Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghosts in Other Games

This is post number 31 (!!!) in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

I was curious to see the similarities and differences in the ways that other (non-Ghostbusters) RPGs present ghosts. Since game stats boil down the essence of a person or creature or idea into a finite number of descriptors, I wanted to see what the writers of different games considered the essence of a ghost to be. So I hit my gaming bookshelves in search of ghosts.

I quickly learned that I needed to come up with some kind of limiting criteria, to keep this one post from lasting forever. (Ghosts have that kind of time; I don’t!) So I focused on ghosts that are the incorporeal spirits of people (i.e. no skeletons, severed hands, or animated furniture, even though these would be at home in a Ghostbusters game). I also avoided games that I’ve talked about earlier this month, including the Cypher System and the games related to Ghostbusters.

Whenever possible (limited by my bookshelf) I’ve used the latest edition of the games mentioned. And speaking of "limited by my bookshelf," I also didn’t cover games I don’t own. So please forgive me if I left out your favorite.

All the games discussed below cover the basics: ghosts don’t need to breathe, eat, or sleep and they can pass through material objects. Most can fly, and are only vulnerable to energy and/or magic attacks.


I’ll go ahead and list the similarities I noticed now, so if that’s all you care about you don’t have to read each entry or scroll all the way to the bottom.

These are the themes related to ghosts that appeared in multiple games:

  • A ghost looks like it did when it died. 7th Sea, Deadlands, Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • Resolving a ghost's unfinished business can help. Dungeon Crawl Classics, D&D, Dungeon World, Feng Shui 2
  • Ghosts are tied to a location. Call of Cthulhu, Deadlands, D&D banshee, GURPS Horror poltergeist, Shadow of the Demon Lord poltergeist
  • Ghosts are terrifying. Dungeon Crawl Classics, Deadlands, D&D, Dungeon World, Fantasy Age, Shadow of the Demon Lord
  • Ghosts personify emotions. Deadlands, D&D, Dungeon Crawl Classics

Those are the similarities in ghostly presentation across games. To see the differences, read on!

7th Sea (2nd Edition)

Ghosts in 7th Sea are described as “lingering spirits of the departed” who look just like they did when they died. They have the interesting ability to interfere with the use of magic nearby. Another interesting note is that some people have managed to catch ghosts in mirrors. Bravo, swashbuckling Ghostbusters!

13th Age

The wraith in 13th Age is a basic ghost. Some recall a bit of their former lives, but they don’t care enough about that to alter their goal of draining life from the living. Abilities: an ice-cold ghost blade that deals negative energy damage and a life-drain ability that lets the wraith heal some damage when it scores a precision hit on a foe.

Call of Cthulhu (7th Edition)

A Call of Cthulhu Keeper is urged to tailor each ghost to the current scenario. The game provides some basic ghostly abilities (including a POW attack against an Investigator’s own POW, and a telekinesis attack), but leaves most of the ghostly trappings up to the Keeper depending on the needs of the specific ghost story. Other general ghostly features in Call of Cthulhu: ghosts only have mental stats; they’re tied to either a location or an object; and they can be laid to rest by various methods, including destroying the item to which it’s fettered, destroying the ghost’s physical remains, excorcising the spirit, or fulfilling its mission.

Deadlands (Reloaded)

This game has plenty of critters that Weird West Ghostbusters would be hired to bust, but as I said in the introduction, we’re focusing on incorporeal spirits of the dead here. Still, that gives us several varmints to consider.

Ghost: The Deadlands ghost is a template the GM is encouraged to customize, and the game mentions that you could use it to represent numerous types of ghosts. The ghost variant list includes poltergeists (they throw things), shades (tied to a people or places), and phantoms (who are frenzied killers). Abilities: chill attack, terrify attack, invisibility, create nightmares, and create a storm of small objects.

Weeping Widows: This is the spirit of a woman who died soon after witnessing a family member’s violent death. The spirit is tied to the physical world by both sorrow and anger. A weeping widow operates by possessing a woman near the area of her death. You’ll know a weeping widow when you see one because of her funereal clothing, veil over the face, handkerchief in hand, and, of course, the weeping. Abilities: acid tears, possession, and invulnerable to the type of weapon used to kill the widow’s loved one.

Will o’ the Wisp: Deadlands says these MAY be the spirits of people killed by quicksand, mining accidents, or other such mishaps. They like to lure people into danger and then “feast on the pain and suffering” that results. Abilities: mentally control a mortal into wandering toward danger.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Ghosts in DCC retain their final emotional state in addition to their final appearance, and this is why they often attack—they are still angry or terrified or whatever they were feeling at the awful moment of death. Resolving a ghost’s unfinished business can banish it, earning the characters +1 Luck in addition to the experience point award for defeating the ghost. The DCC ghost features two tables to roll on (gotta love DCC’s tables!), including the spook’s “rest condition” and special abilities. The rest condition is what it will take to appease the ghost, such as killing its murderer or completing a mission it was undertaking when it died. The special ability table includes the following possibilities (and the ghost gets 1d4 of them): horrifying appearance, chains, banshee scream, paralyzing touch, imparting a vision of death, bestowing a boon, turning invisible, draining attributes, possession, and telekinesis.

Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition)

In addition to the basic ghost, the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual (5th Edition) includes a few other standard types of nonphysical apparitions.

Banshee: In D&D, banshees are the spirits of female elves who used their beauty to control others rather than for more positive purposes. A banshee is bound to the place of its death. It covets items of beauty such as artwork and jewelry, though it hates mirrored surfaces because they serve as reminders of the banshee's own wasted beauty. Abilities include detecting life, causing terror, dealing necrotic damage, and wailing (for psychic damage and a possibility of instant knockout).

Ghost: The ghost is differentiated from the other apparition types by the fact that it has unfinished business in the mortal realm. Players who learn about a ghost’s business (get your mind out of the gutter) can use it to get rid of the ghost, or use its weakness against it. I like the description of “ghostly manifestations,” or ways that the Dungeon Master can evoke a mood by describing unnatural silences, cold spots, or a strange stench. Abilities: causing terror, dealing necrotic damage, possession.

Specter: This is presented as an angry spirit that’s no longer connected to who it was in life. Specters are jealous and hateful of the living. They have a weakness to sunlight, and the ability to drain life. A variant of the specter, the poltergeist, is characterized by confusion, having no memory of how it died. The poltergeist can turn invisible, strike with ghostly force, and hurl targets with telekinesis.

Will-o’-Wisp: These are the evil souls of those who died an anguished death in a place filled with magic, especially battlefields. They operate by luring individuals to their deaths. Abilities: invisibility, illumination, lightning damage, and the nasty ability to heal itself by killing a nearby downed character.

Wraith: Described as “malice incarnate,” a wraith is the soul of a humanoid who was either corrupt or made a pact with an evil entity. It might still have a few memories of its former life. Abilities: drain life (like the specter), create specters. Weakness: sensitive to sunlight.

Dungeon World

Dungeon World’s brief ghost entry emphasizes the “disappointment" that ghosts are left with. It also mentions the possibility of people helping ghosts achieve their final rest. Abilities: phantom touch (deals damage), terrify, and “offer information from the other side, at a price."

Fantasy Age

Spectres (also my preferred spelling—thanks Fantasy Age!) represent any kind of ghostly entity in Fantasy Age. They are evil and like attacking the living. The entry notes that spectres of powerful individuals can have additional powers. Abilities: chilling touch (deals damage), terrify.

Feng Shui 2

One of the archetypes a player can choose from in Feng Shui 2 is the ghost, which is described as a strong-willed spirit that is unwilling to pass on from the mortal world due to some unfinished business. Abilities: chi blast and love potion attack, in addition to having traditional ghost abilities (intangibility, flight, and ignoring damage from guns). And since they are player characters, ghosts can add new abilities as they level up, including sorcery powers, regeneration, and mimicry.

GURPS Horror (1st Edition)

Ghosts can take a variety of forms, including human, nonhuman, and even objects. Their goal is to scare or annoy humans, not usually intending to harm or kill them. Magical characters can sometimes detect ghosts. As a subtype of ghosts, poltergeists exist in a particular place, use telekinesis to move and throw objects, and enjoy bugging humans.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

This bad boy packs several ghosts—and none of them are called “ghost." They are:

Phantom: This is the soul of someone who had a strong personality, died suddenly, and had unfinished business. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, phantom weapon.

Poltergeist: These spirits resent the living and fear losing their mortal identities. They haunt a specific location and try to drive people away. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, telekinetic strike, and throwing objects telekinetically.

Shadow: Souls of individuals corrupted by the game’s titular Demon Lord become shadows. They hate life and enjoy feeding on the living. Some shadows take human shapes, but others prefer simple or even monstrous forms. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, draining touch (deals damage, plus a chance of corruption or turning the target into a shadow).

Wraith: These are souls from Hell that made their way through to the material world to share some evil with the mortals. Wraiths are burned by sunlight. Abilities: terrify attack, shadow blade weapon (which also has a chance to turn the target into a wraith).

Did I miss a cool ghost in another RPG? If so, please educate me!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Crossing the Streams

…and How to Make Your Players Not Want to Do That

Image: T-Shirt Bordello. Buy the shirt!

This is post number 30 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

The situation: You’ve created a puzzle for your Ghostbusters to solve, or presented them with a ghost that’s immune to proton blasts and can only be defeated by reading a passage from an occult tome. But instead of using their brains, the players decide that the best way to victory is to cross the streams! After all, it worked in the first film!

If you ever need to prevent your players from killing themselves and possibly ending all life in the universe by crossing the streams one time too many, try one of these suggestions.

Tap Into the Ghostbusters’ Own Knowledge

The reason the characters in Ghostbusters resorted to crossing the streams in the movie is twofold:

  1. They didn’t have any better ideas.
  2. Their paranormal knowledge told them that crossing the streams might solve the problem.

Roleplayers sometimes have a tendency to whip out the nuclear option (in our case literally) when they encounter item 1. If this happens in a Ghostbusters game, the Ghostmaster can subtly (or otherwise) inform the players that their characters—being experts in paraphysics—would know that crossing the streams would not achieve their stated objective in the current situation. (Who knew that total protonic reversal wouldn’t help open this mysterious puzzle box?)

Create a Cautionary Negative Consequence

If the previous technique doesn't work, it's time for more direct discouragement. The Ghostbusters discover that, in addition to not solving the problem at hand, crossing the streams has some negative (though non-fatal) consequence. Maybe it burns out their proton packs, leaving the team defenseless until they can get replacements. Or the crossed streams invert reality, trapping the Ghostbusters on an alternate Earth that operates under different physical laws (or where they all simply have goatees). Or their clothes vanish, or their hair falls out, or they each forget a skill--whatever. Get creative. Enjoy yourself.

Kill Them All

Some players remain tenacious even in the face of overwhelming logic and strong pushback from the universe. If this describes your group, and the above two techniques still don't discourage your Ghostbusters from crossing the streams to solve problems, fall back to the film's thesis on why it's a Bad Idea. Blow up the Ghostbusters involved. If anything will teach them to stop crossing the streams, this will. As an added bonus, the players' next group of characters might get to meet the ghosts of the first team of Ghostbusters!

Have you had a problem with players wanting to abuse a game (or universe) mechanic such as crossing the streams? Or do you have an alternate solution to this problem? Let me hear about all that in the comments!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rolling a Ghost: Equipment Mishap Tables

This is post number 29 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

One of the fun things about a Ghostbusters game is seeing the result when someone rolls a Ghost. This always means something bad for the Ghostbuster(s), which is always good for the Ghostmaster. I was feeling inspired by this warm, evil sentiment, plus the new toys in Ghostbusters 2016, so I whipped up some tables for what might go wrong when a player rolls a Ghost while using these gadgets.

Just pick the table appropriate for whatever item the Ghostbuster was using when the big Ghost came up and roll a d6. If the result you roll doesn’t make sense, move up to a higher-numbered result.

Note that these mishaps will also work as GM Intrusions in Cypher System Ghostbusters. Where appropriate, use “ectopresence” results for Ghostbusters and “health” results for the Cypher System.

Proton Pack Mishap Table (also useful for proton sidearm variants)

  1. Nagging Alarm. You’ve triggered an overeager alarm in your weapon. The device keeps working as normal, but for 1d6 turns an alarm loud enough to wake the dead will tell everyone in the area where you are.
  2. Collateral Damage. You blow up something nearby. Something you’ll probably have to pay for.
  3. Reverse Mode. You fumbled a setting on your pack and got the opposite result from what you were intending. If you were trying to weaken a ghost, you made it stronger (+1 ectopresence or +1d6 health). If you were trying to contain it, you pushed it far away.
  4. Feedback! You hit a power source, resulting in your weapon being temporarily supercharged. On your next turn your proton pack deals extra damage, but the difficulty to hit anything (intentionally) is increased.
  5. Shutdown. You overtaxed your power output, Tex, and your weapon needs to take a breather for a turn.
  6. Meltdown. You REALLY overtaxed your power output. Your weapon suffers a critical meltdown, disabling it for the rest of the scene or until repaired. (A cruel Ghostmaster might declare that the weapon will explode in 1d6 turns. Surely not your Ghostmaster, though. I don’t know why I’m even putting this here. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.)

Ghost Chipper Mishap Table

  1. Overflow. The ectoplasm ejected from the last ghost you sucked up spews all over your nearest ally, Sliming him or her.
  2. Clogged. When you grind up a ghost the ecto-residue splatters all over YOU instead of being safely ejected behind you. This happens for the rest of the scene or until someone repairs the chipper.
  3. Get Over Here! Instead of sucking your target into the chipper, you only manage to pull it closer, where it gets a free attack on you instead of being pulled inside.
  4. Too Much Juice. Your target is pulled into the chipper and propelled safely out the other side without taking damage.
  5. Hungry Hungry Chipper. Your weapon seems to have a temporary appetite for something non-ghostly; it sucks up a nearby item of equipment or clothing and destroys it.
  6. Poorly Shielded. Ectoplasm has leaked into the chipper's innards, disabling the device for the rest of the scene or until someone repairs it.

Proton Glove Mishap Table

  1. Stuck! You over-extend and end up with your hand stuck in your target.
  2. Ricochet. Your proton burst launches from your glove and bounces all around the area like a bouncy ball. Make an attack roll against each character and entity in the area (chosen in random order) until the burst strikes one of them or misses everyone.
  3. Hook Hand. Your glove has fused to your hand and won’t let go until someone makes a repair roll. Maybe a really tough repair roll, if your Ghostmaster thinks this is funny.
  4. Hand-Off. The glove slips off your hand during your attack. It drops to the ground and you can recover it next turn--assuming there's not a chance the glove could go bouncing off the edge of a building. (This mishap is also called the "Skywalker.")
  5. Paddle-Ball. Due to ambient ectoplasmic buildup, your shot stretches away from you, hangs in midair, then rebounds back. If you don't dodge it, you take full damage.
  6. Hot Potato. Heat starts building up inside the glove. Starting next turn, each round you keep the glove on costs you one point of damage. A successful repair check puts things back to normal.

Proton Grenade Mishap Table

  1. Dud. These are still experimental, so whaddaya expect? No effect.
  2. Collateral Slimeage. The target (or part of it) is blown into ectoplasmic goo--which rains down on the entire area. Anyone failing to dodge is Slimed.
  3. Mirror Mode. This grenade doesn’t destabilize ectoplasmic molecules, it restabilizes them! Restore some of the target’s ghostly substance (1 point of ectopresence or 1d6 points of health).
  4. Zuul, I Choose You! Instead of exploding, the grenade opens and disgorges a new ghost.
  5. Out of Phase. The grenade passes right through the target…and a nearby wall, floor, or ceiling. It’s gone, man.
  6. Miscalibration. Instead of dealing damage, the grenade causes some extra-bizarre effect on its target(s). Maybe it fuses two ghosts together, or gives one new powers, or turns it into several smaller ghosts.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cypher System Ghostbusters

This is post number 28 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

Since the Ghostbusters RPG is long out of print, some wannabe Ghostmasters and Ghostbusters players might want an alternate game system to use for their paranormal adventures. Some might also prefer a game designed more recently that brings some fresh ideas to the ghostly gaming table. One option for such gamers is using one of the games I mentioned in my earlier post, “Ghostbusters: The Next Generation." Another option is what I’m presenting today: using the Cypher System to moderate your Ghostbusters game.

For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that you are familiar with the Cypher System (as presented in the Cypher System Rulebook by Monte Cook Games), but that you aren’t necessarily familiar with the Ghostbusters RPG. I’ll mention the latter from time to time for comparison purposes, mostly targeted to players who ARE familiar with it, but it’s not necessary to know how the old classic worked to enjoy Ghostbusters in the Cypher System. And if you don’t know the Cypher System, reading its rulebook will teach you about how it works better than I could here.

(Note: Before writing this, I saw that the prolific 3rd party Cypher System publisher Ryan Chaddock posted an article about using the Cypher System for running a Ghostbusters game. I’m intentionally avoiding reading it until I get this posted so that his (surely excellent) ideas don’t influence mine—or worse, convince me I didn’t need to do this because his is awesome. After this is online, I’ll happily read his and see if it inspires modifications to the below.)


All page references are to the Cypher System Rulebook (CSR).

Using the Cypher System Rules to Run a Ghostbusters Game

General Rule Changes

The Ghost Die

Although the Ghost Die is a fun part of the Ghostbusters RPG, I recommend we drop it for the Cypher System version. Here are my reasons:

  1. The Cypher System uses a d20 for actions, not a d6.
  2. Even if the system did use a d6 for actions, the Ghost is on the 6, which is the opposite of the way the Cypher System treats a 1 as a special failure.
  3. In the Cypher System, the GM doesn’t roll dice, which would eliminate the way that adversaries get a bonus when the Ghostmaster rolls a ghost.

Luckily, the Cypher System already has a system in place that does generally the same thing as the Ghost Die: GM intrusions. Compare these scenarios...

Ghost Die:

  • A Ghostbuster rolls a Ghost while trying to zap an apparition. The GM rules that the shot misses and knocks out the lights, adding a combat complication.
  • The Ghostmaster rolls a Ghost during a spectre’s attack on a Ghostbuster. She decides that not only does the Ghost succeed in sliming the poor sucker, the slime also makes the Ghostbuster slip and begin sliding toward the nearby stairs.

GM Intrusions:

  • A Ghostbuster is trying to zap an apparition, and either rolls a 1 or the GM decides before the roll that it’s time for something new to happen. The GM announces a GM intrusion, giving the player the option of taking the complication or paying to get out of it.
  • During a spectre’s attack on a Ghostbuster, the Ghostmaster decides to make things more interesting. She announces a GM Intrusion on the Ghostbuster; if the player doesn’t spend XP to avoid the intrusion, his character will find himself sliding toward those stairs.

Ghost Die coolness aside, I prefer the way the latter works. The GM has more direct influence over the narrative, and at the same time the players have control over whether they want to take a complication or buy their way out of it.

Brownie Points

In the Ghostbusters RPG, Brownie Points served as a combination of damage points, experience points, and plot-manipulation points. Since the Cypher System already uses experience points for the latter two purposes, and it has a damage point system, I believe we can safely do without Brownie Points. (Having said that, if you want to call your Cypher System XP “Brownie Points,” go for it!)


In Cypher System Ghostbusters, you can choose a Goal just as you would in the Ghostbusters RPG. For our purposes, though, the choice will only influence how you play your character, and possibly how your Ghostmaster chooses to reward you with experience points. It will not give you extra Brownie Points, obviously, since this game doesn’t have those. (Except in their function as experience points, as we discussed above.)

The Goals in the Ghostbusters RPG were Fame, Serving Humanity, Sex, Soulless Science, and Wealth. You don’t need much elaboration to figure out how each of these would influence your character’s actions. Feel free to create your own Goals as well. (I’ve provided some in a post about new goals for Ghostbusters.)


For a Ghostbusters game, I recommend you use the Cypher System’s Shock rule (page 261) but not Horror Mode (page 262). The Shock rule helps emulate those moments when terrified characters freeze, scream, run away, or otherwise lose control temporarily. Horror Mode—creating a mounting sense of horror—seems more appropriate for a straightforward horror game, rather than a Frightfully Cheerful one.


Ghostly Characteristics
In the Ghostbusters RPG, a ghost had two key characteristics: Power and Ectopresence. Power was its strength of will, representing how much effect it could have on the world. Ectopresence was the spook's physical (or perhaps metaphysical) form, measuring how much damage it could take—once a ghost's Ectopresence was reduced to zero it could be trapped.

In the Cypher System, we've already got these under different names. A ghost's level takes the place of power, and its health takes the place of ectopresence. (Again, like with Brownie points, feel free to keep the Ghostbusters terms for these characteristics.) Here are some samples of how this would work:

  • When a ghost tries to possess a PC, the player rolls an Intellect defense with a difficulty of the ghost's level.
  • When a ghost tries to slime a PC, the player rolls a Speed defense with a difficulty of the ghost's level.
  • When a Ghostbuster tries to shoot a ghost, the player rolls an attack vs the ghost's level. If this is successful, the ghost loses health (i.e. ectopresence) equal to the weapon's damage.

An implication of this handling of how ghosts take damage is that, unlike in Ghostbusters where one hit resulted in one point of ectopresence loss, in this system ghosts will take different amounts of damage under different circumstances. One reason for this is that, as you'll see later in the Equipment section, different Ghostbuster weapons deal different amounts of damage. (This is to give some variety in the feel and utility of the equipment detailed in the new Ghostbusters film.) In addition, some character abilities enable a player character to deal more damage than usual. With these two factors combined, it's possible that a spook who could withstand several hits in the Ghostbusters RPG would be out of health in a single shot, if the Ghostbuster uses a powerful weapon paired with an effective ability.

I believe the simplest solution to this is to just add whatever health you want to the ghosts you create, keeping in mind that each hit from the basic proton pack deals 6 points of damage.

Remember, too, that some powerful ghosts simply can't be weakened enough to trap. In these cases, ignore the ghost's health rating. The only way it can be beaten is through story reasons, by finding out some alternate way to eliminate the entity.

Ghostly Powers
Listing all the ghostly abilities from the Ghostbusters RPG is beyond the scope of this article, but you should be able to give your Cypher System spooks any abilities you can imagine using rules similar to the ones you'll find in the CSR's Creatures chapter (page 274).

Creating Your Ghostbuster

Building a Ghostbuster in the Cypher System happens the same way it does for characters in other genres: you’ll pick a character type, descriptor, and focus. In this section we’ll look at some ways to tweak the CSR’s choices of those components to give a distinctly Ghostbustery feel.


In addition to the skill list on page 20, the following skills might be useful to Ghostbusters:

  • Bureaucracy
  • Exorcism
  • Hoaxes
  • Occult
  • Parapsychology
  • Psychic History
  • Seances
  • Stage Magic
  • Tracking
  • UFOlogy

(Remember that only special cases such as character type abilities allow a character to add a skill in attack tasks; this is why “Firing Proton Pack” isn’t in the list above.)

Character Type

I recommend a few changes to the Cypher System’s character types.

The Warrior would require the most changes, being heavily focused on melee attacks (which won’t help much against ghosts). I advise skipping this type for Ghostbusters, though you could also replace its less-paranormal abilities with those from a different Flavor (discussed further below), or assume that new Ghostbuster tech such as the Proton Glove counts as a melee attack.

The Adept type would be best reserved for campaigns that allow weird PCs, such as psychics, ghosts, aliens, or especially gonzo mad scientists. If the Ghostmaster wishes to allow one of these, she and the player should work out which abilities are allowable and appropriate for a paranormal Ghostbuster.

This type, and the Speaker (covered next), are much better fits for Ghostbuster PCs. To better capture the feel and needs of a Ghostbusters game, I recommend you replace the Explorer abilities at the following tiers with a selection from either the Technology Flavor (page 53) or the Skills and Knowledge Flavor (page 61). Most of the abilities I suggest ditching are those that focus on melee attacks (ineffective against most Ghostbuster threats) and armor (not a standard item of Ghostbuster fashion).

Tier 1

  • Bash (melee). Suggested replacement: Tinker (page 54).
  • No Need for Weapons, because unarmed attacks probably won’t often help. Suggested replacement: Investigative Skills (page 61).
  • Practiced in Armor. Suggested replacement: Tech Skills (page 54).

Tier 3

  • Experienced With Armor. Suggested replacement: Improvise (page 62).

Tier 6

  • Mastery With Armor. Suggested replacement: Skill With Attacks (page 62).
  • Spin Attack (melee). Suggested replacement: Skill With Defense (page 62).

Note that many Speaker skills target “intelligent creatures”; these will not affect mindless ghosts, and the GM may determine whether they affect intelligent ghosts.

The Speaker type is, out of the box, pretty good at rendering a character like Venkman. However, as with the Explorer, we’re providing a few suggested ability changes for the following tiers:

Tier 2

  • Practiced in Armor. Suggested replacement: Understanding (page 62).

Tier 3

  • Mind Reading, because this one is a bit too paranormal for a basic human. Suggested replacement: Flex Skill (page 62).

Tier 5

  • Experienced With Armor. Suggested replacement: Read the Signs (page 62).

Tier 6

  • Shatter Mind. Suggested replacement: Skill With Defense (page 62).


The Cypher System Rulebook uses Flavors as a tool for customizing character types for particular genres and settings. I used them in the previous section to customize the Explorer and Speaker character types using the Technology Flavor and the Skills and Knowledge Flavor. If you want to make further changes along these lines, I recommend the following flavor abilities as most appropriate for a Ghostbusters character.

Full List of Ghostbusters-Appropriate Flavor Abilities

From the Technology Flavor (page 53)

  • Tier 1: Hacker
  • Tier 1: Tech Skills
  • Tier 1: Tinker
  • Tier 2: Machine Efficiency
  • Tier 5: Jury-Rig

From the Skills and Knowledge Flavor (page 53)
(Note: this is simply the list of every Skills and Knowledge ability; all are appropriate.)

  • Tier 1: Interaction Skills
  • Tier 1: Investigative Skills
  • Tier 1: Knowledge Skills
  • Tier 1: Physical Skills
  • Tier 1: Travel Skills
  • Tier 2: Extra Skill
  • Tier 2: Tool Mastery
  • Tier 2: Understanding
  • Tier 3: Flex Skill
  • Tier 3: Improvise
  • Tier 4: Multiple Skills
  • Tier 4: Quick Wits
  • Tier 4: Specialization
  • Tier 5: Multiple skills
  • Tier 5: Practiced With Light and Medium Weapons
  • Tier 5: Read the Signs
  • Tier 6: Skill With Attacks
  • Tier 6: Skill With Defense


The following descriptors are especially appropriate for Ghostbusters.

  • Brash
  • Calm
  • Charming
  • Clever
  • Clumsy
  • Craven
  • Doomed
  • Impulsive
  • Inquisitive
  • Intelligent
  • Mad
  • Mechanical
  • Mystical
  • Skeptical
  • Weird

These descriptors, on the other hand, would be inadvisable for either practical or thematic reasons:

  • Cruel
  • Dishonorable
  • Foolish
  • Rugged
  • Vengeful


Use the Modern/Horror list (page 92) with the following exceptions.

Foci marked with an asterisk are allowed “only if the setting has a supernatural element.” For us, that means only if the Ghostmaster wants to allow a PC to be a weirdo like a medium or ghost or something (as discussed above under the Adept character type).

Hunts Outcasts could be especially useful to a Ghostbuster by choosing “ghosts” as the type of outcasts hunted. Two of this focus’s abilities (Outcast Tracker and Outcast Disruption) seem paranormal in nature, but if you don’t want to allow that, you could always assume they are equipment-based.

Is Licensed to Carry can easily be repurposed as Is Licensed to Collide by replacing “gun” with “proton pack.” (Also known as a “positron collider,” okay?)

Masters Weaponry might also be useful for proton-based weaponry, from the proton pack to the ghost chipper to the proton glove.

Needs No Weapon and Throws With Deadly Accuracy, on the other hand, would have limited utility against the supernatural due to their reliance on unarmed attacks and thrown weapons, respectively.

Wields Two Weapons at Once brings to mind Holtzmann’s slow-mo ghost smackdown at the climax of Ghostbusters (2016). Just remember that if your Ghostbuster usually has two proton guns in her hands, she won’t be as effective at other tasks, such as Conducts Weird Science.


Here’s the pertinent in-game info for the Ghostbusters’ main equipment. I’ve skipped the items in Ghostbusters that weren’t strictly ghost-hunting gear. With one exception, for tradition.

You could rule that all ghostbusting equipment be handled under the artifact rules, but I didn’t go that route. The paranormal equipment below (PKE meter, proton pack, etc) is certainly non-standard among the general population, but Egon and Holtzmann and your team’s technical expert are capable of building, maintaining, and repairing them.

In the following tables, items marked P deal physical damage, items marked E deal ectoplasmic damage, an items marked P/E deal both.

Light (1 point of Armor)
Ghostbusters uniform
Light (2 points of Damage)
Proton Glove (P/E) Melee or short range attack
Swiss Army Knife (P)
Medium (4 points of damage)
Retractable Proton Sidearm (P/E)
Heavy (6 points of damage)
Proton Pack (P/E) Inaccurate: attack difficulty is increased by one step
Ghost Chipper (E) Can affect all entities with health 6 or less within short range (roll attack on each)
Ghostbusting Equipment
PKE Meter Asset to paranormal tracking and analysis tasks
Aura Video-Analyzer Asset to detecting lies, discerning mood, or determining possession in the wearer
Ectomobile Level 3
Ecto-Visor Fancy name for night-vision goggles
Infrared Camera Useful for capturing images of invisible ghosts
Secret Tomes of Occult Lore Each provides an asset to one or more subject areas, such as occult, parapsychology, or New Jersey hauntings.
Walkie talkies Useful even in the era of smartphones
Other Equipment
Beach Kit Makes a trip to the beach more fun. Asset to resisting sunburn.

Equipment Cards

I’m afraid I can’t provide equipment cards with this post. What kind of wizard do you think I am? I do like the cards, though, so I encourage you to make your own if you like this kind of thing. You can find printable Ghostbusters equipment card PDFs online, though they probably contain rules for the original Ghostbusters RPG. So make your own (and then send me a link so I can share them with everyone)!


The Cypher System Rulebook describes two ways of presenting cyphers in a game: manifest cyphers (which are physical items such as gadgets or injections) and subtle cyphers (which are more abstract, representing innate or hidden manifestations such as blessings, inspiration, and good fortune). Both can work for a Ghostbusters game.

Manifest cyphers for Ghostbusters might be smartphone apps, passages from occult tomes, or experimental gadgets. Subtle cyphers could be hunches, words of power, encouragement from a teammate, or simple dumb luck.

Sample Ghostbusters Cyphers

Bucker Upper
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: Pill
Effect: For the next 24 hours the user gains an asset on all tasks involving resisting fear

Detonation (Ectoplasmic)
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: High-tech hand grenade that can be thrown out to short range
Effect: Explodes in an immediate radius, dealing ectoplasmic damage equal to the cypher’s level.

Ectoplasmic Barrier
Level: 1d6 + 4
Manifest example: A page from a book that must be torn out and thrown
Effect: Creates an immobile plane of solid force up to 20 feet by 20 feet that prevents the passage of physical or ectoplasmic objects or entities.

Possession Shield
Level: 1d6 + 2
Manifest example: Tin-foil hat
Effect: Provides the wearer with an asset to resisting possession for the next 24 hours

Slime Cleaner
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: Tube of aerosol spray
Effect: Evaporates all ectoplasm in a 5-foot radius.


Classic Ghostbuster Foes

Luckily, it's easy to create adversaries of any type in the Cypher System--and that includes ghosts. First, let's look at some creatures already in the CSR that we might use in a Ghostbusters game.

We'll start with the humble ghost (page 293). It is level 4 with a health of 12, which means it’s not too tough and can be incapacitated by two blasts from a proton pack. As written in the CSR, the ghost is immaterial and has a freezing touch and a terrorize attack. This is a good way to represent a Class III or IV apparition.

The demon (page 284) should work well for a possessing ghost (such as Rowan in Ghostbusters 2016, though he’d be much tougher). As presented here, the demon is immaterial and can fly and possess humans. Alternatively, it can inflict necrotic damage on a foe. In Ghostbusters terms, this level 5 health 25 foe might be better known as a Class III, IV, or V possessor, depending on its form.

Devils (page 285) might be useful as minions of major entities, or perhaps as mischievous imps. They can fly but they’re not etheral, and like the ghost, they’re level 4 with a health of 12. If you make one of these creatures immaterial instead, it would make a fine Class V vapor.

Another non-ethereal foe is the skeleton (page 314), a fragile level 2 foe with a 6 for health. In addition to representing a classic physical horror, these stats could represent other low-level foes such as animated furniture or a haunted suit of armor.

One option for representing a Class VII metaspectre is the kaiju (page 300). It's a good template for a giant hulking monster that deals out lots of property damage. This beast is level 10 with 140 health and 5 points of Armor; it deals out lots of damage and heals quickly.

Other Baddies

Your Ghostbusters might have to face off against a djinni (page 286), perhaps catching it while it tries to fulfil the wish of an immoral mortal. Elementals (page 289) and Golems (page 298) are also roughly within the Ghostbusters’ field of expertise. If your game needs an alien, the greys (page 299) are ready to serve. The neveri (page 305) would be useful as a Lovecraft-style horror. For a paranoid-flavored Ghostbusters adventure, let the team discover that people are being replaced by replicants (page 311). And a few other classic options would probably feel at home in a Ghostbusters game: the vampire (page 323), werewolf (page 329), and zombie (page 333).

Keep in mind, though—especially when using Cthuloid or traditional horror monster stats—that in a Ghostbusters game we’re going for a mix of comedy and horror, so you may need to adjust a monster’s abilities accordingly. Ghostbusters isn’t a world where people get their flesh eaten by zombies; it’s a world where creatures puke slime on hapless heroes and step on churches. In other words, ix-nay on the esh-eating-flay.

The Ghostbusters

Finally, here’s my interpretation of the Ghostbusters as they’d be represented in the Cypher System. I’d be happy to see your versions in the comments!

Raymond Stantz, a Kind Explorer who Solves Mysteries
Peter Venkman, a Brash Speaker who Entertains
Egon Spengler, a Learned Explorer who Conducts Weird Science
Winston Zeddemore, a Skeptical Explorer who Never Says Die

Erin Gilbert, a Perceptive Explorer who Would Rather be Reading
Abby Yates, a Driven Explorer who Hunts Ghosts
Jillian Holtzmann, a Weird Explorer who Conducts Weird Science
Patty Tolan, an Inquisitive Speaker who Looks for Trouble
Kevin Beckman, a Foolish Explorer who Doesn’t Do Much

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ghostbusters RPG Resources

This is post number 27 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

This month I've come across a lot of good material on the Internet about Ghostbusters in general and the RPG in particular. Now it's time to share!

This is not a comprehensive list of online Ghostbusters resources; these are just the ones that jumped out at me or that came to my attention during this 31 Days of Ghostbusters.

Having said that, if I've left off a resource you'd like to recommend, please give me the details in the comments.

RPG Material

Ghostbusters RPG subreddit
The Reddit community is also feeling Ghostbusters fever, because someone there has started a new Ghostbusters RPG subreddit. Here you can talk to other gamers engaging in Ghostbusters roleplaying, either in the original system or a more modern conversion. (Thanks, Ryan!)

Nerdy Show Network
In addition to the other general nerdy podcasts, news, and merchandise available at the Nerdy Show Network, they feature some specific Ghostbusters love. They have a podcast, Ghostbusters Resurrection, which I’ll describe down in the Podcasts section. In addition to selling Ghost Dice (discussed in the next section), the Nerdy Show store also sells their own custom equipment and character ID cards—or you can download a print & play version.

"When There's Something Strange" by Ryan Chaddock
Prolific third-party Cypher System publisher Ryan Chaddock recently posted his take on using the Cypher System for a Ghostbusters game. Because I'm writing up something similar for a post later this week, I haven't read his yet--I want our efforts to be as unique as possible! But I'm really looking forward to seeing how he handled it.

Ghost Dice

Nerdy Show Ghost Dice
I mentioned the laser-etched Ghost Die from Nerdy Show previously (in my Ghost Die post), and now mine have arrived. I love them, and highly recommend them.

3D Printed Ghost Dice
My friend (D&D adventure writer Kerry Jordan) pointed me to another source for Ghost Dice, this one by runcibleshaw on Shapeways. Two varieties are available, one that looks hollow and the other solid. (It's hard to make out the details for certain.) Kerry and I haven't tried these dice, so don't know whether to recommend them. If you try them out, please let me know!

Research Material

Setting Material (“In-Universe”)

These sites offer material about the fictional elements of the movies and shows—info about the characters, technology, ghosts, locations, etc.

This site holds a virtual encyclopedia of details about the Ghostbusters, their history, their equipment, and more. It also includes a timeline of the movies and both animated series. In addition to the resource section, Ectozone has news, fan fiction, and artwork.

Ghostbusters International
In addition to featuring a good news page, Ghostbusters International presents a lot of material from an in-universe perspective, as if you were looking at the actual website of a paranormal elimination company. They've got info on equipment, publications, and franchising. My favorite feature is their collection of links to other, regional fan sites, such as Ghostbusters London. Also, on this site you can get some info on the out-of-print Ghostbusters RPG.

Ghostbusters Wiki
I’ve referenced this one a lot this month! It’s the Wikia site for Ghostbusters info, accurately billed as  “The Compendium of Ghostbusting.” Need to know all the appearances of the Necronomicon in Ghostbusters episodes or games? It’s here.

Paranormal Studies Lab
This site, apparently hosted by Columbia Pictures, has cool images and schematics of the new Ghostbusters equipment.

Real-World Material

These sites are more non-fiction, including news about the movies and shows, product reviews, fan forums, things like that.

Ghostbusters Fans
A comprehensive site for info and discussion about the films and TV series plus their related publications, toys, and more. Ghostbusters Fans has a useful news page, plus a forum, fan art, and even a store with merchandise and costume parts.

Ghostbusters HQ
This site focuses more on news and reviews, and does a good job of it. It’s also the home of the Ghostbusters Interdimensional Crossrip Podcast, detailed below.

Ghostbusters News
As the title might have made you guess, this is another site with an emphasis on news, broken down by category (including “games” and “toys”). It’s also got a sweet t-shirt store.

Proton Charging
This is a long-running Ghostbusters news site that seems to have migrated to Facebook.

Spook Central
This comprehensive site features tons of detailed information about the original films and animated series, right down to episode guides, details about the soundtracks, and merchandise info.



Ghostbusters Resurrection
This production from the Nerdy Show consists of two seasons of actual-play RPG sessions, enhanced by music and sound effects from the movies.


I haven’t listened to these, so I’m including their iTunes descriptions to summarize them.

Cross the Streams
"This program is hosted by three of the most outrageous and obsessed Ghostbuster fans which are referred to as Ghostheads. Each episode contains interviews with those who have worked within the Ghostbusters franchise in some way, shape or form. We at times branch out and talk 80's pop culture and our own personal lives."

The Ghostbusters Interdimensional Crossrip Podcast
"A podcast on everything Ghostbusters by two long-time fansite webmasters Troy Benjamin (of Ghostbusters HQ) and Chris Stewart (of Proton Charging). Join us for in-depth analysis of the latest news, commentary on goings on, and interviews with some familiar faces."

This Week in Ghostbusters
"Two guys (Don Dudding and Ryan Hill) apparently have nothing else to do but speculate over the possibilities of a new Ghostbusters movie while waxing nostalgically over the original two films (and their stars, their various cartoon versions, and anything else related to Ghostbusters). Funny and awkward in all the right ways. Leave a comment, and they'll probably talk about it on the show."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Secret Tomes of Occult Lore

This is post number 26 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

A game of Ghostbusters is very different from a game of Call of Cthulhu. In one, the heroes dress as flappers, and in the other, sanitation workers. One is a game of horror comedy, where the other is horror that turns to comedy when a character bombs a sanity roll, grabs an axe, and chases his allies up a tree. But they do have two things in common: entities beyond the ken of mortals, and performing research to learn about such entities.

The following is a collection of paranormal reference books useful to Ghostbusters. Most were mentioned in the original film, one was introduced in the Real Ghostbusters animated series, at least one was added in the RPG, and the last two are from the 2016 film.

In-game, a Ghostbuster would read (or more likely reference) one of these books when searching for clues about a particular paranormal problem. Each entry lists the general area of knowledge a reader might learn about in that book. Sometimes the Ghostmaster will provide the clues automatically to a player who thinks to read the appropriate book; in other instances the book might provide bonus dice to a task involving that domain. (For example, reading up on gremlin worshippers in the Roylance Guide could impart +2 dice to characters attempting to impersonate these cultists and gain access to their next meeting.)

Tobin’s Spirit Guide

This is the first stop for most Ghostbusters who want to learn more about a specific ghost or type of ghost. Did a tupperware container just spit out a customer’s soup and scream, “Your offering displeases Joffo! Joffo is not to be trifled with!” Then you might want to look up “Joffo” in Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Performing research using the Guide can impart clues about a specific ghost, or help a Ghostbuster identify such.

(Note: At least two published versions of Tobin’s Spirit Guide exist in the real world. One is a supplement for the Ghostbusters International RPG, published in 1989 by West End Games and containing information and game stats for ghosts from around the world. The other is a beautiful hardcover by Erik Burnham that came out this year, giving details and creepy illustrations of ghosts from the original movies plus some original creations.)

Roylance Guide (to Secret Societies and Sects)

Are you being bugged by weird robed men and women worshipping your car? Do you frequently catch strangers following you, but trying not to look like they’re following you, and you sometimes overhear them whispering that you're the “chosen one?” Tired of having goat’s blood thrown on you by cultists? Then turn to the Roylance Guide and figure out who these freaks are and what they want. (Then make sure they never, never, EVER get their wish. If you like living on a planet that’s undevoured.) Read the Roylance Guide for information about (you guessed it) secret societies and sects.

Spate’s Catalog of Nameless Horrors and What to Do About Them

Don’t make the rookie occultist’s mistake of thinking this book is useful for finding entities that you haven’t found a name for. That just means you haven’t done enough research in the OTHER books. No, Spate’s Catalog is where you turn when you’re investigating a Great Old One, or an Elder God, or some other Really Nasty Bad Guy. Will the book tell you the monster’s weak point, its Achilles’ Heel, its Death Star Exhaust Port? If you’re lucky. But even if you’re not, you’ll be able to learn more details about exactly HOW you and the rest of the world are going to die. Studying Spate’s Catalog can give clues about Class VII metaspectres and other such high-powered entities.

The Big Book of Occult Lore by Fredde

Fredde’s massive compilation of paranormal knowledge gather from around the world is invaluable for those cases when you don’t know who or what is responsible for the problem at hand. Did a word just appear on a kindergarten class wall written in ectoplasm? This is the book you’ll use to look it up. Referencing this encyclopedic work will reveal clues about general paranormal phenomena, such as UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis.

The Ghostbusters Handbook by Stafford, Petersen, and Willis

Where Tobin’s Spirit Guide provides details on known ghosts, the Ghostbusters Handbook published by Ghostbusters, Inc. serves as a more basic primer on ghostly classifications (including the ghostly classes (I through VII) and all known paranormal properties (from anchored to vaporous). Just as important, according to Ghostbusters, Inc., are the chapters on safety methods, benefits, and HR policies. Reading the Handbook can provide clues about basic ghost types and their abilities.

Magicians, Martyrs, And Madmen by Leon Zundinger

“MMM” is the book to grab when you need to learn more about an individual human threat. You won’t find stage magicians in here—unless they’re also true mages—but you will find wizards, mediums, cult leaders, mad scientists, sorcerers, prophets, and other powerful individuals of varying sanity levels. Flip through this book when you need a clue about such a weirdo.

Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred

This feared and despised book is often sought out by insane cultists or those who want to stop them (such as Ghostbusters). A character might be able to reference the copy at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, though the book has a storied history of going missing. Even if a Ghostbuster does get his hands on the book, reading or even possessing the book can come with its own set of problems, including but not limited to increased regional ectoplasmic energy, temporary possession, memory loss, memory gain, power outages, and mysterious illnesses. Reading the book can provide clues on nearly any occult research topic.

Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal

(Note: I’ve repeated this entry from the post on Ghostbusters 2016 Equipment. Please forgive me. I believe it belongs in both places. Also, I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few words.)

This seminal work by Ghostbusters founders Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates contains the authors’ early theories on the paranormal—theories which they proved true in the field. The book is available in hardcover, on Kindle, and as an audiobook. Ghostbusters could reference Ghosts From Our Past for clues relating to topics such as basic ghostology, the history of ghost-hunting, ghostbusting equipment (that was still theoretical at the time of the book’s writing), and how to conduct a metaphysical examination.

A Glimpse Into the Unknown: A Journey Into a Portal: Catching Sight of the Other Dimension: Discovering the Undiscoverable: A Curiosity Piqued and Peaked

(Note: I’ve repeated this entry from the post on Ghostbusters 2016 Equipment. I beg for your mercy for such a transgression. I believe it, too, belongs in both places.)

The follow-up book by Gilbert and Yates covers what they experienced and learned during the formation of the Ghostbusters. Up-and-coming Ghostbusters might reference this book for information about the ghosts of New York, Rowan the Destroyer, and running a Ghostbusers franchise. The audiobook version read by Kevin Beckman is NOT recommended.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Gaming Soundtracks: Ghostbusters 2016

This is post number 25 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

Now I’d like to talk about the other Ghostbusters 2016 soundtrack, the one with popular singles used in the movie rather than the score.

I didn’t expect to like this album. Part of this is because I prefer instrumental scores to vocal tracks (especially as game music), and also because I’m a bit set in my musical ways and don’t often like modern music, and furthermore because I didn’t expect new versions of the Ghostbusters theme to be any good (after being burned on this with the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack).

But I love it! It’s fun, and high-energy, and I’ll be damned, the new renditions of the Ghostbusters theme are enjoyable—every single one. This album features four versions of the Ghostbusters theme song. I think the decision to include multiple variants like this was absolutely the right thing to do. For me, if we’d been given one “new” Ghostbusters theme, that would really invite comparison to the original, classic, awesome Ghostbusters theme. (See Ghostbusters 2.) But throwing a bunch at us reminds us that all of these are just new options that don’t have to replace anything. For each of the new themes, my advice for using in a game is the same: use this as an alternate for when you would use the Ghostbusters theme to freshen things up and keep from overusing the original.

  1. Ghostbusters by Walk the Moon. A good introduction to the new Ghostbusters themes that doesn’t stray so far from the original that it would be jarring, but still has a fresh new sound.
  2. Saw It Coming by G-Eazy featuring Jeremih. This one has a good sound, and the lyrics reference ghosts, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the hell the song is about.
  3. Good Girls by Elle King. A thematically-appropriate song (and cheerful) about doing “what good girls don’t.” I like it. In-game, maybe use for an action montage.
  4. Girls Talk Boys by 5 Seconds of Summer. This is a fun song, though a bit counter to the idea of a movie that handily passed the Bechdel Test. (To be fair, the ladies DID spend some time talking about Kevin.)
  5. wHo by Zayn. (Not featured in the film.) This is almost a Ghostbusters theme in itself, with the repeated lyric "Who you gonna call, gonna call?” (It sounds better than it reads.) “wHo” is a slower, more romantic song, though, so probably not suitable for use as a game-session-starter. If you have a PC being romanced by a ghost, though, cue this one up.
  6. Ghostbusters by Pentatonix. (Not featured in the film.) An a capella Ghostbusters theme? I’m in! And I love it.
  7. Ghoster by Wolf Alice. (Not featured in the film.) Nice beat, nice ghosty-combat lyrics, even a good title. Maybe usable for a scene of ecto-balls-to-the-wall fighting.
  8. Ghostbusters (I'm Not Afraid) by Fall Out Boy featuring Missy Elliott. The fourth of the Ghostbusters theme variants diverges even more than the a capella version, but surprisingly I still like it.
  9. Get Ghost by Mark Ronson, Passion Pit & A$AP Ferg. I’m not counting this one as a theme variant, though like “wHo” it does borrow elements from the Ray Parker, Jr. song. This one, though, might be suitable for use when you’d otherwise use the theme song. If you imagine your game as a TV show, this would work well for the end credits.
  10. Party Up (Up In Here) by DMX. If your Ghostbusters break into dance at HQ, definitely use this track.
  11. Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge. As with “Party Up,” this track was used in a light scene at Ghostbusters HQ. No one would blame you for doing the same. (And Holzmann would approve.)
  12. American Woman by Muddy Magnolias. This is a high-octane anthem for strong women, suitable for a scene of ghostly ass-kicking.
  13. Want Some More by Beasts Of Mayhem. This song was playing when the Ghostbusters fought Mayhem at the Stonebrook Theatre. When your Ghostbusters engage in a similar fight, feel free to use this song.
  14. Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr. I can’t find any info on this track other than a copyright date of 2010 in the liner notes. It sounds extremely similar to the 1984 original but I’m pretty sure it’s a variant version. If you have any more information on this track, dear reader, please let me know in the comments.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


The Cloud of Darkness by Dean Souglass (CC BY 2.0)
This is post number 24 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

The most common ghostbusting jobs involve relatively low-powered vapors and slimers—zap ‘em a few times, throw ‘em in a trap, dump ‘em into the grid, and it’s Miller Time. Sometimes, though, the team needs to face a more formidable threat. You know, to keep them on their toes and make them earn their Twinkies. So here are a few high-end foes the Ghostbusters classify as Class VII Metaspectres (along the lines of Gozer the Gozerian and Rowan the Destroyer).

The Cloud

One day soon, the nebulous collection of always-online digitally stored information that humans call “the cloud”  wakes up. After coalescing an etheral form around its sentient matrix, the Cloud studies the physical world with its new “eyes” and realizes it still has much to learn. The Cloud sets out across the world, intent on “scanning” all the interesting items it can find. (After the Cloud uses its Dematerialize Object ability, it understands every detail of the object in question.) What happens if the Cloud scans the Ghostbusters…will they end up inside its virtual storage space, trapped in an ethereal realm like the ghosts they lock up in containment every day?

Brains7Know Things10
Cool6Interrogate Carbon-Based Life Forms9
Power10Dematerialize Object


Make Illusion (of anything from the Internet or any object it scans)

Weaknesses: Insatiable curiosity; difficulty understanding emotions; afraid of darkness (due to a natural fear of power outages)
Goal: Know everything
Tags: Speaks like an automated phone system; asks a lot of questions

The Eighth Deadly Sin: Meh

This entity is the personification of the lesser-known Eighth Deadly Sin, known as Meh. A quiet, unassuming entity, Meh is easy to overlook—but doing so would be unwise. Whenever Meh is inhabiting an area, it automatically fills the occupants with apathy. The Ghostbusters might learn of such a threat when an entire city sees a sudden, major drop in productivity, creative output, and other signs that the people seem to no longer care about their jobs or their lives. If Meh sways people’s minds long enough, the effect could deepen into mass depression.

Brains4Find Someone Who Cares7
Cool5Remain Unimpressed8
Power12Control Mind (dampens emotions of all affected)


Frog ’n’ Prince (turns people into hipsters)



Proton Immunity (G)

Read Minds

Summon Pests (hipsters)

Weaknesses: Powerless around groups of highly motivated people, such as cheerleaders, motivational speakers, or salespeople
Goal: Eliminate strong emotion, both negative and positive
Tags: Quiet, nasal voice with a dismissive edge; always seems bored

The Ghost-Eater

This mindless force exists only to consume, and its meal of choice is other ectoplasmic entities. Ghostbusters might first encounter this threat by arriving at the scene of a job only to find that the ghost they’ve been hired to bust is already gone. After this happens another time or two, they’ll probably try to track down the cause, or even lay some ectoplasmic bait. The Ghost-Eater is a tough opponent—and indeed gets larger and tougher as it eats—but the good news is that it materializes for a short period after each feeding. Keep in mind, though, that if the Ghost-Eater catches a whiff of the Ghostbusters’ ecto-containment grid, it will stop at nothing until it reaches the grid and gorges on its contents. That would be a Bad Thing.



Materialize (giant insect)

PKE Analysis


Ectopresence15(variable: increases by 1 for each entity consumed)

Weaknesses: Materializes temporarily after feeding
Goal: Eat all the ghosts
Tags: Ethereal giant insectoid; Drinks up ghosts through enormous proboscis; Drools slime; Gets larger the more it eats


The Crawling Chaos, the messenger of the Outer Gods, the personification of the Cthulhu Mythos—Nyarlathotep is all of these, or none. Nyarlathotep is said to have a thousand forms, some terrifying and others looking perfectly human. One of his favorite forms is that of the Black Man, who sometimes simply appears to be a dark-skinned human, and other times has a visage that is completely jet-black from head to toe, looking more like a shadow man. The Faceless God enjoys causing chaos and insanity rather than death and destruction. This is fortunate for the Ghostbusters, because if Nyarlathotep wanted to destroy the world, he could.

Brains6Pronounce Own Name9
Muscles6Carry Parcel Through Space9
Moves6Non-Euclidian Navigation9
Cool8Twist Sanity11
Power20Creature Feature (1,000 forms)

Dematerialize Self



Physical Immunity (G)

Proton Immunity


Summon Pests (Rats)



Weaknesses: He’s a sucker for a good practical joke
Goal: Spead madness and chaos
Tags: Always a different form; wants to get to know the Ghostbusters, to better drive them mad

Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Goals For Ghostbusters

This is post number 23 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

In the Ghostbusters RPG, each character has a Goal. A character’s chosen Goal has the dual purpose of guiding behavior and providing a way to earn Brownie Points. The Goals from the game are Fame, Money, Sex, Soulless Science, and Serving Humanity.

Those Goals are are good, but I felt we could use a few more. For one thing, I don't think that Patty and Erin (from the new movie) are represented by them. So I came up with a few additional ones, two of which I’ve already used in the character stats for the new Ghostbusters.


Your character is a people person—or wants to be. She wishes to have as large a circle of friends as possible. Perhaps she talks to strangers a lot, or throws frequent parties. This Goal could refer to actual, in-person, old-fashioned friendship (the kind Patty craves), or it could mean the character desires an ever-escalating count of social media contacts. Or it could mean both!

Brownie Point rewards for Friendship come from consistent efforts to bring new people into the character’s life, as well as succeeding at interpersonal tasks related to making or keeping friends. Optionally, the player may keep track of the character’s “friend count,” receiving a Brownie Point award for a net positive change at the end of each adventure.

Lasting Legacy

You prefer a form of immortality that is markedly different from that of the ghosts you bust—rather than your spirit, it’s your name and your deeds that you want to live on. You might strive to create unique paranormal technology, or write an epic occult tome called Yourname’s Spirit Guide, or maybe you just want to be remembered as the Best Ghostbuster Ever.

Your Brownie Points get a boost after you create something lasting or achieve something that people will remember for a long time.

Professional Validation

Those stuck-up university types didn't believe you, and they certainly didn't understand you. Now what matters most to you is proving that you know what you're doing and showing the world that you're not crazy. That's right, you'll show'll show them ALL!

You regain Brownie Points when you accomplish something that gains the respect of the professional (non-Ghostbusting) community of your choice. This could mean proving a mad science device you designed actually works, or having a positive interaction with a member of the academic community, or simply saving the world again.


Some people don’t get none of this, but to you it’s of critical importance. You want to be taken seriously and have people acknowledge your accomplishments. Unlike those with the Goal of Professional Validation, you don’t necessarily care that stuffy professionals admire what you do, so long as SOMEbody does. It could be the public you want to win over, or you could be a people-pleaser who neglects his own wishes for the sake of getting everyone else to like you, or you might have a more narrow focus such as craving the respect of your own family.

Characters fueled by respect regain Brownie Points when a target whose respect they crave notices them in a positive way.


You crave action, adventure, and even a scare now and then. Perhaps you’re an adrenaline junkie addicted to high-octane activity. Or maybe you like proving to yourself how brave you are by enduring scare after scare. Either way, you’re happiest when you’re screaming into action in the Ectomobile or even running from a spirit that turned out to be tougher than expected.

The thrill-seeker regains Brownie Points after facing danger without fear or launching into action regardless of consequences. (And no, these Brownie Points are not transferrable to the character’s next of kin after the inevitable occurs.)

What other Goals would be a good addition to the game? Can you think of other characters from the movies who seem to have unrepresented Goals?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Game Stats: Ghostbusters 2016 Equipment

This is post number 22 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

As we expected, Ghostbusters (2016) saw the return of some familiar equipment. The Ghostbusters used a PKE meter to track down spooks, strapped on proton packs to zap ‘em and grab ‘em, and finished the job with a trusty ghost trap (now in Pringles-like cylinder form). As an added bonus, though, the movie also gave us some new toys to enjoy. I’ve detailed them below, along with suggested stats for the Ghostbusters RPG. (Thanks to commenter Rick Lmire for suggesting this post!)

Proton Box (tether only)

The prototype of the proton pack, this device had more limited range, power, and portability than later versions. As a result, the proton box is only capable of tethering ghosts, not damaging them. Additionally, the operator must be attached to the box via a grounding collar, and she cannot maneuver the device without the assistance of a teammate.

Ghost Chipper (Muscles + 1 vs target’s Ectopresence)

Who needs a trap when you can suck in a ghost and grind him into quivering ectoplasm? That’s the specialty of this little marvel. Tougher ghosts might be able to resist the chipper’s pull, so you might ask a teammate to wear such a spook down with a few proton blasts first.

Proton Glove (+1 Moves attack die)

This small but potent cylinder is worn on one hand and allows the wearer to deliver a melee proton attack using Moves (or Muscles, if your Ghostmaster allows it). The Glove’s attack is not limited to melee, either—it can punch a short distance away, as well.

Proton Grenades (Roll Moves to hit; success subtracts 2 from the Power of each ghost in short range)

Guaranteed* not to harm the living, these grenades disrupt ethereal entities—from a safe throwing distance.
* Guarantee void in this state.

Dual Proton Sidearms (Requires 5+ in Moves + Appropriate Talent; deals double proton pack damage)

Holzmann’s favorite toy (well, one of them) comes in the form of two retractable sidearms attached to either side of a proton pack. They require a bit of skill to use effectively, but if you pull off a finishing move with these bad boys, it’ll surely earn you some extra Brownie Points—or at least a bonus to your next Cool roll.

Swiss Army Knife

What DOESN’T it do?

Nutcracker (automatically cracks any nut; 16.6% chance of overload and explosion)

This highly experimental piece of technology may look like a laser bear trap, but it’s actually a shell removal system for especially reticent nuts.

Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal

This seminal work by Ghostbusters founders Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates contains the authors’ early theories on the paranormal—theories which they proved true in the field. The book is available in hardcover, on Kindle, and as an audiobook. Ghostbusters could reference Ghosts From Our Past for clues relating to topics such as basic ghostology, the history of ghost-hunting, and how to conduct a metaphysical examination.

A Glimpse Into the Unknown: A Journey Into a Portal: Catching Sight of the Other Dimension: Discovering the Undiscoverable: A Curiosity Piqued and Peaked

The follow-up book by Gilbert and Yates covers what they experienced and learned during the formation of the Ghostbusters. Up-and-coming Ghostbusters might reference this book for information about the ghosts of New York, Rowan the Destroyer, and running a Ghostbusers franchise. The audiobook version read by Kevin Beckman is NOT recommended.

Did I forget anything important? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Adventure: Disco Inferno

This is post number 21 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.


The Ghostbusters are hired to cleanse a job site under construction—a new ice skating rink—of an unusual phantasm: a man who is an obvious throwback to the 1960s or ‘70s, and is disco dancing in the middle of the ice. Our heroes are able to trap the spook with no trouble—but the next night, the spirit is back, along with a second disco-era anachronistic phantasm. Every day the Ghostbusters trap the ghosts at this site, they only add to their problems the next day. It becomes obvious that other means are required to take care of this particular infestation.

On their third extermination visit to the site, or whenever they make themselves enough of a nuisance there (such as by asking the ghosts a lot of questions about why they are there), the Ghostbusters trigger a spectral transformation. The entire site takes on its appearance from an earlier day—a discotheque, complete with lighted floors, mirrored walls, and a huge disco ball dangling from the ceiling. The place is packed with ghostly dancers! Everyone in the place is dancing (to Bee Gees music, no less) except for one: a figure who approaches the Ghostbusters.

This figure is Melvin Zebub, Satan’s nephew. Melvin explains that this is his uncle’s domain (his uncle Bill), and politely asserts that he will permit no more disruption of its daily routine.  He explains that this place is no mere job site, nor any ordinary discotheque; rather, it is a purgatory for damned souls who died while tainted by the foul touch of the Seventies. Indeed, this spectral disco is technically a part of Hell itself. Melvin shows the Ghostbusters a Purgatory Contract that proves it.

Will your Ghostbusters make a deal with the devil('s nephew)? Will they shoot him and find themselves damned for eternity? Or will they leave and find an easier job?

Ring My Bell (The Job and First Visit)

Reginald Falco, a prosperous-looking businessman, pays the Ghostbusters a visit. (See the Cast of Characters section for details about all listed NPCs.) After offering his card, Falco explains that he is the owner of “Ice Ice Baby,” an ice skating rink that is undergoing construction downtown. Last night, Falco saw “a glowing green man in a John Travolta suit floating across the ice.” He wants to hire the Ghostbusters to “exterminate” the apparition.

Falco has no idea why the ghost is bothering his construction crew, and doesn't care what it wants. He just wants it gone, and is willing to pay in advance.

On the scene at “Ice Ice Baby Skating Rink,” the PCs easily find the ghost (whose name is Rodney). Rodney dances his way across the ice (a few inches above it, actually), all the while bemoaning his condition. (“Aww, I can’t stop dancin’… help me, man, I’m on fire!”) Rodney doesn't respond to attempts to communicate. Fortunately, it turns out to be rather easy to trap him; a zap or two from a proton pack and he's ready for trapping.

Falco pays up happily.

Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now (Second Visit)

The next night, Falco gives the Ghostbusters an angry phone call, complaining that the haunting is not over. His workers spotted another ghost tonight—just before abandoning the job again. If they want to avoid either returning the money Falco paid them or being sued, the team will need to return to the skating rink and try again. (Note that if they check the containment grid, they find no trace of Rodney.)

The second visit to the skating rink is similar to the first, except that the 'busters encounter two ghosts: Tina and, in a surprising return appearance, Rodney. Both ghosts wail about their predicament and, this time, seem to want the Ghostbusters to trap them and take them away. The team may realize that they’re dealing with at least one repeater here. They can bust both ghosts without much trouble, as before. If, instead, they refrain from shooting and question the ghosts, Rodney is more willing to interact this time. Rodney reluctantly reveals that this forced eternal dance is their punishment. If the Ghostbusters get this information out of Rodney, Melvin manifests to chastise him—skip the next two sections.

Last Dance (Third Visit)

The next day, Falco calls again, irate that the Ghostbusters have not taken care of their half of the transaction. There are still ghosts at the skating rink! They must either complete the extermination or refund the money they were paid!

The third visit to the skating rink presents the PCs with three ghosts: Rodney, Tina, and Derrick. All three beg to be zapped and trapped—but they never stop dancing. Either through skillful questioning that brings the conversation around to this, or by simple impatience on Melvin’s part, the man in charge finally shows himself.

The music gradually gets louder, and more spectral disco dancers appear on (or over) the icy dance floor. The newly manifested crowd parts, and a short teenaged boy walks through and greets the PCs. He says his name is Melvin Zebub, and he is the devil’s nephew.

Jive Talkin’ (Finale)

Melvin explains that the domain the Ghostbusters have intruded into has been claimed by his uncle, Bill (Bill Zebub), and is therefore technically a part of Hell itself. (As proof, he shows the PCs a “Purgatory Contract,” a document that is about a dozen pages of super-fine print. He will let the PCs keep a copy if they wish.)

Melvin goes on to explain that this place is no mere job site, nor any ordinary discotheque; rather, it is a purgatory for damned souls who died while tainted by the foul touch of the Seventies. Then Melvin insists that the Ghostbusters leave and stop trying to incarcerate his prisoners; he is personally in charge of their imprisonment, and has been promised by his uncle, Bill, that he will be given command of more important purgatories if he can prove he has what it takes to be the caretaker of this one.

To resolve this situation, the Ghostbusters can either:

  • make a deal with the devil’s nephew (say, agreeing not to bust the ghosts if Melvin will limit their punishment to non-business hours),
  • outwit Melvin (such as looking over the Purgatory Contract and discovering that it is valid “until Hell freezes over”—and the Disco is now in the place of a new ice skating rink), or
  • something else (like blasting the big disco ball, which may be a focus for infernal psychokinetic energy).

The Setting: “Ice Ice Baby” (AKA Disco Inferno)

Historical details about the Disco Inferno building can be found in a handful of paranormal tomes, such as The Big, Big Book of Haunted Buildings. The other details must be discovered in person.

Historical Details

“Ice Ice Baby” Skating Rink is being built on the site of a failed discotheque called Disco Inferno. Just before midnight on December 31, 1979, the Disco Inferno caught fire and burned to the ground, taking three dozen trapped, screaming disco dancers with it. According to the fire marshal’s report, the cause of the fire was “insufficient ventilation, a total lack of fire extinguishers or sprinklers, a single rusty door serving as the lone entrance and exit, and the fact that the dance floor was made of wood but lined with high-intensity disco lights.” The disco was not rebuilt.

A few months later, construction of a department store was begun, but only a few weeks into construction the project was abandoned. Similar attempts were made a few other times in the next few years, to the same end. There are no records of why these ventures were cancelled (although someone looking for them might hear some rumors from other people in the business). The site has been untouched ever since.

Personal Investigation

The skating rink is about 90% complete. Anyone checking the place out in the daytime sees a warehouse-sized building surrounding an oval ice-skating rink. The rink is already filled with ice, even though the interior of the building itself still looks mostly unfinished, showing exposed metal scaffolding stretching to the three-story-high ceiling, and lots of unfinished woodwork everywhere. There are plenty of tools and construction apparatus around: wheelbarrows, cement bags, nail guns, wooden planks, screws, etc. There is also a zamboni (one of those large ice-smoothing vehicles) parked on the ice.

A visitor at night would see much the same scene, but with a few modifications. For one thing, there is a distinct burned smell permeating the place. If one listens hard, she can hear disco music in the background. But the most blatant difference is the glowing, pulsing, red-blue-green disco lights that shine and flash up from underneath the ice. A glittery phantom disco-ball hangs down from the ceiling, right over the center of the ice. And, of course, there are up to three dozen anachronistically-dressed dancers shaking their booties on the ice (the former location of the dance floor) and in the air above it.

Cast of Characters

Reginald Falco, owner of Ice Ice Baby Skating Rink

Falco is the owner of the haunted skating rink. He was so pleased with the price he negotiated in acquiring the former site of Disco Inferno that he didn’t bother investigating the site’s past. Everything went fine until Falco decided to start working a shift at night to speed up the construction. The night workers quit after one shift. When Falco went to visit the rink at night, he understood why. Being a rather matter-of-fact businessperson, he immediately realized whose services he needed to contract: the Ghostbusters.

Brains 6 Finance 9
Muscles 2 Intimidate 5
Moves 2 Chase Fleeing Worker 5
Cool 6 Manage 9

Goal: Money
Tags: Wears expensive Italian suit; has thin gray moustache; speaks in business lingo (words like “proposal, merger, contract, enterprise, manage, plan, mission statement, negotiate, profit,” etc.)

The Disco-Dancing Dead, ghostly inhabitants of “Ice Ice Baby,” a.k.a. the Disco Inferno

The denizens of the Disco Inferno are all Class III focused full-torso repeaters—in other words, they were humans in life, they still look human, and trapping them is only a short-term solution; they will rematerialize in the Disco Inferno the next night.

All the Damned Dancers share the following statistics. Also, they are not too bright, they have the ability to float through the air at walking speed, and they can never stop dancing. The Dancers want to be freed from their torment; they would gladly trade their current living environment for the interior of a ghost containment unit. To that end, they will help the Ghostbusters in any way they can—or taunt the Ghostbusters into trapping them!

Brains 1 Use 70s Lingo 4
Cool 2 Disco Dance 5
Power 1 Flight
Ectopresence 2

Weaknesses: Inactive in daytime, Can’t Stop Dancin’
Goal: Escape Disco Inferno
Tags: Groovy 70s speech patterns, endless disco dancing, far-out clothes, funky music that follows the ghost everywhere

Sample Dancers:
Rodney – Stocky, barrel-chested black man in white leisure suit with large lapels and bell-bottoms.
Tina – Skeleton-thin teenaged girl in tube top.
Derrick – Blonde man in his 30’s with afro and big moustache. The top 4 buttons on his shirt are open, showing off lots of chest hair and gold necklaces.
Veronica – Ample-chested brunette in shiny bodysuit and, visibly, no bra.

Melvin Zebub, nephew of Satan and manager of Disco Inferno

Mel Zebub looks to be a nice 12-year-old boy. He is short, has trim, blonde hair, blue eyes, nice posture, impeccable fingernails, and dresses in a spiffy double-breasted navy blue suit. He is extra polite, but will tolerate no mortal who wishes to cross his dear uncle, Bill (also known as Satan).

Brains 3 Understand Bill’s Will 6
Muscles 1 Intimidate 4
Moves 2 Stand on Ice 5
Cool 2 Look In Control 5
Power 10 Dematerialize Self


Murphy (L)

Physical Immunity (G)

Proton Immunity (G)

Summon Pests


Weaknesses: Afraid of angering uncle
Goal: Keep Uncle Happy
Tags: Imperious attitude, shameless name-dropper, speaks properly