I recently got my hands on a couple games I’ve been meaning to buy for a while: InSpectres, & Lacuna Part I, both from designer Jared Sorensen. I got to play a session of InSpectres at GenCon this year (I posted about it here). I’ll start with InSpectres. It’s definitely the easier of the two to talk about.
If I were going to describe InSpectres as succinctly as possible it would be: corporate Ghostbusters RPG. That tells you about 80% of what you need to know about the game. The idea is that supernatural stuff happens and InSpectres is a corporation that has come about to deal with such phenomena and people are founding InSpectres franchises all over. So, imagine Ghostbusters with a bit of Office Space mixed in for all of that hair-pulling corporate bullshit.
Let that awesomeness sink in.
Mechanics are pretty simple. Characters have 4 primary stats: Academics (research, knowing stuff, etc.), Athletics (physical stuff, fighting, running, etc.), Technology (using and procuring stuff), Contact (social stuff). There are also 2 secondary stats: Stress (penalizes die pools as you character experiences different sorts of things), and Cool (allows you to ignore stress or add dice to a roll).
Beyond character creation, the players form an InSpectres franchise. You talk a bit about why you form the franchise, what you want to do. Also, come up with positions for people. Is there a president? CFO? CTO? Stuff like that. The franchise itself has stats of a sort as well. The library card lets you add dice to academics rolls, the gym membership adds dice for athletics, & the gold card for technology rolls to get stuff. Those dice are lost as they’re used of course. And it’s possible to earn more throughout the game with what’s called “Franchise Dice”. Also, any Franchise Dice not allocated are in the “Bank”. Bank dice can be used to aid any skill roll. The only difference is bank dice have their own mechanics and it’s possible to lose an extra die, keep the one you rolled, or even earn an extra.
So, back to actual mechanics. When you want to accomplish something, you collect a number of dice based on your skill and whether you’re going to add any card/bank dice. All you care about is the single highest number. 6 is great, 1 not so much. The gist is the better you roll, the better things go for you and the more you get to narrate. As the values go down you might still get sort of what you want, but with humorous consequences. At the very bottom things really aren’t going well and the GM will be telling you how. In other words, you more or less narrate your success and the GM narrates failures. There’s some tangential things that can happen from die rolls like earning more franchise dice or earning cool dice, but that’s most of it.
Play is pretty simple. Narrate what you’re doing, if the GM thinks it deserves a roll then gather your dice and roll. Compare results to table. One of the things I really like is the lack of a need for heavy prep-work. As GM you can come in with an idea no more fleshed out than “there’s something weird going on at the library.” And before you know it, it’ll be over-run with all sorts of paranormal activity as the players try and investigate what’s going on and take care of the problem. And yes, hilarity will ensue.
There’s a couple other mechanics as far as how to earn and get rid of stress dice (go on vacation) and how harsh their effects can be. Nothing terribly different there, but there is one more mechanic, the Confessional that’s pretty awesome. Once per session per player you can have a confessional. The idea is to mimic all the reality TV shows where it will cut away from what’s going on and just have someone in a room talking candidly to the camera. It’s a chance for a player to get a bit more narrative control (and they can also give traits of a sort to other players). Most importantly when doing a confessional you absolutely should have the player sit apart from the rest of the group and face them as if they were the camera. It’s really a lot of fun!
Having played this once I’m really looking forward to playing again, especially now that I’ve read the book. It also appeals to my lazy GM tendencies. No prep, plenty of player narrative control. Also make sure to check out the link up top for InSpectres, there’s some great supplemental info and there’s even a free quick play pdf to let you try out the game with some of the basics. Definitely worth a shot.