A Game Per Year: InSpectres (Bonus 2005)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of InSpectres

A genre statement or a comparison to a movie or a tv show is one way to communicate to players what you do in any particular game. In the case of the Forge game InSpectres, you could sum it up as Ghostbusters, with a focus on capitalist dystopia.

In the fiction, InSpectres is a company built on the franchise model and the character operate one such franchise. In each session, they get the call, respond and try to resolve a particular event. The structure is obvious as long as all participants share the assumed cultural knowledge of the game. This is typical of many indie games which use ambient cultural touchstones to make onboarding players easier. It works as long as you can take those touchstones for granted.

There are a few fun mechanics in the game. When you attempt a task you roll dice which determine who gets to narrate the result. However, the game mentions a “play to lose” option where a player who gets the right to narrate the results of their own actions might still decide to make their character fail on purpose. Less successful dice rolls include the possibility to succeed but with humorous side effects, an option that I quite liked.

There’s also a mechanic about how the stress of the job affects your performance. The more stressful the situations the characters find themselves in, the more difficult the stress rolls the players have to make. The opposite of stress is cool which helps mitigate the issue.

There are a few style notes that inform the way the game is played. One is that characters should be ordinary folks. The more ordinary, the funnier it is. This is because the work situations they encounter are bizarre and the comedy rises from the juxtaposition. Another is that while weird characters (vampires, werewolves) are possible, there should only be a maximum of one in the group.

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