New(ish) Project – Lightmaster

Yep. It’s been a while, but I have a new project in the works – Lightmaster.

Well, to be honest, it’s not that new. Let me explain…

Back in 2012, I published Blood, Guts & Glory. To refresh your memory, that was a kind of retro-clone/mash-up that emulated an ’80s game (as usual, I can’t name it for legal reasons – but it was famous for its critical hit system and its many, many charts) and mixed it up with the SRD produced by Wizards of the Coast to simplify parts of it.

That was a fine game, and I’ve had lots of fun playing it (and I’m sure others have too). However, while it’s a “fine game”, I never thought it quite broke the “great game” threshold.

In hindsight, I think the game has three major flaws that prevent it from being great:

  1. When doing character generation, I tried to emulate the source material too closely, while also trying to present it in a very different way to the original in order to avoid any copyright issues. This resulted in a character generation system that was overly complex and rather counterintuitive. It worked. But it was fiddly and awkward – and this went against the whole idea of creating a simplified version of the source game. It actually ended up more complex than the source game in this aspect.
  2. This one’s very similar. When putting in the ability to resist magic and poisons and the like, I definitely simplified the source material – but there was one “sacred cow” that I wanted to keep, and that was the ability to “fumble” a spell and have it not work. Because of this, instead of using something simple like the Saving Throw mechanic from the SRD I ended up reversing things and having a Penetration Check that worked like a saving throw but was rolled by the attacker rather than the defender (so that a natural 1 on the check could be a fumble). This sounds fine on paper, but it meant having a skill-that-was-not-a-skill for the penetration score and it worked really weirdly for spells that had lasting effects. Rather than the actual target of the spell being able to repeatedly roll Saving Throws until they managed to throw off the effect, the attacker would have to keep re-rolling their Penetration Check to keep the effect going, even if they’d left and gone off to do something else or even if they were dead. Again, it worked mechanically but was just counterintuitive and confusing. The real irony here is that in the end I took out the rules for fumbling spells as being unnecessary – so all the added complexity there was for nothing.
  3. Originally the game was meant to be your typical “generic fantasy”, like the source game and like your average Dungeons and Dragons game. However, after having written the rest of the game I decided it needed some kind of setting of its own, so I added a chapter describing one. I actually quite like the setting that I added (anthropomorphic animals in post-apocalyptic Elizabethan England) but it did the game no favours. The setting material, being added as an afterthought, didn’t really extend beyond the single chapter describing it, and – worse – even though the game was supposed to be primaraly generic fantasy with this setting as an optional thing that you could use if you wanted, I failed to get that across in the text. I’ve seen more than one person simply dismiss the game as “a furry game” and not see that it was actually intended for a much wider scope.

Hence Lightmaster.

Lightmaster is kind of half way between a new edition and a sequel for Blood, Guts & Glory. At heart, it’s the same basic game. It still emulates the source material with its attack and critical tables and lists of spells and detailed damage and healing system. However, it fixes all three of those flaws.

  1. Character generation has been completely re-done and vastly simplified. It’s no longer the baroque mess that it was. Rather than the overly-complex system of base skill bonuses and additional skill ranks and every skill having a different cost for each class, you have a much simpler system. Skills are divided into groups and each class gets a different number of skill ranks to distribute in each group with the ability to move excess points from one group to another. Also, the whole “base skill bonus” and “additional skill ranks” thing has gone. It’s much, much simpler now; and it still produces the same end result.
  2. I’ve ditched the whole “Penetration Check” thing and reverted to a nice and simple Saving Throw mechanic. It’s actually mathematically identical to the old system, but far, far, easier and more intuitive.
  3. The new game (and this is the main reason why it’s a sequel with a different name rather than a second edition) has a setting that’s baked in throughout the text rather than added at the end, and it’s far closer to “generic fantasy”. It’s no longer got the anthropomorphic animals, because they just distracted people. Instead it’s “generic fantasy with a pulp twist” that owes more to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H. P. Lovecraft than it does to J.R.R. Tolkien and Jack Vance. However, the setting material is painted in broad strokes only – you won’t find maps and big lists of NPCs and timelines. The GM is expected to fill in their own details or crib them from a pre-published fantasy setting.

The other main difference is that Lightmaster is squarely aimed at people who like the source game (or like the idea of it, at least) but want something simpler and easier to learn and teach. Its presentation is worlds away from Blood, Guts & Glory in that I’m splitting it into two books. One is the rulebook and has a friendly, modern design. The other is just all the tables and charts (and has minimal formatting – it’s designed for you to print off the individual pages that you need, so there’s no artwork or rules text, just a full-page table per page. Obviously the table and chart reference won’t be riveting light reading, but taking them all out of the main rule book makes that book a much easier read and much less daunting.

Things may change during formatting, but it’s looking like the rule book will be around 100 pages in length, and the table and chart reference will be around 225 pages.