Wednesday, 4 April 2012

GHOST/ECHO, Dice Strategy and Negotiation

We spent the evening playing a one-shot of GHOST/ECHO. (This was an episode in my group's shared world, which we have given the banal but accurate description "To The Stars", and which I have posted about here and Patrick has posted about here.) We had fun with it and came up with something that was serious and ridiculous in equal measure, in fitting with the setting as a whole. I think I can characterise my group's style as being full of great, sometimes profound, setting ideas but unable to take actual play very seriously at all. I think that combination works well.

In any case, GHOST/ECHO is a minimalist game par excellence - it fits on two sides of A4 paper, on which nary a centimetre is wasted, and it has only one, simple mechanic, which can be boiled down as follows:

If you want to do something in any kind of situation of conflict, challenge, or difficulty, roll 2d6. Then assign one die to the "danger" and one die to the "goal". High is good and low is bad. So if you get 6 and 5, you could assign the 6 to the "danger" (meaning you escape harm) and the 5 to the "goal" (meaning you succeed); if you get 3 and 4 you can assign the 3 to the danger (meaning you take some harm and the danger remains) and 4 to the "goal" (meaning you have a partial success), and so on. It gets most interesting when you get 6 and 1, obviously.

What I like about this is that it forces you to make choices - to strategize - with your dice rolls. In some situations you might want to sacrifice success to escape harm, whereas in others you might want to succeed so much that you take whatever harm is coming your way. You have to be tactical with your luck. I like that mixture of decision-making and randomness. You can't govern the dice results and they force you to make tough choices, but you do get a choice.

Because it's so abstract, it also forces you to make everything up as you go along. "Harm" and "success" can mean almost anything you want to construe them to mean, and will probably end up being dictated by GM fiat - although the players can offer their own suggestions and perhaps negotiate. This makes the game a bit like what I imagine MAR Barker's Perfected Games Rules to have operated like in practice, though of course in a slightly more complicated fashion. Yet more evidence for the fact that if you scratch a story-gamer you will find an Old School Revivalist and vice versa - they just don't know it yet.

The game itself encourages a make-it-up-as-you-go-along, by having only the most thinly described implicit setting, which is essentially constructed of keywords that you give your own meanings to. Whether you appreciate this or not is, of course, a matter of "YMMV" - as I believe the kids put it. We tend to roll with that sort of thing because we're laid back about rules and fiat, but I understand not everybody necessarily feels that way.

In any case, it's free and takes about 2 minutes to read. Can't say fairer than that, now, can you?

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed it as well (just finished writing about last night too). I wonder if the only thing really missing from the game - not that it really effected things last night - is whether or not there needs to be some explicit mechanism for harm or the effects of harm.

    Also thinking that I might try and get my brother-in-law and nephew over some time to play it.