Welcome back, dice fondlers! This fine Friday, we lurch ever closer to Halloween! In honor of the night of ghosts and ghouls itself, I think we should talk about a game where you can fight back against the forces of darkness; a game where you can build your ghost-fighting franchise from the ground up; a game where you can channel inspiration from the cartoons and movies you may have seen in your youth. Of course, I’m talking about… INSPECTRES!
Wait. What? That didn’t come out right, did it? I surely must have been talking about a licensed RPG, right? Perhaps a… Ghostbusters RPG? Well, no. It isn’t that the Ghostbusters RPG doesn’t exist (it does) or that it’s some sort of travesty (it’s fine, really), but because of something else. You see, if you’re at a party and someone wants to break out a game that’s quick, easy, fun, AND has ghosts in it, Inspectres is the ticket. The Ghostbusters RPG follows a lot more of the genre conventions for RPGs made in the 80s, whereas Inspectres describes itself as “collaborative storytelling without a net.” That said, let’s dive in.
Inspectres Setup & Mechanics
Inspectres DOES technically have a GM, but if you’re used to games like D&D or Vampire, this is going to be a bit of shift for you. Inspectres is a highly character driven game. Each character has four stats (Athletic, Academics, Contact, and Technology) that you allocate dice to during character creation out of a pool of nine dice. Each stat can have a maximum of 4 and a minimum of 1. You also get an identifying “Talent,” whether it be “Former Pro Quarterback” or “Smartest Woman In MENSA.” Your Talent gives you a bonus die to roll when your Talent would apply. That’s all the mechanical bits.
You the player should take time to decide what your character did before choosing to become a franchisee in a ghostbusting business. This is a roleplay-heavy game and having material to riff off of ready is a huge help. Players looking to play a supernatural or otherwise “Weird” agent have advanced rules they can use to do so. They have the advantage of having a fifth stat, Cool, that normal agents usually only get as bonus dice, while having several negatives applied to them as well. Keep in mind though that per rules as written, only one franchisee per team can be Weird.
In the Business of Ghostbusting
Next, we build your franchise. Are you just opening the doors with secondhand office furniture, old computers, knockoff occult tomes, and a decaying building? Or is your franchise in full swing, working for the home office, having investor’s meetings and chatting with the press? These are choices the players make together.
As players describe the items in the office, the player suggesting a new item gets to roll their Technology skill. If they’re successful, they can describe their new set piece in even deeper detail. The franchise gets assigned a number of dice depending on the level of development it is under. This not only sets the players’ power level (I’ll show you how in a moment) but also sets expectations for the difficulty of cases you’re pursuing. You see, each franchise has a Gym Card, a Library Card, and a Credit Card. Your team divides the franchise dice among the three cards (or chooses to keep them in the bank). From there, during players, characters can use those dice to assist their rolls. Gym Cards help with Athletics, Library Cards with Academics, and Credit Cards with Technology. Dice in the Bank can be used for ANY roll… with the caveat that the bank may choose to give you even more dice in interest, or choose to foreclose on all remaining dice you have in the bank. Characters also have to worry about Stress and their Cool, but we’ll get to those in a little bit.
When player characters attempt to take an action, you count up the number of dice in the relevant stat, add a die if your Talent is relevant, and add any dice you’re pulling from the franchise’s various cards. Roll them all together and the highest die is your result on the success table. Where a 5 or 6 is an unmitigated success that gains your franchise 1 or 2 dice respectively and allows the player to narrate their success, a 4 is still a success, but it doesn’t have any sweet franchise dice attached to it, and when the player narrates their success they must also add either a side effect that is either humorous or negative. 3 or less, and the GM narrates the complications that arise. A 3 means the player can still suggest a minor positive out of their failure, whereas a 2 gives a negative result, and a 1… well, the GM can put you in a pretty dire situation with a 1. Which leads me back to Stress.
When a character is placed in a situation that would tax their patience and freak out their normal sensibilities, they have to make a Stress roll. Maybe you just met a horror from beyond the walls of time. Or maybe it just bit the color purple in half. These things call for a Stress Roll. The GM determines how many Stress dice a player rolls based on how freaky the situation actually is. Having someone almost hit you in a crosswalk is a 1, maybe a 2. Having the partially eaten remains of your previous client shamble after you, demanding their money back is, for most characters, a 6. You roll all your dice at once and take the lowest result. A normal character that gets a 6 on their Stress roll shakes off the Stress and gains a Cool point they can use to augment any roll they like. On the other end of the scale, you may lose dice from a stat that can only be recovered through taking a Vacation after the job is over.
Which leads to a very interesting question. How do we tell when the job is over? We have so few stats, how do we track mission success? It’s easier than you think. You know how I said we gain franchise dice on rolls of 5 and 6 for normal actions? Well, once you’ve been so amazing as to rack up the number of dice the GM set as the difficulty, the job can end at any time afterward. Obviously, players will want to roleplay out their final defeat of the vampire lord or werewolf den or quivering horde of sentient jello molds or whatever. However, once they’re satisfied, it’s time to wrap it all up, for players to take a Vacation and heal up, and plan their next job.
Character Deaths & Bloody Confessions
Now, it is entirely possible for your character to die during a mission. How, you ask? By you looking at the GM and invoking the “Death and Dismemberment Clause.” Your team will receive an extra franchise die should they complete the job and you’ll have the freedom to create a new character. What’s that? You thought it had to do with Stress or Hit Points or something? Nah. You’ll never lose a character you love to some random trap or lucky monster. You only lose a character when YOU want, and why would you want to? Because it’d make for a killer story.
Now, we’ve covered the basic skeleton of Inspectres without covering the coolest part: Confessionals. See, Inspectres isn’t just set up to be a game of franchised ghost-busting, no siree. It’s actually set up to be a REALITY TV SHOW. That’s right, once player per scene can signal that they’re turning on the Confessional, that little segment in reality TV where they interrupt the action to talk to the cast. The player has to talk in character to the other players as if they were viewers. They can describe another character’s behavior, giving them an attribute that if they choose to play along will earn the franchise an extra die at the end of the job. They can also go into the Confessional to talk about a flashback to give themselves an item or set piece that wasn’t already in the scene before they cut back to the action. For instance, a player could describe another as “stubborn” or a player could turn on the Confessional moment to say “Thankfully, I’ve kept my pocket knife with me ever since Boy Scouts. A scout is always prepared” in order to justify having a knife on their person. Note that there is a limit on the number of “quirks” players can assign each other. Each player may only assign one quirk per game, and each player can only be assigned one quirk per game. Otherwise, go wild in the Confessional moments – talk smack about your fellow players or ham it up. It’s literally a spotlight moment for you.
And that’s a look at Inspectres. It’s a game with a great deal of player agency. GMs are advised to roll with whatever solutions their players come up with, regardless of if it was the initial plan or not. This is a game that lets everybody stretch their creativity, roll with a table full of crazy ideas, and go for broke. As much as I love a good scare, nothing really screams Halloween to me like a bit of playing pretend among friends.
Have yourselves a safe and wonderful Halloween, my friends. And remember to…