GHOST/ECHO: Oracle Game Experiment and PDF



  • I am a late comer to this thread, as I don't hang around on story-games too much. I have to say, though, that I love this one-sheet game setup. I find that, for me, there is plenty here with which to play a one shot.

    I plan to start my players in media res and have the game be a slow reveal. I will start with an action scene ... the wraith attack described in the two-sentence setup. (Paraphrased: You were looting and were sold out. Wraiths attack.) The pacing mechanic will be me asking revealing questions of the players. I'll use a chip economy to move the questions around so everyone gets to decide some things about the world. (Each player gets a fixed number of chips to spend, and they have to spend a chip to answer a question. That way they can all answer the same amount, but can go when inspired.) A good starting question might be "You are trying to get out of the ghost world but something is preventing your exit. What?" Once the players get through the wraith attack, they can work to undo the condition that is preventing their escape.

    While doing this, they can discover their powers (a question they can essentially answer at any time), flashback to why they were looting in the first place, etc. Hopefully I can introduce each question by linking it to the environment. The flashback question, for instance, might go like "You stop to catch your breath and see your own face in a puddle of water on the street. Your eyes look haunted as they remember how you go into this mess. Tell me about it." (Okay, that's not technically a question, but you get the idea.)

    As a GM my goal will be to push it enough that each character gets damaged or has to sell out on goals to some extent. Ideally, I would like to see a player or two die and/or make a big sacrifice. When each player has a chip or less to spend I'll know end game is coming up and can push for closure.

    All this requires a pretty creative group. Luckily I game with some kick ass players.
  • That sounds good, Troy. Just be careful about pre-loading outcomes too much. Trying to force things so someone "makes a big sacrifice" can get weird and railroady. Wraith threats and wiley NPCs are good GM tools for this game. The system chews up the PCs just fine without you needing to force it very much at all.
  • edited June 2009
    Cool. RR was definitely not my intention. Do you see this as possibly GM-less? I guess my first instinct was to imagine myself running the game and bringing enough adversity to the table that players had to either be very, very good or they had to be willing to tear themselves up a bit to survive or help others survive. I am thinking about two things now. One of them is the odds. As you say, the system is likely to chew people up pretty good without any pushing. The other thing I'm thinking is, does it really need a GM or could you play it round-robin style?
  • I think you could play it without a classic GM, yeah -- round robin style.
  • I ran some tests last night to get my head around Otherkind dice. It is a surprisingly fun mechanic to mess with as a solitaire exercise, either to test an encounter/scenario or just to exercise the imagination. I am, however, having trouble keeping goals and dangers on separate continuum. This is especially true in Suffer Harm. Here is an example sequence of events.

    I sneak into the Railyard to dig up some stones I detected there. I get the stones (5), but I am detected (2).
    I run and vipers descend on me. Acting under pressure I manage to escape (6), but suffer harm (1).
    [This is where it goes wonky for me.]
    I roll to endure the pain and keep running. The possible outcomes are:

    Succeed-Succeed. I fight off the pain and keep running. I am not incapacitated.
    Fail-Succeed. I don't fight off the pain and must walk, crawl, or just stop and pant. But I am not incapacitated.
    Succeed-Fail. I fight off the pain and keep running. BUT, I am incapacitated?
    Fail-Fail. I don't fight off the pain and I must stop. I am incapacitated, I black out.

    The goal and the danger are too closely aligned, so the "like" results (succeed x 2 or fail x 2) seem redundant while the mixed results seem a little or a lot oxymoronic.

  • Cool. I love game questions!

    First, you decide when you roll to endure harm. It can be immediately or much later, depending on how you want to handle it. I like to be really specific about the harm (your leg is broken) and that informs when we roll to endure it (I run on my broken leg!).

    Now, about mixed results. Mixed results are part of what make G/E an "oracle game" in my mind. They give you a result to interpret in the context of the fiction. Sometimes a result might seem incongruous at first glance, but that's okay. Apply one or more of these principles:

    1. It doesn't all have to happen instantly. If you get incapacitated, for example, that can manifest at a future point if need be. Think of the result as "hovering" nearby, waiting for the right moment to drop in to the fiction.
    2. The result doesn't have to depend only on what is currently present in the fiction. If you need to introduce new elements to account for a result, that's usually a good thing. It builds the world.
    3. Borrow! If you really can't think of a way to incorporate a result from one action type or danger, grab a result from another action type instead. "'Incapacitated' doesn't make sense to me here. How about 'you're put in a bad position' instead?"
    4. Be very specific about the fictional actions and consequences. This is good general play advice. It's not "harm" it's "two bullet wounds to your right arm." It's not "a bad position" it's "four Wraiths have you cornered in the Tower." The specific details will better help paint a picture for how to apply the results to the situation.

    So, for your example:

    Fail-Succeed: You're not incapacitated, but you can't keep running. You have to hole up where you are rather than making it to your destination. You can still do stuff wherever you are though, since you're not incapacitated. Like call in for pickup or help or whatever.

    Succeed-Fail: You fight off the pain and keep running. You make it to your preferred destination. But then you collapse. The strain was just too much.

    Does that help?
  • edited June 2009
    Excellent. Not only was that answer helpful, it makes sense too. If you ever finish your 1-pager on "how to play" G/E, you should include the above four points.
  • So I just whipped up some Character Sheets cum Setting prompts for GHOST/ECHO; kinda like conceptual pregens based on Tarot cards. I added a bit of transhuman flavor and deviated somewhat from the "core" aesthetic. My group and I plan to be running this coming Sunday; I'll let you know how it turns out. I'm going to leave a few of them here as I wanted to share what I was doing with the game. There are about nine of them. If anyone is interested in the rest, just let me know.

  • Posted By: Nathan WilsonIf anyone is interested in the rest, just let me know.
  • Thanks, I'll take that as a compliment. There are enough here to run it at a Con or something. You could even double up on them in the same group, there's enough blank on each sheet that one could make distinct characters. Hell, you could run a whole crew with the same prompt, making them all Magicians or Lovers, or whatever.

    I've just noticed there are some minor grammatical mistakes in some of the //BIO, so forgive me for that. And the occasional genre reference in them.

    A note on the //CURRENCY section: I'm probably going to working that into something analogous to the typical Stat block most games have, except its more a measure of your wealth. _EFT is like networked social capital - think Facebook meets Wall Street. I think I stole the idea from Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. _PHARMA is the amount of drugs, typically hard to make/illegal drugs, you have on you and can be used to barter with or traded as commodities. _MASS I was thinking would be like exotic but stable types of matter/ectoplasm/essence/alchemical goodies, that can be used to buy/sell/&c. Additionally, I figured they'd all be rated one through six so that the player could roll against them to see if they could use they wealth to their advantage or something. Maybe burn them for some special effect. I don't know really.

    I can email the original .pfds to anyone who wants them. They're Letter-sized. Again, just let me know. Oh, and the Template I made in Adobe Illustrator if you what to come up with some of your own in the same vein.

    Also, I'm probably going to be making some more up tomorrow; working my way through the rest of the Major Arcana.

    Enough preamble, here are the rest:
  • Awesome!
  • Yes, it should. Thanks guys.
  • Wow, Nathan. Amazing. I can't wait to hear how the game goes.

    And I'd love to look at the PDFs. I'm oneseven via the google email thingy.
  • HOT. The bio on Death is especially pretty.
  • edited June 2009
    Yeah, it's a poem by Ted Hughes called Examinations at the Womb-door, from the collection Crow.

    John, sure thing. They might be followed by some updated versions wherein I correct the spelling/grammar.

    [EDIT: They've been cleaned up a bit; fixed the major errors &c.]
  • So, I made up nine more plus cleaned up some of the old ones. I can email them to whomever is interested.

  • Played GHOST/ECHO for the first time and had a surprisingly solid game considering that neither my wife and I had any idea what we were going to do with it going in.

    Just trying to escape the Undercross turned into a real trial with wraith-beasts hot on our heels and more ahead. As the tide came in (bringing more ghosties with it), we were whisked off to a hideaway on the edge of the ghostlands. Later the action took us to the Night Carnival, where the living and the dead mingle for business and pleasure. Or both?

    It was a fairly short session as far as these things go, but gave us a taste of collaborative world-creation and made for a few good scenes. We plan to continue on. For more detail, I did an extensive write-up on my blog which I'll probably repost on SG in the next day or two.
  • I'm really intrigued by this game, and am trying to get a PBP session going over here. New folks welcome!
  • Grip huddled within the darkness of some random alley, Coil unconscious and possibly dying at his side. The night’s events played over and over in his head. Everything had happened so quickly he was sure it had been a set-up. One minute he and his crew were crouched beneath Chalk Street Bridge preparing to infiltrate Neon Cathedral. The next, chaos and confusion.

    The Veil had gaped before them. Breaker’s crew burst forth from across the gap and opened fire. Grip’s crew was unprepared, pinned down against the walls of the bridge. Hull was out front and took a psyche-slug straight to her third eye. Fortunately Coil had had the foresight to append an Echo to each of them. With a word the Echoes reverberated, twisting the crew inward and sending them away with a pop. Grip reconstructed in the alley, his Ectoskeleton wrecked. Coil lay nearby, his body exhausted from the Echo manipulation. There was no way to know which way Demon and Vixen had gone. They’d have to fend for themselves.

    And now here he was lost in Ghost World, an easy target while his Ectoskeleton was out of commission. Here he’d be visible to every Wraith that swam in the Ghost Field. And it would only be a matter of time before Breaker and his crew came gunning for him. But Grip still had a few tricks up his sleeves. He took several calming breaths, reached into the Veil and pulled free a slip of Aether. He draped the gossamer cloak over both himself and Coil. The cloak wouldn’t dim their presence for long - it would dissipate within the hour - but there should be enough time for the Ectoskeleton to repair itself. Once it was functional Grip could open the Veil and return home.

    Latch had some explaining to do.
  • Hi Orly,

    I am very interested in your work on Ghost/Echo combined with Major Arcana, can I have your pdf?

    My own experiments in that direction: There might be a connection between Locations and Arcana.

    For example: The Watchtower = the Tower, etc.
  • This game reminds me of several topics I am interested in:

    Shamanic journey
    Oracles: Tarot, I Ching
    Rules-lite storytelling games

    Let me give it a try!

    First take:
    Trying to connect Major Arcana and Locations did not work for me.
    Looking back, I realise the Major Arcana belong to the Paths, not to the Sephira!
    Maybe I should connect the Minor Arcana to Locations!

    Second take:
    Made some index cards for Crew, Goal/Danger, Wraith.
    Thinking of that other nice game: Under the Bed
    I can connect Goal/Danger cards with Crew and/or Wraith!

    Crew can basically roll 1 die, but if he uses his special skill (Goal/Danger) he might add another die.

    DEMON crew, special skill Channel Ghostfield.
    SPIDER wraith, special skill Catch.

    work in progress...
  • I wonder, how does Ghost/Echo (or the otherkind mechanics) handle player vs player opposed actions?
  • If I wanted to use Ghost/Echo as a template for another setting, what copyrights/comments/credits/creative commons codes/contraints should I observe and/or apply?
  • Give credit to Vincent Baker (for the Otherkind dice system) and to me, for the hacked version in G/E. And follow the CC guidelines. That's it!
  • Coolness, thanks. Thinking about running G/E or a variant at Fear the Con next year.
  • Some more ideas...

    Universe: World of Darkness (core setting) 2012 CE. Preliminary Story: The Crewmembers are part of the experimental Shadowrun team of the Orpheus-0rganization; their mission is to find top secret information before the Others find it.

    Do you have any idea what kind of crewmember you would like to be?

    Good at...(pick one)
    acting under pressure
    suffer harm
    commit to violence
    manipulate/hold steadfast
    channel ghostfield
    listen for echoes

    Pick an archetype:

    Try to visualize the skilled archetype of your choice.

    Work in progress...
  • How do you guys handle player vs player conflict in GHOST/ECHO ?
  • Posted By: John HarperGive credit to Vincent Baker (for the Otherkind dice system) and to me, for the hacked version in G/E. And follow the CC guidelines. That's it!
    This is basically what I did with FUBAR, which was my own hack and expansion of GHOST/ECHO.
  • Posted By: John HarperG/E took a total of 3 hours to make.

    Just sayin'.
    Ghost/Echo must set the indie rpg record for person-hours of play / person-hours of development.
  • QuiQui
    edited July 2011
    Continuing my development:

    The Ghost Universe consists of several Ghost Worlds, each
    interconnected by Datastreams (Echo-Paths).

    Travelling the Datastreams is a specialized skill: by channeling the
    Ghost Field, some adepts can open temporary Gates to the Paths.

    Using the Major Arcana (e.g. Amber Trumps) is one of the many possible
    ways of Pathworking!
    Other Traditions use: Tattva Symbols, Hermetic Seals, Bagua, etc.

    A Grip who is specialized in Listening at Echoes, has the skill to
    detect functional Paths.
    Every method has its own risks....

    A Grip has an affinity for Echoes, seems something like an ESPer to
    me, maybe a bit too sensitive at a fault?
    In that case , relations with the brute Hulk or scary Demon might be
    tense, relations with sensual Vixen or devious Coil might be wary.
  • My take on Grip was hands that could reach into the Ghost Field. There are a lot of ways to play that schtick.
  • QuiQui
    edited July 2011

    I expanded your inspiration:
    1 act under pressure
    2 infiltrate/steal
    3 suffer harm
    4 commit to violence
    5 manipulate/hold steadfast
    6 channel ghostfield
    7 listen for echo

    IF every 2 skills creates an AVATAR:
    2+3 = HULL
    1+4 = COIL
    2+5 = VIXEN
    2+7 = GRIP
    6+7 = DEMON

    1+2 = WHEEL
    1+3 = BEAR
    2+4 = VENOM
    3+4 = BREAKER
    1+5 = NIX
    3+5 = CARRIER
    4+5 = SWITCH
    1+6 = BANNER
    2+6 = CRANE
    3+6 = CHAIN
    4+6 = WALKER
    5+6 = AXIS
    1+7 = WHITE
    3+7 = LAKE
    4+7 = CABLE
    5+7 = KILO

    That leaves Other/Sledge as an unknown Joker for now.

    Now, what if I assign THREE skills to each Wraith?
    The Crew will have reason to fear a single Wraith!

    What if I assign ONE bonus skill for each discovered Loot? (e.g.: Loot/Stone, an aethercrystal that functions as a focus to channel the Ghostfield)
    The Crew have to find Loot to survive Wraith attack!
  • GHOST/ECHO: The first Run:

    The Government was unwilling to dirty their hands in a backwater Balkan state, so they used some intermediaries to contract the Black-op branch of Orpheus corporation.
    If anything went wrong, the whole operation was deniable as usual, the spindoctors would call it a terrorist strike of the separatist.
    Coil, Grip, Hull and Vixen discussed their strategy for the job.

    It sounded like an easy one: extricate Herr Professor alive (preferrable) or dead to insure the Opposition will never again have access to his theoretical knowledge of Matrix-construction.
    He was temporary held at a secret interrogation camp, waiting for transfer to the headquarters of Herr Colonel.

    Simple plans are the best, and victory goes to the bold;
    The idea was to 'borrow' a chopper of the Opposition; flying under false colours it should be possible to infiltrate the interrogation camp.

    Well...a battleplan never survives the first shots...

    They found a hidden chopper on a hidden part somewhere in the woods, guarded by a single watchtower, a typical Opposition-setup for a covert-operation camp.

    Coil took out the main tower with his rocket-launcher, Grip sprinted to the chopper while the rest gave covering fire.
    Some surviving guards stormed out of the tower, but were taken down by a frontal grenade and some flanking fire. The grenade caused some collateral damage in the tower, soon it started burning!
    Grip discovered the chopper was out of fuel...
    Hull entered the burning tower twice: the first time to secure a single drum of fuel, the second time he was out of luck, something exploded...Hull was blown outside by a fireball!
    Badly hurt, Hull was carried by the rest to the chopper to escape the towering inferno.

    They decided to push their luck to finish the job.
    Boldly they flew the chopper to the interrogation camp.
    Vixen fast-talked the ground crew and the commander Herr Colonel to refuel the chopper and to transfer the prisoner.

    On their way to home-base, they were intercepted by two Opposition choppers.
    Grip tried to channel the ghostfield, hoping to jinx one chopper, but received a migraine instead.
    With some luck Coil was able to take down the interceptors with his rocket-launcher!

    Returning to home-base was a bit tense, their chopper was almost taken down by friendly fire before Vixen was able to get through to the right channels.
  • One of my players, Niek Ooijman, sent me some feedback on the session

    I'll put my comments in brackets:

    1. please use printout character cards instead of handwritten, to avoid reading problems.
    (comment: alongside the printout of Ghost/Echo rules, I wrote on index cards the name of the character & 2 skills).
    2. if new players register at the last time, sent them mail beforehand, instead of writing only on the meetup site. ask them to think about the character they want to play.
    (comment: until the very last day I had only one subscriber, we already had extensive mailing ongoing on the subject; the rest subscribed on the same day, too late to sent them mail)
    3. danger check: a high roll is always better? It is better to change this: if rolling for danger, higher means more "danger". Getting a 5 or 6 when rolling for danger means real trouble.
    (comment: this is a matter of taste)
    4. The goal/danger system is asking a lot of player-creativity , it is annoying to have to state a danger for each goal, that slows down play. In the games I know, the GM tells the player all about the dangers.
    (comment: this is a typical old-school conditioning)
    5. there was some lack of "supernatural elements"
    (comment: this scenario was meant as a foreshadowing of the Shadowrun era, the supernatural still has to intrude into the world, but it was possible to Listen for Echo's of the supernatural)
    6. The skills were too minimal
    I have some doubts on the claim "quick play", there still a lot of work to do on the system.
    (comment: the player did not take enough time to read the ghost/echo page)

    My observations:
    The Game has to be worked out, as stated in the two pages

    I was thrilled by the minimalistic setting & rules, a refreshing experience after so many years of D&D tables & rule-lawyering.
    The indie-press rpg-community consist of some high-level roleplayers, 'quick-play' has to be seen in that context : 2 page rules with bare bones, the rest to be expanded with existing GM skills!
    No so user-friendly for newbies, but at the other side: the experienced/brainwashed D&D adepts will have serious adaptation troubles!
  • I just wanted to comment that I put up my game inspired by John Harper's Ghost/Echo over on the praxis boards so as to not clutter up his discussion. One thing I love about John's game is that he only uses a few words, but they convey a lot of meaning. I attempted to do the same, and I love to hear some comments as to whether I was successful or not. Thanks! And thank you John for a great game/idea!

    The Island Mini RPG
  • Pretty neat read and it motivates me to want to make one. Actually, if SG is sport for these kinds of things, I'd love to see a G/E-like 'contest' after GenCon.
  • I wrote my own mini Ghost/Echo hack over here:

    Looking for other hacks, I ended up here. Seems like as good a place as any to post.

    Comments & suggestions welcome!
  • A re-edit done for a contest...
    I also did a hack but I'll need to upload it tonight.
  • Since the thread's been necromorphed, I just want to say that Ghost Echo is my go-to on minimalist game design. I haven't managed to do anything on its level but it constantly inspires me to want to.
  • Thanks, Veav! I plan to start a Patreon soon to help support me in making more games like this. :)
  • Groovy, keep us in the loop when that goes down.
  • edited August 2014
    I have a few questions. I hope these don't seem stupid, but I'm a bit unfamiliar with this style of game. First question is this: when the players want their characters to detect or perceive something that might be hidden, which of the moves are they supposed to role for? For example, the crew survives the initial ambush and learn that Breaker sold them out. They decide to 'find' him; going to his home. They get to the door, but they're worried it might be booby-trapped, since Breaker is a paranoid type. What roll do they make to see if they find the traps? Here's another example. Breaker hears them coming through the door and escapes out the window and down the fire escape. Some of the crew follow him. He sees them coming after him and flees down a dark and winding alley. The crew follow, chasing on foot; but they're worried that this is another ambush and they want search the shadows for more of Breaker's goons, as they run down Breaker. What move now? I could sort of see it being hold steadfast in the first example because of the concentration implied in searching thoroughly, and acting under pressure in the second because of the haste, but I may be reaching here...

    Second question: The characters continue their pursuit. Breaker turns around and fires shots at the characters. Do the players roll for acting under pressure to avoid being hit by the bullets? Or does the GM roll for Breaker committing to violence? I kind of thought from my reading of the rules that only the players roll dice based on the fiction that is being created between them and the GM--that the GM doesn't roll any dice.

    Third question: if two players want their characters to commit to violence against each other, what happens? Does the first player who commits roll the dice and the second player give the danger, or do they both roll?


  • Please help! I could really use some knowledgeable answers to the questions I posted above. Thanks.

  • The GM definitely doesn't roll. So I think you got it. And if there isn't a good roll for something, don't sweat it, just make the results of the action up.
  • edited September 2014
    Had the day off yesterday and me and my daughter realized we hadn't done any gaming. So I printed this out and played a game on the train ride into the city today. In a hour I ran a complete adventure and it was great fun. Honestly I haven't tried to run a game like this before so it took a bit of mental stretching to run this. It kind of reminded me of Apocalypse world in that it creates a world jointly with the player.

    My Daughter 11, came up with the idea that the ghosts of the ghost world are not afraid of death and can be found running around the city jumping from roofs, climbing and otherwise running amok. As she said just because they are dead doesn't stop them from living. So my ideas of a dark world of mournful ghosts and echoes was instantly broken in a good way.

    After the game I rezed I really appreciated the lack of detail. It means I can play this game with lots of different people and have completely different takes on the crew and world.

    The only change I made was to limit the crew to being good at one thing.

    The only other change I might make is to change the names on the wraiths so they are like the crew in that they suggest but don't directly say what they are.

  • Sorry, I missed these questions!

    1. For perception-type stuff, I almost always call for act under pressure, with the danger being a variety of possible things (running out time, alerting the enemy, drawing the wrong conclusion). If there's no pressure, then there's no "perception check"; just tell them.

    2. Only the players roll. Don't roll for dodging bullets. Tell them what the NPCs are going to accomplish (he takes aim to shoot you with his shotgun) and ask the player what they try to do. The danger will be the NPC accomplishing their move.

    3. Either way works. Sometimes one player rolling is best, other times, they'll both want to roll. That's fine, too. Just talk it out until the rolls and dangers are figured out, then all the outcomes will make sense. ("My danger comes true, but you failed at your action... so I guess you don't shoot me in the chest... maybe you clip my arm.")
  • Thanks for the answers!
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