• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Eclipse Phase] Rimward!

LatwPIAT

Active member
Validated User
I always prefer looking at physical copies, and as a reward for managing to drudge through my autumn-semester exams, I got myself a copy of Rimward for Eclipse Phase. Rimward is the Outer System sourcebook, the counterpart to Sunward. (And together with Gatecrashing, pretty much every geographical location in the setting has been described in some level of detail.) Sunward covered the Sun, the four inner-system planets and the local space, and the major inner-system power block. Rimward has a somewhat more daunting task, covering the four gas giants and their moons as well as the many huge power blocks that dominate the Outer Solar System - and in just about as much space as Sunward had.


Main Belt

The Asteroid Belt is wonderfully described in terms of asteroid mining operations. Ceres, in particular, is quite interesting because of the evocative images of conflict and opportunities for adventure; Ceres is a major supplier of water to the solar system, but the water export is heavily regulated by a government that is in the pockets of a criminal water cartel. The criminal organization is also trying to broaden its authority to extend to all of Ceres, so there's plenty of opportunity for conflict between PC and NPC groups of anarchists, criminals, rival criminals, and corporations.

And then there's Extropia...

Extropia is the Republic of Minerva writ large; an entire asteroid with a population of 10 million transhumans. And a population of 10 million is rather much in Eclipse Phase; about 2% of the total population of the Solar System. Compared to the other habitats in the setting, Extropia is actually one of the three most populous, if not the most populous, habitat that's not on Mars. It, in fact, dwarfs the entirety of Venus in terms of population. The Extropian viewpoint character portrays the MegaRepublic of Minerva as a melting pot of cultures where everyone are welcome and there are no social mores holding people back from the ability to be free. Except for economic slavery, of course. And complete and total dependency on the being able to pay for every single legal right. Because contracts! and libertarian anarcho-capitalism!

And, at times, it seems like the because freedom! explanations are touted a bit too easily. The immediate past of the Eclipse Phase setting is, after all, that evil self-reprogramming seed AI decided to fuck over 95% of the population with death robots, and continue to do so, especially on Mars and the Moon. Yet, apparently, it's perfectly fine for an AGI on Extropia to turn itself into a self-modifying seed-AI (that could potentially fuck over Extropia's 10,000,000 inhabitants with murder robots and unregulated weapons), because "What [it does] with [its] mind is none of your fucking business."

As a heavily political RPG, it's not too surprising that the setting and I occasionally come to disagreements over politics, yet I don't feel its too unreasonable to say that someone doing the equivalent of stocking up on weapons-grade plutonium, in their basement, in Nagasaki, in 1950 - or mustard-gas in a high-rise apartment in Paris ca. 1920, would face more public scrutiny than someone wrinkling their nose a little. In a setting where normal AGI are illegal in large portions of the inner solar system, and humans uploaded into robots are ghettoized, it seems unrealistic that nobody cares about a bona-fide seed-AI in Extropia.

On a similar note, there's a sidebar that compares the debt-slavery of Extropia to the (legally void) contracts made in some BDSM relationships. While the sidebar is written from an in-universe POV, it's still problematic because it contains numerous misleading half-truths or untruths, and without proper nuance, I can't actually tell if the authors are serious or not. The issue of slavery has an uncomfortable history of being fetishized (not only in the sexual sense) in Fantasy and Science Fiction, and ultimately I'd want the authors of, for example, RPG sourcebooks, to be very clear on their stance - or else you end up with situations like Mass Effect 2 where I, the reader, is hit with a cold, terrible fear about the fact I can't tell whether I'm giving my money to someone who actually thinks debt-slavery is a good economic model.

Because, you know, slavery is kinda bad and I don't want to support it.

And, ultimately, the MegaRepublic of Minerva is not a very interesting place. It's like a big city, and with the exception of being a extropian libertarian anarcho-capitalist habitat (a feature which is not explored in depth), it's not a very particularly interesting place, and is not described as such either. It's the size of, oh, modern-day London, yet there's only one food court of note, only one market, etc. Now, I'm not from London, but I'm pretty sure there's more than one food court, one market, etc, of note, in a city of 10,000,000 people.

Other than the bore that is Extropia, though, the other places that are described are rather interesting and offer themselves to adventure and conflict between low-key characters; much like Sunward, Rimward spends ample time describing environments where conflict between normal, non-Firewall transhumans, which is good when trying to run a low-key EP campaign - though there's also a bunch of creepy weirdness in the asteroid belt that can be used as mysteries for a Firewall investigation.

The Jovian Republic

OH GODS NO TAKE THE BORING AWAY!

The Jovian Republic are the Catholic Space Nazis of the setting, and unlike other settings that have Catholic Space Nazis in them, they're not very interesting. In a transhuman RPG where living through repeated deaths while swapping bodies is one of the main selling points, they're a faction that worship death and hate body swapping, making them unsuitable for character concepts that mesh well with other players, or even campaigns. Instead of being the flashy kind of Catholic Space Nazis, the JR are just the kind of Catholic Space Nazis that hate fun. "To the average Jovian, you are a soulless software replica with a human face."

And Rimward does pretty much nothing to alleviate this problem; I had hoped for some kind of interesting, human civilization teetering on the edge of conflict and full of opportunity for adventure - but instead Rimward just continued to paint the Jovian Republic with the same fun-hating brush that the core book did. The Jovian Republic is a heavily regulated fascist state that takes a page from Starship Troopers with regards to civilian voting rights. While a genuine democracy on the edge of self-destruction (See: 1920's-1960's Argentina, 1922-1936 Spain, 1920's-1933 Germany, etc.) co-existing with the other factions of Eclipse Phase would be interesting, the Jovian Republic is simply just an authoritarian mock democracy. This is a state that wouldn't be taken seriously (as a democracy) today, and compares unfavorably to, among other things, East Germany and the People's Republic of China.

The Jovian Republic is uninteresting and mostly propped up to have some big human bad in the setting - but they're so cracklingly fun-hating and politically incorrect that I'm almost insulted that I have to treat them as a serious part of the setting; they feel more like a Saturday Morning Cartoon villain, and in the book that's supposed to flesh them out, that's just too weak - the JR operates gulags in volcanoes for crying out loud!

There's also a minor inconsistency with regards to the history of Jupiter in Rimward and the history of the Fall in Eclipse Phase, because the former has the Chinese, Russians and US-Americans break out fighting when the TITANs emerge, while the latter heavily imply those nations are at war long before the TITANs go rogue.

The only places that are marginally interesting, with regards to the JR, are the places that are not actually the Republic, but instead next to it, like Hyoden on Callisto or the entirety of Europa, both of which exist in an uneasy peace with their mustache-twirling neighbour.

Saturn

Saturn is much like the asteroid belt; many interesting and diverse habitats that provide opportunity for adventures and conflict. Though, notably, less conflict than the Inner System and the asteroid belt. Ultimately, it seems that all the peace and tranquility of the setting has been relegated to the Outer System, which means that all the interesting parts of Eclipse Phase can be found inside the orbit of Jupiter. The other big faction described in Rimward[7i], after all, is the Titanian Commonwealth. Which is beautifully (if hilariously) described at times, yet ultimately it's Space Scandinavia, and has the same problems as trying to write an adventure for modern-day Sweden has. It's certainly possible, but settings with ready access to, say, dragons or werewolves provide much more ample sources of conflict than freezing to death in the streets of Oslo in winter-time because you couldn't get on the government welfare program. (The whole truth is that there are sources of conflict on Titan that can be used as the basis of a game; they're just not as bountiful as in the rest of the setting.)

Oh, and there are not!Sami on Titan. Genetically engineered morphs named for man-eating monsters (...and these are a direct reference to an existing social group? That's like if Space Europe were to have ghettos filled with "ghouls"...) that lead nomadic lives among herds of hydrocarbon-eating pseudo-reindeer.

And then there are the place names... Oh $DEITY the place names. How about Old Nyhavn, meaning "Old Newport"? Mt. Kristiansund, meaning "Mount Christian's Bay"? Telemark City, a city named for a county it's not in? New København, mixing two languages, one of which isn't even an official language? ("New Copenhagen" or "Nykøbenhavn", please...)

Autonomist Alliance
The major part of this section that is interesting is the in-depth description of the reputation networks (it also covers the Scum, Extropians and Anarchists, but nothing that's worth praising or decrying). And... well... it says not to think about Rep as currency, but a) in a game it's just an alternate sink for the limited resource of experience points, and b) it is just a currency. it quite literally represents buying power in both the technical and practical sense, and it's a resource you can earn through labour and exchange (by taking a Rep-hit) for goods or services. it's a weird currency, but a currency nonetheless. And on the topic of weird, it's a constantly devaluating currency with no safety. So, overall, it's not a very good replacement for currency at all. The Rep-economy in Eclipse Phase doesn't seem very well thought out, mechanically it's junk, and the explanation given in Rimward doesn't really fix anything in terms of real-world viability.

Summary of my Impressions
I'm certainly happy with my purchase, but Rimward does not compare favourably with Sunward or Panopticon; the hubs of adventure, so to speak, are not as evocatively described in the Outer System as in the Inner System, nor are they as fleshed out; a place like the Jovian Republic should probably be as described as the Planetary Consortium (i.e. as in-depth as Sunward described PC-controlled territory, which was nearly a whole book) as should the Autonomist Alliance. Instead, there's two largely uninteresting power-blocks, one of which I feel compelled to just throw out, and the really interesting parts are the ones that are passed over quickly, such as the Asteroid Belt or non-Titan Saturn, because these are the places that are both abound with life and conflict.

Your thoughts?
 
Last edited:

CodexofRome

Deposer
Validated User
There were several very active threads on this topic when the book was first released on PDF. A lot of people weren't happy with the Jovian Republic write-up. I don't think it will be too difficult to tweak them to suit your tastes, perhaps providing an excellent foil to players who have read the official versions.
 

105349

¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
Validated User
And... well... it says not to think about Rep as currency, but a) in a game it's just an alternate sink for the limited resource of experience points, and b) it is just a currency. it quite literally represents buying power in both the technical and practical sense, and it's a resource you can earn through labour and exchange (by taking a Rep-hit) for goods or services.
I've been awarding my players Rep straight across for mission completion and other exploits. In fact, a lot of the time they have to be resleeved and get Rep but not Rez. I thought this was how it was supposed to be done. Am I wrong?

I've also assumed that you can (in Shadowrun terms) sustain your Lifestyle on Rep without losing it faster than casual involvement in the Rep economy gets it back, although not as extravagantly as someone in a comparable social stratum in a credits economy (because there's more economic inequality, conspicuous consumption, etc.). One factor keeping this practical is huge Rep for people involved in preserving access to the necessities for anyone with the Rep. Am I wrong about this too?

Further, I've considered Extropia as ripe for catastrophe as Gem in Exalted. Give it a few months in your campaign and then make it (predictably) a disaster zone. (Re: population, aren't most Extropians infolife?)
 

Freedom Geek

Transhuman Cyborg
Validated User
I quite enjoyed Rimward.

I'm pretty sure the debt slavery thing was meant to be a negative trait for extropia. I follow the creators a bit and they're the non-capitalist type of anarchist. I think the normal anarchists are meant to be (approximately) their ideal society and the normal anarchists aren't comfortable with the whole slavery thing either. And while extropia wasn't described in full detail the same could be said of most places in the system. They simply do not have the space unless they create a sourcebook dedicated to Extropia alone.

Also I don't think Nomic was full Seed AI level. Just closer than was allowed in other places in the system. Unless of course by the time she was Seed AI level she used that intelligence to manipulate everyone into accepting her existence...

The Jovians could probably be handled a bit better but sometimes it is fun to have a side that is just evil.

Saturn and beyond doesn't have too much conflict, yes, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. There are already plenty of places already in Eclipse Phase. But with these safe places you now have places where the PCs can go to to feel (relatively) safe and a place for naive PCs to come from. Plus it helps secure Eclipse Phase as a setting with hope and optimist mixed in with the darkness, horror and pessimism which I really like because I'm not a fan of grimdark stuff.
 

Solar

Active member
Validated User
I like the Jovians. They are nasty bastard but you get the feeling that Firewall keeps them around and gently protects them from everyone else because a) it's good to have a control group and b)what if they are right? That's a cool setting element, for me. It's not the best written part of the game, but sometimes there are just societies that everyone else looks at and goes "man, those guys are bastards" and the Jovians have been that since day one.
 

CowboyEnergy

Registered User
Validated User
I like the Jovians. They are nasty bastard but you get the feeling that Firewall keeps them around and gently protects them from everyone else because a) it's good to have a control group and b)what if they are right? That's a cool setting element, for me. It's not the best written part of the game, but sometimes there are just societies that everyone else looks at and goes "man, those guys are bastards" and the Jovians have been that since day one.
I also think that they're nasty bastards, but you can understand how they would arrive at the conclusions that they do.
 

Solar

Active member
Validated User
I also think that they're nasty bastards, but you can understand how they would arrive at the conclusions that they do.
Exactly. Their nasty bastards, but for very human reasons, and for reasons that you can look at and, if not agree with, at least understand. They have a role in the setting, and they provide a cool source of dystopian oppressive future stories, even more so than the Planetary Consortium. In my last game, the PCs tracked an Exsurgent infected sleeper team of terrorists on Mars back to the Maui Patera Rehabilitation Facility, and then had to resleeve into flats in order to infiltrate and neutralize the source of the infection. That was a lot of fun to run as a GM, because it's a horrible political prison of the sort that doesn't otherwise really exist in the setting (The PC has them, but the example ones are mostly simspace, like the one orbiting the Pulsar on the other side of a Pandora Gate), and thus gives you those options for that kind of grim political gulag story.

They eventually managed to destroy the infection source but also caused a purging of the facility by Jovian security forces. One of them managed to escape, the rest had to be re-sleeved, and the one who escaped refused point blank to speak of what happened, just saying it was dealt with and that the first chance he got, he was going to burn the memories from his system (as it happened, Firewall accepted this but on the condition that they could copy him first and keep the copy on ice, for access in case they needed to refer to the Maui Patera Incident again. Unfortunately, the copy was accidentally re-activated further down the line and came back to try and kill the original, for reasons he can no longer remember. Eclipse Phase, everyone!)
 

cliffc999

Registered User
Validated User
I actually found Extropia to be better because of the downsides that were highlighted; any author can go 'my fave philosophy is going to have no flaws at all, even the ones that are logical consequences of its original premises!'. It takes a better author to go 'here it is, warts and all'.

Because, yes, in any sufficiently large # of people, you're going to have at least one idiot who spends himself bankrupt. In a system like Extropia, 'bankrupt' is going to be spelled as 'debt slavery, either de facto or de jure', there's just no way around it without changing to a system that's not 100% anarcho-capitalism, and the entire point of Extropia is to be 100% etc.

But yeah, 'hard takeoff' seed AI is hideously illegal anywhere. Nomic is suspected of being one, but suspicion is not proof -- and in a place where your legal system's (and economy's, and social fabric's) entire existence depends on people respecting the contractual rights of others, hard proof is what you need before you decide to take on the single best contract lawyer in the solar system.
 
Last edited:

Baffle Mint

Eastern Bloc Robot Cowboy
Validated User
I've heard a lot of good things about Eclipse Phase, but the stuff in this review is why I've never taken the time to really look into it, because it sounds like they kind of stack the deck.

Like, most people can kind of understand where the Jovians are coming from, but everything I've heard about that faction makes them out as cartoonishly evil. I think of the primitives in Brave New World: Their culture isn't very nice, and it's full of unecessary hardship and cruelty, but it's comprehensible why you'd choose their kind of cruelty and hardship over the kind embodied by the society outside the reservations.

Jovians just seem like a bunch of creeps who are clearly inferior to any other faction in the setting in pretty much every way.
 

Codename: Omega

New member
Banned
From what I recall of the EP corebook, the Jovians are basically the backwards anti-technology types aren't they? Makes me wonder why they set up camp around Jupiter then, which is pretty much the place where you NEED transhuman-type tech to survive... That alone snapped my suspenders of disbelief hard enough to want to discard them straight away.
 
Top Bottom