Some Lightmaster Details

After yesterday’s post about my progress with Lightmaster included the names of most of the character classes, it occured to me that I haven’t actually talked about what the game is like.

Firstly the elephant in the room. It’s an emulation of an old game, but because of the wording of the Open Game License I’m not allowed to name that old game’s name, which is trademarked. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this then you know what game I’m talking about, but if you don’t it’s the one with all the attack tables and critical tables and has the fumble table where you can trip over an imaginary turtle.

So, with that out of the way, what is the difference between Lightmaster and the game that it clones?

Well, for a start, Lightmaster is not designed to emulate the exact rules of the source game. Those rules are overly fiddly and complex (and inconsistent in places). Instead, Lightmaster is designed to emulate the feel of the source game. Few, if any, of the rules are an exact match for the rules in the source game; but in play, it feels like you’re playing the source game. It has the same kinds of mechanics that produce the a similar feel to playing the original, but run much more smoothly and are much simpler and easier in play – ideal for players who have felt intimidated by the complexity of the original.

Okay, that’s enough waffle. Lets get down to specifics and compare the game’s systems to those of the original…

Dice Basics: The original game uses a d100, but most things in the game are in units of +/-5. I’ve simplified this by just using a d20 instead.

Ability Scores: The original game took the six ability scores of the world’s most popular roleplaying game and split four of them in half (making four pairs) and then turned the last two into a pair of their own for a total of ten ability scores in two groups of five. These were measured on a 1-100 scale, and each would increase as you went up in level. Lightmaster returns to the basic six, and scales them down to a 1-20 scale, but still includes increases as you go up in level.

Classes and Levels: The original game has nineteen character classes in the standard rules, and then each of the many supplements usually added between three and six. Characters can theoretically rise to 50th level, althoughin my experience campaigns rising above the mid teens are vanishingly rare. Lightmaster has eighteen character classes. Fifteen of them are closely based on classes from the original game. One is based on a class from one of the supplements. One is an amalgam of a class from the original game and one from a supplement. One is a modified version of one from the original game. The rules allow for characters to advance to 20th level.

Development Points: The original game gave you a number of points for each of your ability scores (well, one of each pair) and then each class had a different list of costs for each skill. You would spend the points on those skills, having about 35-45 points to spend on skills that cost anywhere from 1-20 points each. Instead, Lightmaster divides the skills into themed categories and gives you 1-5 points to spend in each category depending on your class, but within each category every skill only costs a single point. If you want, you can move points from one category to another at a two-for-one cost.

Skills: The original game would give you a skill bonus for the number of ranks you had in a skill that had diminishing returns as you got more ranks, plus a class-based level bonus, plus an ability bonus from up to three ability scores. Lightmaster simplifies this by giving you just a skill bonus for the number of ranks that has diminishing returns and an ability bonus for a single ability score. The level bonus is subsumed into the rank bonus on the assumption that the classes buying lots of ranks will be those with high level bonuses and vice versa. The result is pretty similar (albeit scaled for a d20 scale instead of a d100 scale) but the numbers are simpler and there are fewer of them.

Static Skill Checks: The original game has you roll 1d100 and add your skill bonus and a variable bonus or penalty for difficulty and you need to roll a total of 101+ to succeed. Many skills have charts on which to look up partial successes and extreme failures. Lightmaster has you roll 1d20 and add your skill bonus and you need to beat a target number based on the difficulty of the task. It’s much simpler and has less calculation.

Manoeuvring Skill Checks: The original game has you roll repeatedly and look up the results on a chart which gives you progress to skill completion based on difficulty. Lightmaster just has you roll a simple static skill check.

Casting Spells: The original game has you roll a casting check based on the type of magic you are using and the type of target, apply penalties based on what you are wearing, and then read a resulting bonus or penalty from a table. This bonus or penalty is then applied to the target’s saving throw for the spell. Lightmaster just gives the target a simple saving throw that works like a skill check.

Combat Sequence: The original game has a very confusing combat sequence where there are distinct phases for different types of activity, but this is combined with a fiddly percentage action system. It’s a bit of a mess, frankly (and I think the authors knew this since they provided so many alternative systems in the supplements). Lightmaster uses a much simpler system where everyone declares actions and then takes turns after an initiative roll.

Attack Rolls: The original game has a full-page 150×20 table for each weapon where you look up your roll against the type of armour the opponent is wearing. Lightmaster uses the same system, but each table is only 30×12 due to the consolidation of the armour rules and the switch from 1d100 to 1d20.

Critical Damage: The original game has a bunch of tables for critical damage of different types, each of which has 5 severities and is rolled on 1-100. These tables give you detailed damage results over and above hit point loss. There are rules for healing herbs that can cure this detailed damage, spells that can cure it, and rules for healing naturally over time. Unfortunately these different parts of the game lack clarity and it is not always apparent what healing will cure what critical damage. Lightmaster switches to a 1-20 scale for criticals, and cleans up the damage so there is consistency and clarity across the different parts of the game. It is always obvious which spells or herbs will cure the damage caused by which critical hits.

Magic Items: The original game includes a detailed set of rules for characters to be able to make magic items. It also includes a pricing system for magic items based on their abilities, and a set of magic item tables for finding random magic items. None of these three systems are compatible with each other. The price list bears no resemblence to the crafting rules, and the magic items you can find bear no resemblence to eiahter of them. Lightmaster takes the crafting rules and uses them to generate a pricing system so that again there is clarity between parts of the system.