The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game (Part 6: Making Killers)
Building Killers was one of the most interesting and challenging parts of creating Dead by Daylight: The Board Game.
The key challenge of designing Killer mechanics comes from the limited objectives of the Killers and Survivors. Killers want to sacrifice Survivors, and Survivors want to finish generators and escape the trial. So all Killer Powers must either support, thwart, or subvert these objectives in some unique way. With 16 Killers in the game, this requires a bit of ingenuity and a lot of testing!
When building a Killer, we have to devise a Killer Power, as well as three unique perks that support that gameplan. Those also need to all be at least thematically related to what the Killer is doing in the original video game as well.
For Killers appearing in the retail edition of the game, we went with a fairly straightforward translation of mechanics. The Nurse can teleport from room to room, the Trapper has bear traps that catch moving Survivors, and the Hillbilly has a chainsaw that lets him move and attack at the same time.
For those appearing in the collector’s edition, we took more liberties. For example, Trickster, Huntress, Plague, and Deathslinger all have fundamentally the same ability—to attack at range. So how do we make them feel unique while still capturing the essential thematics of the video game? We introduce some more traditional board game mechanics into the mix.
The Huntress got the ranged attack you would expect—force a Survivor to roll the die, and on a bad roll they get wounded.
Deathslinger got something a bit trickier—a secret selection game that gets tougher the less he has moved during the turn. Redeemer (Deathslinger’s weapon) also functions to secure sacrifices instead of wounds, setting a nice contrast to Huntress’s hatchets.
Plague ended up becoming an area control character more like Trapper or Hag, with the focus being on infecting the area around her. Plague’s Vile Purge goes onto a Survivor’s perks when they pick it up, blocking access to those abilities.
As for Trickster, we gave his knives the power to reduce a Survivor’s maximum Bloodpoints. This shuts off access to many perks. Trickster’s own perks punish Survivors who don’t have or can’t spend Bloodpoints, making him an economy-focused Killer.
Designing Killer perks was a tough balancing act as well. Killers typically have a steady stream of Bloodpoints available to them, and so can use their perks quite often. The challenge is to design perks that are meaningful, able to be used regularly, but not so oppressive that they completely shut down Survivors. The ideal Killer perk is one that changes Survivor behavior and forces them to adapt.
I’m really proud of the design team’s work on each of the Killer’s signature perks (the one in purple on their boards). These perks actually contain a significant portion of the Killer’s identity and power budget, and really bring that Killer to life.
My personal favorite Killer perk is Legion’s signature perk: Mad Grit. This perk allows you to attack while carrying a Survivor, and adds a really interesting risk-reward to the normal carry sequence in the game.