Wherein your humble scribe presents his first stab at turning out a Ghostbusters/Chill kinda of hack using the Barbarians of Lemuria system. I started with Dogs of WAR as my basis, but now that I’m putting this out there I’m thinking maybe I should have built things more from the ground up. Then again, I’m not looking to write an entirely new game, so maybe not. But it’s possible I should have started with Dicey Tales as the base instead. In any case, make of the following what you will. And maybe I’ll get around to making a proper v1.0 of this one way or another eventually.
Agents of GHOST (General Hostile Occult Suppression Team) is a hack of Dogs of WAR intended to yield Ghostbusters-like hijinx or Chill-esque “serious” stalking of the night fantastic.
Note: Some material found in this document may be drawn from or reference other BoL-derived games, like Barbarians of the Aftermath, the BoL edition of Legends of Steel, Dicey Tales, and Barbarians of Lemuria itself. If you don’t own those fine games, I heartily suggest you pick them up from your favorite game outlet. And I humbly salute those responsible for these fine games. I wouldn’t be writing this without their outstanding efforts.
Changes To Dogs of WAR
The details for each of these changes are discussed below. This is just a high-level summary for cataloging purposes.
- Possible reduction of the starting Attribute, Combat Ability, and Specialization ranks, depending on “feel” desired.
- Rename Scientific Background to Academic
- Rename Academic Specialization to Scholar
- Paranormalist Specialization added
- Renaming Exploit Points to Luck Points
- The possible addition of Magic (and the Sorcerer Specialization)
A brief outline of the character creation process, which is essentially the same as that found in Dogs of WAR, with changes described in the sections that follow:
- Allocate points to Attributes
- Allocate points to Combat Abilities
- Choose Background, Boons, and Flaws
- Add a Background-derived Primary Specialization at rank 1
- Add Paranormalist Specialization at rank 1
- Add X ranks to Background-derived Specializations
- Distribute X additional ranks to Specializations of choice
For a Ghostbusters-like game where failing is almost as much fun (if not more) as succeeding, start the characters with only 3 points for Attributes.
For a Chill-like game where competence in the face of danger in the form of creatures of the night, start the characters with the normal 4 points for Attributes.
For a Ghostbusters-like game where combat isn’t necessarily a focus, start the characters with only 1 or 2 points for Combat Abilities.
For a Chill-like game where characters will likely have to engage in battle against countless hideous things, start the characters with either 3 or 4 points for Combat Abilities, depending on your tastes.
Background & Specializations
For a Ghostbusters-like game, limit the characters to 3 points in Specializations: 1 in the primary, 1 in Paranormalist, and 1 more of choice.
For a Chill-like game, hold the characters to 5 points in Specializations: 1 in the primary, 1 in Paranormalist, 1 in a secondary related to the background, and 2 more of choice.
As DoW, with the following change:
- Scientific Background renamed Academic, but functions in the same ways.
As DoW, with the following change and addition:
- Paranormalist: Paranormalists are students of all things strange and unusual, from ghosts & monsters to magic & psychic powers to aliens and demons. A paranormalist knows facts and legends relating to such things, and is less likely to be frightened or driven insane by encounters with creatures of the night.
- Academic Specialization renamed Scholar, but functions in the same ways.
Boons & Flaws
One specific Boon needs to be added to DoW to make AoG just about right:
Knowledgeable: The character receives a bonus die when dealing with his or her area of specialty. These areas include:
- Ghosts & Spirits
- Monsters of Legend
- Demons, Devils & Gods
Other Boons & Flaws found in the other BoL-derived games might be appropriate to AoG, so be sure to take a look through those games if you need more options. Dicey Tales seems to be particularly rich in options that fit the ghost/monster-hunting genre.
If you’re going for a Ghostbusters kind of game, you’ll obviously want to include some kind of Proton Pack for fighting those ectoplasmic baddies. Here’s my suggestion:
- Proton Gun: Does d6 damage vs spirits, but 2d6 vs corporeal creatures and objects, so be careful with that thing!
You may also want to consider the usefulness of traditional “weapons” used against the paranormal, such as crucifixes, holy water, silver bullets, and the like.
- Crucifix: Does d6 damage when used as a weapon against vampires and other similar baddies. May also be used to keep vampires at bay (just out of melee range) by making an attack roll using Defense
- Holy Water: Does d6 damage when used as a weapon against vampires and other similar baddies
- Silver Bullets: Either do an additional d6 damage against werewolves and other similar creatures or may be the only way of damaging such foes. In the second case, the damage is equal to the base weapon damage
Again, if it’s Ghostbusters you’re after, you’ll need to add in a Ghost Containment Device. You can pretty much hand-wave this thing, except you’ll want to have some idea of how many spirits a specific unit can hold. I suggest that a normal field unit be limited to holding 3 “regular” ghosts at any given time, and fewer more powerful spirits.
- Garlic: Automatically prevents vampires from entering any doorway or window where a strand is hung. Additionally, vampires will not enter into melee combat against a person wearing a strand of garlic.
- Wolfsbane: May prevent lycanthropes in were-form from passing through a doorway or window or approaching within 10′ of a person holding a significant amount of the herb.. Additionally, a lycanthrope in were-form who ingests wolfsbane is poisoned and must make a Difficult Might check or suffer 3d6 damage. If wolfsbane is ingested by a lycanthrope in his human form, the lycanthropic change begins immediately, regardless of the moon’s phase (or any other “normal” trigger for the change). Of course, wolfsbane can be toxic to non-lycanthropes, so one is not advised to go around foisting wolfsbane on every suspected lycanthrope.
- The Common Cold: If unleashed against alien monstrosities, have the creatures make a Difficult Might check, with near-instant death as the outcome for failure and a lingering, wasting death for any other result except a legendary success.
DoW doesn’t assume magic is present or used in-game. Obviously, a game about the paranormal should at least include the possibility of magic. Fortunately, DoW is derived from BoL, so all we need to do is plug in that magic system and let it ride.
It must be left up to any particular GM whether they want to allow spellcasting PCs or not. If no, just ignore this section. If yes, I advise requiring at least a single rank actually be applied to the Sorcerer career (i.e., no “rank zero” Sorcerers) and the acquisition of the Magery Boon (which “costs” two Boons) to “buy in” to being able to cast spells. I’d also limit PCs to second magnitude spells at the highest, and even those should require some in-game effort to track down in musty tomes and lost grimoires, etc.
Regardless of PC access to magic, it’s likely that they will face foes who can bend the laws of the universe with arcane and/or divine powers. Behind the screen you don’t really need rules for this kind of stuff, but following the general principles of the way sorcererous and priestly magics work should keep you honest and give the PCs a fighting chance against your threats.
Playing The Game
The Dogs of WAR rules don’t need to change much, really. The basic mechanics will get us pretty much wherever we need to go. But here are a couple of things you might think about incoporating into your game to help with genre (or at least game system) emulation. These are strictly optional and may not provide the right feel for your game, so use or ignore as you see fit.
Whenever the characters encounter something truly frightening (or mortifying, or sanity-blasting) have each one make a check using his Mind value and his ranks in Paranormalist.
On a failure, the character is stunned for 1d6 rounds and can only stand there stammering (though he may defend himself if attacked – that is, his Defense still counts as a modifier against any attacks directed at him).
On a Calamitous Failure, the character goes temporarily insane (1d6 days). If the result is a Calamitous Failure as the result of rolling a “1” on a penalty die, or if the source of the fright is otherwise related to one of the character’s Flaws, the insanity is, sadly, permanent and the character should be retired. Investigating the terrible isn’t always pretty, after all.
A Wild Ride
Any time a 1 is rolled on either die when making a check, something “bad” happens. If the roll was a success, make it an interesting bad, not a game-crushing one. If the roll was a normal failure, make it something more noteworthy. On a Calamitous Failure, go for broke. And if the 1 was rolled on a penalty die, it’s time for some serious consequences.
Any time a 6 is rolled on either die when making a check, let the player roll it again, keeping the 6 and adding the result of the new roll. And if that roll is a six, keep on rolling and adding until something other than a six is rolled. If the results of a check wind up at 18 or higher, the check becomes a Mighty Success. If the results of the check wind up at 24 or higher, the check becomes a Legendary Success.
Put It On The Company Card
Since the PCs are presumed to be members of a larger organization, they can generally be assumed to have significant enough financial backing to be able to acquire just about anything they feel they need. Still, resources aren’t unlimited, so every time an acquisition is attempted, a check should be made using the characters average Mind score, modified by the GM based on the expense and nature of the goods to be acquired. If the check succeeds then the items are acquired with no complications. If the check fails, the gear is not secured and future acquisition attempts suffer a cumulative -1 penalty for each previous failed roll. If the check results in a Calamitous Failure, the company’s card is maxed out an no further gear can be acquired during this mission.
Oh, so very creative…
Gracias, amigo. But the creativity credit really belongs to Simon Washbourne, Jeff Mejia, and Nathaniel Torson. I just cobbled together what those cats built into something that approximates the great stuff yet other amazing folks wrote initially.
Still, if it gets people playing BoL-based games in some different genres, I’ll take that as a feather in my cap 🙂
Cool how you cover both Ghostbusters and more ‘serious’ fare like Chill. It really illustrates the flexibility of the BoL engine.
Now Chill, that takes me back. I had the original from Pacesetter and managed a couple sessions, back in the day–but horror role-playing tends to turn into comedy (which is why a Ghostbusters approach probably works better).
Thanks, G-Man. I was originally just going to go for Ghostbusters but I realized that, to paraphrase David St. Hubbins & Nigel Tufnel, it’s such a fine line between goofy and gothic. And yes, this is absolutely doable because of the mad flexibility of the BoL engine.
I owned the Pacesetter Chill, but never actually played it. It was one of a great many games I acquired when I worked in a comic book store in the early 80s, since the owner paid me double my hourly wage when I took payment as store credit instead of cash. And since I was but a wee lad living at home with no real expenses, well, games were purchased even when they weren’t expected to be played.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen any role-playing that didn’t turn into comedy eventually. Though that’s probably an outgrowth of the fact that I really only play with friends, and we’re a wacky bunch 🙂
You should contact Jeff Mejia and see if he’d like this written up for a future issue of Dicey Tales. You’ve done some great BoL stuff – keep on blogging!
Great idea, Simon. I’ll ping Jeff and see if he’s interested. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, too! There’s nothing quite like having the creator of a game give you a thumbs up 🙂