Posted by: markfender | November 15, 2011

Eclipse Phase – Panopticon

It’s the latest and greatest for Eclipse Phase…a catch-all book.

Panopticon is billed as Vol. 1: Surveillance, Habitats, and Uplifts. I guess that means it’s going to talk about those three things. Despite the somewhat random nature of the product, it’s actually the largest Eclipse Phase sourcebook so far.

The book begins with fiction. It has smoking monkeys. I’m overselling it.

The next section talks about Surveillance and Sousvelliance – how hard it to actually hide in a society surrounded by sensors. This section was kinda interesting, if only from a “hey, yeah, how exactly are PCs working for Firewall supposed to hide?” perspective. Guess what? They don’t. Or, at least, with great difficulty. Nothing in this section really blew my mind, other than how long it was. I obviously find different things interesting than the authors.

The next section is about habitats. There’s a lot of basic information on the different types of habitats, security, how they generate power, how recycling systems work, etc. etc. Kind of dry but interesting if you’re not aware of the research. However, there is a discussion of the hazards that can be experienced aboard a habitat – twice. Once, it’s a general “hey, watch out for this” document and the next time it’s an emergency document sent out by the Jovian Republic, which seems kinda like overkill. The entire section ends with an editorial/rant/screed/I don’t know what the fuck section where an in-universe character talks about…psychogeographical awareness, how Youtube is all the rage, and how there’s lots of secret tunnels in habitats that no one really knows about. I didn’t get it.

The next section is all about uplifts. The history of them, what species were uplifted (and the science behind how), their legal status, allies and enemies, habitats where they live, etc. etc. One note to the nice people at Posthuman Studios: the Planet of the Apes joke isn’t funny if you spell his name wrong. It’s also odd to see a religious-based uplift hate group when the main book told us that religions weren’t around anymore. There’s also a hilarious picture of a security octopus restraining one criminal while waving a gun at another. It’s awesome. For everyone who can’t get enough of monkeys, this section is for you, I guess.

The last section is game information as is par for the course. More gear, more morphs, and all that stuff is here. There’s an extensive section on sensors and countersurvelliance, but this seems like a losing game for PCs. Do they have time to equip their characters with exactly the right piece of counter equipment for whatever new sensor system the GM has installed in the system? As an example, there’s some Gait Masking nanoware available, which makes your character match someone else’s gait profile. What’s a gait profile, you ask? Beats me. It isn’t discussed in the master chart of all Sensor systems. But a GM could logically pull this out of their security-conscious hat and, I don’t know, fuck the PCs without even thinking about it. Fun. There’s also more detailed rules on hacking habitat systems – oh, good, more rolls for hacking to be successful. There’s also a section on how to gain access to a habitat without them noticing you. This was actually useful, as Eclipse Phase’s lack of space ships makes that kind of a weird hole in the game. Finally, some discussion on darknets and how they operate. Of course, we still don’t have any good numbers for attaching a darknet facility to a habitat. Like, how large does a habitat need to be before a facility able to keep a few spare bodies around can go unnoticed?

This was a decent book. The discussions about the chosen subjects were extensive – sometimes too extensive. If your game involves these subjects, you’ve got a wealth of setting detail. However, if you’re not all that interested in the subject matter, this book could easily be skipped. Unless you just really want more pictures of monkeys. One odd absence I noticed is there’s nothing like the cover even discussed. I want to know where I can see an octopus fight a gorilla and bet large sums of money on the outcome (my money’s on the octopus). While I probably wouldn’t have noticed this gap, it’s right there on the cover. Kinda hard to miss.

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