Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Roll Your Own Life (6) - Who ya gonna call?

Part of a page of The Travellers
from Issue 55 of White Dwarf
Before I go onto the continuing story of my sad little existence, I do have a couple of things I want to share with you. Last week's post about The Travellers, the old comic strip that ran in White Dwarf in the UK, back before it just printed stuff about Warhammer - the comic that inspired the Wormbusters? Well, it turns out that a lot of it is online on Scribd.

The Travellers was a work of comedy wonder, mostly because you could read it, then go back and read all of the little jokes in the background - I'll always remember the ship taking off and the shot looked like the bit in Star Wars IV when the Millennium Falcon takes off from Mos Eisley, and you get another ship nearby and someone shouting "Don't bother to indicate, I'm psionic!" Fantastic.

However, that wasn't the only find that John pointed out to me. In that very issue is an advert that Milo posted in the classifieds looking to recruit new members...

The Classified Section of White Dwarf issue 55
I must admit, I'd forgotten that as a group we were initially called "The Rheinrhehm Travellers". Why "Rheinrhehm?" There seems to be a myth behind it starting in Digby's house, taking the name from a bottle of wine. Of course the name changed over time. We discussed being called "See You Next Wednesday" after John Landis' in-joke, and the fact that we used to meet on Wednesdays (and Thursdays, and Fridays, and Sundays, and...) but in the end, we're just "The Eight".

So... back to the story...

I'd already mentioned that I was rubbish at plots. The games I'd GM'd boiled down to "10,000 Sathar have landed on a planet, what do you do?" - cue a series of explosions, and Bragi the walking battleship wades in with guns blazing...

Cover of the Ghostbusters RPG
"Training Manual" (or Player's Handbook)
with thanks to 
That all changed with possibly the most influential game I'd ever played - Ghostbusters. I was obsessed with Ghostbusters (the movie that is) and I've already mentioned that I desperately wanted to be Venkman when I grew up, so hearing that there was a roleplaying game? I was sold before I'd even looked at the back of the box.

The only disappointment for my youthful brain was the lack of character sheet. Looking back now I see it was a revolutionary work of genius, but despite the character sheet problem (that I remedied with some homegrown efforts) I could tell even then that the game was something special.

I mean, look at the thing - it was a work of perfect simplicity. It didn't need to be full colour, it didn't need anything except that logo on the front, and some dice. And one of those had the logo on it as well.

The thing about it was how quick and simple it was. The rules were possibly the most minimal thing I'd ever seen. And it introduced "Brownie Points", something that I'd never encountered before, allowing the players to fudge rolls, to tweak the outcomes and to generally make the story funnier, better and cooler.

The start of the Rules Chapter from
The Ghostbusters RPG
with thanks to
And story was what it was all about. No longer was it a simple dungeon crawl, it was about telling a cool (and funny) story. There were investigation elements, working out who the ghost was, what its typical behaviour was like, and then there was the fun of blasting the place to pieces with Proton Packs. And there was no dying. Buildings could be destroyed (and frequently did) and your characters would stagger out of the rubble in their underwear with a Wile E. Coyote dazed look on their faces.

There were adventures published in the Ghostmaster's rulebook, and what was a revelation, dozens of Story Hooks. Short adventure ideas that could be expanded to complete adventures. Brilliant.

We played Ghostbusters continually, I zipped through all of the Story Hooks in record time. We had some of the most bonkers characters (Coop's character of note was Mr. Oook, an orangutan with a Proton Pack) and some of the craziest adventures ever (I do remember the published adventure "Hot Rods of the Gods" was particularly wacky!).

Of course, without adventures (we'd gone through all the ones published) I had to design my own. And so I did something I hadn't considered before. I contacted the publisher, West End Games...


Tyler said...

I came to Ghostbusters late in life, not getting into gaming until 2002, but I'm glad I did. As a whole, the set establishes a tone and way of thinking about running the game that make it almost effortless.

And I really, really like Ghostbusters. :-D

David F. Chapman said...

As you could probably tell, it was a huge influence on me when it came to writing Doctor Who... simplicity, boxed set, adventure hooks. That said, I did really like WEG's Star Wars that Ghostbusters spawned, but that's a whole new blog post...