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vs. Ghosts $6.95
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/13/2016 09:17:25

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

vs. Ghosts is a full-color 64 page PDF - with 1 page each for a cover, the credits, the table of contents, a request for reader feedback (Give it if you get this product! It really does help them improve future releases!), and the back page, leaving about 59 pages of content. The product itself is based on the vsM Engine trademarked by Phillip Reed, and has been released under the Open Game License (although certain elements of material - art, characters, etc. remain Product Identity - so, basically, the usual).

In a nutshell, the idea behind vs. Ghosts is "Ghostbusters: The Roleplaying Game". This should not be a surprise to anyone, given the theme. XD If I had to guess, it's because of the redone version of the movie coming out - but as explained early on, the point of this product is to suit up and go confront ghosts anywhere they're going to show up. It recommends at least two players, plus a Ghostmaster, in order to properly run the game - plus paper, pencils, and a deck of cards.

After that little bit, we get into the section on the characters. We're asked to come up with a name, a bio (a few sentences will do, and this helps decide what you can do in the game), your attributes (Offense, Defense, Mental, Physical, and Investigation), your Gimmicks (both good and bad), your Health, and finally any Traits (basically, personality quirks and the like that won't have an effect on the game). The system is fairly straightforward, and characters are simply given an array of points for their attributes (no dice-rolling) and a list of options for the Gimmicks. Basically, it's pretty hard to break the character creation system, which may come as a relief to GMs who worry about power playing.

From there, the game moves on to explain the core mechanic of the game - your deck of playing cards. When players perform an action, they get to draw a number of cards matching their attribute score, comparing the highest card drawn to the number they're trying to beat. Being better in a given area specifically gives you more chances to overcome a problem, so it'll probably help if the party diversifies their focus. Face cards increase in number (from 11-14), with Aces normally high but dropping down to 1 for dealing damage (this is a good thing in the game).

vs. Ghosts suggests limiting challenges of their actions to things that could determine the success or failure of the game (i.e. can they actually jump between buildings to catch a fleeing ghost?), with anything less important assumed to succeed. Characters can work together (which provides an extra card drawn for each player assisting) or oppose each other (highest attribute wins). The game provides target values for each challenge - this is left to the Ghostmaster's discretion, but an Average challenge has a target value of 6, while a Very Hard challenge requires drawing a King. (Remember, players could draw six or more cards per-challenge, so their odds of success can actually be pretty good.)

Here, I should add a note - in most games, the technique of card counting (trying to figure out what's left in the deck and what the likelihood of drawing something is) happens to be illegal. However, it's specifically allowed here, and players are encouraged to try and keep track of the odds of their success. It's also possible to play this game with dice (a d12 and a d4), but it really will go better if you can use playing cards.

At this point, the game dives into the combat system, and it will be easy to learn if you've ever played an RPG before. Each turn, characters can move, attack, and do miscellaneous actions (talking, drawing weapons, etc.), taking place on six-foot squares or hexes. Melee attacks, unsurprisingly, are fairly easy to land, while ranged attacks use the higher of the target's defense or a number based on their distance. 24 feet is about the maximum for most normal ranged attacks, but the GM is permitted to double, triple, or even quadruple the effective range of a weapon when it would be sensible to do so (like using a sniper rifle).

Taking damage does affect a character's performance - at half their health, they take a penalty to all attributes, and at one hit point, they take another penalty. Zero HP means you're dead (or, optionally, unconscious). Characters can regain health by getting a full 10 hours of uninterrupted rest, and if a physician tends to them, drawing a Heart card heals an additional point.

Next, the game explains the equipment. Players can buy a maximum of four pieces of equipment each session. Some equipment is free and they can just take it, but other equipment has to be drawn for - if a player fails, they can't get any more fancy equipment at all, but they should have at least four pieces with a cost of 0. Equipement is mostly just for flavor and fluff, and includes things like clothing, living space, work space, and transportation. The most important equipment is probably your weapons - well, that and ghost-hunting gear, anyway. Drawing particularly well can lead to things like mystical tomes of knowledge or special weapons, but it's more likely their gear will be fairly mundane. (Don't neglect having stuff that can actually hurt ghosts, though... seriously, that's important.)

At this point, we're only about halfway through the PDF - fortunately, the rest is easier to summarize. After talking about the equipment, the game offers advice for the Ghostmaster on running games, rewarding players, creating important NPCs, and so on. A few examples are given to make this easier to understand. The game also explains how to create the ghosts that the players will be hunting (which is, of course, a little more challenging) - there's an entire separate section of the book, with a different art style and everything, dedicated to the ghosts and offering samples the GM can use in their first few games. Ghosts are divided into 7 divisions, which loosely correlate to their level of power and the threat they can pose, and have various spooky powers like possession, telekinesis, or coming back over and over again.

The game wraps up with about two and a half pages of adventure hooks that you can use to start planning out a game. You will need to do at least a little planning and preparation in order to make your game succeed, although experienced GMs will be able to wing a lot of what happens. Since the amount of preparation needed will vary by group, I have no universal advice here - although you may want to look into Realm Works if you enjoy adding a lot of detail.

Anyway, as this game was based on another system, it looks quite solid to me. Play seems like it will go fairly quickly once everyone knows the rules, and people are encouraged to have fun and work together in order to succeed. I did notice a few typos throughout the document (fortunately, nothing serious or confusing), but overall, I think this looks like a pretty good game for a family or group of friends that wants to go hunt ghosts. I'd give it a 4.5/5 overall, rounded upwards.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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vs. Ghosts
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