GHOST/ECHO: Oracle Game Experiment and PDF



  • Yup! The ship's owner, .COIL (another PC) named it after the neighbourhood he lives in (Echo Park, also off the list). Seriously, once wE got cookin' the thing took on a life of its own.
  • Oh, and .GRIP, our pilot, was the one who left the prologue guys to die...
  • edited March 2009
    Let's see if I can shed a bit more light on our setting here. That is, if I can puzzle out Ryan's handwritten notes and my own memories. :P

    The first of the five major factions is one that Ryan already mentioned: The Teachers of the Transcendental Light. They're a religious group that seem to be pushing some sort of "Truth". The key factor is that their Teachers are both addicted to, and pushers of, the Starlight drug. Are they worshippers of the Old Ones, Ryan? That would make sense. Their centre of operations is the Cathedral Hill complex.

    The Pact Confederacy is what you would get if the you were to turn the United States into a militarist, fascist state. Think post-9/11 patriotism and paranoia taken to the nth degree. Their government espouses freedom, while monitoring their citizens' every move.

    Inevit is another fascist state, but more in the fashion of North Korea. This is a dictatorship that solely supports the dictator, and stresses structure as the key to a well-maintained society. Militaristic, with rigid social hierarchies.

    The Circle is wealthy, capitalist society. Based initially on a few small islands, the Circle annexed more and more territory, until they became a major player in world politics. They spread not through military conquest, but economic means. To outsiders, they present a very tempting image: their diplomats throw extravagant, hedonistic parties, and (on TV, at least) their cities look to be the epitome of clean, safe, and high-tech. Whether or not things are quite so bright and shiny for its citizens is a matter of much debate.

    Lastly, we have the ironically-named Human Accord, a transhumanist society that pushes cybernetics and genetic modification as the next step for humanity. While other societies toy with modifications, citizens of the Human Accord are not beyond replacing their entire bodies with cybernetic constructs. They do their best to bring more converts into the fold, and don't willingly let anyone leave. Belltown is a haven for HA ex-pats, and you'll also come across HA operatives who are trying to recover their "lost friends".

    Belltown itself is an independent nation-state, formerly a protectorate of the now "slightly-irradiated" Meridian. It remains independent due to the tensions between the other factions; if any one were to move to control Belltown (and thus the Ghost World entrance), then the others would be forced to act against them. Most of the places on the list are probably in Belltown. In particular, Cathedral Hill and Grand Central. We also established that the Night Carnival was a sort of red-light district, where one can acquire any sort of holoporn, prostitute, or narcotic. I believe our Vixen is going to be moonlighting as a Night Carnival operator when he's not raiding the ghost world.

    As for the Old Ones I've mentioned, what we're doing in our sessions here is that we're toying with a bunch of different games, and we're connecting the storyline in each game with a common thread. Our GHOST/ECHO game is set in the same world as the short In a Wicked Age game we just finished playing, only some tens of thousands of years in the future. The Old Ones were a concept in the IaWA game, a dying society of super-powered humans whom we never interacted with directly (though at one point we might very well play game where we play Old Ones).

    Suffice it to say, this is some fairly detailed stuff. The fact that we came up with all this in only an hour or two just from looking at this one sheet speaks volumes about the GHOST/ECHO approach, John. We love what you've done, and I for one would love to see more like it.
  • I've been thinking about making the Oracle aspects of the game more prevalent, possibly creating full lists (13 entries, after IaWA) for /Others (Hearts), /Places (Clubs), /Loot (Diamonds), a fourth, possibly /Incident (Spades). I'd also add a separate Oracle list for /Ghost World that isn't defined by suit, only face. My thought is to add another die category, something along the lines of:

    Die Roll Action
    1 Draw a card for any Oracle, excepting /Ghost World (player's choice)
    2-3 Draw a card for /Others and /Places
    4-5 Draw a card for /Loot and /Incident
    6 Draw a card for /Ghost World

    My thinking behind this is simply to create an extra incentive to develop the story/game world. Whatever Oracle is drawn must be narrated into the current scene/next scene(?).

    Of course, to do this I'd need to create a fuller Oracle.

    Is this a good idea? Bad Idea? Any suggestions or comments on this idea?

  • I realize I made a mistake. I don't know what I was thinking. The deck should be shuffled and players draw randomly from the deck. So:

    1.....Draw a card for /Ghost World
    2-3..Draw a single card from the Oracle Deck
    4-5..Draw two cards from the Oracle Deck
    6.....No draw

    Now to complete the Oracle...

  • Michael - sounds cool. I'd recommend getting at least one session "as-is" under your belt, then using your Oracle method for returning to that setting. With a bunch of players at the table (and not too many preconceived ideas), you get this great buy-in and it will probably give you gobs of Oracle-making material that you wouldn't have even thought of otherwise.
  • Christian@88 thanks for the 50 color copies at Gamestorm. Most of them seemed to be taken by the end of the con. I passed one along to Rob Heinsoo as part of trying to lure him to GPNW09. I brought along a few on cardstock in protective plastic sleeves and had at least one with me the whole con but never got a chance to try running it, although I would have liked to.

    Perhaps at GPNW, especially if there's a chance to set Matthew Klein on fire with it.
  • I don't know if anyone played it right there at the con. It was in my "Games On Demand" basket, but we ended up playing Magical Land of Yeld for most of that time, and then I got sucked into a Street Fighter IV tournament by accident.

    Carl, I didn't even see Rob this time. I meant to check in with him, after we sat on the panel together last year, where I'd handed him a copy of Beast Hunters. That's when he told me about the Dogs game he'd played, where they ended up with a standoff between the Dogs (as is not uncommon with the game :), and how intense that was. He definitely seemed like a very cool, approachable guy.
  • Rob is indeed cool and approachable, and lots of fun to game with, not that that happened this time. He was mostly on panels, and ran a couple sessions of D&D4e, I think. I hope to lure him to GPNW; he was great in that DitV game at Gen Con So Cal a few years back. Maybe some Mountain Witch...

    There were Games on Demand? I totally would have signed up to GM for that if I'd known!
  • Rob is a buddy of mine. I'll try to lure him to the GPNW goodness, too.
  • So it's been a month and a half now since John hit us with this super cool idea. Has anyone fiddled about with a version of their own? How about that 2-page D&D thing that Judd was thinking about?

    The awesomeness of the format really makes me want to play but I'm not sure the Ghost/Echo setting is a ship I could sail myself.
  • I've had a couple of ideas (and run them by John), but haven't actually put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard and mouse). I think part of the issue is that, for me, the genre makes this kind of fact based presentation fit well, doing something in another genre can feel a little more forced.

    Of course the result seeming weird or forced isn't a good reason not to do it. Maybe I'll get around to it.
  • G/E took a total of 3 hours to make.

    Just sayin'.
  • Very good point. I've had vague notions along those lines too. The kind of short, concise style in which John presents Ghost/Echo, and the way he's structured the info, goes extremely well with that setting and probably anything else with a modern or futuristic touch. It'd be a big contrast against a wooly fantasy game of wizard leprechauns though. If you're gonna manage to take up that little space and still give people enough to work with themselves, it be best to take any chance to convey the setting's feel/gist/essence - of course including how it's presented.

    I might totally be stating the obvious here but it's something I've become kind of intrigued by just this last year and still have thirst for exploring and talking about - hence my fascination for this ingenious format.
  • edited March 2009
    I've been inspired to work up some oracles of my own. I've got the front page of my first one done, just have to try to squeeze rules and art in on the back. I'm thinking about making it ledger size and foldable though because I'm making a couple rules additions and I'd like to include a small character sheet. I'm not a layout guru so it's definitely taking me more than three hours. Trying to cram in more stuff than I probably should doesn't help.

    The basic oracle format/concept is a perfect fit for all those little game ideas we all get that we don't have the time/energy/inclination to take any farther than one piece of paper would allow. You get an inspirational compact game seed that you can pull out any time you want play minus prep and want to avoid an abundance of setting and rules wankery. Eventually I'd like to have a book/binder full of oracles, with a single sheet up front that explains the very basic ideas behind a story game and a simple glossary to cover questions for the uninitiated like "what the heck is a GM?".
  • Just got around to really reading this guy and realizing I'd ran a game mechanically identical late last year, but along with "The Goal" and "The Danger" were some other worldly pressures acting on the characters. The additional mechanics I'm using are scene-resolving, not conflict resolving, and in any given round the world is at stake. Similar, but a little less cyber, and more epic death metal fantasy.

    Every time we've run it, the players have become gods. Every time. I call that good stuff.
  • Posted By: JarrodJust got around to really reading this guy and realizing I'd ran a game mechanically identical late last year, but along with "The Goal" and "The Danger" were some other worldly pressures acting on the characters. The additional mechanics I'm using are scene-resolving, not conflict resolving, and in any given round the world is at stake. Similar, but a little less cyber, and more epic death metal fantasy.

    Every time we've run it, the players have become gods. Every time. I call that good stuff.
    Tell me more... that sounds awesome.
  • edited March 2009
    I'm tinkering with an Exalted port because I have developed an obsession for such ports (more than for the setting itself, in fact), and also a sort of Byzantine urban fantasy thing. It's that first page of setting I find challenging. After exploring things like haiku, document fragments, and so forth, I might be reverting to some form of flavored list and focused circumstance as a game kicker. If I have something together in time, I'll run it at GPNW and see how it plays.

    Edited for clarity.
  • I've launched my own little Harper project, just to play with the format and to test my own layout/design skills. The first one is done, and the second is in the formative stages. I am spending way more than three hours on each though. My fledgeling layout skills are not as much to blame as trying to communicate as much as possible within the limited format, yet leaving the images open for interpretation. The oracle-game format is sort of the haiku of RPG-design.

    And the constraints are extremely useful as a learnng experience. I highly recommend it.

    Oh and its a perfect excuse to play with photoshop.
  • Cool! When do we get to see your games, Kaare?
  • I am hampered by the lack of internett connections at home, so the grand plan of creating my design blogg (where I plan to post them) is kinda on hold. But if curiosity overtakes you, whisper me you mailadress or drop me a line at kaare.berg alfathingy gmail dot com and I'll be more than happy to mail it over.
    The meme needs spreading, neh?
  • I've had an idea related to this that I probably won't get around to doing anything with on my own so I'm just throwing it out there instead of keeping it locked up.

    Imagine a first page that's a journal from some earlier expedition, where to doesn't really matter as long as it's really exotic. Here you find short and clearly subjetive accounts of this foreign land, complete with a list of facts (maybe local customs etc.) that can be used when appropriate or if the players run out of other ideas. Now, the whole point of this is that we don't know which of these facts are true, we only know once we preform the traditional greeting for example. I've been thinking that you roll for these as usual - the goal might be "perform the peace dance" but if you fail, well it wasn't a peace dance was it? The tricky part I guess is setting good dangers related to these things since you definitely can get in trouble even if you perform the dance correctly or not get in trouble even though the formal greeting turned out to be a hideous insult.

    A variation of this popped up yesterday. In that version there'd be a list of rules for the Goblin Market that someone's jotted down on a ragged piece of paper. What's true, what's not?
  • My Little Game Chef game was partially inspired by Ghost/Echo. It's a bit more textually dense and specific, but it's meant to promote long-term play using a few very simple rules that could be easily adapted to other kinds of stories. Unfortunately, I can't tell you which game was mine yet, until the judging is over :) But I'm hoping that, after LGC is over, I can strip the game engine down to a few core guidelines and post it on a one-sided sheet of paper (1/2 the length of Ghost/Echo).
  • My LGC is also a textually dense G/E descendant. I'm actually kind of surprised that most of the LGC 2-pagers have little/nothing to do with the oracle concept.

  • Anders, that's exactly what I was thinking: evocative, utterly subjective document fragments offering a limited point of view open to in-game interpretation.
  • Posted By: John HarperG/E took a total of 3 hours to make.

    Just sayin'.
    I consider that a challenge. And: your on, I'll do it.
  • edited April 2009
    A lot fewer terms to work with than G/E, but here's my one page Dogma Game: Codename Eliezer.

    Obviously I also lack John's design skills.
  • edited April 2009
    Nice, Sage. I think the concept is really evocative. It would be cool to have a full page devoted to the mysterious transmission and the survivors. But there's enough there now to run with, I think.

    Your game should have its own thread! People might not notice it buried in here.
  • RyRy
    edited April 2009
    Session 2:


    [Subject:.WHITE sold s out]

    .SWITCH, sh*thead that works for .WHITE mor than s, was waiting ghostside. Pellet gun strapt 2 his GHOST, comes out from behind skyscaprs.

    Hit with Pellet, so we wer scorched. .SWITCH ghosted out. Wraith.HAWKs around, but .VIXEN shot some and I f*cked m up good wth the ghostfield - made 2 fly into ech other.

    .HULL tried fixing the drive, .GRIP freaked out, and some kind of wraith was climbing up the side of the ECHO. .COIL and .VIXEN shot it. Lookt lik a wraith.VIPER - bt had human face!

    .GRIP said the human+wraith.VIPER was a crew that she tried 2 do srchnrescue for, but lef bhind. I pokt t field, got crazy stuff out of his head (tel u l8r).

    we got back (obvsly), crasht /ECHO a little, and grb'd a GrandCentralSecurty cart ovr to .SWITCH's shp. I fel off t cart, disloctd shldr, but .COIL badassd, flipt t cart, .HULL rolld on his wheels and caugt .SWITCH. .COIL and .VIXEN got knokt out whn t cart flipt. I pulled out gun, big gun, made .SWITCH fly us over Cathedral Hill so GrandGrandCentralSecurty cudnt chase us (airspc). Arm hurt, but staying clean, no drugs. I past out aftr .COIL and .VIXEN wok up.

    We r gonna lay low in Canals, .VIXEN has contacts. We r going 2 get patcht up, fnd .WHITE, kill hm.

    Mis u.

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  • edited April 2009
    The preceding was typed up entirely on Demon's iLink. They still haven't perfected those touch-screen keyboards. :P
  • hey, typing / spelling isn't exactly the primary educational outcome when your teachers are all pushing drugs.
  • Wow, Eliezer looks sexy as all hell. This makes me wanna write my shit up even more. Soon as I get laid off in two weeks, expect a serious productivity spike.
  • edited April 2009
    Posted By: John HarperNice, Sage. I think the concept is really evocative. It would be cool to have a full page devoted to the mysterious transmission and the survivors. But there's enough there now to run with, I think.

    Your game should have its own thread! People might not notice it buried in here.
    I was writing a page 2 which was just a transmission/boot record from Mk II, but I didn't quite like the way it was going. It ended up being a mix of minor setting suggestion stuff and vaugely humorous computer stuff, plus it pinned down Mk II too much. There could definitely be more setting-suggesting material, maybe I'll give that another shot.
  • So you're supposed to play Eliezer with no GM, right? What's a Dogma game?
  • edited April 2009
    Posted By: Ryan StoughtonSo you're supposed to play Eliezer with no GM, right? What's a Dogma game?
    I don't know, how do you play it? Or G/E?

    I'm going to follow John's tack and attempt to stay silent about what I had in mind, I tried to put down something very open ended.

    I will note that there's something interesting about the survivor's names that I'm not sure will be noticed.

    Edit: Oh yeah, a dogma game was just another name tossed around for a G/E style thing. Probably should have just called it an oracle game.
  • I don't want to derail the G/E thread, so I've spun off a new thread for Codename Eliezer.
  • Played a swift, very loose one-shot of this tonight. The "fill in the blanks" style ended up much more entertaining than I'd have expected! Some highlights:

    .PAPER was indeed literally paper, but laced with a Ghost World drug that people with the ability to cross into the Ghost World (the /CREW, natch) needed to survive. /LOOT it, smoke it, live a little longer.
    .METAL was the material .WRAITHS, monstrous guardians of the Ghost World, were made of.
    .STONES were batteries of power needed for the most impressive feats of Ghost World manipulation.

    At one point, the /CREW needed to decide who would risk life and limb to win some .STONES at .THE NIGHT CARNIVAL. They did so by playing rock-scissors-paper, except that of course it was .STONE/.METAL/.PAPER...

    Early on, "sucked into the void" was a custom DANGER the GM added to a die roll to cross back to the normal world, representing the malign influence of an inky black sphere at the top of .THE WATCHTOWER. It got a "neutral" die assigned to it, meaning the danger remained. Later this was added to another die roll, came true, and thus opened a permanent doorway between the normal world and the Ghost World. Shutting it back down became the adventure hook for the rest of the game!

    Clever stuff, John. My favorite part of the design is that the GM never rolls dice, leading to the definitely Shadowrun-esque sense that all trouble the /CREW suffers is trouble they brought upon themselves!
  • Cool stuff, Edward. I like the .PAPER interpretation especially.
  • 3rd session, also awesome. Mostly spent time outside of the Ghost World, and our artifact is starting to talk (after we gave it some digital dictionaries).

    Those dice mechanics are still serving us well, in terms of creating unresolved dangers like a gang that got offended by the shootout we had on their turf.
  • Glad to hear it. That Vincent Baker... man can make mechanics, yes sir.
  • Was the quantum middle (3-4 leave things unresolved) you or Vincent?
  • I really don't know. We (Vx and I) talked about Otherkind dice at GenCon but I don't remember the details. I think of that 3-4 result as "the way it's done" but I don't know if that's me misremembering or adding something or just straight from Vincent's head.

    The suggested danger for each action type is my thing, though. I'm pretty proud of that.
  • Here is the link to the original post on Vincent's site if anybody is interested in the permutations...
  • Finished the cycle; it was awesome. We got the drop on .WHITE in his hotel, kidnapped him, copied his confidential and classified Pact Confederacy documents, hacked into his Pact Defence information network account, and convinced him that if we ever saw someone coming after us, we were going to sell those secrets on the cheap.

    The game ended with us headed back to the Ghost World, this time for our "big score".
  • Cool, Ryan. How many sessions did you play?
  • edited May 2009
    John, that was three 2-3 hour sessions. It's taken so long because we only meet every other week, and life has gotten in the way lately. :S But anywho, it ended up being quite the great game!

    Edit: Oh right, forgot our test/prologue session. So that's four.
  • Four, altogether. The dark prologue and then 3 of the main game - basically a 3 act structure of get in trouble, dig in deeper but know what's happening, pwnz the badguy.

    I found that as we were in the last 2 sessions we were making up dangers more freely.

    Also, it should be noted that our party is completely untrustworthy with boats, and will always forfeit deposits on any rental.
  • So hey, John, did you ever make any progress on that "How to GM Ghost/Echo" pdf?
  • I have some notes, yeah. But I think they may end up being a blog post or something, not part of the PDF. I like keeping the PDF spartan and suggestive.
  • Like it,

    Looks like Ghost/Echo Ghostbusters will be happening sometime.
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