HeroQuest and Eclipse Phase – Part 3

This is part three of a series of posts (1, 2) I’m doing about using the HeroQuest RPG rules to run a game set in the Eclipse Phase setting.

Last week, I talked about character creation and how characters created in HQ2 will have four Keywords: Background, Faction, Focus, and Morph. Of these, the Morph Keyword will change whenever the character switches bodies, but the other three Keywords remain with the character throughout the campaign.

This week, I’m going to talk about the steps of character creation in HQ2, and provide an example of how this might work using the material in the Eclipse Phase books. In these examples, I make extensive use of the core Eclipse Phase rulebook, the Transhuman sourcebook, and the Morph Recognition Guide.

How to Handle Keywords

One question that has come up is how I’m approaching Keywords in this conversion. Are they Packages or Umbrellas?

I actually prefer a mixed approach to Keywords, as some fit more as Packages, and others are more appropriate as Umbrellas.

  • The Background Keyword should be used as a Package. It highlights the experiences that the character had in the past, and provides a description of what the character had learned. However, improving those individual skills that came from past experience should be done separately.
  • The Faction Keyword is also a Package. It encapsulates the key elements of your character’s personality, outlook, and goals. However, each of those elements, while related to one another, do not directly affect a character’s improvement in one or more of those abilities.
  • The Focus Keyword can be used as an Umbrella. As a character gains experience in their chosen profession, they make use of their skills in a related way. Therefore, raising the Keyword improves all related abilities under it, though a character may choose to focus on improving just a few select abilities.
  • The Morph Keyword is definitely an Umbrella. A character can improve the overall Morph, which raises all abilities under it, but can also add new implants or other modifications—which are new breakout abilities.

On a related note, I tend to make raising an Umbrella Keyword more expensive. I generally set the cost at 3 Hero Points, plus 1 Hero Point per breakout ability. Yes, this means that the more breakout abilities you have, the more it costs to raise the Keyword. This forces a decision on the players as to whether they want to keep spending 3 Hero Points to raise just the keyword, or break out a couple of key abilities that they can raise and still save a point. But once the decision is made to break out some abilities, it becomes more and more expensive to raise that initial Keyword as new breakouts get added.

Now, using the List Method of character creation in HQ2, the character receives 10 additional abilities. Some of these abilities may be breakout abilities from his Keywords, while others might be additional, separate abilities.

Character Creation

For the purposes of this merging of setting and system, I’m going to be using the List Method of character generation in HQ2. This does not mean that you cannot use the Prose Method or As-You-Go Method in your own game. I’m just using this method because I find it translates well between EP and HQ2.

As mentioned last week (and above), the character should choose four Keywords: Background, Faction, Focus, and Morph. Note that the Morph selected is the one the character inhabits at the beginning of the game and can be considered the character’s default morph whenever they are not on a mission or have been ego-cast to another location.

In the example I used, the character selected Earth Survivor for the Background Keyword, Reclaimer for the Faction Keyword, and Wrecker for the Focus Keyword.

Because I envision this character as someone who actually survived on Earth, hiding out in the ruins of civilization, he still inhabits his original body. So for the Morph Keyword, I have selected the Flat.

So here are his Keywords, with the descriptions from the Transhuman book to give a sense of what each Keyword represents and encompasses:

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor
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 reclaimers.

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer
You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker
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.

Keyword (Morph): Flat
Flats are baseline unmodified humans, born with all of the natural defects, hereditary diseases, and other genetic mutations that evolution so lovingly applies.

Additional Abilities

Eclipse Phase has other elements that can be selected during character generation in addition to what I’ve already identified above. For example, in EP you can spend character generation points to gain positive traits (or get character generation points back by selecting negative traits).

The traits in EP can be used as additional abilities. Some examples include:

  • Brave
  • Common Sense
  • Danger Sense
  • Direction Sense
  • Eidetic Memory
  • Fast Learner
  • Hyper Linguist
  • Improved Immune System
  • Math Wiz
  • Pain Tolerance
  • Rapid Healer
  • Situational Awareness
  • Striking Looks

Note that in EP, some of these traits are attached to your Ego (e.g. Common Sense), and some are attached to your Morph (e.g. Rapid Healer). Those that are part of your Ego could be listed as breakout abilities under an appropriate Keyword (any except Morph), or could be listed separately from any Keyword as standalone abilities.

Traits that are called out as Morph Traits in EP should generally be listed as breakout abilities under your Morph Keyword, because when you switch bodies you no longer have access to those abilities until you return to that specific Morph.

Reputation Networks

The interaction of characters with the various reputation networks is a key element of Eclipse Phase. Taking a relationship ability with a network establishes a connection between the character and that particular network only.

A relationship ability can be listed under an appropriate Keyword, or can be listed as a separate, standalone ability. For example, our example character above is a member of the Reclaimers. He could take Reputation Network: EcoWave as a breakout ability under his Reclaimers Keyword. If he decided he also wanted to take Reputation Network: The Eye to represent his ties to Firewall, he’d probably just list that as a standalone ability not tied to any particular Keyword.

Gear

In normal HeroQuest, gear is only listed as an ability when it can be used to solve problems and doesn’t necessarily fall under another one of your abilities—or when you want to have an additional ability for your gear in order to use it for augments.

EP has a lot of gear, and whole bunch of rules around the acquisition, modification, and use of various pieces of gear. HQ2 abstracts all of that a great deal, and this is where some people may find that the HeroQuest rules don’t provide enough “crunch” to grab hold of and use. Personally, I prefer gear to be very abstract—more of a narrative hook than anything else—because I like to focus on the characters themselves, not what they are carrying.

So I recommend sticking with the HQ2 way of dealing with gear. If a character wants to take a piece of gear as an ability, then they are certainly welcome to do so (keeping in mind that it takes up one of their starting abilities).

Flaws

I generally prefer for characters in my games to have at least one flaw, and they may take up to three (as per HeroQuest rules).

The negative Traits listed in EP have some good Flaws:

  • Addiction
  • Bad Luck
  • Blacklisted
  • Combat Paralysis
  • Edited Memories
  • Genetic Defect
  • Implant Rejection
  • Low Pain Tolerance
  • Mental Disorder
  • Mild Allergy
  • Neural Damage
  • Psi Vulnerability
  • Slow Learner
  • Timid
  • Weak Immune System
  • Zero-G Nausea

Obviously, some of these need additional fleshing out when being recorded on the character sheet. For example, if the character selects an Addiction, the Flaw should name the addiction and provide some context (e.g. Severely Addicted to Controlled Painkillers).

Example Continued

So continuing to develop the character I started last week, I’ve got my four Keywords, and now I need to list my ten breakout abilities.

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor

  • Kinetic Weapons
  • Freerunning

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 reclaimers.

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer

  • Bioconservatist
  • Reputation Network: EcoWave
  • Pilot Groundcraft

You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker

  • Infiltration

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.

Keyword (Morph): Flat

Flats are baseline unmodified humans, born with all of the natural defects, hereditary diseases, and other genetic mutations that evolution so lovingly applies.

Other Abilities:

  • Reputation Network: The Eye
  • Reputation Network: Guanxi
  • Danger Sense
  • Fast Learner

Flaws:

  • Inopportune Mood Swings

Assigning Ability Ratings

Now I assign Ability Ratings to the character’s abilities. I assign a rating of 17 to his Earth Survival Keyword (it’s an important part of who he is), and all other abilities start at 13.

Then I assign 20 points to the ratings, with a maximum of 10 on any single ability.

And finally, his flaw is rated the same as his highest ability.

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor               17

  • Kinetic Weapons 2M
  • Freerunning 19

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer                             13

  • Bioconservatist 15
  • Reputation Network: EcoWave 15
  • Pilot Groundcraft 16

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker                                 17

  • Infiltration +3

Keyword (Morph): Flat                                       13

Other Abilities:

  • Reputation Network: The Eye                             13
  • Reputation Network: Guanxi                               13
  • Danger Sense                                                   13
  • Fast Learner                                                      13

Flaws:

  • Inopportune Mood Swings                                 2M

This is a good, starting EP character that I could use in a game right away.

Next Time…

I still intend to put together a handful of sample characters and an appropriate character sheet, and there are a few other topics I want to touch on before I’m done. Hope to see you again next week.

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