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Set the Stage

Welcome back! As usual, there will be spoilers for the campaign in these posts, so if you're going to be one of my players, I'd prefer if you steer clear (sorry!).

Why Eclipse Phase?

One of the fun things about starting a game in a new system is that you have a whole new world to play in. Eclipse Phase attracted me with its flexibility: it's a futuristic setting, sure, but you have access to a wide range of locations, from established colonies on Luna and Mars to frontier outposts in the outer system, each with their own predominant political alignment(s) and culture. It's not a homogenized future, in other words, which will be super fun to play with.

The first edition of Eclipse Phase bills itself as a 'game of Transhuman Conspiracy and Horror,' and the second edition is subtitled 'the roleplaying game of Transhuman survival.' What I'm aiming for is somewhere in the middle: a survival horror game where players grapple with the messiest parts of humanity alongside its most transcendent ones. Where the rough raw edges of the new bump against the entrenched roots of the old. Where the most dire threats to humanity are not unknown intrusions from Out There, but the things we have wrought ourselves.

For that reason, I'l be stripping out the Gates to other solar systems and the aliens (neither of which I feel are essential to making this system work) for this campaign. Maybe in a future campaign I'll play with those, but they're a bit counterproductive to this campaign as it stands.

Center Stage

In my previous post, I mentioned that the seed of my idea for this game was that a team of player characters would arrive at a secluded medical research base, where they would get stranded and an infection would spread (possibly infecting the PCs), causing havoc. This means that I won't set it on a highly-populated established colony, but that I'd probably set it on a base I tailor-make to my needs.

In addition - and possibly as a nod to the Alien franchise, among others - I prefer the idea of this happening on a hypercorp base, with a lot of capitalism's less savory aspects in play. This means stuff like most workers being independent contractors (or contracted indentures), cut loose without remorse once they're no longer useful; human lives valued less than results/profit; very little class mobility; company scrip; that kind of thing. This will feed into the horror: at some point, the company funding the research could write off the base and everyone in it as too expensive to help/salvage, leaving everyone on their own.

Fun, right? A hell of a challenge for the players, at least.

I started with the location, because that would determine personnel and resource limitations. The 'primary' location - where the bulk of the action would take place - would be at a medical facility, with everything a team of lab techs would need to conduct their research.

The first kind of medical base I considered was a custom-built space station. This would allow full control over the layout, facilities, and personnel capacity, but would also leave it exposed - to discovery and to random threats like solar radiation, meteorites, etc. So I moved on to 'sheltered' bases - and settled on one built into a mined-out asteroid, which would be spun up for some gravity. Not only would this be an efficient re-use of leftover materials in-game, but I realized that the 'new' base could occupy only a fraction of the mined-out space inside the asteroid, giving me the option to surprise my players with 'catacombs' to explore once they thought they had a handle on the boundaries of the setting.

I visualized a honeycomb built into the hollow of a rotted-out tree trunk, and leaned into it with my initial sketch:

Nothing says science fiction like hexagons, am I right?

I then took isometric graph paper and drew a cleaner sketch, starting to break down finer details of living quarters, laboratories, shared/common spaces like bathrooms and cafeterias, and administrative offices:

Graph paper by Gaming Paper

(link goes to my employer, Noble Knight Games, where I got my own copy).

I quickly realized that I'd need more than one level, because a habitat needs a lot of Redshirts - er, valued personnel - to run. So I loosely sketched out a second level for more dormitories. Then I fired up Adobe Illustrator to do a digital version:

Copy-Paste is the actual best.

Once I had a version I could reproduce as many times as I needed, I printed a copy to make penciled-in notes on stuff like room assignments, final personnel numbers, and hidden entrances/exits. Personnel numbers and composition is SUPER useful, because it helps me with a later step: creating NPCs.

I also did some googling, and found an asteroid in inner-system orbit that's already been considered for mining operations, and selected that for my base.

Welcome to Ryugu Medical Base.


But Wait, There's More!

Of course, the entire game won't take place solely at the medical base. In fact, my original idea was to run a one-shot leading into the campaign, where all the player characters (PCs) would wake up from stasis on a transport on their way to the base, with alarms blaring, and have to figure out what was going on and why there were there.

I won't be doing a one-shot, but that premise is still how I plan to start the game. Which means I needed a transport ship. Fortunately, Paizo has a line of maps for their Starfinder game which will do for Eclipse Phase in a pinch - and their 'Starship' flip-mat will do just fine for the PCs' needs 'till they get to Ryugu. I also picked up used copies of their 'Tech Terrain' and 'Core Rulebook' pawns, for both my use and for my players, because it's always handy to have extra visual aids on hand.

Depending on how quickly my players unravel the mysteries of Ryugu Base (and how they do so), I may also build/find maps for a rescue/salvage ship, or a space station trading post where they can go to blow off steam and restock once the harrowing ordeal has passed. But until I know what I need, I'll just pencil in a few names for those locations and figure out what is needed when it comes time for that. I have enough isometric paper to play with now, after all!

Up next: The Plot Thickens!