Neato Space Adventures In Space
Original SA post
Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing
So, to wash away the shitty taste of EP2's monumental failures and the general titanic garbage writing involved in the Sol system politics and other stuff that's supposed to be the lifeblood of Eclipse Phase, the heart of it, let's jump to some of the stuff that's actually good, primarily by virtue of being able to ignore all of the badly written and considered junk near the heart of the setting, while also getting away from many of its less well-considered system aspects. I mean, I'd act like it was a surprise, but the title and huge tag image should already tell you that it's Gatecrashing.
This is by no means a perfect book, and Gatecrashing itself also puts you into somewhat-forced contact with some of the weaker points of the game. In fact most of the pre-written stuff in Gatecrashing is hard or impossible to interact with, or so vague that except for a few adjectives you're writing it all yourself anyway, but the book provides a lot of the good, sciency stuff that's needed to create a believable exoplanet, and the pre-made exoplanets provide a lot of inspiration because the writing is generally solid.
Gatecrashing also has some of my favourite pieces of Eclipse Phase art, in part because they're sometimes the right kind of gonzo to show that someone actually had fun with this book rather than just jerking themselves off while writing it. In other cases, they're just plain good.
Neato Space Adventures In Space
We start off with an okay piece of fiction about Gatecrashing Firewall members getting hunted-and-killed by a Factor in a human spacesuit pretending to be human, before two survivors manage to finish it off. It's forgettable, really, then we get into the proper content of the book.
The book proceeds in a logical order, with the gates in Sol, where they are, what's known about them and how missions are organized, before moving on to any of the stuff that's actually outside of Sol. So if you read the book in order(and why wouldn't you?) you actually get the information in the order that it makes sense and you rarely have to page back furiously for a reference. This is the sort of way a book should be implicitly ordered and I only bring it up to point out that at some point the people writing Eclipse Phase did, in fact, have editors with a functioning central nervous system who hadn't been victims of a home trepanation accident.
The bit on the gate knowledge is one of the rare cases where the writers' penchant for not answering questions works out, because we don't need to know any details about the gates beyond that they work. In fact, they're much easier to swallow in a "hard" science universe if they're mysterious than if someone technobabbles out of their ass about tachyons and bosons and singularities or whatever. We get presented with the main theories, but none of them are established as perfect fact, not even in a GM chapter anywhere. Thank you, writer who knows restraint.
The vast majority of gates so far discovered are physically anchored to some sort of astronomical body, whether that be a planet, moon, or small rocky asteroid. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Aerie Gate free floating in the vacuum of space in a tidally-locked orbit around an extrasolar planet or the Vortex Gate that appears to be suspended by unknown means within the crushing depths of a gas giant’s atmosphere. This standard placement, in conjunction with their size, implies that the gates are not intended to facilitate spacecraft travel, though some of them may be used for this purpose. (Most asteroid-locked gates, for example, require little in the way of escape velocity.)
The geographical placement of gates has varied widely, with some locations defying logic. Gates have been situated on open wind-swept plains, in cramped caverns, in deep underground tunnels, underwater, at the bottom of crevices, high atop mountains, and in at least one instance, embedded within an ambulatory ocean-surface biomass. They have been found on planets with toxic atmospheres, hidden within craters on remote asteroids, on surfaces ablaze with a nearby star’s heat and radiation, exposed to the vacuum of barren moons, and buried within the methane ice of frozen worlds. Several gate locations seem to be completely entombed in stone, with no possibility of actually passing through, even despite attempts to drill.
And the writing is generally evocative, galvanizing your imagination. It also makes good use of something that EP2 tried to do, but never quite managed outside of one or two paragraphs, which is having each paragraph be clearly written not by a godlike narrator but by a specific in-setting individual who often has specific viewpoints and sympathies(which may or may not be correct), or as conversations. It also covers, in a very natural way, how establishing connections works and generally answers a lot of questions that a player or GM might have or need to answer("What happens if two gates try to connect to the same third gate simultaneously?" and etc.).
okay, so occasionally the art is less than stellar
One minor problem in this section is that it also touches on weirdnesses and anomalies that can occur with gates, especially if someone pokes at them in unauthorized or experimental ways. This is conceptually good, but the result is inevitably "and then they all died instantly without a save, even their stacks were annihilated" or "and then this character vanished out of the story for an extended period of time which would be pretty shitty if it was a PC it happened to huh" rather than something that could be useful in a story where the protagonists are players rather than the author's characters.
Also good is the section on organizing Gatecrashing trips, since it contains just about everything you might need: Prices if you're paying the inner system for access out-of-pocket without a sponsor, info on getting a sponsor, info on getting in through a lottery, info on using rep to get access through an autonomist gate, what sort of stuff you should be prepared to bring, what sort of backup you should expect and how well the place will have been scouted with drones and probes before sentient explorers are deployed, etc.
A chapter that's just as useful, if not even more, since I can imagine a lot of GM's might want to waive the nitty-gritty details of exactly how many space-dollars the players are paying for getting to a new planet, is the section on extrasolar worlds. In part because it involves a lot of relatively hard, fascinating science fact that's great for designing your own exoplanets. It's probably one of my favourite parts of the book, and I'll dare anyone to read it without getting a hundred ideas for exoplanets or gatecrashing campaigns.
There's also a good section on xenolife, like in the bit on xenoflora, it points out that if the planet has spiky or poisonous plants, it probably means there's also advanced xenofauna that eats said plants. And the more advanced the "do not eat me"-countermeasures, the more advanced the eaters are likely to be. A little bit of logic that someone designing an alien planet might not otherwise have thought about.
The section on colonization missions is also great, since it provides the seeds for everything from being colonists yourselves to working security on an exoplanet colony. About 50 pages in, and you'll have like a hundred good suggestions on what to do with gatecrashing campaigns/missions, both corporate and autonomist. Knowledge about designing new worlds and alien life. Like, even if the book had only been 50 pages long, it would absolutely still have been a worthwhile buy.
really all I can fairly bitch about so far is that the art of pandora gates is inconsistent in depicting them
The main problem with writing much about the first part of the book is that it's generally all so good that it doesn't need commenting on, but don't worry, that'll absolutely change by the end of the book.
Next: Stuff on Pandora Gates in Sol, and the meat of the book: the pre-made exoplanets
The Good Gate and the Bad Gates
Original SA post
Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing
The Good Gate and the Bad Gates
After getting told about the "generics" of Gatecrashing, what's next is the specifics about using any one of the Sol system's five gates. This is largely not anything remarkable, mostly a description of any specific business circumstances(repeat missions for Terragenesis off the Vulcanoid gate gets you a bonus for being a repeat customer) and the atmosphere around each gate(Serious and slightly shady, serious and very shady, super cool and professional, super wacky and cool but also professional, ultra shady and evil, from innermost to outermost. Guess which one is the anarchist gate). The Anarchist gate is simultaneously in "totally free hands," completely locked down by the Love & Rage Collective, in danger of being monopolized by L&R , not in danger because the other anarchists would take care of them if they got evil, laid back and chillaxed, super-well planned and efficient despite being laid back and chillaxed and the only gate operating crew humane enough to prioritize a rescue over other activity. Because you know we just wouldn't get
that the hypercapitalists are bad people unless they cackled at the profit they earned from letting a Gatecrasher die. The anarchists of course also do fishmalky things like easter egg hunts on alien worlds.
You also know how evil the Ultimates are because the guy narrating the bit about the Go-Nin gate on Discord keeps talking about OVERHUMANS and GENETIC INFERIORS despite the fact that every single writeup on the Ultimates mentions that their philosophy is about mindset, not genes, and also the fact that genetics are hilariously irrelevant
in the EP world. Some writers really wanted to make them sound like Nazis as much as possible. It's especially clashing when in the next paragraph he drops back to a philosophy completely unfocused on people's genetics, only on their willingness
to modify and resleeve themselves to be tougher and smarter.
Anyway the bit about the existing gates is mostly just for flavouring anything occurring near them or setting the scene before heading out into the unknown. The actually interesting part of this chapter are the unknown
gates, the ones rumoured to be scattered around Sol. Chasing one of these rumours could be the foundation for an entire campaign, as gates are A) immensely profitable if you can lock one down and make sure no one steals it from you, B) potential sneaky ways in and out of the system for various villains and shady operations. The book does a good job of positing where the various gates could be, what makes it likely for them to be hidden there, how they could be hidden, how they could be found, who'd have an interest in them, etc. It's not a long section, but it's enough to be inspiring, even if it does seem somewhat conspicuous that it ignores theories of a new gate anywhere between Earth and the outer fringes of the system, possibly just so no one gets any ideas that the Jovians might be relevant to the game's setting any time soon.
See Interesting Planets! Meet Interesting Aliens! Roll Save Or Die Checks!
Probably the best and worst section of the book, for me, is the bit with the pre-made exoplanets, however. Almost every single one of them has something interesting going on, something that'll give you ideas, but, well, most of them have their issues as a thing to use in-game, too. Either they're just not useful
as places to run a game or set an adventure, maybe they've already been destroyed or sometimes just nothing about them is statted meaning that it's up to the GM to stat and describe every single thing the PC's might want to interact with.
This is a Venus-esque planet where hypercorps are building a very shady aerostat
which is so shady and mysterious that no one knows what it's for, and also it's not finished yet, and the world contains no native life or anything else of interest. I'm sure you can imagine all sorts of exciting adventures for PC's to get up to in an unfinished aerostat with no stated purpose on an otherwise-unexciting world they can't even explore because the local atmospheric pressure will annihilate them at ground level.
There aren't even any planets to explore here, just an alien spaceship stuck in the corona of the local star that shoots anything that approaches or dodges it so it can't get close enough to learn anything, also the spaceship might be alive and/or have still-living organic pilots. Somehow the space sensors
used by a group of explorers can detect life signs
at long range, something that always pissed me off in any trying-to-be-hard sci-fi. How would you scan for "life"? Signs of respiration? Methane? CO2? A heartbeat? I feel like I hardly need to A) list how many non-living things could generate those molecules or a regular beat or B) point out how useless this would be at detecting life through any sort of barrier much less at any sort of decent distance. Uh, but yeah, I guess catching up to and exploring an alien craft could be kind of interesting if they'd given the vaguest hints at what was inside and/or statted any of it.
This is an Earthlike World(tm) where you can have your soft sci-fi Star Trek adventures without a helmet or any concerns about polluting or being polluted by the local ecosphere. The exciting thing about Bluewood is the blue wood, as in blue trees, that are growing everywhere, they grow superquickly, overwhelm transhuman structures with little warning, and also they hack computers. No, really. If you fuck with the trees, the entire ecosystem will attack you(none of the ecosystem or the trees themselves are statted for this purpose, btw) and, yeah, that's it. It's a planet of fast-growing trees that hack your computer and corrupt the data in your porn stash. Why? Dunno.
Brak Kodel is moderately interesting, since it actually does something with one of the many Spooky Titan Things that Spooky Titans have done, which is collecting heads/egos from people on Earth during the Fall. Brak Kodel is a shitty little Mercury-like planet with no atmosphere except where a bunch of valleys have been roofed over to keep them breathable, these valleys are basically full of weirdo mutant cavemen stuffed with super-psychosurgerized egos from the Fall. One group of cavemen control some of the remaining tech(weather manipulation, some fabbers) and worship the TITANs, then there's a tribe of literally insane cavemen and another tribe of cannibal cavemen. Apparently the TITAN that set the project up sleeved the same Ego into the leaders of all three factions, potentially just for laughs. Pathfinder's found the place and are split between nuking it because it's a TITAN artifact, looting it for tech, and trying to recover any famous or interesting egos that were sleeved into the mutant cavemen. It's an interesting world that could do some stuff, and the cavemen are actually statted for use as opponents or NPC's.
It's an Earthlike world where the grass gets you hiiiiiiiiiiiigh maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan so of course it's full of Scum that do nothing other than be high and fuck. I'm not really sure what you could even use this world for other than ERP scenes.
Corse would be better for a short story than as a place to set a game, because the story's already been told
. Hypercorps show up on a rock at the edge of the galaxy, build some observation equipment, place looks a bit odd, but not too odd, starts looking more and more odd as time goes on. Local astronomical situations look like they've been messed with, something built a craft on the rock and set off barely some years ago, probably a TITAN or TITAN-descended intelligence, about a month into observation they spot whatever took off in the sky, running back to the gate at high speed, like it's fleeing something. Then the corps shove a nuke through and evacuate everyone. Like the idea that there's something out there that could spook a TITAN or a TITAN's Fetch? Neato. Putting that in a place that's already been nuked by a corporation? Less neato.
Next up: Hope you don't expect them to stat any more things rather than just vaguely describing them. Also more mysterious alien trees.
Vague Aliens Doing Vague Things on Vague Planets
Original SA post
Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing
Vague Aliens Doing Vague Things on Vague Planets
Let's get back to reviewing these planets.
Droplet is like a Soggy Earth. Bit denser atmosphere, much higher ocean surface, so there's only about 8% dry land. It's another place the Spooky Spider Aliens, the Iktomi, have shown up. Which is great because it doesn't mean anything considering that no one knows a goddamn thing about the Iktomi except that they were aliens, they're dead, they probably looked spidery and as a weird spooky coincidence they also liked web-ish designs because let's just make them space spiders rather than being creative. Droplet has a ton of aggressive, super-sized wildlife, both flying, swimming and amphibious, it'd be great if any of it was statted for use, but it isn't. The only statted thing from the world is a bunch of cute hexapod lizards you can have as a pet, which is cool, lizards are cute.
Like most worlds described here, this one has only a single interesting thing described. In this case it's a structure called the Toadstool, which is a big self-repairing mushroom-looking thing that does vague thing to Asyncs. Oh, I guess there was also a precursor civilization even older than the Iktomi on Droplet, but unlike the Iktomi which have left behind one or two pieces of alien tech that GM's and players can interact with, these guys were just amphibious centaurs.
more like the chodestool lol
Hope you like spiders, because this one has spiders. Yes, it's more Iktomi. Echo's a half-Earth with an appropriately halved atmospheric density and gravity, except once it had a decent atmosphere but something spooky and vague happened to it. Thankfully this is also where a Smart Science Man learned the one thing we'll ever know about Iktomi culture: "Mind the Weave," what is the Weave? Well fuck knows, it's just a picture of a Pandora Gate in the middle of a spiderweb. Could just mean "mind the fucking gap, you moron, don't trip when you enter the gate" or "leave the Gate network clean, don't mess it up by throwing McBurg wrappers everywhere." Echo also has a bunch of buildings where the wind makes spooky or cool music when it blows through them and this does vague things vaguely to asyncs.
(Spoiler: everything about Asyncs is vague and useless)
Echo does have another planet, nearby that you can fly to, though. Its main thing is that it has giant kaiju that will try to eat you, and little flying monkeys that will try to lure you into giant land anemones so they can eat you. They decided to stat the monkeys and land anemones, but otherwise tell us nothing about the place except that some hypercorps are poking at the fun genetics present on the planet.
It's an icy moon where genehackers are making weird cryptid critters and resurrecting Earth species that no one managed to get a full genetic library for off of Earth before/during the Fall. Somehow this is too transgressive to do in Sol, despite the fact that Sol is where someone uplifted an octopus and did hundreds of other wacky things to the human genome. But no, you make one pet griffon and apparently you've crossed the line and need to hide out in another solar system for ??? reasons. They've apparently also been working on organic ways to give creatures firebreath so they can make dragons and the like, which is actually pretty cool. That would have been something to make pod morphs really stand out, if you could literally sleeve into a dragonmorph or something.
Spoiler, you cannot, as a player or GM, interact with Giza unless you rewrite the canon. In the fluff established in the book Firewall has already shoved a bunch of nukes through the gate and blown it up on the Giza side. Now, the Gates do eventually tend to rebuild themselves even if nuked down to their constituent atoms, but have fun waiting a couple of in-game years for that to happen. It feels extremely like one member of the writing team made something a bit softer sci-fi than the rest, something that players could actually interact with rather than just being mystified by, and one of the others appended "and then firewall nuked it, the end" so no one would accidentally have fun.
Which is a shame, because Giza actually has way more potential for actually being interacted with than just about any other planet in Gatecrashing. It's a relatively habitable planet, wear a thick coat and bring an air tank and you're golden. No aliens will try to eat you. So what's so special about it? Space Omegle. Alien Space Omegle.
See, Giza's got these spooky stone pyramids lying around. If you go over and poke one, it invades your morph/systems/brain with a bunch of microtendrils that go "YO SUP BAYBEE YOU WANNA CHAT WITH SOME COOL NERDS?" and if you go "HELL YEAH BOYEE" it randomly connects you to someone poking at another Giza-esque site somewhere else, probably in another galaxy or solar system, and handles the translating as far as it can. Usually what then happens, according to the lore, is that the other alien trolls you and sends you a picture of its dick.
Approximately 15% of contacts were able to coherently communicate, amenable to talking to us, and had useful information they were willing to trade. Of the remainder, at least 35% were what Go-nin categorized as “bad faith operators” who seemed primarily interested in acting in a manner to provoke annoyance on the part of the user by attempting to discover what they found vulgar and offensive and spewing it back at them.
Proxy B: Yeah, the aliens were trolling us. We now have a shockingly large image file filled with what we believe are alien genitalia.
Depending on your view of humanity, it would either be relieving or extremely horrifying to know that aliens are basically just like us.
Enough folks have poked at the Giza artifacts that they now know how human Wi-Fi works and you don't actually have to touch them to get chatting. It even lets users set up a social media-esque profile, in case you really want to find some sexy alien molds to swipe left on(or is it right? I don't know how Tinder works). Depending on who you hook up with, you either get text chat, VR chat or MIND TO MIND INTERFACING and can send them pictures and video. The service, not being designed by morons, automatically filters anything that would identify where you're from in the solar system. It doesn't allow you to describe yourself, which makes you wonder how aliens got around sending dick pics, it doesn't allow you to send forks and you can't connect to anyone at the same Giza site as yourself. It's also patrolled by a badly programmed censoring system that cracks down on stuff sometimes like preventing some human poetry from being shared because it's "too sexual."
The only remaining quest hook here is that a couple of the guys who found the Giza site managed to escape into the wider Sol system with a few cool things aliens told them, like how to build a super-effective solar cell that also sometimes explodes if you're not really careful. Whoops lol.
Just In Case
It's a space survivalist bunker built and staffed by non-Consortium corps in case the TITANs come back to eat all of Sol or the PC takes over all of Sol. Also they're working on stuff to spread humans to other systems without the use of Pandora Gates. That's it.
Probably not dangerous to Superman, it's a space resort on a planet with a thin atmosphere, cold weather, warm geysers and super-cool giant crystals everywhere. You can easily get me hooked by imagining giant crystals, those things are neat.
It, of course, has a vague threat that vaguely destroyed some vague Firewall goons in the past so now Firewall is vaguely interested in doing something more about it if the GM can decide what it is. Alternately your PC's can use the place to have a beach episode if you're out of ideas, I guess.
Lassiter's stupid, like real goddamn stupid. So it's a space planet with no space badguys on, only space goodguys, because it's the SECRET FIREWALL HEADQUARTERS where they give the Prometheans blowjobs while the Prometheans tell them it's gonna be all different this time baby i'm not no TITAN i'm not gonna hurt you honest now go back to the kitchen and make me another bunch of dead fascists/capitalists and if you make them real good this time no one will have to fall down the stairs okay?
Also the Promethean is disassembling a fucking moon to make itself a super hypermind. That's not shady or anything.
The only hook for Lassiter is if you're somehow not a fucking moron and become aware of it and start assembling a fat stack of nukes to shove through the gate from Carnivale to this place, maybe strap a couple of drunk Scum to the pile just to make sure it's a total win.
Luca's another one of the very common Earth-esque planets. You can breathe the atmosphere without dying, and even apparently eat the local plants and wildlife without dying, and it has the requisite dead alien culture, too, of course. The writer describes their technological level as "feudal" despite the fact that they apparently invented primitive radios. That seems more like, what, renaissance, at the earliest? They were big ol' hexapod ant-eaters, essentially, and they ate pre-sapient mega-ants(big as a fist for the soldier caste) that are still around and have huge hives and may on a hive level be pretty clever. The main local draw is that you have decent odds of getting pasted by an asteroid while living there, neat.
The main story hooks for this place are that scientists found enough Lucan genetic material to recreate the natives and then ?????, and the other is that hypercorps want to terraform the place into something more human-standard, which would likely annihilate most of the existing ecology as well as destroying any remaining Lucan archeological sites that have yet to investigated. The latter, at least, is something that can easily be used for a single mission or brief campaign, either stopping anarchist obstructors or blowing up hypercorp badguys, depending on the party's ideological bent/greed.
Don't ask me how to pronounce that, please. Anyway, it's an ocean planet full of cool invertebrate life(vaguely described, not statted), like living, floating reefs and stalking megajellies. The main thing is that it should never have the moon it has, astronomically speaking(the moon is where the Pandora Gate is, by the way), and its local star is dying much sooner than predicted, so it'll be annihilated and/or rendered lifeless again in about 1000 years. Sucks. The only suggestion in the text is that there's alien space technology under the moon's surface and then it leaves it at that. Not really sure what you could do with this world except to invent an alien tech mystery from whole cloth and put it under the moon, since the whole "star is dying" isn't really something humans can interact with in this setting. Maybe you could rescue some space lampreys and nautiloids from Mishipizheu and transplant them to another ocean to save them?
Yet another terrestrial world with very large oceans and a dead alien culture. The interesting thing about Moravec is that the dead aliens left behind their very active space internet, a bit dinged up, but still maintained physically by drones and such. Humans and their AGI's can even connect to it and VR-surf the alien internet, which seems abandoned, but vaguely spooky and sometimes vague things happen. Also sometimes the repair bots throw laser light shows at the local researchers, which may be attempts to communicate, but who knows. If you log in and surf the alien internet it's like exploring an abandoned, buggy MMO written in a foreign language, you'll have no idea what's going on, but occasionally it will seem profound, and there's a lifetime of searching to do because there's enough space in there for three billion aliens to have had their own perfectly simulated world right down to bacteria and grains of dust.
Despite this titanic trove of information and, presumably, language, researchers have yet to learn anything about the locals except that they were centaurs with three arms and cones for heads. Good job, science people.
Next: The last of the planets. Honest.
Read, But Don't Touch
Original SA post
Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing
Read, But Don't Touch
One thing I realized while thinking about this review earlier is that despite all the alien tech and ruins humanity's stumbled across while exploring exoplanets(like the Iktomi Kumobots, or the entire fucking Moravec network), there are actually no gear pices or other items humanity uses that are based on any discoveries made off it. The closest thing you get is stuff like the Scurrier and Whiplash morphs which are based off alien biological foundations. There's no Meshware based off of recovered Moravecian data, there's no cyberware based off of Kumobot servos or armor, or anything of the sort. Far as I can recall there is all of one
alien piece of gear in the entire EP fiction that you will be able to have access to, and which isn't just statted as [works as human plasma rifle] or something similar.
So Nirvana is a dead system, like, extra
dead, since there's a pulsar at the heart of it annihilating everything in the system with sterilizing radiation. It has multiple irradiated planets, but no details on them, so I guess maybe they have dead alien civilizations but no one cares enough to go look, apparently. There's a single hab out here for scientists doing close studies of the pulsar, with a bunch of attached modules for some buddhists who come to meditate on the corpse of a star(kind of metal) and some modules serving as what's officially a Consortium prison.
Now, there's some shit about how the star does wacky things to asyncs and also therefore to exsurgents with async powers, so the prison is actually a place where Project Ozma is storing some exsurgents for study. Oversight is aware of this, tangentially, and wants to take it down, too. At another point in the book it mentions another pulsar, where an area of space in the vicinity generates matter ex nihilo in tune to its pulsing. It feels like they were trying to do some sort of theme with stars and asyncs/space magic in general, but didn't know where they were going with it or someone nixed it. I mean, either it implies that (some?) stars are sentient, because non-epsilon async powers always interact with sentience rather than physical phenomena, or it's just vague spookiness that the writers never thought about.
I mean fancy that. Something vague in Eclipse Phase. Whodathunk it.
And, of course, there are at no point any rules for what the pulsar does to asyncs of any kind.
There's some dumb accent thing over the O that I can't replicate with this keyboard, but whatever, imagine it. Use the powers of your mind.
So Nott is like a frozen hellhole, very inhospitable. There's a research station there specifically fucking around with things that require extremely low temperatures, and a bunch of people have gone missing. Okay, that's cool, we've got a not-Earthlike planet and we've got a quest hook. This is already better than most of the planets so far. Sadly, rather than a cool snowbeast hunting people and there being an interesting sub-zero ecology on the planet, it's just some exhuman being an edgelord, which means you can show up, follow the tracks, gib him, then go home again.
And, of course, said exhuman/snowbeast is not statted. That'd be doing work.
So Olaf is fuckin' huge. Like it has a diameter that I'm sure the devs misplaced a fucking 0 in, because it's over ten times the size of Jupiter, yet has a gravity less than that of Earth(varying from about 0,7G to 0,9G). Anything that tries to go into orbit gets blapped by a hidden defense system, and the crust below a certain depth is impenetrable and self-repairing. It is, of course, also conveniently Earthlike and possibly a Dyson Sphere. It has alien ruins, of course, but they're not detailed in any way, except to mention that there are ruins from many different species present on the "planet."
So Penrose is an entirely artificial location, a space station involving materials sciences that allow it to survive on the edge of a black hole and potentially drain materials and energy from it back into the observable universe. It also has an atmosphere that's like 90% halon, so definitely unbreathable. Oh and it's full of active defense systems that want to murder you, which is what happened to several teams of explorers already. There is of course no statting for the defenses, no description of the inside or outside of the station, not even any art of it, so my man, you are definitely working from absolute zero if you want to make Penrose Station into part of your adventure.
So Portal is, try to restrain your surprise here, an exoplanet that has even more gates on it than the one you arrive through. Shocker. And of course the requisite vague alien ruins. It has one of the game's two(no, I refuse to acknowledge the Dream Shells as a "usable" anything) usable alien artifact, however... The Fixor
. Which are basically Immovable Rods from D&D defined as remaining stationary relative to the nearest strong gravitational field(i.e. they won't tear through a planet's core) and they can support up to two tons of weight. I'm sure someone will do something creative with that. Portal also hosts yet another kind of Mystic Alien Tree, the Myst Tree, which is a nano-tree
that's probably an alien computer but no one knows because you can't interact with it you can just look at it and oooh and aaah at how creative the writer was.
The other two "statted" alien artifacts, btw, are Dream Shells, which let you have weird dreams if you put them under their pillow and do vague things to asyncs. At this point I'm pretty sure that going to McDonald's does vague things to asyncs, goddamn. Afterwards there are Scour Rings, which are like hula hoops but if you shake one and toss something through it, it gets stripped down to its atoms. Probably work well as an assassination weapon if you could figure out how to hide the fucking thing on your person.
Tired of VAGUE ALIEN MYSTERIES? Want some ACTION? Well good, because that's all Rorty has. It's a frozen chunk of rock where Exhumans sleeves themselves into hulking hivemind-controlled battletanks bristling with guns and then go out and raid places and come back with more egos to psychosurgerize into hive minds and put into battle tanks. Try to control your excitement.
Oh boy Sky Ark you know what? I don't really care about the content. It could be absolute shit for all I care, but Sky Ark is a good planet because it gets us this fucking art:
It's a fucking robot cowboy riding a goddamn Triceratops, hell yes.
Anyway, it's a place that was kind of primordial and without much native life except for maybe some boss and bacteria, so Terragenesis decided to recreate as many Earth ecologies as possible on Sky Ark. Some extremely lame ecologist terrorists are trying to prevent these people from making dinosaurs and other cool things.
[quote]In addition to resurrecting Earthly life that went extinct during the Fall, the research teams working on this project have been reconstructing animals that went extinct hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of years ago. The dodo, aurochs, stellar sea cow, and moa are their most widely known successes. Their most recent projects, however, are far more ambitious.[quote]
What they don't have a genome for, they approximate using DNA from other creatures, and they sponsor Reclaimers trying to hit up stuff like old zoos, seed banks, DNA research servers, etc. on Earth. So Sky Ark is bristling with potential. You've got the whole DNA hunter angle, you've got people getting eaten by dinosaurs(potentially, I mean, you know it's gonna happen), you've got eco-terrorists preparing to take shots at the place, etc.
Sadly no velociraptor pod morph, but I guess I have to excuse that, and I kind of wish they'd have statted a T-Rex or something.
Earth-esque planet with a thin atmosphere and a faint ecology. Local bacteria corrode all refined metals and eat plastics. Nanobots can keep them at bay, but damage gives the bacteria deep access to dissolve stuff faster than the nanobots can fight them off, also a bunch of anprim fuckheads have set up station on Solemn, where they want to run around with stone axes and hit each other on the head, I guess.
No weird alien ruins or anything else to attract people here, I guess, so not really many built-in quest hooks except "stop the anprim morons before they kill someone and now we actually have a reason for the natural attacks some biomorphs have." Not so much podmorphs, though, they'd melt as well.
It's a tidally locked Earth-esque planet where the plants that live around the equator will try to hunt you and are often motile predators, that's rad. Killer plants are cool. Of course none of it is statted and Sunrise has no plot hooks beyond vague Iktomi presences once upon a vague time.
Synergize! Energy! Synergy! Profit! Growth! Grofit!
Wait, no, wrong setting.
Anyway, Synergy is a world that gets like five sentences of description: Dense, helium heavy atmosphere. Lots of weird floaters and fliers. Cool local pteranodons you can fly. Awesome. No alien structures or vague plotlines about vague async things. Instead, what we're mostly told about is the local Synergist colony. They got cut off from the rest of transhuman space for a while and decided that the solution was to hivemind themselves up, which worked pretty well and is interesting, except they have no mysteries or complications on their own planet. The only real complications are when they interact with the rest of humanity, so all of Synergy is really just an advert for not going to Synergy and instead dealing with the Synergists in Sol.
Hope you like mushrooms, fucker, because all of Tanaka is covered in mushroom. Plant mushroom, animal mushroom, mushroom mushroom. All of them are basically split into three hyper-organisms fighting each other to a standstill, apparently this happens every x years and then when the ULTIMATE MUSHROOM wins it eventually splits into more mushrooms with divergent genetics and they enter the mushroom thunderdome again. The mushrooms will kill and eat anything that comes through the gate unless it's an async, because the mushrooms are also psychic.
So I guess if you feel like interfering you can go bug the mushrooms playing their RTS games, hear which one is most into consensual ERP with humans or supports your pet political philosophy and then help it win or something. This will of course have absolutely jack shit consequences for the rest of human space because transhumanity so far seems completely incapable of capitalizing on scientific opportunities and none of the mushrooms are statted so you can't recruit a horde of shroom troopers and use them to storm the Lunar capital or reconquer Earth or something.
Unless of course your GM feels like statting an entire ecology.
Tirion is planet that spend literally two lines describing, and then they plop a lab on it where Uplifts are tortured by the same "genius" who brought the world the Lost and their Futura morphs. This is literally a plot line about saving traumatized Uplifts that could be slapped down anywhere in Sol, putting it on an exoplanet is wasting space in this book.
Imagine Venus. Imagine Venus if it was in a different solar system. Imagine Venus if it was in a different solar system and used for dumping toxic/radioactive waste by hypercorps. Imagine Venus if it was in a different solar system, used for dumping toxic/radioactive waste by hypercorps and also had primitive, indigenous aliens who did not want toxic waste in their back yard, except the hypercorps believe the planet is uninhabited.
So you've got a planet where most morphs, even synthmorphs, can't survive.
You have aliens that are silicon-based cavemen, that live in magma.
That can't communicate with humans.
And which no one knows exist.
Even if you knew they existed the entirety of this adventure would take place Sol-side, stopping the dumping operation. At no point would there be any point to the PC's going through the gate and dealing with the hellish conditions just to be unable to interact with anything.
It's a rock somewhere in space(no one's found the surface yet), with a bunch of tunnels inside that you arrive in through the gate. There's a non-breathable atmosphere, and no alien artifacts. One guy's gone missing, but he probably just got lost in a tunnel. There are no sinister hypercorp plots or crimes in progress.
What an exciting site for an adventure!
Excuse me while I book a trip to Sky Ark to ride a fucking dinosaur and shoot at militant hippies instead, hacks.
What Else Does The Book Have?
It's got the rules such as they are for Pandora gates, some new morphs(of note are some cool new flying options), some new ware(like the High-G adaptation you'll never use), some new gear for scouting(useful for exoplanet campaigns) and some suggested plot hook for the listed exoplanets that range from decent(anything suggested for Brak Kodel) to the unimaginative and vague(what if TITANs show up on Bluewood but, like, the trees
fight them, man?), but mostly they're straight out what's already implied by the text and, as usual, rely on the GM doing all the work, not filling in any blanks for him whatsoever.
As much as I love some of the art and suggestions in this book, it's just... not really good if you were expecting to use most of its pre-made canonical exoplanets for anything.