On Sunday evening, my buddies and I got into an impromptu Ghostlines session. We had Nick and Oliver playing two rookie line-bulls trying to make ends meet in Lockport, Skovlan. Nick played a tough, towering Sevoran brute named Brance (Badge Name: Slane). Oliver played Brance's distant cousin, the wirey but sharp Phin (Badge Name: Templeton), a minor member of Akoronian nobility. The two them had just earned their badges and were set loose into the city to find work.
Nick describes Slane to look a bit like Mickey Rourke in Sin City, face all scarred from a life of brutal crime. Oliver describes Templeton as the spitting image of William Fichtner. Slane is all Force and Steel. Templeton is all Finesse and Insight. I'll talk about it a little more at the end, but I basically used the rules as shown on the PDF mixed with some World of Dungeons "When you do something risky..." style rolling, because it felt a little smoother when I did that.
One of the first things they asked was "What the heck is a badge name?". I turned it around and asked them what they thought. We went back and forth for a bit and decided that the Badge Names were mostly used to give out to people so bulls could stay anonymous, for whatever reason. Maybe to protect their love-ones or whatever. Made sense. Also, since they wore badges, that insinuates they have some kind of authority. We decided that they don't have much legal authority, but they are licensed to carry potentially destructive equipment like lightning-hooks and lightning-web throwers, and have legal clearance to engage ghosts and spirits. Also, they can't be sued for incidental damages during the pursuit of a ghost.
We opened with them working a side job. I had them choose. Templeton decided to take a night job repairing the docks to earn him two Chits. Slane chose a different path, taking part in a B&E job with a shady partner named Booker. I had them each roll on the side-jobs table.
Oliver rolls a 4 for Templeton - while working on the docks fixing the beams that hold up the piers, he hears one of the other workers talking about a woman he met at a pub the other night.
(We roll on the rumors table) She was talking about an island off of the coast of Skovlan where people lived without the protection of an electro-barrier.
They were curious about this so we did an idea exchange and decided together that there are outcasts that live outside of the protection of the cities; unregistered citizens not welcome in Imperial cities. We dubbed people that live outside of the Imperial Cities are called The Stranded. They are lone survival towns that eek out an existence completely vulnerable to ghosts and evil spirits, yet outside of the oppressive rule of the Imperials. One them suggested that these Stranded Enclaves usually hire mercenary line-bulls to protect them from ghosts and evil spirits.
So Templeton sticks his nose in and asks this other pier worker for more information about this woman. The guy says he met her, a pale and skinny lady, at the The Puck and Pendulum, a rough and tumble whiskey-bar near of the warehouse district and factory lane. She was looking to a hire a couple of bulls for some kind of job. Bingo, they got a lead.
For Slane's breaking and entering gig, Nick rolls a 1 on the side-job results, getting a complication.
Long story short, while robbing an electronic parts store in the commercial district, the coppers show up and Slane abandons Booker to get arrested while he makes a break out of the back door. Slane makes no money off of the gig, and Booker is most definitely an enemy after that betrayal, but at least Slane doesn't end up taking a vacation to the Imperial penal colonies.
So after their side-jobs, the two of them convene at their favorite local eatery and make their way over to The Puck and Pendulum to investigate this possible gig. Both of them did their side-jobs at night, so we said it's about four in the morning now. When they get to the pub, they have a few drinks and ask the bar tender about the woman. At this juncture, they're both wearing their casual clothes, having left their gear back at their shared flat nearby.
The bartender asks if they're bulls, and they show their badges. The bartender inspects the badges carefully to ensure authenticity, then explains that there's a woman named Maryweather that's been staying at the motel next door and putting the word out that she's looking to hire some muscle, preferably line-bulls. They ask the bartender to set up a meeting for them. He asks the PC's to come back around 1800 hours and he'll arrange a meeting.
On their way back from the pub, heading to their flat in the warehouse district, three thugs emerge from the shadows of a small alley off of the lonely, dark road.
They demand all the money the bulls have.
Slane and Templeton warn them against fucking around, but the gangers push their luck and whip out some weapons. Slane tries the shove the alpha aside and the mugger takes that as in invitation to lunge forward with his pig sticker.
Slane grabs the dude's wrist and wrenches the knife from his grip while simultaneously throwing him into another one of the attackers, knocking them both down. However, he leaves himself open and the other thug whacks the back of Slane's legs with a lead pipe. At that point, Templeton grabs a nearby trash can and chucks it at the pipe-wielding thug, pegging the thug in the chin with the corner of the can. This leaves the thug open for Slane to grab the bat dropped by the second thug, only to spin around and slam the guy in the face, knocking his teeth out. The alpha thug is up again at his point, making a wild leap at Templeton with his knife. Templeton skillfully redirects the knife attack and the thug ends up impaling himself on his blade, right into the stomach. He keels over and a pool of blood forms around him.
The two bulls take off into the night, leaving the thugs bloodied and bleeding.
Later that day, after getting a few hours of rest, the two bulls suit up and make their way over to the pub to meet with Maryweather about this job. When they get there, they find the thin, angular, pale face of their contact, hidden behind a black veil. She introduces herself as Mary and explains that she's looking for a couple of hired-hooks to travel to a nearby island off the eastern coast of Skovlan where a Stranded Enclave is located. She left there many years ago, but her father stubbornly remains. She needs someone to go there and convince her father to come to Lockport. His name is Clermont - she offers them a faded photograph of him so they know what he looks like. She plans to smuggle him into the city after they retrieve him. For payment, she's offering two Chits apiece (a nice bit of pay for rookie bulls!).
Templeton takes the lead on the negotiations. He asks "What if he refuses to come with us?". Maryweather pushes an envelope across the table.
"Haiver-cerulian blackout powder. Powerful, but not overly dangerous. Slip this into his drink and he should be out for a few hours."
They agree, but demand more money. Maryweather explains she can't afford any more, so Templeton decides to Impose His Will on her, using his Akaronian Nobility for the bonus.
"We might be rookies, but we don't do merc-work for chump change."
He succeeds and convinces Maryweather to boost the pay to 3 Chits each.
To get to the island, Maryweather will arrange a private watercraft to take them to the unnamed island. To further complicate things, once the plan is set into motion, she'll only have a twenty-four hour window to get her father into the city before it becomes nearly impossible, since she's going to have to pay off the local authorities to look the other way and that isn't cheap.
So the bulls need to travel to this island, find Maryweather's father, and make it back to Lockport within twenty-four hours. Maryweather will have her associate, Amison, escort them and pilot the boat, since she doesn't really trust the two line-bulls and she'll need someone to keep an eye on the boat while the two of them are working on the island. Amison will be expecting them to meet up at Dock# 149 at 0600 the next morning. They retire for the remainder of the evening and I let them heal their Harm back up to full.
When they get to the docks the next morning, they come strapped with all of their gear and weapons. Their metal suits clank loudly as they make their way along the cement piers to locate Dock 149.
They find Amison waiting for them next to a pretty spiffy looking erkoplan hydrofoil watercraft. He's a tall, muscular man with coal-colored skin, wearing a tattered suit and some mirror-shades.
He doesn't talk much. They board the watercraft and strap in. Slane complains about sea sickness, but at least the hydrofoil is super fast, cutting through the choppy water and getting them to the island within about four hours.
By the time they get there, Slane is vomiting over the side of the boat and Templeton is laughing at him. (I don't do any harm or trauma for the sea sickness - Nick volunteered and it was mostly for fun). Due to the hydrofoil under the watercraft, Amison can't pull the boat right up to the gray, rocky shore of the island. Instead, their only choice is to leap from the boat onto a wave-washed rock outcropping, and from there they can make it up to the beach and find the footpath that leads to the island's single inner road.
Templeton makes it to the outcropping with a single great jump, but Slane (Partial Success on Finesse because he's at -2 here), has a little trouble. He jumps from the rim of the boat and plants his foot on the edge of the outcropping, but the rock gives way under his extreme weight, chipping off and dropping him. I give Templeton a chance to save him, and Oliver rolls well. Templeton manages to grab Slane's hand before he tumbles into the churning, deep water below.
As the storm clouds above bubble black and the rain begins to fall, the two bulls proceed to the pebble-strewn beach and up into the dense foliage to find the footpath that leads to the road. After traipsing through the brush for a solid half-an-hour, they find the road and follow it north to find a large walled compound with two short guard towers book-ended to a solid iron door. They decide just to approach, whistle, and wave.
Movement in the towers - figures holding assault rifles can be seen training their guns on the bulls.
There's an awkward pause before the gate abruptly grinds open. Slane and Templeton proceed to the entryway to be greeted by a man in a heavy longcoat, with a half dozen armed militia standing behind him.
The man introduces himself as the Mayor (I'm thinking like the Governor from the Walking Dead, lanky with an eye-patch). He asks what brings them all the way out to their Enclave. They explain their looking to speak with Clermont and once they're done, they'll be on their way. The Mayor insists on them coming out of the rain into his office for some drinks to talk about it, but Slane and Templeton won't hear of it. They don't take no for an answer and after some arguing, the Mayor tries to come clean.
He explains that the people of the town have been terrorized by some ghosts for the past month. The bull that was protecting the Enclave previously was recently killed by some kind of particularly powerful and evil ghost.
They have been preyed upon for the past two weeks since. People have been dying every night and the town is getting desperate.
The bulls are still incredulous and uninterested. The Mayor sighs and flashes a handful of chits. It's enough to get at least one of the bulls interested. Templeton throws on his Spirit Goggles and rolls his Insight. He gets a Critical and pinpoints the signatures of dozens of ghosts. Judging by how long the signatures have been there, it looks like they were right here the night before. The Mayor confirms that they come almost every night and usually kill at least a few people.
I forgot to mention, since it was just two of them, I let them each pick two Load Outs. To explain this in fiction, apparently they got their hands on some stolen equipment from some black market dealers. So Slane is primarily the Rook, but he also has the Anchor load out, giving him the heavy lightning hook plus the heavy encounter suit. Templeton is primarily the Owl but also has the Spider load out with the Lightning Web thrower. We were playing loose anyway, so what the hell.
Anyway, the ghosts aren't anywhere to be seen at the moment, and they don't have much time, so they simply pop a squat under an awning, out from under the pounding rain, and wait. The bulls are all about business.
The evening comes and the rain doesn't let up. Suddenly, the temperature of the area drops and Templeton starts picking up some serious readings on his spectrometer. They follow the signatures to an old abandoned two story building on the outskirts of the settlement. When they enter, they find the bodies of some squatters. They look shriveled, sunken-in, almost mummified, as if the life force was sucked out of them. The spirit presence in the building is overwhelming, and the readings are incredibly active on the second floor. When they ascend the stairs, they see another squatter mid-way through getting his soul extracted from his body by a pair of ghosts.
At that point, Oliver and Nick asked about the gear they have. We decided as a group that the lightning hooks are big, electro-industrial rifle-style weapons that emit arching bolts of ectoplasmatic electricity to rip ghosts off of whatever they were latching onto (as ghosts apparently do). It's also quite damaging to the ghost, particularly in the heavy variety carried by Rooks like Slane.
The web thrower fires eletro-nets that capture the ghost in place, but don't injure the ghost too much. It obviously uncomfortable for them, probably painful, but not truly harmful. The spirit bottle allows the bull to suck the ghost into the bottle for containment Ghostbusters style.
We decide that ghosts are nearly invisible unless they're directly interacting with the real world. The bulls can see the two ghosts that are siphoning the life force from this person because their contact with the human phases their forms part-way into the material plane.
So, ghosts aren't very easy to see normally. However, the bull carry spirit flares that can be fired from the lightning hook rifles. The flares bounce around and the explode into a falling dust that highlights the ghosts like in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Spirit Goggles allow the bull to see all ghosts perfectly, even without a flare.
So Slane, not having any spirit goggles to see the ghosts, fires a spirit flare that bursts into a rain of spectro-embers, glittering golden snowflakes that almost trickle down through the air for a few minutes. This ends up revealing the fact that they're surrounded by dozens of ghosts.
They both unleash their lightning hooks simultaneously. However, they both roll Failures and I decide that they cross the beams, creating an explosion that sends them flying back to slam against the wall. The blast destroys the two ghosts and leaves smoldering piles of ash on the ground where the blast incinerated the human husks that were strewn about the room.
They try to stand but they don't have time - a particularly nasty looking wraith materializes in the room and rushes towards the bulls. It has a dark red hue, with burning black coal eyes. They figure this is the terrible creature that killed the town's previous bull.
This time, Templeton launches a lightning web, but Fails, sending it past the wraith to snare a couple of ghosts lurking in the shadows of the room. The wraith screams and darts towards to Slane. Slane fires his hook again, but misses as well. The wraith reaches into his soul to drain him of his lifeforce (he takes harm for this). I describe it as if his breath and warmth was being ripped from his body, like freezing and suffocating at the same time while feeling an intense sense of gravity towards the wraith, as if his whole being was getting pulled into a ghostly black hole.
Templeton tries to rip the wraith off of Slane with his lightning hook, but gets a Partial Success. He manages to pull the ghost off of Slane, but in the process electrocutes his comrade (Slane takes more Harm). The wraith turns to Templeton and glares menacingly. I have Oliver roll Steel - the last thing he wants is to freeze up right now, since Slane is down on the ground and not moving for the moment.
He rolls and gets a Failure. Templeton locks eyes with the wraith as it reaches into the part of his mind where all of his fears and regrets are kept. (I reference "WIIIIIIINSSTOOOOOOON!!!!" from Ghostbusters!)
Templeton falls into a trance-like state and then starts to bug out as his mind collapses into a living nightmare where he is stuck inside of crushingly small cage in a pitch black room (I asked Oliver what Templeton's worst nightmare would be). I tell Oliver to give Templeton some heavy Trauma.
Slane awakens a moment later to discover the Wraith preying on Templeton's mind.
He shakes off the bleariness and blasts the wraith with his heavy lightning hook. He rolls a Success and lances the thing, tearing a hole through it's ghostly form. It shrieks and fades upwards through the ceiling, letting go of Templeton who drops to the ground, screaming and thrashing around. Slane runs to his side and lifts him up, shaking some sense into him.
Templeton stands slowly and nods that he's alright. Before they can figure out what to do next, a trio of ghosts hiss at the bulls and rush right towards them. This time, Templeton responds with another lightning web, snaring the three ghosts with a Critical roll. Slane wastes no time in blasting the ghosts with his heavy hook, getting a partial success. At that moment, I remember the whole lightning oil thing, so I say that Slane silences all three them with a nasty blast from his big hook rifle, but all the blasting so far expends one of his oil canisters.
They hear screams come from outside and rush back down to the first floor and out the door. They emerge to find the town's courtyard in chaos, with ghosts flying around and attacking people with their soul-draining claws. They both say they run out into the town and start blasting the ghosts with their hooks. This time around, I zoom out a little and let them roll the "Against The Supernatural" move, which they completely fail, so I explain how they both start to get panicky, both expending an oil canister for unloading their rifles over and over again.
I let Oliver and Nick choose between Trauma and Harm suffered during this barrage of action, and they each chose whichever they had less of at the time (I think Oliver chose Harm and Nick Trauma). This is explained as Templeton getting clawed by a ghost before he's able to blast it, and Slane watching a girl get her soul sucked out of her right in front of his face.
At that point, they asked about the roles for the bulls. Again, Templeton has the Owl and Spider equipment, and Slane has the Rook and Anchor equipment. I explain the role moves. They decide to meet up in the center of the courtyard and go back to back. The plan is for Templeton to use the Spirit Goggles to pinpoint the wraith, then Slane uses his Steel to draw the wraith towards him, then Templeton snares it in a lightning web, and finally Slane uses the hook to drag the wraith into the spirit bottle that Templeton deploys.
Piece of cake, right?
So Templeton gets a Success on his roll to locate the wraith. He fires a spirit flare right into it, showering it with embers and causing it to be highlighted particularly brightly, while Slane fires another one into the air to blanket the whole area in glowing snowflakes. Slane then rolls his Steel to call out to the wraith and draw it towards him, challenging it and grabbing its attention. He gets a Partial Success, drawing the wraith towards him but also becoming susceptible to it's deathly gaze. I have Slane roll Steel and he freezes up, falling into the nightmare trance that Templeton just suffered through.
So I have Slane take some more Trauma and he falls into a nightmare state. Nick opts for Slane to take a Horror instead. Nick describes his character's nightmare state to be Slane watching his old girlfriend murdered over and over again while being completely numb and helpless to do anything about it.
Templeton leaps forward and unleashing a lightning web on the creature, getting a Partial Success. I explain that he manages to snare the wraith, but his hold is weak and he'll need to actively work to keep the wraith snared.
The wraith releases Slane, but now he's out-cold, lying on the ground.
Templeton is desperately trying to reign in the wraith. I have Templeton roll Steel again. This time he gets a Success and keeps his shit together, not letting the wraith zone in on his mind.
A few moment later, Slane slowly snaps to, pulling himself off of the ground and letting loose a frustrated and exhausted battle cry. He grabs his heavy hook off of the ground and yells to Templeton to get the spirit bottle ready. Slane fires the hook at the wraith, this time not trying to lance it so much as grapple it and drag it into the spirit bottle that Templeton deploys onto the ground. I have Slane roll his Force and Templeton roll his Finesse.
They both get Critical Successes so I say that they run to each others sides going back to back with a thud and wrench the wraith right into the spirit bottle. It gets sucked into the bottle like water down a drain. With the last wispy trail of spirit slipping into the spirit bottle, a shockwave spiritual power bursts out as the wraith is finally contained. The whoosh of spirit energy travels outwards, and all the ghosts that plague the city scatter into the night. The rush of the rain and wind is all they hear over the pathetic whimpers of the terrorized citizens.
They drop the ground panting while the surviving citizens rush for safety or morn their fallen loved ones that are now mere husks. The Mayor rushes over to them and exclaims that he's never seen such a sight. Slane scrambles over and grabs the spirit bottle off of the muddy ground and starts barking orders at the Mayor to produce Clermont or pay the price. This time Nick is rolling to have Slane Impose His Will and is threatening physical violence - Slane jams his hook rifle into the Mayor's chin.
The Mayor's cronies all pull their rifles on Slane and Templeton joins the stand-off with his lightning hook rifle. Nick rolls and gets a Success. The Mayor hesitantly agrees and motions to his right hand man.
After a tense few moments, the guard comes back with an older man who clearly looks confused - Clermont.
Slane demands that Clermont cooperates and comes with them. Clermont protests, waving his bottle of liquor around. A few moments of heated debate, Clermont throws the bottle at Slane and tries to make a run for it. Slane is too quick though. He swats the bottle to the ground and grabs Clermont by the collar, yanking him back and slamming him onto the ground. Without so much as a hesitation, Slane pulls the envelope out of his pocket and removes the bag of powder, then proceeds to jam it into the old man's mouth.
Clermont coughs up a cloud of powder. Slane responds by pouring some of the liquor into the man's gasping mouth. He then slugs the guy in the face to knock him out and throws him over his shoulder. This whole time, Templeton is leveling his weapon at the Mayor and the armed guards, threatening them not to intervene.
Slane carries Clermont towards the open gate door while Templeton backpedals to keep his gun trained on the guards. They make their way out the front gate of the town and take off down the road towards the wilderness footpath. Behind them, they can hear engines revving up from the Enclave - sounds like the Mayor isn't quite ready to let them leave.
The bull find the footpath and jump down off of the road embankment, just in time to see two vehicles peeling down the road behind them. They rush through the foliage, making much better time this time around.
Templeton uses his wrist-radio to try to contact Amison as they're running down the footpath. He's getting no response. They must be out of range. The two bulls keep running, but the sound of multiple trucks ramming their way through the foliage keeps growing behind them. A moment later, Slane and Templeton emerge from the brush out onto the rocky beach of the island. Templeton tries the radio again. This time they get a response.
"Amison! Amison! Where the fuck are you?!" Templeton yells.
"Sorry mates - your driver is dead - sleeping with the prongfish." a strange buzzing voice replies.
"What?! Who the hell is this?" Templeton's horse voice sounds desperate.
"You two have something I want. Let's talk." the female voice trails off. They swear they can hear a grin in her voice.
Just then, two heavy diesel trucks come crashing through the forest behind them, loaded with Stranded militia and their assault rifles.
"Don't fucking move, you fucking pieces of shit! You're not leaving till I say you leave!" the Mayor screams over the roar of the waves and the rain.
The above was an actual play report from 2012 posted on Story-Games.com. Re-posting it here for posterity (and because it's a good RPG memory for me).