Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead

+James Mishler  has been producing quality material for the "Basic" era games for a number of years.  I have followed him online and have always enjoyed his posts in various forums and on his own blog.
James has been in the business of releasing his own material for a couple of years now and they are always fun.  Well this Halloween he has really, really outdone himself.

I grabbed his and his wife's latest product Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead, pretty much without reading the details. It was James. It was Ghosts. How could I loose?  Well let me tell you. I was in for a sweet surprise!  I will be honest here.  Pretty much EVERY other games can deal with ghosts better than D&D used too.  This little book has a lot of work to do.

First off this "little" PDF is 64 pages.  I printed it out and it would make a great supplement to my collection of various "Basic Era" books.  Put on a nice cover and it would be right at home next to Labyrinth Lord, The Witch and many, many other books on my shelf.  Let me step back for a moment and comment on this.  James really "gets" Basic D&D.  He knows why people choose it over Advanced or other games.  His rules are very much in the vein of Basic/Expert and BECMI style D&D (More B/X than BECMI) but he also gives people options who like more Advanced-feeling games.

We begin with an overview of what ghosts are. I was pleased to see that this book treats ghosts as all being unique.  A brief description of common powers to all ghosts is also given. Detail is paid to two of these powers, Fear and Level/Life Drain.  In keeping with the Basic roots, the Fear effects table is simple and effective.  If you are playing a horror game then you might want more, but in truth this is plenty.   Level Drain is also discussed and how to regain those levels.
Now for me, I am still more inclined to use Constitution drain instead of level drain.  Thankfully the rules as written here will allow that.

Next we get into people and animals with the Sixth Sense and Sensitives.  No detailed rules here, just a nice simple approach that I really like.  There is also a discussion on Mediums and Séances.  Now THESE are much needed rules.  This helps move ghosts from a monster with X amount XP to something that can be worked into a plot.   We end with some information on ghost-sensitive animals.  I love what he has done with cats and am thinking of using it for all witch familiars.

Next is the meat of the book.  Ghosts Lesser and Greater.  This is the "monster listing" of all the ghost types with their powers, weaknesses and alternate types.  Included are some old favorites like Apparitions, Haunts, Spectres and Wraiths next to new one like Lost Souls and Geists.   Following this is a list and description of all the special abilities (And ectoplasms) of the ghosts.  You can mix and match to make anytype of Ghost you want.   Following this is uses for uncanny ectoplasm.

There is a section on magic items.  Some spells usable by or on or about ghosts.
(*The Spawn Ghost spell is really nice.  If you are playing a witch then the spell level is 5.)

Finally is a Creepy Appendix N. There are a lot great resources on this page for ghosts of every type "inspired by anything from Hanna-Barbera and H.R. Pufnstuf to H.P. Lovecraft and H.R. Giger"!

There is no art. BUT I also want to add that ghosts are either invisible or look like anything. So this is not a downmark for this book.

If you play any old-school game, original or OSR, and you use ghosts, then you need this book.  It isn't revolutionary, but it does feel a much needed gap in the rules and (if for no other reason) it will get game masters and players thinking about ghosts a different way.
Combine this with his Vampires of the Olden Lands for some serious Halloween fun.

1 comment:

Needles said...

Oh this is a good, solid addition to the OSR! Some great stuff to be had here. Excellent review Tim.