The Ghostbusters Role-Playing Game series was produced by West End Games, and consisted of two core titles, namely Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Role-Playing Game released in 1986 and Ghostbusters International released in 1989, and a series of eight published supplements.
The initial core title Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Role-Playing Game came as a boxed set containing two books, a 24-page Training Manual intended for players and a 64-page Operations Manual for the Ghostmaster (the game's title for the Gamesmaster or GM, commonly referred to in many fantasy RPGs as a Dungeonmaster or DM). The box also included six-sided dice and a series of handouts, as well as cardboard equipment cards for use during play.
The Ghostbusters International title was published in response to demand for a more detailed ruleset, and to coincide with the cinematic release of Ghostbusters II. It was available as a stand-alone 144-page book, or as a boxed set containing the core book, six-sided dice and handouts (although the equipment cards were not included with this version).
The game's setting takes place in a world where the New York Ghostbusters office has established a successful franchising operation, Ghostbusters International Corporation, under the parent corporation of Ghostbusters Inc. While the New York office still operates paranormal investigation and extermination itself, it also provides franchisees around the world with equipment (for example, Proton Packs, Ghost Traps, P.K.E. Meters, etc.), expertise (access to the accumulated knowledge of Dr. Spengler and Dr. Stantz, for instance) as well as occasional mandatory missions that must be carried out on behalf of the parent organization.
Players are given the opportunity to operate and run a franchised Ghostbusters office, taking the parts of characters who established or are employed by one. Alternatively, full details are provided for all of the main cinematic characters, and these can be used either by players wanting to re-enact or continue the stories established by the films, or simply as non-player characters by the Ghostmaster.
The supernatural threats faced by the players within the game's setting are not limited to ghosts, and the characters may encounter a range of exotic adversaries and allies, including those from classical horror tropes (vampires, werewolves, etc.), beings of extraterrestrial origin, and travellers from other times and/or dimensions. The game encourages a mix of horror and comedy, emulating the style of the original movies while keeping to a relatively cinematic interpretation of the universe.
Partly to capitalize on the release of Ghostbusters II, but also in response to suggestions that more detailed rules were needed, West End Games released Ghostbusters International. This was released as a single book, and aside from the more elaborate rules (ranges in combat, more detailed rules for how much equipment could be carried, etc.), the advanced game included descriptions for new equipment that debuted in the second movie. It also provided rules for creating non-ghostly supernatural entities, and for the first time gave optional rules for creating Ghostbuster player characters with supernatural powers of their own. The Ghostmaster section of the book featured two entirely new pre-made adventures, adventure seeds for 19 more (only a few of which were repeated or rewritten from the previous book), a new "A Cast of Dozens" (with a fair few returning characters but a reasonable amount of new content also), and sections detailing how to run a game most effectively (with guidance on pacing, plot and creating adventures from scratch). There were also paper cutout stand-ins, to be used as paper miniatures for tracking player characters and non-player characters during involved combat, and an entirely separate booklet featuring a solo adventure (written in a Choose Your Own Adventure format) to help ease new players into the concepts of roleplaying. One thing notably absent from the new version was the set of cardboard equipment cards.
Released in Spain by Joc Internacional, it is a Spanish translation of "Ghostbusters International". The front and back were altered to having the Real Ghostbusters. Contents are otherwise only altered by translation.
In the game, characters are given four basic Traits, namely Brains, Muscles, Moves, and Cool, which are generated by allocating twelve points between them. No single trait may be greater than five, and each must be at least one, although it should be noted that the original cast were allowed to violate these guidelines (with Egon having a Brains score of 7, for example). Each of these Traits represents how many dice a player rolls in a situation relevant to that trait (e.g. the Muscles score being rolled for feats of physical strength and endurance).
In addition, each Trait is assigned a Talent or skill relevant to that Trait, such as Physics or Climb. In a situation covered by that Talent, a player gets to roll three more dice than the base Trait would normally allow. Each action is assigned a difficulty number by the Ghostmaster, with harder tasks having greater numbers. The player attempts to exceed this number with the total of the dice roll.
Every character is also given at least one Goal at creation, which indicates the ambitions and drives of a character, and is also a source of gaining Brownie Points (see below). For instance, Venkman's is simply the pursuit of sex, whereas Spengler's is advancing the cause of science.
Players' characters begin the game with twenty Brownie Points, which serve multiple roles. Firstly, they act as a measure of the character's accumulated "good karma," and can be spent to add extra dice for a single roll or to blunt the results of a bad outcome. They are also deducted as a result of injury, although this mechanic is modified in Ghostbusters International, where injury results in temporary decreases in Traits which heals over time and can be sped up by Browie Point expenditure. Characters can earn more Brownie Points by successfully completing missions, succeeding in pursuing their personal Goal, or for entertaining role-playing by the player. Brownie Points also act as a form of experience points, and in sufficient quantities can be spent to increase a character's Traits permanently (with a corresponding mechanic for selling back Traits for Brownie Points in a pinch).
A unique randomizing element in the game is the inclusion of a Ghost Die, which has the Ghostbusters logo replacing the six of a standard die. Almost every time dice are rolled, one must be the ghost die. If the ghost is rolled, it counts as a zero and causes an unexpected misfortune for the character (such as breaking something, or tripping over), or something advantageous for supernatural entities (such as a temporary increase in their powers) regardless of who was rolling the dice.
Contains material for the Ghostmaster, such as premade adventures and Non-Player Characters, rules for the mechanics regarding supernatural beings, and a variety of "Routines" designed to generate entertaining roleplay during tedious procedures such as going to court or obtaining legal paperwork.
Much like the traits possessed by the Ghostbusters, ghosts could have two unique attributes, specifically Ectopresence and Power. Ectopresence represents a given entity's strength of grip on remaining in this dimension, and as such how many times it must be hit by an attack stream from a proton pack before it dissipates or is weakened enough to be trapped by a ghost trap (depending on the nature of the entity). Power is used to represent supernatural and magical abilities, and determines the number of dice rolled when using them. Examples of such abilities are Slime, Poltergeist, and Terrorize (an example of which is seen with the Library ghost).
- Peterson, Sandy, Willis, Lynn & Stafford, Greg (1986). Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game Training Manual, p. 2 - 5. West End Games, New York NY USA, ISBN 0874310431.
- Peterson, Sandy, Willis, Lynn & Stafford, Greg (1986). Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game Training Manual, p. 3. West End Games, New York NY USA, ISBN 0874310431.
- Peterson, Sandy, Willis, Lynn & Stafford, Greg (1986). Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game Training Manual, p. 10 - 12. West End Games, New York NY USA, ISBN 0874310431.
- Peterson, Sandy, Willis, Lynn & Stafford, Greg (1986). Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game Training Manual, p. 5 - 7. West End Games, New York NY USA, ISBN 0874310431.
- Peterson, Sandy, Willis, Lynn & Stafford, Greg (1986). Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game Operations Manual, p. 26 - 29. West End Games, New York NY USA, ISBN 0874310431.