Ghost Light

Thanks To:
Risus, Over the Edge (for the basis of the game system)
Ron Edwards, Lance Blackburn, Daniel Bolden, Jonathon Bolden (for their words of wisdom)
White Wolf (for teaching how fun it is to run in the night)
H.P. Lovecraft (for thouroughly twisting me)

Defining a Ghost

Picture having no body, no mind. The only thing holding you up is your soul. You are your soul. Emotion, raw and pure.
Picture the great afterlife. Most souls reunite with the great one spirit, losing their personality, their individuality, but not their being. Like a drop of water entering an ocean. One day, the molecules of water will again be used, but never again as the exact same drop
Picture those that are different. Those that have enough self-love to keep, from rejoining. Those that stay separate. As they live, they gain more and more emotion, and become greater and greater. It is these "ghosts" that existence must worry about.

Ghost Light is a Dark Fantasy game where you (as players) assume the role of ghosts, but not your standard "haunts". You become denizens of a world all but removed from our own. Having no body (mental or physical) you are forced to rely on the one thing still remaining: your emotion. As you grow in emotion, you grow in power, but beware--for emotion can be consuming.

Ghost Light uses the Loose-Form Element system for skill rolls. Basically, your character is described by a series of elements (in the case of Ghost Light--the elements are emotions) which are not "set-in-stone" and are somewhat open ended. Ghost Light is to be the first game in the Loose-Form Element system (Dream Night is the major one to follow), which may or may not be used in many systems.

Becoming a Ghost

When a character is being created, there should first be the matter of age. Ghosts don't age as do mortals. Ghosts "age" by the number of lives they have lived. Young ghosts--who have been in less than five lifes--have less emotion than Adult--six to twenty lives--who have less than Old--twenty to fifty lives--who have less than Ancient--fifty or more lives lived. Since a ghosts power lies in his emotion, older ghosts have more power. For this reason it is best to let the GM decide the "age" of the campaign.

Emotion Points per Age Group

After you know how many points to spend, you can use them to by Emotion Dice. One Emotion Point is used to buy one Emotion Dice. Each emotion can have more than one dice purchased in it, but there is a limit. The maximum number of dice allowed is equal to the Total Emotion Points first divided in half and then one subtracted from that number. (Young max = 2, Adult max = 4, etc)

"Emotions" are not limited to the classic emotions. There are also pseudo-emotions which represent general states of mind but do not classify as regular emotion. In the basis of game play, both classic emotions and pseudo-emotions can be chosen as, and will be here forth called, emotions. It should also be known that players might like to kind of refine their character's emotions. Something along the line of Desire (for knowledge) instead of just Desire. This isn't really necessary, because Desire works out almost the same in both cases--and you could just add stimuli to the emotion later. But some players might wish to do this...

There is a pseudo-emotion that all characters have. It is this emotion that keeps their soul energy from being reabsorbed. No one knows why some have it and others don't, it's just there. Different people call it different things, but for game purposes it will be called Spirit. Spirit starts at three points and can be purchased up to your ghosts Emotional Dice Maximum for your age group (No more can be purchased for Young ghosts since it already exceeds their limit, but they still get it at three dice).

With the exception of Spirit, emotions bring with them stimuli. When the ghost is confronted with an emotional stimuli he or she is in danger of going out of control. An emotion gets its first stimuli at level two (two Emotion dice). For every three additional levels (five emotional dice, eight emotional dice, etc) that emotion gets an addition stimuli. The same stimuli might be bought more than once, rising it level by one with each increment. The effects of stimuli are discussed later.

Some skills are allowed as well. At the cost of one Emotion Point, ghosts can purchase a skill dice in one skill. There is a maximum amount of total skills purchased; it is equal to the Max Emotion Dice in a single emotion. Each separate skill can only have a maximum of two skill dice. Skills give bonuses in specific areas without emotional "taint" but at the cost of emotions--the true life blood of a ghost.

Quirks, Merits and Flaws come next. A Quirk is neither good nor bad in majority of situations. It is merely something that a ghost does and players like to have up front. Quirks might include "likes to burp", "hums to himself", etc.. Merits are good things a ghost can have, and cost Emotion Points. Flaws are bad to have, but give extra emotion points. Merits might include "Survivor (automatically one success in Spirit rolls to resist damage)", "Calculator for a Brain", "Charismatic". Flaws would include "Weak Spirit (one success automatically canceled)", "Fuddle Brain", "Nasty Attitude", and so on. It is up to the GM on how many emotion points that a Merit/Flaw is worth.

A player also gets to decide also a ghost's appearance. There a three basic schools of action with this. A character can make a relatively normal looking ghost. The player can make a dream version of the character (dragons, angels, sphinx, 4-armed etc.). The player may make a "spiritual" version of the character--swirling clouds of gas, shadows, flames, etc.. Of course, the player may mix them together anyway he or she sees fit.

A person The rest of Character creation lies in role-play. Don't be too limited in fleshing out your character but be neither too descriptive. Try to find that happy median.

Example: Trent is to be a Adult ghost. His player wants him to be hateful and greedy--a sort of supernatural scrooge. He doesn't get along too well with others but he does act with a team (especially when they "go" his way). His player has ten points to spend. First off, Hate (3) and Greed (4) are bought. With the other emotion points Pride (1) and Lust (1) as well as the skill "Command Others (1)". Trent's Spirit is equal to three. For stimuli he chooses "People who snivel and whine (1)" for Hate and "Material Wealth (1)" for Greed. Since he has no other emotion worth 2 or more, he needs no more stimuli. Trent's player wants him to appear as a dark and brooding man with long white hair and a black trench coat.

Being a Ghost

Play in General

Play is task based. The GM will set a task value and then players succeed by rolling over it. Tasks raise in value in two dimensions: small to large, easy to complex.


Note that the above chart is accumulative in general size. In other words: something gets a task value equal to difficulty rating plus complexity rating. A task very hard and very large has a difficulty of about 16, not 8.

To see how many dice a character gets to roll, first thing that must be looked is the task at hand and the character's emotions. The character must use one of the emotions to "work" the task at hand. For instance, Apathy might be used to block out pain, Hate might be used to strike down an enemy, Fear might be used to give a burst of speed, Curiosity might be used to decipher a note, Love might be used to heal a friend. When a character decides on a proper emotion, then he gets as many six-sided dice as equal to his Emotional Dice level.

The game master should know the general complexity (the size of the task) at the start. The difficulty depends on the emotion chosen and how well it fits as well as other factors. For instance, trying to kill someone with Love is not always easy--in fact is usually hard or very hard. Just like healing (which can be an easy to medium skill Love) becoming very hard and then some with Greed, Hate, Fear, etc.

After setting the task value, players roll their dice and compare the numbers. Success come from getting the success roll equal to or greater than the task value. (That simple). To determine the number of successes, look at  each dice separately. For every 1-3 rolled on a dice, there is no successes earned, 4-5 that are rolled gives one success each, and a 6 on a dice grants two successes. Add up all of the success to determine the value of the roll.

Optional Rule: (triumph/disaster)--if, on the first roll, the player rolls more than enough successes, a triumph (extra special result) is gained. If, on any roll, the player rolls all 1's (every dice the character has comes up with a one) a disaster (really, really, really bad). The GM has the option of determining the exact value of the triumph and disaster.

Example:Trent is living in the Coyote Son's main shroud, and has been collecting the golden feathers that they consider money. His greed has caused him to resort to less than noble ends, namely purse snatching. He has been behind a naive but rich Son for a while now and plans to make his move. The Game Master notes that Greed is the emotion in use. The combined task value set is 4. Trent's player rolls his four dice and come up with 5, a success. Trent has another bag of feathers to add to his collection.

Using Skills

When a character has skills, he can add that number of dice to his Emotional Dice total for the roll if the roll is applicable to the skill.

Channeling Emotion

Sometimes a character will need to channel one of their emotions to another emotion for some specific task. The player must describe the reason why the emotion should be channeled. If the GM agrees, then at the sacrifice of two (temporary) points from the one emotion, the emotion being channeled to gets an extra dice. It is possible to sacrifice down to zero dice in an emotion, but not below. If the GM thinks the emotions go hand in hand with the current situation, there may be a one for one trade allowed. Spirit may also be channeled into another emotion but at the cost of one Spirit wound per extra dice.

Example: Trent has found out of a rich widow that lives in a nearby village in the Son's Shroud. He decides to use his Lust to seduce and then later come up with a way to steal some golden feathers. Since his Lust is ranked only at one, he decides to channel his greed into it. Sacrificing four temporary points, he raises his Lust to three. Due to the taint (see below) of the roll, his greed will make his relationship probably overbearing and dominating on his behalf.

There are two innate dangers in this. One, the channeled emotion will "taint" the other emotion in some way based on the GM's discretion. Also, channeling away your emotion might result in a loss of permanent emotion dice.

To find out taint, you have to use two sets of dice. Roll two separate piles (they can be separate colors, sizes, etc). One represents the normal dice for the emotion, the other is the amount of channel dice that a character gets for the roll. Compare the numbers, the bigger the percentage of the total roll that is made up of the channeled dice--the bigger the taint. 50% is an extreme taint, and if there is over 75% or so--the taint might be considered irrevocable and uncontrollable.

A character can only roll on as many dice as they have left in that emotion. One temporary dice gave up is the same as one less dice to be rolled. In the above example, Trent would not be able to roll on his Greed until he got points back since he sacrificed four temporary points and only had a rating of four.

To get temporary points back, one of three things must first happen. One, the character must make a task roll using the said emotion. Two, the character must be faced with the skills stimulus. Three, the character must spend some period of time faced with contemplation about the emotion. At this point, two rolls are made. The player rolls as many dice as base Emotion Dice for that emotion. The GM rolls as many dice as equal to the number of temporary points spent. If the player rolls higher (statistically the probability) then a temporary point is returned. If the player's is more than double the GM's roll, then two points are regained; More than triple--three; and so on; up to the base value of emotion. However, if the GM's roll is greater than the players, a permanent point is lost! (as above, if the GM rolls more than double, the player loses two points, etc. down to the temporary value in the emotion.) At any point that the emotion drops permanently, then all temporary points are restored (back to the new value). If the character ever loses all of his dice in an emotion, then a point of Spirit is lost as well.

Stimuli and Emotion

As said before, an emotion takes on a stimulus at level 2, then another at levels 5, 8, 11, 14 (every third level after 2). Stimuli may or may not make an important potion of play. Generally a ghost with only one or two might not need worry with it. But some ghosts that have many (Ancients can have ten points or more) might be slave to their emotional stimuli.

Whenever a ghost is brought face to face with their stimuli, they might become overwhelmed with the emotion(s) the stimuli is tied to. Players should role-play a ghost completely absorbed into the emotion. Sometimes, perhaps most times, a ghost wishes to combat the effects of being exposed to their emotion. To do so, the player makes a roll of dice equal to his Spirit and the GM rolls a number of dice equal to the characters dice level (base, not temporary) in that emotion. If the player wins, then his reason wins out over emotion and any side effects are side-stepped. If the player loses, then the emotion overcomes and the player role-plays it out as normal. If the emotion more than triples the roll, then the character is extremely overcome. At this point the character is an extreme slave to his emotion. The GM should take over the character because higher level control is no longer an option. The character shall stay this way until the emotion plays itself out. (During this time, the character may commit crimes, destroy chances at a quest, etc. The GM should play it out to its fullest but not be cruel.)

If a stimuli has a value greater than one by investing more than one point in the stimuli, then you roll the emotion value once for every level that the stimuli has, and total the results! Since you only roll you Spirit once for the whole time, Putting all your stimuli in one decreases the amount of times you'll be faced with it, but increases the chances of being overwhelmed.

Resisted Rolls

Resisted rolls have been brought up a couple times already (between the GM and player). They may be used a good deal more if necessary. The basic formula is that two characters (sometimes a character and an object) pair up in a situation and each take an emotion and roll that value against each other. The victor is the one with the highest roll. If one player has an advantage over another player, add the advantage on. The biggest way that advantage comes up is when player is having to fight with an improper emotion (unless the emotion can be tied in properly) and the other player is not so that the other player gets bonus points to add his roll. Resisted rolls count as a standard task and so can be channeled. One variation is if two ghost are competing over something. The ghost who succeeds by the most wins the competition. One of the biggest ways in which resisted rolls are used is in Combat.

Combat and Wounds

There are all sorts of reasons for combat in Ghost Light. Some petty and obvious, others grand and subtle. The idea behind combat, as well as situations leading up to combat, might vary from time to time.

Each round of combat requires a resisted roll. Each opponent rolls on his or her "combat" emotion (some emotions like Love, Fear and Apathy are improper to combat and therefore will give the opponent bonuses to the roll. This can be avoided if the improper emotion is tied in to combat. Fighting to protect someone you love (Love), fighting because your overcome with fear and in the grip of a "fight or flight" inspired fight to the death (Fear).) and the loser gets a wound point. If the winner gets more than double, then the loser gets two wound points, more than triple is worth three wound points, etc. The roll cannot cause more wounds than the Victor's Emotion Dice minus the Loser's Emotion Dice (if even this number is one or less, two wounds may be scored if the double/triple/etc roll comes into effect).

At the end of every combat round, GM should roll a number of dice as equal to wound points while players roll their spirit value in dice. If GM wins, the ghost is either struck unconscience (if the wound level equals or is less than the spirit level) or killed outright (if wound level exceeds the Spirit level). If the Spirit roll triples or more the wound roll, then one wound is automatically lost. Just as in any resisted roll, other emotions may be channeled, and a certain bonus may be applied to one side or the other.

After battle, the healing process becomes better (somewhat). A failure is still death / unconsciencesness but a success is a lost wound. More than double is two wounds healed, triple is three wounds, etc.. Channeling is still allowed. In dice channeled after battle will be kept in effect until all the wounds are healed.

Character Advancement

Every emotion (and/or skill) used significantly during a session will have a chance for advancement. Make a roll equal to the number of present dice in the emotion/skill. If any of the dice come up one (1) then the advancement failed. (There is no penalty for multiple ones). Else, the emotion/skill gains a level (and another dice). If the emotion reaches one of the thresholds for stimuli be sure to fill in another selection.

If a character was in a position to use an emotion that he doesn't have (in other words either channeled or applied a similar emotion at a penalty) then the player can ask to attempt to start a new emotion. If the GM agrees, the advancement attempt is made with three dice (adjusted up or down by a couple dice if the GM thinks that the character is very in line for the emotion or conversely did not really experience the emotion properly). If there are no ones rolled the character gains a single dice in the emotion. This emotion from then out are treated as any other emotion (can be advanced, gets stimuli,etc.)

Whenever an emotion/skill gains a level, put a check in front of Spirit. When there is as many checks in front of spirit as spirit's present rating. Make an advancement roll for Spirit.

Any time a player pulls a phenomenal stunt with the emotion, a roll for advancement should be called for immediately. The advancement, if it does occur, takes effect at the end of the adventure.

A Few Final Notes

First of all, role-play it. There is a lot of reference to emotions don't you think. Play them out. In battle, while bringing your Wrath against an enemy, role-play the viciousness. There is a difference in the way a ghost uses his Curiosity to open a lock and his Hatred to get past an annoying barrier, though the dice rolls and basic results will be the same. Don't ever say, "I'm using Joy(7) to influence the guards". Let the world know what you are doing by how you say it.

Finally, there may be some argument on how an emotion may be applied, and what is actually an emotion. Almost always this argument will result in some jackass bringing a fucking dictionary along. To stop this, each player and the GM should discuss the emotions they choose and their possibilities and eventualities before playing.

Bring Ghost to Light

This final section will give the briefest of information about the "world" in which Ghost Light is set. It will not give very much, just enough to fill you in. Also, most of this stuff is more or less brainstorming, so that you might not want it anyhow.

Ghostly Organization

Ghost have all sorts of genres and groups. There are three basic types. The first is Clan/Tribe/Family. Their basis is the past life of the ghost. Clans are based on the duties of the the past life. One such Clan is the ShipWright Clan whose past lives were captains of sailing ships. Tribes are based on the ethnic origin of the past life. The Coyote Sons are a tribe that comes from Native Americans, specially those of the South West. Families are ghosts united by the means of death. A family composed of those that died by slitting their wrists is called the Blood Wrists Family.

The second organization type is the Guild. Guilds are based on what the ghost does. Each member of a guild will have similar skills and appearance. One guild that is extremely feared is the Red Scythes--dedicated to killing and/or enslaving other ghosts--apparently at random.

The last basic organization type is the sect. Sects are united by methodologies and emotions. They are sort of a religious group of ghost. Mother Gaia is a sect of love, pity and compassion who often tried to help others.

There is a fourth type of organization: the Race. Races of ghosts are not generally open to players, because of their power and differences. There are those like the Unborn -- who have never lived a life but grow as powerful as the Ancient. Also are the Forgetfuls, who have given over into a single emotion so that they are always overwhelmed.

Shrouds of Existence

The places of the Ghost Light universe are composed of shrouds. The most common one is called the Earth Shroud. It is a twisted but also spiritual view of the present Earth and its people. Somethings are the same, others radically, different. Because of the similarities to the real world, most beginning players will want to be here. Fact is, many ghosts cannot ever leave this shroud...

There are also historical shrouds, which represent the earth (and other planets) at critical points of history. These are the basic remains of the Earth Shroud as it moves through time.

Worldly shrouds are composed of different views of the earth. For instance, a desert is a wastleland to some, peaceful to others, to some chaotic, to some orderly. All of these versions of a desert might have their own shroud of existence.

Personal shrouds are created by powerful ghosts. They represents their creator's personalities. The number of possibilities are vast and infinite.

Shrouds exist interlaced. This means that an unlimited number of shrouds can occupy the same "real" space. To travel between them requires a Spirit roll.

Send me mail at to let me know what you think about Ghost Light. ...dreamwyrm...