Brighter Worlds

Brighter Worlds is a tabletop role-playing game designed for one Game Master and one or more players. The Game Master, or GM, will describe a world, while players will take control of unique characters to adventure within that world. Each player will want a set of dice ranging from 4 sided through 12 sided.

It is heavily derived from Cairn, Electric Bastionland, and Macchiato Monsters along with several other games. If you’re unfamiliar with TTRPGs in general, or the more lightweight open-ended games in particular, I strongly recommend taking a look at any of those three games which provide excellent introductions and explanations.

This game can be used out of the box as a complete TTRPG. However, it is designed to fit the idiosyncrasies of my particular table and my particular players. I would expect most readers to use, modify, or toss out individual parts as desired. If nothing else the Callings should be easy to port to any other Into the Odd or Cairn derived game, and with more effort could be ported to other games.


Brighter Worlds is an attempt to solve a particular sort of problem I’ve found in playing RPGs. I’m a GM who wants simple, lightweight rules that let me run adventures with minimal prep. However some of my players want detailed character creation with choices and options, along with mechanical advancement and growth. All of us want combat to be quick and decisive, while staying exciting.

My solution was to make the character options and mechanics primarily player facing, so the person at the table most interested in interacting with them is the person responsible for doing so. I’ve also made each Calling relatively modular to reduce the need for a player to read and know the entire book. All that should be required are the few pages of general rules, and the text on their own Calling’s page.

Modular Crunch

Part of what this game is designed for is to appeal to players who like to build characters by assembling options and making choices, as well as players who like having their own little “fiddly bits” of rules and mechanics to muck around with.

However, not every player wants this and for more complex rule sets with interlocking mechanics, each new ability or class feature contributes to the overall word count and complexity of the game. My solution here is to try and give each Calling isolated mechanics. That is, a Calling can have a fiddly crunchy mechanics, but they’re self contained and the other players at the table don’t have to know how they works. They also doesn’t require much from the GM aside from a final thumbs up, or suggested alteration.

A big part of the goal for the structure of the Callings is to allow players to say, “yeah this is something I care about and want to be doing,” and choose a Calling that will support that type of play.


Although the modules I’m running at my table are ostensibly OSR, grim, and dark the way my players tend to approach them is far more lighthearted and absurdist. They can be found:

  • Politely knocking on dungeon doors before opening them.
  • Declaring that some new creature they met is their best friend (despite ample evidence to the contrary).
  • Spending considerably more time and effort debating the legality of their dungeon crawl than worrying about logistics and tactics.

I try to support this theme through the mechanics in a few ways. One is by giving Callings interesting tools to interact with the world and the people who live in it. Another is reducing lethality with the Mark of Death rule: the decisiveness and consequences of combat is maintained, but now the mostly likely consequence of Death is that things get weird. Most visibly, and importantly, the tone is carried by Evlyn’s incredible artwork.


Brighter Worlds draws most heavily from Cairn, Electric Bastionland, and Macchiato Monsters as role playing game predecessors. Other games that played a role include Into the Odd, 2400, the Whitehack, Bonepunk, the Goblin Laws of Gaming, and Class Warfare.

For fiction, the Demonic Sorcerer and Great Soul Shaman were inspired by Lois McMaster Bujold’s “World of the Five Gods” and her “Penric & Desdemona” series in particular. These books also form a good baseline for the type of irreverent adventure with lots of talking to people that I’m interested in. Blessed of Water, and to lesser extents the Alchemist and Witch, were inspired by Madeline Miller’s “Circe”. The Cleric of Small Gods was inspired by Anne Leckie’s “The Raven Tower” (someday I will write a game about simply being a large rock on a hill). “Kino’s Journey” and “Mushishi” are two additional useful touchstones for the tone and feel of the journey-style story that I’d like to capture with this game.


Brighter Worlds is unfinished. Many of the Callings have not been playtested, and parts of the rules are still being stress tested and changed (although the core bits are relatively stable now). It’s very likely that somewhere in the 100 spells and rituals there’s something horrifically broken, so use at your own risk.

Expect things to change in future versions, and if you happen to play the game and have thoughts please do let me know (on mastadon , through my itch page, in the NSR or Cairn discord servers, or anywhere else you can find me).