Category Archives: Eclipse Phase

Coriolis

I have spent some of my down time over Christmas reading up on Coriolis from free league publishing.

I was super impressed with Mutant:Year Zero with its beautifully simple skill resolution mechanics, the D6, D66 and D666 scalability and even a neat little combat system that was both fast to play yet had the graphic critical damage effects that move combat into the narrative.

If you read my take on Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed and the 2d20 system you will know I was far from taken with the game mechanics of that system.

So what do I think of Coriolis?

My background is very much in Rolemaster, that is what started this little tour of alternative systems. Coriolis feels like Rolemaster in miniature. By that I mean in Rolemaster we are used to a characters defined through their skills the same as Coriolis; Characters can have Talents and Flaws in Rolemaster whereas Coriolis has Talents and Problems; I am used to  a whole rainbow of difficulty factors for skill tests from routine to near impossible; graduated levels of success, in Rolemaster that is typically failure, partial success, success, absolute success, in Coriolis it goes failure, limited success, critical success. The latest Rolemaster rules use a 4 action point system per round and Coriolis uses 3 action points. Throughout the rules I have read so far Coriolis looks and feels like a D6 version of Rolemaster. The clever use of the D66 where needed bridges the gap from the granular D100 to the broad strokes of the d6.

I mentioned Conan earlier for one reason. There was a mechanic in that game that I detested, momentum and consequences, and that rears its ugly head again in Coriolis but this time in the guise of Darkness points.

In Rolemaster circles there is a concept of ‘flurry of blows’. The logic goes like this, a combat round is 10 seconds long and you are more than capable of swinging your sword more than once in 10 seconds. So the attack roll you make is not your only attack that round, it is the attack that was most likely to succeed. In reality you actually made many feints, parries and attacks in that 10 seconds. Flurry of blows is almost universally reviled by the players, partly because melee attacks are flurry of blows but spells are not, one fireball is one fireball, missile attacks are not flurries, an arrow is an arrow or a spear is a spear. The rules are not consistent.

Corriolis is based around flurry of blows and it suffers with the same breakdown in coherency when it comes to throws spears, axes or arrows which are quite clearly discrete. I agree that you do not need to count every bullet, Spacemaster used a count of bullets for guns that had small magazines but just a generic ‘burst’ for semi and automatic weapons. You didn’t need to know how many bullets were in each burst but you could still track when the magazine or bullet belt was empty. Coriolis uses the flurry of blows or burst of bullets concept for all the attacks and for me it breaks the suspension of disbelief. I end up feeling like guns are filled with miniature Schrodinger’s cats and until you check what is in the magazine or pull the trigger your bullets may or may not exist.

I know the argument is that if you have to track bullets then it is just more bookkeeping but the flip of that is that there are opportunities for dramatic tension when a player is down to the last few rounds and the enemy are at the door.

So that is quite enough about the game mechanics…

Coriolis as a game

I firmly believe that the setting is all important in a game. Coriolis uses a wonderful fusion of Sci Fi and the Arabian Nights to create a rather mystical FireFly-like game backdrop. I am a really enthusiastic about this set up. I read the Arabian Nights again earlier this year (2017) so I was already on board from the very first paragraph.

Now, here is an interesting thing. I played in a Spacemaster game last year and having read the adventure The Dark Flowers I am convinced that the adventure I played through was the sample adventure from Coriolis. So technically I have never played Coriolis, and you know I don’t feel that happy reviewing games I have not played, I have played the sample adventure. Now I am looking at it with a GM’s eye I think it is an excellent introduction. It also points to the quality of the Coriolis materials.

Incidentally, I don’t know if this is a coincidence but the ‘feel’ of the page layout and design is very much like Eclipse Phase from Posthuman Studios. It could be that this is just a page layout ‘style’ and the fact that both games are Sci Fi and relatively rules lite in my experience.

So over all I cannot really fault the game design, the quality of the materials, the setting or anything. There is one game mechanic I don’t like, but I would house rule around that if I ran the game. That is personal preference.

Finally…

If you have read my recent mini series on GM Emulators, I find it very interesting how the consequences mechanic from both Coriolis and Conan have so much in common with the plot twist mechanics in the GM Emulators. This may sound like a contradiction that I advocate GM emulators for collaborative play but when the same mechanics turn up in a game I object to it. The difference is that when using a GM Emulator there is no plot before you start play and the entire world is created and unfolds before you as you play. The consequences mechanic in these games on the other hand changes the reality for the characters explicitly based upon a bad roll. It just smacks too much of roll playing and not role playing.

And finally, finally,

Happy New Year!

Eclipse Phase Second Edition Open Play Test

This game is currently in open play test and to me looks really good. I mean that both literally, the art and book layout of the quick start PDF is outstanding and as a ruleset it looks really solid.

The Open Play Test Bundle

Being a second edition, this is more evolution than revolution but there are plenty of tweaks from the looks of things. I have joined the development forum this week and it is nice to see a lot of positive feedback from the Eclipse Phase community.
I know plenty of GMs that fix dice rolls to make sure players survive fights but that is one of the cool thing about Eclipse Phase and being transhuman, death of the body is a mere inconvenience and if anything adds some interesting role play potential. If your body dies a back up of your personality or ego can be downloaded into a new body, resleeved, and away you go again but the back up only know what you knew at the time of the last backup. So if you meet someone it could be the first time for you but the second time or more for them.

There is an active discussion over at another forum I take part in about how GMs bring the party together so they will stick together. Eclipse Phase does not have that problem as the players are all cast as Sentinels, or agents of Firewall and so they are a team that has been brought together for a mission(s). This also means that it will be easy to introduce new players to an existing game, you just have the powers that be parachute in an additional team member. Likewise if someone drops out of your game then you have Firewall pull the character out for a different mission.

Game mechanics-wise this is a sort of ‘roll under’ system where you have to roll under your current skill but having said that when to skills are opposed such as you trying to hide and someone trying to spot you then if both succeed at their skill rolls the person who rolls highest wins. So you want to roll low but not too low. To me that sounds quirky but I like it. Skill rolls have plenty of opportunities for critical successes and critical failures that can give he GM plenty to play with.

As this game is currently in play test it is a great time to get involved. The playtest download from rpgnow. What you get is the quick start rules but also the beta test rules for the full second edition of the game. These take the form of a bundle of text based documents, one for each aspect of the game such as character creation or combat. Each document is typically 5 to ten pages in length. This makes them pretty easy to read and digest. Some play tests I have been involved with have been single 500 pages mammoths and it is nigh on impossible to remember if a reference to something on page 50 is consistent with an example of play of page 450!

Behind all of this is an community based around a forum where you can post questions, make suggestions and get more support.

I think if ever you want to try Eclipse Phase now is the time to do it and at the same time be able to give something back to the developers, even if it is just feedback on how your play sessions went.

Eclipse Phase (quick-start rulebook)

I have been looking at the Eclipse Phase quick-start rules this week. This is a system after my own heart. It is d100 which is my spiritual home anyway, it is visually beautiful to look at and something that really appealed to me is that it breaks the rules of dice rolls.

Eclipse Phase is a d100 roll under system but unusually 00 is not 100 it is zero. 99 is then the worst possible result and an automatic critical failure.

These quickstart rules are an ideal primer. At just over 40 pages a quarter is about the setting and the premise of the game. One quarter is the game mechanics needed to play including how to resolve ‘tests’ such as skill rolls and the last half of the book is a starting adventure and pregen characters.

I don’t like games that are class and level based. I find classes restrictive and I don’t feel that the lumpy progression of levels reflects how people’s skills improve in real life. I appreciate that games are not real life but the only reason we have rules is to create a model of some fantastical setting and make it feel real.

Eclipse Phase is both leveless and classless, you see I told you it was after my own heart. In the game anyone can do anything, if you don’t have the actual skill you need then you can default down to the linked stat that governs the skill.

Another nice feature is that all characters are basically immortal. You can back up your characters personality and if the body dies then you download it to another body. You can even swap bodies to best fit the mission you are going on if you have the resources. This makes your physical stats largely arbitrary.  If you want to play a hulking terminator style character then you can put on a heavy weight morph (body) (or sleeve as the slang has it) and away you go. Next time you may want to play a different sort of character. The personality remains the same but the physical stats all change depending on the morph you are wearing.

As far as I can see there is little not to like about this game. In the eight years (2009) since the games initial release there have been 70 supporting products, some of them free and the paid for ones ranging from $0.99 to $19.99. These quick start rules are based upon version 1.4 of the core rules. I think the fact that the rules have remained largely unchanged for 8 years is a testament to how solid the original concept was.

If you want a Sci Fi one off this weekend then you could do a lot worse than this quick-start PDF.