Posted on July 28, 2008 by Flames
Is the wailing of a banshee keeping you up at night? Graveyard full of ghouls got you down? Vampires a pain in the neck? Werewolves got you howling mad?
Then look no further than the trained professionals of “InSpectres” for all your supernatural troubleshooting needs.
“InSpectres” is a role-playing game of horror and comedy written by Jared Sorenson and published by Memento-Mori Theatrics. Players take on the roles of supernatural investigators who are part of a franchise, ala “Ghostbusters.” The players control not only their characters, but also the business itself, allow it to grow financially, physically and in terms of contacts and clientele. A game master sets up the story and calls for different die rolls at different times, controlling all of the non-player characters in the game.
Rules-wise “InSpectres” is actually pretty simple, but very fun and compelling. Players six-sided dice, called D6s, to decide the outcome of skill rolls, combat or other encounters. The higher the number rolled, the better the outcome. Rolls of 5 or 6 actually gain the player more dice for their franchise (I’ll explain that more later), while a roll of 2 or 1 would mean something terrible happens, usually whatever the game master can think up. When rolling dice the highest die your rolled is considered the outcome, so if you roll all ones and a 6, you rolled a 6.If you are rolling only one die, then you get whatever you’ve rolled.
Each character is defined by four skills – Academics, Athletics, Technology and Contact – with nine dice distributed between them. You also choose a Talent, usually relating to your career before you joined the team, and this talent adds an extra die to your roll whenever you .For example, a character with the Talent Plumber would add a die if he were trying to reroute pipes (Technology), talking with someone from the plumber’s union (Contact) or hitting a mummy in the head with a wrench (Athletics).
The Franchise itself also gives the players more dice, depending on what they are trying to do. Each business begins with a number of Franchise dice depending on its size and more dice can be gained during the course of the game whenever a player rolls a 6. The length of each game is decided at the beginning by setting the number of Franchise dice that must be earned during the course of player (with more dice meaning a longer, more difficult game).
Those Franchise dice are divided among three Cards: The Library Card, the Gym Card and the Credit Card. At any time during the game players can opt to take dice from those Cards to use on rolls, giving you an extra die (or more) to up your chances of a successful roll. Those dice are considered lost after you use them, but again, more can be gained through good rolls. The Library Card helps you on Academic rolls; the Gym Card helps you on Athletic rolls; and the Credit Card helps you with Technology and even Contact rolls.
There also are Bank Dice, those dice that aren’t assigned to any specific Card but can be rolled to gain extra effects, like additional Franchise dice. Of course, the Bank can also turn out to be a bad investment, and a low roll can cost the Franchise dice.
What really makes “InSpectres” stand out from other investigation/horror role-playing games is the way the investigation is handled. In most games players are trying to solve a mystery, which can be very linear or convoluted or in some cases near impossible to solve. In “InSpectres” the players decide the outcome of the mystery, the why’s and where’s. The game master sets up the scenario, decides when and what rolls of the dice are called for and basically monitors the rules, but otherwise it really is up to the players as to what kind of story they want to tell.
Even if a player blows a die roll they are encouraged to help narrate the outcome, making life worse for themselves and their fellow players. Trying to barricade the door against a pack of zombies? Oh darn, that pipe you just yanked out of the floor was connected to the water main and now the room is filling up with water. And the zombies are still outside.
Another really fun element of the game is Stress. Instead of characters losing sanity or taking damage, they accumulate Stress whenever they encounter supernatural elements, experience strangeness or get slimed. Players roll a number of Stress dice depending on how stressful or other-worldly the encounter happens to be. Seeing an unimaginable creature of darkness devouring a bus full of nuns might warrant three or four dice, while having your card rejected at the ATM might warrant only a single die roll. Roll a 6 and you gain an extra die of Cool. Roll a 1 and you freak out.
Stress can be ignored through the use of Cool. Player characters can have up to three Cool dice, and each die allows them to ignore one point of stress. Cool dice can also be cashed in for an extra die to roll during encounters, but dice used in that way are then lost, regardless of the outcome.
Things such as Franchise and Cool dice will be gained and lost throughout the course of play, so there is a little bit of bookkeeping with the game. The author suggests the use of a lot of different colored dice, so you more easily can look at your pile of black Franchise dice and know how well you are doing and how close to the end of the game you are.
There also are rules for creating supernatural characters in the game, but the main focus of “InSpectres” is the ordinary man, the guy who fights animated piles of garbage and ghostly knitting clubs just to earn a paycheck.
The game also draws a lot of inspiration from reality television, and it is really fun to play the game in a mock-umentary style, ala “The Office.” “InSpectres” provides rules for this style of play, including ways to handle confessionals (moments when game play stops and one character addresses the camera, complaining about co-workers or giving insight into a scene).
“InSpectres” is an incredibly fun and inventive game that is really different than any other role-playing game I’ve experienced before. The system is easy to learn, very smooth to use and really reinforces the supernatural comedy setting. Stress is probably one of my favorite parts of the setting, as I love the idea of a group surviving an encounter with the Big Bad From Beyond only to have the driver go ballistic when he gets stuck in traffic on the way back to HQ. The Franchise rules really give player the feeling they are creating and growing a business, and the player-driven storytelling almost guarantees bizarre and off-the-wall sessions each time a group sits down to play.
Review by Michael Erb
Staff Writer – The Parkersburg News and Sentinel – www.newsandsentinel.com
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