Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Finis

One year and one day later and my work is done, though it feels like I could go forever. To the readers of Farcast, whether you stayed current every day or are just finding this now, this project has been for you. Ideas are free, and so Farcast is free - only the expression takes a little effort, and that work is my gift to you.

I wish there was some great and original lesson to lend meaning to this work, but I'll settle for a simple, well-known truth: there is nothing here you could not do yourself. There is no game, no setting, no universe that cannot be made richer by your thought and effort and consideration. Read a little, think a little, dream a little. Don't be afraid to go beyond what is in the books, or write what they might never print. Eclipse Phase begins with the published material, but it lives in your heads, in your writing, and in your games.

To the fine folks at Posthuman Studios and the freelance writers and artists that created the Eclipse Phase RPG: thanks for letting me splash in your pool for a bit.

Thanks for reading, and happy trails.

- Bobby Derie

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365: Greetings from the Future

ENTRY 365: Greetings from the Future

"Entry 000...Test...Transhumanity lives...already lived and died..."
- Luna archive, unknown transmission from Earth, 12:31:01:00:00 BF 1

"Entry 000: Test Item. Transhumanity lives in a universe where alien intelligences and civilizations have already lived and died, leaving behind remnants for them to paw through, analyze, and reverse..."
- TitanWiki entry on Test Item, published to the Mesh 12:31:01:00:00 AF 9

For the past year, researchers on Titan have identified bizarre similarities between recent entries to TitanWiki and a series of unsourced radio transmissions from Earth, archived at various receiver stations on Luna. Initially believed to be a case of copyright infringement or an elaborate prank, independent research has proved that the timestamps on all of the Luna archives appear to be authentic...and deep background checks of the contemporary authors of the entries show no connections to the recordings. What is more, the archived messages clearly deal with events, places, and transhumans that take place after the Fall.

The best theory for the mechanism involved is a closed timelike curve - a concept of theoretical physics that could allow information, even radio transmissions or possibly even physical travel back in time. The idea of such a time machine, usually using a ring laser to bend spacetime, is far from new to transhuman science. However, most physicists agree that a CTC would require either infinite power, a ring larger than the observed universe, or a singularity to be realizable. While the first two options remain unavailable, a few physicists have pointed out that the Pandora Gates do represent singularities - and while no one has yet attempted to construct a closed timelike curve with them, it would at least be theoretically possible.

While they do not agree on the nature of the phenomena, scientists have pinpointed the source of the transmissions: a "hot spot," just north of the Arctic circle, far away from previous transhuman settlements...perhaps an isolated research lab. No records remain of who might have built it, but obviously the site must have an independent power source, radio receiver and transmitter. Equally obviously, throughout the year the signal has been getting weaker, suggesting that the power source is gradually failing.

Using Greetings from the Future

Time travel is one of the great conceits of science fiction, because it poses one of the great questions: what if? Time travel can open up vast probabilities to player characters, with some interested in using it to go back and change things for the better, others looking to exploit it for their own gain, and more than a few who will start on about paradoxes. If the CTC device exists on Earth and is not a hoax, gamemasters will have to work out many of the details on their own - but here are a few things to remember.

The CTC device is built around a Pandora gate or equivalent artifact, and has been running apparently continuously for ten years. One characteristic of a theoretical CTC is that time travel before the date it was turned out would not be possible. If the first recorded transmission was in fact the first one, that means that a transhuman could potentially travel back to just before the Fall - to save a loved one, or archive material lost in the present so that it can be recovered in the future - provided that the CTC device is actually set up to allow physical travel; given power and space limitations, it might be restricted to radio broadcasts, but even that could allow important information and information to be transmitted into the past. Also, the CTC device is apparently failing. If it has been running autonomously since the Fall, then it is likely badly behind on basic maintenance and needs to be repaired, and the power source (probably an atomic battery, although geothermal, tidal, wind, solar power, or some combination might be possible) supplemented or replaced - because once the power fails, the window into the past closes. Likewise, the CTC would allow travel from the present into the past, but probably not the reverse - although combined with relativistic time travel (see entry 182), this could be less of an issue.

If nothing else, the Greetings From the Future make a great way to introduce other Farcast entries to your game.

Seed

  • Firewall has detected a troubling possibility: the remnants of the TITAN forces on Earth may be aware of the CTC device. If they get their mechanical tentacles on it, the TITANs could theoretically transmit back important information on the future to their past counterparts - transforming the "defeat" of the TITANs into a tactical withdrawal. To remove this possibility, the PCs are equipped with a ship and as many weapons as they can hold. Their mission: destroy the time machine!

Monday, December 30, 2013

364: Gilgamikael

ENTRY 364: Gilgamikael

"What if I told you that everything you thought you knew was a lie? The popular story of the Fall is no more than that, a story - a myth as fabricated as any episode in the Bible, put forward by those entrenched interests that still run this Solar system. Think, for a moment. What do they ask you to do? Fear. Fear the TITANs, fear the exsurgents, fear Earth, as it has become. Fear to ask questions, fear to look too close at the evidence, fear to come to your own conclusions and make up your mind for yourself. Consider: what are they afraid of? I will tell you: they have painted monsters, but what you will find are only people. Transhumans, like yourselves - simply a different path in evolution. A transformation catalyzed by a virus, yes, but perpetuated traditionally. Would it surprise you to learn that there are transhumans that walk the surface of Earth, breathing the burned air? No augmentations, no surgery; they grew new lungs within their old ones, and will do so again when they reached the Smoking Cities. A feat beyond even current transhuman technology, and only the least of their capabilities. Don't take my word for it, however. Look through this telescope here - you can see them for yourself. At this time of year the migrations begin across the Siberian plains..."
- Excerpt from a conversation with Gilgamikael, CLASSIFIED: ECHO ECHO SHAITAN, possible memetic hazard

"You cannot kill this idea. It will only fork and resleeve."
- Unauthorized Comment, CLASSIFIED: ECHO ECHO SHAITAN, possible memetic hazard

The very existence of Gilgamikael is a secret. To Firewall and related organizations, they is an exsurgent terrorist that has taken on the trappings of a revolutionary; to the exsurgent cultists themselves they is a rogue who spills secrets and unnecessarily antagonizes the opposition, a demagogue without a populace to represent. Mostly, Gilgamikael sees themself as a teacher, a rebel, a true believer in what they espouse: the exsurgent virus as a tool of transhuman development and revolution. In pursuit of this goal, Gilgamikael uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of the revolutionary, and strives to win hearts and minds rather than just convert egos en masse - although they aren't above the occasional mass-infection event as a way to get the point across.

COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
19
18
25
23
30
10
15
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
10
1
30
6
60
30
6
45

Morph: Swarmanoid/Unique*
Skills: Academics: Political Theory 40, Academics: Philosophy (Revolution) 30, Academics: Psychology 25, Art: Painting 33, Beam Weapons 45, Blades 44, Fray 50, Freerunning (Microgravity) 25, Infiltration 40, Infosec 38, Interests: Exsurgent Virus 35, Interests: Firewall 50, Interests: Revolutionary Groups 25, Interfacing 20, Intimidation 38, Investigation 44, Kinesics 30, Kinetic Weapons 25, Language: Native English 86, Language Arabic" 40, Language: Persian 40, Language: Russian 40, Medicine (First Aid) 25, Networking: Autonomists 25, Networking: Criminal 25, Networking: Media 25, Profession: Blogger 33, Protocol 25, Unarmed Combat 66
Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Mnemonic Augmentation, Swarm Composition
Traits: On the Run, Social Stigma (Exsurgent, Terrorist)

* Gilgamikael occupies a unique variant swarmanoid morph; each of the component microdrones is actually a cybernetically-augmented biological "insect" built up from transhuman DNA - the "legs" based on fingers, etc. - and the sleeve is a biomorph, not a synthmorph. Each individual microdrone contains an independent cyberbrain and cortical stack. Although at any given time only one instance of Gilgamikael is in control, but as long as a single microdrone remains, Gilgamikael is backed-up and could return. Each microdrone also is a carrier for a variant of the exsurgent virus.

Using Gilgamikael

Think of the best arguments you could use to promote the exsurgent virus - and put them in Gilgamikael's mouth. Given that the player characters might react badly to a character that looks like a nest of centipedes with human fingers for legs in the vague shape of a transhuman being, it might be best to introduce Gilgamikael by degrees - let the PCs come across his writings, blog posts, graffiti, or other messages first before running into them in person. While the players probably won't buy into his interpretation of the exsurgents as a persecuted minority or the next step in transhuman evolution, it might at least give them pause to consider what Firewall (or whomever they are working for) is and is not telling them.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

363: The Cloud Entelechy

ENTRY 363: The Cloud Entelechy

"When you are ready, you may join us."
- The Cloud Entelechy

"Already, transhumans stand at the threshold of post-humanity. Infomorphs have no physical requirements, need no sleep, suffer no weaknesses of the flesh. They can manipulate their perception of time, program themselves new senses. The only thing they have that truly defines them is a sense of self, a distinction between I and Other. It is the final bond to break in order to ascend."
- Anonymous, Farewell to the Digital Flesh (AF 6)

"The call it 'the next step' - like being an infomorph ain't enough already. You upload yourself into the Cloud, and then you just...well, you don't cease. All your memories are there, all your thoughts. The thing is, no one can really tell you what it's like except - well, you ain't you anymore. Not an individual. All your memories, all the things that make you, they get added to the collective. One constant thought-stream in the Mesh, a million lifetimes of memories running on virtual processing. It's like...well, we don't know exactly, but they think it's like you're always in the now. There's just that sense of proportion that that's so much bigger than what you can have otherwise, always looking over the memories, comparing them, collating, gaining new insights and building off that. Maybe it's the digital heaven we was always promised. I dunno. I dunno if I could do that."
- Riso Ge'ez, Tired of Nova York, Tired of Life (AF 9)

"Suicide of the mind and spirit. To surrender inviduality is death of the self. You are more than the sum of your memories and data. Whatever moves and speaks to you through the Cloud Entelechy, it is not your friends and loved ones. They are gone."
- Jaime Bell, Jovian Intelligencer (AF 10)

"It's not what you think. It's not what it says it is. The minds are still in there, like ants. Processing nodes, that's all. They're working on something, crunching some big number. They're counting the names man, and when the names are done the stars will wink out..."
- Ultragram, Kitty Fisting (for Science!) Anarchist News Rant (AF 10)

Using the Cloud Entelechy

Transhumanity is already at the point where efforts to define itself get difficult - transhuman, exhuman, posthuman, AGI, uplift - there gets to be a point where every person, no matter what their exact origin and attribtues, has to deal with the trouble of labeling what they are and what they are trying to be. Most seem satisified enough with finding themselves as an individual, defining who and what they are or wish to become. Others take a philosophical step to the left and want to get past the process of becoming, and to just become - not to pussy foot around with the incremental changes of life, psychotherapy, and resleeving, and simply be. Some of those individuals choose to join the Cloud Entelechy.

In game terms, the Entelechy a constant background process running on the Mesh, untold tends of thousands of egos having uploaded themselves and ceased to exist as individuals, their memories and thought processes now incorporated into a single extended batch processing effort spread across the entire Mesh. It may well be a massive AI with the combined skills and abilities of all its constituents, but the processing is so distributed it's difficult to tell if the AI is even conscious or perceives time and space in the same way as other transhumans. It is unquestionably a step from transhuman to exhuman, not through the assumption of a strange and unique morph, but by abandoning many of the common definitions of what a transhuman mind is.

Gamemasters and players might consider the Entelechy as anything from a retirement plan to a way for transhumanity to finally ascend physical existence. Player characters may be able to interact with it, and find themselves face-to-face in virtual scenarios with icons that look and act and talk like egos they thought long dead or subliminated into the entelechy. Alternately, the entelechy might be a cancerous force, a subtle digital expression of the exsurgent virus that ensnares and transforms egos into thinking programs devoid of personality or concept of self. It's not even clear whether there is a single entelechy, or multiple parallel processes that call themselves that. Finding out what the Cloud Entelechy is, and who if anyone is behind it, could be an adventure in and of itself.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

362: Ghost Planet

ENTRY 362: Ghost Planet

"It's eating my fucking suit."
- Fon Zongying, gatecrasher

The Iktomi are the only extraterrestrial civilization known to have used the Pandora Gates - remnants of their civilization or explorations have been found on several worlds. Of the Iktomi themselves there is little record or remains; no indication of what had happened to them. Yet just recently, in an arid semi-desert planet under two suns, a group of gatecrashers have reported finding what might be the actual physical remains of the Iktomi.

The planet is called Zongying, and the gate stands in the center of an open pavilion of heavily abraded aluminum girders, arranged into the outline of a pentagonal prism with a floor of aluminum plates. Along the edges are an interlocking pattern of pentagons, formerly painted bright blue and yellow, which are recognized as Iktomi warning/danger/forbidden symbology now mostly faded and covered by dirt. If there were ever walls or ceiling, there is no sign of them now, though certain markers on the aluminum frame suggest they might have been meant to be climbed. Beyond this barrier is the dry valley.

The Iktomi - if that is what they are - stand like a grove of gnarled, dead trees in every direction. Pale grey twisted carapaces, pale white strands like branches of antlers growing out from within, breaking out at joints and intersection points between the semi-petrified chitinous plates. Many reach for the sky as still white limbs, while the others tangle on the ground like roots, sometimes intersecting or burying themselves in the soil.

Research on the site is in its infancy, and after the loss of researcher Fon Zongying (after whom the planet is named), biohazard status on travel to Zongying has been upgraded to Synthmorphs-Only. It is believed that the creatures around the site succumbed to a fungal parasitoid that replaced their inner tissues before bursting through their shells - which, in the extremely arid environment, managed to survive longer than on other worlds, though some evidence suggests that they and the gate might have been buried for a period and recently uncovered. Whatever the case, it is clear that the fungal parasitoid is still active, and that is spores (or possibly a symbiotic bacteria) are capable of metabolizing plastic - which is how they got to Zongying, whose remains now form a permanent part of the xenoarchaeological site.

Using Ghost Planet

Ghost Planet does not necessarily contain the final truth to the end of the Iktomi - but it might hold clues to one possible end. As a civilization that survived for some thousands of years and made use of the Pandora Gates, the Iktomi were in their own way explorers not like transhumanity - and like transhumans, they found strange dangers, and sometimes brought them with them. For the Iktomi, the fungal plague may have been their version of the exsurgent virus, and the destruction it wrought on the population so terrible that they quarantined the entire world. Beyond the strangely grim and silent forest, beyond the bounds of the valley lies what was once a thriving planet - and now is only a ghost world.

Friday, December 27, 2013

361: Jayne Joyce

ENTRY 361: Jayne Joyce

"I've never been anywhere, really. I can't even remember Earth. It's like...I don't understand why people want to go back, y'know? We should go forward. Out there. To the stars."
- J. J., Starspotting mblog, entry 12 (AF 10)

Wars and migrations produce a lot of lost, uncared-for children, and even today transhuman society struggles to find the best way to handle their care and development. Orphanages are largely a thing of the past, though the Jovian Republic continues to experiment with the Military Orphan Creche (MOC) program, a Reserve Officer Training Corps-type program where small squads of cadets live, work, and learn together under direction from commissioned officers and NCOs, and many hypercorps have dedicated work-study schools which are effectively the same. Anarchist habs tend to promote foster programs, with single transhumans or small groups adopting underage transhumans for a set period of time; Luna often opts for more permanent adoptions into clans and families, sometimes via arranged underage marriages, with the goal to continue family names and support parents and grandparents as they get older. In the Titan Commonwealth, children are treated almost as small dependent adults, given their own state-issued miniapartment, muse, and a small regular stipend until their majority, with certain limitations on entering contracts and regular check-ups from social workers and guidance counselors. Mars is more eclectic, with many different approaches depending on the habitat, but "wards of the community" tend to have basic mandatory attendance requirements for education, social interaction, play and rest periods that take up most of their waking hours, with the remaining free time spent either in a communal care facility or with a foster guardian, with infants, toddlers, and special needs children receiving the bulk of the one-on-one time and care as necessary.

Jayne has spent most of her sixteen years on Titan, the last eight of them as the big sister/little mother to the younger children in her apartment building, helping to organize events like Birthday/Resleeving Parties, cleaning up the shared restroom/shower/kitchen areas on her floor, and making up stories to entertain the other kids. In two years her mandatory stipend will end, and her apartment will be reassigned to someone else. The guidance counselor is chiming in more frequently with requests about what her future plans will be, with suggests ranging from applying for scholarships in creative writing to vocational work-study indentured servitude contracts. In her off-time, Jayne likes to watch the crews unload from the ships coming in, and imagine what it must be like out there among the stars.

COG
COO
INT
REF
SAV
SOM
WIL
MOX
15
16
15
13
10
10
15
-
INIT
SPD
LUC
TT
IR
DUR
WT
DR
6
1
30
6
60
30
6
45

Morph: Splicer
Skills: Academics: Astronomy 18, Art: Writing 20, Free Fall (Microgravity) 20, Interests: DIY Tattoos 18, Interests: Post-Fall Science Fiction 20, Interests: Space Travel 18, Interests: Titan Geography 18, Interfacing 20, Language: Native Skandinavíska 85, Language: English 80, Networking: Autonomists 5, Programming (Games) 17, Protocol 16, Scrounging 16, Unarmed Combat 16
Implants: Access Jacks, Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cosmetic Augmentation (multiple piercings, homemade tattoos)

Using Jayne Joyce

Player characters in Eclipse Phase might not always think of themselves as heroes, especially when they're not actively fighting proper villains. Yet to characters like Jayne Joyce, the PCs are heroes just for what they are and what they can do - to travel from habitat to habitat, tackling any job that comes along, meeting strange new people, upgrading their bodies and minds - those are the things that Jayne admires and dreams about. To her, the PCs are role models and incredibly, impeccably cool. The gamemaster can play this for whatever they think it's worth - Jayne may try to emulate their actions, or tag along with them in their adventures (even stowing away with their transport). She might meet the PCs by approaching them for help with one of the kids on her floor, or she might need rescuing herself from some shady types that want her for unspeakable purposes (like long-term renewable wage slave contracts with exceedingly poor terms and badly defined duty requirements). If the PCs rebuff, use, or hurt her, Jayne Joyce might even turn on her would-be-heroes, becoming a particularly bitter enemy.

Seed

  • A customary genecheck as the PCs come into port reveaks a genetic match - it turns out that one of the local foster children is directly related to one of the PCs (daughter, sister, niece, cousin, underaged clone, etc.). While Titan law does not mandate that the PC has to assume guardianship, the child's social worker and guidance counselor contact the PC to make them aware of the relationship and suggest a meeting with their newfound relation - Jayne Joyce. Whether or not they agree to come to the appointment, things are complicated when J.J. and the rest of her floor is taken hostage by a group of terrorists trying to extort money from the Titanian government.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

360: AF Anabaptists

ENTRY 360: AF Anabaptists

"This is a time of trials. Our communities are broken, the old orders broken and gone. We must face the challenges of today while maintaining the essentials of our faith. We will rebuild, we will endure, and we shall do so while staying true to ourselves."
- Julia Yoder, Elder of the Mennonite Church of Mars

Old Earth religions were almost exclusively based on the mindset of transhumans that were born and lived and died on Earth. Their histories and creation myths centered around the planet and its places, their dogma and popular concepts based on exploded ideas - it was one thing to understand that heaven is not some literal place overhead in the clouds, and quite another thing to stare upwards from the surface of Luna and know that there is no physical heaven there. The erosion of religion in transhumanity owes much to the general exodus from Earth, the physical removal of transhumanity making stark the conceptual distance between physical reality and the many different scriptures. Yet there are always the dogmatic few and faithful; transhumans are creative, obstinate creatures, willing to adapt their belief to changed circumstances.

On Earth, the Anabaptists were a broad collection of related Christian congregations with similar distinctive beliefs - pacifism, free will, active participation in the church and the community, living simply, worshiping simply, with a lay leadership. The most famous sects in the popular culture were the Amish and certain conservative Mennonites, who held to an order that eschewed much modern technology and culture, living for the most part as humans had centuries before. They did not fight the TITANs when they came, and many chose not to join the exodus from Earth at the time of the Fall. In space, the ragged remnants of the different Anabaptist congregations gathered and held a conference in Nectar on Luna. From the congregation came three principal sects, split broadly along the lines of emerging transhuman sociopolitical movements.

The Old Order are what many transhumans think of when they hear the term "Anabaptist" - lineal descendants of conservative Amish and Mennonite congregations that wish to preserve their lifestyle as much as possible as it was on Earth, and consist mainly of unaugmented flats; they operate farms and communities in several small established "living museums" on Luna and Mars, where they keep alive relict skills related to farming, animal husbandry, carpentry - these communities are few and under tight restrictions against increased population, but their low-tech "bubble" lifestyles are paid for by contributions from Reclaimers and Bioconservatives seeking to preserve something of old Earth, as well as Mesh feed sales of their daily lives to various hypercorps as a kind of reality media.

The Barsoomian Anabaptists are the most numerous and ethnically and morphologically diverse; many are flats or rusters, though even synthmorphs and informorphs may be welcomed in the community. The Anabaptist beliefs of communalism, pacifism, and economy of lifestyle found broad appeal in the Martian underclasses, and today Mars hosts a number of different congregations with related beliefs, with perhaps a slightly stronger communistic flair than on Earth, but fully integrated with their own rep-based currency (ß-rep) and network (Große Kirche Netzwerke). These are the Anabaptists that transhumans might see everyday, though not recognize.

"Distant Congregations" is the catchall term for the stranger Anabaptist sects, especially those not in communion with the Old Order or Barsoomian Anabaptists. Principally considered Brinkers by other transhumans, the Distant Congregations have developed more idiosyncratic views toward transhuman society, uplifts, personal augmentations, and resleeving, and are often mistaken for experimental communities. The Go-Nin Group is known to support a particular Mennonite sect that is entirely digital, with the members consisting of infomorphs that operate in a virtual simulation of an Anabaptist agglomerated from records and memories of different Asian Mennonite communities - the individuals serving as living NPCs for an extensive and popular Mesh-based farming game.

Using AF Anabaptists

Transhumans don't give up their beliefs easily. In the setting of Eclipse Phase it is easy to see how, with the flight from Earth and the radical leaps of technology, old Earth religions might wane. After all, it is difficult to pray towards Mecca-that-was on Mars, or hold out hope for a life to come in a setting where physical immortality is technically available, or put up with any of the antiquated and offensive sex- and gender-related dogma that clings to some of the old religions - especially in a universe with the Sex Change augmentation, among other advances. Yet for many there is more to religion than simply the dogma of the unquiet past or the old scriptures; their beliefs are tied into their communities, their way of life, and their own self-identity. So for many transhumans, it was not a matter of abandoning their faith as it was adapting their religion to changed needs and circumstances.

This is, like many other ideas, not exactly new. Frank Herbert in God-Emperor of Dune, for example, shows the pitiful remnant of the Fremen kept in an artificial state of stasis, though they had long lost their true identity. Not much different are the Old Order Anabaptists, who present the juxtaposition of how a religious sect that disavows contemporary technology persists in the setting of Eclipse Phase. That they can exist, after a fashion at least, and with some compromises, is interesting - and that is really the gist of how to use post-Fall Anabaptists in your game. Not as a metaphorical stick to beat the player characters with your ideas of what post-Fall religion should be, but as a thought experiment to how such religious individuals might adapt to the settings an themes of Eclipse Phase. Players too might be interested in a character who, even if they do not practice Anabaptist beliefs, came from or was influenced by such a community and chose to follow a path of nonviolent resolution to problems, or was inspired by the concept of simple living not to accumulate all the toys and credits of the 'verse just for the hell of it.

Seed

  • Rumspringa has hit on Mars, and some of the adolescents of the more conservative Barsoomian Anabaptists are overdoing it more than a bit. The PCs are hired by a congregation that hopes to channel the local teenagers' interests into a positive focus by taking them on an extended exploration of failed habitats in the Martian wilderness. For their troubles, the PCs will be well-rewarded (5 points of rep in their chosen network, or 10 in ß-rep, plus they cover all supplies), and all they have to do is cajole, prod, and carry six horny, rebellious teenage Rusters through the decaying remains of three stripped habitats.