Friday, December 31, 2021

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

I have a lot of things I want to talk about and not that much time to do it in.

Why? Self enforced deadline to be honest. I wanted to get certain things posted before year's end because next year is kind of special.

As 2021 draws to a close, I work toward assembling my big plans for the new year. 2022 will mark my 45th Anniversary in the Tabletop RPG Hobby. Forty-five years from August 25th, 1977 to August 25th, 2022.

Thinking back on all those years I am humbled and grateful for the friends I've made, the characters we've created, the stories we've told, laughs we've had, and how it has changed our lives. definitely changed mine. At the same time, RPGs and my love of them have been a constant and consistent element of who I am for four and a half decades. 

That's cause for acknowledgement and celebration.

To that end I - and hopefully all of you reading this - can look forward to a pretty hefty schedule of posts next year. My intention is to cover all the usual unusual subjects - Ghostbusters, Star Trek, Star Wars - along with some additional ideas related to The Dark Crystal, Goblin Slayer, Marvel Comics, The Orville, and more!

I also plan to bring back some readership favorites* such as Campaigns I Have Known
Campaigns I Have Played, Player ProfilesThorough Thursdays, and What Other GMs Do Wrong. I'll also be adding some new features like One-Shots I Have Known, Things to Do, and more The Good, The Bad, The Whatever film and streaming reviews. 

To start off the year, I will be participating in the 31 Days / 31 Characters Challengethough in my own special way  That is to say, just as I did last year I will not be creating new characters but honoring some of the coolest and most interesting PCs and NPCs I have created or encountered over the past 45 years. 

These entries will join the usual A-to-Z Blog Challenge, the RPGaDay Challenge, and perhaps others. I am hoping 2022 will see more total posts in the year than any previous year and to do that I will need inspiration and catalysts for ideas. The various internet Blog Challenges can be frustrating but they also get me writing, at least initially. 

As I've noted in the past, I'd like to get some guest posts and art from my past players and GMs if at all possible. We shall see how that goes as time and schedules allow. 

You may notice that this post is a bit less theatrical than some similar ones I've made in the past along the same lines. This is intentional but don't believe for a second that next years posts will be devoid of my particular brand of showmanship, tomfoolery, and pop culture references. You've been warned. 

Come join the celebration...

Barking Alien

I hate to end the year on a sad note but...

2021 had to get one last gut punch in and man oh man did it ever. I am heartbroken to report the passing of television legend Betty White.

Born Betty Marion White, this pioneer of early television was an actress and comedian with over seven decades of appearances on the 'small screen'. Best known for roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973-1977), The Golden Girls (1985-1992), and Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015). She also had award winning guest spots on The Bold and The Beautiful, Boston Legal, The Carol Burnett Show, and Saturday Night Live. 

Ms. White, a true national treasure and household name for 70 years, passed away in her home in Los Angles today, a mere seventeen days before celebrating her 100th birthday. 

A long time fan of Betty White's humor and optimism, I am saddened to see her go but her body of work will live on and you can't ask for much more than that. 

I Feel So Funky

This will be the last post on my Ghostbusters RPG fan project for the remainder of the year.

Heheh. OK, I was being a little cheeky there but seriously folks, I am going to take a short break from discussing this game to work on a few other things related to my ideas for next year. My last post of 2021, which will come out later today, will go into a bit more detail about my plans for 2022.

For now, here is the other half of Combat; the opponent's half. How Ghosts battle Ghostbusters and a few other odds and ends...

A good deal of this was already covered in the previous post entitled Spates Catalog

To Review:

The two Attributes of a ghost are Ectoplasm and PKE. Ectoplasm functions as Hit Points or Bumps [for the Player Characters]. PKE serves as both a Defense Roll and as booster Action Dice to heighten a ghost's Supernatural Abilities.

When a ghost is blasted by the Particle Stream from a Neutrona Wand, the Ghostbuster weakens the entity causing it damage with a Blast Stream or try to capture it with a Capture Stream.

When a Ghostbuster uses a Blast Stream, roll your to hit with the appropriate Action Dice, adding one Die for a standard Proton Pack. The ghost rolls its PKE. If the Ghostbuster gets 1 more Success than the ghost you subtract 1 Ectoplasm from the ghost for that first Success. With additional Successes beyond the first, the PC can opt to cause more Ectoplasm Damage or PKE Damage.

A ghost with Zero Ectoplasm dissipates, its PKE scattered and its connection to our world temporarily severed. It has not been eliminated however. It can't be in a traditional sense. Instead, it will eventually reform and return to its previous activities in a matter of days, weeks, months, or even years (depending upon the nature of the ghost). The more powerful the entity, the longer it takes to manifest again as doing so requires the gathering of a greater amount of Psychokinetic Energy. With some deity-level beings it can also take specific conditions that can be helped along or hindered by actions taken by its followers or enemies in our world.

SPOILERS: See Gozer the Gozerian and what was needed to summon and drive it away in both Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

A ghost with Zero PKE can not boost its Supernatural Abilities but more importantly has no Defense Roll to resist damage or capture. When you fire a Capture Stream, you roll your Proton Pack attack against the ghost's PKE. If you get more Successes than the ghost in this case, you 'lasso' it and another PC can go for a Blast, another Capture, or even drop a Ghost Trap. PKE is the ghost's power and it must be lowered to make capture possible. As long as the entity has PKE it can be rolled to resist things such as a Capture Stream or a Ghost Trap.

To capture a ghost in a Ghost Trap, the Ghostbusters must get twice as many Successes as the ghost does. If a Class V Free-Roaming Mist rolls 3 Successes, the PCs need 6 - 3 to counter the ghost's 3 and then 3 more to bag that sucker. This is why multiple Ghostbusters with multiple Capture Streams are helpful. You keep lowering the ghost's PKE and getting more Successes than it does making things a lot easier. 

A ghost attacks by rolling its appropriate Supernatural Ability and getting more Successes than the target's Defense Successes (usually using Athletics or Technology as noted in the previous post). 

The ghost may spend PKE to add Action Dice to its roll. This lowers their total PKE however. In the following round (Rounds explained -sort of- below). At the start of the next round the ghost automatically gets 1 PKE back. Now here's the new bit...heheheh

Along with their Action Dice, Player Characters roll Stress Dice if they have Stress on their character from getting spooked, almost being blasted off a roof, being on fire, etc. Action Dice are 6-Sided Dice where a '6' is a Success. Stress Dice are 6-Sided Dice where the '6' is a Success and a '1' is Panic. See Listen...Do You Smell Something? I use Stress Dice where the 1 is a Ghostbusters logo / 'No Ghost' symbol.  

For Ghosts All Dice Are Stress Dice. That is, their version of Action Dice are the dice with the No Ghost symbol. Typically referred to as Ghost Dice, a 6 is a Success and a 1 gains them back 1 Die of PKE. 

Example: The Ghostbusters have been called in to deal with 'Slammer', a Class V Full Roaming Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm haunting a state run correctional facility. Mainly, the striped spook slams doors, rattles the bars of unoccupied cells, and makes the sounds of someone dragging a ball and chain. Nowadays he's causing serious trouble by throwing cell doors open, hiding guards' keys, and slamming his fists down on fire and escape alarms at random. What's gotten into him?

Slammer has a PKE of 9 and a Ectoplasm of 3. His primary Supernatural Abilities are Psychokinetic Slam 7 (used to slam doors and gates shut at a distance) and Physical Slam 5 (used to physically hit things with his over-sized hands). As two Ghostbusters chase him down a hallway he uses his Psychokinetic Slam to quickly shut a gate behind him so the PCs will run into it - hard! The GM decides Slammer will put 3 of his PKE into the attack. This would mean he rolls 10 Ghost Dice and is now at PKE 6. 

The GM rolls: (I actually rolled): 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, No Ghost (1), and No Ghost (1).

Not a single Success! The PCs get to the gate before it slams and run full speed, shoulders first, throwing it back open with no damage to themselves. 

Slammer's consolation prize is that he rolled two 1s and gains back two of the three PKE he spent. When the Ghostbusters open fire with their Particle Throwers he can defend himself with 8 PKE.

Oh yeah, how could I forget? 


Any supernatural entity that is at least partially incorporeal - Generally Class III to VI and/or Intensity from Mist to Mass - can Slime an opponent. This usually occurs when the paranormal presence passes through the physical one, leaving behind Ectoplasmic Residue. Some ghosts also leave Ectoplasmic Residue on areas or objects effected by their Supernatural Abilities. 

When a PC is Slimed the GM rolls a number of Ghost Dice equal to the ghosts Ectoplasm. For each 6 the ghost gets, subtract -1 Attribute Die from the Slimed individual but this doesn't count as 'damage' and never causes any lose of Bump. Instead, the victim of a Sliming just 'feels so funky': dazed, confused, and rather disoriented.

When a ghost Slimes a PC for 3 Success, that's 3 Attribute Dice deducted from the victim. In the following Round the PC gets one Die back. Then they get another Die in the Round after that, etc., until back to normal. Alternatively the PC can spend a Point/Die of Cool to shake off the effect in the Round following getting Slimed. You spend one Round feeling funky, spend 1 Cool per 3 Dice lost, and snap back to normal.

That's basically it. As you know, this is designed to be Rules Lite so there aren't a lot of hard rules and regulations beyond these. As a matter of fact, before I forget...


I have always found Rounds to be silly. How long is a Round? As long as it takes for each person and all active NPCs including the opponents to go once. That's a Round. 


Who goes first? Simple, who started the fight? I feel like few Game Designers have been in real fights. Not Military Actions, that's totally different and not what most RPG fights are like anyway. When you are in the schoolyard talking smack, the person who throws the first punch went first. Sometimes it's you. Sometimes it's them. 

I tend to run fights this way in the first Round, organically based on who started it. In the second and subsequent Rounds, the fastest person there goes first. Who is that? depends. 

You could go with the person who has the highest Athletics or the supernatural entity with a lot of dice in a Supernatural Ability like Supernatural Speed or Quick Attacks. If 'Speedy' the ghost has Supernatural Speed at 6 Dice and the highest Athletics any of the Ghostbusters has is 4 [with not Signature or Additional Skill that helps], Speedy goes first. 

In our Home Office campaign David Nelson has an Athletics of 5 and Robert 'Robbie' Stadler has a 4 but the two players (Dave Concepcion and William Corpening respectively) agreed that 'Robbie' is faster and more agile than Dave. The former is a ex US Marine; a big, burly man who moves like a tank. The latter is a former champion professional Surfer; slim, wiry, and agile. The rest of the players also agreed it just made sense that Robbie goes first unless up against a very fast ghost. 

Who goes next? Taking a note for Marvel Heroic, we usually ask the last person who went who should go next. This allows the players to set up teamwork with each other. Sometimes I as GM will say, "before X goes, I want to check back in on Y who was trying to fix the buildings boiler and get the heat back on." After we make a roll or take an RP moment there we go to the next person - X - that was set up for an action. 

Don't forget to include the ghost or ghosts when deciding who should go next. While they could end up going last, you don't always want that. They'll be at full PKE having not needed to use it for anything but defense. 

Am I forgetting anything? Leaving anything out? 

I hope not. Let me know if you have questions. 

I must say - and it is very rare that I do this honestly - I am pretty proud of this series and the work I've done developing this iteration of my Ghostbusters fan kitbash RPG. Some of the last few posts have been a little disorganized compared to the earlier ones as I've been hurrying to get it down before year's end but I still think it all came out really good. I can't wait to run this, hopefully starting early next year. 

With that, Happy New Year everyone!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Nice Shooting Tex!

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.

Fan Art Poster
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. Basically, the attacker makes an Attack Roll and the defender makes a Defense Roll. The individual with the most Successes wins. 

For Player Character Ghostbusters, it looks like this:

To fire your Neutrona Wand: Make an Attack Roll by rolling your Technology Dice plus any appropriate Signature or Additional Skill Dice +1 Die from the equipment - a Proton Pack - and try to get a Success. One Success equals one hit and causes (usually) 1 point of Ectoplasm 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 point of PKE Damage, reducing the ghost's PKE by 1.

If a Proton Blast hits normal matter or individuals (non-ghostly) it causes 3 base damage instead of 1. 

To punch someone: Here your Attack Roll would instead be one's Athletics Attribute 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 Attribute Dice of damage. Ghosts that aren't corporeal take no damage from physical attacks. If the Supernatural Entity is 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, a Particle Thrower variant 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. 

Taking Damage:

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 Attribute 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 clarity: If you started with a Technology of 4 Dice and it's been decreased to 2 Dice by ghost attacks but you have the Signature Skill: Neutrona Wand at +3 Dice, you would roll 5 Action Dice to zap the ghost that got you with some particle stream payback. It ain't quite so easy to do when your fingers hurt and your bell's been rung however. The same character would normally roll 7 Dice if uninjured. 

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. This person needs serious medical attention. 

If Knocked Out (with Zero Bump) and all four Attributes are at Zero as well, the character ends up in the hospital. Once 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 using some ill-thought-out black magic ritual to help their friend (probably a bad idea). 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 my take on Ghostbusters is less comical than the original movie, the setting is still largely about humor 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!

Barking Alien

Monday, December 27, 2021

Where You From? Originally...

Holy Smokes! I almost went on to the Combat rules for my Ghostbusters RPG fan project without covering a very important element of the Entity Analysis Form that I am personally quite proud of.

Let's look at different aspect of Ghostbusting...

You will notice that underneath the space left for an image of the paranormal entity (Visual Evidence) there is a section for information about a post-living being's pre-ghost state. 

A major part of my most successful Ghostbusters RPG sessions has been when the ghosts need not be busted. Sometimes, they can be helped.

If you recall, one of the Descriptors in the post on the CDI System was 'Terminal'. Terminal indicates a ghost that can be assisted or [more rarely] made to move on to the 'next world'. Quite often, especially in the case of Class IV entities, intense mental or emotional trauma keeps the ghost attached to our material plane. To coin a phrase, the entity has Unfinished Business in the physical world. 

Essentially, the spirit's continuing existence in our time/space continuum is self inflicted and sustained by some feeling of anguish and turmoil. If the entity can overcome this psychological/emotional state it will pass from this dimension to some other wherein it's PKE will no longer experience the unpleasantness of being in between realities. 

Sometimes it's a Ghostbusters job to blast, snare, and trap a ghost. Sometimes it falls upon a team of Ghostbusters to help a harrowed 'soul' come to terms with or overcome whatever is eating them up 'inside' so they can leave this world behind and continue on to their next adventure. 

To this end, it is sometimes vital to record the following:

Mortal Identity: When was this individual while they were among the living?

Cause of Death: Often a hint to what ties them to the physical world or a clue to the nature of their abilities. The ghost of Captain William Warms died sometime after being accused of negligence in the shipboard fire that claimed 137 lives. He returns as a Fire Ghost. Who could have seen that coming?

Next of Kin: Who did the deceased leave behind? Often someone connected to the life of the nearly departed can help them to realize it's OK to let go and leave this mortal coil completely. Don't hang here on our account!

Place of Origin: Good for records and sometimes relevant, this could be where the ghost's living self was born or - as is often the case - the place they thought of as home. It could be where they grew up, living most of their life, or where they died. The latter would make it the ghost's Place of Origin more so than the living person's. 

As you can see, this is immediately followed by Case Notes; information on the case and the entity involved that may be relevant to understanding its thoughts, motives, abilities, and possibly why it is here. In instances with many [though not all] Class IV ghosts, research surrounding their lives and/or deaths can help immensely and would be recorded in this section. 

Asphalt Annie
The Ghost of 'Annie's Road' in Totowa, NJ

Alrighty, on to Combat unless something else comes up to further delay our...what's this now? Art...punk? Muhuwahahahaha! Oh good grief. You D&D guys kill me! Anyway, more Ghostbusters up next...

Barking Alien

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Excite Me

REVISED (A little)

I've been really invested in my Ghostbusters RPG idea lately, possibly obsessively, to the point where views and comments are down of late. Although that may be typical for this time of year, I'm sure my readers are thinking, 'When is he going to talk about something else?'

When something else excites me. 

This has been a year with some really great movies, streaming shows, Anime and American Animated projects, there any cool RPGs this year? There was The Colonial Marines Sourceboik for the ALIEN RPG but that's a supplement to an admittedly awesome game,, not a new game all its own. The Troubleshooters and Picaresque Roman were released but...hmmm. Nothing that's really grabbed me the way this Ghostbusters idea has. 

I am sure to get juiced up by The Book of Boba Fett - haven't run an ongoing Star Wars game in a while - but it is so hard getting everyone of the same page (no pun intended) with Star Wars. I usually end up disappointed. 

I was super inspired by Spiderman: No Way Home to run a Marvel game but the newest version of a Marvel RPG isn't out until next March if I recall.

My long time, ongoing work on a Dark Crystal RPG just needs the official Adventure Game to come out so I can see if that's what I'll be using. 

The Goblin Slayer TRPG is due to be translated and released in the US sometime in February or a bit after, one of the few things that might get me to give that sort of Fantasy another go. 

Free League is doing a Bladerunner TRPG with the same mechanics as ALIEN so yeah, that I'm excited about though it's a ways away.

Other than that...huh. I am just not feeling it. And that is just it friends, I gotta feel it. The sparks need to fly, the magic needs to race through me in order for me to get jazzed enough to run a particular game. Without that I can't even begin to picture working on something. If I don't have that need to do a thing my head asks, 'Why bother doing that thing?', and I don't have a good answer. 

For the time being, Ghostbusters is where it's at. 

Maybe next year, I'll be 'at' something else.

Barking Alien

Spook Central

I know I keep mentioning that a ghost's CDI Identification doesn't directly correlate to the ghost's level of threat. Sure, the most powerful Class I Mist will never be as dangerous the weakest Class VII Corporeal entity but within a given Class or Intensity things can vary wildly.

The reason for this in game terms lies with Supernatural Abilities and Conditions, Limits, Weaknesses.

To assist me with my explanation, I'm going to call on the help of three ghosts: The Librarian Ghost, Captain Warms, and The Missing Man.

The Librarian Ghost, also known as The Grey Lady and The New York Public Library Ghost, is a Class IV Anchored Full-Torso Repeating Phantasm, although she was initially identified as Class III. The Librarian is the first ghost ever encountered by the original Ghostbusters team in 1984, prior to the company being established. It was sometime later that Dr. Ray Stantz and Dr. Egon Spengler researched her manifestation.

As it turns out, she is the ghost of Librarian Eleanor Twitty, murdered by her supposed boyfriend in March of 1924. The killer seduced Miss Twitty in order to gain access to a rare selection of books, including many on the subject of the occult, that Miss Twitty happened to be in charge of. When she realized her suitors true intentions and confronted him he murdered her in cold blood. 

The Librarian Ghost haunts a fairly large though specific section of the New York Public Library. She can not leave that area and rarely manifests visibly except within an even smaller area. While capable of moving objects with Psychokinesis, her main ability is being able to transform into a terrifying, monstrous image that induces a feeling of panic (fight or flight with flight far more likely). 

Captain Warms, aka The Fire Ghost, The Burning Sea Captain, and the Burning Ghost of the Morro Castle, is a Class IV Anchored Full-Roaming Triggered Repeating Phantom. His PKE is tied to a group of artifacts from the ill-fated SS Morro Castle, an American ocean liner that suffered a fire at sea, ran aground, and was abandoned. The incident cost the lives of 137 passengers and crew.

The ghost of Acting Captain William Warms is connected to the items recovered from the ship and can manifest anywhere the items are placed (Anchored) but if said location is in the lobby of a hotel for example, Warms can move freely about the entire hotel (Full-Roaming). He is considered a Triggered Repeater, meaning he will manifest in the region of the artifacts when someone begins discussing the deadly incident aboard the SS Morro Castle and especially if the tragedy is blamed on Warms and/or the negligence of the crew.

As a Fire Ghost (a specific type of ghost known to cause fires) Captain Warms can cause inorganic matter he passes through to ignite. While people won't go up in flames when he passes through them, their clothes will. He can also release a blast of extremely hot air (like a backdraft) and surround himself in an aura of fire and thick smoke. Rarely, Captain Warms will erupt in a burst of flames himself but after doing so can not rematerialize for a few minutes (rounds - see upcoming post on Combat). Warms often appears with three other Class III 'sailor' ghosts though not always right next to them. Rather, when he appears the three of them are likely also somewhere in the vicinity. 

The Missing Man, aka The Stormbreeder, is believed to be the ghost of one Peter Rugg, a man of means who perished in a terrible storm in Massachusetts in 1770. There is some disagreement over whether this entity is Class III or Class IV, as the identity of Peter Rugg may be that of a fictitious individual related to local folklore. Ghostbusters Boston classifies it as a Class IV Conditional Non-Terminal Free-Roaming Phantom.

The entity gets the name Stormbreeder from both its legendary origins and its current abilities. A well-to-do man known for his good manners when calm, Rugg was a swearing, aggressive prat when angered, which was supposedly often. When it was suggested he spend the night with friends to avoid the treacherous roads one stormy night, he cursed an oath at the weather and road off with his daughter never to be seen alive again. Periodically, during particularly heavy rain storms (Conditional - Only appears during heavy rain storms), The Missing Man can be seen on suburban roads all across the state of Massachusetts politely asking for directions to Boston. If not given the information he desires or if people react poorly to his horrific appearance, The ghost will curse at those he encounters like a drunken sailor and the storm will get noticeably worse in the immediate area. 

Even if you do tell The Missing Man how to reach Boston, he never seems to be able to get there, getting lost somehow, which only makes him more irritated. In addition to some control over the weather he can cause lightning to strike a given target, though he can not hit the same exact location twice. The lightning is followed by a disorienting boom of thunder. When riding in his horse drawn wagon (see below) he is remarkably fast, easily able to out speed most conventional ground vehicles.

The Missing Man always appears with a smaller Class III ghost that resembles a young girl of roughly 8-10 years of age. According to legend this is Rugg's daughter but the ghost shows few signs of a distinct identity (hence it being given a Class III Identification). On most occasions Rugg will be driving an 18th century wagon (Class IIIs) pulled by a black horse (Class VI). 

Here we have three ghosts, all Class III or IV, with very different sets of powers and ranges of mobility. 

The Library Ghost is stuck to a particular section of the New York Public Library, can move objects around, and transform into a frightening image.

Captain Warms can appear wherever artifacts related to his death are located, travel some distance from them, blast heat, burst into flames, and set items on fire. 

The Missing Man can travel anywhere in Massachusetts outside of Boston's city limits (although not outside the state), summon storms, and target people and things with bolts of electricity from the sky. 

The same or similar Classes, the same or similar Intensities but VERY different capabilities. In fact, their write-ups would probably look something like this:

Next to each Supernatural Ability is the number of Action Dice rolled when that ability is used. 

In the case of offensive powers, a Success indicates a hit with additional Successes causing more damage. Terrifying Visage adds +1 Stress Dice to each PC (and living NPC) present per Success and an immediate Panic Roll is required. Adjudicate the results as previously described for a Panic Roll. The following round everyone goes back to their prior Stress Dice +1.

In the case of defensive powers, roll the Ability's Action Dice. Each Success adds +1 to the number of Successes a Ghostbusters needs to hit or trap the entity. Use the theme of the ghost and your imagination to explain why this occurs. For example, it is difficult to get a clear shot at The Missing Man through the driving wind and rain he summons. It is hard to get close enough to Captain Warms to drop a trap with his intense Flaming Aura. 

Some abilities have very specific effects that might not be directly damaging but cause problems nonetheless. Captain Warms Backdraft can not cause Bump Damage (explained further in my upcoming Combat post). It can hinder a Ghostbuster's Attributes or knock them backward. Successes after the first either send someone 10 feet back or cause 1 Die of Attribute Damage. 

Also, regarding Slime: All ghosts from Class III to VI can Slime people. Class II ghosts can leave Ectoplasm on rare occasions, usually with some effort. It is rare for Class VII's to Slime as their Ectoplasm is of a very different nature, consistency, and construction. Intensity wise, Mists to Masses are most likely to leave Ectoplasmic Residue, though on rare occasion a slime coated Corporeal/Undead can as well. 

What happens when you're Slimed? Stay tuned...

On the sheets I keep for my own records I have notes on various Supernatural Abilities and what they do, not to mention specifics for each entity. As a result, my version of the Librarian Ghost just says 'Terrifying Visage 5D' but lacks the explanation of how it works. That's for your benefit as I already know what I mean. 

OK, that's it for this one. Got the big Combat entry coming up as well as two other posts, one related to this project (kind of) and the other related to what I am gearing up for next year. 

See ya soon,

Barking Alien

Friday, December 24, 2021

Spates Catalog

Now that we have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man level fluff for Ghosts, it's time to get into the Nestle Bar crunch.

You've earned it. 

As with the Player Character Record Sheet, I feel that the 'Stat Block' of NPCs and opponents should fit on one page and everything you need to know should be there. There should be little to no need to refer back to the rulebook of a game during play. To accomplish this I needed to create an efficient sheet and a relatively simple system which is what we have here IMHO so we are already ahead of the game (pun not intended but welcome). 

Case: I use this to name the adventure/scenario the PCs are focused on. It could be 'The Liebowitz Case' or 'The Grand Street Haunting'. 

Case Number: I put a number on the first session in an arc that tells me when it was run. For example, Case #: 191804 was run on April 18th, 2019. You could add letters to denote the campaign like 191804HO for The Home Office or 191804NJ for New Jersey. 

Client: Who hired the Ghostbusters for this mission? It could have been a private citizen or a large government or corporate organization. For example: 'Millicent Vogel, Private Contract' or 'New York City Department of Sanitation'. This is important since it indicates who is footing the bill for this case. 

Designation: The name given to the ghost, sometimes by witnesses over the years, sometimes by the client, and sometimes by the Ghostbusters. For example: 'Asphalt Annie', 'Slimer', or 'The Gay Street Phantom'.

AKA (Also Known As): Many ghosts develop nicknames and/or alternate identities over the years. This can result from many situations including (but not limited to) being named by multiple witnesses at different times knowing nothing of its prior manifestations. It can occur because giving things alternative designations in a very Human thing to do. Slimer is sometimes known as 'The Sedgewick Hotel Ghost', 'The Mean Green Ghost', and 'Ugly Little Spud'. Behind the scenes of the original film the production staff called him 'Onionhead' or 'The Onion Head Ghost'.

CDI: As noted in the previous post, this is the system in the Ghostbusters universe used to identify paranormal entities. It is quite common to identify a ghost with the CDI System after encountering it. If there is a lot of research, physical evidence, eye-witness accounts, and the like before the Ghostbusters first meet a given entity, it is possible the being could be temporarily identified to be confirmed later.

Type of Case: This gets a bit meta, though I try to keep it grounded in the game universe. Basically, is this a Haunting, a Possession, a Poltergeist, an Interdimensional Crossrip, etc. While it does inform the PCs of what might be/is going on, it's really a guide for the GM so they can stay focused on what the ghost(s) objectives and actions are. 

Cause of Manifestation: This is something the PCs may not know and indeed a mystery they may have to solve. If they can determine how or why a ghost manifested, it may make it easier to help them move on to the 'next world' or to defeat a supernatural menace. Sample causes include Death Trauma, High PKE Area, Ritual/Summoning, You could also get more specific by going with the reason for a ghost's return to the world of the living like Forlorn, Gluttony, Justice, Revenge, etc. 

Nature of Entity: How does the ghost act and react? What does it do for the most part? Is it Erratic, Mischievous, Timid or Shy? Does it search about its location, largely ignoring the living? This entry helps to narrow down an entity's basic behavior. 

Ectoplasm and PKE

There are two main Dice Pools for Ghosts: Ectoplasm, which is essential the 'Hit Points' of a supernatural being and PKE, which is the level of Psychokinetic Energy it can amass or generate in order to boost its abilities. 

As noted in the CDI System, Class and Intensity are not perfectly analogous to power level but they are not completely unrelated either. A Ghost usually has the following Ectoplasm Dice and PKE Dice by Intensity and Class:

  • Shade/Mist - 1
  • Phantasm/Vapor - 3
  • Phantom/Fog - 5
  • Spectre/Mass - 7-9
  • Undead/Corporeal - 7-9

  • Class I - 1
  • Class II - 3
  • Class III - 5
  • Class IV - 7
  • Class V - 9
  • Class VI - 7
  • Class VII -12

Again, usually. There are numerous documented instances of weaker and stronger Class III, IV, V, and VI entities. Class VII's can definitely go higher than 12 PKE Dice, though those are thankfully rare. 

Let's say a Class IV Full Torso Repeating Spectre - alternatively an Unfocused Terminal Full-Roaming Mass - is proving particularly problematic at a mall. It's Unfocused, so it does everything from zooming up the down escalators to shopping in the clothing stores by tossing jeans all over the place and even playing in the fountain. 

As a Spectre/Mass (the fourth state of supernatural Intensity) it has an Ectoplasm of 7. Being a Class IV entity it likely has a PKE of 7 as well. 

When a ghost is blasted by the Particle Stream from a Neutrona Wand, the Ghostbuster can weaken the entity (causing it 'damage') with a Blast or try to Capture it.

When you use a Blast Stream, roll your to hit with the appropriate Action Dice - adding one Die for a standard Proton Pack. The Ghost rolls its PKE. If the Ghostbuster gets more Successes than the Ghost you subtract 1 Ectoplasm for the first Success over your opponent. With additional Successes beyond the first you can opt to cause more Ectoplasm damage or PKE damage. Here's why you might want to weaken the PKE.

PKE is what the Ghost rolls to protect both its Ectoplasm and its PKE. When you fire a Capture Stream you roll your Proton Pack against the ghost's PKE. If you get more Successes than the ghost in this case you 'lasso' it and another PC can go for a Blast, another Capture, or even drop a Ghost Trap. PKE is the ghost's power and it must be lowered to make capture possible. As long as the entity has PKE it can be rolled to resist things such as a Capture Stream or a Ghost Trap. 

Ghosts with a 0 (Zero) PKE can be much more easily trapped as they have nothing to roll. 

A Ghost with 0 (Zero) Ectoplasm dematerializes but it has not been captured, destroyed, or made to move on. As such, it will reform at some later date. It could be years, months, weeks, or even days from now. 

More on this in an upcoming post expanding on Combat in the game. 

The other use of PKE is - as pointed out already - to boost a paranormal beings abilities. It can lend one of its Supernatural Abilities extra dice from its PKE, though this temporarily drops its PKE total. More about this and how a ghost recovers PKE in the next post. 

In the meantime, from myself, Barkley, and all the artificial intelligences that help run the Barking Alien blog, have a very Happy Holidays!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tobin's Spirit Guide

What follows is a explanation (to some degree) of Ghosts in the Ghostbusters universe as it applies to my RPG campaigns. This is my personal head canon and not entirely in line with the official canon which has been somewhat inconsistent. This is my way of rectifying the discrepancies. 

The information is therefore a mix of film canon, notes from deleted scenes, early drafts, unused concepts, the original West End Games Ghostbusters RPG, the Real Ghostbusters animated series, and the IDW comic book series. I developed it further from my own research into Ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, the 'art and making of' books for the Ghostbusters films (including Afterlife), and other creative ideas.

Alternate Ghostbusters Logo
By Julia_CaSsian

Ghosts are supernatural phenomenon in which Psychokinetic Energy (PKE) collects around an 'otherworldly' presence brought into existence in our dimension by as yet unclear means. This occurs as a result of intense thoughts or emotions, though there are other reasons they may form. Parapsychology has some understanding of the situation, yet truthfully we only know a fraction of what there is to know about the Supernatural. 

"Sir, what you had there is what we refer to as a
Focused, Non-Terminal, Repeating Phantasm or a Class V Full-Roaming Vapor.
Real nasty one too."

Ghosts and other supernatural entities are identified using the CDI System, which stands for Classification, Description, and Intensity. The CDI System does not denote a paranormal phenomenon or being's 'power level', though it may inform it. A Class VII entity will always be far more dangerous than a Class I but two entities in the same Classification can be very different in terms of threat. 

Both 'Slimer' and 'Muncher' are Class V Vapors; one is (initially) Full-Roaming, can slime you, and makes a mess of the kitchen while the other is Free-Roaming, can bite through steel, and vomits a hail of metal bits like a Gatling gun. Not all Phantasms are created equal. 

Classification: Ghosts are classified as follows:

Class I: Insubstantial and invisible, a Class I is incapable of physically effecting our material world. It can generate disembodied sounds, electronic voice phenomenon, dust clouds and lights on film, as well as cold spots. In rare cases Class Is can dim lights or cause them to flutter on and off. Class I's do not generally display sentience or an individual identity.

Class II: A more substantial presence, still usually invisible. When they appear visibly its in the form of a blurry silhouette, a shadow, a ball of light, or a floating flame. Class IIs can move small inanimate objects, open and close doors, make stairs creak, and cause lights to go out completely. A Class II may possess smaller than man sized objects.  Class II's rarely display any individual identity. Many believe Class IIs are Class Is that have gained greater PKE over time or Class IIIs or IVs that have lost PKE over time.

Class III: Entities of variable substance, these ghosts are invisible or appear as indistinct human apparitions. It's often possible to recognize the clothing, speech, and other aspects of a Class III but never distinct facial features. Abilities include psychokinetically moving objects, boiling or freezing water, creating gusts of winds, and breaking windows. They can possess items of Human size as well as people themselves for short periods. Class III entities can become erratic and cause massive damage. Particularly strong Class IIIs are often called Poltergeists. While there is often a sentience to them, a personal identity is rare. 

Class IV: These ghosts appear in distinct and clear Human forms. They can be identified as the persona of particular individuals (the ghost of Abraham Lincoln for example). Their powers vary widely; some causing spontaneous fires, creating black outs, or simply having a terrifying aura. They are able to possess people and objects of considerable size. A key element of Class IV entities is that they display sentience and distinct personalities. It is sometimes possible to defeat and remove these beings from our plane by appealing to some aspect of their persona and what causes it to remain in our world as a ghost. 

Class V: Monstrous beings that are generally humanoid but not Human in appearance. Class Vs might have a face, limbs, and a torso but you wouldn't mistake one for a Human. They personify things like gluttony, melancholy, suspicion, or similar concepts and have directly related capabilities. A Gluttony Ghost will eat as much food as it can but is never satisfied. Class Vs have sentience and personality (of a sort)  but not those of any previously living individuals. They are prone to erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior. 

Class VI: A rare and not well understood manifestation, Class VI entities are those with an animal appearance and mindset. They may resemble real world creatures like a dog, cat, or horse, fictitious beasts such as a dragon or a unicorn, or cryptids like 'Bigfoot' or the Loch Ness Monster. To say their supernatural talents are diverse is putting it mildly. The sentience and mental capabilities of the animal Class VIs are usually higher than their living counterparts. 

Class VII: These are 'Meta-Spectres': High level PKE manifestations originating as an otherworldly presence coming to our plane unconnected to the emotions, memories, or thoughts of any Human being. These are your deities, demons, faeries, and other such entities. They always have full sentience and individual personality.

Special Classification: Class II, III, or IV 's': This is a ghost manifesting as an object, vehicle, or natural event/occurrence. Often mistaken for possessions, these are ghosts appearing in normally non-sentient forms. Examples include ghost ships, ghost trains, and ghostly storms. 

There will definitely be times where it is difficult, even close to impossible to fit a given entity into one of the standard Classifications. When this occurs it may be time to assign the ghost a new Special Classification all its own. Don't be afraid to do so. You will be increasing the knowledge of your fellow paranormal investigators and Ghostbusters. Where there is one, there could be more...

Description: This is used to explain the features the entity exhibits. There is no way to list all the possible Descriptors a ghost can have but some of the most common but distinctive are noted here. GMs and players should feel free to add to the list and keep adding!

Anchored: The ghost is tied to a particular location and unable to leave the area. Less commonly it is tied to an item and manifests wherever the item is located. Sometimes called 'Fixed'.

Animated: Appearing as a collection of inanimate objects or dead organic matter such as a moving scarecrow or Human skeleton. Related but separate is Animator, an entity capable of created Animated minions. 

Focused: The entity does one thing again and again - it eats, it screams, it sets things on fire.

Full-Torso: Usually used for Class IIIs, IVs, and rarely Vs where the entity's appearance extends below the waist. Most ghosts of Class V or less do not have a lower torso or legs. 

Grouped: Entities that only appear with two or more other ghosts. 

Non-Terminal: Can only be eliminated by capture. They can not be made to 'move on'. 

Repeating: Hauntings that re-occur every few months, years, or decades. A subcategory of this is the Free-Repeater, which is particularly annoying for Ghostbusters. Sometimes a ghost forms because of a high degree of negative PKE in an area. Occasionally, you will find that you capture the haunting entity only to have another manifest as few weeks or months later. You trapped a ghost but didn't relieve the location of the real problem and so a new ghost will appear in the same place. Ghostbusters can't charge full price for a follow-up visit to the same client as it looks really bad, so Free-Repeaters are often captured at a discount. 

Roaming: Ghosts capable of moving about an area. There are two subcategories: Full-Roaming which means it can move between different areas that are related (all rooms on one floor of a building for example). Free-Roaming ghosts can basically move anywhere and everywhere. 

Singular: Appearing alone. Not often mentioned as it is so common. 

Stable: Rarely used descriptor indicating a normally inconsistent or erratic Class II, III, or V that has become more regular and predictable in its activities and/or behavior.  

Terminal: Can be made to move on from this plane to the next by meeting appropriate conditions. 

Unfocused: A ghost that interacts with its environment in a multitude of ways. Sometimes called 'Flexible'. 

Unstable: A manifestation whose activities, abilities, and/or behavior has recently become erratic, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous. Usually a sign that a larger paranormal event is on the horizon. 

Intensity: This last category in the CDI System identifies how present an entity is in our material world. Essentially, this quantifies how tangible or intangible a ghost is. More solid isn't necessarily more dangerous, nor is the reverse true. Each state from immaterial to solid and everything in between has its advantages and disadvantages.

Shade/Shadow/Mist: Largely insubstantial entity requiring great effort to manifest even semi-physically. Usually used for Class I, II, and III ghosts. 

Phantasm/Vapor: Semi-substantial beings that pass through solid objects and people but can also interact with the physical world. These entities often leave behind Ectoplasm in the form of Ectoplasmic Residue. 

Phantom/Fog: Semi-substantial beings more intangible than tangible. They can pass through solid objects and people but often at a slower rate and with the solid medium experiencing greater physical interaction. Many of these beings can not pass through a given material such as cast iron, silver, oak, or running water. Sometimes they can't move through fire. They leave a thicker Ectoplasmic Residue and said Ectoplasm often has strange side effects. 

Spectre/Mass: These are ghosts with a corporeal form that can pass through things with concentrated effort. Consider a Spectre more tangible than intangible. Often they are harmed by a particular form of energy (most often fire) and/or a specific material. They are also unable to pass through that energy and/or material. Generally they only leave Ectoplasm behind when passing through something, though on occasion their physical form may be 'slimey'. 

Undead/Corporeal: Ghosts with a physical, tangible form that do not pass through solid matter. They may have the ability to Dematerialize or Possess but in their default form they are completely corporeal. These entities do not usually leave any residue because their Ectoplasm is in a denser, non-gelatinous state. In fact, they often appear similar to that of a corpse. The exact appearance and texture can vary widely.

As you can see, this category is somewhat flawed. The terms used to reference the various Intensities are not accurate in all cases. For example, a 'Mist' or 'Vapor' could look like an orb of light or a ugly-cute Class V respectively. Slimer, a Full-Roaming Vapor, does not have the appearance of a vapor at all. That is simply the designation given to that entity's particular state of being. 

Corporeal ghosts are not always the physical forms of previously living beings as 'Undead' would imply. It is more that many of them resemble what Humans picture a Zombie, Vampire, or Ghoul would look like. Numerous deities, elementals, and other inter-dimensional visitors that are physical are also of the Corporeal Intensity, though not Undead.

Then again...sometimes an Undead entity is indeed Undead. 

Various accepted authorities and sources on the paranormal use vastly different terminology for the same states of Intensity, creating the need to update this element of the CDI System fairly often. 

OK, whew.

I am pretty proud of this post but I have also been working on it for days. I am going to get some rest and then go on to give you the game mechanics behind all this talk of ghosts.

After all, I ain't afraid of no...

Barking Alien