The End of a(n) (Eclipse) Phase

As you may have noticed, there have been no further posts about my Eclipse Phase game. There’s a good, though not happy, reason for that:

It ended.

Yes, after just four sessions, our game of Eclipse Phase is no more. This post is an attempt to detail why that happened, as well as to explore what my group is doing now. My hope is that I will be able to provide some kind of cautionary tale for other GMs out there when it comes to choosing an appropriate game for your group.

Why So Short?

The answer, in brief, is this: I wasn’t up to running the game. We were getting ready for our fifth session of the game, dice on the table and everything, when I started talking about how difficult it was getting for me to run Eclipse Phase. The system, while not bad, isn’t my favorite, and the setting, though awesome and detailed, was cumbersome to deal with. There were so many details that I felt I had to remember, and I felt like I couldn’t add to the world without disrupting something considered “canon” in the setting.

Of course, that’s a fallacy. The core books even says to add or disregard details as you see fit. However, it being my first time dealing with the setting, I wanted to remain true to what I thought would be my best source of information. I ended up feeling burdened by the details, and they got in the way of my enjoying the setting.

We talked about my issues with the game, and my players (to their credit) basically said: “If you’re not having fun, don’t run it. We’re not going to force you.” I love my players. We spent the rest of the evening talking about what we wanted to do instead, and we settled on an old-school feeling Pathfinder game that I would run. We plotted some basic character details, and got all set for a big character-creation/first session game the next week. All in all, it went well.

What I Should Have Thought Of

I should have given my desire to run Eclipse Phase more consideration before we started this game. I’m not a sci-fi guy. I have, aside from my love of Star Trek TNG, been far more a fan of fantasy settings. I know fantasy. It’s in my blood. If I need to riff on details or make something up, I’m great at that in fantasy games. In sci-fi games, not as much. I feel like my hands are tied, so as I said above, I tend to rely on the setting book too much. It’s not a fault of the setting. The Eclipse Phase setting is awesome and super-detailed. The fault lies in my lack of comfort with sci-fi. I should have recognized that before I started to run the game.

I also should have thought about the character-creation system. When a game doesn’t go well from the jump, my first thought is to stop the game, build new characters, and start again. Just like beginning again in Skyrim, or Baldur’s Gate. However, in Eclipse Phase, the thought of doing that is prohibitive because character creation takes so bloody long. For my entire group, the thought of slogging through that process again to start over was mind-ending. That led us away from the system.

Where We Went From There

As I said, we decided to play Pathfinder, and to do so with a decidedly old-school feel. To us, this means using all of the rules as written (including encumbrance, carrying rations/water, and the like), high lethality, interesting and personable NPCs, and a lot of dungeon-crawling. Now, this might sound cumbersome to some groups, and no doubt it would be for some. However, we’re two sessions in to our new campaign, and we’ve been enjoying it quite a bit. While not as granular as, say, Shadowrun, the granularity makes combat much more exciting, dangerous, and interesting. We’re having a good time. As we move forward with this new Pathfinder game, I’ll be posting the audio as I did with the Eclipse Phase games. I still need to get an image, and an audio lead-in for the files on the Gamer’s Haven, but you should get to hear my group in its element soon enough.

For you other GMs out there, this is my final advice: know yourself. Try new games, definitely, but if you know you’re not, say, a Western fan, then don’t run Deadlands. Stretch yourself, but don’t over-commit.

I’m Tracy Barnett, and This is My Game


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. I write about RPGs like it's my job (man, I wish it were), and I am working on a campaign setting called Shadows of the Collegium. Also, I design games. You can find out more about me on Twitter, and about Shadows of the Collegium and my other games at sandandsteam.net.


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About Rolling20s

I write about RPGs like it's my job (man, I wish it were), and I am working on a campaign setting called Shadows of the Collegium. Also, I design games. You can find out more about me on Twitter, and about Shadows of the Collegium and my other games at sandandsteam.net.
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3 Responses

  1. Great advice. Gnome Stew wrote an article a few weeks back about how after four sessions, they decide if a new campaign should keep going or if they should move on. Looks like you hit the same thing. We recently did that in the Dragon Age campaign. Though I find it taxing, the players seem to enjoy it all, even when I’m running most everything on the fly. But I see myself moving this campaign to an end sooner than I might other games because the setting, while greatly detailed and interesting, doesn’t appeal to me as much as other games.

  2. Sorry to hear it. I was vicariously enjoying your reports. I do agree that EP is very dense and the system is simple at the very high level but has a lot of meat too it once you get past the first layers. I think a simpler rules system and a choice of three-four streamlined setting angles would be more approachable and more likely to get my group on an EP campaign. For example, just focusing on Gatecrashing and aliens would be plenty. Or, a crime noir campaign dealing heavily with transhumanity would be plenty. Or, a horror opera campaign. But when everything is added together it is pretty overwhelming.

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