Game design is like cooking, decorating the house, or picking out my clothes in the morning. I need to know the problem I’m solving for. Every Sunday, for example, I make pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The goal is to create a special and relaxed morning for me and my wife. During the week, that wouldn’t fly. I just need to get some food in my face so I can get to work. For home decor, the lighting needs in the bedroom are different from those of the kitchen. I pick soothing tones in the space where we sleep, but favor bolder, more energetic colors in the room where we hang with our friends. I can wear my sweats around the house, the joy of working from home, but I would not wear them to a meeting in a professional environment. Different needs, different problems.
The Lighthouse System was designed to be my default go-to system. That meant that it needed to meet two separate sets of needs. As a gamemaster, I want to be able to focus on the story. I want things to play quickly, without having to look up rules or consult tables. Give me mechanics that are there when needed but fall out of the way when they’re not. As a player, I want to be able to create any sort of character I can envision, provided that they suit the setting. I hate the limitations of pick lists. Show me how to make character abilities, and then let me go wild creating my character!
The Problem I’m Solving For
Knowing the problem you’re solving for helps to explain your game to other people. It’s not just about what you can do with it, or how it works. It’s important to know why. Those other people have preconceived notions, and their own needs. They’re solving for their own problems as they’re looking over systems and mechanics. As they’re reading, they’re asking why you didn’t include this, or why so much space is devoted to that. Make it clear. Lighthouse was designed for speed. Less die rolling, more talking, roleplaying, interaction between the people at the table. One problem I was solving for was giving more agency to players, and letting them share narration. Knowing that give you necessary context for my design choices.