Ghostbusters 5E First Pass: Brains
(Image created by @MajorSheep)
Honestly, I like Savage Worlds as a home for a Ghostbusters game, but the honest truth is that switching back and forth between systems gets tiresome and we keep forgetting the rules. ¬.¬ And besides, 5E is just awesome. So, it’s worth it.
Still, it’s no small task. I kinda have to reinvent most of d20 Modern along the way in order to make it work, and then tweak it to fit the weird flavor of Ghostbusters. Since I’m a lot less confident of my 5E mastery than I was of previous iterations, I’m gonna send up pieces of it as I go in case anyone has feedback or suggestions, starting today with the Brains class– after a few preliminary notes which are necessary to understand some of the class mechanics. (The other classes– Brawn, Guts, Moves, and Wits– will come in future posts.)
Preliminary: Hit Points or Death (Or Lack Thereof)
Ghostbusters is light-hearted comedy action fare, so characters almost never actually “die”. Thus, hit points explicitly do not represent physical wounds in Ghostbusters. When you lose hit points, you get banged up, scratched, frazzled and stressed out, maybe some wear and tear on your clothes, but you aren’t really hurt, at least until you run out. When characters get reduced to 0 hp, they are knocked out. After three failed “death saves,” characters don’t really die, but they are put “Down For the Count,” which sends them to the hospital. Genuine injuries, when they occur, are represented by conditions, particularly the poisoned or exhaustion conditions.
Also Preliminary: The Ghost Die
Previous versions of Ghostbusters (going all the way back to the original WEG game back in 1985) had the “Ghost Die,” which was a d6 in which the 6 was replaced by a Ghostbusters logo. This die acted as a kind of wild card– whenever the ghost showed up, some crazy bad thing happened. But after some years of playing that way… honestly? It’s not as fun as it sounds. It makes the players hate to roll the dice, which is something that in a tabletop RPG should just not happen. So in my 5E conversion, Ghost Dice are different.
When instructed by the GM, you roll the Ghost Die with the other dice and add it to the total, unless it comes up a 6. When you roll a 6 on the Ghost Die (also called “rolling a ghost”), the rest of the dice in the roll are considered to be the highest possible roll. For instance, if you add a Ghost Die to a d20 roll and roll a ghost, the d20 is considered to have rolled a 20, and the total of the roll is (20 + 6 =) 26. If you add a Ghost Die to a 2d8 roll and roll a ghost, each d8 is considered to have rolled an 8, and the total of the roll is (8 + 8 + 6 =) 22.
Some circumstances may give your character multiple Ghost Dice, which you may use on various things. You may also be instructed to roll a Ghost Die by the GM due to the actions of an NPC, creature, or other circumstance. However, you only roll one Ghost Die at a time, regardless of how many things may be happening to prompt the Ghost Die roll. You may roll any number of Ghost Dice called for on a turn, but only one at a time.
Brains Class (First Draft)
Hit Die: d6
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Saving Throws: Int, Wis
Proficiencies: Electronic Tools, Scientific Equipment, two additional languages or toolset of your choice
Skills: Choose four from Electronics, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Occult, Parapsychology, Religion, Science
|2||+2||Plan (one use)|
|5||+3||Retrograde Maneuvers, See It Coming (one use)|
|9||+4||Plan (two uses)|
|11||+4||See It Coming (two uses)|
|13||+5||The Horrible Truth|
|17||+6||Plan (three uses)|
At 1st level, choose two of your skill proficiencies, or one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.
Starting at 1st level, you can add half of your proficiency bonus (rounded down) to any Intelligence check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.
Starting at 2nd level, you can take an action to formulate a plan. Choose up to six creatures (including yourself) who can hear and understand you to include in the plan. In the next minute, each creature who is part of the plan may choose to roll a Ghost Die with their choice of any one attack roll or ability check per turn (this does not effect any other Ghost Dice they may be rolling on their turn for other reasons). You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. At 9th and 17th level, you gain additional uses of this ability before must rest.
At 3rd level, you choose a specialty for character. The specialties for a “traditional” Ghosbusters campaign the specialties are Anatomist, Inventor, and Professor. However, for a “Gonzo Ghostbusters!” campaign (see Campaigns in the Ghostmastering section) you may also choose Arcanist or Psychic. You immediately gain the first benefit associated with that specialty, and gain another benefit at 6th, 10th, 14th, and 20th level.
Whenever this option comes up, you have your choice of one of the following options: increase one ability score of your choice by +2, increase two ability scores of your choice by +1 each, or gain a feat.
Starting at 5th level, you may take the Disengage action as a bonus action.
See It Coming
Starting at 5th level, when you are instructed to make a saving throw, add a Ghost Die. You must have a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. You gain another use of this ability between rests at 11th level.
Starting at 7th level, you can use a bonus action to assess a creature’s weakness. Add your Intelligence bonus to all attack rolls, damage rolls, and ability checks against that creature for one minute. You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again.
The Horrible Truth
Starting at 13th level, you have learned so many strange and terrifying things in your studies that nothing phases you any more: you now have advantage on all Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma saving throws.
At 15th level, your ability to analyze information and make deductive leaps is honed to a razor’s edge. When investigating a situation, looking for evidence or clues, or attempting to solve a puzzle or confusing situation, you automatically find all relevant information. Alternatively, as a free action on your turn, you may ask the Ghostmaster to answer up to three questions, which must be answerable with: “Yes,” “No,” “Good,” “Bad,” “Yes and No,” “Good and Bad,” or “Indeterminate.” Alternatively, the GM may choose to provide you with hints or suggestions of their own devising, such as, “The emphasis on ‘Keymaster’ and ‘Gatekeeper’ suggests the opening of a portal.” You must take a short or long rest before using this ability again.
Starting at 18th level, if any d20 roll you make results in a failure (including ability checks, attack rolls, or saving throws), you may declare that you anticipated this event and planned for it. You may immediately make the roll again, and take the better of the two results. You must have a short or long rest before using this ability again.
First Aid: You are trained in the art healing. At 3rd level, you gain proficiency with Wisdom (Medicine) if you do not already have it. As an action, on your turn, you may attempt to heal an adjacent character (or yourself) who has taken damage in combat, restoring 1d8 hit points + your Intelligence bonus. You may do this a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier, but then must have a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. You must have a first aid kit or in your possession or be at some sort of medical facility to use this ability.
You may also use your knowledge to help revitalize your allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures you can attend to regain hit points at the end of the short rest, each of those creatures regains an extra Ghost Die worth of hit points as well. You must have a first aid kit or in your possession or be at some sort of medical facility to use this ability.
Finally, your enhanced knowledge of anatomy enables you to hit ’em where it hurts. Whenever you make an attack roll against a humanoid, beast, or other creature with a discernible anatomy, you score a critical hit against that creature on a roll of 19 or 20. This does not apply to oozes, incorporeal undead, or most aberrations, but does apply to things like zombies, ghouls, vampires, and terror dogs.
A Real Doctor: Beginning at 6th level, when you use your ability to administer first aid, you roll 2d8 + your Intelligence bonus. Alternatively, you may use your healing ability to remove one disease or any one of the following conditions from the afflicted creature: blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. (Similar to the lesser restoration spell.)
Also, your knowledge of anatomy increases your ability to land effective blows in combat. Whenever you score a hit in combat (critical or otherwise) against a humanoid, beast, or other creature with a discernible anatomy, you roll a Ghost Die of additional damage. This does not apply to oozes, incorporeal undead, or most aberrations, but does apply to things like zombies, ghouls, vampires, and terror dogs.
Back On Your Feet! At 10th level, you have become such an accomplished healer that you can revive an ally who has been Knocked Out or put Down For the Count within the past minute (10 rounds). The ally is fully conscious and stable at 1 hit point and may act again as soon as their turn comes up again on the initiative count. When you administer first aid, you roll 3d8 + your Intelligence bonus.
Also your delvings into the weird anatomies of eldritch and otherworldly beings are so advanced that your critical hit chances and extra damage apply to all creature types.
Tampering in God’s Domain
Beginning at 14th level, your advanced weird studies have begun to unlock the secrets of life and death. You may now reanimate dead tissues, creating effects equal to the animate dead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. Alternatively, you may temporarily restore a semblance of life to a dead creature (or inert undead creature), creating effects equal to the speak with dead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. Be warned that neither of these activities are likely to be met with a sympathetic public. You must complete a long rest before you can use this ability again.
When you administer first aid, you may choose to provide true healing: the patient regains 70 hit points, and all blindness, deafness, and diseases affecting the target are removed. You must have a long rest before using this ability again (but it only counts against one of your uses of first aid).
Also, your knowledge of anatomy is so advanced that when you successfully make a critical hit in combat, you may choose to force the target to make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence bonus. On a failed save, the target takes 14d6 necrotic damage, or half as much damage on a successful save. The damage can’t reduce the target’s hit points below zero. You must have a long rest before using this ability again.
Beginning at 20th level, you have become a true reanimator. In addition to the abilities granted by your tampering in God’s domain, you may create effects equal to the create undead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. You must have a long rest before using this ability again, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re destroyed by your own creations, you monster.
You also gain the ability to use your enhanced healing and combat damage abilities under the Tampering in God’s Domain abilities twice each before requiring a long rest.
Gadgets: At 3rd level, you learn how to build amazing gadgets. You may choose a number of Prodigy-level gadgets from the Gadget List equal to your intelligence bonus (or come up with your own using the Custom Gadget). These gadgets are persistent items which you may add to your inventory, loan to friends or allies, etc. You may also leave “gadget slots” open indefinitely until such time as you decide to build a new gadget. If you have filled all your gadget slots and decide you want to build another gadget, you must first break down an existing gadget for parts. You must have a gadget in your possession to break it down.
Some gadgets are modifiers, rather than stand-alone items. “Elemental Modulation” allows an existing weapon to change its damage type on the fly for example. In that case, the final gadget (an elementally-modulated energy ray) actually counts against two gadget slots.
Building a new gadget (including breaking down an existing gadget, if required) requires a workshop and applicable tools, and takes two hours per gadget slot modified. (For instance, to break down an elementally-modulated energy ray would take four hours; to then use those parts to build another gadget would take an additional two hours.) The time does not have to be spent consecutively, it can be broken up over the course of days or weeks as desired. Up to four hours of this time can be combined with a long rest without interfering with the rest.
Unless specified otherwise, activating a gadget requires an action. You are always considered proficient with your own gadgets; however, you may also decide what other proficiencies apply to a gadget, subject to common sense and Ghostmaster approval. For example, a modified proton pack probably works with the proton pack proficiency. Rocket skates, on the other hand, would probably require their own proficiency.
If a gadget is lost or destroyed, that gadget slot cannot be reclaimed until the end of your next long rest. Gadgets loaned to friends or allies are not considered “lost” unless that friend or ally is also somehow “lost” and cannot (or will not) return the item to you.
Genius: At 6th level, you have figured out how to build Genius-level gadgets. Also, the time required to modify Prodigy-level gadgets is halved (to one hour per gadget slot).
Perfected: At 10th level, you may choose three gadget slots’ worth of gadgets. You have perfected those designs and may fabricate those gadgets as needed, without expending gadget slots on them. It takes twelve hours per gadget slot to fabricate a perfected gadget.
Mastermind: At 14th level, you have figured out how to build Mastermind-level gadgets. Also, the time required to modify Genius-level gadgets is halved (to one hour per gadget slot) and the time required to modify Prodigy-level gadgets is quartered (to half an hour per gadget slot).
Prolific Fabricator: At 20th level, you are no longer restricted by gadget slots. You may simply fabricate as many gadgets as you need (although the time required to create the gadgets is unchanged).
[Gadget List not included in post. Just assume that it’s full of awesome gadgety goodness.]
Specialized Knowledge: At 3rd level, choose two new proficiencies, whether skills, tool proficiencies, or languages. Also, choose two more skills for which you gain the benefits of Expertise. Also, when making a Wisdom (Insight), Intelligence (Investigation), or Wisdom (Perception) check, you may roll a Ghost Die and add it to the results of that check.
Cunning Action: At 6th level, you may use the Dash, Disengage, or Hide actions as a bonus action on your turn in combat.
Correlating Contents: At 10th level, your investigations and breakthroughs have enabled you to form a network of like-minded contacts throughout the world, putting vast stores of knowledge at your disposal. By taking half an hour to research a topic and “consult your brain trust,” you may unerringly: translate a passage of text or speech in any terrestrial language; decipher a code; discover hidden links in seemingly-unrelated data points (if any); discover the last known location of an item, piece of experimental equipment, or artifact; find all available information on the background of a person, location, or thing; discover official documents related to a person, location, or thing (including building blueprints, tracking vehicle license plates, etc.); or gather the complete text of any book or other literary work, including different editions or draft variations. This activity may be combined with a short rest. This ability can only retrieve information that actually exists: if a string of text is just nonsense letters for instance, no amount of “deciphering the code” will resolve it into meaningful data.
Font of Knowledge: Starting at 14th level, you studies have led you to memorize vast amounts of information and you can quickly recall and apply it. You can make Wisdom (Insight), Intelligence (Investigation), or Wisdom (Perception) checks as a bonus action, and you do not need any reference materials or other implements for any Intelligence check.
Superior Anticipation: At 20th level, whenever one or more of your class abilities are expended until taking a rest, you regain one use of one such ability of your choice when you roll initiative. (For instance, if you have used your Exploit Weakness ability already, you could choose to regain the use of this ability.)
Next time: The Brawn class.