Want to be a part of the Legacy 2 kickstarter?

With the Kickstarter for Legacy 2e coming soon I’ve been thinking about stretch goals. I want the core game to be mostly done by the time I launch the Kickstarter, so I don’t want stretch goals to add bells and whistles to the book.

Instead, I’m opening it up to others. The main reason I got interested in doing more with Legacy is that Douglas Santana brought me a great new idea with Mirrors in the Ruins – I’m very excited to see what other people might do with the framework!

Here’s my breakdown of what Legacy offers, and where you might be interested in taking it:

What’re the core themes of Legacy?

  • Scale. Each player controls a broader family as well as characters. Action happens on a family scale of hundreds of people and months of work as well as a character scale of individuals taking action over minutes or hours.
  • Ages. You spend limited time at a particular point in history, using your character as a lens to highlight a particular aspect of your family. Between these ages, there are moves to guide how your family evolves or suffers and how the world changes.
  • The world. The players build up a map of the world that informs how dangerous travel can be, what threats and resources are out there, and how the different families and factions interact with each other.
  • History. As you play you make permanent changes to the world and see the unexpected results of previous actions. You can draw on the power of previous characters, create giant mega-projects that redefine the world, and build the world’s saga together.

What are the assumptions of Legacy that you might want to break?

  • Post-apocalyptic: Legacy takes place after a reality-twisting apocalypse, with survivors finding a way to adapt to the new world. Maybe you want to set a hack in a world that hasn’t crashed – a near-future cyberpunk world? Or maybe you want to tell the story of colonists on an alien world, still removed from their support but not due to a cataclysm.
  • A golden age: The World Before had all sorts of strange technology. As you play you’ll find marvels among the ruins you can draw great power from. In your hack, maybe the marvels are created by the characters – the dawn of civilisation, with players inventing farming, medicine and magic?
  • Multi-generation play: Legacy assumes significant time passes between ages – there a few generations or more. In a different context, though, significant time could only be a few months or years. Maybe you’d like to make a hack set during a military campaign like Night Witches, with time skips moving the front towards its eventual conclusion?
  • Tense relationships between families: By default, the families are competing for scarce resources, with peace maintained by a web of obligations and treaties. Maybe you want to see what happens when families are more closely allied? Or maybe you want to put them more directly at each other’s throats?

How to get started

If you have ideas, get in touch and we can start talking through the details. If we’re both excited to move forward with it, I’ll put it on the list of stretch goals. Assuming the goal’s hit, I will offer you feedback, talk through ideas, cheerlead you and give you layout, editing and an art budget.

Once it’s done we’ll sell the game as its own pdf splitting revenue 50/50. You’ll have full rights to give it away, hack it further, and do whatever you want with it, so long as you credit Legacy according to a creative commons attribution-share alike license.

Legacy Playtest Session Writeup: 14th June 2017

Beginning the playtest

As it turns out Roll20 is pretty flaky, so I didn’t get to record the world creation setting. Ah well.

The group was me plus five others: Ed, Ellie, Laurence, Stephen and Angel.

Step 1: Broad Strokes

We discussed what sort of world the game was set in – near future earth, far future earth, space station, etc. Stephen suggested something like Numenera – endless civilisations have risen and fallen into ruin, and we’d start the game after the most recent collapse.

Next up is the kind of technology that defined the World Before. We tossed some ideas around and essentially ended up with the Matrix – the people of the world were wired up into life-sustaining pods while their minds experienced a digital paradise. Meanwhile caretaker robots tended the life-support systems and kept the environment in order as the abandoned city around the pod towers slowly crumbled to ruin.

The Fall came as a sudden shock. Ed suggested that some strange digital consciousness emerged on the network, laying waste to the human minds within and twisting the caretaker bot’s programming to its own purposes. The survivors fled the network and were forced to re-adapt to physical existence; meanwhile, the surviving minds in the network seemed to fall under the sway of the digital consciousness, becoming its mouthpieces.

Step 2: Family

With the basic details of the world sketched out, it was time to pick Family playbooks.

  • Ed picked the Lawgivers of the Wasteland.
  • Ellie picked the Enclave of Forgotten Lore.
  • Laurence picked the Gilded Company of Merchants.
  • Stephen picked the Cultivators of New Flesh.
  • Angel picked the Servants of the One True Faith.

Family values

The first part of Family creation is picking stats. Depending on the stat array you choose, you’ll make certain statements about the world.

In turn…

  • Angel decided his Servant’s religion was built around the forces of the Fall, meaning they have poor reach, adequate sleight and strong grasp. They seek truths in the strange ramblings of those plugged into the network.
  • Laurence decided that the Fall was a protracted struggle against extinction.
  • Ed decided that law and order saved mankind from extinction.
  • Ellie decided that the wonders of the Before were widely distributed, and everyone can benefit from the Enclave’s advice.
  • Stephen decided that the fall completely replaced the old ecosystem with something new, as the caretaker robots started working to a new and alien design.

Next, each Family has options for Traditions – who’s in your family, how they relate to each other and what their style is.

The Merchants are something like a noble court made of high-flying and cut-throat businesspeople, wearing high-class but utilitarian trail clothes.

The Lawgivers are somewhere between Paladins and Texas Rangers – cowboys carrying around big books of law. They’re distantly descended from the old forces of law enforcement, but as they’ve dedicated themselves to interpreting the corrupted text files of old legal records they’ve become something of a monastic tradition.

The Enclave are lead by reason, with the main social unit being a master/apprentice tutoring relationship as the master inducts the apprentice in the mysteries of the network and implants the needed technology into them. It’s governed by an elected council, lead by discussion and debate.

The Cultivators have a feudal system; each nutrient vat they control is ruled by its own Baron, who has absolute control over the vat and its workers.

The Servants are structured like the early Christians – scattered congregations in plain clothing with very diverse theology, all working to interpret the utterances of an oracle jacked into the network.

Drawing the map

Next comes Landmarks. Each playbook has options to add to the homeland map so that you build the initial setting together. Here’s the map we made.

Lawrence with the Merchants added:

  • Dorcia: a haven for the rich and powerful that lasted longer than most, and is the Merchant’s new home.
  • The Nux: cannibalistic raiders to the north, that have resisted all attempts at diplomacy.
  • Camp Turgidson, to the south-west: a military complex with a cache of doomsday weapons, built by the Merchant’s ancestors.

Ed with the Lawgivers added:

  • The Basilica: an old courthouse, actually a big server farm where the lawgiver’s ancestors could log onto the network with admin privileges to moderate and dispense justice.
  • To the west of the city, the site of a massacre for the Lawgivers, where they severely underestimated a force of mutant raiders.
  • To the south-east of the city, a jail that held the network’s worst criminals in a private server shard. Its countermeasures have recently shut down, freeing its occupants.

Ellie with the Enclave added:

  • To the far west, a dangerous and unstable power plant.
  • Between the city and Camp Turgidson, a field of wireless antennae. Within the field, strange digital ghosts manifest – some human and some decidedly not.
  • To the south-east, a radio telescope array that first understood the Fall’s root cause.

Stephen with the Cultivators added:

  • Monumental nutrient slurry silos in the city centre, that the cultivators are now rigging to make food for the homeland.
  • A pumping station next to the silos that’s the only source of fresh water.
  • A salt flat to the south of the city, a sign of the terrible drought that’s soon coming as the machines that manage the water cycle go haywire.

Angel with the Servants added:

  • The Anasteseos: A shrine at the entrance to once of the pod towers, where the last preacher of the end times was killed.
  • The Evangelica: A temple of those that worshipped the agents of the Fall.
  • A point to the north of the salt flats where a prophet of doom first emerged from the wasteland, claiming to be the dead preacher reborn.

Making history

The Family History section was next, with everyone working out what obligations each Family owed each other. This produced a lot of interesting connections – here’s a sampling.

  • The Cultivators rely on the Enclave to provide knowledge and the Lawgivers to provide protection.
  • The Enclave thinks the Merchants have the greatest minds of the homeland.
  • The greatest criminal of the Wasteland came from the Enclave, and in their meddling freed the prisoners from the jail to the south-east and stole information from the Merchants.
  • The Lawgivers saved the Merchants from extinction at the hands of a band of raiders.
  • The Servants view every other Family as Righteous, with the sole exception of the Merchants (who they deem Corrupt).

Doctrine and Lifestyle

Each Family had two choices: one move based on their personal philosophy, and one based on their distribution across the homeland:

  • The Enclave give people extra bonuses when they heed their advice on projects and know the cultural significance of any artefact of the Before they encounter.
  • The Servant’s representatives can find safety in any settlement so long as they provide others aid, and have churches that provide refuge in each of the Homeland’s settlements.
  • The Lawgivers can spread word someone’s Wanted, ensuring no-one shelters them, and can ask the GM questions when they encounter a scene of violence.
  • The Cultivators can culture multiple batches of crops at once, and inherit traits from the species they tame.
  • The Merchants get the first pick of the goods brought into their settlement and can convince people to perform any favour as payment instead of barter.

For their lifestyle, the Lawgivers and Servants are distributed across the settlements of the Homeland, while the Merchants are settled in Dorcia, the Cultivators are settled in the nutrient silos in the city’s centre, and the Enclave are settled in one of the southernmost pod towers.

Resources and Moves

Finally, we get to the resources each family can bring to bear.

The Enclave, named The Transistors, have a surplus in Defences and Knowledge, but need Recruits, Leadership and Culture. They have deep knowledge of ‘the magic and artifice of the glorious past’, and medical treatments able to heal any artifice (regeneration tanks powered by solar panels).

The Servants, named The Singulars, have a surplus of Culture and Recruits but need Leadership, Land and Safety. They seek bodily ascension into digital paradise and can sacrifice their health and leadership to get mystical power in battle.

The Lawgivers, aka The Justicars of the Word, have a surplus of Weaponry and Transport but need Leadership, Defences and Recruits (following their terrible recent defeat). They’re committed to persecuting those above the law and are fanatically against bending the law to give people lenience and can brandish their authority to recruit a gang of locals to fight at their side.

The Cultivators, aka The Open-Handed Ones, have a surplus of Progress and Land but need Culture, Trade Goods and Medicine. They can sacrifice progress, land or trade to make drugs, crops or livestock, and can genetically engineer themselves over the ages.

The Merchants, aka the Fountainhead Commerce League (FCL), have a surplus of Barter Goods and Contacts but need medicine, recruits and culture. They have a stock in trade of luxury drugs and venoms, books and instruction manuals, and mementoes of the Before and they’re skilled at assessing the worth of things they find.

End!

With that, family creation was over. It was really fun, and I can’t wait to get started playing in the world we built together.

Takeaways from the playtest so far:

  • World creation remains fun, and instantly gets players invested. The landmarks and stat declarations have definitely added to this.
  • Treaty assignment can get a bit complicated; maybe a relationship map or chart could simplify things?
  • I don’t think we need another step to add drama to the starting situation; family creation seems to cover that entirely, though it might be good to set up the process to naturally introduce NPC factions and settlements into the world.

Legacy 2e: Know Your Role!

The relationship between your family and your character is Legacy’s big unique thing, but it’s distinct enough from the standard mode of RPGs that it could do with more support than 1e provided.

One of my priorities with the 2nd edition is to provide you with more tools to describe that relationship – how your family impacts your character, and how your character affects the broader family. To this end, each character in Legacy 2e has a family role: Leader, Agent, Rebel or Outsider.

Welcome to the Family

The first thing this does – and maybe the most useful – is that it locates your character in the family’s organisation.

Leaders are those that guide the family. They might be…

  • An Elder bringing every opponent on board with their plans.
  • Hunter leads the family’s troops to take down a target.
  • A Scavenger making sure every need for food or water is met.

Agents are those sent out from the family on a mission. They could be…

  • A Survivor acting as someone’s bodyguard.
  • A Firebrand infiltrating a group to bring them down.
  • An Envoy sent to negotiate a truce with a faction.

Rebels work against the Family’s orthodoxy. They could be…

  • A Sentinel fighting a threat that doesn’t endanger their own family.
  • A Firebrand trying to make amends for the unintended suffering their actions have caused.
  • An Elder seeking answers when they learn something that overturns their dogma.

Outsiders are only nominally a member of the family. Something’s set them apart – exile, strange beliefs, mutation, or something else. They could be…

  • A Remnant who’s rejected baseline humanity to pursue their own evolution.
  • A Hunter banished after they killed the wrong person, fighting to clear their name.
  • A Survivor who’s decided it’s time to move on.

Working Together

The second effect of your role is that your character applies a particular modifier to family moves. To get this effect, the character has to be one of the family members who participated in the action. This gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s

This (hopefully) gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s efforts and if players have incentives to place their characters in the midst of the family-scale story you can easily zoom into their actions when you want to move to the character scale.

  • Leaders put the family before themselves. If a move tells you to gain a need or to erase a surplus, the Leader can instead take 3-harm (ignores armour).
  • Agents are experts at navigating the wasteland. Your family’s agents can either make a journey twice as fast or travel unseen through a faction’s territory.
  • Rebels have many allies outside the family. They can call on a contact to improve the outcome of a move by one step, but the contact’s faction gets 1-Treaty on you.
  • Outsiders have strange tools or skills. If they help with the move get +1 to the roll as if you’d spent Tech, but their strange practices will colour the move’s results.

You can accept the help of characters from other families if they offer it, but their family automatically gains 1 point of Treaty on yours.

Changing Perspective

Your role isn’t set in stone, either. When you hit particular triggers in the fiction, you move into a new position. In general:

  • When you begin directing, guiding, or bearing responsibility for a group of Family members, you become a Leader.
  • When you accept a particular task that’ll take you out of the Family’s holdings, you become an Agent.
  • When you realise you and the Family have different priorities or values and start pursuing yours, you become a Rebel.
  • When you reject the Family or do something that pushes them away from you, you become an Outsider.

I’m also testing out playbook-specific triggers. For example, here’s the Firebrand’s:

  • When you lead your Family against a greater oppressor, mark Leader.
  • When you infiltrate a group to bring it down, mark Agent.
  • When your actions cause unintended harm, mark Rebel.
  • When your family betrays your creed, mark Outsider.

I’d be interested to know if people think these are too limiting.

Role Advancement

These roles have taken the place of Advancement in 1e; when you switch to a particular role, you mark its box, get +1 to its associated stat, and reveal something about the fiction. For example, when the Firebrand marks Agent (by infiltrating a group to bring it down) they get +1 Steel and say one person who trusts them already, while the GM says one person who suspects.

Another thing I’m testing is unlocking new moves: each new role a character takes on marks a box. Once all are marked, you get a new move and clear out marks. You can switch back and forth between two moves, but that won’t mark more boxes. I think this should give players an incentive to give their characters narrative arcs, but it may mean players pinball between roles very unsatisfyingly. Let’s see what playtesting says.

Thanks for reading – in thanks, here’s an example of our new character playbooks!

Ghost Ship v0.1.3 now out

A spaceship, being assaulted by asteroids, yesterday.

I’ve just uploaded a new version of Ghost Ship. New in this edition:

  • Ship construction rules.
  • Drone and Ship modules.
  • Programs for your characters to use.
  • Strange quirks for characters to develop.
  • And much more!

It’s still not quite playable, but it’s getting close and closer all the time!

Check out the new version and handouts here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B4KAK_EamMB9bXZYazJPOVVwRkk?usp=sharing

Ghost Ship: Draft now available to read!

Ghost Ship isn’t anywhere near complete – I don’t even think it’s playable – but as I put a draft together for some friends to look over I thought I might as well put it up here for everyone else to check out. If you’re interested, here’s the main book:

And here’s the Google Drive folder with character sheets and so on:

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship: Attack of the Drones

While a ship piloted by Ghosts can react quicker, travel further and need far fewer resources than a human-piloted vessel, a physical presence is still required for a crew to perform most of the tasks people are willing to pay big money for. The game’s solution for this is drones. A robotic shell housing a modified Ghost core, each drone is precisely tailored for their Ghost and is much an extension of them as a living person’s hand. The core in the drone runs an up-to-date version of the Ghost, experiencing the world from the drone’s perspective. Their experience is streamed back to the Ghost’s main core back in the ship, which is in a trance as they incorporate the drone’s feed into their memory and personality.

Thanks to the delicately engineered link between the two cores and streaming algorithms that prioritise which sensations and thoughts to stream based on available bandwidth, the experiences of the drone core are seamlessly integrated into the Ghost’s mind. Meanwhile, the locally present Ghost core allows the drone to function well even when the signal back to the ship has been cut or the time delay back to the ship becomes too great.

From a design perspective, Drones to a few helpful things:

  • They give you a physical body, meaning that your interaction with the world isn’t limited to command prompts and communication channels.
  • They mean there’s a sense of risk and danger to missions that’s a step less severe than the ship blowing up.
  • They provide a means of customisation and personalization, helping the players express their character’s personality at the table.

Drone Frames

Your main choice when picking your drone is its Frame. This gives you the basic environment the drone is built for, and the particular actions it’s proficient at. Frames have three ratings of particular importance: how durable they are, how quickly they can move, and how dextrous their manipulators are.

At game start, there are three Frames available, but more will unlock according to events in the solar system.

Pictures by Juan Ochoa – support his patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/juanochoa

Humanoid

The squat, bulky Humanoid frame is impossible to confuse for a human, but still allows you to perform most human-scale tasks.

Pros: High manual dexterity, humans find it easier to interact with, can pick up and operate designed-for-human equipment.

Cons: Low durability, limited space for mods and extra functions.

EVA

Light weight and an array of thrusters make this frame perfect at manoeuvring in zero-g.

Pros: Can explore zero-g environments with ease, can run indefinitely on solar power, plenty of space for mods.

Cons: doesn’t cope with gravity, distance from human body plan means it’s not very good at relieving Discarnate stress.

Explorer

With a rugged chassis and the ability to walk, swim and dig, this frame is great for missions on or beneath the surface of hostile planets and moons.

Pros: High durability, can operate in most environments.

Cons: low dexterity, difficult to retrieve once dispatched to a planet’s surface.

Dangers

Early experiments with Ghosts found that a physical presence resulted in a substantial improvement in psychological health and wellbeing. This close connection can have its downsides, however, especially when a mission stops going to plan. Here’s a selection of things that can go wrong with a drone:

  • Its memory buffer becomes too full, meaning that some memories are erased.
  • It gets destroyed, preventing the transition back to ship-Ghost from being cleanly managed.
  • It gets isolated, such that it starts operating independently of the ship-Ghost.
  • It can’t be retrieved, meaning you must go the rest of the flight without incarnation.

What Ho, World! – now on Tabletop Simulator

What Ho, World! is a game that really benefits from the physicality of cards – you’re flipping them over, passing them around, stacking them and discarding them. But a large amount of roleplaying is done over the internet these days, which has presented me with a bit of a quandry. I’ve tried writing versions of the game that play in your browser (see Trying Twine) but as it turns out there was a much easier way – Tabletop Simulator.

If you haven’t seen this before it’s a game on Steam that’s focused on simulating the board game experience as accurately as possible – you can pick up and chuck about game pieces, flip tables, chat to the other players and so on. Importantly for my purposes, it’s very easy to make custom decks providing you have the art assets to hand. I’ve made a Steam Workshop entry for What Ho, World! – if you have the game, go check it out here:

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=846197033

It’s not the most recent version of the game – I don’t have card images ready for that yet – but it should be enough to test if it’s something people would be interested in. If so, I’ll keep it up-to-date and current with the physical version, which (fingers crossed) should be heading to the printers very soon.

Ghost Ship: Marking Time

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

One of the big barriers to human space travel is just how long its astronomical distances take to travel. All but the most die-hard explorer is likely to blanch at spending years or even decades in a tiny tin can barely protected from the void of space.

As a Ghost, many of the standard issues of long-term travel don’t apply: you don’t need food or water, cosmic radiation can’t do anything to a properly shielded circuit, and it’d take a truly catastrophic level of damage to the ship to stop you functioning. Still, it’s not completely plain sailing – that time takes its toll, as you have to cope with mind-numbing tedium and the solar system changing outside of your control.

In Ghost Ship, you won’t be tracking the passing of time with fastidious bookkeeping. All we care about is the magnitude of time passing, tracked as sweeps. A 3 sweep journey is a matter of days, Earth to Luna for example. 7 sweeps will take you from Earth to Mars over a length of months, 9 sweeps will cover the years it takes you to travel between the planets of the inner system and Jupiter, and journeys past Saturn or even to the fringes of the Solar system take even more.1

As it’s only the order of magnitude of time we’re concerned with, calculating the duration of a trip is very simple: just draw a line between your start and end point on the system map shown below and take the highest number you pass through.

Click to see the large version.

The number of Sweeps gives you how long the trip will take, but what matters is how you spend it. To see what opportunities the trip provides, you:

  1. Take a number of d6s equal to the number of sweeps.
  2. Roll them.
  3. Group them according to the value on the dice (all 1s, all 4s, etc.). These are your action sets.
  4. Group all dice that show unique values – this is your scrap set.

Example: you’re travelling from Mars to Mercury (7 sweeps), so you roll 7 d6s and get 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6. This gives you two action sets (two 2s and two 5s) and a scrap set of three dice.

Using Sets

Your sets guide the events of your trip:

Action Sets

Each of your action sets buys you a downtime action, with the action’s effectiveness determined by the set’s size. With these actions you can:

  • Research your destination.
  • Talk to your portside friends and contacts.
  • Bond with your crewmates.
  • Repair the ship and modify your equipment.
  • Hack into your own AI substrate to unlock new capabilities.

Scrap Sets

The group’s scrap sets, on the other hand, bring misfortune: either someone chooses to take a scrap set’s size in dice in Quiet stress 2 or the set is passed to the GM. They can spend these sets to:

  • Cause malfunctions in the ship.
  • Create complications at your destination.
  • Give you bad news from back home.
  • Reveal unexpected threats – meteorite showers, solar flares, or even assault from unexpected forces.

Activating Sets

The group goes around the table taking it in turns to activate an action set and declare an action until all action sets have been used. They must also activate their scrap sets, however, and there’s strategy in pacing this. Group them all together and they’ll compound their effects, so you want to make sure you keep Actions in reserve to deal with problems before they escalate. Working against that is the ability of Scrap Sets to make downtime actions harder, so if you really need to succeed at something you should try to do it before any crises happen.

Shifting your chances

Memories and Aptitudes also play a part, just as they do in more immediate time scales.

  • A high Acuity helps you effectively multitask. If your number of sets is less than your Acuity, you change one scrap die to match your smallest set. If you have no sets, change it to match one of your other dice.3
  • A high Focus lets you really concentrate on your chosen tasks. If your largest set is no larger than your Focus, change one of your scrap dice to be a part of it.
  • Once you have your sets, a relevant Memory lets you do one of two things: combine two sets together into one giant set, or split a set containing 4 or more dice in half. Either way, if you stretched the memory outside its subject or context4 take Glitches equal to the size of the larger set.
  • Lastly, if a Memory gives you a relevant Skill, treat the set you’re using for that action as if it were one dice larger.

And finally…

Time isn’t only passing for you; as you reach your destination, you’ll find all sorts of changes have taken place in the system’s different settlements. More on that next time.


  1. Astronomy and/or Kerbal nerds may spot I’ve based these on Hohmann Transfer times – the simplest and most fuel-efficient way to travel between two bodies. Hasty pilots can exploit slingshots or burn more fuel to get places faster, while thrifty pilots can save fuel at the cost of adding sweeps to the time by exploiting the Interplanetary Transport Network.
  2. As the tedium of space travel puts strain on your mental health
  3. This means you always have at least one set no matter what you roll unless your Acuity has been dropped to 0.
  4. See the previous post.

Ghost Ship: Character Basics

artboard-1head

Ghost Ship‘s characters are in the rare position of being purely virtual entities, which means that they don’t have many of the stats that characters often do. Instead, their abilities are defined by three things: the intrinsic strengths of their mind, their background and memories, and the stresses they have come under. The first two are determined by the backgrounds you take in character creation, and the third accumulates during play.

Backgrounds

There are a bunch of backgrounds to choose from, falling into 3 categories.

There’s your anchor: the living person who your character feels the strongest connection to. Examples: your children, your mentor, your brothers in arms.

There’s your embalming, which is the reason why your character went through the scanning process. Examples: you were wealthy enough to book a scan, you have memories someone wants to make money from, you stole someone else’s place and are now pretending to be them.

And finally there’s your unfinished business: the reason why you’re out risking your afterlife in space instead of making do with whatever simulated paradise you ended up in. Examples: you have dependants that still need your help, you have a drive to explore, you can’t stand being confined.

Each background gives you a point in two Aptitudes and a Memory – see below.

Aptitudes

Ghost minds are measured on four Aptitudes, rated from 1 to 5:

  • Focus: your ability to maintain concentration over long periods, spot fine detail, and remain committed to your goals.
  • Acuity: your ability to quickly process new information, adapt to changing circumstances and multitask.
  • Knowledge: your ability to understand the world, remember pertinent information and make inferences from observations.
  • Empathy: your ability to understand others, predict what they’re going to do, and make an agreement.

When your character acts in the world, you pick the two most appropriate Aptitudes (Example: Focus/Knowledge to study fluctuations in Sol’s magnetic field, or Empathy/Acuity to keep an exploration party happily working together). Then you pick the higher, roll that many d6s and look for the highest value. A 6 is a full success, 4-5 is a partial success or success at a cost, and a 3- is a complete failure.

Memories

While Ghosts have an academic knowledge of the events of their life, they only have the processing bandwidth to keep a handful of memories fully vibrant, alive and emotionally meaningful. These memories are the cornerstone of a Ghost’s identity and a powerful tool in their arsenal, but also their greatest weakness.

Each memory has four elements:

  • A [SKILL]. The memory should evoke one of the game’s skills, though you shouldn’t feel the need to use that particular skill’s name as the verb of your sentence.
  • A Context: Something important about the environment you were in – place, time, etc.
  • A Subject: Someone you were doing the thing for, with, or to.
  • An Action: Something you were doing.

Examples:

[FIX] I remember repairing my son’s house after the hurricane tore it apart.
[DECEIVE] I remember hiding finance data from my sister so she wouldn’t realise I’d run our company into the ground.
[PILOT] I remember piloting down the first colonists to land on Mars.
[PREPARE] I remember packing as many of my family’s possessions as I could into a bag before the tsunami hit.

Memories have three levels of application:

  1. When their skill applies, you get an extra dice on rolls.
  2. When you’re dealing with the subject of a memory, or a situation that’s a memory’s context, you add the two Aptitudes together to find your dice pool instead of taking the higher.
  3. When you’re dealing with something that reminds you of a memory’s subject or context (your call), you can stretch the memory to give you the second effect at the risk of gaining glitches in the memory.

Take enough glitches and the memory becomes corrupted – its context, subject, action or tone can all change, though only ever one at a time. You may find yourself fighting alongside your sister instead of your brother, healing them instead of fighting, or even fighting against them.

Stress

Finally, there’s the psychological toll your new state takes on you. Stress accumulates in three categories: Self, Discord and Quiet.

Self stress is gained as you begin to realise you’re not the person you used to be. Causes include finding evidence your memories have been corrupted, coming up against another instance of yourself, and casting off the memories of your life and instead prizing your new state.

Discord stress is the dysphoria caused by the conflict between your human mind and your digital state. Going without a physical presence for too long, suffering the destruction of a drone you’re currently inhabiting, and hacking into your core code can all cause Discord stress.

Quiet stress comes about less from being a Ghost and more from the rigours of long-distance space travel. Going years without new experiences and only interacting day-to-day with the same small group of people gives you Quiet stress, but too much stimulation can too – whether it’s diving too quickly back into the frenzy of society or hooking yourself up to a whole planet’s data feeds.

Stress builds up over time unless healed by the actions of your crewmates. As you cross certain thresholds you pick up Quirks – semi-permanent maladjustments that affect how you interact with the world. These are tied to the stress type that caused them: too much Discord stress could convince their character that the drone they’re inhabiting is, in fact, human flesh and blood. An excess of Self stress, on the other hand, could have a character doubting that they were ever human, or grow paranoid about which of their desires are theirs and which were programmed in.

Too much stress and your Ghost unravels, unable to hold its fragmented mind together. This is as close to death as Ghost Ship characters come and even after dissolution reactivated backups can gain stress as they come to terms with the lost time.

Other Character elements

That’s pretty much it as far as character mechanics go. There’re other details like your name, the characters mentioned in your background and memories, the type of drone you prefer piloting and the form your avatar takes, but those are mostly fiction-based rather than mechanical.

Altogether, this gives you a character sheet that looks something like this:

 

Next Time: Interplanetary travel and the march of history

Announcing Ghost Ship

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With What Ho World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen out to backers for reading and playtesting I’ve started working in earnest on one of my backburner concepts.

My next game is one I’m calling Ghost Ship. Here’s the pitch:

It’s the near future. After your death you woke up in a computer, a brain scan activated posthumously to say goodbye to family, turn over crucial information, or as a condition of your will. Once the flurry of bereavement and bureaucracy died down, you were given a choice – request deactivation or spend eternity in a simulated paradise. You took a third way.

Humanity’s interstellar ambition has faltered and stumbled in the face of the sheer hostility of space towards life. But you’re different. You don’t need to breathe, and power is much easier to provide than food or water. Out there in the black, you can find a new purpose, even as you explore how your simulated state is changing you.

Ghost Ship is a game about crews of uploaded minds piloting ships through the solar system, hoping to find fortune and a second life out in space. In part, it’s about the adventure of travelling through the void – the strange hazards of deep space, and the amazing surprises you find on the way.

It’s also about how the experience of ‘dying’ changes you. Your memories of life before the upload give you strength when you draw on them, but as you strain them they can be twisted and altered: you might find yourself remembering your husband’s marriage proposal instead of your wife’s, or even swap a memory with another character.

Finally it’s about how humanity adapts to the stars. As you run missions the solar system will change with you – new colonies will be founded, resources discovered, technology discovered and wars waged.

Inspirations

My fiction touchstones are The Expanse, the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror, and most importantly Elevator Music by The Indelicates.

Gameplay-wise, I’m looking at Torchbearer/Mouse Guard’s adventure/town phase divide, Psi*Run’s memory mechanics, and the way Invisible Inc uses a power economy to make ability choice meaningful.

If you’d be interested in tracking the game’s development, follow this blog or discuss it on our Facebook page!