Sunday, March 31, 2024


My latest poorly considered idea is to use the Japanese TRPG 'Tokyo Ghost Research' to run a different kind of Ghostbusters campaign. 

My idea is that at the Tokyo, Japan franchise office of Ghostbusters Inc. International, things are handled a little differently. There is more of a corporate office mentality, with different departments having to compete for budgeting and resources, drinking and karaoke with the boss after work, and of course being exploited and overworked (an actual mechanic in Tokyo Ghost Research). The 'salaryman' motif is applied to Ghostbusters and damn if that doesn't sound potentially (darkly) hilarious. 

As I discuss the concept in more detail I'll breakdown Tokyo Ghost Research's game mechanics. I have added a houserule/rule modification and I'll point out what it is when I come to it.

While I usually begin with the base mechanic, today we'll start with Character Creation

In TGR, PCs are called Employees (Gamemasters (GMs) are referred to as Managers (MGs) - love that) and the Character Sheet resembles a Corporate Employee ID. This game really does its best to stay on brand. 

Here's my Tokyo Ghost Research Character Sheet with a 'Ghostbusters Makeover'.

Employees are defined by their Career Type, which connects you to a list of Career Skills that are really more like abilities in many cases. Funny enough, I probably shouldn't use the word 'defined'. Careers give you access to the Skills of that Career sure but there are also General Skills anyone can take that can give your PC some really interesting features. One category of General Skills - Items - can be changed anytime the PCs go back to the office. Don't worry, I talk more about this below. First the Careers:

General Affairs: These Employees are responsible for supporting the other Employee Career Types. Without the General Affairs department, the smooth operation of Ghostbusters: Tokyo Ghost Research wouldn't be possible. Procuring supplies, getting permits, coordinating with other organizations, and handling publicity are all jobs covered by General Affairs. But oh man, the paperwork!! 

General Affairs Skills include Public Relations Cover Story (Skill disseminating information and concealing the truth to make things go smoothly) and Master of Internal Coordination (Establishing all the necessary conditions for a project through internal coordination). 

Investigations: Investigation Employees are charged with fact-finding and research into paranormal phenomena. Good intel is often the key to capturing a rogue spectre or exorcising mischievous spirits from a abandoned sake brewery. Additionally, many cases require Investigators to inspect haunted sites before they send in a full Sales team.

Investigations Skills include Office Chair Detective (Intuition regarding the meaning of collected clues) and Super Search Technique (Allows Employee to find and collect the clues and information your need). 

Sales: The department that deals with clients and ghosts directly is referred to as Sales. Sales people usually begin by calming and/or reassuring those being bothered by the supernatural disturbance in question. Next it's time to strap on their Proton Packs, charge up their Neutrona Wands, and heading out to bust some ghosts. Sometimes Sales people deal with police, firefighters, or other emergency personnel in the field after General Affairs has spoken to them on the phone. 

Sales Skills include Route Sales (Skill to smoothly carry out 'Sales Activities' according to established procedures) and Spirit Negotiation Techniques (The courage and wherewithal to negotiate with non-human beings and the skill to understand their logic). 

Technology: Obviously the Technology department handles the development, construction, maintenance, and conveying the operating procedures of the various devices used by the Ghostbusters. In addition to the traditional backpack mounted particle accelerators, ghost traps, and such, Ghostbusters: TGR sometimes uses additional spiritual and physic paraphernalia. Prayer beads, ofuda (talismans on paper, wood, or other materials), and ouija boards are all things covered by the Tech department. 

Tech Skills include Psychic Light (Knowing how to use a special ray that allows anyone to visually perceive spiritual beings and/or traces of their presence) and Spirit Line
(Use of an app for communicating with otherworldly entities).

General Skills vary widely, with several sub-categories. The various types of 'skills' are Connections, Items, Origins, Psychic Abilities, and Talents. As you can see, not all General Skills are in fact skills in the traditional sense. As noted, Items can be traded out when the Employee gets back to the Office/HQ. For example, one Item is 'Company Car' - if you choose it you're the one driving the Ecto-1. Let's say the team heads out and gets their butts handed to them by a really tough ghost and you think, 'Darn, if I wasn't driving I know just what I would've done'. Well, when you get back to the Office you can decide to leave the driving to someone else and pick up a 'Provided Amulet', a 3D printed talisman in the form of a keychain, magnet, or sticker that can create a barrier or seal. 

The player chooses 5 skills for their Employee with no duplicates allowed (you can't pick the same skill twice). If I were making an Employee I would probably take one or two Career Skills and three General Skills, one of which would definitely be Item.

This is where Tokyo Ghost Research's Character Creation really shines in my opinion. Even with only four Career Types, only a few Career Skills for each Career, and granted, a generous number of General Skills, the characters come out quite different from each other. Even two Sales Employees can have very distinct Skill Sets (which is what the Employees five chosen skills are called in the TGR game).

Honestly I really love this. In some ways it is similar to the way skills are presented in Space Ship Story. If you have to have Classes in your game, THIS is how Classes should work. A simple, concise system with access to both dedicated Class abilities and more general ones, the freedom to choose a certain amount of each, and bam! you've got a Player Character. 

During play, each Employee can use each of their skills once per Scene. A Scene is not a defined amount of time or a set number of turns or other gamespeak gobbledygook. It is a scene in the cinematic or theatre sense, determined by Manager's judgement and player input. Again it isn't an exacting thing. Once used the skill is essentially spent (declared 'Used' in the game) until the next Scene. 

Finally, there's Overwork: In the game, Overwork is a Special Skill that can only be used once per Session. Like the other skills, once used Overwork is gone until your group gets together to play the game again. Unless...certain Overwork Skills can restore already used skills, with one ability bringing back standard skills and a different Overwork bringing back someone else's Overwork. Here's where I was inspired to add an additional mechanic: Overtime

Because skills are spent like a resource and with how neat Overwork abilities are, I decided that certain die rolls earn the Employees Overtime Points (see my follow-up posts for more details). In my houseruled version, the player spends 1 point of Overtime to use the Employee's Overwork Skill. To use it a second time in the same Session costs 2 Overtime Points, 3 for a third time, etc.

Sample Overwork Skills include simple things like Bulldoze (Allows you a do-over. You can re-roll a die roll), healing abilities like Steel Heart/Nerves of Steel (Reduces Mental Damage to Zero / 0), and the aforementioned Clear Mind/Routine Work (Makes all skills in your PCs Skill Set 'Unused'). 

This will make more sense when I talk about how the intriguing Judgement Rolls (basically the Task Resolution system). In addition, I'm considering making a sample Ghostbuster Employee to better illustrate how everything works together. 

That's it for now. Catch up with you soon.

Barking Alien

One more thing before I Japan there is a promotional collaboration going on between Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (re-titled Frozen Summer for the Japanese market) and the upcoming Anime series Dan Da Dan

The idea seems to be that the characters from the popular Manga promote the new Ghostbusters film to a young audience less familiar with the franchise, while simultaneously letting everyone know an Anime based on the Manga is coming out later in 2024.

Dan Da Dan (sometimes written Dandadan) is definitely in the vein of Ghostbusters genre-wise. The story follows Momo Ayase, a high school girl who believes in ghosts but not aliens and her classmate Okarun who believes in aliens but not ghosts. To determine who's correct, the two make a bet and challenge each other to visit locations associated with UFOs and the occult respectively. When the two reach their respective places it turns out that they were half-right, both aliens and ghosts do exist and neither is too thrilled at being found out. 

There are 13 volumes of the Manga so far, with the Anime airing in October of this year. 

PS: All the art (except for the Dandadan/Ghostbusters poster above) is the result of my usual mix of Midjourney AI, my original art, and Photostudio. 


  1. Adam, Are you currently running this as a TRPG campaign? Or are you planning to?

    1. I am not...yet.

      I'd like to, as I've had great success with Ghostbusters campaigns in the past. I'm also really interested in running something with a Anime feel again in the near future. Is this the right combo? The secret sauce? Maybe.

      It's certainly an intriguing idea.

  2. Wow! This sounds amazing. I've always been fascinated by the idea of a game with its own built-in bureaucracy (Paranoia, of course, springs to mind), so I cannot wait to read of further developments with this idea.

  3. I'm intrigued. I'd play it if I had the chance.