Crossing the Streams

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

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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!

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