Phasmophobia Guide I: Basics Explained

Ekrem Atamer
10 min readOct 6, 2020

Having spent a lot of time in the game the last week, I had to write about the horrific gem that is Phasmophobia. I wrote my Steam review in 3 hours and another one on Medium right before I started this article. Now, it’s time to talk about how to play the game.

This guide will explain the main mechanics of the game and explain the basics of the tools. In the next guide(s) I will provide more in-depth tips. [Link to that guide]

New Note: I built a tool to help tracking the ghost. You can find it here. (I’ll arrange an SSL asap)

Hello, darkness my old friend…

As I also said in my review, I strongly, strongly suggest that you try and discover things on your own and preferably with a single friend, preferably someone who isn’t completely fearless. That being said, some people want to know things earlier and some things are a bit hard to figure out on your own. Even in that case, I would suggest that you just read the relative part instead of everything at once.

Alright, I warned you! Now, without further ado, here is the starter guide!

Sanity, Hunt Mode and Difficulties Simply Explained

Sanity level is a major “resource” in the game. Every player has their own sanity that is visible in the van panels. You can regenerate it slowly by staying in the light or consuming sanity pills. You lose it by staying in the dark and witnessing entity actions. The lower the sanity (I believe of the team), the more aggressive the entity and the higher the chance of the entity going into hunting mode.

The only thing that beats the safety of the van is the safety of the van when there is a hunt going on, so you can watch through the cameras

Hunt mode is when the entity goes for a kill. Note that this is not purely dependant on the sanity, lower sanity simple increases the chance greatly. But some entities have their own triggers: Jinns are territorial, Shades won’t attack while multiple players are nearby, Mares will be much more aggressive in the dark etc. When the entity goes into this mode, the lights will flicker for a few seconds, then the entity will materialize and start moving through the house, heading for players. If it reaches one, the player will be killed. You will hear footsteps and your heart will pound stronger and stronger as it draws closer. It is possible to hide to avoid death but make sure not to stay too close to doors, people have reported being killed despite being inside a room. Some times can be used to delay or prevent a hunt. Entities are reported to go into hunting mode outside their room as well, so there is almost never a 100% safety.

In Amateur and Intermediate difficulty games, you’ll have respectively 5 and 2-minute grace period. This period is by no means fully safe but your sanity will drain slower so most of the time you won’t be attacked. In addition, if you happen to die, you will get insurance compensation for the items you brought with you, 50% and 30% for Amateur and Intermediate respectively and none for Professional. Last but not least, your earnings are doubled for Intermediate and Tripled for Professional. Death decreases most, if not all earnings by half, I’m not sure if this overrides or stacks with difficulty. In short, higher difficulties offer higher risk for better rewards.

Entity and Evidence System Simply Explained

It’s pretty simple: There are 6 different evidence you can find and 12 types of entities. Each entity will only show 3 and only 3 evidence. The game already filters possibilities in the last page of the journal. When you enter the evidence you found, the last section will only show the ones with that evidence. I strongly suggest checking this site. You can also check the spreadsheet I made that includes a cheatsheet prepared by /u/SeaTurtle5, this sheet can also be used to find the type through evidence that you eliminated.

To be clear: If you aren’t facing an entity that leaves fingerprints (Spirit, Wraith, Poltergeist, Banshee or Revenant), you are NOT going to find fingerprints. But just because you haven’t found the evidence yet doesn’t mean it’s not out there — it might be that you haven’t looked at the right place or the right time. Speaking of, let’s talk about each proof and the tools!

Tools (and Evidence Types) Simply Explained

Items marked with an asterisk may be required for an optional task in-game, meaning you may want to bring at least one. I also bolded the evidence types in the text. I suggest that you go into training a few times and try each tool. The training mission is supposed to be safe. Doesn’t make it less scary, but at least you don’t have to worry about hunts.

You can find the optional tasks on the board. I mean, technically they are all optional but finding the ghost type is considered to be the main task.

EMF Reader*: This tool indicated entity presence and interaction. If the entity interacted with something or passed by and you point the reader toward that location, you’ll see a beep with increasing intensity. Normal entities will show up to 4, entities with EMF5 will show 5 for the maximum intensity. These signs wear off so you have to have EMF readied to get the 5 reading.

Video Camera (+Tripod + Head-Mounted Camera): Video camera’s sight is tracked through the van. You can keep it in your hand or place it. If you have a tripod, you can also place it on a tripod. As long as it’s turned on, you will be able to see normal and night vision in the van and the camera’s night vision is the only way you can see the Ghost Orbs. Ghost Orbs are very small orbs of light that almost feel like fireflies or snowflakes. While Ghost Orbs are reported in different places, best is to place it inside the entities favourite room. Head-Mounted Cameras can be useful for a “van guy” to track things and they don’t cost you an item slot, meaning you can stare at the room for orbs and someone from the van can check them without carrying a camera.

Ghost Writing Book: Pretty straightforward. Place it in the entity room and if it’s a Ghost Writing entity, it will write on it. Writing can take some time and sometimes it may require you to ask it to do so (Can you write on the book?), or so it seems. I don’t know if the writing is random or not but the ghost does not communicate through this book like the Ouija board or the Spirit Box. It will write something and that will be the end of it.

Spirit Box: Ah, the spirit box. You activate this around the entity and speak to it. If it’s an entity with Spirit Box and only then, they will reply through the box. Sometimes they just speak on their own but usually, you have to trigger it by asking it questions such as “Where are you” “How old are you” “Should we leave” or “Are you angry”. If it’s a talker and decides to answer, the machine will catch one word and give it to you through its “Microsoft Sam” voice. Note that non-talker entities still hear you and will react to you. If you say something like “Show yourself”, it has nothing to do with the Spirit Box. Likewise, if it’s a Spirit Box entity, you can not just hear it. You need the box to be out and turned on.

UV Light: This is a special flashlight that barely illuminates but gives out the namesake UV light. Its main use is finding Fingerprints. When the ghost plays with a door or a light switch, it will leave a hand or fingerprint respectively. You can also take a picture of these. It’s possible to find footprints as well but those disappear quite fast and I’m not sure if all ghosts leave them or only the fingerprint-evidence ones.

Thermometer*: This is currently an amazing gadget that shows the temperature nearby toward where you point it. Rooms will be 13–20 degrees (this is Celsius, sorry Fahrenheit peeps.) Haunted (ie entities favourite) rooms will be lower. Usually, you’ll see around 6–10 degrees for a haunted room for a regular ghost, with down to 3 degrees with ghosts’ presence or checking the right spot. If it’s a Freezing Temperatures entity, the temperature will drop even more, down to minus degrees. Please note that you do NOT need this tool to get the evidence: If you get in a spot with minus temperatures your breath will be very visibly condensed. However, the tool makes it quite easy to find the room right away, so much so that it’s queued for a nerf in a future patch.

Strong/Flashlight: Flashlights will be your main sources of light for most occasions, with the strong one being, well, stronger. They have a very important secondary function as well: When a ghost starts hunting they start flickering. Technically all lights do but when you are in the dark, the flashlights will be a good indicator that you need to run and hide right away. Note that you don’t have to switch to the flashlight all the time — press T and you’ll activate it on your shoulder.

Crucifix*: A vital equipment, especially for higher difficulties. If there is a crucifix in 3 meters of the entity when it attempts to go into hunt mode, it will stop hunting. The crucifix definitely works when thrown on the ground, there are mix reports about its effectiveness while holding it. One crucifix can only prevent 2 hunts. After that, it will break.

Smudge Sticks*: Another defensive item. Once lit, they will burn for a short amount of time and if you do this around the entity’s room, it will be less active which is safer but might make activity-dependant evidence collection harder. In addition, if you manage to light them in the few seconds of light-blinking when a hunt initiates, you increase that initiation time by a few seconds as well (not for the whole burning duration.) Note that you need a lighter to use it.

Photo Camera*: Photo camera is used to take pictures of any visible evidence — be it a picture of handprints on a door or the ghost itself! It also flashes, which can scare jumpy people and provide light. One photo camera can only take 5 pictures so you might want to take pictures when it counts. Most of the time you’ll have at least one mission that requires the photo camera but since it counts as a basic item, you will start with one. The pictures from your last session(s) can be viewed in your garage/lobby.

A screenshot of a photo I took. Isn’t he cute?

Lighter*: Used to light candles and smudge sticks. I think it technically provides a bit of light too but you can’t really utilize that.

Candle: Candles provide light that doesn’t depend on electricity, which is handy when the fuse goes off. You can carry it or place it somewhere. It has a limited amount of life measured in minutes.

Glowstick: They provide a bit of illumination in the purple UV color. They are hard to use for the UV function but the cool part is that they never go off! You can place them on important points, which can be handy for large maps.

Salt: Pourable as a small mound on the ground 3 times per box, Salt allows you to track entity movement. If they walk over them, the mound will have footsteps on them, which can be further tracked by the UV light. Note that footprints fade quite fast and they do NOT point to a Fingerprint entity necessarily. Salt is toxic to Wraiths but what that means is not really clear to the community at the moment.

Infrared Light Sensor: This one gives out light when triggered. I feel this is a bit less useful than the others but you can still see the light through the camera even without directly seeing it (due to light change) so I guess there are uses.

Motion Sensor*: If anything passes in front of the 1 meter or so of this one, it will change colour. More importantly, its location is visible on the layout in your van and the colour will also change there, allowing you to track movement from the van. This is extra useful when you have a Dispatch/Van Guy.

Sound Sensor: This covers a nice area, affecting multiple rooms and corridors in the smaller maps. Like the motion sensor, its area of effect is visible on the van layout. There is a separate graph next to the layout that will show you which sound sensors detect sound and the strength of the sounds.

Parabolic Microphone: This is more or less a portable sound sensor that is tracked by the person on the spot instead of the van. It’s more useful in the larger maps. It seems to be a slightly buggy as well, so it’s probably best not to rely on it after an initial sweep.

Sanity Pills: Straightforward. You gulp them, you get about 50 sanity points. Each one has a single-use.

Additional Resources

Before I end the article, I wanted to share some resources that might be helpful.

Phasmophobiatracker is created by a fan (Sorry, missed your name on Discord — feel free to let me know so I can credit you) and gives you a nice overview of the entities and what evidence you should check.

This spreadsheet prepared by me is a cruder one but if the eliminate 3 evidence, it can show you the entity in that way. It’s a terrible sheet that I will probably overhaul to be clean and more functional some time.

Phasmophobia Discord houses the lovely community and you can find people in the LFG room as well.

Last but not least, DuskTheViking, [Youtube]. Dusk is an awesome guy that does a lot of solo missions. He knows his stuff and is very educative but he isn’t immune to being scared so watching him is always fun. He recently posted a mega-guide that can be very useful!


This concludes my starter guide to Phasmophobia. I hope that you try and discover the game on your own and look for keywords when you really need them. Regardless, the points here should make all main mechanics clear. In a future article, I will provide some tips and in at least another one, as you might expect, I will list ideas.



Ekrem Atamer

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD