Ghost Lines: 4-page mini-game AW hack

edited February 2013 in Story Games
Here's the new mini-game/hack thing that I've been designing and running lately.

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It came about because our World of Dungeons world was destroyed in an apocalypse when the Gates of Death were broken and we decided to advance the timeline by 1,000 years. I was heavily inspired by the style and setting of the video game Dishonored, as well as stuff from Ghostbusters (as usual, for me).

It's very bare-bones, but there's enough there to play with and build on if you're game. I'm happy to discuss details, answer questions etc. Maybe some players from our local game will jump in with some AP, too.
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Comments

  • I always wondered: is it you that made all the art in your games? I really like your style of designing, both typographically and rules wise.
  • Thanks! I always do the layout and typography stuff. Sometimes I do the art, sometimes not. In this case, the gas masks are by Bob Bassett and the train painting is by James Paick (they're in the credits).
  • You should consider putting links to this and to The Regiment on your website's homepage.
  • edited January 2013
    The Regiment won't be linked until it's done. But yes, GL will get a button soon now.
  • This is lovely and evocative.
    That train image is so beautiful, especially in this context.
  • edited January 2013
    James Paick is an amazing artist! Check out a bunch of his work here.

    I used a bunch of his art as inspiration during our WoDu game, so it seemed right to use his work to springboard the 1,000-years-later game.
  • Looks pretty baller!

    Your link to the PDF was busted when I went to the site, so I had to enter it manually.
  • Hm...I don't see a button. Are we talking about www.onesevendesign.com?
  • [WARNING - HIGHLY COMPLIMENTARY TEXT BELOW]

    Mr. Harper, you are remarkable! I would love to shake your hand!!!

    That said, I think one of the coolest things I've learned from this (or at least the five minutes I've taken to look it over so far) and all of your other games is that in this community, it seems the honest way to attribute influence is simply to just name the folks from whom you borrow. Every one of your games has a wonderful "Credits" section (or similar). This has pretty much solved my latest moral dilemma - how do I give credit where credit is due!!!

    So, Mr. Harper, thanks again for being an unfathomably fantastic designer. I know that I'm gonna' learn a lot from this game.

    ~Klaus
  • Thanks, Klaus!

    (P.S. All the links and buttons should be sorted now.)
  • I love the tightly-focused advancement system. So simple and elegant. Now I want my Dungeon World games to be that focused...
  • Really nice, John!

    I especially like the general vibe (the gaslight electro-industrial ghostbuster vibe is very evocative - was it your idea, or did some other source inspire it?), the STEEL move, and the FINESSE move.

    The FORCE move seems very forgiving, compared to other *W hacks. Is it because the general setting is just that much more scary, or what?

    Do you really take trauma just from seeing a teammate hurt? Like, 1-segment each time?

    Finally, what kinds of stories do you expect to tell with this game? Is it all episodes about bulls running into one scary situation after another and then hoping to retire to safety? Or do you see a larger over-arching story direction?
  • edited January 2013
    @Paul_T:
    1. Thanks! Inspirations are noted in the doc.
    2. It's basically seize by force, which, no, not forgiving at all.
    3. Trauma each time, yep. "Hurt" is something you'll have to judge.
    4. Well, that's what you'll play to find out. For us, the side jobs take over the game in no time. Who knows what'll happen when you play it, though. That part's out of my hands entire.

  • edited January 2013
    That is, as ever, pretty damn cool. I wonder what happens when you cross the lightning-web with a lightning-hook? The training was very explicit about not doing that.

    Couple of questions, though-
    Do NPCs have stats in this? Re. the Will move- or is that a judgement call?
    The (only?) way you turn Coin into Stash is to (pay to) work side jobs?
    Doesn't specify which segment to start marking scars and horror in- you could get one 'free' if you start in the left or right segments. This may not matter.
    The Anchors opening move is to take 3 trauma if they succeed in their Steel roll to draw a ghost into contact with them? I see why there is a lottery...

    Do you have any Agenda or Priciples in mind? Other than to make them want to build up that Stash ASAP.
    Hmm...
    Why are you being sent out as an all-Apprentice crew?...
    What happened to the Master and the Journeyman crew who were training you on the run in to Cloudspire?
    Are you worried it will happen to you?
    Which high-ranking passenger is insisting the train returns now, before a more experienced crew can be sent out?
    For that matter, why are the local crews on strike and refusing to work the line?
    Do they consider you strike breakers, or are they just glad it's you and not them?

    (edited for typos, and added some establishing questions)
  • edited January 2013
    @Cneph: Thanks! Glad you like it.

    1. No NPC stats. Make MC-style moves.
    2. Yes. I think you could decide that you can also simply stash extra coin, 1-for-1, although that's a worse exchange.
    3. Doesn't really matter.
    4. I know, right? It's a shitty job. Our volunteer Anchor has Wild, so at least she gets the +1 ongoing out of it.

    I'm working on Agenda and Principles now. Will take some more playtesting to see them, probably.

    Love your questions!
  • edited January 2013
    1. Sure. Just thinking about applying that move to NPCs, with it's instructions to compare stats and level. You just have to evaluate the person having will imposed upon them and decide if they would have a high Steel. I guess you could broaden Level to other social strata, if necessary.
    4. I am impressed and appalled by how inventively nasty this job is. I mean, the whole setting is cool, but throwing in something so shitty? How do you come up with this stuff?! Be Anchor, fail one roll, and maybe the Symphonic Horror crawls in your ears and fries your brain with sweet, horrific melody.

    Looking at side jobs, is there a place for a Dark Heart-style job generator? If not that, then certainly a ghost rumour/lead/patron/job genrerator would be useful.

    Just remember to degauss your magnetic boots, double-check your cable clamps, and never, ever, cross the lightning-streams.
  • Be Anchor, fail one roll, and maybe the Symphonic Horror crawls in your ears and fries your brain with sweet, horrific melody.
    Because all the other roles will have such an easy time if they fail some critical roll against the Symphonic Horror. Rook tries to pry it out of the train? Good news, you succeeded a bit better than you wanted: it's flying at you! Spider tries to bottle it? Hey, you failed, but you caught it's attention at least. Owl stares deeply into its nature to try to suss out its weaknesses. Really? I have to spell out for you how that could go wrong? And none of THOSE suckers have heavy encounter-suits.
  • I am so excited to give this a spin.

    While I'm really interested in finding out what the difference is for my groups, what are your thoughts on what it means to silence a spirit, versus clearing one? How has that gone about in your game?
  • Very cool.

    I think my favourite section is "Spectrology".

    I find the Favors confusing, though. Are they supposed to be just a metagame currency, or in play do you have them refer to real stuff relevant to specific characters, etc?
  • Because all the other roles will have such an easy time if they fail some critical roll against the Symphonic Horror.
    I know, I know. I only tease because I care. They're all pretty shitty jobs! But still, still... the Anchor is halfway to freakoutville on a successful roll. Add in a 'more trauma' hard move choice on a failed or even a partial hit roll... could be contact plus assault.
    And none of THOSE suckers have heavy encounter-suits.
    You'd be better off if you actually believed the company spiel that the heavy encounter suit will protect you, you might take less Trauma that way. Just sayin'.
  • @Cneph: Yeah, a rumor/lead/patron generator would be good. I may hack something from Dark Heart.

    And yes, you're right... you can eyeball steel/level for NPCs when evaluating the Will move.

    @TildeSee: In our game, silencing has involved "destroying" a spirit, turning it into electroplasm. They did that by trapping it with two lightning-webs and overloading it with lots of electricity.

    @Paul_T: They're currency, with as much or little color attached as you care for. Sometimes, it's easy and obvious to say, "Milo -- that crime-boss you worked for that time? -- hooks you up with his buddy who runs black-market gear, so you can get that spare heavy suit you wanted." Other times, you don't go into the details and they just spend a Favor point.
  • edited January 2013
    @John_Harper: We should definitely consider importing the "Is that job still available?" move in some form. That way, if you sit too long on your leads, they turn into something else (EDIT: and essentially advance fronts, without needing formal fronts).
  • edited January 2013
    Love your questions!
    Oh, forgot to say- thanks! I see the time to ask them just as the train is pulling out of the station, apprentice Bulls on board.
    @John_Harper: We should definitely consider importing the "Is that job still available?" move in some form. That way, if you sit too long on your leads, they turn into something else (EDIT: and essentially advance fronts, without needing formal fronts).
    (Edit:) Ohh, I want to hear more about this.

  • edited January 2013
    [double post]
  • Ghost Lines is totally electrifyingly hot! Great work!
  • Dear John Harper,

    Have you ever considered making a steady supply of cool, inspiring little games and releasing them absolutely free of charge into the universe for people to enjoy? I think you should consider that.

    Sincerely,
    All gamers everywhere

    PS - Also, don't forget to make them all look totally amazing.



  • We played tonight with two players and me as the GM. It was good fun.

    I had them floundering as a 3 person crew because their legendary lead bull was too drunk to operate. When they managed to stop him from committing suicide with a pistol after they nabbed the ghost of the anchor of his former crew. Once they saved him, he sobered up a bit and gave them solid advice on how the operation worked. It was good fun, made me sorry it was a leaving-town-one-shot.

    If it were to get beefed up to half a dozen pages, I'd love a lay-out map of a few different kind of cars (Passenger, Royal, Cargo, Engine, Caboose).
  • Woo! Thanks for giving it a try, Judd. Nice move with the bull-ghost.

    I'm working on a 4th page now (some random tables). Layout maps for train cars is a great idea.
  • Dear John Harper,

    Have you ever considered making a steady supply of cool, inspiring little games and releasing them absolutely free of charge into the universe for people to enjoy? I think you should consider that.

    Sincerely,
    All gamers everywhere

    PS - Also, don't forget to make them all look totally amazing.



    Now who in their right mind would do such a thing?
  • This looks great, as always, John. I haven't played Dishonored yet, but something about the premise reminds me a bit of the animated film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In any case, I'm looking forward to trying it out.
  • ...the premise reminds me a bit of the animated film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
    Ditto Steve!

    @John_Harper
    Could the Steel move be one of the missing links of Dead Weight?!
  • @Steve_Segedy: Oh, yeah... you're totally right! I must have been channeling it, because that's exactly how I've been imagining the ghosts.
  • Whatever the reason, I'm glad of it- I've always liked some of the ideas and visual style from that movie, and have toyed with putting them into a game. Now I can just use yours!
  • edited January 2013
    Now that this has been released, I guess I can out my bite-size AP from last week's session:
    A thousand years in the future of a previous World of Dungeons campaign, my cousin Booker and I are working a shitty job cleaning ghosts off the electric rail lines. And there's a big ole tentacled, multi-eyed phantom that took out the previous crew sent to deal with this mess. We grease up our heavy lightning hook with leviathan oil and set that spook on fire. *BOOM*
  • edited January 2013
    I really like the setting and idea of Ghost Lines, a minigame by john Harper. Except for the fact that it runs on the Apocalypse World engine. I really dislike Apocalypse World. So I took .INDD files that Mr. Harper provided and hacked a new system for the game, based off of Cthulhu Dark.

    An afternoon of hacking gave me Ghost Lines Dark, largely because Messers Harper and Walmsley had already done all the hard work. I hope to playtest it in the next few days.
  • edited January 2013
    Nice!
    Some quick thoughts from an initial comparison- Your downward spiral might be faster? Reducing the max harm and trauma through scars as you recover. Plus it costs much more. It may be counterbalanced by the Dark 'roll higher than current harm' mechanism? Except now I look, Harm accelerates and Trauma slows. Which both make sense. But overalll, I'd say this is definitely Ghost Lines Dark.

    Do you see some specifics, like the Rook always risks their health, and the Anchor their sanity? These are dangerous jobs.

    One thing maybe missing is the obtaining of Stash- currently the only way specified is to roll 5+ on a side job. The AW version gives you 2 Stash just for working a job, effectively giving a 2 for 1 conversion rate, as well as the chance to get more on a good roll. Together with Downtime recovery costs, could mean many more crazy scarred lonely Bulls winding up dead in the gutter. Again, Darker. Not a bad thing in itself! Just an observation. :)

    And maybe your Skovlan and Iruvian abilities are switched?

    (edited for sense and typos)
  • There definitely are some nasty death spiral effects built in, over the mission and over time. If you survive Apprenticeship, you'll get more dice but likely be horribly scarred. A Master rolls three dice and almost certainly has expertise in what job he's doing. But he's fragile: his scars mean that he can only take a tiny amount of Harm before dying.

    Some aspects of the revised game probably need tweaked to fit the new system. Things like how many ghosts you need to clear and lines you need to work to level up.

    I figure that you can store Coins in your Stash any time you're in town (possibly at some cost?).

    Re: Skovlan and Iruvia - I guess I had messed around slightly with the implied setting. (I erased all the Apocalypse World rules and rewrote stuff from scratch. Iruvia got no scars because its lines have the lowest ratings.) Switching them would match the original PDF slightly more.
  • Neat! Competition and Cooperation appear to have the same text.
  • Groovy. I looooove Cthulhu Dark, so, yeah.
  • I feel like the world of Ghost Lines would fit well in the Wild Blue Yonder. I heard the ghost of the infamous pirate king, Uriah Flint, still haunts the Severos lines....
  • I chatted with Matt Wilson and we worked out how my games are all part of the same world/timeline.

    World of Dungeons -> Ghost Lines -> Lady Blackbird -> Stranger Things -> Ghost/Echo
  • Oooo, where can I find Stranger Things? Hadn't heard of that one.
  • It's an old project (Trollbabe hack) that never quite came together. I can see how to actually make it, now, though -- so maybe I'll go back to it.

    The old website: http://onesevendesign.com/strangerthings/

    Stuff from my blog: http://mightyatom.blogspot.com/search?q="stranger+things"
  • And they all fit within that weird alternate universe episode of Danger Patrol, "A Thousand Lifetimes on Planet X!"
  • World of Dungeons -> Ghost Lines -> Lady Blackbird -> Stranger Things -> Ghost/Echo
    That tickles my weird, nerdy urge to tie everything together in one giant continuity. I approve.
  • @ Matthew: Like!
  • edited January 2013
    Just updated the PDF with the new 4-page version (v 1.5), now with rumors, patrons, and city events tables.

    http://onesevendesign.com/ghost_lines.pdf
  • Just updated the PDF with the new 4-page version (v 1.5), now with rumors, patrons, and city events tables.

    http://onesevendesign.com/ghost_lines.pdf
    Love page 4. This is looking really nice!

  • edited January 2013
    Thanks for the inspiration for the tables from MicroTraveller, Chris (Caesar_X)!
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