Eclipse Phase – A Study in Philanthropy

Eclipse Phase If you are even remotely interested in Science Fiction roleplaying games, you might have heard about Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios. It’s set in a future where being human is quite different from what it used to be. People’s mind can be transferred to clones or android bodies. Body modification by surgery, bioware or cyberware is common. If you are rich enough, even death can be avoided.

The system employed by EP is a variant percentile system with some twists, which is quite easy and streamlined. But what sets the game really apart is the fact that its text and artwork are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license!

So, you are free to copy, share, alter and remix the rules. You want to use the Eclipse Phase rules to write your own fantasy game? Feel free to do so. You want to use the background setting in conjunction with a different rule set and release it on your own blog? No problem! As long as the use is non-commercial and any derivative work is released under the same license, you’re fine.

This is unprecedented for a commercial game like Eclipse Phase. Usually game publishers and designers are extremely protective of their work. But the people who created Eclipse Phase share the PDFs on their own blogs for free. Or they uploaded the books to Bit torrent sites like The Pirate Bay or Demonoid.

And all this is actually paid off for Posthuman Studios. Sales of the printed books (and even the PDFs) are good and they already plan to release their next game under the same license. In a time when other companies stop selling all digital copies of their products, Posthuman Studios is successful by giving their stuff away for free.

The reason why Eclipse Phase is a commercial success even though it’s available for free is two-fold. First and foremost it’s a good product. And people are always willing to pay good money for quality. The other thing is that people appreciate that Posthuman Studios is sharing their game with the community. And so it’s only fair that this act of philanthropy pays off for the publisher in the end.

So, if I was able to whet your appetite, go to Rob Boyle’s blog, download the PDFs and read them. If you like what you see, support their work and buy a copy of the game.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “Eclipse Phase – A Study in Philanthropy”

  1. I don't care for some of the core tropes of Eclipse Phase (downloading/transferring consciousness without the explicit presence of some kind of mechanic to explain continuity, like a soul), but I absolutely love what Posthuman Studios have done. I like to point to this project a lot when talking about gaming philanthropy and openness.

  2. This is exactly what I'll be doing with Icar. Keep the PDF free and provide a book for those people who need the physical copy at the gaming table or to read.

  3. It's worth mentioning that Posthuman Studios is one of the top gaming business out there. Not in size, but in acumen, in accordance to our time. They quite good and hard worker of course, but they mainly embrace their customers and treat them with respect.

    The Creative Common is just one aspect of that.

  4. I've loved Eclipse Phase ever since I found out about it. I'm really glad they decided to to release the game in the way they did. It's an encouraging sign that the game has been as successful as it has. I hope that more publishers take a page from their book and release games under a Creative Commons license. Gamers are going to remix a publisher's game anyway, so the publisher might as well support their efforts.

  5. I like the idea, and I see it as an alternate way of dealing with things than the OGL or GSL. After all, people will always be talking about games, making houserules, posting monster and characters, etc. It's been around since the old mimeographed gaming fanzines. But in the 21st century, it's something that needs to be encouraged if you want your game to thrive.

    @modro – that's an issue to explore in posthumanist works. Is a copy of somebody's brain the same as the original? What about the changes that happen as it lives in a new form? You might want to read David Brin's Kiln People – it explicitly posits a soul and they have developed a technology that copies it into clay golems that only last for a day, but you can upload the memories back into the original. It would be interesting to play in that world.

  6. Yamir, we didn't use the OGL for a variety of reasons:

    * Years after its release, people are still super confused as to what OGL means and how it relates or doesn't relate to the (no longer active) d20 System Trademark License. Not to mention being confused about how to actually use the license for its intended purposes!

    * For marketing purposes, OGL is strongly tied to d20/D&D.

    * The OGL was built around games, while Creative Commons was built around wider media needs.

  7. Man, a lot of people just can't get past the downloading thing. I guess if you believe we'd all be inert husks without souls, it's challenging. But if I can suspend my disbelief to play a paladin whose god is real in D&D, I'd hope the religious types could manage the opposite for our game. 😉

    And thanks for the post, Mike. I'm happy to report that not only is CC a viable model for Posthuman — they pay their freelancers on time, too.

  8. I hadn't been playing RPGs for about ten years until I saw Eclipse Phase's artwork on 4chan. I heard about the concept and the game's release under Creative Commons. So I immediately downloaded the pdf and loved what I saw. I ordered it through Amazon because I couldn't play such a great game and not give some money to the creators. I'm now two weeks in.

    My point is that Creative Commons works. Had the art been copyrighted and pulled from 4chan, I might never have heard about EP in the first place.

    1. My experience was similar. Was looking for something new to try, besides DnD, and found Eclipse Phase.

      So far, loving it to pieces, can’t wait to try it out with my gaming group.

  9. Brock, that's a great comment to hear. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

    (Just to be clear though, we still do own the copyright on all Eclipse Phase art/text/etc … we just choose to share the content, not the copyright, with everyone, under the terms of the CC license.)

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