The Ghost Die

This is post number 3 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

One of the defining features of the Ghostbusters RPG is the Ghost Die. This is a 6-sided die with a ghost symbol taking the place of the 6. Every time a player attempts an action, he includes the Ghost Die as part of his dice pool. Whenever the ghost comes up, something bad happens. (Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!) The GM (Ghostmaster, in Ghostbusters) operates in a similar way, always including a Ghost die for NPC actions, but when a ghostly NPC rolls a ghost, the result is something beneficial to the ghost!

I like how this gives more varied results than success or failure. You can get a critical failure (low dice total and a Ghost), failure (low dice total and no Ghost), success (high dice total and no Ghost), and success with a catch (high dice total and a Ghost). I also like that the Ghost replaces the 6, so in addition to having to deal with the negative consequences of rolling a Ghost, you also get shafted out of the 6 points you would have earned if it hadn’t been a Ghost Die!

Besides that, though, it’s just plain fun that in about one out of six die rolls at the table, something screwy is going to happen to the Ghostbusters! The game encourages the GM to make these incidents funny (as if we wouldn’t), and when I run Ghostbusters, one of my favorite things to do is figure out the unfortunate, inconvenient, sometimes-painful, and always-funny consequences of rolling a Ghost.

Custom Ghost Dice

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that after 30 years, the paint that makes up the ghost symbol on a ghost die might be a bit faded. (That’s mine up at the top of the page.) It’s easy enough to use any old die, so long as it looks different than the non-ghost dice, and you remember not to count the 6, instead treating it like a Ghost. Or you can find other dice that have a symbol on the 6 for this purpose, which is just as easy as using an authentic Ghost Die, just 50 to 95 percent less cool. (Also, be warned that some specialty 6-siders have the symbol on the 1 instead of the 6. Bastards.)

I tried making my own Ghost Dice recently using regular dice and printable self-adhesive circle labels, but I wasn’t successful. I’m happy with the dice I picked: Chessex 16mm d6, opaque white with black pips (I bought a block of 12 on Amazon, Chessex part number CHX25601). But in my first attempt I used 0.5” labels, and they were too small (the pips were visible at the edges of the Ghost sticker). I moved up one size to the 0.625” labels, which were a better fit, but I couldn’t get the template to line up correctly—printing in both Word and OpenOffice Writer resulted in the Ghost symbols being out-of-sync with the labels, getting worse toward the right side of the page. (Sweet Gozer, messing with image and table alignments in Microsoft Word is soul-crushing! In case you want to show me you can do better, the labels I tried were, item OL1575WX in standard white matte.)

While writing this post I found a website called Nerdy Show that sells custom-etched Ghost Dice for $1 each. I’ve ordered some, and I’ll update this post when they arrive to give you my impressions.

To my fellow Ghostmasters: How’s your Ghost Die holding up? Have you found a good replacement?

Let’s Throw a Ghostbusters Party

Let’s throw a Ghostbusters-themed party! “Why should we do that?” asks the person who’s not a true fan. OK, here are a few reasons why you might do such a thing:

  • You’re planning to run a Ghostbusters game, and don’t want any “norms” who witness it to be confused.
  • You’re excited about the new movie, and want to celebrate!
  • You are depressed about the new movie, and want to forget about it by focusing on what you love about the original Ghostbusters!
  • You like any chance to pretend it’s Halloween.

Here’s what my wife and I did for our last Ghostbusters party.

(In case you’re wondering, all 4 of the above are true for me.)

Theme Up Some Food

We did some simple brainstorming when planning our party.

  • Ghosts
  • Slimer
  • Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man

And we stopped there, because right away we knew we had to make ghost-themed marshmallow cupcakes. (My wife and I were really into the show Cupcake Wars at the time, so we knew our mad science creation in the kitchen would involve cupcakes.)

We found a recipe for smores cupcakes, and made our own candy toppers featuring Slimer and the Ghostbusters logo.

Sure, they look a little rough, but they were great!

Other ways you could theme up your party food include:

  • Ghost cookies (it’s easy to find a ghost shape cookie cutter)
  • A marshmallow man
  • Green punch
  • Twinkies
  • Jars containing green “slime” gelatin
  • Any leftover Halloween candy (If you have any candy in July left over from October, it’s definitely gonna be scary.)


I don’t have much decorating skill myself, but searching Pinterest for Ghostbusters Party provides tons of ideas in case you want to show me up. Some highlights include:
  • Green ballooons
  • Silly String to represent proton beams
  • Green paper cut to resemble dripping slime
And my favorite…

Create a Spooky-Sounding Mood

A Ghostbusters party definitely calls for some mood music. For starters, play the Ghostbusters Soundtrack! (You can read more about this in a separate post soon.) Beyond that, any Halloween-friendly music collection should do nicely. Or the soundtrack for just about any horror movie. A few choice ones include A Nightmare on Elm Street, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Addams Family.

And Play a Ghostbusters Game!

I mentioned the Ghostbusters roleplaying game in the previous post. That’s what we played at our last Ghostbusters party! If you’re not fortunate enough to have a copy, it’s not hard to use another, more modern (and available) game system. I’ll write more about this, too, in a future post.

Beyond RPGs, you still have plenty of options. Ghostbusters: The Board Game is pretty sweet…

A few non-Ghostbusters games would also fit the mood, including Betrayal at House on the Hill, Castle Ravenloft, and perhaps Dead of Winter.

Besides the Ghostbusters board game, my top pick would be Mysterium. In this game, one player is a ghost and the others are psychics. The ghost player must, without speaking, lead the psychics to discover who killed her, in what location, and with which weapon, using complex images that are especially prone to different interpretations. Play it by candlelight!


How about you? Have you hosted a Ghostbusters party, or been to one? If so, I want to hear about it, as well as your favorite ghost-themed foods, decorations, music, and games. Please share!

Ghostbusters Begins: An Introduction to the Ghostbusters RPG

Come with me on a trip back in time. It’s 1986, two years after Ghostbusters premiered in theaters. I’m sixteen years old and shopping in the bookstore at the Mall of Memphis. (That was its name. Don’t worry, Memphis has more than one mall.) This is the same mall where I had previously bought a Ghostbusters shirt and the full set of Ghostbusters buttons. (Yep.) There, in the back of the bookstore near the magazines, I spy this boxed Ghostbusters game.

The game was called Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game, by West End Games. I had already played a few RPGs—Star Trek, Villains & Vigilantes, maybe a few others—so I knew right away that if a box said “roleplaying game” and also said “Ghostbusters,” it was something I had to have. So long, allowance!

What an amazing game this turned out to be. The game was funny, and simple, and elegant, and did a great job of capturing the spirit of the movies. (#SeeWhatIDidThere) Here are the basics:

  1. You have four Traits and four matching Talents. Traits are attributes, including Brains, Cool, Moves, and Muscle. Talents can be anything that could be governed by the Trait, such as Parapsychology, Getting a Date, Climbing, and Breaking Down Doors.
  2. You roll a number of 6-sided dice equal to your Trait rating (which is typically between 1 and 5), adding 3 dice if your Talent applies.
  3. One of the dice you roll is a special Ghost die, with the Ghostbusters logo on the 6. If a player rolls a ghost, something bad (and probably funny) happens.

That’s most of what you need to know to play the game! There’s more to it than that—the box is full of goodies including the dice, a player’s guide, a GM’s guide (including adventures), and some way-cool equipment cards—but most of it is gravy.

Sadly, the game is long out of print, but you can sometimes find a copy on eBay.

I didn’t realize at the time what a big deal it was to find a game with such streamlined mechanics. Not having played games like D&D or Champions or Rifts yet, I didn’t know that the relatively lightweight games I’d been playing weren’t the norm for everyone. Even so, Ghostbusters WAS the simplest of the games I’d played—yet it didn’t give me the feeling that anything was missing.

Also, this was my first exposure to West End Games, and it led me directly to one of the great loves of my life, Paranoia. Specifically, it was this bit in the introduction: “We were going to do this one straight—you know, pleasant, friendly, informal, but not too wacky—nothing like PARANOIA. But somehow we just couldn’t help ourselves.” I remember reading that and thinking, “Does this mean Paranoia might be even MORE funny than this game?” (Spoiler alert: yep.)

This 31 Days of Ghostbusters series is my love letter to Ghostbusters—part of that is the movies, of course, and the animated series and video games and board games and collectibles and more. But mostly it’s a tribute to one of the best roleplaying games ever.

I’d like to hear from you, too. Am I reaching any fellow Ghostbusters players out there?

31 Days of Ghostbusters

I’ve written about Ghostbusters here a few times before, but I’m about to escalate that. The new Ghostbusters movie comes out on July 15, and to celebrate the return of the franchise to the big screen, I’m going to write a Ghostbusters-related post for every day of the month of July. That’s right, it’ll be 31 days of Ghostbusters!

I’ll aim to focus as many as possible on the roleplaying side of Ghostbusters—the original Ghostbusters roleplaying game, other similar games, resources for playing a ghostly RPG, and my own creations—but other posts will simply be about Ghostbusters. (Making this clear up front will keep me from feeling I have to end every non-gaming post with “Say, remember roleplaying games? I like roleplaying games.”)

As a sneak preview, here are a few things I expect to talk about during this series:

– The sadly-out-of-print Ghostbusters RPG from West End Games
– Ghostly music
– The new movie (duh)
– How to modernize the ghostbusting business for the 21st Century
– Setting a Ghostbusters game in your town
– Busting ghosts using other game systems

Don’t worry, I’ve got at least 25 more ideas, so I won’t run out. I just don’t want to spoil them all this early! (Having said that, I do welcome article ideas from you folks. Tell me what you’d like to see here.)

See you on July 1!