The elements of an Eclipse Phase character include the following:
- Character Concept
- Psi Sleights
- Money and Gear
In the HQ2 version, we’re going to use four Keywords to describe your character:
- Background: This is who you are on a basic level (or at least who you were before the game begins). It’s how you were born and raised, and defines your initial “place” in the EP setting.
- Faction: This is how you identify yourself within the setting, and where you fit in the best. It takes over from Background and covers who you are now that game has started.
- Focus: This represents your occupation(s), hobbies, interests, etc. It describes what you do now with your life when you are not on a mission for Firewall (or whatever).
- Morph: This is the body you inhabit, along with any special modifications. This keyword is replaced whenever you switch to a different body.
If you wish your character to wield Psi, you will select an additional Keyword [Psi Talent]. I’ll get into also the Psi details in a future post.
A Note on Skills
In Eclipse Phase, the character’s capabilities are defined by specific skills, such as Deception, Free Fall, Infiltration, Research, or Unarmed Combat. In order to make the conversion as direct as possible, I will be using EP skill names as a short-hand for breakout abilities. This does not, however, preclude a player from coming up with a more descriptive and flavorful name for a breakout ability, or adding something not defined here but which is appropriate for an ability in HeroQuest.
Your first choice of Keyword is your background. The best source for these keywords are in the Transhuman book under Background Packages.
For example, you are creating a character and decide that the Earth Survivor background sounds good to you. You note down “Earth Survivor” as your background Keyword, and perhaps record the basic description:
Unlike a small percentage of transhumanity, you did not escape off-world during the Fall, nor were you lucky enough to be killed. You survived for years, eking out an existence in the post-apocalyptic desolation of Earth while hiding from, and even fighting, the machines and twisted transhuman puppets that still lurked there. Only recently was your body rescued by scrappers or reclaimers or your egocast unwisely accepted by a trusting receiver.
Later, when you are defining your 10 additional abilities, you can note down one or more breakout abilities, using the descriptions of the skills listed under Earth Survivor in the Transhuman book as examples of the kinds of things your character learned.
For example, you may choose to note down Freerunning and Scrounging as breakout abilities, and give each one a couple of additional points.
Don’t ignore the suggested Motivations as potential breakout abilities. For example, Earth Survivor has Reclaiming Earth as both a positive and negative motivation for a character. So you could take a breakout ability like “Motivated to fight for humanity’s home” if your character believes humanity should try to reclaim Earth, or “Earth is lost to us” if your character believes humanity should abandon Earth as a ruined memory.
The backgrounds listed in Transhuman include:
- Colonist: Command Staff
- Colonist: Flight Staff
- Colonist: Security Staff
- Colonist: Science Staff
- Colonist: Tech Staff
- Earth Survivor
- Fall Evacuee: Enclaver
- Fall Evacuee: Underclass
- Hyperelite: Media Personality
- Hyperelite: Scion
- Infolife: Emergent Uplift
- Infolife: Humanities AGI
- Infolife: Machine AGI
- Infolife: Research AGI
- Isolate: Separatist
- Isolate: Survivalist
- Lost: Disturbed Child
- Lost: Masked Normalcy
- Original Scum
- Re-Instantiated: Civilian Casualty
- Re-Instantiated: Infomorph
- Re-Instantiated: Military Casualty
- Street Rat
- Uplift: Escapee
- Uplift: Feral
- Uplift: Standard Specimen
Your second choice of Keyword is your faction. Again, the Transhuman book has faction packages that provide many great examples of potential breakout abilities.
For example, the same character that you decided was an Earth Survivor is now at the step where you choose your Faction Keyword. You decide that your character wants to reclaim earth, and so you choose Reclaimer as your Faction. The Reclaimer has this description:
You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.
Again, the description of the Reclaimer Faction has example motivations and skills that you can easily repurpose as breakout abilities from your keyword.
The factions listed in Transhuman include:
- Mercurial: Infolife
- Mercurial: Uplift
- Singularity Seeker
Your third Keyword choice represents your skill set and occupation at the beginning of the game.
Continuing the example from the previous section, you decide that the character is focused on ridding Earth of the machines that present such a danger to anyone visiting the surface of the planet. You select Wrecker as your Focus. The Wrecker as this description:
You are optimized for killing machines. You either excelled at fighting TITAN constructs during the Fall or you continue to hunt them down in the aftermath.
The foci listed in Transhuman include:
- Bot Jammer
- Combat Async
- Con Artist
- Controller Async
- Covert Ops
- Ego Hunter
- Savant Async
- Scanner Async
- Smart Animal Handler
Finally, you need to select the current body that you inhabit. This is most likely your “default” body, the one you spend most of your time in when you are not on a mission. This body likely stays at your home (wherever that is), and probably has a couple of customization options installed.
When you switch to a new body, you replace your current Morph Keyword with the new one representing the body you now inhabit. If you’re running a campaign where the character switch bodies on a regular basis, you can jot down the Morph Keywords on index cards. That way, the player simply grabs the card for that particular morph and is ready to go. The Morph Keyword on the character sheet is ignored until the character returns to that particular body.
The Morph Recognition Guide is the best book for all information about the various morphs available to characters in the EP setting. Obviously, not all morphs are appropriate for all campaigns, and some morphs may not be available at all to starting characters.
I’m not going to list all the morphs here—there are 104 available in the Morph Recognition Guide. The GM should make a basic list of morphs available to the characters during character creation, and the players should select from that list.
Why So Many Keywords?
A character with four Keywords seems like a lot. However, each Keyword represents a host of abilities, such as skills, contacts, motivations, knowledge, attitudes, and so forth.
Furthermore, EP is a rather dense setting, and character creation can be difficult for those who not already very familiar with all the various elements that make up Eclipse Phase. But if the GM provides a list of Keywords based off the packages in the Transhuman book, including the 1-2 sentence descriptions of each, a new player can quickly create a character by picking one Keyword from each list, and end up with someone who fits perfectly into the EP game.
In fact, the breakout abilities don’t even need to be defined right away (see the “As You Go” method of character generation in the HQ2 core rulebook). This allows the player to start the game with a small number of abilities, and only when they feel that something about their character needs to be defined with more detail will they name a particular breakout ability.
That’s all I’m going to cover this week. Next week, I’ll talk about the other elements of EP characters and how they can be represented in HeroQuest. I’m also working on a HeroQuest/EP character sheet, and I’m planning to create a handful of characters, though I will probably save that for a later post.
See you next week.