Thursday, January 18, 2024

(Eclipse Phase) Morph Recognition Guide

I keep going back and forth on how much I should write about Morph Recognition Guide. On the one hand, it's a very slight book - all of the various morphs (i.e. empty bodies that players can upload their minds into) from the Eclipse Phase books published by this point each get a full page of art, a text box recapping their basic pitch and mechanical effects, and two or three lines of commentary from a fictional internet discussion group. The average wordcount per page is probably the lowest of any book I own, rpg or otherwise and a lot of it is stuff I've seen before.

On the other hand, the repeated information is universally interesting, and some of it I've never commented on before. Like, the neo-avians (uplifted crows, ravens, and grey parrots) have a "dinosaur identity subculture." It's a phrase so striking that I actually included it in my notes for Transhuman, where it first appeared. There's a lot of incipient worldbuilding underneath that description that I'm just aching to see realized. Is it like the "sigma grindset" for uplifted birds or is it more like a politicized attempt to create a cultural identity for neo-avians? Or is just a meme for bird-bros in the know. Me and the neocorvids are going to get together this weekend, watch Jurassic Park and cheer whenever a human gets eaten. The people (me, I'm the people) demand to know.

There's also some fascinating new tid-bits. The Bruiser morph is big and muscular, which we already knew, but in the comments, it's revealed that there are also "limited edition bruisers based on the genetics of pre-Fall wrestlers and athletes." And this has way too many threads to pull - about identity, about celebrity culture, about capitalism, about fandom, about bioethics - to just get one sentence. There should be a whole adventure about this subject. But then who's going to create it? Me?

Is the book good because it keeps throwing these inspiring sentences at me? Or is it bad because every time it manages to inspire me, the feeling fades by the end of the page?

Trick question, it's bad because of Neotenics. Like, one of the options available to you is a Surya - a biological life form that is engineered to live on the chromasphere of the sun. That is the level of biotechnology that's available here. An immortal body that retains a child-like appearance its entire life is trivial by comparison. And given human nature, it is entirely inevitable that people would get extremely creepy with it. We can infer all this from the general facts of the setting. So why go out of your way to say it? Why establish canonically that there are beings who look like children but are in fact fully adult transhumans, some of whom go into the sex trade?

Pitch me an adventure based on that information, Posthuman Studios, I fucking dare you!

Actually, don't. I wouldn't want to read it. Just like I didn't want to read about Neotenics in the core book and I didn't want to read about them again in the Morph Recognition Guide.

But really, that's only one page. The rest of this book is both enjoyable and useful. I found it very helpful to be able to put a face with a name, so to speak. It wouldn't have been necessary if the original morph entries were accompanied by art (even just a simple sketch, rather than a full-page, full-color illustration), but I can see how it might be more cost effective to do it this way. Overall, I'd call this a nice, relaxing change of pace. I wouldn't want every book to be like this, but it's okay, once in awhile, as a treat.

Ukss Contribution: The Sylph morph can basically be boiled down to "a thin and pretty body, suitable for celebrities and models." I'm not even going to touch on the politics of this, because the intersection between body politics and transhumanism is way too complex an issue for me. Do fat people even exist in the Eclipse Phase universe? None of the art in this book seemed to suggest as much.

Which, as I said, is a lot. However, one interesting fact about Sylphs is that this is just a generic name. If you're out buying a Sylph, you're going to have to choose between several name-brands, all doing the same basic thing. One of those brands is called "Sedusa."

Sedusa. I could live for a thousand years, and I could never come up with a more perfectly horny name for a fantasy or sci-fi creature. It's sublime. Ukss' Sedusa will not be a brand of replacement bodies (probably), but there will definitely be some kind of innuendo-laden creature with that exact name.

"Beware the Sedusa's cave. Those who enter it are never heard from again." Or something. I'll work on it. Try and come up with something that is the funny kind of smutty, instead of the sad kind of smutty.

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