl=0
Player Handout 2: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nj4g...Handout%202.pdf?dl=0
Item Cards: https://www.dropbox.com/s/s84q...tem%20Cards.pdf?dl=0
Character Sheet: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qz7g...ter%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0

I also updated the reference sheet at some point.  Here's that: https://www.dropbox.com/s/lp31...nce%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0
Elaine Pereira
 player, 83 posts
Mon 20 Jun 2016
at 18:13
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Another thing about Eclipse Phase is that it suffers from a mild case of split personalities when it comes to character generation.  The system, as it is in RAW, is very well developed for oneshots and games that don't move around a whole lot.  Once you start farcasting, though, the way the game charges CP for gear can be a bit burdensome.  It also ends up hitting biomorphs harder than anyone else, because of the way you can get many enhancements as software (per Transhuman).
Rojikoma
 player, 54 posts
 Hello world!
Sun 26 Jun 2016
at 10:32
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
So, I've GM'd before, mostly Vampire and Shadowrun.  Just not Eclipse Phase.

And, I spent pretty much the whole 7-8hrs in the air, both ways, reading the books and brainstorming ideas.  So I think I have some good stuff at the moment.

The players have requested a game centered around intrigue on Mars.  I'm interpreting that as them getting to deal with the inter-jurisdictional friction of the various polities and corporations there.  Plus the factions that aren't part of those groups.

For my own sanity, I've told them that their group will already know each other and already work together.  Because I don't want to deal with someone being all "But my character totally wouldn't play nice with your character."  My answer to that is: "Then go make another character, idiot."  We've settled on them playing a freelance team of troubleshooters, working for the Planetary Consortium.  They're based in New Shanghai.  And they're not with Firewall.  Not yet, anyway.

I think my second story will be that they're sent to find (capture) and return the missing daughter of some bigwig in a corp.  Since they're a dedicated team, I get to start them off after the initial action is settled... so I can say "These things happened." and they can run from there.  None of this "You're at the scene, and the fight starts." stuff.

So... the daughter convinces some underling / family servant to help her run away.  Daddy's corp makes high-end biomorphs, so the underling sneaks her down to the factory / lab and resleeves her into a fury morph, with extra stuff.  But the underling was secretly in love with / obsessed with her, so he makes a copy of her ego and slots that into a high end pleasure model (not a pod, but filling the same purpose).  The fury is taken to some kind of coyote to smuggle her away, while the pleasure morph is kept as a prisoner.  Then he leaks information about the coyote, so that daddy will find her in the fury and stop investigating, so he can keep his copy for his own needs.

Only when the first team shows up to get the coyote, the girl (in a high end fury with lots of extra shines) manages to escape them.  At the same time, the pleasure morph fork also manages to escape.  Neither knows the other exists, and both are on the run.  And both will leave some trace of having run, further confusing things for the players who think there's only one of her.

And all this is where the players start, as the clean-up team.  They also won't know there are two of her... I assume they'll think that one is a false trail, but they will hopefully investigate both since they won't know which one is the real her.  And if they are lucky enough to capture both of them, they have to figure out which one is legally the real one.  I have a general plan for where each fork will go (the fury will head to the Martian Gate and try to get a job as a gatecrasher, hoping that she can escape her father on some dangerous world using her new morph) / (the pleasure morph will head to Elysium, hoping to take asylum with Levi).

And since she's on the run from place to place, they'll have to deal with local cops resenting their presence, people who don't like the PC (Barsoomians, anyone?), the Pathfinder security forces, the politics with Levi and family in Elysium, and the underling who forknapped her in the first place.  It's possible that there could be combat if they get really snarky with people, but it might be a non-combat story.

I'm for sure not locking it down very tight.  I've decided what the forks will do, and eventually they'll get to where they're going and that's that.  She'll be kind of sloppy about clues, but I'll invent specific clues based on what they decide to do.  The real challenge for them will be that pretty much every local authority (and many random civilians) they encounter will be unfriendly towards them.
Jon Evans
 player, 127 posts
Sun 26 Jun 2016
at 14:43
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Decent plot, but how is this intrigue? Throw together an opposing Oligarch (who wants to flaunt her at his rival as a sex toy), some seriously conflicted cops (whatever they do will piss off one of the Oligarchs) an anti-slavery 'terrorist' group, Barsoomian separatists and Nine Lives (planning to sell a fork to both Oligarchs), stir well and serve confused.
Promethian
 GM, 170 posts
Sun 26 Jun 2016
at 15:51
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Oh my goodness. The plotting alone. I think it would kill me. Especially since players break every single plot out forward by their game master.
Elaine Pereira
 player, 90 posts
Mon 27 Jun 2016
at 18:50
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
Panopticon (p.21, p.25) heavily hints that the standard methods for creating forks and backups involves stamping the thing with a digital code that acts as a unique identifier.  Forks almost always are indicated as such on creation, as well.  It's possible that someone could circumvent that, but also a bit difficult (and criminal in most places).  So telling them apart might not be so hard in the end.

In general, though, you're correct that starting things in the middle of the action (or even after the first bit of action) is a good way to go.

My only real comment, in general, is that you might want to trade out the Fury for a Martian Alpiner.  The Alpiner is better adapted for the Martian surface and would be a bit easier to lead the PCs on a crazy chase.  FYI, Zone Stalkers is a fun book if you're doing Mars.  The TQZ is a great vacation spot.
Rojikoma
 player, 57 posts
 Hello world!
Wed 29 Jun 2016
at 19:41
Advice on running Eclipse Phase Thingy
@Jon - The intrigue comes from dealing with all of the NPCs, as you say.  Rival oligarch = Zevi Oaxaca-Maartens, in Elysium.  Conflicted cops, check.  Barsoomians, check.  Anti-slavery terrorists... interesting.  And by "slavery" I'm guessing you mean "treating a fork as property" and / or indenture?  Either one could apply here.

@Elaine - Both forks would be in custom morphs, not the over-the-counter models.  Fury was just an approximation for our use here.  But daddy's company does made-to-order stuff for the elite, probably based on your original DNA (so you can keep your same face).  The "fury" one would probably be just some random bodyguard's morph, with some strangers face on it.  The pleasure morph would have been made by the minion based on the daughter's actual DNA and face.  The bodyguard one would include all the Alpiner features.

Good call on the forking process stamping them.  I'd even just recently used that fact as an assumption for a Rojikoma conversation, so I have no excuse.  Minion dude would have circumvented that, though.  He wants his copy to believe she's the "real" one, and if either copy knows its a fork, it complicates that ruse.  (The decoy in the fury might not try so hard to escape if she knows she's not even a legal entity and that anybody she encounters can find that stamp and deny her service.)  But good point.