[Review] Lighthouse Roleplaying System

Lighthouse Roleplaying SystemLighthouse Roleplaying System by Berin Kinsman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Buy it at DriveThruRPG: Lighthouse Roleplaying System

I picked up Lighthouse because I have found that my tastes in roleplaying game systems have drifted more towards the simple and narrative, rather than the complex and rules-laden. Everything I read about Lighthouse told me it would be along the same conceptual lines as other games with those qualities I already liked, so I went for it.

I like a lot what Kinsman has done in Lighthouse, a lot. This is a narrative-focused system that highlights descriptive devices, using dice mechanics sparingly and meaningfully to drive the story forward with an eye towards drama.

In Lighthouse, characters are built using descriptions with varying levels of importance/complexity–Big, Medium, and Small Things–each with its own numeric bonus. Rather than get bogged down in extensive skill lists and abilities, what a character can do is derived organically from each Thing description in conversation between the player and the Guide (Game Master).

The resolution mechanic is simple, using a d20 + modifiers to achieve either a low (1-10) or high (11-20), odd or even result. You then put forth a die bid, a die which determines how much you’re investing into that particular roll, ranging from d4 (barely invested) to d12 (you’re all in). A low result is a failure, high is a success, odd means Guide narrates, even means rolling player narrates, with the bid die determining the level of success/failure.

Threats to the characters are handled using narrative devices called Consequences, which are tied to the bid die. Characters have five slots of increasing degree of seriousness with which to absorb “damage” received during conflicts, from d4 (a very light consequence) to d12 (a potentially-permanent consequence). Consequences are dictated by the narrative, and are meant to evoke drama, not bad luck with the dice, so that no one bites the dust unless everyone playing agrees it is the proper, dramatic consequence.

The Lighthouse book includes a number of character examples drawn from easily-identifiable pop-culture stories, showcasing the versatility of the system, while the example of play helps the reader see how the pieces all fit together when in use. To this add that the book is only $3.00, and you have an easy-to-use, new-player friendly, storytelling-driven, affordable game that can power pretty much any story you and your friends want to play through at the table.

Dancing Lights Press has already published a couple of games powered by Lighthouse, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the system moves for each of those settings, as well as in what ways it can be hacked at home.

If you like Fate Accelerated Edition, or value dramatic storytelling over task simulation in your roleplaying games, pick up Lighthouse and give it a spin. Personally, I can’t wait to do so.

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