Phantasmal Killer—Fight Your Mysteries!

Welcome back to Phantasmal Killer, a blog delving into weird and fun game mechanics and how you can take advantage of them to bring new ideas to life at your tabletop. In each article I look at using a game system in unexpected ways to create unique or bizarre characters to pummel your players.

I have a personal philosophy in game design: You are what you model. If your game system is built around combat, most of your encounters will come down to fights. If your game system is built around skills, your players will wander through the story and sensibly flee from shoggoth. The results will vary from group to group—especially if you have a bard—but ultimately adventures will do best when they reflect whatever the system handles best.

But what about when you want to build an entire adventure around challenges your system doesn’t reflect?

There’s plenty of space for handling unusual encounters via roleplay and skill checks, leaving the details up to player imaginations and acting, but there’s also a lot of added tension when you build a subsystem to handle that interaction. Having some rules adds the same sense of tension and chance that combat normally has. But building a subsystem means investing a lot of time into creating new rules, playtesting new rules, and writing cool flavor text for your cool rules for your blog. If only someone had already built a cool rule system to do handle that cool mystery or romance subplot your wanted to run!

Someone has. The game designers!

Here’s the thing: Most games already have a fleshed-out combat system, already well-balanced and chocked full of adversaries. The only thing separating swordfight from a political debate is how you describe it.

Continue reading “Phantasmal Killer—Fight Your Mysteries!”