Eclipse Phase – Barsoomian Liberation

I was on the Eclipse Phase forum when I realized I was A) trying to start a flame war and failing, and B) woefully off topic, so I thought I’d bring my thoughts here.

Basically, the argument was over how the Eclipse Phase setting writers egregiously pick sides regarding politico-economic organization to a nearly Randian extent (hey, I loved Atlas Shrugged as a work of science fiction); if you are with the anarcho-capitalist program, you’re good, but if you’re not, you’re likely either a bigot or a slave-owner or both.

There’s a big debate about this regarding the hypercorporation-controlled states and some similar entities, but more interesting to me was the failure of the books to be clear as to how unsympathetic the “Barsoomian Movement” is.

To recap, in Eclipse Phase, Mars is about 1/3 terraformed. There’s a nominally democratic government, but power devolved to a series of more or less corrupt city-states, several of which are wholly or partially controlled by hypercorporation interests or other minority factions.

In response, there is a popular movement of farmers, nomads, lower-class workers, and idealists that fights for a laundry list of grievances; it’s called the “Barsoomian Movement” (after the Burroughs novels), or just “the Movement.” There’s a political wing that participates in Tharsis League (Martian government) politics, and then…well, the books hint at terrorism, but they don’t say how much.

The degree to which the Movement uses terror to achieve its goals is, I think, a really important detail if you have a campaign on Mars. Depending on which group you take historical examples from, Mars can be a more or less tumultuous place.

For example, if the Movement’s militant wing is, at worst, the Weathermen, then characters can wander around the nice parts of Mars not really worrying about the Movement; bombs are likely going to destroy property, not people, with warnings often before they go off.

However, if the Movement has a militant wing more like the IRA, as a gamemaster you’re wholly justified interrupting a scene in hypercorporate-controlled Mars with, “that cafe just exploded.” Furthermore, contacts characters have might “disappear” if they get on the wrong side of the Movement.

If the players are working for Firewall to locate and destroy a particularly apocalyptic piece of technology, the Movement’s militant wing might find out and demand that the players surrender whatever nuclear weapon-level danger thing the players got their hands on for the cause of Martian independence.

And there are examples of other liberation movements that can really add to the “random messed up”-ness of a Martian campaign. The ANC’s militant wing spent some time leaving anti-tank mines under rural roads in South Africa before they realized they were blowing up more poor people than government convoys; Eclipse Phase has a Mars with a lot of long, mostly unpoliced stretches of road. Speaking of roads, ETA assassinated the Spanish Prime Minister with a bomb built in a tunnel under a major Madrid thoroughfare.

The limit placed on this by the material is that the Movement is not described as FARC, Shining Path, or the Viet Cong: it’s not a guerrilla army which holds territory outside the rule of the governments of Mars. So there aren’t going to be running gunfights on a regular basis between government troops and Movement forces, and there will be some limits on the violence as the Movement also does (according to the books) seek political legitimacy. But it can be pretty nasty.