Deep in the bowels of the hospital, far from the eyes of polite company, not too far from the morgue, lays ward 13. Here, young, maverick doctors and nurses ply their trade, offering emergency care and psychiatric counsel to those in need. What separates this ward from the other wards in the hospital, though, is that all of its patients are victims of paranormal encounters.
An InSpectres supplement by S.R. Knipe
You are a doctor in this experimental new ward. You are not specially trained - nor particularly qualified - for the type of work you do there, but you are all the Board could spare. Now, on a daily basis, you must help those poor souls whose lives have been shattered by the supernatural, and find a way to bring them back to reality.
The hours are long. The pay sucks. There's no gratitude.
Sounds like fun, huh?
ward 13 nods knowingly to the intense drama of real world Emergency Care Units everywhere, and winks slyly at the ludicrous (but entertaining) melodrama of TV shows like ER, Chicago Hope and Gideon's Crossing. Throw in the fact that the hospital is haunted (like in Lars Van Trier's The Kingdom I and II), and you've got everything you need for some absurdly humorous, and seriously creepy fun.
Go get 'em, STAT!
Before you can play ward 13, you need to know the features of the ward itself. Because of the experimental nature of ward 13, every ward is different; some are better equipped than a standard ER, while others have little more space than a broom closet tucked away in the deepest parts of the basement. Fortunately for you, you (along with the other players) get to decide how well established your facility is before the game begins.
The better staffed and equipped you decide to make your ward, the more you're going to have to prove yourself to the Board of Directors. Needless to say, there are many who feel that a care facility oriented towards victims and survivors of supernatural encounters is extraneous and a waste of good money. You'll have to prove them wrong to maintain your Budget.
An "average" ward would have 11 to 15 Budget dice, although you can choose from any of the following options:
- Hall: 10 or fewer dice(the ward is new, understaffed, and under equipped - it is one lonely hall tucked away from the rest of the hospital…it is viewed with scorn and derision by the "legitimate" medical staff). Capacity: 5 Major Traumas.
- Floor: 11-20 dice (the ward's been around for awhile and is doing well - it has its own floor… the rest of the medical staff pays you grudging respect). Capacity: 10 Major Traumas.
- Wing: 20 or more dice (the ward is the pride and joy of the hospital - it has its own wing or is a separate building…it is well known and well respected in medical circles). Capacity: 20 Major Traumas.
After you've decided the status of your ward, you can now allocate those Dice to the Resources in the hospital. "Resources" work the same as Cards in InSpectres, allowing characters to augment their Skill rolls or gain Enhanced Training.
- Lab (modifies Assess)
- Pharmacy (modifies Treat)
- Board Room (modifies Red Tape)
- Recovery (same as PTO)
Capacity refers to the number of seriously injured victims a ward can handle. Major Trauma refers to serious, life-altering or life-threatening injuries. Minor Trauma refers to less serious injuries: simple fractures, incisions that require sutures, etc. Three Minors is roughly equal to one Major.
During each game, a physician can expect to see the ward at capacity, or more. The ward is almost never completely empty, and sometimes it is literally bursting at the seams with patients who require attention.
Physicians are created the same way Agents are in InSpectres, by allocating 10 points to the four Skills:
- Assess: Diagnosing patients, sizing up a situation
- Treat: Performing surgery, prescribing meds, any kind of therapy, etc.
- Red Tape: Dealing with bureaucrats, completing paperwork, hiding your own activities when necessary
- Bedside Manner: Getting along with people and persuading them to your way of thinking
In addition to basic Skills, each physician may pick a medical specialty. There are all sorts of them: General Surgery, Specialized Surgery (name your specialty) Emergency, General Medicine, Pathology, Oncology, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Cardiology Anesthesiology, Radiology, Urology, Neurology, Hematology, Proctology, Psychiatry (ward 13 deals as much with disturbed people as with hurt people), and many, many more. Whenever giving medical care that falls within your Specialty, you get a one die bonus to your Skill roll.
You do not necessarily have to play a doctor; you can be a nurse, an orderly, a paramedic, or even hospital security. You still get to pick a specialty, but it should be something appropriate for you occupation (a security guard could not benefit much from an Oncology specialty, but may be good at Restraint, for example).
Whenever an agent is called upon to perform a difficult or dangerous feat, he or she must roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the appropriate skill (Athletics, Academia, Investigation or Technology) and take the highest number showing as his or her result:
- 6: Brilliant success!
- 5: Plain ol'vanilla success.
- 4: Barely sucessful, often with a humorous outcome
- 3: Unsuccessful, sorry Charlie
- 2: Oops. Unsuccessful again.
- 1: Really, really terrible failure.
When something bad happens, particularly while providing medical care, there's a chance you might suffer an Anxiety Attack. If you fail a roll while dealing with a stressful situation, you must immediately re-roll those dice (excluding any Resource Dice used), but this time you are looking for the lowest die. Anxiety normally has the same results as a Stress roll, but when dealing with patients it has additional special effects (described below).
- 6: You are steady as a rock (but make no progress towards helping your patient); gain 1 Cool.
- 5: You manage to keep your wits about you (but make no progress towards helping your patient)
- 4: You're a bit anxious…-1 die to your next action (and you make the patient's injury slightly worse)
- 3: You're worried…-1 to all further Skill rolls until you get to Recovery (and you make the injury worse)
- 2: You're flustered…-2 dice on your next action, -2 dice to the next action and -1 to all further Skill rolls until you get to Recovery (the injury worsens, possibly resulting in death, and definitely providing grounds for a Malpractice suit)
- 1: You lose it…lose 1 die from all Skill rolls for each Anxiety die rolled until you can use some Recovery Dice (the patient dies becoming a Haunt, and the family has grounds for a Malpractice suit).
Penalties from Anxiety Attacks can be reduced with Recovery dice in the same way PTO reduces Stress. Cool works the same for Anxiety as it does for Stress.
Ward 13 plays out a little differently than InSpectres. The big difference is that it takes place in a single location (although characters can go on ambulance runs for a little variety). Nonetheless, the way the game is structured, coupled with the inherent drama of a haunted hospital, should provide ample entertainment.
Each game will follow the same basic formula:
- Med School Interview (first game only)
- Preliminary Training/Recovery
- Shift/Shift Change
- Board of Director's Review
- Enhanced training
Most of the game's action takes place during the Shift/Shift Change phase. This is, for the most part, time spent in the ward, but it's okay to go outside and explore the characters' lives beyond the hospital walls.
Med School Interview
The first time a physician is introduced to the game, he must go in front of the Board of Directors (played by the other players). The character must convince the Board of his qualifications, and they are free to ask him any questions they want. Once this has been roleplayed to the players' satisfaction, they may then allocate their Budget Dice to the Hospital Resources.
This phase is identical to the Preliminary Training/PTO phase described in the InSpectres rules.
This is where things get weird.
The meat of the game takes place here, with each player taking a Shift as Game Master (during that time, their character is in the Lounge taking a break or sneaking a nap). During his Shift, the GM must make sure three things happen:
- He must use up at least his share of the Trauma Capacity (a minimum of 1 Major Trauma, however)
- He must use up at least his share of the Haunt Dice
- He must call for at least one Red Tape roll during the Shift, whether that be dealing with the bureaucrats upstairs, or just filling out paperwork (these rolls affect your Review Board hearing at the end of the game, so make note of any failures).
His Shift can not come to an end until those three things happen. When he has accounted for them, another player may call for a Shift Change and take over as GM. Not every player must accept a Shift as GM, but failing to do so will cost the staff Budget Points at the end of the game.
Shifts are long, arduous affairs. Even the best doctors will eventually break down under such conditions. After each completed Shift, each character who worked it must make an Anxiety Attack roll, using a number of dice equal to the number of Shifts they've worked that game. After having taken their Shift as GM, that player's character may remove point of Anxiety penalty (as though he had spent Recovery die).
Players can work extra Shifts if they want to try to impress the Board, but remember that working extra shifts can increase the chances of having a serious Anxiety Attack, which can drastically increase the chances of that doctor causing a Malpractice suit.
When GMing a Shift, you need to remember to make it something more than just a series of patients streaming into the ward. If you don't, the players will make a few rolls, fail or succeed based on the dice, and then move on to the next Shift. You must plumb the dramatic depths offered by the setting. Create situations that can not simply be solved by rolling the dice. Involve NPCs - like Board members or families of victims - in the action. Throw some unexpected (not necessarily supernatural) curveballs at the players. Keep it fast, active, and exciting. If you need inspiration, there's plenty of fictional and non-fictional programming available on cable and network TV.
Board of Director's Review/Enhanced Training
After each game the Board of Directors will review your work performance and decide how much money they wish to allocate to your Budget. Should they choose to increase your Budget, you may use the extra Budget Dice to purchase better ratings in your Hospital Resources, pay yourselves for a job well done, or put some in the bank for a rainy day.
When you call for a Shift Change, just before you take over the role of GM, you have an opportunity to play your physician as he sits in the lounge taking a break. This is an opportunity for a doctor to gossip with the other employees about his fellow co-workers. He can pick one character (other than himself) and start a rumor about that character. From that point on, all the characters in the group must integrate that rumor into their roleplaying. The player whose character was the subject of the rumor may choose not to roleplay it, but if he does (even inadvertently), he can gain 1 bonus die once per adventure when doing something that reinforces or validates that rumor. All rumors pertaining to a character must be recorded on that character's character sheet.
If you are the subject of a rumor that you do not want associated with your character, you may spend your time in the lounge quashing it. If you do this, you can not start a rumor about anyone else, but you can remove one rumor from your character sheet.
Not surprisingly, almost every ward 13 is haunted. Hauntings can take on a lot of different forms - ghostly images of deceased patients, saline IVs that suddenly fill with blood, irregular equipment failures, goblin infestations etc. - but what they do have in common is Haunt Dice. Each ward starts out with a number of Haunt Dice equal to its Budget Dice, and gains one Haunt Die every time a patient dies due to a 1 being rolled on an Anxiety Attack. At the beginning of every game, the players divvy up these Haunt Dice equally among them, and when it is their turn to GM, they must use all of them before someone else can call a Shift Change.
A Haunt Die isn't really a die at all; what it really does is penalize a physician one die on a Skill Roll. The GM may spend his Haunt Dice as he wants, ditching them all at once on one character, or splitting them up throughout his Shift as he sees fit. When he spends a Haunt Die, he is suggesting that something supernatural is asserting its influence over the ward, and should describe something eerie and fitting. Imagine, for instance, trying to perform a bowel resection on a patient whose viscera suddenly try to crawl out of the body cavity!
Of course, a GM may spend as many Haunt Dice as he wants…he's not limited by the number he starts the game with. The Haunt Dice are just a minimum; a guideline designed to ensure that the current GM is doing his job by throwing something weird and oppressive at the players.
At the end of the game, the physicians must sit in judgement before the Review Board. These bureaucrats simply don't understand the problems the staff face; they haven't been on the floor of an ER in years, and they've probably never stepped inside the doors of ward 13. Nonetheless, they hold the ward's future in their hands.
The formula for determining the ward's Budget is simple: each player gets one Budget die for each shift they spent in the ward that game (not counting their Shift as a GM). The dice are then totaled, and three dice are subtracted for each case of Malpractice that occurred (that medical insurance is expensive). An additional die may be removed for each Red Tape roll that was failed. What's left is the ward's Budget for the next adventure. If it exceeds their current Budget, they may increase Resources, Bank some dice for future use, or divvy them up among themselves to account for their salaries.