01 August 2016

Garrett Goes Ghostbusting

Keith Garrett of The Adventures of Keith Garrett has completed his 31 Days of Ghostbusters (also known as July). An homage to Ghostbusters in its various incarnations (including the Ghostbusters role-playing game), it's well worth investigating.

30 June 2016

Binary Dice Meet Simplified Dice Pools

Not long ago I wrote about the virtues of simplifying dice pools for the Ghostbusters role-playing game in the manner of All for Me Grog (here and here). In a simplified dice pool, all that matters is that the randomizer gives one of two possible results: evens or odds on a die, heads or tails on a coin. Counting dice with even numbers is significantly quicker than adding all the numbers in a standard dice pool system, and substituting binary dice for ordinary six-siders makes it even quicker. Binary dice can have any number of sides, although I recommend the six-sided variety as they are the easiest to roll in large numbers and represent the perfect polyhedron (as far as this Web log is concerned). Binary dice, as the name suggests, give two possible results: 1 and 0. Roll your dice pool, count the dice that show "1," and ignore the dice that show "0." That's all there is to it. It's the fastest way to roll.

(Availability can be a problem. Koplow manufactures six-sided binary dice, and there is or has been at least one Kickstarter project involving the manufacture of other polyhedral binary dice, but binary dice of any kind are difficult to find in stores. Online stores specializing in educational supplies are an option, and some game retailers sell them occasionally on certain well-known online markets.)

04 May 2016

Extendable Random Hit Location Generator

Most of my random hit location needs are met by Hit Location Tables for All Occasions. I like to keep rules simple and memorable. Sometimes, however, I need greater detail from a hit location table, which is why I keep the Extendable Random Hit Location Generator in reserve. (This was previously posted as Random Hit Location Generator: d6 Version in Applied Phantasticality and here in Fudgery.net.)

30 April 2016

Hit Location Tables for All Occasions

Whether the rules require it or not, I use a hit location table in every role-playing game I run. Sometimes it has a useful function related to the rules, such as determining the extent of armor protection or the specific consequences of an injury. Sometimes I just want to make the description more vivid in the minds of the players or tell them where their battle scars are. A good hit location table is system neutral and easy to use. With that in mind, here are three such tables, all of which are usable with common, everyday six-sided dice.

Hit Location Table
(1D6 Version)

1. Left Leg
2. Right Leg
3. Left Arm
4. Right Arm
5. Torso
6. Head

Hit Location Table
(2D6 Version)

2. Neck
3. Left Foot
4. Left Hand
5. Left Leg
6. Left Arm
7. Torso
8. Right Arm
9. Right Leg
10. Right Hand
11. Right Foot
12. Head

Hit Location Table
(1D12 Version)*

1. Left Foot
2. Right Foot
3. Left Leg
4. Right Leg
5. Left Hand
6. Right Hand
7. Left Arm
8. Right Arm
9. Lower Torso
10. Upper Torso
11. Neck
12. Head

* To generate results of 1-12 with six-sided dice roll 1D6 to determine high or low. 1-3 is low; 4-6 is high. If low, roll 1D6 and read normally. If high, roll 1D6+6.

10 March 2016

Utilizing Simplified Dice Pools in Ghostbusters

Improving the dice pool system (q.v.) in the Ghostbusters role-playing game is a simple matter when it comes to tasks, but how does it fare in combat?

If you like the existing combat rules, nothing really needs to change in terms of determining damage, because once someone lands a blow, the Ghostmaster declares the injury and recovery time (subject to negotiation for Brownie Points). The dice pools have no bearing on damage.

If you prefer a system in which degree of success is linked to damage, then this can be done easily. All for Me Grog (the game that inspired my thoughts on dice pools) uses Salt as a means of recording a character's damage. (It's a pirate game.) All characters have a Salt of 9. Whenever damage is sustained, Salt is lowered, usually by the the victor's degree of success (the difference in the number of evens).* Regardless of the normal size of the character's dice pool (attribute + vocation + embellishment), the character may never roll more dice than his or her current Salt.** Presumably, a character whose Salt is reduced to 0 is rendered incapacitated or dead. In Ghostbusters, Salt could be replaced by Health or Pep or Vital Signs or Life-O-Meter or anything you like that represents the opposite of Rest in Peace. We'll say characters have a Health (or whatever) of 10 just to be different and better reflect the higher survival rates that Ghostbusters enjoy over pirates. [Edit: Better yet, set it to equal the character's total Trait points.] I should mention here that for each loss of Health or Whatever, a mark is made beside the Trait that was used. At the end of an appropriate period of time, a player may erase two marks from Brains or Cool (restoring 2 points of Health or Whatever) or one mark from Muscles or Moves (restoring 1 point of Health or Whatever). The period of time the player must wait may be lowered by spending Brownie Points of an amount deemed appropriate by the Ghostmaster. If Health or Whatever is reduced to 0, the Ghostmaster may rule that the character must spend x number of weeks hospitalized before returning to action... or tell the surviving members of the franchise to start making funeral arrangements for their dearly departed co-worker. Note that Health or Whatever can be reduced not only by physical combat (Muscles and Moves), but by battles of wits and will (Brains and Cool) as well.

Another approach (q.v.) is not to have a general well being status, but to have specific injuries cause direct penalties (dice pool reduction) only when they apply to something the character is trying to do. When an injury is sustained, instead of lowering anything, the victim gains Injury Points equal to the victor's degree of success. A description of the injury is noted beside the Injury Points, and anytime the injured character attempts a task that would be affected by the injury, the character's Trait or Talent roll is reduced by a number of dice equal to the Injury Points. If the character has multiple injuries that would affect an action, the Trait or Talent is reduced by the total number of relevant Injury Points. Alternatively, one could just use Injury Points generally and apply them to all rolls.

* Combat is ordinarily resolved with opposed rolls. Whoever rolls higher wins the round. If degree of success is linked to damage, then damage equals the difference in evens rolled by the combatants. Ranged combat may also be resolved with opposed rolls, or the attacker may roll to equal or beat a threshold (minimum number of evens). The threshold may be either the standard three evens, or a number based on range (such as 1 for Close, 2 for Short, 3 for Medium, and 4 for Long). In this instance, damage equals the difference between the attacker's roll and the threshold.

** As a reminder, dice pools in Ghostbusters may consist of a character's Trait, Trait + Talent, or Trait + Talent + Weapon.

[For more information about All for Me Grog, see my article here in Theoretical Swashbuckling. Buy it here at RPGNow.com.]

08 March 2016

Simplifying Dice Pools in Ghostbusters

Task resolution in the original Ghostbusters role-playing game is already quick and simple. You roll a number of dice equal to your Trait or Talent and try to equal or beat a difficulty number. Meet the invention of the dice pool. In theory, it's perfect for a cinematic role-playing game befitting Ghostbusters (the movie). In practice, counting all those dice over and over again slows the pace of the game and becomes boring. Tedium is the mortal enemy of role-playing. No one role-plays for the purpose of being bored to death.

There is nothing wrong with the dice pool system itself, but for a game like Ghostbusters to remain interesting, it might help to refine it. My own preference is to follow the example of All for Me Grog, a jaunty pirate role-playing game by Ryan Shelton. Instead of counting the numbers on each die, one counts the number of dice that show an even number. Three evens constitute a successful roll. In an opposed roll, whoever rolls the greatest number of evens wins the conflict. Not only does it make the process quicker, it makes it intrinsically more fun (in my experience, at least). It makes results a bit swingier (as befits the genre), and it encourages Ghostbusters to spend Brownie Points freely (a good thing). The Ghost Die can be used normally, with the "2" and "4" counting as one even each and the "Ghost" signifying that Something Bad Has Happened. This dice pool system, with its static "three evens" difficulty number, also spares the Ghostmaster from having to set an arbitrary difficulty number for every task.

If there is one modification I would make in adapting this dice pool to Ghostbusters, it would be to adjust the "three evens" rule in respect to one task only (probably): ranged combat, as follows:

RangeMinimum Number of Evens

[For more information about All for Me Grog, see my article here in Theoretical Swashbuckling. Buy it here at RPGNow.com.]

01 January 2016

Short List of Six-Sider Goals

1. Run more sessions of the 1st edition Ghostbusters role-playing game.

2. Complete my own version of universal D6 role-playing rules.

3. Acquire a set of new casino-style six-sided dice.

4. Run Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.

5. Run Classic Traveller.

6. Post here more often.

31 August 2015

How to Win Friends and Influence NPCs

I normally have no use for social game mechanics in role-playing games (as my favorite activity in such games is role-playing), and ordinarily I ignore those character skills that are used to replace actual social interaction with skill rolls. I find it far more enjoyable to haggle in character than to roll a character's "Bargain" skill, far more challenging to attempt to be persuasive than roll a "Persuade" skill, and far more interesting to ask questions than roll an "Interrogate" skill.

Sometimes, however, rolling dice isn't anathema to the role-playing experience. Take the original Ghostbusters role-playing game. Don't take mine — get your own! Characters in Ghostbusters have four Traits (Brains, Muscles, Moves, and Cool), and one Talent for each Trait. Players and Ghostmasters may define Talents as they choose, or they can select from a list of examples. Many of the examples are social in nature and require one to roll against an opposing Trait or Talent. A Ghostmaster could rule that social Talents are not available, but a great opportunity would be missed: the opportunity for comedy. Ghostbusters is, after all, a game of humor first and foremost.

"How can saying 'I use my Seduction Talent' be an opportunity for comedy?" you might ask. Well, that's not all you say. You role-play it in addition to rolling for it. If the Ghostmaster decides that you were convincing, you are awarded bonus dice in proportion to your performance. If not, well, you roll normally. Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, there's always the chance you'll roll a Ghost, which generally means slapstick happens.

So, the answer to the riddle is "choose both." At least, choose both in those games where it can be beneficial to the gaming experience. You might find this could work in your Call of Cthulhu game, where a good performance could garner the player a skill bonus of +10% (or whatever seems appropriate). In a Fudge game with social skills, impressive role-playing might increase a skill by one or two levels. Regardless of the game system, the GM should feel free to call for any method that he or she determines is best at the moment. For instance, a GM might prefer to require role-playing at all times, but only call for a skill roll when he or she is undecided about a non-player character's reaction. In such cases, a social skill is an edge instead of a crutch. In Ghostbusters, though, choosing both is always best. It leads to more tomfoolery, which is never bad. Unless it is.

30 June 2015

Rolling a Ghost Is Easier Done Than Said

In my limited experience playing the Ghostbusters role-playing game, the most difficult part of Ghostmastering for me is trying to come up with consequences for rolling a Ghost in a rapid and entertaining way. "Rapid" is the harder of the two, especially if I'm running a game in the evening after working earlier that day. Sometimes it's just not easy to think of something that could go wrong without spoiling the results of what is otherwise a successful roll, and if you get lazy and start recycling the mishaps, it becomes boring, and both the novelty and trepidation of rolling a Ghost wear off like so many vintage, non-etched Ghost Dice. It occurred to me that maybe the solution is to require the Ghost Die to be rolled only under exceptional circumstances. When a situation is dramatic, it's easier to imagine how things can go comically wrong even when they go right. Then again, having to face those consequences even in the most commonplace situations can lend itself to gratifying amounts of slapstick comedy. Perhaps the only real solution is practice, practice, practice, which means I'd better game, game, game.

04 May 2015

Questionnaire for Starting Ghostbusters

This is a questionnaire I hand out to players as they are creating their Ghostbusters characters (inspired by a similar question-and-answer exchange from the Nerdyshow podcasts). Once the process is finished, I address each player in turn as if I were a representative of Ghostbusters International, reassure them that this is merely a formality, and ask them the survey questions, which they answer in character. This enables the players to introduce their characters to the group in a more natural manner and proceed directly to the adventure. Remember, there are no wrong answers, and there are no stupid questions. The reverse, however, may be another story.

Ghostbusters Survey Questionnaire

  1. Tell us about yourself:
  2. How did you hear about us?
  3. Do you believe in ghosts? (Check one.)
    • Yes.
    • No.
    • Unsure.
  4. Why do you want to be a Ghostbuster?
For those who want the "official" form, the Ghostbusters Survey Questionnaire PDF is available to download, print, and distribute to players for free.