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I have little time to prepare a Sci-Fi game so I thought I would ask for some help. I kinda love the idea behind Eclipse Phase but I can't see how a game without death can be a horror game and I kinda want my players to feel scared for most of the time.

Making it simple, here is the thing:

How likely is it to actually lose a character permanently in Eclipse Phase? What situations would make it happen and how often do the PCs face them?

(From what I read in the book so far and reviews I've stumbled upon, I've seen nothing but comments about immortality and I want something more like a survival horror sort of game, which makes the setting (even though it's amazing) not enough if the threat of loosing the character isn't frequent.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Incidentally, if you're short on time to prepare, and not already intimately familiar with the transhumanism subgenre of science fiction, I strongly recommend against playing Ecplise Phase. It's a fascinating system and setting, but it's also big and complex and contains a lot of 'gotchas' that can trip up someone not used to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 29 '16 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking about how to run a survival horror game of eclipse phase is a drastic change of scope for the question. Please ask another question about that. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 '16 at 8:40
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You can kill someone of permanently, but it is a lot of work. It mean killing them, destroying there cortical stack, and destroying their stored backups — at least far enough into the past that when they come back they won't be the same person they are when you wanted them dead. You also probably want to kill any of their more recent alpha forks.

But this is hard, given that they could have backups that almost no-one knows about — though whether they (or their allies) have the capacity to instantiate them is another matter.

A viable way of making someone more or less dead, is to kill them, and make them broke. If you die with no insurance, no money (in the hypercorp-dominated inner systems), and no friends (in the anarchist, outers stations), then no-one is gonna put you back in a body.

A charity might bring you back as an infomorph, but a poor infomorph is just another speck of refugee data, in the billions of disembodied humans living in the matrix since the fall.

A major reason to kill someone in Eclipse Phase is to keep secrets secret. If you kill someone, and destroy their cortical stack, then that info stays gone. Unless they an augmentation allowing remote backups. (Though the neutrino version of this is at least obvious when it goes off -- it blows their head off)

But death isn't what the game is about. Humanity is dying. Not because people are dying, but because people don't care.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Best answer so far. But it's really not what this game is about but what MY game is about. I want some survival horror. I want the players affraid that they will lose their character. Otherwise they might just start doing stupid stuff and not caring much and that'll bring me back to why I stopped playing Forgotten Realms (Damn those Raise Dead Rituals). I want to play something COMPLETLY different and being ressurrected, by a god, cleric or machine, ain't helping. \$\endgroup\$
    – Davi Braid
    Jul 30 '16 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then eclipse phase is not for you (and that is OK). Try a game that is actually targeted at survival horror. Or in general, most systems do not allow resurrection. DnD and Eclipse-phase are some of the only exceptions I can bring to mind. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 '16 at 5:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Though, playing On Earth, could work out -- on earth there are no resources to resleave a backup, and the amount of effort it took to run the blockade, means that you (or even Firewall) probably don't have the resources to get someone in after they died. And that is survival horror, earth is a nightmare place. but with a population estimated at hundreds of thousands to millions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 '16 at 5:09
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In Eclipse Phase, you fight against existential threats to transhumanity. Which is to say, you're trying to stop the species from going extinct - and it doesn't matter how good your backup insurance is if your insurance agency is destroyed. In practice, of course, player characters are unlikely to suffer permadeath, because permadeath tends to be an unsatisfying end to a campaign, and is relatively easy for players to avoid as long as transhumanity isn't extinct yet.

Even if death isn't permanent, though, it can mess you up. Dying causes serious stress and psychological problems that take time and effort to cure. Even if you have a good therapist on hand, losing your physical body is a serious setback - not just to your pocketbook, but to your social life; in all but the most radical of habitats, a lot of your relationships with people are tied to your face.

Plus, even if resleeving isn't a problem for you, the threat of death isn't the only source of horror. As a roleplaying genre, horror is about helplessness in the face of Bad Stuff, and Eclipse Phase has unavoidable Bad Stuff in spades: The ID Crew is a criminal gang that specialises in stealing copies of egos, editing them to fit specifications, and selling them on to the rich and unscrupulous. The exsurgent virus can wirelessly jump from a pocket ecto to an ego bridge, and thus infect the living brains of people resleeved via that bridge. Alien Factors contact with transhumanity but refuse to explain their origins or goals. Continuity of identity isn't really the solved problem some people think it is. Megacorporations force AGIs and uploaded personalities to toil in indentured servitude - and even when they get physical bodies, Genetic Rights Management forces them to buy regular gene patches. The solar system has enough fanatical brinkers, anarchists and bioconservitives to perform some serious acts of inter-habitat terror. Privacy is a thing of the past. The most basic psycho-surgery depends on creating multiple copies of an ego and trapping them in private simulspaces until the surgeon decides which ones to kill off.

In short: Yes, Eclipse Phase makes it easy to avoid dying. The horror comes from all the stuff that can happen when you're still alive...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So... Not likely at all? I really don't care about what can happen while you're alive. I just want to know how you can lose a character loosing all your progress and stuff like that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Davi Braid
    Jul 29 '16 at 6:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaviBraid I've edited the answer a bit. Your question makes it sound like you're primarily interested in what the sources of horror are in the setting; If that's not the case, I suggest you re-write it to make that clear. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 29 '16 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaviBraid I'm sensing some confusion and disappointment in your writing. That may just be me, but in case that it is not: in case you are not aware, there's lots of RPGs in which losing a character will be extremely unlikely or even never happen. This isn't exactly an uncommon thing nowadays, as games increasingly find other ways than potential for character death to create serious tension and drama. Eclipse Phase was one of those. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29 '16 at 7:21
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Being unable to die is a horror in and of itself.

⚠ Horrible stuff follows. Be warned that it is not for the faint hearted.

Okay, you've been warned. What is more scary, being killed or living with the knowledge that you are now the exact anti-thesis of all your values and you like it? Your brain has been re-wired in such a way that you see your own children as something you want to kill, eat, and have sex with -- not necessarily in that order. What if your precious backups are corrupted or modified by social justice warriors hackers so you lose your sense of gender and now you loath the very sight of the love of your life? Maybe Apple decide to experiment with your backups, as a way to "improve them" so they are better? What if I took your sense of self and messed with it? What remains? "Give me liberty or death" said Patrick Henry, what if I took this away from you and made you enjoy being a slave while retaining your capacity to feel how depraved and horrid your life is now? Would you beg for death?…

On a side note, powerlessness is a major cause of fear. Thus being unfair and arbitrary to characters is justified in a horror game as long as the players (note the difference between character and player here) have agree to this before it happens. Besides, there are plenty of way to make the above into a choice for the character. Yes, those can be the best choice -- read: the less harmful choice.

Did you read Richard Morgan's Kovacs books? They deal with resheelving and its implications. Charles Stross's Glasshouse deals with people being resheelved and its consequences. Those are essential reading material before running Eclipse Phase.

A few times, I ran the following: Players come up with a plan with unknown to them a terrible flaw. They take a backup just before starting. I fade to black and three weeks later, they all wake up with of course, no knowledge of what has happened. They now have to work out why, how, and by whom they were killed. It makes for a very interesting game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a campaign idea I could probably not sell to my players, but would dearly love to GM or play in. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Jul 29 '16 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting idea for an adventure, for sure. But I don't see how that horror part you discribed is actual horror when it's seems to be so arbitrary and unfair from the GM to make it happen. And even if it's not, that would take some time to build such a situation where players would actually be terrified (roleplay wise speaking). This still leaves me with hours of not-horror gameplay building up to personal horror. I want survival horror. So maybe Eclipse Phase is just not for me. That's the thing. I don't wanna know the correct type of horror for this game. I want survival horror. \$\endgroup\$
    – Davi Braid
    Jul 30 '16 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @davibraid this changes the scope of your question drastically. Please ask another. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30 '16 at 8:37
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The bad guys can't die, either. Be careful whom you piss off.

Caveat: If you can kill someone's body, their cortical stack, and their backups (via hacking), yes, they can die. This should be very difficult to do, but the hacking rules support it if your GM will let you go there.

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There is a way to have an horror/stressful story which is basically based upon "death": being hunted.

Head hunters are specialized in hunting all instances of a person (all forks) and kill them, destroy them, erase their backups etc. So a group whose members are hunted one by one will not see the thing hunting them coming, and it can be a very very very stressful story for the players.

In particular if they are actually hunted by one of the players. :)

Also nothing prevent the hunter to be something not from the transhumanity, in which case you end up with an Alien kind of scenario.

Basically, the game rules of EP open all kind of scenarios, more or less epic, more or less terrifying, it's just limited by your imagination and teh amount of stories you've read so far in this kind of post-cyberpunk context.

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