Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Can't Get This Out of My Head - Ghosts

Sadly, for me at least, some of the approaches to subjects for gaming that I find incredibly interesting are takes on said subjects that are not particularly popular.

Case in point, I love medieval folklore and fairy tales but I don't like typical medieval fantasy. For every Faery's Tale Deluxe or even Ars Magica there are thirty Dungeons and Dragons style RPGs. Mine is not the popular view.

This holds especially true for a project I've been working on for a very long time, although perhaps it is to my advantage...


Other than the Dogs, Faerie Folklore, Muppets, Smurfs, Star Trek and Superheroes, there are a handful of other things I am obsessively fascinated by.

One of them is Ghosts.

As I have mentioned at least once before, I have been thinking about this idea for a game for so long, at some point I thought such a game existed. On further inspection (and a good deal of research), it turns out I must have dreamed it because I am fairly certain no game exactly like my concept exists. A number of games come close, yet none of them quite do the trick.

When Ghosts come up in gaming, they are usually an adversary. Be they the aging menaces of D&D or the comical opponents for InSpectres Agents, the Ghost is your PCs enemy. In a rare few games, you can be the Ghost or you get to have a Ghost ally.

Does anyone remember Wraith: The Oblivion?

What a let down that was. Not because it was a bad game or poorly designed. Indeed it's setting was well (pardon the pun) fleshed out and quite fascinating, if a bit overwrought. It was a disappointment though for all of us playing World of Darkness at the time (mid-90s) as we were really looking forward to the idea that our characters, or campaign stories, could now interact with the recently departed.

Only...that's not exactly how it worked. The realm of the Wraith was far removed from the rest of the World of Darkness and indeed the world itself. Yes, you could perceive and interact with the living world somewhat but the focus of the game was on the lands of the dead, which were a gothic labyrinth of strange names and complicated politics.

I used to hear, read and tell Ghost stories as a child. I have watched Ghosthunters, seen Poltergeist, and checked out books on the paranormal. I must have missed the parts where they described a Stygian empire that ruled with an iron fist, and guilds existing to fight the tyranny of...wha? What the flaming, flying skull does that have to do with Ghosts?

Ghosts are creepy. They are mysterious. Their situation seems sad and lonely, or at the very least forlorn. They are gone but still here. They haven't moved on. Why? How can they fix this tragic error in the natural way of things?

THAT is what my game is about. You are dead, a spirit, a spectre that initially no one can hear or see. You need to build up enough power to be seen, heard, to move an object, touch the living, or in some other way get their attention. Why? To resolve an issue. To finish something you started, or never got to do before you passed on. Something is keeping you here, and not letting you go...wherever it is you are going to go. You don't know. All you know is right now you are stuck, and that is a horrible feeling.

Here is the piece de resistance, the master stroke of my idea...the object of the game therefore, is to lose your character.

In every game you've played the key is to not die, to keep your character going. The idea here is you start dead, so the goal is to move to the next state of existence, and remove your character from the game.

Nice huh?

I want it to be, all at once:

Amazing Stories (TV series), Destination Truth, Ghost, Ghosthunters, Poltergeist, The Terror,  The Twilight Zone (TV Series), The Uninvited, Weird US, and the numerous, unquantifiable ghost stories we've all heard since forever.

And more than that.

Modern Ghost films, actually modern horror films in general, are simply dreadful. To me, most horror movies totally miss the point of the genre in it's cinematic form, but that is a different discussion for a different day.

Right now it's just an idea.

Barking Alien


  1. That idea there has potential.

  2. Good idea! Play to pass on to eternity - or perhaps, be reborn as a new child...

    Cheers, looking forward to your game :-), Jaap de Goede

  3. Thank you for the interest. I will be going into more detail on this idea in the near future. A few other things to get through first.

    Please stay tuned.

  4. Look forward to seeing how you develop this idea. I am intrigued!

  5. I've always wanted to craft a game where a group of ghosts try to control a scenario by adding hints, stray thoughts, and suggestions to a room filled with people, in contrast to a group of rival ghosts trying to change the scene for their own ends.

  6. I am not exactly sure I get what you mean Unknown but that does sounds sort of like what I'm going for. In a way.

    See, each Ghost (PC) has a requirement, a criteria they need to complete or fulfill in order to move on. Each player only knows their own criteria and until they feel they can trust the other Ghosts, they are not usually going to give away their personal issue right away. They can but be aware, sometimes their requirements maybe counter to each other.

    While this could make them rivals in a fashion, there is nothing wrong with them helping each other move on. A clever group of Ghosts might be able to figure out ways to assist one another even if some of their goals seem at odds.

    The trick is for them to get the living (NPCs, the GM) to acknowledge them and their wants and help them gain what I call 'Resolution' points. Once their issue is completely resolved (100 points + in game story comprehension) they pass to the next world.

    The problem, Resolution points convert into points used to move objects, be seen or heard, etc. You need to spend points of Resolution to get your message across. The idea is to spend a little to get back more.

    Tricky no?

  7. Very tricky, because you could run out, and then you lose?

    I was going to say it sounds like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, but now it sounds like it could be friendlier.

  8. You run out and are stuck...sort of.

    There are basically two types of points, Resolution and another, the name of which I am still toying with. Let's call it Ghost Power for now.

    So you start with a bit of Ghost Power and no Resolution. You try to use a combination of role playing and perhaps the well placed Ghost Power to earn Resolution. Spending Resolution gets you more Ghost Power but keeps your goal of moving on at bay.

    If you have Ghost Power but no Resolution, well, you're stuck in the near after, the world beyond this one and before the next.

    If you have Resolution but no Ghost Power, ok, no worries, transfer that Resolution to GP and your good to move a chair or show up on an EVP. You're in no real danger so far.

    No Ghost Power and Resolution is, well, bad. It starts to cause you some issues. It is definitely a situation you want to avoid. You know those Ghosts that just won't or can't move on? The kind that you see in Paranormal Activity or The Shining. Yeah. Get some of your s*#t together and resolve your issues. Move on. You don't have to go to Pearly Gates, but you can't go home and you can't stay here.