Saturday, 9 August 2014

Who Ya Gonna Call? My Favourite Role-Playing Game

God help us, I actually have more things on this shelf than when this blog started.

Remember this picture of my RPG shelf?  That huge pile of games spanning decades and many genres?  I mention it again so you understand that what I am saying cannot be taken lightly.  This is not some bloke  with five games telling you what his favourite game is.  This is a bloke with over a hundred RPGs telling you what his favourite is.  

My favourite game is at the top of the picture, a black box wedged between others.  My favourite game is one I only actually play every six months or so because rationing it makes it better.  My favourite game is one which lets me and my friends do something we always wanted to do as seven year olds.  My favourite game doesn't take itself too seriously and always has us laughing.  My favourite game only cost me £5 in a second-hand bin in my local game shop but is probably the best purchase I ever made for fun-to-pounds-spent.

My favourite game is Ghostbusters International.

We're ready to believe you!

Ghostbusters International is game about playing members of a Ghostbusters franchise.  You have the proton packs, you have the ghost traps, you have the ECTO-1 and you have the contract specifying you pay money to GBI International back in New York for the right to operate.  A light D6 based system is the core of the game - this is the first iteration of West End Games' D6 system - later expanded into the first Star Wars RPG.

I owned this as a kid; my dad made me a Proton Pack out of cardboard.  I wonder if I still have the picture of me wearing my Ghostbusters halloween outfit anywhere?....
Twice a year we tend to play Ghostbusters - it's our standard Halloween game.  To keep the 80s retro feel we set the game in the past - our first session was 1989 but slowly we've advanced to the end of 1990.  I put on CDs with a mish-mash of 80s music, put up posters of 80s films and politics and try to theme the adventures to include throwaway 80sness from passing references to TV shows to making people and places of the era central to the plot.  We've had ghosts in pieces of the Berlin Wall; we've had ghostly Poll Tax rioters; and we've had a ghost whose favourite band was Milli Vanilli.

"They've just got real talent, you know?"

 Normally my normal RPG group pick up the same characters as last time and take on the roles of Ghostbusters Glasgow, a franchise set out of the basement of the then-new St Enochs Center.  Glasgow denizens of old will remember the center being a big deal when it opened and the fact it used to have an ice rink within it's walls - beneath this ice rink is where the group are based.  They sit there with Mrs Shawney, their secretary who answers every phone call with the monotonously repetitive spiel of "Welcome to Glasgow Ghostbusters home of the Ghostbusters my name is Mrs Shawney how can I help yooooooooooou?" 

Inside this building there's a Future Zone, a DiMaggios and a Debenhams which has an arcade on the 5th floor.
Continuity is low in these escapades due to the time that passes between sessions - but we do have recurring enemies, NPCs and scenes.  PETS or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Spectres are a constant thorn whom the Ghostbusters must deal with while solving their crimes.  (They wanted to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Apparitions but the acronym was taken.)  Mrs Shawney answering every phone call with her full spiel no matter who calls and when is traditional, as is an inevitable exchange of answering the phone as follows:

  • "Welcome to Glasgow Ghostbusters home of the Ghostbusters my name is Mrs Shawney how can I help yooooooooooou?.... Oh, you don't say.....  You don't say...... YOU DON'T SAY!   OK then."
  • "Mrs Shawney, who was that?"
  • "They didn't say".

Our group includes Maria Annunziata, the scientist desperate to find herself a good Italian husband; Archie Kane, the publicity hungry kid trying to convince the 80s people of the value of "com-puh-ters"; Tabitha "McSpengler" Daltrey the parapsychologist with a crush on Egon Spengler; and of course ECTO-1A, the kit car which ends almost every adventure broken, stolen or otherwise out of action.

One adventure even included the vengeful ghost of ECTO-1As past come for revenge

I've also ran a couple of games with another group.  To keep it in the same universe I set it in London, calling them the second franchise.  They had their own 80s stereotypes - the confused work-experience one, the power-suited ball-busting woman, the politicised former Yorkshire miner. Without any prompting the group decided that Glasgow Ghostbusters were their worst enemies; Glasgow Ghostbusters decided much the same when they first heard the existed.  This has led to the two groups starting their session in trouble because of the other lot's latest scheme, then spending an hour plotting their revenge. 

The highlight, though, had to be the crossovers - first Maria Annunziata (played by my missus Ailsa) came to London for a inspection leading to hijinx aplenty, including the rest of London offering her a night with the Yorkshire miner if she gave them a health and safety pass.  But the real beauty was a mega-session in which four players from each group came together for a training day under Egon Spengler in the theoretically netural city of Newcastle. 

No, wait, I've already done that, haven't I?
 Both groups women fought to seduce Egon, while the men attempted to hijack each others cars since both claimed they had the real British ECTO-1A and the other needed to change their license plate.  Robert as the absent minded professor had the line of the night when he told us he'd booked two hotel rooms: his own room and a second room, because if ghost stuff happened in his room he wanted a control for his experiments.

Oh, and then a ghost appeared who, like Zuul in the original movie, appeared in a form chosen by the group.  The Yorkshire miner was the first to blink and so the ghsot appeared in the form of a giant Margaret Thatcher

Not as scary as the handbag,
It's stupid.  It's childish.  It's not got any deep political message.  And I love it.

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