Project Erebus: Heart of Darkness

Game Masters

Game Information
  • Created Mar 27 '11
  • Last Post Jan 20 '13 at 7:49pm
  • Status Aborted
  • System Miscellaneous

Game Description

Your mind is software, program it.
Your body is a shell, change it.
Death is a disease, cure it.
Extinction is approaching, fight it.

Humanity stands on the cusp of a new age, with accelerated technological growth converging toward a singularity point, promising an undreamt-of future. Despite the ecopocalypse and social upheavals on Earth, humanity has conquered the solar system and partially terraformed Mars. Advancements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science have transformed our lives. Everyone is wirelessly networked with the world around them, AIs process vast amounts of information, and nano-fabrication enables people to “print” complex devices from the molecular level—at home. Biotechnology allows people to genefix, enhance, and clone their bodies, while others pursue body modifications to adapt to new environments or make themselves into something no longer quite human. People’s minds and memories can be digitized, uploaded, transferred over long distances, and downloaded into new bodies (biological or synthetic). Death has been defeated—for those who can afford it.

From within, disaster struck. Transhumanity reaped the rewards of its arrogance when conflict spiked between the battered nations of Earth, already weakened by decades of climate catastrophes and other disruptive factors. Rampant netwars soon exploded into physical conflicts with spiraling body counts. In the midst of these aggressions, a group of military AIs known as TITANS quietly achieved full sentience and autonomy, and rapidly began exponentially incrementing their own intellectual growth. The AI intelligences spawned by this hard-takeoff singularity quickly turned against transhumanity, enveloping the system in unprecedented levels of violence, disaster, and warfare. What began as a whirlwind of conflict between political factions, revolutionaries, and hypercorps soon escalated into a struggle between man and machine.

In just a few years, transhumanity was nearly wiped out with nuclear strikes, biowarfare plagues, destructive nanoswarms, infowar attacks, mass uploads, and other unexplained singularity events, ripping the superpowers of old to pieces. Our planetary home--Earth--was transformed into a toxic and strange hellhole, while many major habitats were left frozen sarcophagi in the vacuum of space. Just as quickly as they came, the TITANS disappeared, taking millions of uploaded minds with them, leaving behind a network of wormhole gateways. Known as Pandora Gates, these poorly-understood devices allow instantaneous teleportation to distant star systems--often one-way and/or fatal. Though only a handful of Pandora Gates are known to exist--each highly contested--the foolish, brave, curious, and desperate are already risking certain death to enter and explore what lies beyond.

In the aftermath of the Fall, transhumanity lives on, divided into a patchwork of hypercorp combines, survivalist stations, transhuman faction species, and city-state habitats. Under the oppressive police states of immortal inner-system oligarchies, advanced technologies remain highly restricted, and refugee infomorphs are held in virtual slavery or resleeved in robotic bodies and forced into indentured labor. In the outer system, rebel transhuman scientists and techno-anarchists struggle to maintain a new society--from each according to their imagination and to each according to their need. And on the fringes and in the niches lurk networked tribes of political extremists, religious fanatics, criminal entrepeneurs, and bizarre posthumans, among other, stranger, and more alien things...

Though most claim the Fall was carefully orchestrated by the out-of-control TITANS, others whisper that the driving powers behind the wars--both AI and transhuman--were infected by a mutating virus with multiple infection vectors--biological, information, nano--dubbed the Exsurgent virus. Whatever its source, this virus has been known to sometimes transform its victims into something unexplainable...something monstrous and reality-altering. Whatever the truth, the remnants of the TITANS and this virus were left to the desolated ruins or driven to the edges of the system, where they remain hidden away in dark corners, quietly waiting to infect the minds of the scavengers and explorers who find them...

--taken from the Eclipse Phase Website.
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The Heart of Darkness
image taken from Eclipse Phase Website

ThemesThis campaign was largely inspired by Joseph Conrad's work, the Heart of Darkness and Francis Coppola's movie, Apocalypse Now. Both movies discuss the themes of colonization, the treatment of primitives, and exploring the depths of the darkest corners of Man's soul. Is there a soul, is the ego the soul, are we our bodies? These are questions we will ask and so much more thorugh the course of this campaign.

The CampaignProject Erebus: The Heart of Darkness is an episodic campaign set within the Eclipse Phase universe and shall use a slightly modified variant of the Eclipse Phase Percentile system intended for narrative heavy play-by-post gameplay. The campaign itself follows the story of Adrian Miller as he chronicles from a first person perspective the adventures of Crash Team Street Gang as they travel to Planet Erebus to investigate the TITAN presence and apparent influence in the evolution of intelligent life on the planet. It is believed that the sentients in Erebus have evolved to such a state that resists TITAN assimilation and yet adapts to their presence. It is yet unknown if life was produced because of the TITANs or before the TITANs appeared.

Project Erebus's intentions are to set up a large scale base of operations on Hemera from which they could directly study the subjects. Crash Team Street Gang's primary objective is to establish this base on Hemera, a research colony if you will, and then infiltrate the planet itself to acquire samples for examination.

GameplayWe'll be borrowing a lot of material from the Tazlure Game System; something which heavily influenced the modifications I made on how we use Eclipse Phase Crunch. Very minor changes of course, but something which I hope could considerably favor play-by-post gameplay. Be sure to read these too: Writing Posts,Writing Guide, and Rules of Realism.

Don't assume the success of actionsThe most simple form of moderated roleplaying involves a player and a game master or moderator. The mod sets the scene. The player reacts to the scene with its character. The mod determines if the player's character is successful. This still holds true if there is more than one player involved. All the players react to the scene and to each other, but only the moderator can determine what really happened, who was successful and who was not.
The moderator controls the outcome of your character’s actions unless they are mundane type things. You don’t need a mod to tell you if you successfully sat down in a chair or drank your ale; those are a given. If you are in a rose garden in summer looking for a rose blossom, your moderator doesn’t have to say you found one unless you are looking for one with special properties for some reason. If an action makes a difference to the plot, your moderator will always have the say so on the outcome.

The hardest thing to do in a game like this is to not be perceptive, intuitive, and clever all the time. To let your character misperceive, make a mistake, be misled, or fooled is the hardest thing you can do as a role player. We all have an innate desire to have our characters perceived at clever, insightful, etc. So, it is hard not to read the thoughts of the other persons and, instead, purposely blind yourself to that which your character cannot see.

If you want to indicate that you as player have figured something out, even if your character hasn't, use an omniscient writer perspective, pointing that out to the reader.A very severe case of astute perception is the so called Character X Syndrome. Character X is a player character who is a villain, a dark evil person. However on the surface this is not immediately obvious and unless Character X makes a mistake or gets exposed they should be succesful. However often these PC's will find that other PC's avoid them or find reasons to immediately dislike or even hate them and of course work against them, making their goal in life that much more difficult, without any realism to it. In other words character X becomes the victim of the astute perception of other characters.Players, and moderators in as far as it pertains NPC's, like to infuse their writing with a lot more than purely actions and saying things. There are thoughts, philosophies, emotions etc. This is what makes writing enjoyable for the reader in part, but the hardest part is replying to such a post without using all that copious material that your own PC cannot know.

There is a simple check you can employ before replying. Strip the previous post of all extra material. Leave only the spoken words and the clear actions that were not hidden from view. Now, read what you are left with and decide how your PC is going to react.

  • Do not drown out the slower posters or people not in the same timezone who may be asleep while you are posting with a flurry of posts. Please wait for everybody in your group first before posting again. Note that means if your actions are affecting the entire room, you should wait for all others to give reaction to your actions before posting again!
  • If you are in a moderated thread, this means waiting for your moderator too.
  • If a player is absent, watch the moderator for clues to start to post around the PC. Maybe the PC was simply daydreaming or didn't contribute to the conversation. After waiting two or three days it is generally accepted to move on without the player.
  • If a moderator is absent from a thread, in the case that it has slipped our notice, please give us a heads up in your compendium.
  • If you want to have a faster conversation please go to a side location and create a side thread, where you can hyperpost at leisure without making it difficult for other people to keep up with the thread.
  • Pay attention to etiquette of the setting regarding titles etc.
  • Feel free to snub other people, have nasty thoughts, make untrue assumptions etc, but be sure to indicate in your writing that this is an IC disposition. The writer of the player character can even make observations about the PC that are ironic in an "overvoice", showing such a detachment.
In a Summary Post not surprisingly you summarize what actions your character takes in a long story post where you can assume partial success (so as not to hold up the story). A summary will take up the space of no more than one part of the day, but not less than two hours, so it also simply describes time you decide not to play out. The moderator may reply with the results of actions, the information you gathered etc, in essence finalizing the story. These summaries may include more than one player and be co-written if that is in the interest of all players involved, such as with training or mentoring (see below) programs.

In cases where your character is learning skills which may be boring to learn in play (etiquette, literacy, new languages) but which will help round out your character one may use a Summary Post in which you summarize your actions.As human beings we are used to absolute linear time. It moves forward, never backwards and always in the same pace. Time is always a given and it never turns confusing. At most we want time to run slower, but alas.. the gods wait for no one.

Now consider a book, with chapters. Each chapter is the thread of a PC, or a complete adventure. In order to highlight only the interesting bits a chapter in a book may skip uninteresting days or hours. It may allow time to run fast, moving through years even. And when the action requires it the story will describe what happens second by second. So already in a book time is a flexible quantity.

Finally consider a Play by Post game. Some scenes take ages to play out in real life, so players move through several scenes, or even chapters at once. Not to mention that different characters may move at a different pace. Time becomes mixed up, like a bowl of string, because players play out different parts of their timeline at the same time, as well as moving on different parts of the timeline in relation to each other.

The first obvious solution is to declare that henceforth all time will move completely linear. However.. that is no way to run a large scale Play by Post game with interwoven plots. It would force all players to wait for the slowest posters among us, or for each of us to have individual threads that are not related to each other.
A PBP game in the Tazlure Game System is one large tapestry, the weaving of loose storylines into one big whole. To make this possible it is essential that the TGS doesn't allow fluid time, but puts everything in a clear timeline instead. It is a plotting tool for the mods.

Fluid time is the system whereby in a free form game all players are allowed to participate in any thread they fancy as long as they themselves can keep an inner logic in their threads. This is likely causing many, many timeknots (see below). This is great for a game that has no interconnected threads, and is aiming for as much posts as possible. It gives the player great freedom.

The Tazlure Game System is going for semi linear time. What that means is that while we go for a timeline (hence our timestamps) we still allow fudging of threads to a degree. This means players may have threads on several moments of their own timeline, provided they are close enough together to make sense. When creating thread 1, 2 and 3 the only rule is that you must keep moving forward.

Because it is very easy to let in game time slow down when you are in very involved threads we are employing several tools to make sure that time keeps ticking.The Timestamp is an important tool in keeping the timeline straight in a multi player game. A timestamp provides a date and time of a thread, so that you know where it fits in the timeline. You must maintain a logical and forward moving timeline. You can only create threads at a forward point in time, never on a date before an older thread where you play. You cannot join older threads either.When a chapter in the story between two characters (PC or NPC) has not yet finished, but merely changed scenery a PC can ask for mod permission for a continuation thread to stay within the same timeline. Continuation threads are not intended for the next chapter even if it is the same subject.
  • A continuation thread would be for example:
  • a coach ride home
  • a promised meeting immediately after an event (like an assignation in the garden)
  • moving with same PC or NPC to another part the city.

This rule of thumb however is not to be abused by creating endless continuation upon continuation. Separate threads should be separate threads. Remember that we encourage players to move forward in time and not write about every minute in the day.There can always be a moment when it seems wise for a PC not to move forward in time. He might not be surviving the present... In these cases you have to ask your players not to move forward beyond the thread they are in. Of course if you have them travelling from one place to the other or something like that it is already obvious that they cannot move beyond that point in time. It is advisable to keep the number of impassable threads to an absolute minimum. While exciting, it also holds up the whole game and limits PC's in what they can do.Linear is very realistic, so once in a while Tazlure does try to get all threads caught up with each other again. We call that a Sync Event. It is a point in time that becomes a fixture. No new threads can start before the Sync Event, and existing threads are supposed to catch up as soon as possible by using time jumps.

A Sync Event is an important turn in one of the major plotlines. When a Game Designer declares it is a Sync Event all threads need to catch up with the time of that turningpoint in history. This means that no new threads can be posted before the timestamp of the Sync Event and all old threads need to be finished within one or two weeks real time.

The goal of a sync event is to make certain that plotlines in the game will not diverge to far away from each other and move beyond the span of mere days. Only by promoting speed can we have large hugely impacting plotlines. What ever happens in just one week? Remember that players who do not keep up with Sync Events will become isolated in their content and unable to interact with other players till they have caught up.

Sync Events, while not completely unique in RPG, is something that is very distinctive to the Tazlure Gaming System in the PBP community, and something we provided leadership on. It does require discipline in moderators and players to stick to the system.

The FrameworkEpisodes, episodes count as sessions for every game of Project Erebus within the Eclipse Phase universe. These episodes are further split into scenes, with each scene counting as it's own thread folder. The game shall progress in a linear fashion with one scene transitioning into the next as driven by the players.

Every scene is further split into locations that are appropriately timestamped. Players may post as they wish in any of these locations but are not allowed to regress in the timeline, or be in two places at once. Appropriately, there is a limit in how many threads a player may start or participate in: three. This is to keep the game from bogging down or stagnating.

Players should be allowed to create their own threads within these scenes for as long as they are appropriately timestamped and only within the locations made available by the GM. If the players would like some more locations to visit, they need only request the GM. They should keep in mind, however, that they shouldn't bog down or stagnate the game within a single scene. They should try to be as dynamic as possible and should only request locations which are appropriate or are significant to their purpose.

CombatI firmly believe that rolling for initiative is meant for tabletop and not for play-by-post. My experience in play-by-post is significantly freeform so I just couldn't comfortably reconcile initiative with narrative at all. Something design for tabletop should remain in tabletop.

Thus, non-initiative combat should be enough to not only make the crunch useful but also keep the narrative flowing. As the moderator, I'll be making all the OOC rolls anyway so just keep your posts IC and if you have skill suggestions concerning certain actions just hide them behind OOC tags or code. I recommend
Seriously, ain't it useful?
this type of ooc tagging.

This is how it works: essentially all of your posts are just reactions to situations anyway. Generally, these reactions are caused by situations I throw your way if not actions thrown against each other. So, I'll just have everything occur in real time, with all of your actions beginning simultaneously; just post your reaction as you would your character. Don't worry about turns, there are no turns. When ambushed, just react; when attacked, just react; when faced with a problem, just react. I'll take care of the rest.

Keep this in mind, it's the situation you're reacting to, not necessarily the people acting against you. This should set the theme for all of your posts.


I post the situation.

You post your reactions.

I make the reflex rolls, fray rolls, skill rolls, etc.

I post again; this time with the consequence of your reactions and the resulting situation borne from it.

Crunchy rules:

The number of actions you can do in your post is equal to your speed. If you can do more than one action, every succeeding action taken within that moment renders you a penalty. How much? Just in increments of ten, compounded for every succeeding action.

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