Welcome again, dear viewers. I know it’s a bit early in the year for spooks and spirits, but…hey, I did say I’d be working at my own pace, after all. We’re going to be looking at ExorSystems Inc. by Octavirate Entertainment. This often tongue-in-cheek title draws heavily from GhostBusters, so you know this is going to be an interesting jaunt.
As the title suggests, ExorSystems Inc. mostly focuses on the titular organization, a group of paranormal exterminators started by four members back in the 1980s that has now evolved into a full-blown franchise of ghost hunters, demon slayers, and other paranormal hunters. In addition to the threat of supernatural beings and terrors from beyond the veil, heroes working under ExorSystems Inc. will be pushed into conflict with several hazards that are very human. From the competing hunters of the mystically-minded Mithra Group and the militaristic Department 7 (who, in defiance of Wizards of the Coast’s plans to try and get Department 7 marketed mainly as the organization the heroes work for in d20 Modern games, are painted in a less than positive light) to well-meaning but ultimately in your way adversaries such as the ghost-loving Free Spirit Society (who will take drastic measures to make sure the spirits you trap get free) and the reality TV show producers of the Paranormal Research, Exploration, and Control Operations Group Ltd. (PRECOG for short). There are also some familiar faces from Urban Arcana such as the Fraternal Order of Vigilance and the deadly Mindwreckers, making me feel better that I’m not the only person that wanted to do interesting things with those organizations.
“So, what’s in this for me?”
Being a campaign setting rulebook, it would be unfair to give the players no new options. So what does ExorSystems Inc. give you, the player (presuming you are a player), to utilize? Well, several things. First off, there are several new occupations you can take (the eternally skeptical Debunker, the blogging/fansite-running Megafan, and the inquisitive Parapsychologist). You also get new advanced classes such as the self-explanatory Mad Genius and the Weapon Techie variant class (yes, a variant advanced class that swaps out some of the class abilities of the standard Techie. I always thought it was a shame that there weren’t more uses of variant classes in d20 games, so this made me smile), a look at how old advanced classes work (or don’t work) with ExorSystems Inc., and new feats. Oh god, the new feats… While you would expect some amusing things from an homage game, some of these feats are both truly useful and truly capable of bringing a smile to my face. My favorite has to be Blinded by Science, which lets you use your Intelligence score on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks as long as you are smarter than the person you are trying to use the check on. Glorious. Simply glorious.
There are also equipment pieces for those of you that are gear-hounds. In addition to uniforms and armors, there are grenades, ballistic weaponry, your classic “ghost snare gun” (called the Ectobinder in this case), wooden stake bullets (amusingly called Whedon bullets), ion melee weapons, ghost touch gauntlets, spirit-holding traps, and more. And if that wasn’t enough for you, there are also items for competitors of ExorSystems Inc. and rules for the equipment on E-Inc. vehicles. Oh, and did I mention that there are poison rules for animal tranquilizers as well? This is rather useful even outside of paranormal campaigns because…well…it’s a tranquilizer! It’s more precise and well-ruled than having your tranq darts deliver things like knockout gas as you would by standard d20 Modern info, at least.
Monsters, and Those Who Hunt Them
Don’t worry if you’re a GM; there’s stuff here for you too! First off, you have monsters. Because, really, what is a ghost hunter campaign without monsters? There are multiple pages that detail classification and the biology of spirits, some of which is…pretty well done, to be honest. One example is the idea that spirits “evolve” based on their own changing mental perceptions, which is why some ghosts look more (non-rotted) human than others. As for actual new creatures, there are a grand total of 2 Outsiders, 1 Construct, 2 Undead, 1 Magical Beast, 2 Fey, and 3 templates. These include the heinous spiky fiend known as the Clown of Thorns (because you know it’s not a proper ghosty game without at least one demonic clown), the 8-bit Arkanoidesque fey known as Virax, and good ol’ straight-up spirits. With these, some hazards provided after the monsters such as living blood and portals, and standard supernatural monsters from other sourcebooks such as the Lethal Lexicon (noted due to the fact that it has “Creatures in ExorSystems Inc.” appendix notes), there are a surprisingly varied number of things you can throw at your player.
If that wasn’t enough for you, there are also NPCs. You get 5 characters from ExorSystems Inc., 5 from Department 7, 4 for the Free Spirit Society, 4 from the Mithra Group, and 4 for PRECOG, as well as 19 various NPCs ranging from children and schoolgoers to cultists and office workers. What’s most fun are some of the expy NPCs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer Jodi the Werewolf Hunter and the Precog NPCs Shaggy Rogers and Scooby Doo Lylard Sepelak and Walky the Psychic Dog.
This is a charming book…if you like cultural references or want to play a surprisingly well-thought out GhostBusters game. This is a good resource if you run a paranormal campaign, as well. I will, however, state that those that are not a fan of cartoon vibes and semi-humorous campaigns should stay away. As for me, though, I give ExorSystems Inc. a well deserved 8/10 for its usefulness and its unique flavor (which is greatly enhanced by vibrant, sometimes caricatured art, including some by Shortpacked creator David Willis, I might add).