Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Lume

I am having trouble with light.
You see people type the word ‘sigh’, as if the sigh they made in real life was gusted onto the page and you think ‘that will never be me’ then one day it is you.


Sometimes ideas leap into you and you go and sometimes its like grinding and grinding and nothing happens and that’s what it is like now.

The means of carrying and projecting light are central. Darkness is assumed, rather than rare so you always need to have light. This is pretty much a basic idea tht has persisted right from first conception until now.

This makes a problem because it’s another thing to count and keep track of. And these are the things that people always hate counting and keeping track of. Encumbrance and ‘who’s got the lantern’, and I have based a whole world idea around focusing very carefully on the most boring parts that everyone ignores.

As well as that, light is so many things. 

Light is firstly something you have to carry in the form of fuel, secondly your only means of finding your way and securing more life, thirdly a valuable thing which you can trade for, exchange to seek out and fourthly a resource that is always being eaten away.

Not to mention that in the darkness it literally connects you to the imagined world and enables you to play in an interesting way. (Though I have given some thought to what happens when the light goes out.)

In addition to all this, other problems are looming into my vision. I had some time ago considered the problem of time underground. The sun is gone and in real life people who like in the deep away from the suns cycle for a long period of time have their body cycles change. Time bends for them a bit. They stay away longer, sleep longer. The total balance of sleep and wakefulness remains about the same but stretched and deformed.

I wanted to include this in the game (I liked the idea of players slowly becoming aware that their own body clocks had changed and that they were becoming different) but if time shifts it raises the problem of measuring it. 

Distance relates to time. The main point about distance is how long it takes to get somewhere.
So time, distance, light, money, weight and everything are all bound together really.

I didn’t want to add a whole new thing to the sheet, on top of everything that’s already on there. So I made a list of the number we already have available to see which light is most like. So that I could use those numbers or that system in my simulation.

HD – Players already track this obsessively. It’s the number that goes up and down more than any other. Its literally vital. My first idea was to have ‘Light Dice’ or ‘Lamp Dice’ that you counted. There are the different shapes of dice to add depth so different sources could be divided up by number of dice and type. One kind of lamp is 5d4, another is 2d6. Somehow these interact with the darkness. 

But that would be another minigame and I don’t want that.

AC – Light is a little like armour, it can be said to surround and protect you. You also ‘wear’ it to some degree. This is not what I need. The stat type lacks variability.

Weapons – Lamps are very much like weapons. They are carried and useful, they have different qualities. People like tracking what weapons they have. You don’t have to bully them into remembering them.
Saves – No.
Stats – No.
Treasure – Very much like treasure for the reasons given above. Must be carried, a resource, always running out.

Anyway I pretty much ended up making light a currency. The Lume. A Lume is a measure of light over time. It is also worth one GP (Or silver piece in LOTFP). 

I tried several measures of time. A Turn per Lume, A Day per Lume. I settled on an hour.
1 Hour of Light =  1 Lume = 1 Gold Piece.

And that’s essentially it.

Oil becomes light. Light gets you more time. Time gets you more money. Money gets you more oil. Oil, money, light and time all in one.

The Lume is most perfectly expressed in Oil. If you have oil, you can always trade it underground as if it were gold. If you have other means of making light than you can trade that as well. But other things are also measured in Lumes.

There are a bunch of problems. This cost for oil is a shitload more than the OD&D standard. That would be like this;

Candles radius 10 lasts 12 turns/2hrs (Costs 1cp) 0.5cp per Lume
Lantern oil flask radius 30 lasts 24 turns/4hrs (Costs 5cp) 1.25cp per Lume
Torch  radius 30 lasts 6 turns/1hr (Costs 1cp) 1cp per Lume

That’s in copper pieces so I think my version is about ten times as expensive. It kind-of makes sense as light is much more valuable down there than in, for instance, a dungeon.

Here are a few kinds of light I have scraped together so far.


Cancer Fulgens


Uranium Nitrate
Refillable/Psychic Whales

Atomic Candle
X-Ray tube
Needs diamonds

Some explanations. Bioluminescent things are living things in jars. You need to feed them and they have a lifespan. These Lumes will burn whether you want them to or not. Some may have a reaction factor (certain organisms turn their lights off when scared). You can also poison phosphorescent plankton with ammonia and they will burn brighter as they die. I may extend this rule to all bio lights.

You can make lights by shaking or disturbing crystals of different kinds. The Ute Indians did this with quartz in instruments that they shook as they danced at night. The only bad thing about these is that you are basically shaking maracas underground.

Diamonds fluoresce under UV and X Rays. Duergar or Archeans will have X ray emitters, you just need disposable diamonds to make them work.

(Chemiluminescence is complex, hopefully more of that later.)


  1. Seems workable?
    If you wanted to make combustation lights less attractive, emphasis the problems of generating heat , smoke and consuming extra oxygen underground. I guess the more advanced white spirit burning hurricane lamps don't have this problem as much though.

    1. It isnt really built around making anything less attractive as an option. If anything Biolights are a bigger problem as they work quite differently.

      Oil can translate more easily directly into currency and you can decide when and how you use it.

  2. This is a really interesting idea... It makes sense that light would be a currency in the deep dark.