Sunday Extra: Eclipse Phase: Transhuman Reviewed

Eclipse Phase is one of my favorite games, but I’m not beyond admitting that it has its faults, some of them pretty serious. For one thing, although there was a great range of morphs and the game really felt like it vibrantly embraced the question of not only transhumanism but the practicality of a diverse and exotic range of morphs, it didn’t really feel like the rules did. Transhuman, which could best be described as their player’s guide, does a great job of fixing a lot of those issues, and introduces a lot of new content.

The first thing I should emphasize is that unlike Rimward, Panopticon, Sunward, or Gatecrasher, Transhuman does not introduce new setting elements; it tends to expound on prior content, by providing deeper psychological and sociological background for certain things, such as the general perception of uplifts or the differences between different types of AGI. It generally adds a lot more depth to the setting, further refining a lot of the psychological things that can go on and clarifying the legal structures of the solar system in the years after the Fall.

Mind you, that’s not to say that there’s not new content in Eclipse Phase. There are tons of new things, from new morphs to rules diversifications, it’s a very meaty book, containing everything from practical adjustments to combat to reflect the fact that a space whale functions very differently than a microbot in battle; Eclipse Phase’s core system is such that it’s not really possible to achieve a perfect granularity without explicitly relegating certain things to a different scale, but Transhuman does a pretty good job of modeling the differences between a novacrab and a neotenic, and while there will still be some things that fall outside the realms of plausible mechanics there is a lot more stuff here that really adds to the experience.

Looking at the book a little more objectively, it’s about 240 pages of well-written content, and unlike Eclipse Phase’s usual style a surprisingly large chunk of that is directly number driven, from the life path and package buy character creation systems and the new combat rules, as well as enhanced rules for swarms and other exotic morphs (including Flexbots), not to mention a variety of other non-combat rules for helping keep the game on track. Additional sleights for the asyncs also take up a portion of the book, though asyncs are covered mostly on the fluff side. One important note, though, is that the life paths are not meant to be balanced; as the note beforehand says, some characters will be lucky, some unlucky, so it’s perfectly possible to roll a character who dies multiple times before the game even begins while another gets lucky and starts with everything going perfectly, something that GM’s may wish to look out for if they maintain strict player balance in their campaigns.

I really did enjoy the book; the typesetting is Eclipse Phase’s usual, which still remains fresh after well over a thousand pages, with plenty of color and vibrancy without causing any difficulty with legibility. The art is for the most part good though a couple of the faces caused an uncanny valley response; the majority of the art is of really good quality and really engages the setting well (though with a mite too much action for Firewall agents who want to get out alive).

If you play Eclipse Phase, Transhuman will make a great addition; it doesn’t solve all the problems with the system, but it transforms the mechanics into something much greater than they were before while including plenty of new options to customize your game, and generally is a direct improvement, even if it does mean a little more complexity.

You can pick up Eclipse Phase: Transhuman on DriveThruRPG.

Disclaimer: I am a featured reviewer on DriveThruRPG.

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