Dark Dungeons – 10th Anniversary Edition!

It occurred to me the other day that next year Dark Dungeons will be a decade old!

I thought it might be nice to produce a new edition for that – partly to commemorate it, and also because I noticed that people are still downloading the game on DriveThruRPG after all this time (last month alone I got over 100 downloads from there) yet the printed version is not available from there – only from Lulu – since it wasn’t designed using the proper specifications for DriveThruRPG’s third-party POD supplier.

So, in order to kill two birds with one stone I thought I’d take the old Microsoft Publisher files and move the content to InDesign and into a template that will be compatible for POD on DriveThruRPG.

That way I get a 10th anniversary edition and it’s much easier for people looking for a printed copy to find one.

But the big question is – what text should go in it.

Currently, I have three versions of the game in my files:

  1. Dark Dungeons – This is the original game, albeit the second printing (which replaced the to-hit table of the first edition with a much simpler d20 + attack bonus + AC >= 20 formula.
  2. Darker Dungeons – This was my version that included house rules rather than sticking to the original game it was based on. Chiefly, it had:
    • All mechanics were unified under the d20 + bonus + modifiers >= 20 mechanic
    • I added Weapon Mastery abilities to shields, rather than them giving a flat bonus to AC
    • I took a lot of the randomness out of character generation, using a standard array for ability scores instead of rolling for them and using average values for hit points instead of rolling for them
    • I added the Mountebank class (a half spell user)
    • I mostly swapped the Magic-User and Elf classes, so that the Elf is now the one who is weak and can’t wear armour whereas the Magic-User is the one who can both fight and wear armour but needs more xp to level up
    • I split out the Druid from the Cleric completely, and gave them a Command Animal ability to replace Turn Undead
    • I reflavoured the Mystic class to a Beastman race, swapping the martial artist theme for a race that got more bestial as they got more experience
    • I added specialisation for Magic-Users and Clerics so that they could specialise in a particular type of magic
  3. Darker Dungeons Revised – I never finished this one. It took the Darker Dungeons rules and added a few changes to them (there would have been more changes, but the project never got very far):
    • Reflavoured the Mystic again, this time to a Warlock
    • I added a Warlord option for a high level fighter as an alternative to becoming a Chevalier
    • I added a new racial class – the Clockwork – based on Eberron’s Warforged

As I say, the big question is which of those – if any – should be used as the basis for a 10th anniversary edition.

My first thoughts are that I’d want to include at least some of the Darker Dungeons material. The original Dark Dungeons was designed to be a close clone of the original game because the original game wasn’t available other than second hand for extortionate prices. That’s changed now – you can buy the original game in digital and POD versions – so there’s no reason for the 10th edition to slavishly stick to it. If people want to play a strict original-game–compliant game they can simply buy the original.

So I think the issue is how much of the additional Darker Dungeons (and Darker Dungeons Revised) material should be in there?

I’m definitely intending to use the unified mechanics and the druid. I’m less certain about the other changes.

(By the way, if anyone has any suggestions, I’ve created a discussion thread over at The Piazza.)


Lightmaster Print-on-Demand Version Now Available

I’ve received my proof copies from the printer, and they’re fine. In fact they’re more than fine – they’re beautiful.

It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for proofs and always a relief when they arrive; and these ones arrived earlier than I expected. I thought it would be another week or so. When I ordered them, it said they’d take 7-13 days to arrive; but they arrived in five.

Anyway, since the proofs are good I’ve gone ahead and made the Print-on-Demand option public over on DriveThruRPG.

It may take a day or so for them to appear there – there’s usually a slight delay.

At the Printers…

Well, after just over a week’s worth of intensive proofreading and editing, I’ve declared Lightmaster finished.

I’ve uploaded the digital files to DriveThruRPG and sent them to the printers for the Print-on-Demand version.

Once they’re approved, I’ll order myself a proof copy – and assuming that looks fine I’ll open the two books up to the public and add a page for the game to this website.

Now comes the nail-biting waiting game…

First Draft Completed!

It’s been a while, because I’ve had a health and work issues that have eaten up the spare time I have to work on things, but now – eventually – I have a first draft of Lightmaster finished.

In terms of changes since the last version, the big one is that I now have the “Extras” chapter with statistics for over 150 antagonists, from stock NPCs to animals to dragons, demons, and beings from other planets. I’m sure there are a few smaller changes too, but I don’t recall the exact details.

Obviously it’s going to need a couple of editing passes before I formally put it up for download (and Print on Demand), but finishing the first draft is always a major milestone in a project.

Anyway, here it is:



In the middle of a big change

So, in case anyone’s wondering why there were three or four updates in quick succession and then a gap, it’s because I’m making quite a large change to the game.

Blood, Guts & Glory only went to 20th level, while the game that inspired it went all the way to 50th level.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks expanding Lightmaster to go all the way to 50th level.

The biggest job, which I’ve nearly finished, is reformatting and updating all 147 spell paths to add the higher level spells to them. As I say, I’ve almost finished that (I’ve done 135/147 so far) and it has the side effect that the spell paths are now laid out in a much better manner as well as containing more spells.

While that’s the biggest job, there’s now a whole list of other changes I have to make too…

  1. The skill chart needs to give skill bonuses for up to 100 ranks in a skill, rather than just up to 40 ranks. I think that I’m going to remove the inflated bonuses for low level characters – I’ll have to, because otherwise higher level characters will have ridiculously high skill totals.
  2. There might be a couple of skills that need revisiting because of this. I’m thinking in particular of the Sneak Attack, Mana Transfer, and Toughness skills. They are all currently balanced for the 1-40 rank scale and might get weird at high levels.
  3. Speaking of which, I probably need to add a “Behind the Curtain” sidebar talking about how high level skill totals mean that characters are almost supernaturally talented, and that characters with high skill totals should be allowed to get away with stretching realism to breaking point with what they can do.
  4. I need to re-visit how the Spell Path Research skills work.
  5. I need to revisit the pre-generated item lists for crafting spells. Since there will now be three more higher level spells on each crafting spell path, I need to add higher level items to the lists that can be made with those spells.
  6. Those higher level crafting spells contain at least one new type of item: constant items. I therefore need to update the crafting chapter with how these work. I think I’ll need strict guidelines so they don’t get out of hand.
  7. I need to extend the level table for characters of level 21-50. Not only does this need experience totals for those higher levels, I also need to consider what to do with ability score increases. Currently you get these every other level, but over fifty levels that will be too much. Or will it? I need to think about this. Saving throw bonuses aren’t a problem, because I’ve already got them going up to level 100 for monsters.
  8. I need to think a bit about the economy. High level characters will be stinking rich – especially if I continue to use the gold-for-xp rate that I have currently. I might need to tweak that.
  9. I should probably add something somewhere about demographics. If characters can go up to 50th level, and NPCs are intended to use the same classes as PCs, how many NPCs of different levels should you see. Should there be a 10th level priest in the village temple? Should there be a 20th level runesmith in the city? How many 50th level necromancers actually exist in the world? And so forth.
  10. I need to go through all the examples in the books checking the numbers to make sure that they match the new skill ranks and totals rather than the old ones.
  11. The info on magical materials in the crafting chapter needs updating because there are now more different types of metal that can be enchanted.

I’ve taken time out of updating the spell paths as I’ve gone along, and so far I’ve done numbers 1-4 on that list.

More progress, and some covers!

I’ve made more progress with Lightmaster since my last update.

Firstly, I’ve added the chapter on sky and space travel using Lightmaster sails on a ship. This is the element of the game from which it takes its name, and it should be familiar to players of Dark Dungeons since it’s the same system of flying ships and celestial spheres and luminiferous aether that I used in that game.

Secondly I’ve been through a first editing pass of the rules cleaning up the text. No big changes there, but it should have got rid of all the typos and mis-spellings and the like. I’m bound to have missed a couple, but I think I got most of them.

Thirdly, I’ve now done the covers for the two books, as you can see below:

Lightmaster RulebookBook of Tables

Lastly, I’ve changed the colour scheme within the book to make the example text less eye-watering and to make the background behind the tables have a higher contrast with the text in the tables so they are easier to read.

There’s new “work in progress” versions of the two books here:



A Work-In-Progress Preview

Lightmaster is progressing well, I’ve only got a couple more chapters to go and then it’s ready for the usual proofreading and editing passes.

I thought I’d put up some “Work in Progress” documents so you can see what it will be like when it’s finished:



There’s not a lot to add, really. That’s what the insides of the two books are (probably) going to look like.

In case you’re wondering, the two blank pages at the start of the rulebook are a placeholder for a bit of intro fiction. Nothing fancy, just something to set the tone. Simlarly, the blank page at the end of the rulebook is just a spacer so that I didn’t need to re-format the license. There are actually another two chapters to go in there where that spacer is.

I’m still not 100% sure on the formatting of the Book of Tables. Since it’s designed to have individual pages printed out from it, I’ve deliberately kept the formatting to a minimum. I’m not sure about the table style for the various tables, though. I’ll need to do some testing to see if they look okay when printed on a home printer – if not, I might need to simplify them further.

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.


Lightmaster – Project Update

So, the Lightmaster project is going well.

Of the two books (the Rulebook and the Book of Tables), I’ve started both. I’ve made the most progress with the Rulebook, in that I’ve got chapters 1-7 (of 13 total) fully written, edite, and layed out with artwork. Other than any last-minute edits that I have to do when proofreading, those chapters are completely finished.

Although that’s only just over half of the book in terms of chapter count, it’s well over half in terms of page count since it includes some of the longest chapters.

For reference, here’s the full chapter list with those I’ve finished crossed off:

  1. Foreword (1 page)
  2. The Game’s Setting (4 pages)
  3. Basic Mechanics (6 pages)
  4. Skills (17 pages)
  5. Creating a Character (26 pages)
  6. Equipment (18 pages)
  7. Magic (13 pages)
  8. Adventuring (estimated 5 pages)
  9. Combat (estimated 10 pages)
  10. Injury and Healing (estimated 4 pages)
  11. Lightmaster Travel (estimated 6 pages)
  12. Crafting (estimated 8 pages)
  13. Extras (estimated 12 pages)

So – assuming my estimates for the size of as-yet unwritten chapters is correct – I’m around 60% through the book.

My estimates should be pretty accurate for the most part, I think, since for all the chapters that are left I already have the raw text from earlier drafts. The Adventuring, Combat, Injury & Healing, and Crafting chapters are largely unchanged from Blood, Guts & Glory and big chunks of the Lightmaster Travel chapter draw heavily on the material in Dark Dungeons. It all needs tweaking to match the new rules, of course, but the core of it isn’t significantly changing.

The Book of Tables is much more straightforward, in that it has a lot less ambiguity. There’s much less formatting and layout to be done, since the whole point of it is that it is designed to have individual pages printed off – so it doesn’t have the fancy formatting or atwork that the Rulebook has.

Since I went through the Rulebook’s chapters and their page counts, I suppose I should do the same with the Book of Tables, and this will give you a sneak peek at the character classes that exist! Again, I’m crossing out the sections I’ve already done:

  1. Crafting Recipes (10 pages)
  2. Chirurgeon Spell Paths (6 pages)
  3. Conjurer Spell Paths (6 pages)
  4. Empath Spell Paths (6 pages)
  5. Haruspex Spell Paths (6 pages)
  6. Necromancer Spell Paths (6 pages)
  7. Occultist Spell Paths (6 pages)
  8. Priest Spell Paths (6 pages)
  9. Ravager Spell Paths (6 pages)
  10. Rhymer Spell Paths (5 pages)
  11. Runesmith Spell Paths (6 pages)
  12. Spellsword Spell Paths (5 pages)
  13. Visionary Spell Paths (6 pages)
  14. Warden Spell Paths (5 pages)
  15. Warlock Spell Paths (6 pages)
  16. Witch Spell Paths (6 pages)
  17. Common Arcane Spell Paths (10 pages)
  18. Esoteric Arcane Spell Paths (10 pages)
  19. Common Divine Spell Paths (10 pages)
  20. Esoteric Divine Spell Paths (10 pages)
  21. Common Psychic Spell Paths (10 pages)
  22. Esoteric Psychic Spell Paths (10 pages)
  23. Attack Tables (46 pages)
  24. Critical Strike Tables (8 pages)

As you can see, there’s a huge amount of work still to be done on this – by page count I’m only about 35% through this one. However, the task isn’t as daunting as it first appears because like the Rulebook chapters I already have all the spell paths written – it’s “just” a matter of tweaking their formatting and making sure the spell descriptions match the new rules (which the vast majority of them do already). Tweaking the formatting won’t take much doing, either, since the formatting of the spell paths isn’t significantly changing. So despite the extra page count I reckon this should actually go much quicker than the Rulebook.