Welcome 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.
One of the most common dramatic problems for a GM in any RPG is that powerful, single villains tend to be a gamble. If they’re not significantly more powerful than the player characters, the action economy—how often each side gets to act—means your heroes can rip them to shreds before you roll their first attack. But if your villain is too powerful, they can unleash attacks that entirely overwhelm your heroes in a single blow. You might balance the action economy by giving your Big Bad Evil Guy a band of minions, but tactically-minded players know to skip the bread basket of evil and dive right into the main course. You might instead hand-waive your BBEG’s early damage rolls to give your heroes a fighting chance, but many players love the challenge of pitting their wits and luck against the gamemaster’s and resent a curated experience keeping them alive.