I've wanted to talk about Combat in my Ghostbuster kitbash RPG for some time now but I was concerned that it wouldn't make sense without first describing how characters and their opponents - largely ghosts and other paranormal entities - work in these game mechanics.
Now that we've covered those subjects, it's time to break down how Ghostbustin' works in the game mechanics.
By Drew Rosier
Here are the basics:
As established, to cause damage to an opponent, roll a number of Action Dice related to the attack you're making and compare it against any defensive Action Dice the target might have. For Player Character Ghostbusters this means:
To fire your Neutrona Wand: Roll your Technology Dice plus any appropriate Signature or Additional Skill Dice +1 Die from the equipment and try to get a Success. One Success equals one hit and causes (usually) 1 Die of Damage. A Proton Pack generated Particle Stream does 1 Ectoplasm damage against Ghosts. For each additional Success after the first you may cause 1 additional point of Ectoplasm Damage or alternatively do 1 PKE Damage, reducing the ghost's PKE by 1.
If a Proton Blast hits normal matter or individuals it causes 3 base damage instead of 1.
To punch someone: they would instead roll Athletics plus appropriate Signature or Additional Skill Dice. The base damage of a punch against a normal person or object is equal to the PC's Athletics Dice + Skill Dice in things like Boxing, Martial Arts, or Bar Room Brawl cut in half (round up). Someone with Athletics 3 and Kung-Fu 2 would cause 3 damage. Ghosts that aren't corporeal take no damage from physical attacks. If they are corporeal they take one quarter of the total 'punch damage'. Half of the half essentially.
To defend: When attacked, PCs get a defense roll that consists of Athletics plus any appropriate Signature or Additional Skill such as Acrobatics, Bust-A-Move, Dodge, Martial Arts, etc. Another option is to use a device with a defense capacity such as Dr. Gabriel Zimmerman's (from our The Home Office campaign) Positron Field Generator which creates a force field bubble that blocks people, objects, and especially ghosts. Zimmerman would roll his Technology Dice and, well, that's about it but it's something. Oh, he gets a +1 Die from the device itself.
Each Player Character has 1 Bump for every die they have in their Athletics Attribute. When PCs take damage, they lose Action Dice from their Attributes. Once all the Dice in a single Attribute are gone and the Attribute has Zero Dice, the PCs takes 1 Bump. Another way to receive a bump is if a Ghostbuster is hit with 10 or more Action Dice of damage in a single hit - Subtract all the Action Dice, subtract the Bumps with may cause, then take away one extra Bump.
Functioning with reduced Attribute Dice means that rolls using the effected Attribute are lowered by the damage taken. Skills remain the same so a Signature Skill at +3 Dice is now the lowered Attribute Dice number + 3. For example: If you started with a Technology of 4 Dice and it's been decreased to to 2 but you have the Signature Skill: Fire Neutrona Wand at +3 Dice, you would roll 5 Action Dice to zap the ghost that got you will some particle stream payback. It ain't quite so easy to do when your fingers hurt and your bell's been rung.
Players, when divvying up damage among your Attributes, try to be honest and make it make sense. If you got hit in the head, lower Academics or Technology. Hit in the chest, arm, or leg and Athletics makes sense. Contact is tough and could honestly be left for last. As long as you can keep talking your Contact should be good, right? Venkman uses this to good effect in both Ghostbusters II and Afterlife.
When a Ghostbuster (or any non-supernatural NPC) has Zero Bump left, they are Knocked Out; unconscious and essentially out of the fight. They can be woken up by another PC with First Aid or Medical Skill of some kind, getting up with 1 Bump. Attribute Dice are not returned. Alternatively they can be shaken or shouted awake but have no Bump, causing them to be delirious and only half-conscious.
If Knocked Out (with Zero Bump) and all four Attributes are at Zero as well, the character ends up in the hospital. There an Athletics roll can be made after the individual has received Medical Attention at their original starting Athletic Dice. If the PC gets 1 Success they remain in the hospital for a few days but will survive. Two or more Successes and it wasn't as bad as it looked. They'll be out in 24-48 hours.
No Successes and the character is Dying. A Dying character can be saved in many ways, from staying at their bedside and reminding them of past good times together to catching the ghost that sent the PC to the hospital with some black magic spell. The GM and players should work together to create a reasonable scenario that fits with what was going on when the character was injured.
After the active PCs carry out their plans for saving their friend, the Dying character gets to make a last ditch Athletics Dice roll, again using their original pre-injury die count. However, they now add +1 Action Dice for each friend who helped out in the plot to save them. If they get a Success, 1 Success, they pull through. If not they have a choice; the PC dies and you make a new character or they live with a handicap. Maybe now they're color blind, walk with a limp, or are deaf in one ear. Maybe they're now afraid of the dark, have trouble doing math in their head, or completely forget that cats exist.
The goal here isn't to kill the characters and although less comical than the original movie, the setting is still based on a comedy and death - real serious death - isn't particularly funny. At the same time, consequences are a thing and fighting ghosts should be more than a bit scary at times.
Always keep in mind that if anything here doesn't work for your Ghostbusters game, feel free to change it. This is the system and mechanics that form the basis of mine but I alter and adjust things from time to time as well so it isn't the be all, end all. If you have a different approach, please share it! I would love to know how others handle any of the concepts laid out in this series.
Up next, what it looks like from the Ghost's side of the fight.
Remember, if anyone asks you if you're a god you say YES!