Are you a 'Phasmophobia' pro? Here are some new rules to keep the scares exciting
By Elise Favis
"Phasmophobia," an indie game that casts players as ghost hunters, became an instant sensation shortly after its early access launch last September. Months later, it still draws 20,000 concurrent players daily.
The gameplay loop is addictive - so addictive, in fact, that I've played nearly 100 hours in the last month, along with three friends. As fun as "Phasmophobia" is, though, it can get repetitive. You go into a building, find the invisible threat and determine what kind of ghost it is. Rinse and repeat. Each match offers a fair amount of unpredictability, especially since developer Kinetic Games only doles out breadcrumbs of information on ghost behaviors, but the sense of mystery, and even thrill, can fade after hours of play. However, that doesn't mean you should shelve "Phasmophobia."
My friends and I would have stopped playing long ago if not for some creative solutions. To keep the game fresh, here are some spooky (and, at times, ridiculous) alternative rules for playing. Some of these were found on the game's official subreddit; others we learned from "Phasmophobia" streamers like Nuzzgard or created ourselves. But be warned: This list is aimed at veteran players, not newcomers.
- Gameplay constraints
In "Phasmophobia," you have three difficulty modes: amateur, intermediate and professional. Amateur is the easiest, giving you ample time to discover the ghost's favorite room and set up your equipment before the start of a deadly hunt, when the ghost attempts to kill players. If you're looking to ramp up the difficulty, we recommend playing on professional (unlocked at level 15), which rewards three times the cash for a successful run and offers no setup time at all, meaning things get dicey quick.
Playing on professional is spooky, but the difficulty wanes the better you become at ghost hunting. So, throw in some alternative restraints: No sprinting (which you normally activate by pressing shift), including during hunts. No flashlights, meaning you need to use candles, glow-sticks, UV lights and the electrical lighting inside the building (these can shut off or flicker at any time). For the ultimate challenge and hilarity, try walking backward or crouching for the entirety for the match, even when a ghost is hunting you. Better yet, make it a rule that no one is allowed to leave the house upon entering. This means you can't look for ghost orbs via camera feeds in the van, so deducing which ghost it is will also be trickier.
Using only starter items is another option. These include the EMF reader, flashlight (not the strong flashlight), ghost writing book, photo camera, spirit box, UV light and video camera. Since finding the ghost room is much easier with a thermometer to detect low temperatures, remove that from your roster. Instead, pay attention to your surroundings (listen for loud footsteps, and check to see if a ghost is moving items around nearby) or use an EMF reader, a less reliable tool because it depends on a ghost's fluctuating activity level.
For those who want to get extra wild, ditch the journal (which can be accessed by pressing J). Don't log the evidence you find and don't use any items that can help you procure said evidence. These no evidence runs are incredibly challenging; you can use other tools, like motion sensors and salt, but anything that can wield immediate results (EMF readers and ghost writing books, for example) are banned from use. Instead, take note of a ghost's activity level and behavior patterns (i.e. shades are shy, meaning they're less likely to show up outside of a hunt).
- Alternative game modes
It can be fun mixing and matching different elements of the above constraints for different matches, but if that's still not enough for you, well, buckle up. Here are some made-up game modes that make ghost hunting both more perilous and more ridiculous.
- Ring Around the Rosie
Hunts are terrifying. Your flashlight begins to flicker and the ghost appears somewhere on the map, attempting to find, stalk and kill you. Now, imagine being in the same room as the ghostly foe and needing to lead them around in a circle, hoping they don't catch up with you. We call this Ring Around the Rosie.
Every time a hunt begins, run to either the kitchen or the garage. In the kitchen, lead the ghost around the kitchen island, or if you're in the garage, around the car. Continue to do this until the hunt is complete. During long hunts, this can be exhilarating; it's a horrifying chase with a deadly stalker who may kill at any moment.
This mode is only possible in certain situations. Large maps aren't ideal, because of their sheer size, and the asylum, high school and prison don't have a garage or kitchen. In Edgefield, there's no kitchen island, so you'd have to use the garage. Furthermore, if your ghost is a revenant, which has increased speed, Ring Around the Rosie is near impossible to complete without dying.
- Follow the Leader
How well do your friends work together under pressure? Follow the Leader puts that to the test. Only one player gets a flashlight, and the others must follow them everywhere. Once you enter the house, you're not allowed to leave unless you have to look for ghost orbs in the van (for this mode, this can only be done once you've found the two other pieces of evidence). Players are forbidden from taking sanity pills, too, and only starter items are allowed.
Like Ring around the Rosie, this may only be possible in certain scenarios. Ghosts that only respond to people who are alone, for example, won't work well for this group effort.
- Cultists vs Ghost Hunter
"Phasmophobia" can be just as funny as it is scary. The mode Cultists vs Ghost Hunter is a great example of a very silly set of rules that often leaves us in stitches for the entirety of a match. Adapted from a post we found on Reddit, here's how it works: One player is designated as the ghost hunter, working solo to find all the evidence and succeed as quickly as possible. The rest of the players are role-playing as cultists, who have devoted their entire lives to this moment, where they wish to sacrifice themselves to the ghost.
Cultists must run around and anger the ghost as much as possible to try to initiate a hunt ("Phasmophobia" uses voice recognition, so this often involves shouting the ghost's name over and over, or yelling "give me a sign," to which the ghost can respond). Sometimes it's just fun to say absolutely ridiculous things, such as begging the ghost to feast on your organs.
The ghost hunter wins if they can decipher what ghost it is before the cultists die, and the cultists win if they all sacrifice themselves before the ghost hunter finds all the evidence.
- Spooky Roulette
One of my favorite modes, also initially found on Reddit, is called Spooky Roulette. After discovering the ghost room, players must each wield a photo camera (note: you can only bring three cameras per run, so one player can just come along for the experience) and situate themselves in different corners of the room. Everyone takes turns antagonizing the ghost until it shows up, so that you can snag a photo. No one is allowed to leave the room, unless a hunt is initiated. Keep taking photos until everyone runs out of film or until everyone is dead.
You can also play Spooky Roulette in a different way: Whoever takes the photo first wins, though this can be difficult to judge in execution. There are no time stamps on photos, and the only indicator of a photo being taken is a flash and a "click." Being in a group can sometimes make it more difficult to decipher who was first.
- Ghost Modeling Agency
The ghost-hunting life isn't for everyone. It's tough. It's scary. But hey, you've been doing this for a long time now. Ghosts like you! So why not put your skills to a different, creative use?
In this mode, you and your friends are part of a fictional modeling agency that is looking for its next undead superstar for the cover of Ghost Magazine. Each match, you meet a new client (the ghost), just make sure to bring in photo cameras for the shoot. Once you find the ghost's favorite room, you may need to coerce them to come out since some are camera shy. Help get them out of their shell by saying their name over and over, or something like, "Work it, Mary Thompson!" when they do appear.
Though Ghost Modeling Agency is similar to Spooky Roulette, the difference is that it isn't just about survival, and relies more on creativity. Whoever gets the best photo, whether it's a profile shot or an artsy silhouette of your client, wins. Crooked teeth, cut-open faces and bloodied attire is no match for you and your camera skills. That ghost will be a star in no time.
- Race to the Ghost Room
Who can find the ghost room quickest? "Race to the ghost room" is a thrill-seeking mode for those looking for an adrenaline rush. To assure a level playing field during the search, give everyone the same tools (especially thermometers) - but if you're playing as more than three, you'll have to have different items. Whoever finds the ghost's favorite room first must stay there (excluding when hunts occur) for the whole match.
- Ouija Board
Search for the Ouija board, which occasionally and randomly spawns somewhere on the map. Use it to determine where the ghost is, or just ask questions that don't actually have any significance to the gameplay, like "How old are you?" The fun is in the ghost's responses and the havoc that results, such as lowering your sanity to dangerous levels, making a hunt more likely.
The Washington Post