Phenomenon 2023 Phenomenon 2023

Triptych & Diptych

Triptych (trip-tick), n. A picture or carving on three panels able to fold over the centre; a set of three associated works so placed esp. as a centre piece; a set of three writing tablets hinged or tied together; a set of three artistic works; such used as an altar piece; a treatise in three parts.
Diptych (dip-tick), n. A picture or carving as above, except one of the panels has been nicked.

Each year Pheno invites respected designers to present bespoke single-session games: a trio of more serious games (the Triptych) and a duet of lighter, more humorous games (the Diptych).

These games have tended to be system-light (emphasising characterisation and drama over rules use and tactical simulation), and showcase what we consider the best of Pheno roleplaying: characterisation, genre, entertainment, innovation.

Players and teams can enter each game by itself and the games will be judged separately, but complete teams finishing all three games of the Triptych will also be eligible for the Triptych Perpetual Trophy. Teams finishing both Diptych games will be eligible for the Diptych Perpetual Trophy.

The Triptychs

The Cardinal's Blades

By Gavin Lucan

France, 1626. Louis XIII may be the King of France, but it is Armand Jean Du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu, who actually governs. Supreme power is his to wield. At a stroke of his pen armies march, reputations shatter and free men wake in the Bastille. Where the King is loved, the Cardinal is feared. Across Europe people plot and scheme to bring him down, by fair means or foul.

The Cardinal has many servants. All of Paris know of his Guards, the scarlet cloaked enforcers of his will, who carry out his orders when not brawling with the King’s Musketeers. Some few have heard of his more secretive agents, and whisper names such as Rochefort or Milady with dread. But there are some missions too delicate, or dangerous, for even them. For those, the Cardinal turns to a more, unwilling, servant.

Summoned without warning, they are offered a choice. Serve, and be rewarded, or refuse and… Some serve the Cardinal seeking redemption, others absolution, but all out of fear. Richelieu is uncaring of why or how they serve him, as long as they succeed in their goals. And now a messenger has come to you, bearing a letter. His Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu, has a task for you...

Pheno game ratings
How many players? 5
What's the game again? The Three Musketeers crossed with the Suicide Squad. A mismatched group of scoundrels and swashbucklers try to survive an impossible mission from a merciless authority figure.
Seriousness? 3 (Can be adjusted depending on player input)
Genre/Setting Historical swashbuckling, more inspired by film and TV than actual history.
System 1
Movie Rating M. Content warning: the GM’s French accent.


The Empty Throne of God

By Joe McNamara

The Demiurge is gone, and all of Creation fights to take their place.

From the bleak corridors of the Pit of Suffering to the green chaos of Pangaea, Creation's wizards war amongst themselves. From the golden spires of the Eternal City to the lightless depths of the Abyss they come, driven by love or revenge or even stranger impulses, all seeking to take up the power the Demiurge set down.

Our cabal has forged its bonds in countless battles across countless worlds. Now, as the endgame approaches and the Demiurge's power leeches out of Creation, all that stands between us and the sunlit slopes of Mount Meru is an army of demons, a trio of terrible archmagi and the immutable fact that we've all been trying so hard to ignore:

Only one of us can sit on the Empty Throne of God.

THE EMPTY THRONE OF GOD: an experimental tabletop for 5 battle wizards about magic words, deep friendships and getting what you want. Very loosely inspired by Stuart Barrow's Three Short Games About Wizards.

Pheno game ratings
How many players? 5
What's the game again? Gonzo world-hopping wizard battles, dealing with the people closest to you, some optional Player-vs-Player elements but that will be discussed in the session
Seriousness? In the middle
Genre/Setting High-powered weird fantasy
System Very light custom system
Movie Rating MA; by default, the game includes graphic violence, torture, suicide, illness and religious themes but it is highly modular and any of this material can be excised


The Monster's Ball: An urban fantasy adventure

By Belinda Kelly

Forced to live in the shadows of the society, the Kin are a group of families descended from Lilith, the Mother of Monsters. Some view their bloodline as a curse, and others embrace it. You're sixteen and waiting (or dreading) for the monstrous change to come upon you. More importantly, the Midnight Ball is soon—will you change in time to present yourself at the Ball in your full, terrible glory? Or will the arrival of a new group of hunters in town upset the the ancient peace, send you fleeing for your lives, and worse, cause the Ball to be cancelled?

A modern urban fantasy game for five young creatures of the night, for fans of Wednesday, Buffy and Shadowhunters.

Pheno game ratings
How many players? 5
What's the game again? Young soon-to-be monsters struggle with their incipient transformations, while getting ready for their annual ball. The threat of an extremist hunter cult in town threatens to ruin everything.
Seriousness? 4
Genre/Setting Modern day urban fantasy, school, monsters
System Homebrew (d6 dicepool)
Movie Rating PG. Content Warning: Deals with topics such as cult-survivors (implied mental trauma); monstrous transformations; religious extremism; prejudice.


The Diptychs

Hooty McOwlbear’s Family Restaurant and FUNtertainment Zone!

By Jake Nelson

FROM: Hooty McOwlbear’s Humanoid Resources <>
TO: Staff at Hooty McOwlbear’s Arvendale North <>
SUBJECT: Just checking in!

Hi guys! Thank you so much for being valued members of the Hooty McOwlbear’s Family Restaurant and Funtertainment Zone family. We here at head office really appreciate all the work you do to bring big smiles and full tummies to the children of Arvendale North! We understand you’ve been experiencing some revenue and customer feedback challenges over the past few months, and we want to assure you that we’re here for you. Someone will come by at closing time tomorrow to check in on you guys, have a look at how you’re doing and what everything looks like at the end of the day, and see if there’s anything we can do to help the Arvendale North location get back on its feet!

Hope it all goes well, and just remember the Hooty McOwlbear’s Employee Affirmation: “Don’t growl – give a hoot!”

Have a great day,

Winky Sparkletoes
Humanoid Resources

Hooty McOwlbear’s Family Restaurant and FUNtertainment Zone! is a D&D Fifth Edition adventure for 3-6 eternally overworked employees trying to save their terrible jobs. Pregenerated characters will be provided. No system knowledge required – newcomers welcome! Management reminds all staff to wash their hands regularly, consult their employee manuals for updates, and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES attempt to clean the grease trap unarmed.

Pheno game ratings
How many players? 3-6
What's the game again? Get your terrible fantasy restaurant in tip-top shape before corporate shows up for the inspection or kiss your jobs goodbye!
Seriousness? No thank you, I already ate.
Genre/Setting Workplace comedy in a modern-day D&D setting.
System D&D 5th Edition.
Movie Rating PG


Mysteries of Atalantum: How To Find The Missing Princess

By Elizabeth Eaton

The 17-year-old Storm Blessed Princess, Etain, has gone missing! She was last seen by a palace guard climbing out the window of her room, declaring that she was going on an adventure, and there wasn’t anything anyone would to do stop her! At which point, the princess raised a hand to emphasise her point, and promptly fell from her rope of twisted sheets, straight into an open carriage pulled by giant geese mechanimals.

The Princess’s governess (to whom the princess had been making her declaration) reported that after a moment, the Princess sat upright and ordered the mechanimals to begin moving, and with a beat of their aether powered wings, the carriage flew off into the midnight sky.

After scouring the Empire, the Imperial Palace has sent out the Imperial Knights to search for the Imperial Princess, and have offered a reward (including money, land and a title) for the person or persons who brings the Princess back.

Mysteries of Atalantum! How to find the missing princess (in 10 easy steps), is a system-lite, comedic table-top game for 5 players.

Pheno game ratings
How many players? 5
What's the game again?
System system-lite
Movie Rating