HeroQuest RPG and Eclipse Phase

A Major Announcement

As I mentioned last week, a very exciting announcement was recently made on the BRP forums. The rules for the HeroQuest RPG will be released under an open license, which means that anyone will be able to legally publish supplements for the game.

In a previous post, I talked about the lack of genre packs and adventures being the biggest challenge to the game’s popularity. This announcement solves that issue. Chaosium will no longer need to dedicate resources to further supporting the game, as third parties will be able to do so legally and without the endless hassles of license approvals.

I think this is a wonderful announcement, and I cannot wait for Chaosium to release the System Reference Document so that we can see the support from third-party publishers that this great system deserves. Further, it means my own ideas about potential HQ2 products have just gained some solidity. The current license was the major obstacle I had against further work on my ideas, but having the rules under an open license changing things dramatically.

Using HQ2 for Eclipse Phase

I’m a big fan of the Eclipse Phase setting. It is a brilliant creation that grabs me and demands that I play around in it.

Having said that, I’m not the biggest fan of the system. Some people have really hated on the system from the beginning, but I don’t think that’s it’s a bad system at all. I think it’s perfectly serviceable for most campaigns that one might want to run in the Eclipse Phase setting.

However, it’s not the easiest system to learn, there are a lot of moving parts, and some elements of the game—such as switching bodies—are not easily implemented in the middle of play.

The designers of the game understood this complaint and released a Fate Core version of the rules some time ago. It streamlines many elements and, for those who love Fate, it works very well.

But while I like Fate, I’ve come to realize that it’s not my preferences when it comes to lighter, more narrative games. Rather, HeroQuest firmly occupies that spot in my mind. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about a HQ2/Eclipse Phase game recently.

The Elements of Eclipse Phase

Eclipse Phase is a deep game with many interconnected elements, reflected in the mechanics of the original rules. Each person’s Eclipse Phase campaign will focus on some elements over others, and many will skip certain elements completely.

For me, here are the core elements of Eclipse Phase that I want to play with in most campaigns I run:

  • Bodies are temporary: People will switch from body-to-body as required by whatever job they need to do. Most people will travel by farcasting to their destination and downloading into a body when they arrive. Different jobs or missions will require different physical capabilities, and characters will change to the most appropriate body that’s available.
  • Death: Related to the transient nature of bodies, permanent death is no longer a major issue. Especially for characters in high-risk jobs (e.g. all of them), death is an expected occurrence and backups of the character’s ego is a regular task.
  • Muses: All characters have a dedicated AI inside their head that handles many day-to-day tasks.
  • The Mesh: The Eclipse Phase version of the internet is a lot more than just a network of computers. The ability to meet and even live in VR is a major element of the setting.
  • Habitats and Planetary Settlements: The variety of places in which humanity dwells is important, providing many reasons for travel and a great opportunity to explore and experience new places.
  • Hypercorps: The various corporations and their (often conflicting) agendas provide great opportunities for adventure.
  • Political Blocs: Same as above, except that these are various political factions that rub up against each other and the hypercorps.
  • Social Networks: People the character knows and social groups with which they interact.
  • Reputation: The character’s social capital and how it is reflected among the various social groups that measure and track reputation (e.g. @-rep, c-rep, e-rep, f-rep, etc.).
  • Gear: In core Eclipse Phase, gear is an important element. It represents weapons, armor, electronics, clothing, tools, etc.
  • Implants: Implants include cybernetic, bionic, genetech, and nanoware enhancements to a character’s morph.
  • Psi Powers: Mental abilities that are acquired due to infection by a strange nanovirus released during the Fall.
  • Firewall and Existential Threats: Belonging to an organization that fights against the strange, alien threats to humanity, and all the various ways those threats manifest.

The Mechanical Bits and Pieces

As I said above, the Eclipse Phase system is decent, but can get overcomplicated when representing all the various bits and pieces of the setting to allow the players to interact with those bits and pieces mechanically.

The most common element in Eclipse Phase where this happens is switching bodies. One common issue that comes up in online discussions of EP campaigns involves players acquiring and upgrading a particular body, and then not wanting to farcast to any other location because they can’t take their body with them.

But this is not just a matter of players spending character resources on their bodies and not wanting to lose that benefit. There is a player time cost for interacting with all the rules for upgrading and customizing a body. And switching bodies can be an interruption to the game while players collect the information they need to play in a different body (though the designers have certainly published a number of tools that make it faster and easier to do than it was when the game was newer).

HQ2 has all the tools needed to represent those setting elements within the core rules. It’s usually just a matter of looking at those tools in a particular way.

So What’s Next?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a deeper dive into Eclipse Phase and show how HQ2 can be used for EP campaigns. I’ll take a look at the various mechanical elements of EP and demonstrate how to represent them with the HQ2 rules without creating any new subsystems and changing how the rules themselves operate.

I hope you’ll enjoy these articles.

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