Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Proto-Worlds Are Coming

Well, it's been a long few weeks of stress.  My sister and nephew are living just outside of Houston.  Need I say more?  Oh, and my dad and step-mother are living in Boca Raton, FL.  So ... there you have it.  Bit of a nervous wreck here.

But nevertheless, the work goes on.  I am a World Weaver, and my love of this is strong.  :)

So lately I'm working on Proto-Worlds for the Mythos Machine.  It's coming along well. Right now I'm revamping the Fantasy World with a better set of characters and adventures.  It's fun.  Making progress.  Here are some character and place sketches related to Griswold ...

The Lovely Marya

Evil Minion

Arch Villain

Arch Villain's Castle on Iron Mountain

The Sullen Stooge

Master Feng Liu - World Traveler

Secret Fortress (don't tell)

Secret Map (shhhhhh!)
So things are coming along.  Mythos Machine has picked up a bunch of new Beta Testers lately, and that's been great, and they're providing incredibly helpful feedback.  So things are improving rapidly.

The latest improvements are:

New Bulk Edit Screens for Weapons, Armors, Races and Classes.  I will be adding more as requests come in, but those are the most important ones, and they're up and running nicely.

Bug Fixes - found a few nasty critters lurking in the shadows. Squashed.

Fantasy Proto-World - coming along nicely.

Cosmic Horror Proto-World - also coming along nicely with the help of Yicheng Liu who came up with the idea and agreed to put the first brush to it.  I'm really impressed with what he's done, and collaborating with him on getting things tooled right so it can serve as another Proto-World for new GMs.

Modern Proto-World - That one is coming along ok, I think, but I'm not 100% sure. The author is working on it, but I think he wants to get more done before sharing it.  He's been a fabulous Beta Tester and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he's come up with.

Western Proto-World - this one only needs a little bit more fine tuning, and is probably the most complete one of the lot at this point.  Fun stuff.

Anyway, so that's progress for you.  Super busy.

If you want to participate in the Free Open Beta, now's your chance.  It won't last much longer.  I'm looking for feedback, things to improve and polish with the site.  Get your licks in and help shape the RPG Software Tools of tomorrow, today.

Go to https://Elthos.com and create a Mythos Machine account for yourself.

Build your own World.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Alex Pe on Creating One Shots

As those of you following my posts have probably figured out by now - I tend to run long term Campaigns. One year would be a super short Campaign for me. Whitewode, for example, started 2.75 years ago. Still going strong, though we're nearing the climax.

But lately I've been thinking about trying my hand at One Shots online. And it occurred to me that I'm in need of advice on the topic. So who did I turn to? The grand master of the One Shot, Alex Pe, of course. And this is what he said:

"Have a good core idea and theme. Don't overprepare. Start at the end, then do the beginning. Everything in between is not that important."

He also sent along this video on how to create One Shots:



Thanks Alex!

Ref: Original Thread on FB (you might need to join the One Shot Group to read the OP).

Thursday, August 24, 2017

On Elthos Elkron Alignment Correspondences

Just a something I felt like talking about on a lark, with my camera settings on "Weird Color" for the fun of it. The discussion has to do with how I use my Elkron Alignment Correspondence system and how it works basically. Impromptu, and a bit scattered, perhaps, but nevertheless does have the basic idea layed out. I hope it will suffice to give people an idea of one of the background concepts behind the Elthos Project, and what the potential value of the Elthos Tarot Deck might be.



And now for Part 2, wherein I answer my friend Chris' questions from the first video...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Bit About The Elkron of Elthos for GMs

I have left the Elkron and their workings deliberately vague because I don't want to create too much Setting for the Mythos Machine. The point of the project is to encourage other people to use their own creativity. So the Elkron are there as a framework, more than as individual beings with histories. How GMs handle them in the future is something I shall be very curious to see.

That said, there are some rules to them.

I will try to give them to you in the order of importance I think they deserve (you may wind up disagreeing, and that's ok).

1. Each Elkron is the Embodiment / Avatar / Reflection of one of the 12 Alignments.

2. There is a table of correspondences for the Elkron, and it lists each Elkron's corresponding symbols ... plants, trees, animals, colors, gems, flowers, musical notes, and so on. These are used by the GM to build symbolic references in their World that only the Sages are likely to notice or understand.

3. The Elkron are divided into two major groups... the Celestials who are in the Heavens (Constellations and Planets), and those that dwell in the Realm of the Id (the Jungian Archetypes of the Tarot). Each Elkron has both aspects, so there is an upper-world and an lower-world aspect to each Elkron. In addition both groups, the Celeistials and the Archetypes, have an inner circle of 12 members, and an equal number of outer circle members. These correspond with the Titans and the Olympians... the Old Gods and the Young Gods. The Constellations and the Archetypes that correspond to them are the Outer Circle or Elder Elkron. The rest are the Inner Circle or Young Elkron.

4. Each Elkron has a Throne. Their interplay is the original Game of Thrones.

5. There is a game that the Elkron Play. I have some rules for it but haven't play tested it yet. We can skip lightly over this for now, but I want to explain what the game is like. There are Ages. Starting with the Dawn Age where the Elkron Incarnate and create the World. The start with a certain amount of Kismet and use that to fashion the world to suit their plans. Different alliances can occur, depending on circumstance.

After the Dawn Age comes another wherein the Elkron create the Races of the World. The Good Elkron will create Good Races, etc. They also plant the Seeds of Destiny, which are Holy Quests.

Another Age is called the Age of Heroes. This is where the Elkron step back and watch how things transpire. By this point the Elkron have spent most of their Kismet on building the World and creating the Seeds of Destiny. The Heroes are there to fulfill the Quests. Whenever a Quest is fulfilled the Elkron who created it gains Kismet, according to a multiple of how much they spent to create it, which relates to how complicated or difficult it is. So the Elkron gamble during the Dawn Age that their Heroes will fulfill their Quests and allow them to regain their Kismit. Because they are going to need it.

The final Age is called The End of Ages, and it is the War of the Elkron that will be the calamity of the Universe, and end the World. The Elkron who have regained their Kismet fight it out to determine which of them will be the Ruler of the next Universe. The Ruler of the Elkron's alignment is what stamps the Universe with it's initial Kismet, and sets everything in motion (setting the base Alignment of that Universe).

Anyway, I don't expect to get around to this game soon, but the idea is that a group of Elthos GMs get together for a month or so before they create a Shared World. They each play one to three Elkron, and set up the Races, and spend Kismet, and create Seeds of Destiny. When the Dawn Ages are completed and the Races created and all the terrain is built, then it's time for the Age of Heroes to begin. The GMs then invite their Players to Gen Characters and those are the Heroes who will try to fight it out.

The purpose of this is to help the GMs create a back story that makes sense, and is also part of a game the GMs themselves are playing with each other.

I see this is a phase III thing. But I also thought it would help you to understand the Elkron a little better to hear about it.

As for how to create the Elkron... it's up to you for your world. Just allow that each Elkron represents and Alignment, and those Alignments associate to certain Philosophies.

Here's the list of Elkron:
Elkron    Zodiac
-------   ----
El   Good
Scelus    Evil
Fas       Law
Kaos      Chaos
Aer       Air
Rhea      Earth
Aestus    Fire
Oceanus   Water
ASHKORAH  ARIES
OMRI      TAURUS
SHAVARA   GEMINI
ANATH     CANCER
PALAMIR   LEO
MINVAR    VIRGO
AMAYA     LIBRA
OBITUS    SCORPIO
SARTOR    SAGITTARIUS
ELVAL     CAPRICORN
EAVOR     AQUARIUS
ELMINIR   PISCES
GORUND    MARS
ELBEN     ELKOR
HERMIVAR  MERCURY
LUNA      MOON
ELDRIK    SUN
ELTHOS    EARTH
LILANU    VENUS
LETUM     PLUTO
VALANIR   JUPITER
KARNAT    SATURN
MINA      URANUS
MEROVIUS  NEPTUNE

Here are the Philosophic Viewpoints of the Alignments

[N] - Neutral
[C] - Chaos
[L] - Law
[G] - Good
[E] - Evil

[N] – : "There are many Elkron of Power, Cunning and Wisdom."

[C] – : "There is no Elkron; every one is for themselves."

[C-G] – : "There are Chaotic Good Elkron; the ultimate attainment is to be free."

[C-G-N] – : "There are only Good Elkron; man’s purpose is to create art and live free."

[G-C] – : "There are Elkron, but men must rule their own affairs by reason."

[G] – : "There is one Almighty Elkron, the King of the Universe; Seek Love."

[G-L] – : "There are Elkron; man is to work for the Good and obey the King."

[G-L-N] – : "There are Elkron; man’s place is to be serious, able and Just."

[L-G] – : "There are Elkron; man’s place is to obey the Laws of the Empire."

[L] – : "There is no Elkron, only laws of nature; mans place is to learn them."

[L-E] – : "There is Hades; man’s place is to obey the Emperor and die."

[L-E-N] – : "There are evil Elkron; man’s place is to obey the Emperor no matter what."

[E-L] – : "There are evil Elkron; man is to obey the cruel and suffer."

[E] – : "There are only Evil Elkron; man’s place is to serve and die."

[E-C] – : "There are no Elkron; man’s place is to serve the Community and fear."

[C-E-N] – : "There are no Elkron; man’s place is to overthrow the Elite."

[C-E] – : "There is no Elkron; every moment should be lived for pleasure."

I hope this helps. I'd say if you have any questions feel free to ask ... but ... I do want people to do their own thinking about this for their own worlds so I'm inclined to give this much to World Weavers and then let them run wild. :)

Here's a diagram to help you see the upper and lower aspects of the Elkron...


Also note - the Elkron live on the Celestial Island of Elthos (in my World), and the there are 24 Thrones ... there is an inner circle of mountains called the Dragon's Teeth, and an outer cirlce called the Dragon's Spine. On 24 of these mountains in ancient temples along inaccessible ridges are the 24 Thrones upon which the Elkron sit. From these Thrones they converse with one another, and observe the lands of their child races, and their heroes, below.

Another view ... this is a cutaway view of the Celestial Island ...


The connecting thread between all Worlds is the Alignment system. Through that permeate the manifestations of the Elkron in their myriads of Universes. The only thing that doesn't change is that there is Good and Evil, Law and Chaos at the root of all things. That is the foundation and metaphysical constant of the Elthos Multiverse.

Here's another diagram that shows the Alignment relationships to various political philosophies...


Also note that at the top of the post you can see the Elthos Tarot backface of the cards which shows the Celestial Island Map... that shows which Elkron are where, what their Associations with each other are by position, element (air, earth, water, and fire), and their Alignment positions.  That has served me quite well over the years.  And once when I got lost in an interdimensional time-rift by accident, the card was useful in helping me to navigate back to earth in the 21st Century.  So keep a card with you... never know when you might need it.

Anyway, the way the Alignments work in the game itself is that as Characters do things they get evaluated by both their Action and their Motive.  Between these two the Action determines the Law-Chaos value (an integer between -6 and 6), and the Motive determines the Good-Evil value (an integer between -6 and 6).  So as Characters do things in the World for different reasons their Alignment changes accordingly.  As GM I usually consult with the Players to find out what their Characters Motives were for given actions if it wasn't obvious, but Actions are a bit more deterministic.  The Mythos Machine interface provides a way to note Alignment changes in the Experience Gains Screen.  The result is that 1) Character Alignment is not fixed - it changes according to what the Players do with their Characters, and 2) Character Alignment changes can be tracked and shown over time - which is very cool, though not a feature that is implemented visibly in the Mythos Machine as such, yet.  It will be... but only after other more pending development is finished up.

At some point I will publish more about the Elkron once the project's Phase I is complete (pretty soon now), but for now, for Gamemasters using the Mythos Machine at this stage of the Elthos Project Development, this is probably good enough to get you going.

To see the 24 Archetype-Celestial Elkron you can view them here:

Elthos Tarot Deck ... coming soon to a POD service near you.

Cheers, and have fun with it.

Monday, August 07, 2017

When the Players Don't Show Up

I saw a post on quora asking how to handle when players don't show up for your games... here's my reply...

That’s a continuous challenge, isn’t it? I have a couple of thoughts. First you need to figure out why people aren’t showing up. Is it just random life-stuff among busy people? Or could it be your game is just not drawing them in, and they’re too nice to say so? If the latter then you need to up your GM Level and start providing a better game. And that, of course, can be a challenge when you’re not sure what you’re doing that could be improved. And often players themselves don’t know the answer to that either. So, as a rule of them, keep games tight, action oriented, and don’t let the players get bogged down in tiresome conversations about “what should we do”… always be ready to throw them into the action again, and keep things exciting for the players. Even a TPK is better than an evening spent debating about Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3.

One of the problems I’ve had along the way was a rule I concocted years ago that I thought seemed reasonable, but turned out to be not-so-great. If a player didn’t show, then my rule was that their character would go kind of inert. They’d be there, they’d fight if necessary, but they would not initiate actions, or offer useful advice, or demand their due, or make crazy things happen, even if their player would. This was because I felt that if I did so as GM I might play their character “wrong” (ie, they’d conclude that they’d never have played it that way), and if the character died in the process they’d be upset. So the safe bet was to follow my rule.

However, after a awhile I realized that this was a crap rule. The result was that whenever players didn’t show up they characters would go limp, and the story would drag, the players at the table might flounder around feeling demoralized and confused about stuff that the missing character knows but they don't remember, ... and so it would as often as not turn into a cesspool of “what should we do?”

So, I have a new rule, and it’s much cooler. If you don’t make the game then I play your character the way I think he or she Should be played. Mwahaah!  All the zest and creativity I can put into it, I will do! I will put a minor shield of protection around the character, but not enough to save them from the Fate of the Fumble, nor will I have them hold back on what’s on their mind. Sometimes they even turn out to be more awesome than ever because some players themselves hold back for various reasons (fear of losing them being the most common). However the player usually plays the Character - I’ll play it that way to the hilt. The games are much more fun that way, and I can actually use the non-player-present characters to spice things up and add an element of “OMG!” to the game that might not even be there if they did show up. So if you don’t show, you take the risk your character will do something kinda crazy, and maybe even get killed. So… it’s a good idea to show up. And lots more fun for everyone when you do. :) That’s my new style. It’s much better this way, believe me.

Of course, like everything else, this new rule has to be taken with a grain of salt... or rather it should be applied within reason, like a good spice in the right season. While I think it's much better than my former rule, it carries the risk that I might over do it. So while that's my new approach, I also try to keep it from becoming too much of "a thing".  But when the time is right and I think the missing Player Character should stand up and do something - well, by golly, they do!  And that's how I roll.  :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thoughts on Literary RPG Stories - Part 2

In response to a comment made on my original blog entry on this topic, I want to present my thoughts on Railroading. It seems that I didn't cover this point originally, though I really should have.

The comment was as follows:


Ian Borchardt (Reverance Pavane)


One of the ways of avoiding the problem of random chance killing your protagonists in a literary-based RPG is not to front-load the characters as the protagonists of the story. That is the story will develop as the players play, so any death demotes a character to having actually been a minor character in the story.

That is instead of generating the exiled Prince, destined to regain his throne, at the start of the adventure sequence, reveal this previously unknown fact as the game continues, for the character that has taken the lead in the party (and looks like they will survive). Similar flashbacks can retcon how the party formed, an the roles of the other characters.

And if, the principal characters of your planned drama die (or decide to do something completely different), don't be afraid to change the story you are trying to tell to suit this. Perhaps it becomes a revenge drama or a love story instead.

[For myself I find the idea of plot immunity abhorrent, and there is nothing that is more likely to spoil my fun at the table as a player. As a game master, I want to hear the story that my players tell, rather than the story I want to tell. By that's my persoal bias, and other people's will vary.]



My reply, and the point of this post, is...

Regarding Railroading vs Open Ended Narrative ...

As for the question of running the game so that it results in the story that the Gamemaster has in mind... actually, that's another topic that should be addressed. What I don't want to do, nor do I try to do in my own games, is have a vision of what the end of the story will be. The only thing I want to know as GM is what has happened, and what is currently happening, and what might happen in the next game session. The reason i take this approach is to avoid the issue of Railroading. And yes, I'm with you on that. I don't care to be Railroaded along a defined storyline set by the GM as a Player. Nor do I want to drag my Players along a story line that I devised. Rather, I want to set the foundations of the story with a history, and NPCs who have their own motives, objectives, moral stances, and then let the players interact within the world freely. The technique of getting to the Story End is one of tying up loose ends, and, if the adventurer's survive (in most cases at least some survive in my games, and not uncommonly the majority of them do), then to see them arrive back home where the came from and take up their lives again.

So what I don't do as GM is say "First they will do this, then they will do that, then having achieved X they will then need to go get Y, and finally the grand climax will happen with Z. The end."

Nope. Not at all. What I do as GM instead is say "The history of the place is such and such. There are x forces at work. A is trying to do this. B is trying to do that. C wishes to do the same as B, but is thwarted by D, who opposes the objectives of both B and C. D will help A if he can. And now in the little town of Hamfest is a family of swine herders, of whom our heroes will emerge. They start the story doing chores for their parents, swilling pigs, hunting rabbits, fighting wolves, and staving off starvation. Then one day ..."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Combat and Smart Play

In very thoughtful recently posted video on Combat in RPGs I was inspired to consider how I handle combat and talk a little bit about it.


This was my comment:

For me Combat is the "Game" aspect of my RPG GMing. It's where the dice become Fate and Destiny. However, my rules are such that characters can, if they plan ahead, or are clever people, augment their chances of success by exercising what I call "Smart Play". So if there's a scene where the guards are heard clamoring down the corridor one group of players might ignore them in their pursuit of treasure until the guards burst through the doorway. Their odds in this case are normal. Another group, lets say, panics when they hear the sound and start arguing and a few of them try to run into an adjacent room. This group's odds are lower and they may get negative modifiers on the initial round of combat because they're in a state of panic. Another group might quickly assemble around the doorway with weapons drawn and with the thief hiding behind the door so that he can get a backstab in at the right moment. This group will get bonus attack level modifiers for being prepared, and are more likely to win the initiative in the first round because the guards may be surprised. For me the last group represents what I think of as "Smart Play", and those guys augment their chances of success. Now does this have much to do with role playing? Yup. In my opinion it does. I have some great players. They don't meta game. If they're low level dumb dumbs with a thimble of intelligence between them, my players will play their characters that way - and they'll faithfully play the group that panics. And it will be fun and funny, and we'll have a ball. But if they're playing the highly skilled veterans then that group will be exercising "Smart Play", and it will be neat and effective and they've got a good chance of achieving their goals. And there will probably be some laughs along the way, because they're witty as hell. At any rate, that's my concept of "Smart Play" and a little bit about how that plays out in my game.