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Rules-Light and Busting of Ghosts with the vs. M Engine

Rules-Light and Busting of Ghosts with the vs. M Engine

Hello All,

So I keep seeing an, what is feeling like, age old argument about "Pathfinder vs. D&D 5th ed" (linked article is just the most recent I've seen, but there are others) and in the discussion I keep seeing two phrases, one of which I agree with and the other I cringe at: "rules-light" & "streamlined".

5th Edition is often described as being more "streamlined" in gameplay and mechanics compared to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and I can agree with that. It does "smooth over" some of the rough spots, but this "streamlining" is also some of what is lost in the change over, kind of like how these two cars are technically "the same" but one is more "streamlined" and for me, has lost most of its characters:


... but you know what, to each their own. (and if you don't recognize the top image, I feel sorry for you ;) )

What 5th Edition is NOT is "rules-light". It's maybe "lighter" than Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook (clocking in at ~575 pgs), but really when the basic book (the PHB) is ~320 pages (with the DMG being another ~320), but only just. Streamlined, sure; light, no.

While an exception rather than the rule, I will present you a "rules-light" game:

THAT is a complete game, written onto a "GM screen" type document. It uses the vs. M Engine, which was originally designed by Philip J Reed as part of a 24-hour Design-a-Thon which produced vs. Monsters (available FREE on, an original tabletop RPG that used cards instead of dice and was about -- you guessed it -- fighting monsters!

Now that original document was, of course, far from perfect. There were unclear rules, and it used a few problematic terms, but it was a playable game all in 20 or so pages. They released a few books in support, for instance a reissue as vs. Monsters Deluxe, which filled in many of the missing bits, and a vs. Monsters Additions for the GM, providing a few optional rules and some different monsters, NPCs, etc.

Philip J Reed is an accomplished designer of RPGs, with even his own company, Ronin Arts, having a vast array of products in support of many system, and himself having worked for companies like West End Games, Privateer Press, and Steven Jackson Games. 

Now, rather than "discuss" vs. Monsters, I'd sooner suggest you just go and get your own copy -- you can literally read about it, for free, in likely fewer words than I would ramble on. But if you must, read what Mr. Reed has to say about it himself, or its review on RPG Review here. And, best part -- it's been released under an OGL!

vs. Ghosts

And so my real point -- Fat Goblin Games will be releasing a new book -- vs. Ghosts. It's a book all about the busting of ghosts, and completely written by our very own Fattest Goblin of Them All, Rick Hershey!

.vs Ghosts is a roleplaying game in which players suit up to battle strange hauntings in their neighborhoods while dealing with the mundane non-believers that try to prevent you from doing your job. Be it hotels, art museums, or even the classic haunted house, ghosts need busting and to be contained.

So, whom do you call when things go bump in the night? Ghost hunting with vs. Ghosts will make you feel good!

To play vs. Ghosts you will need at least 2 players (but more players equal more fun) and a person to be the Ghostmaster (isn’t that clever).  You also want some paper, pencils, and at least one deck of playing cards (take out the damn Jokers).

As you can likely pick up from the 'tone', vs. Ghosts is a less-than-serious take on the matter inspired by a classic of cinema getting a reboot very soon but it also pulls from other popular tropes of ghosthunting.

The final product is going to The Janitor tomorrow for a quick spit polish and then we'll be laying out over the weekend -- so it might be out in time for even the Fourth of July!

I've enjoyed working on it, having a bit of break from more "rules-heavy" development, and its given me clear ideas of how and where to keep development and tone of the Bastard System.

Happy (early) Fourth of July everyone!

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!)

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