My First Session of Ghost/Echo

edited December 2009 in Actual Play
I introduced my friends to Ghost/Echo yesterday; I both ran it and played a character (Demon).

'You can't roll for sword'
We all enjoyed the mechanics, but I don't know if they are well described. One player rolled to make things happen rather than to do things (he'd roll to see if there was a sword, rather than to search the treasure for a sword or pull the sword out from where it was stuck).

I don't think we used dangers correctly. Many of them were not things that could 'remain', so we interpreted a 3-4 as a partial danger (for example, 'the wraith paralyses Coil' is not a danger that lingers, but he could be only partially paralysed).

I'm hoping you guys could walk me through some sample goals and dangers.

Poisoned, numbed, lethargic, wounded, acid burns on legs, acid burns on body.
I had an embarrassment of conditions because they were straightforward consequences of dangers, but only being poisoned was anything other than a drag on the story.

The problem was exacerbated because once someone had a condition dangers would be that the condition worsened (for example, 'he goes from wooziness to unconsciousness'). This never improved the story.

I'll recommend that we keep it to one condition for each person, one we develop and focus on.

Starting with something
I grabbed a stack of scrap papers and stamped them 'confidential'. I think the different papers – grid paper, A5 sheets, lined, unlined – that I think suited the jury-rigging, scavenger tone of the game.

I'd like to go further than this so the game begins with momentum. I would start each player with a character's diary. Mainly blank, it would have some sketches, snippets of writing and map pieces. This would be a source of inspiration and would encourage them to track the progress of the game and the development of their character.

You could easily be too prescriptive. Demon's diary would probably be blood-splattered with an angry font and a few references to staring into the Abyss, while the Demon I developed was calm and competent – he got his name because he pops up in a 'speak of the devil' kind of way.

Maybe at the very least a page with a number of headings like 'To do' and 'This is what we know about wraiths' for the players to fill in.

'A fire-powered calculator. It's that steampunk.'
We had problems establishing a shared theme. One player suggested 'The Watchtower' was a planet our spaceship was orbiting around. He wanted wraiths to be ethereal creatures untouchable by weapons. He also didn't want there to be a Real World. The other players weren't keen.

I found these creative differences difficult to resolve, particularly since I was also playing. I usually went with whatever the majority wanted.

I also insisted that exposition and revelations could only occur through play – you want all wraiths to have a vulnerability? Then listen for an echo and find out what this wraith is vulnerable to.

I'm considering a guide token that will rotate around – that's the person who frames and controls this scene, and decides what is true and false. Alternatively, a veto token – veto an idea, and you pass the token to the person whose idea you vetoed: allowing them to then veto someone. Alternatively, I could say a single person's vote against is enough for a veto.

'Chris, you're role-playing a surprised dog.'
In fact, I was role-playing a taxidermied guard dog whose only living property was its bark (bought from a goblin in the Night Carnival).

Ghost/Echo was an easy game to both play and run. I fished for suggestions, let the dangers drive the story and let other players narrate any characters they introduced. There's a savage joy in sending yourself and your allies into deeper and deeper danger. At one point, we were switching between two different scenes where everyone was either a PC or NPC – and then the two groups ran into each other. We just pushed some characters into the background, got a few PCs thrown out by the guards and swapped NPCs around so the less busy players narrated them.

Helicopter Jelly
I learned I don't need to be dictatorial regarding theme or dialogue because I can edit what is happening to fit what I like. For example, when we were a museum room dedicated to medical supplies there was a humorous interlude regarding the misfiling of 'helicopter jelly' which was clearly non-medicinal. It didn't fit my vision of the story, so I ignored it. My story stayed serious – I don't care what happens in anyone else's story.

'Nightwatch, Daywatch, Baywatch'
I tried and failed to enforce a rule: 'no other media'. Your character does not have the powers of a Siren from the Borderlands computer game. The wraith does not look like Marcus from Underworld 2. I think it's a good rule, but it was ignored.

'Ironic reimaginings of who they were before they got wraithed'
We created an amazing shared world, imagining the action as anime – over-the-top, lightly-sketched, fun and fast, not always tightly following continuity or the rules of drama. We found Coil after driving a train down the gullet of a giant worm; Coil had been sitting in there for months talking to the man he suspected was once his boss in the Railyard – Mr Wormy.

We were in an antique collector's house when we were discovered by an innocent guest, Mr Banner. We heard the antique collector approach, and so we convinced Mr Banner to hide among the cadavers with us as a practical joke.

'Oh Mr Banner!' we cried as he was rooted out from the corpses by the antique collector, as he was threatened with internment in the Box and as he was finally thrown into the gutter. He became the most fully-realised character in the game; when we sped off in our rollercoaster landspeeder his words closed the session:

'So, what exactly was all that about?'
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