the 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 set of three more serious games (the Triptych) and a pair of lighter, more humorous games (the Diptych).

These games have tended to be systemless (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 Diptychs will be eligible for the Diptych Perpetual Trophy.

The Triptych

The Triptych games may not be always dark and angsty, but they will be pretty serious in tone. All are for 5 players.

  • Leviathan—by Michael Hitchins (1 sessions, 5 players, Heroquest)
  • The King in Winter—by Greg Tannahill (1 sessions, 5 players, Custom system)
  • Year King—by Shane Donohoe (1 session, 5 players, Systemless)
  • The Diptych

    The Diptych games are a light brain cleanser after the Triptych. They may be silly, they may not. They are for 5 players.

  • Supernatural Studies Club—by Stephanie and Robbie Matthews (1 session, 5 players, Systemless)
  • The Campfire Initiative—by David McKie (1 session, 5 players, Systemless)
  • The Triptych


    This is a game for heroes, the last and greatest heroes of a people. You’ll fight, there’ll be action and heroic deeds, enemies to defeat. But in this time and place being heroes isn’t enough. Whatever fights and battles you win you’re losing the war. Desperation is setting in. Who do you save when you can’t save everyone? Who gets sacrificed? What do you do when sometimes all the choices are bad?

    What will you do in this game?

    Roll some dice, fight enemies, play these characters as real people, interact with NPCs they care about. Make hard decisions, where none of the options are good. You will be provided with information about your character, but will have opportunity to flesh that out and add to it in session before play starts. While there is some dice-rolling, the main emphasis will be on how you play your character and how you interact with each other and the rest of the game world. These characters are in a desperate situation and, no matter how heroic, everyone has a breaking point. There is a story here, but your actions and reactions will shape it.

    Note: There are no competitive/PvP elements in this game. While the characters may sometimes argue, they are on the same side and are there for each other.

    What’s the game again?Being heroes, where that isn’t enough.
    Genre/settingTragedy in a fantasy world.
    SystemSimplified Heroquest (which is a simple system to start with).
    Movierating MA.



    The King In Winter

    A game about the power of stories, for 5 players.

    It is Midwinter's Eve, and the only light at this forgotten crossroads comes from the small campfire you built here.

    Tomorrow the prince will be crowned king, and the world will change, but tonight you are here to play an ancient game of storytelling. Each of you will tell a story, and the stories will augur the reign of the new king. The tales you tell will be omens, good and bad.

    But the game is more than that. For a mysterious fifth player has emerged from the darkness and snow with an agenda all his own, and his story is more dangerous and deadly than anyone had foreseen.

    And beyond all that, for you this game is personal. Because you have a secret—a secret that you can never say aloud—but maybe, through the magic of stories, you might just have an opportunity to tell it after all…

    The King In Winter is a game for five players about the power of stories. Players take on the roles of four friends and a mysterious traveler on the eve of the royal coronation. Gameplay consists of a series of structured interactive stories told by those characters to each other, set within a larger framing story. The game emphasises storytelling and characterisation, and is serious and cathartic in tone. The game is cooperative in structure. The King In Winter will be best enjoyed by experienced roleplayers, but it is written to be accessible and satisfying for everyone.

    What's the game again?Five travelers in a high-stakes game of stories.
    SeriousnessSerious. Grimm, but not necessarily grim.
    Genre/settingDark folktale. The setting is unique to this game.
    SystemThe game mechanics are unique and will be fully explained during play.
    RatingM. Recommended for players 15 years and over.



    Year King

    Last year, five friends chose one among them to lay their troubles on, to turn their luck around, to bring in some good times. They anointed him, made him a wreath to wear, called him their Year King. Then laughed about it and went off to get drunk.

    That began a year like no other. For the one they named King, success like he had only dreamed.

    Now Midwinter has come again. The friends are faced with the promise they made.

    Will you kill the Year King?

    (With thanks to Mary Renault’s The King Must Die)

    What’s the game again?A game about making the most important decision of someone's life
    Movie ratingM+ (deals with mortality)



    Supernatural Studies Club

    Welcome to the Supernatural Studies Club! We investigate the weird, the wondrous and the bizarre! Interested in Aliens, Ghosts, witches or werewolves? Come and talk to us! Accepting new members. Please complete the application form and return to the supervising teacher.

    A typical High School, with typical students. Exams, uniforms, school food, hobbies, friendships, romances, monsters, witches, aliens, time travellers, bigfoot, and a 70% chance of a world ending event.

    What’s the game again?A game for 5 curious students.
    SeriousnessNot very.
    Genre/settingHigh School Manga with Supernatural Elements.
    SystemMostly Systemless
    Movie ratingM15+, Supernatural Themes



    The Campfire Initiative

    Since the year 2000, there have been things lurking in the shadows. Ghouls in the graveyards, Boogeymen under your bed, that thing that is about to grab your left shoulder. The U.N formed a group to deal with this issues without bring it into the public's view (can you imagine that jerk in HR with magic powers?).

    You are part of that group.

    Welcome to the Campfire Initiative.

    You are underpaid, under-prepared and overworked. At least the, thus far, mythical retirement package sounds nice.

    The Campfire Initiative is a game for five agents sent to deal with the forces of the occult, the otherworldly and sometimes just a teenager who now likes the taste of AB-.

    What’s the game again?A game for 5 supernatural investigators.
    Genre/settingModern supernatural
    Movie ratingM15+, Supernatural Themes



    Previous triptychs


  • Morgan Morningstar, Closing the Gate of Dawn
  • John Machin, Ever On
  • Penny Sullivan and Jason Chappel, Inner Space
  • 2013

  • Peter Rousell, Shiprock
  • Fi McConachie, The Silent Ones
  • John and Philippa Hughes, The Gate of Heaven, Cancelled due to illness
  • 2012

  • David James, In Sceadure—In Shadow
  • Mike Walker, Death Journey
  • Dan L'Estrange, Home
  • 2011

  • Jacinta Thomler and Stuart Barrow, Eternal Companions
  • James Riley and Terence Janssen, Project Legacy
  • Ingrid Bean and Shane Donohoe, The Sacrifice of Immortality
  • 2010

  • Andrew Smith, Body Corporate
  • Ryan d'Argeavel, The Cabinet of Doctor Makundi
  • Michael Hitchens, Floodland
  • 2009

  • Mik Bonsall, Dead Man Walking
  • Fi McConachie, Silence of the Bush
  • Nick Argall, Vengeance of the Vampire Lord
  • 2008

  • David Hollingworth, Crime and Punishment
  • Andrew Smith, The Fall of the Family
  • Mike(y) and Liz Argall, The Group
  • 2007

  • John Hughes, Quest: Mask of Heroes
  • Jacinta Thomler, Six Soldiers
  • David James, Those Left Behind
  • 2006

  • Liz Argall, Being There
  • Joe McNamara, Killing De Villefort
  • Ingrid Bean, Rebirthing Eden
  • 2005

  • Stuart Barrow, The Mask and the Moonlight
  • Xole Karman, Familiar
  • Andrew Smith, Something Wonderful
  • 2004

  • Robbie Matthews, Mayhem Over Manhattan
  • Peter Rousell, Last Night in Eden
  • Eric Henry, The Fishbowl
  • 2003

  • David James, Can you go home again?
  • Mike Walker, Psi
  • Ingrid Bean, Silence
  • 2002

  • Ben Hunter, Project Hydra
  • Robert Barbetti, Something Wicked
  • Mark Bruckard, This Way Comes
  • 2001

  • Larry Larkin, Once upon a time
  • Ryan d'Argeavel, I knew she was trouble the minute she walked into my office
  • Jon Naughton, They don't advertise for killers in a newspaper
  • 2000

  • Michael Hitchens, You are Number 4, I am Number 6
  • Caitlin May, What is Honour?
  • Tony Guyot, Citius Altius Fortiu
  • 1999 [The year Pheno ate Cancon]

  • Richard Canning, Memory Lost
  • Jo Ellem, Signor Jacemo's Circus of Wonder
  • Morgan Morningstar, Redemption
  • 1998

  • Liz Argall, When I Meet My Family
  • Felix White, Lost Highway
  • Scott Walton & Daniel Wilks, Spazmo
  • 1997

  • Andrew Smith, Fatalism
  • Diana Leithead, The Charity Gig
  • Antti Roppola, Understanding Ellen West
  • 1996

  • Richard Percy, Covenant
  • Mark Barnes, Prometheus Rising
  • Brent Steves, Graenlendinga Saga
  • 1995

  • John Hughes, Fallen Angel
  • Madi, Freaks
  • Grant Allen & Lindsay Beaton, Portents
  • 1994

  • Ian Wanless, The Breaking
  • Robert MacLean, Faded Giant
  • Chris Slee, Uncle Jurgen's Happy Hour
  • Phenomenon 2015

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