Posted by: markfender | November 8, 2011

Eclipse Phase – Gatecrashing

Yup, it’s another Eclipse Phase book.

This one is about the Pandora Gates and what’s on the other side. Pandora Gates are one of the more out-there science fiction ideas in the game and one that I’m not altogether keen on. While I like exploration of strange alien worlds and all the wacky ideas that can go into that, I have a bit of a problem with it being because of Stargates – especially in a generally hard sci-fi game that eschews FTL travel (I have mentioned that I like spaceships, right?). But, whatever. We’ve got the book, let’s read it!

There’s some fiction in the front. Moving on.

This book continues the annoying trend of presenting the books as in-universe documents. *Sigh* Shadowrun writers. The first section talks about the various types of missions that are run through the known Pandora Gates. This is a decent general information section – how the initial probes of an alien world are done, the logistics of setting up an interstellar colony, etc. etc. There is the rather bizarre idea of lotteries, in which one of the hypercorps running one of the Gates runs lotteries allowing anyone to travel to a distant world. As much as I think about it, I can’t make this make any sort of logical sense. Why would you randomly pick people to go places where a very specific subset of skill is needed? It’s rather silly. It is, however, a great setup for a roleplaying campaign (“Guess what? You just won the lottery! Go explore the universe!”), so I guess I can’t get too wigged out over it.

The next section talks about the Gates themselves and the groups that control the various ones. The Gates are spread through most of the factions and there are ways for most of the Gates to be accessible to PCs, depending on what sort of game you’re going to run. Other than that, there’s not much to say – look, some locations.

The largest section is descriptions of a whole mess of worlds discovered through the Gates. Most of your standard hard sci-fi otherwordly ideas are presented here: the colony next to a black hole, a giant alien supercomputer, a Dyson Sphere, etc. The list is extensive. Some of these are sillier than others (alien chat roulette – No. Just, No.) but most of them provide a decent set-up for an adventure or two. One slight problem is that some of these worlds are only accessible from certain Gates. Depending on how your PCs are set up and who they’re aligned with, it might not be possible for them to access some of these locations. Handily, there’s a chart that actually lays this out quickly (Plus, you, as the GM, can always tweak that).

The last section is game information – new morphs, new equipment (Yes! Finally! The stats for tape!) and new vehicles. There’s also more information on those earlier worlds. You know, secret information only available to GMs. Most of this consists of “Make something up” so it’s real useful in filling in the mysteries. However, it does give some guidance on some of the more unusual ideas (How exactly do you interface with the alien supercomputer? If you guessed -30% to your rolls, you guessed right) and provides stats on some of the alien flora and fauna. I didn’t find any of my preconceived ideas about the worlds being changed by these GM secrets, but, hey, guidance is nice, I guess.

This was a pretty interesting book. While short descriptions of weird places can get somewhat tedious (especially when you have to read in-universe text for a column or so before they finally tell you what the ‘deal’ is with each place), but picking out different planets and reading about them can provide some interesting ideas. I mean, it’s basically just a big book of adventure locales. That’s a really hard thing to hate. Not every idea is gonna inspire you, but hopefully a few would to get your money’s worth out of this one. Of course, if you’re not running an “explore the unknown” game, this book isn’t going to do anything for you. But that’s probably true of some of the other books in the line. The Eclipse Phase universe covers a lot of ground.

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