Phantasm, Home of Storytelling Lite

This year marks my return to my local convention, Phantasm. I’m going to run a World of Darkness game there with rules that may interest you. I used this system a couple of years back to run a game of psychics on the loose. This year, it’ll be something different. Anyway, here’s Storytelling Lite:

Making a Character

I use a highly stripped down version of character creation that suits a high degree of GM moderation. These rules do not include special or supernatural traits, such as the last game’s psychic powers.

Basic Traits

  • Split 9 dots among Mental, Physical and Social Attributes. Minimum 1 each, If you boost one to 5, that costs 6 dots. These are your character’s basic capabilities.
  • Split 9 dots among Power, Finesse and Resistance Abilities. Minimum 1 each, and again, 5 costs 6 dots. These areas of ability come from a mix of training, general life experience and temperament. High Power characters are aggressive and direct. High Finesse characters value precision and slyness. High Resistance represents patience and determination.
  • Choose Specialities. These may be linked to an Attribute or Ability. Examples include Seductive, Judo Expert, Big and Strong, and Occult Scholar.

Figured Traits

  • Calculate Health: Resistance + Physical + 5 — yeah, you get more.
  • Calculate Defence: (Lower of Physical or Mental) + Finesse/2
  • Calculate Speed: Physical + Power + Finesse +3
  • Calculate Initiative: Finesse + Resistance
  • Calculate Willpower: Social + Resistance
  • Calculate Morality: It’s 7.


  • Pick 7 dots of Merits, maximum of 5 dots of 1 type. Merits are freeform, using a descriptor such as “Allies,” “Wealth” or “Kung Fu.” You can ask for a story benefit, or you may spend Merit dots to boost the dice pool of an applicable roll. You regain these dots aat the start of a new session (well, never, in convention play) or after an extended period of time — at least a day or so.

Background Details

  • Name, Gender and Visual Description
  • Virtue Statement: “It isn’t easy to do the right thing, but when I _____________________ I feel better for having done it.” You regain all Willpower for making this moral choice.
  • Vice Statement: “I don’t like to admit it, but I feel a certain thrill when I ____________________.” You regain 1 Willpower for indulging this urge.
  • Concept Statement: “My highest Traits are my [List Attribute] and [List Ability], so I feel most confident when I attempt _____________________ [must usually involve using the Attribute + Ability].” You regain 1 Willpower for succeeding at this task.

Doing Things

  • Roll dice pools of Attribute + Ability. You may add as many Specialities as you can justify for +1 die each, even if they wouldn’t normally be linked to any Trait in the pool. Physical for physical stuff, Mental for mental stuff, Social for social stuff. Use Power when the task involves defeating a challenge with brute effort, Finesse when the approach involves precision, and Resistance when it involves, calm, patience or toughness.
  • Hand to hand combat is usually Physical + Power, but it could be Physical + Finesse with light weapons.
  • Firearms combat is usually Physical + Finesse for running and gunning, but it might be Mental + Resistance for snipers.
  • Otherwise, combat is as per usual with the Storytelling System.
  • Track Health along three different rows for bashing, lethal and aggravated — none of these slashes and Xes and things. When one category fills up, move on to the next worse. Once you lose all bashing, roll Physical + Resistance to avoid passing out until revived. Once you lose all lethal, make the same roll per turn until you succeed or fail three times — the last of those three determines whether you stay conscious or not until you’re healed. You may also spend 1 Willpower point to stay conscious or regain consciousness at any time, even though that strains credulity.
  • You suffer one aggravated wound per turn once you’ve suffered any aggravated wounds at all.
  • Equipment/narrative factors provide a straight +1 to 5 bonus. If you narrate something cool or ask for extra benefits on to of an equipment bonus, the total bonus cannot exceed 5 — anything extra equates to a bonus success added to rolled successes of 1 or higher

So, Yeah

It’s pretty simple, and lets participants make characters fast. Characters are also a bit tougher, encouraging action, and get a clear reward for obeying a concept. You may recognize some of the basics from the Mage Chronicler’s Guide and its Furyland war chronicle model, where I first piloted it. Other elements come from World of Darkness: Mirrors and the Ready 2 Run system I devised that powers Stew’s Aeternal Legends.

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One response to “Phantasm, Home of Storytelling Lite”

  1. Kenny Crowe says :

    This is pretty sweet – and i’m going to swipe it to make NPCs in my current game :) I think i’ll also use it to let my players stat out themselves the “secondary characters” related to them in the currently running game :)

    If i start a new game, i’ll certainly use these rules though :)

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