Guys, all your advice is probably quite right for the games you're running, but Eclipse Phase isn't this game. Let me start with this paradigm shift for you.
Nobody in the setting can actually die! Well, almost nobody, with the citizens of a retrograde authoritarian republic being the exception. The rest just sleeve into a new morph. Yes, this means a "villain" being killed doesn't solve the problem with him. He's going to be back, possibly before the end of the day.
Psychological stress has more long-term repercussions than being killed, although you take stress from this event. OTOH, this applies to PCs as well, so a TPK isn't the end of the campaign, it's just a roadbump!
I'd say it requires its own set of tricks for making combat relevant. But as it is, you can have whole campaigns with no combat. A pacifist is actually a viable character concept, and not the sign of a guy that's trying to screw over the dungeoncrawling party.
Quite simply, it's not D&D, and that's part of why the fans love the setting to bits.
Um, more specifically...I'm actually not sure. As I think about it, I was basically just asking how to be a DM in a setting like this, but, I don't really think that's something where advice can be given...Such as what to say, how to handle information and how the players learn it, and so on.
On the contrary, advice on GMing can and should be given! It's just that it helps when it's more concentrated.
Fine, let me give you a couple of pointers. If they aren't enough, maybe they'd be enough so you could formulate more specific questions. General GMing advice takes more space, and more time to write.
First, re-read the setting book, and take notes on the power structures and any possible conspiracies. Second, pick an answer, but don't tell it to the players. Decide how these conspiracies manifest, and they should manifest in some way - finances not going as they're expected, unexpected rebellions, new technologies that shouldn't be possible.
Each and every one of those should get the attention of Firewall. Having the PCs being sent to investigate is a no-brainer after this.
Just remember, Eclipse Phase isn't a "zero to hero" game. Forget that stuff. The PCs can well start at the human maximum for the skills they specialise in, and they can only get slightly better later by acquiring a morph that gives them a bigger boost, and buying more moxie. But even starting characters are quite capable in what they choose to be good in!That's not a bug, it's a feature!
Your characters attracted Firewall's attention, didn't they? There's a reason for that
! They can still get better, but it's done by diversifying, getting better but expensive equipment, and better but insanely expensive morphs!
Also, knowing the right people cannot be overestimated. Having contacts with a high-ranking financist beats even having a hacker when you need to track finances. Of course, the hacker can steal some blueprints that the financist's company might want, so they might be the reason you met at all.
What would you recommend doing, if combat challenges aren't usually the way to go?
Non-combat challenges, which may or may not involve combat
Yes, it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not. In Eclipse Phase, combat is just part of a grander scheme, and you may not even be present for it. It might be your alter-ego fighting.
Simple question, who's more dangerous in combat in an industrial facility, the guy with the combat morph created for use in commando raids, the guy in the infomorph with hacker skills, or the psychic who can fuck up your brain?
Most people would give the wrong answer. The guy in the infomorph has no physical body you can target. Unless you jam communications, he can just make the facility itself fight you. He has no physical body, BTW, so... anyone having a "meat" morph? If so, how does he or she deal with this section of the habitat decompressing all of a sudden
? And don't even get me started about what this guy can do if there's a storage for angels nearby - fancy fighting a remote-controlled angry mob of killer robots
? If you die, the recording of your death will become a hit on some illegal channels for a week or so. And then people are going to forget you and move to the next shiny thing.
That's your problem, though. The infomorph guy, again, can only be beaten by a superior hacker, by tampering with communications, or by blowing up the whole habitat. Otherwise, he can just GTFO by uploading himself to a remote location, and maybe leave a beta-copy behind, just so you wouldn't get he's not there. The industrial incidents keep trying to get you, like in a horror movie with animated machines, and he's not even there any longer.
Just imagine that guy as antagonist. There are tens of thousands like him, BTW. Just note how many people were stuck in an infomorph after the Fall.
Or you can have a guy who fights the PCs. But let me point to you the morph modifications that allow you to destroy any traces of your identity, and upload your identity as it existed before the final bullet, to a remote point. Have a team of antagonists that have both. There's an organisation that's actually likely to have such teams.
Now, that's a combat challenge, but it's not generally because they can die. They have Firewall insurance, so they can't, re-sleeving from last save is what they can expect. The enemies also have insurance, generally, so just shooting someone isn't even enough to guarantee you wouldn't have to deal with him or her in the future. If anything, it means you're going to have to deal with them more!
No, in EP, people fight for two reasons.
First, to carry out their plans or to disrupt someone else's plans. Maybe to stop a mutant infestation, maybe to sneak in and our of a corporation, leaving a bug behind, maybe to obtain secret documents, maybe to keep secret their network of spies that prepare a rebellion on Mars. Possibilities are endless.
The second stake is to keep their own memories, and to get the opponents. Lose, and the opponents can retrieve your stack first. Given psychochirurgy, this mean the enemies might very well have access to your plans, the passwords for your banking accounts and so on.
And since we said accounts, what happens if someone who claims to be you starts acting in weird ways? He is you, but he's on the other side now. What happens to your reputation in the social medias? Remember, it acts as your money in some habitats!
How about 12 such guys, all of them having different personality quirks to distinguish them from "you", but all of them sharing all of your memories up to the day you lost that fight
? When you meet them, they would be entitled to tell you "you and I aren't so different". Because you aren't, and science can only confirm it!
Who's the real "you"? Who's the friend your friends have been drinking with? If they have to choose, who are they going to pick for being friends with? Who's married to your spouse, if they all claim it's them
Whether such things are going to happen all depends on who you pissed off. Some people might do it just to see what resources you can muster that they didn't learn about.
And does a PC has something they wish for? Actually, we already know they do, it's part of the character generation. What do they do if each of them gets approached, separately, by whatever comminication channel it is they use, and someone offers it to them?
Would they betray their other ideals, their friends in the party, and their mission? Because remember, someone now knows what you wish for
If the enemies aren't using such tactics, combat isn't generally a problem. Win and the NPC is likely going to be re-sleeved in another body by the insurance company, from last available save. He can even testify against the PCs for killing him - although, depending on habitat, it might not be "manslaughter" charges, but "destruction of private property: morph, slightly used" and "inflicting psychological stress, with possible long-term repercussions". Being killed is traumatic; and surprisingly, the "stress" might get them an even heavier fine.
Or it might be "manslaughter", and the penalty might get them thrown out of the habitat in the space without a suit, and having their memory records in this habitat being destroyed. This is one of the few ways to kill off a PC or NPC, and it only works if there aren't other records.
Again, it depends on where you are, punishments for killing vary. As a general rule, though, Eclipse Phase is a setting where Chaotic Stupid gets you killed and destroyed.
OTOH, how do they get what they want if fighting is to be absolutely the last resort?
Media campaigns, publicity stunts and getting high reputation are actually more efficient. Divide the task in sub-segments. Half of them might well be accomplished by knowing the right people. That's what Reputation in the right network is for
Want some info? There's a reason there are hacking rules. As a GM, you should get good at multi-tasking, because it's quite likely the other players would be doing something else while the hacker works.
The people I play with are used to games more or less where things just focus around combat, crawling through the dungeon and killing everything and collecting the reward. Should I work on more RPing challenges?
As pointed above, yes. Killing stuff tends to get you destroyed morphs, and new stacks, but there's little point in it otherwise. None of those are particularly valuable, unless the people with these stacks knew anything important. Investigations, gathering resources, building and destroying reputations and relationships, are all more important than your PCs physical powers. They come in handy at times, but I can side-step the need for them with simply having enough resources to buy what I need for my morph, so killing me doesn't affect me.
And BTW, are you sure you want to kill those people? There's no black and white morality in this setting. You're likely to end up fighting people that have a common goal with you, but your ideas on the best way to achieve it are radically different. Don't believe me?
The Jovian Republic has the goal of saving humanity, just like Firewall. Except they do it by refusing people even the right to have their own stacks, and there's no guarantee their approach is going to work - because neither they nor you really can understand the enemy! However, they'd consider you an abomination just for having re-sleeved, ever.
Sounds really likely that the PCs would end up fighting them, doesn't it? And yet you do have common goals. You might end up allying with people that couldn't care less about your goals, in order to defeat the Jovians.
Cue the sounds of black and white morality being shot in the head
Well, hope that helps. If you need more help, ask about whatever might be unclear