Ghosts in Other Games

This is post number 31 (!!!) in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

I was curious to see the similarities and differences in the ways that other (non-Ghostbusters) RPGs present ghosts. Since game stats boil down the essence of a person or creature or idea into a finite number of descriptors, I wanted to see what the writers of different games considered the essence of a ghost to be. So I hit my gaming bookshelves in search of ghosts.

I quickly learned that I needed to come up with some kind of limiting criteria, to keep this one post from lasting forever. (Ghosts have that kind of time; I don’t!) So I focused on ghosts that are the incorporeal spirits of people (i.e. no skeletons, severed hands, or animated furniture, even though these would be at home in a Ghostbusters game). I also avoided games that I’ve talked about earlier this month, including the Cypher System and the games related to Ghostbusters.

Whenever possible (limited by my bookshelf) I’ve used the latest edition of the games mentioned. And speaking of “limited by my bookshelf,” I also didn’t cover games I don’t own. So please forgive me if I left out your favorite.

All the games discussed below cover the basics: ghosts don’t need to breathe, eat, or sleep and they can pass through material objects. Most can fly, and are only vulnerable to energy and/or magic attacks.


I’ll go ahead and list the similarities I noticed now, so if that’s all you care about you don’t have to read each entry or scroll all the way to the bottom.

These are the themes related to ghosts that appeared in multiple games:

  • A ghost looks like it did when it died. 7th Sea, Deadlands, Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • Resolving a ghost’s unfinished business can help. Dungeon Crawl Classics, D&D, Dungeon World, Feng Shui 2
  • Ghosts are tied to a location. Call of Cthulhu, Deadlands, D&D banshee, GURPS Horror poltergeist, Shadow of the Demon Lord poltergeist
  • Ghosts are terrifying. Dungeon Crawl Classics, Deadlands, D&D, Dungeon World, Fantasy Age, Shadow of the Demon Lord
  • Ghosts personify emotions. Deadlands, D&D, Dungeon Crawl Classics

Those are the similarities in ghostly presentation across games. To see the differences, read on!

7th Sea (2nd Edition)

Ghosts in 7th Sea are described as “lingering spirits of the departed” who look just like they did when they died. They have the interesting ability to interfere with the use of magic nearby. Another interesting note is that some people have managed to catch ghosts in mirrors. Bravo, swashbuckling Ghostbusters!

13th Age

The wraith in 13th Age is a basic ghost. Some recall a bit of their former lives, but they don’t care enough about that to alter their goal of draining life from the living. Abilities: an ice-cold ghost blade that deals negative energy damage and a life-drain ability that lets the wraith heal some damage when it scores a precision hit on a foe.

Call of Cthulhu (7th Edition)

A Call of Cthulhu Keeper is urged to tailor each ghost to the current scenario. The game provides some basic ghostly abilities (including a POW attack against an Investigator’s own POW, and a telekinesis attack), but leaves most of the ghostly trappings up to the Keeper depending on the needs of the specific ghost story. Other general ghostly features in Call of Cthulhu: ghosts only have mental stats; they’re tied to either a location or an object; and they can be laid to rest by various methods, including destroying the item to which it’s fettered, destroying the ghost’s physical remains, excorcising the spirit, or fulfilling its mission.

Deadlands (Reloaded)

This game has plenty of critters that Weird West Ghostbusters would be hired to bust, but as I said in the introduction, we’re focusing on incorporeal spirits of the dead here. Still, that gives us several varmints to consider.

Ghost: The Deadlands ghost is a template the GM is encouraged to customize, and the game mentions that you could use it to represent numerous types of ghosts. The ghost variant list includes poltergeists (they throw things), shades (tied to a people or places), and phantoms (who are frenzied killers). Abilities: chill attack, terrify attack, invisibility, create nightmares, and create a storm of small objects.

Weeping Widows: This is the spirit of a woman who died soon after witnessing a family member’s violent death. The spirit is tied to the physical world by both sorrow and anger. A weeping widow operates by possessing a woman near the area of her death. You’ll know a weeping widow when you see one because of her funereal clothing, veil over the face, handkerchief in hand, and, of course, the weeping. Abilities: acid tears, possession, and invulnerable to the type of weapon used to kill the widow’s loved one.

Will o’ the Wisp: Deadlands says these MAY be the spirits of people killed by quicksand, mining accidents, or other such mishaps. They like to lure people into danger and then “feast on the pain and suffering” that results. Abilities: mentally control a mortal into wandering toward danger.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Ghosts in DCC retain their final emotional state in addition to their final appearance, and this is why they often attack—they are still angry or terrified or whatever they were feeling at the awful moment of death. Resolving a ghost’s unfinished business can banish it, earning the characters +1 Luck in addition to the experience point award for defeating the ghost. The DCC ghost features two tables to roll on (gotta love DCC’s tables!), including the spook’s “rest condition” and special abilities. The rest condition is what it will take to appease the ghost, such as killing its murderer or completing a mission it was undertaking when it died. The special ability table includes the following possibilities (and the ghost gets 1d4 of them): horrifying appearance, chains, banshee scream, paralyzing touch, imparting a vision of death, bestowing a boon, turning invisible, draining attributes, possession, and telekinesis.

Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition)

In addition to the basic ghost, the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual (5th Edition) includes a few other standard types of nonphysical apparitions.

Banshee: In D&D, banshees are the spirits of female elves who used their beauty to control others rather than for more positive purposes. A banshee is bound to the place of its death. It covets items of beauty such as artwork and jewelry, though it hates mirrored surfaces because they serve as reminders of the banshee’s own wasted beauty. Abilities include detecting life, causing terror, dealing necrotic damage, and wailing (for psychic damage and a possibility of instant knockout).

Ghost: The ghost is differentiated from the other apparition types by the fact that it has unfinished business in the mortal realm. Players who learn about a ghost’s business (get your mind out of the gutter) can use it to get rid of the ghost, or use its weakness against it. I like the description of “ghostly manifestations,” or ways that the Dungeon Master can evoke a mood by describing unnatural silences, cold spots, or a strange stench. Abilities: causing terror, dealing necrotic damage, possession.

Specter: This is presented as an angry spirit that’s no longer connected to who it was in life. Specters are jealous and hateful of the living. They have a weakness to sunlight, and the ability to drain life. A variant of the specter, the poltergeist, is characterized by confusion, having no memory of how it died. The poltergeist can turn invisible, strike with ghostly force, and hurl targets with telekinesis.

Will-o’-Wisp: These are the evil souls of those who died an anguished death in a place filled with magic, especially battlefields. They operate by luring individuals to their deaths. Abilities: invisibility, illumination, lightning damage, and the nasty ability to heal itself by killing a nearby downed character.

Wraith: Described as “malice incarnate,” a wraith is the soul of a humanoid who was either corrupt or made a pact with an evil entity. It might still have a few memories of its former life. Abilities: drain life (like the specter), create specters. Weakness: sensitive to sunlight.

Dungeon World

Dungeon World’s brief ghost entry emphasizes the “disappointment” that ghosts are left with. It also mentions the possibility of people helping ghosts achieve their final rest. Abilities: phantom touch (deals damage), terrify, and “offer information from the other side, at a price.”

Fantasy Age

Spectres (also my preferred spelling—thanks Fantasy Age!) represent any kind of ghostly entity in Fantasy Age. They are evil and like attacking the living. The entry notes that spectres of powerful individuals can have additional powers. Abilities: chilling touch (deals damage), terrify.

Feng Shui 2

One of the archetypes a player can choose from in Feng Shui 2 is the ghost, which is described as a strong-willed spirit that is unwilling to pass on from the mortal world due to some unfinished business. Abilities: chi blast and love potion attack, in addition to having traditional ghost abilities (intangibility, flight, and ignoring damage from guns). And since they are player characters, ghosts can add new abilities as they level up, including sorcery powers, regeneration, and mimicry.

GURPS Horror (1st Edition)

Ghosts can take a variety of forms, including human, nonhuman, and even objects. Their goal is to scare or annoy humans, not usually intending to harm or kill them. Magical characters can sometimes detect ghosts. As a subtype of ghosts, poltergeists exist in a particular place, use telekinesis to move and throw objects, and enjoy bugging humans.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

This bad boy packs several ghosts—and none of them are called “ghost.” They are:

Phantom: This is the soul of someone who had a strong personality, died suddenly, and had unfinished business. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, phantom weapon.

Poltergeist: These spirits resent the living and fear losing their mortal identities. They haunt a specific location and try to drive people away. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, telekinetic strike, and throwing objects telekinetically.

Shadow: Souls of individuals corrupted by the game’s titular Demon Lord become shadows. They hate life and enjoy feeding on the living. Some shadows take human shapes, but others prefer simple or even monstrous forms. Abilities: terrify attack, invisibility, draining touch (deals damage, plus a chance of corruption or turning the target into a shadow).

Wraith: These are souls from Hell that made their way through to the material world to share some evil with the mortals. Wraiths are burned by sunlight. Abilities: terrify attack, shadow blade weapon (which also has a chance to turn the target into a wraith).

Did I miss a cool ghost in another RPG? If so, please educate me!

Crossing the Streams

…and How to Make Your Players Not Want to Do That

Image: T-Shirt Bordello. Buy the shirt!

This is post number 30 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

The situation: You’ve created a puzzle for your Ghostbusters to solve, or presented them with a ghost that’s immune to proton blasts and can only be defeated by reading a passage from an occult tome. But instead of using their brains, the players decide that the best way to victory is to cross the streams! After all, it worked in the first film!

If you ever need to prevent your players from killing themselves and possibly ending all life in the universe by crossing the streams one time too many, try one of these suggestions.

Tap Into the Ghostbusters’ Own Knowledge

The reason the characters in Ghostbusters resorted to crossing the streams in the movie is twofold:

  1. They didn’t have any better ideas.
  2. Their paranormal knowledge told them that crossing the streams might solve the problem.

Roleplayers sometimes have a tendency to whip out the nuclear option (in our case literally) when they encounter item 1. If this happens in a Ghostbusters game, the Ghostmaster can subtly (or otherwise) inform the players that their characters—being experts in paraphysics—would know that crossing the streams would not achieve their stated objective in the current situation. (Who knew that total protonic reversal wouldn’t help open this mysterious puzzle box?)

Create a Cautionary Negative Consequence

If the previous technique doesn’t work, it’s time for more direct discouragement. The Ghostbusters discover that, in addition to not solving the problem at hand, crossing the streams has some negative (though non-fatal) consequence. Maybe it burns out their proton packs, leaving the team defenseless until they can get replacements. Or the crossed streams invert reality, trapping the Ghostbusters on an alternate Earth that operates under different physical laws (or where they all simply have goatees). Or their clothes vanish, or their hair falls out, or they each forget a skill–whatever. Get creative. Enjoy yourself.

Kill Them All

Some players remain tenacious even in the face of overwhelming logic and strong pushback from the universe. If this describes your group, and the above two techniques still don’t discourage your Ghostbusters from crossing the streams to solve problems, fall back to the film’s thesis on why it’s a Bad Idea. Blow up the Ghostbusters involved. If anything will teach them to stop crossing the streams, this will. As an added bonus, the players’ next group of characters might get to meet the ghosts of the first team of Ghostbusters!

Have you had a problem with players wanting to abuse a game (or universe) mechanic such as crossing the streams? Or do you have an alternate solution to this problem? Let me hear about all that in the comments!

Rolling a Ghost: Equipment Mishap Tables

This is post number 29 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

One of the fun things about a Ghostbusters game is seeing the result when someone rolls a Ghost. This always means something bad for the Ghostbuster(s), which is always good for the Ghostmaster. I was feeling inspired by this warm, evil sentiment, plus the new toys in Ghostbusters 2016, so I whipped up some tables for what might go wrong when a player rolls a Ghost while using these gadgets.

Just pick the table appropriate for whatever item the Ghostbuster was using when the big Ghost came up and roll a d6. If the result you roll doesn’t make sense, move up to a higher-numbered result.

Note that these mishaps will also work as GM Intrusions in Cypher System Ghostbusters. Where appropriate, use “ectopresence” results for Ghostbusters and “health” results for the Cypher System.

Proton Pack Mishap Table (also useful for proton sidearm variants)

  1. Nagging Alarm. You’ve triggered an overeager alarm in your weapon. The device keeps working as normal, but for 1d6 turns an alarm loud enough to wake the dead will tell everyone in the area where you are.
  2. Collateral Damage. You blow up something nearby. Something you’ll probably have to pay for.
  3. Reverse Mode. You fumbled a setting on your pack and got the opposite result from what you were intending. If you were trying to weaken a ghost, you made it stronger (+1 ectopresence or +1d6 health). If you were trying to contain it, you pushed it far away.
  4. Feedback! You hit a power source, resulting in your weapon being temporarily supercharged. On your next turn your proton pack deals extra damage, but the difficulty to hit anything (intentionally) is increased.
  5. Shutdown. You overtaxed your power output, Tex, and your weapon needs to take a breather for a turn.
  6. Meltdown. You REALLY overtaxed your power output. Your weapon suffers a critical meltdown, disabling it for the rest of the scene or until repaired. (A cruel Ghostmaster might declare that the weapon will explode in 1d6 turns. Surely not your Ghostmaster, though. I don’t know why I’m even putting this here. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.)

Ghost Chipper Mishap Table

  1. Overflow. The ectoplasm ejected from the last ghost you sucked up spews all over your nearest ally, Sliming him or her.
  2. Clogged. When you grind up a ghost the ecto-residue splatters all over YOU instead of being safely ejected behind you. This happens for the rest of the scene or until someone repairs the chipper.
  3. Get Over Here! Instead of sucking your target into the chipper, you only manage to pull it closer, where it gets a free attack on you instead of being pulled inside.
  4. Too Much Juice. Your target is pulled into the chipper and propelled safely out the other side without taking damage.
  5. Hungry Hungry Chipper. Your weapon seems to have a temporary appetite for something non-ghostly; it sucks up a nearby item of equipment or clothing and destroys it.
  6. Poorly Shielded. Ectoplasm has leaked into the chipper’s innards, disabling the device for the rest of the scene or until someone repairs it.

Proton Glove Mishap Table

  1. Stuck! You over-extend and end up with your hand stuck in your target.
  2. Ricochet. Your proton burst launches from your glove and bounces all around the area like a bouncy ball. Make an attack roll against each character and entity in the area (chosen in random order) until the burst strikes one of them or misses everyone.
  3. Hook Hand. Your glove has fused to your hand and won’t let go until someone makes a repair roll. Maybe a really tough repair roll, if your Ghostmaster thinks this is funny.
  4. Hand-Off. The glove slips off your hand during your attack. It drops to the ground and you can recover it next turn–assuming there’s not a chance the glove could go bouncing off the edge of a building. (This mishap is also called the “Skywalker.”)
  5. Paddle-Ball. Due to ambient ectoplasmic buildup, your shot stretches away from you, hangs in midair, then rebounds back. If you don’t dodge it, you take full damage.
  6. Hot Potato. Heat starts building up inside the glove. Starting next turn, each round you keep the glove on costs you one point of damage. A successful repair check puts things back to normal.

Proton Grenade Mishap Table

  1. Dud. These are still experimental, so whaddaya expect? No effect.
  2. Collateral Slimeage. The target (or part of it) is blown into ectoplasmic goo–which rains down on the entire area. Anyone failing to dodge is Slimed.
  3. Mirror Mode. This grenade doesn’t destabilize ectoplasmic molecules, it restabilizes them! Restore some of the target’s ghostly substance (1 point of ectopresence or 1d6 points of health).
  4. Zuul, I Choose You! Instead of exploding, the grenade opens and disgorges a new ghost.
  5. Out of Phase. The grenade passes right through the target…and a nearby wall, floor, or ceiling. It’s gone, man.
  6. Miscalibration. Instead of dealing damage, the grenade causes some extra-bizarre effect on its target(s). Maybe it fuses two ghosts together, or gives one new powers, or turns it into several smaller ghosts.

Cypher System Ghostbusters

This is post number 28 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

Since the Ghostbusters RPG is long out of print, some wannabe Ghostmasters and Ghostbusters players might want an alternate game system to use for their paranormal adventures. Some might also prefer a game designed more recently that brings some fresh ideas to the ghostly gaming table. One option for such gamers is using one of the games I mentioned in my earlier post, “Ghostbusters: The Next Generation.” Another option is what I’m presenting today: using the Cypher System to moderate your Ghostbusters game.

For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that you are familiar with the Cypher System (as presented in the Cypher System Rulebook by Monte Cook Games), but that you aren’t necessarily familiar with the Ghostbusters RPG. I’ll mention the latter from time to time for comparison purposes, mostly targeted to players who ARE familiar with it, but it’s not necessary to know how the old classic worked to enjoy Ghostbusters in the Cypher System. And if you don’t know the Cypher System, reading its rulebook will teach you about how it works better than I could here.

(Note: Before writing this, I saw that the prolific 3rd party Cypher System publisher Ryan Chaddock posted an article about using the Cypher System for running a Ghostbusters game. I’m intentionally avoiding reading it until I get this posted so that his (surely excellent) ideas don’t influence mine—or worse, convince me I didn’t need to do this because his is awesome. After this is online, I’ll happily read his and see if it inspires modifications to the below.)


All page references are to the Cypher System Rulebook (CSR).

Using the Cypher System Rules to Run a Ghostbusters Game

General Rule Changes

The Ghost Die

Although the Ghost Die is a fun part of the Ghostbusters RPG, I recommend we drop it for the Cypher System version. Here are my reasons:

  1. The Cypher System uses a d20 for actions, not a d6.
  2. Even if the system did use a d6 for actions, the Ghost is on the 6, which is the opposite of the way the Cypher System treats a 1 as a special failure.
  3. In the Cypher System, the GM doesn’t roll dice, which would eliminate the way that adversaries get a bonus when the Ghostmaster rolls a ghost.

Luckily, the Cypher System already has a system in place that does generally the same thing as the Ghost Die: GM intrusions. Compare these scenarios…

Ghost Die:

  • A Ghostbuster rolls a Ghost while trying to zap an apparition. The GM rules that the shot misses and knocks out the lights, adding a combat complication.
  • The Ghostmaster rolls a Ghost during a spectre’s attack on a Ghostbuster. She decides that not only does the Ghost succeed in sliming the poor sucker, the slime also makes the Ghostbuster slip and begin sliding toward the nearby stairs.

GM Intrusions:

  • A Ghostbuster is trying to zap an apparition, and either rolls a 1 or the GM decides before the roll that it’s time for something new to happen. The GM announces a GM intrusion, giving the player the option of taking the complication or paying to get out of it.
  • During a spectre’s attack on a Ghostbuster, the Ghostmaster decides to make things more interesting. She announces a GM Intrusion on the Ghostbuster; if the player doesn’t spend XP to avoid the intrusion, his character will find himself sliding toward those stairs.

Ghost Die coolness aside, I prefer the way the latter works. The GM has more direct influence over the narrative, and at the same time the players have control over whether they want to take a complication or buy their way out of it.

Brownie Points

In the Ghostbusters RPG, Brownie Points served as a combination of damage points, experience points, and plot-manipulation points. Since the Cypher System already uses experience points for the latter two purposes, and it has a damage point system, I believe we can safely do without Brownie Points. (Having said that, if you want to call your Cypher System XP “Brownie Points,” go for it!)


In Cypher System Ghostbusters, you can choose a Goal just as you would in the Ghostbusters RPG. For our purposes, though, the choice will only influence how you play your character, and possibly how your Ghostmaster chooses to reward you with experience points. It will not give you extra Brownie Points, obviously, since this game doesn’t have those. (Except in their function as experience points, as we discussed above.)

The Goals in the Ghostbusters RPG were Fame, Serving Humanity, Sex, Soulless Science, and Wealth. You don’t need much elaboration to figure out how each of these would influence your character’s actions. Feel free to create your own Goals as well. (I’ve provided some in a post about new goals for Ghostbusters.)


For a Ghostbusters game, I recommend you use the Cypher System’s Shock rule (page 261) but not Horror Mode (page 262). The Shock rule helps emulate those moments when terrified characters freeze, scream, run away, or otherwise lose control temporarily. Horror Mode—creating a mounting sense of horror—seems more appropriate for a straightforward horror game, rather than a Frightfully Cheerful one.


Ghostly Characteristics
In the Ghostbusters RPG, a ghost had two key characteristics: Power and Ectopresence. Power was its strength of will, representing how much effect it could have on the world. Ectopresence was the spook’s physical (or perhaps metaphysical) form, measuring how much damage it could take—once a ghost’s Ectopresence was reduced to zero it could be trapped.

In the Cypher System, we’ve already got these under different names. A ghost’s level takes the place of power, and its health takes the place of ectopresence. (Again, like with Brownie points, feel free to keep the Ghostbusters terms for these characteristics.) Here are some samples of how this would work:

  • When a ghost tries to possess a PC, the player rolls an Intellect defense with a difficulty of the ghost’s level.
  • When a ghost tries to slime a PC, the player rolls a Speed defense with a difficulty of the ghost’s level.
  • When a Ghostbuster tries to shoot a ghost, the player rolls an attack vs the ghost’s level. If this is successful, the ghost loses health (i.e. ectopresence) equal to the weapon’s damage.

An implication of this handling of how ghosts take damage is that, unlike in Ghostbusters where one hit resulted in one point of ectopresence loss, in this system ghosts will take different amounts of damage under different circumstances. One reason for this is that, as you’ll see later in the Equipment section, different Ghostbuster weapons deal different amounts of damage. (This is to give some variety in the feel and utility of the equipment detailed in the new Ghostbusters film.) In addition, some character abilities enable a player character to deal more damage than usual. With these two factors combined, it’s possible that a spook who could withstand several hits in the Ghostbusters RPG would be out of health in a single shot, if the Ghostbuster uses a powerful weapon paired with an effective ability.

I believe the simplest solution to this is to just add whatever health you want to the ghosts you create, keeping in mind that each hit from the basic proton pack deals 6 points of damage.

Remember, too, that some powerful ghosts simply can’t be weakened enough to trap. In these cases, ignore the ghost’s health rating. The only way it can be beaten is through story reasons, by finding out some alternate way to eliminate the entity.

Ghostly Powers
Listing all the ghostly abilities from the Ghostbusters RPG is beyond the scope of this article, but you should be able to give your Cypher System spooks any abilities you can imagine using rules similar to the ones you’ll find in the CSR’s Creatures chapter (page 274).

Creating Your Ghostbuster

Building a Ghostbuster in the Cypher System happens the same way it does for characters in other genres: you’ll pick a character type, descriptor, and focus. In this section we’ll look at some ways to tweak the CSR’s choices of those components to give a distinctly Ghostbustery feel.


In addition to the skill list on page 20, the following skills might be useful to Ghostbusters:

  • Bureaucracy
  • Exorcism
  • Hoaxes
  • Occult
  • Parapsychology
  • Psychic History
  • Seances
  • Stage Magic
  • Tracking
  • UFOlogy

(Remember that only special cases such as character type abilities allow a character to add a skill in attack tasks; this is why “Firing Proton Pack” isn’t in the list above.)

Character Type

I recommend a few changes to the Cypher System’s character types.

The Warrior would require the most changes, being heavily focused on melee attacks (which won’t help much against ghosts). I advise skipping this type for Ghostbusters, though you could also replace its less-paranormal abilities with those from a different Flavor (discussed further below), or assume that new Ghostbuster tech such as the Proton Glove counts as a melee attack.

The Adept type would be best reserved for campaigns that allow weird PCs, such as psychics, ghosts, aliens, or especially gonzo mad scientists. If the Ghostmaster wishes to allow one of these, she and the player should work out which abilities are allowable and appropriate for a paranormal Ghostbuster.

This type, and the Speaker (covered next), are much better fits for Ghostbuster PCs. To better capture the feel and needs of a Ghostbusters game, I recommend you replace the Explorer abilities at the following tiers with a selection from either the Technology Flavor (page 53) or the Skills and Knowledge Flavor (page 61). Most of the abilities I suggest ditching are those that focus on melee attacks (ineffective against most Ghostbuster threats) and armor (not a standard item of Ghostbuster fashion).

Tier 1

  • Bash (melee). Suggested replacement: Tinker (page 54).
  • No Need for Weapons, because unarmed attacks probably won’t often help. Suggested replacement: Investigative Skills (page 61).
  • Practiced in Armor. Suggested replacement: Tech Skills (page 54).

Tier 3

  • Experienced With Armor. Suggested replacement: Improvise (page 62).

Tier 6

  • Mastery With Armor. Suggested replacement: Skill With Attacks (page 62).
  • Spin Attack (melee). Suggested replacement: Skill With Defense (page 62).

Note that many Speaker skills target “intelligent creatures”; these will not affect mindless ghosts, and the GM may determine whether they affect intelligent ghosts.

The Speaker type is, out of the box, pretty good at rendering a character like Venkman. However, as with the Explorer, we’re providing a few suggested ability changes for the following tiers:

Tier 2

  • Practiced in Armor. Suggested replacement: Understanding (page 62).

Tier 3

  • Mind Reading, because this one is a bit too paranormal for a basic human. Suggested replacement: Flex Skill (page 62).

Tier 5

  • Experienced With Armor. Suggested replacement: Read the Signs (page 62).

Tier 6

  • Shatter Mind. Suggested replacement: Skill With Defense (page 62).


The Cypher System Rulebook uses Flavors as a tool for customizing character types for particular genres and settings. I used them in the previous section to customize the Explorer and Speaker character types using the Technology Flavor and the Skills and Knowledge Flavor. If you want to make further changes along these lines, I recommend the following flavor abilities as most appropriate for a Ghostbusters character.

Full List of Ghostbusters-Appropriate Flavor Abilities

From the Technology Flavor (page 53)

  • Tier 1: Hacker
  • Tier 1: Tech Skills
  • Tier 1: Tinker
  • Tier 2: Machine Efficiency
  • Tier 5: Jury-Rig

From the Skills and Knowledge Flavor (page 53)
(Note: this is simply the list of every Skills and Knowledge ability; all are appropriate.)

  • Tier 1: Interaction Skills
  • Tier 1: Investigative Skills
  • Tier 1: Knowledge Skills
  • Tier 1: Physical Skills
  • Tier 1: Travel Skills
  • Tier 2: Extra Skill
  • Tier 2: Tool Mastery
  • Tier 2: Understanding
  • Tier 3: Flex Skill
  • Tier 3: Improvise
  • Tier 4: Multiple Skills
  • Tier 4: Quick Wits
  • Tier 4: Specialization
  • Tier 5: Multiple skills
  • Tier 5: Practiced With Light and Medium Weapons
  • Tier 5: Read the Signs
  • Tier 6: Skill With Attacks
  • Tier 6: Skill With Defense


The following descriptors are especially appropriate for Ghostbusters.

  • Brash
  • Calm
  • Charming
  • Clever
  • Clumsy
  • Craven
  • Doomed
  • Impulsive
  • Inquisitive
  • Intelligent
  • Mad
  • Mechanical
  • Mystical
  • Skeptical
  • Weird

These descriptors, on the other hand, would be inadvisable for either practical or thematic reasons:

  • Cruel
  • Dishonorable
  • Foolish
  • Rugged
  • Vengeful


Use the Modern/Horror list (page 92) with the following exceptions.

Foci marked with an asterisk are allowed “only if the setting has a supernatural element.” For us, that means only if the Ghostmaster wants to allow a PC to be a weirdo like a medium or ghost or something (as discussed above under the Adept character type).

Hunts Outcasts could be especially useful to a Ghostbuster by choosing “ghosts” as the type of outcasts hunted. Two of this focus’s abilities (Outcast Tracker and Outcast Disruption) seem paranormal in nature, but if you don’t want to allow that, you could always assume they are equipment-based.

Is Licensed to Carry can easily be repurposed as Is Licensed to Collide by replacing “gun” with “proton pack.” (Also known as a “positron collider,” okay?)

Masters Weaponry might also be useful for proton-based weaponry, from the proton pack to the ghost chipper to the proton glove.

Needs No Weapon and Throws With Deadly Accuracy, on the other hand, would have limited utility against the supernatural due to their reliance on unarmed attacks and thrown weapons, respectively.

Wields Two Weapons at Once brings to mind Holtzmann’s slow-mo ghost smackdown at the climax of Ghostbusters (2016). Just remember that if your Ghostbuster usually has two proton guns in her hands, she won’t be as effective at other tasks, such as Conducts Weird Science.


Here’s the pertinent in-game info for the Ghostbusters’ main equipment. I’ve skipped the items in Ghostbusters that weren’t strictly ghost-hunting gear. With one exception, for tradition.

You could rule that all ghostbusting equipment be handled under the artifact rules, but I didn’t go that route. The paranormal equipment below (PKE meter, proton pack, etc) is certainly non-standard among the general population, but Egon and Holtzmann and your team’s technical expert are capable of building, maintaining, and repairing them.

In the following tables, items marked P deal physical damage, items marked E deal ectoplasmic damage, an items marked P/E deal both.

Light (1 point of Armor)
Ghostbusters uniform
Light (2 points of Damage)
Proton Glove (P/E) Melee or short range attack
Swiss Army Knife (P)
Medium (4 points of damage)
Retractable Proton Sidearm (P/E)
Heavy (6 points of damage)
Proton Pack (P/E) Inaccurate: attack difficulty is increased by one step
Ghost Chipper (E) Can affect all entities with health 6 or less within short range (roll attack on each)
Ghostbusting Equipment
PKE Meter Asset to paranormal tracking and analysis tasks
Aura Video-Analyzer Asset to detecting lies, discerning mood, or determining possession in the wearer
Ectomobile Level 3
Ecto-Visor Fancy name for night-vision goggles
Infrared Camera Useful for capturing images of invisible ghosts
Secret Tomes of Occult Lore Each provides an asset to one or more subject areas, such as occult, parapsychology, or New Jersey hauntings.
Walkie talkies Useful even in the era of smartphones
Other Equipment
Beach Kit Makes a trip to the beach more fun. Asset to resisting sunburn.

Equipment Cards

I’m afraid I can’t provide equipment cards with this post. What kind of wizard do you think I am? I do like the cards, though, so I encourage you to make your own if you like this kind of thing. You can find printable Ghostbusters equipment card PDFs online, though they probably contain rules for the original Ghostbusters RPG. So make your own (and then send me a link so I can share them with everyone)!


The Cypher System Rulebook describes two ways of presenting cyphers in a game: manifest cyphers (which are physical items such as gadgets or injections) and subtle cyphers (which are more abstract, representing innate or hidden manifestations such as blessings, inspiration, and good fortune). Both can work for a Ghostbusters game.

Manifest cyphers for Ghostbusters might be smartphone apps, passages from occult tomes, or experimental gadgets. Subtle cyphers could be hunches, words of power, encouragement from a teammate, or simple dumb luck.

Sample Ghostbusters Cyphers

Bucker Upper
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: Pill
Effect: For the next 24 hours the user gains an asset on all tasks involving resisting fear

Detonation (Ectoplasmic)
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: High-tech hand grenade that can be thrown out to short range
Effect: Explodes in an immediate radius, dealing ectoplasmic damage equal to the cypher’s level.

Ectoplasmic Barrier
Level: 1d6 + 4
Manifest example: A page from a book that must be torn out and thrown
Effect: Creates an immobile plane of solid force up to 20 feet by 20 feet that prevents the passage of physical or ectoplasmic objects or entities.

Possession Shield
Level: 1d6 + 2
Manifest example: Tin-foil hat
Effect: Provides the wearer with an asset to resisting possession for the next 24 hours

Slime Cleaner
Level: 1d6
Manifest example: Tube of aerosol spray
Effect: Evaporates all ectoplasm in a 5-foot radius.


Classic Ghostbuster Foes

Luckily, it’s easy to create adversaries of any type in the Cypher System–and that includes ghosts. First, let’s look at some creatures already in the CSR that we might use in a Ghostbusters game.

We’ll start with the humble ghost (page 293). It is level 4 with a health of 12, which means it’s not too tough and can be incapacitated by two blasts from a proton pack. As written in the CSR, the ghost is immaterial and has a freezing touch and a terrorize attack. This is a good way to represent a Class III or IV apparition.

The demon (page 284) should work well for a possessing ghost (such as Rowan in Ghostbusters 2016, though he’d be much tougher). As presented here, the demon is immaterial and can fly and possess humans. Alternatively, it can inflict necrotic damage on a foe. In Ghostbusters terms, this level 5 health 25 foe might be better known as a Class III, IV, or V possessor, depending on its form.

Devils (page 285) might be useful as minions of major entities, or perhaps as mischievous imps. They can fly but they’re not etheral, and like the ghost, they’re level 4 with a health of 12. If you make one of these creatures immaterial instead, it would make a fine Class V vapor.

Another non-ethereal foe is the skeleton (page 314), a fragile level 2 foe with a 6 for health. In addition to representing a classic physical horror, these stats could represent other low-level foes such as animated furniture or a haunted suit of armor.

One option for representing a Class VII metaspectre is the kaiju (page 300). It’s a good template for a giant hulking monster that deals out lots of property damage. This beast is level 10 with 140 health and 5 points of Armor; it deals out lots of damage and heals quickly.

Other Baddies

Your Ghostbusters might have to face off against a djinni (page 286), perhaps catching it while it tries to fulfil the wish of an immoral mortal. Elementals (page 289) and Golems (page 298) are also roughly within the Ghostbusters’ field of expertise. If your game needs an alien, the greys (page 299) are ready to serve. The neveri (page 305) would be useful as a Lovecraft-style horror. For a paranoid-flavored Ghostbusters adventure, let the team discover that people are being replaced by replicants (page 311). And a few other classic options would probably feel at home in a Ghostbusters game: the vampire (page 323), werewolf (page 329), and zombie (page 333).

Keep in mind, though—especially when using Cthuloid or traditional horror monster stats—that in a Ghostbusters game we’re going for a mix of comedy and horror, so you may need to adjust a monster’s abilities accordingly. Ghostbusters isn’t a world where people get their flesh eaten by zombies; it’s a world where creatures puke slime on hapless heroes and step on churches. In other words, ix-nay on the esh-eating-flay.

The Ghostbusters

Finally, here’s my interpretation of the Ghostbusters as they’d be represented in the Cypher System. I’d be happy to see your versions in the comments!

Raymond Stantz, a Kind Explorer who Solves Mysteries
Peter Venkman, a Brash Speaker who Entertains
Egon Spengler, a Learned Explorer who Conducts Weird Science
Winston Zeddemore, a Skeptical Explorer who Never Says Die

Erin Gilbert, a Perceptive Explorer who Would Rather be Reading
Abby Yates, a Driven Explorer who Hunts Ghosts
Jillian Holtzmann, a Weird Explorer who Conducts Weird Science
Patty Tolan, an Inquisitive Speaker who Looks for Trouble
Kevin Beckman, a Foolish Explorer who Doesn’t Do Much

Ghostbusters RPG Resources

This is post number 27 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

This month I’ve come across a lot of good material on the Internet about Ghostbusters in general and the RPG in particular. Now it’s time to share!

This is not a comprehensive list of online Ghostbusters resources; these are just the ones that jumped out at me or that came to my attention during this 31 Days of Ghostbusters.

Having said that, if I’ve left off a resource you’d like to recommend, please give me the details in the comments.

RPG Material

Ghostbusters RPG subreddit
The Reddit community is also feeling Ghostbusters fever, because someone there has started a new Ghostbusters RPG subreddit. Here you can talk to other gamers engaging in Ghostbusters roleplaying, either in the original system or a more modern conversion. (Thanks, Ryan!)

Nerdy Show Network
In addition to the other general nerdy podcasts, news, and merchandise available at the Nerdy Show Network, they feature some specific Ghostbusters love. They have a podcast, Ghostbusters Resurrection, which I’ll describe down in the Podcasts section. In addition to selling Ghost Dice (discussed in the next section), the Nerdy Show store also sells their own custom equipment and character ID cards—or you can download a print & play version.

When There’s Something Strange by Ryan Chaddock
Prolific third-party Cypher System publisher Ryan Chaddock recently posted his take on using the Cypher System for a Ghostbusters game. Because I’m writing up something similar for a post later this week, I haven’t read his yet–I want our efforts to be as unique as possible! But I’m really looking forward to seeing how he handled it.

Ghost Dice

Nerdy Show Ghost Dice
I mentioned the laser-etched Ghost Die from Nerdy Show previously (in my Ghost Die post), and now mine have arrived. I love them, and highly recommend them.

3D Printed Ghost Dice
My friend (D&D adventure writer Kerry Jordan) pointed me to another source for Ghost Dice, this one by runcibleshaw on Shapeways. Two varieties are available, one that looks hollow and the other solid. (It’s hard to make out the details for certain.) Kerry and I haven’t tried these dice, so don’t know whether to recommend them. If you try them out, please let me know!

Research Material

Setting Material (“In-Universe”)

These sites offer material about the fictional elements of the movies and shows—info about the characters, technology, ghosts, locations, etc.

This site holds a virtual encyclopedia of details about the Ghostbusters, their history, their equipment, and more. It also includes a timeline of the movies and both animated series. In addition to the resource section, Ectozone has news, fan fiction, and artwork.

Ghostbusters International
In addition to featuring a good news page, Ghostbusters International presents a lot of material from an in-universe perspective, as if you were looking at the actual website of a paranormal elimination company. They’ve got info on equipment, publications, and franchising. My favorite feature is their collection of links to other, regional fan sites, such as Ghostbusters London. Also, on this site you can get some info on the out-of-print Ghostbusters RPG.

Ghostbusters Wiki
I’ve referenced this one a lot this month! It’s the Wikia site for Ghostbusters info, accurately billed as  “The Compendium of Ghostbusting.” Need to know all the appearances of the Necronomicon in Ghostbusters episodes or games? It’s here.

Paranormal Studies Lab
This site, apparently hosted by Columbia Pictures, has cool images and schematics of the new Ghostbusters equipment.

Real-World Material

These sites are more non-fiction, including news about the movies and shows, product reviews, fan forums, things like that.

Ghostbusters Fans
A comprehensive site for info and discussion about the films and TV series plus their related publications, toys, and more. Ghostbusters Fans has a useful news page, plus a forum, fan art, and even a store with merchandise and costume parts.

Ghostbusters HQ
This site focuses more on news and reviews, and does a good job of it. It’s also the home of the Ghostbusters Interdimensional Crossrip Podcast, detailed below.

Ghostbusters News
As the title might have made you guess, this is another site with an emphasis on news, broken down by category (including “games” and “toys”). It’s also got a sweet t-shirt store.

Proton Charging
This is a long-running Ghostbusters news site that seems to have migrated to Facebook.

Spook Central
This comprehensive site features tons of detailed information about the original films and animated series, right down to episode guides, details about the soundtracks, and merchandise info.



Ghostbusters Resurrection
This production from the Nerdy Show consists of two seasons of actual-play RPG sessions, enhanced by music and sound effects from the movies.


I haven’t listened to these, so I’m including their iTunes descriptions to summarize them.

Cross the Streams
“This program is hosted by three of the most outrageous and obsessed Ghostbuster fans which are referred to as Ghostheads. Each episode contains interviews with those who have worked within the Ghostbusters franchise in some way, shape or form. We at times branch out and talk 80’s pop culture and our own personal lives.”

The Ghostbusters Interdimensional Crossrip Podcast
“A podcast on everything Ghostbusters by two long-time fansite webmasters Troy Benjamin (of Ghostbusters HQ) and Chris Stewart (of Proton Charging). Join us for in-depth analysis of the latest news, commentary on goings on, and interviews with some familiar faces.”

This Week in Ghostbusters
“Two guys (Don Dudding and Ryan Hill) apparently have nothing else to do but speculate over the possibilities of a new Ghostbusters movie while waxing nostalgically over the original two films (and their stars, their various cartoon versions, and anything else related to Ghostbusters). Funny and awkward in all the right ways. Leave a comment, and they’ll probably talk about it on the show.”