full disclosure: i’m biased. some of my best friends wrote this system, and i moderate their ttrpg company’s discord server. that said, i met them through the system and played it before we became close. so there’s that! but i don’t want to shill something without disclosing where i’m coming from
fire emblem but gay and trans
heroes of lite is a ttrpg based on the fire emblem franchise. for those of you familiar with it, it takes particular inspiration from heroes (mechanically) and from the tellius series. for those of you who aren’t, don’t worry! the lore it uses is explained in the book, and if you don’t like or care about or know about fire emblem, you can still enjoy it as the rules-lite grid-based tactics game that it is. designed to be playable with pen and paper, heroes of lite involves math so basic that even a dipshit like me can manage it most of the time, while maintaining an impressively high degree of character customization: it’s classless, letting you instead mix and match character movement types and weapons. you can then allocate points to your stats freely, allowing you to fill whatever party role you so desire, and there’s a huge range of skills that let you emphasize your existing role, increase your utility, or put you in a more specific niche. the fact that it manages to do all this while remaining as light as it does really impresses me. part of it, i think, is that you don’t have to keep everything in your head all at once.
a big part of heroes of lite is teamwork and cooperation! each player will have at least one character under their control—in my experience, if you have more than one, there’s one character who’s fully yours and the rest are NPCs for whom you control their combat decisions, but not their stats, build, or rp. instead of a traditional initiative, there’s “player phase” and “enemy phase;” all the players move on player phase, one at a time, in whatever order you want. this means you end up with strategies such as “i’m going to move alice so she can attack this enemy, and if she kills it successfully, bob can move on ahead, but if she misses, eve has to go in to take care of the enemy because the enemy will kill bob on enemy phase if bob is in range.” there’s a consistency to it that helps strategize: you have to roll to hit, but you know how much damage you’re going to take and receive because you get to see enemy stats and damage is calculated instead of rolled, so it focuses on tactics over pure luck.
there are out-of-combat rules, but not many. you have six stats, three of which you determine at character creation and three of which are based on your in-combat stats, and only the latter can change because only your in-combat stats ever change. heroes of lite is meant to be played mostly on battle maps: to be totally clear, theater of mind combat isn’t an option. for me, though, especially as someone who hates numbers but loves fire emblem, it’s exactly the right amount of tactical crunch and freeform rp.
- this game is superbly balanced. it’s been through a lot lot lot of playtesting, and it has been handed to people like “hey, please break this game” and then handed back like “i’m usually very good at this and i tried very hard and i can’t do it.” it’s extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to make a bad build unless you’re trying to, and even then, it might not work
- it’s easy to learn! i’ve run a lot of tutorial sessions of this game and consistently am told that they’ve gone very well. as i would with any such game, of course i recommend starting at lower levels to play for the first time, but the basic mechanics stay the same, and skill interactions aren’t likely to get like a billion layers deep, so the actual act of play never gets disgustingly complex at high levels like in other grid-based combat games
- like i said, it is SUPER hard to make a bad build, but in a campaign format, if you aren’t making plans in advanced, it isn’t difficult to regret parts of your build: i’ve allocated points in places that ended up being useless very quickly after realizing i wasn’t enjoying or otherwise going in a certain direction and shifted gears, and i’ve picked skills that don’t get much use or don’t actually synchronize well with where the rest of my build ends up going
- on the gm side, making interesting maps is absolutely a learnable skill, but it’s hard—this isn’t necessarily a skill exclusive to heroes of lite, since there are plenty of grid-based systems that utilize terrain, but i’d argue that it’s particularly important in heroes of lite, where terrain’s existence effects balance at a basic level. i ran a short campaign of this game once and making good maps was so difficult for me that it’s turned me off of gming anything more than a low-level one shot
would i play it again?
i am going to be playing it again next tuesday and i’m very excited about it
get the game!
heroes of lite is made by nat twentea, and you can download it for free here! they also have a discord server which regularly runs one shots, in and out of a consistent shared universe, and advertises for campaigns, which you can join here.