Saturday, March 7, 2020

Lighthouse Rules 0.1

This idea has been percolating for a while. Not just a hack, but an actual ruleset.

Everything here is subject to change according to foppery and whim. 


Players are members of Lighthouse, a civilian volunteer organization that serves as an intermediary between the public and the paranormal, be that investigative, protective, interpretive, diplomatic, or scholarly.
  • The first notes for this idea are dating to the summer of 2012. Let it never be said that I am not terribly patient with my ideas.
  • Surprising no one, I am straight mainlining a whole lot of SCP influence on this one. More on that down the page.

Pithy Elevator Words

  • A game about the paranormal, poverty, and holding on to hope in a fucked up world.

What is the paranormal?

  • There is the 'normal'- the world defined by the laws of coherent cause and effect. The paranormal is everything that violates and bypasses this - paracausality. It shouldn't work, but here it is.
  • The world is anticanonical - fluff will be provided as starting points and leading questions, the reader will draw the connections between points.
  • No real-world folklore or esoteric tradition carries over into the setting. There are no fairies, vampires, werewolves, etc. If it ever looks like something like that, you ought to be suspicious, because it is definitely not the truth.
  • The paranormal is absurd, as well as terrifying and often beautiful.

What about the poverty?

  • You are neither rich nor powerful. You aren't playing as an organization with bottomless military black budget and cool toys. You have to make do with what you have.
  • Rich and powerful people do not have your interests in mind and they will do everything they can to fuck you over.
  • Humza Kazmi's community rules have a high priority of getting adapted in some way.

What's up with the fucked up world?

  • Police brutality, the surveillance state, voter suppression, catastrophic climate change, insulin rationing, ultranationalists in the streets, pick an expression of systematized oppression and it will fit here.
  • Because it is anticanonical, whether or not it is our own fucked up world is preferential. I prefer it as our own through a mirror darkly.
  • Players have to navigate, survive, and resist the course of the fucked-up world.
I love myself some new-weird-modern-paranormal-conspiracy-horror, but (and I am certainly not the first person to say this) conspiracies aren't particularly fun anymore. They are something to be resisted.

Really Though, What Do You Do? 

  • Weird shit is going down, go investigate it and try to keep everyone relatively safe.

Preliminary Rules

Corewise, this is a whole lot of GLOG and Black Hack, but for Esoteric Enterprises
  • I love me some EE for it's compatibility with basically everything else I own, but I want to experiment with making a rule set more directed to the theme I have in mind.
Core mechanic is roll-under stat on a d20
  • Straight from Black Hack. No need to change what works. It's nice and clean and I like it more than modifiers.
Stats are generated by rolling 4d4.
  • Pulled directly from GLOG. I like the range this gives, as even at the absolute minimum you still have a 20% chance of success, and at highest you end up with 80%. 
If for whatever reason a stat would go above 16, you get Advantage.
  • The only competition to advantage in my books is boons / banes from Shadow of the Demon Lord and since this is roll-under there's no simpler option than
The stats are (names subject to change) Body, Reflex, Mind, Spirit, Violence, and Thaumics
  • The Tough / Fast / Booksmart / Emotional Intelligence quartet is solid as hell and sells itself. It works in Shadow of the Demon Lord, it works in Disco Elysium, it just works.
  • Combat and magic get their own stats because they are separate disciplines. Just because someone is strong doesn't mean they are necessarily good at committing violence against other people, and just because someone is smart doesn't mean they can figure out the ontological knot of paracausality.  
  • Thaumics is absolutely getting a different name, probably an acronym because "applied paracausality" is a mouthful.
Skills, I'm not certain about skills.
  • Option 1: Skills work kinda like how they do in Troika!
    • Skills are added to the appropriate stat when you try to roll under. 
    • Minimum of 1, maximum of 4. Freeform, no set list.
    • Any skill can be used for any stat, if you can swing the reason why halfway well.
    • Skills that raise a stat above 16 just give you advantage vs 16.
  • Option 2: Skills give you advantage on that thing.
    • Can still be used for any stat if you can swing the reason,
Things That Are Definitely Going to Be Involved
  • Lateral Advancement -You will be able to spend Insight gained while out to unlock new abilities, learn new spells, purchase items, upgrade your hideout, or unlock changes to the world around you. Think of it has your carryover currency in a roguelike.
  • Armor negates damage - Straight from Black Hack. Since weapons will not do traditional damage in points, having typical damage reduction isn't needed.
  • Spells for everyone - Magic is fun, everyone gets to use the fun things.This is what the Thaumics stat is for - spells have a cost, and if you fail your roll, you get a fun backfire table!
  • Violence will fuck you up - Explanatory on its own.
Things That Are Definitely Not Featured
  • HP - If the hit is successful, there shouldn't be 'not getting hit points" to make it a technical miss. That's boring and I don't like it.
  • Levels and Traditional XP - Busywork. Toss it all.
  • Money - The only time money has ever been fun for me was a Unicorn Meat playtest where the players had to budget out their rations and decide how much they could afford to spend on supplies, if they could risk hunting for more meat, and how much was to be kept to eat and restore HP. I want that. Any currency (Demon Liquor, likely) will only be in single digits.
  • Worrying about food or light - Modern day game, these are irrelevant outside of special circumstances.
  • A traditional bestiary - No stats, just descriptions of how they interact with their environment.
Stress and Keeping Your Shit Together
  • Stress is player-directed. No interruptions from the referee calling for rolls breaking up the flow. When a player sees something that they would expect to freak out about, they make a Spirit check. On failure, they are forced into a fight/flight/freeze scenario, which might have an additional die roll (weighted according to the likeliness of outcomes)
Character Creation
  • As of now it seems to be a choice of three "cards", essentially - archetype, background, and occupation. Each of these will have a trait and 3-4 points of skills (if that is indeed how skills will go.)
  • It is very Troika! at the moment but I won't lie Trophy Gold is a fine piece of chargen too.
  • This part is the most up in the air at the moment. I might even choose to forgoe it entirely and just lead with a bunch of premades.
Other Things
  • Players will have input on creating the City, their hideout, and Delvers' the underworld hub-bar.
  • The scope is tightened to the City, the surrounding environs, and the Underworld.
 And that's where we are so far. Tell me what you think!


  1. Dump some feedback in these comments!

  2. Can you explain more how armour/damage works?

    1. It's not super well developed in my head, but basically any successful weapon attack falls into "causes a wound, victim can keep going", "causes a wound, victim is incapacitated" and "you're just dead".

      Armor will be able to negate or reduce severity damage a certain number of times.

      Big wound tables will be featured.

    2. For City Dark system I just thought on taking Esoteric Enterprises wounds table, add a couple of minor wounds at the beginning and let the armour shift the wound/damage severity up, with majority of severe wounds having something like 'needs urgent hospitalization/surgery to stay alive' attribute.

    3. 'shift damage up', i.e. to beginning of the table where wounds are less severe.

    4. If your using the GLOG as a influence.. All attacks go right to the Death and Dismemberment table? And Armor can negate a set number of hits/damage before it needs to be repaired?

    5. Maybe something like damage rules in Weaverdice? I think there they had fun injury tables for every successful hit.

    6. Haven't heard of that but I will look into it!

  3. Why can’t RL folklore and such be ‘translated’? All the legends of vampires and such had to come from *somewhere*, and with the paranormal in play, why not have things *like* those but weirder be in play?

    1. if I could yeet my own defense in: any "esoteric terror" that's shitty enough at hiding that it's made it's way into folklore has probably been exterminated by now :P

    2. My post on the Haemohelotes illustrates how I want to treat this sort of thing, when it comes up. They are definitely pale-skinned nocturnal corpse-eaters, but they're explicitly not vampires.

      This is a lot of personal preference on my part - as soon as the name is applied there is an air of familiarity, understandability, recognizable visuals. I don't want that.

      Maybe there's a man-dog hybrid monster out there. But it's 300 feet long, lives in your pipes, and won't stop signing Chinese folk songs.

  4. I think a max of four skills is too few (unless you mean a max of four at chargen with more attainable through advancement, which seems great)

    1. Under the troika-like method (and if I go for trophy, under that too), it will be 3-4 skills per 'card', so you are starting out with 9-12 skills and three features.

  5. "Stress is player-directed. No interruptions from the referee calling for rolls breaking up the flow. When a player sees something that they would expect to freak out about, they make a Spirit check."

    Brilliant. You didn't specify what happened on a success, but I can see this being a core gameplay gimmick. On a success, you get to act directly against an enemy (the default being that you can't). On a failure, you take stress.

  6. How do you plan on implementing monsters in a statless way?

    1. I want to make those entries as diegetic as I can, as if they were entries written in the pc's in-universe guidebook.

      So, for example, a creature's entry might take note of how it has a spongy, cartilaginous body, sharp teeth, and smells like petrichor. That's all a referee really needs for its properties in a fight.

  7. So when you say "Conspiracies are things to be resisted" do you mean that the Conspiracy theories are created by actors who are equally misinformed or malicious, and the conspiracies are distractions from the real truth? Or are you implying to members of the lighthouse, all the conspiracies are true? Example, the New World Order is not a theory, their agents tried to break in last night to steal our supply of powdered unicorn horn.

    1. It's a mix - there are conspiracies that don't actually exist, but the actions taken by those who believe them cause harm to others.

      Then there are the ones that actually do exist, which are almost unilaterally "awful people in power doing awful things to maintain and increase that power" - but those ones are much more likely to be along the lines "the party in power redrew voting districts to prevent the opposition from ever being viable" than "the NWO is controlling everything!"

      The MIB exist, but they exist for stupid cruel human reasons and everyone would have been better off if a few folks some decades back had decided to not be stupid and cruel.

  8. This sounds very cool, looking forward to seeing how it goes. One of these days I'm going to finally get a better mic and start playing online again if you're ever playtesting 0.o...

  9. Um, lol I had a stupid idea a bit ago to combine and mash this post and your other two most recent blog posts with two other sets of three from other blogs to create a unified setting/gameworld. I hope that my usage of this early stage of your system is okay? I really think I could create an interesting world here.

    1. If you hold on a tic I'll have even more tools for you!

  10. I support this. After a couple games of Esoteric Enterprise, the world creation rules are great, but the game system needs serious work.