Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #6 - Ghostbusters

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
The dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
- Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, Dr. Peter Venkman




I think every "Top N" list needs at least one or two "WTF?" entries. Yes, I am absolutely serious, I put West End Games' old Ghostbusters near the top of my Top 19 list.

Funny story. At least to me. When Wizards of the Coast first released their Star Wars RPG there was a lot of criticism about it being "D&D in space" due to using the d20 rules. While the d20 incarnations weren't my favorite (though I do think they got it right near the end of their license with Saga Edition), I always got a chuckle out of that criticism. By that standard, West End Games old Star Wars RPG, much beloved, could be considered "Ghostbusters in space".

For people familiar with the D6 Star Wars RPG, there is a lot familiar. You've got four traits ranked by the number of dice you have in them. And you can have talents for each trait. In Ghostbusters, it's pretty simple, with every character having a single talent per trait. If you can use a talent, you get three more dice. Check out the very complicated character sheet below.


Brownie points are a cross between hit points, experience points, and hero points. You can spend them for bonuses. You can spend them for permanent increases. And you lose them when you get the crap beaten out of you.

Equipment was handled with cards listing things like proton packs, scuba gear, mountaineering equipment, etc. The mountaineering equipment came in quite handy when we played.

Combat is roll a bunch of dice. No initiative. No rounds really, very freeform. Damage is pretty arbitrary. This all got tightened in the 2nd edition, Ghostbusters International, which at the time I considered a massive improvement. Now I have to confess to preferring the much faster and much, much looser 1st edition of the game.

Here's something else kinda funny about the Ghostbusters RPG. Take a look at some of the credits from the Operations Manual:

Yes, though published by West End Games, for all intents and purposes it seems to have been designed by Chaosium. There's only a few entries left in this list and if you've read my blog at all you know they're going to appear again. It's not surprising - published in 1986, this was West End Games' second RPG, after Paranoia in 1984. With that Call of Cthulhu pedigree you can rest assured there are awesome rules for ghost creation...

Ghostbusters is terrific fun. It asks for a lot of improvisation which may not be for everyone - and it definitely asks you to be in the right mood for it. But it is an absolute blast to play. Go find a copy. If you Google, you can probably find some PDFs of the first edition - some of them not on Russian filesharing sites...

Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!
- Winston Zeddemore

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