50 Games in 50 Weeks: InSpectres

Dec 26 2011

'Ghost Exit' by rbrwr on Flickr

'Ghost Exit' by rbrwr on Flickr

InSpectres is a lot of fun.

It’s a tabletop role-playinggame that’s basically Ghostbusters. The lightweight system includes only four attributes per PC–Academics, Athletics, Technology, and Contact–with a focus on one of them. A total of 9 points are distributed among these attributes.

The core mechanic involves rollingsix-sideddice–as many dice as you have points in the attribute that applies to the attempted action–and looking up the highest die rolled in a results table. Higher numbers provide extra Job Dice (each job requires the players to collect a certain number of job dice), while lower numbers mean that bad things happen.

Similarly, when faced with something scary or otherwise stressful–which happens a lot to paranormal investigators–the player rolls a number of dice equal to the force of the stress, and lower numbers provide bad results, including the loss of dice from attributes. Once all of a character’s attribute dice are gone, the character freaks out and retires from that particular job (and possibly from the ghostbusting franchise).

That’s most of the system. The franchise itself has a couple of attributes that can be called upon in dire circumstances, and there’s also a “confessional” mechanic, that lets players add facts to the world by narrating an aside, noir-style(“But what we didn’t know was that the tool shed contained an old stick of incense that the ghosts hated!”). And that’s about it, mechanically.

In play, we had a great time. We decided to play a small franchise in New Orleans, that was invited to investigate strange nightly noises in an old government building that once served as the governor’s mansion. The PCs faced down various ghosts wandering the cubicled building before discovering that the top office doubled as a seance chamber. Further paranormal hijinks ensued.

The rules describe a 10-die job as “easy” and a 30-die job as “hard.” We started with a 10-die goal, but within an hour upped the goal to 20, as the players quickly gathered job dice with few ill effects. Indeed, we finished the 20-die mission after losing only a couple of attribute points per player. A 10-die job seems trivial, though perhaps the players were rolling well.

The system’s simplicity let us get to the action quickly, which is critical for a light-heartedgame like this. Moreover, the high-levelmechanics prevented us from bogging down in blow-by-blowcombat.

InSpectres fits its genre almost perfectly. The only downside is that it fits this genre only. However, if bustin’ makes you feel good, I’ve found no system better than InSpectres.

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