Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How I GM Elthos Social Encounters

I wrote this in response to this Google+ Post... and thought it worthy to add to my blog...

My strategy has always been to build encounters by determining who the main NPCs are, and what their personality and motives are. They are given a limited and finite amount of resources to work with and have personal objectives. It could be, for example, an NPC is Mutmaw, the Mayor of Hobbington whose objectives are to quell dissidents, enrich his friends and supporters, aggrandize himself to the Commons, and not step on the toes of those who are bigger than he is. His immediate objective is to find a husband for his big boned daughter Gurthtruda. He has a small number of personal henchmen who do dirty deeds, and he has a set of Officials under his command, including Drake Barnstormer the Captain of the Guard, Inspector Henderson the Detective (neither of whom are bad guys, actually), and so on. So, a typical adventure might include Barnstormer, and over the course of events may wind up drawing in the Mayor.  That remains to be seen based on what the Player Characters do.  I don't map out an exact path through any given adventure.  I simply set up the motives and objectives and personalities of those involved and then as the Role Play unfolds it reveals the story.

When the Party gets to the point where they are not in combat and are simply in RP mode then everything is pretty much conversational. The Adventure is planned by defining what the adventure's objectives are, and who is who in relation to them. So in one case there was a murder mystery and Barnstormer was a key NPC, and Mayor Mutmaw showed up. Everything was done in Role Play. When the PCs asked specific questions I rolled I roll to see if the NPC knows the information at all, then again to see what the Reaction was (1 = least favorable, 6 = most favorable). If PCs ask smart questions and do not make trouble then they get whatever answers they can and the adventure moves on. Sometimes they are unlucky and they get an unfavorable reaction, and that can lead to other consequences, including, of course, combat.

It goes on from there.

Now that said, I do also include a few social skills in my world. Diplomacy for example. And people do use it on occasions where it makes sense. For example, if they are going to try to negotiate with Mayor Mutmaw. The person with the highest Diplomacy Skill Level will negotiate. There will be a Difficulty Level according to the nature of the request, and that DL will depend on the GM's arbitration, aka GM Fiat. They then roll to find out the Reaction, and if they win the roll, they win the negotiation. Like that. Those types of events are also Roll Played because I ask the Players to tell me exactly what they say. I then assign a DL based on the effectiveness of their statements. Sometimes they put a timeout on the game for a few minutes to discuss their rhetorical strategy, and if they come up with something that makes sense they get a bonus on the roll.

That's how I deal with Social Encounters, mostly, and it's worked well for the past 30+ years. No complaints from the Players and it all runs pretty smoothly.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hawkes-Robinson's RPG Research Project

I thought I'd just post a quick link to W. A. Hawkes-Robinson's (this is an impressive individual) RPG Research Project.  He's doing some really great work and it's worth taking the time to check out.

Here's a blurb from his site:

"RPG (Role-Playing Game) Research is an ongoing long-term series of projects that include studies on the therapeutic and educational aspects of role-playing games, with additional emphasis on determining any causality related to participation in role-playing gaming. This research includes tracking any other projects around the world that use role-playing games as educational or therapeutic intervention modalities...

Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, including disciplines from recreation therapy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, education, and many other perspectives. RPG Research is a project of RPG Therapeutics LLC founded, and is the umbrella name under which the projects, website, communities, and other resources are identified. To date, this is a non-profit project founded (and funded) by William Hawkes-Robinson, with the helpful support of many others. This website is dedicated to supporting role-playing game research in general, and any other individuals or organizations interested in sharing research information about the therapeutic or educational aspects of role playing gaming."
Dang.  I'm impressed.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Small Poemish Thing - The Edition Wars ...

Upon the reading of this fair post, my mind a'lit with the fiery inspiration, so...

People who didn't notice these things at the dawn of time, and therefore didn't create their own homebrew RPG systems that made actual sense to them fell into The Great Miasma, never to return from thence. They are there today, wandering soul'striken from edition to edition, ever groaning, ever the darkened scowl and storm-brow furrowing...

Those who escaped to heather-fields of lightened systems a'joy in everlasting bliss, owners of their own worlds... worlds that make sense to them, that do not change on some corporate cretin's whimsy-doodle. Ahhh... fair winds a'light to catch my sails, thou blessed thing! My rules! My rules!

Elthos World Weaving - The Slow Build

One of the things that I really love about Gamemastering is the exploration process of my World. I started out with a story concept that serves as the general Back Story for the Campaign. This larger scale Back Story Campaign is what you might call the Meta Campaign in so far as I may have any number of Campaigns within it, and all of them are in some way offshoots or tied in with the Meta Campaign.

The characteristics of the Meta Campaign are philosophical in nature. It answers questions such as "What is the nature of reality?", "Who are the Elkron (Deities of my World of Elthos), and what is their purpose?", "What is the foundation of Kingship (or why do the Elkron establish Kingdoms)?", "What are the alliances of the Elkron, and why did they align in this way rather than any other way?", "Why do the Elkron behave the way they do?", "Who are the primary villains of the World, and why?"

These are some of the questions that form the basis for the Meta Campaign, and from these I can formulate any number of (sub) Campaigns which may touch on specific aspects within any one or more of those questions. For example, "Why do the Elkron demand Quests?" can be explored in a Campaign about The Hallows of King Oswald. In it, every seventh year he must prove his virtue and Right To Sovereignty by obtaining, or re-acquiring one of the 13 Hallows (Scepter, Crown, Sword, Shield, etc). Through this ordeal he proves that he is an unblemished Guardian of the Flock (the common people are sheep in the analogy), still able to protect them from the ravages of the Wolves (evils of various supernatural kinds (such as famine, plague, infertility, etc), more often than not visited on the Kingdom by one of the opposing Elkron, or their minions).

Within each Campaign I may have any number of Adventures identified. Each Adventure essentially comprises a chapter or scene or particular challenge within the story. They may include things like "The Theft of the King's Shield", "The Heroes are Summoned", "The King Embarks to the West", "The Dragon's Lair", "Battle of the Shield", "The Journey Home". Each of these might play out as one or more game sessions. Some of them may last months or years, depending on what the Players decide to do, and / or how lucky / effective they are.

The result of this process is what I like to call The Slow Build. The concept underlying the adventures are symbolic and meaningful in relation to the Meta Campaign, and as such they may be reflected through the story very slowly over time, clue by clue. They may answer questions such as "What does the King's Shield represent?", "Why does the King hold Hallows Quests every seven years?", "Who is Sovereignty and what is Oswald's relationship to her?" and so on. The Slow Build, as an approach, means that the adventures may well be all about killing things and taking their stuff, but in addition to that it unveils mysteries about the nature of the World of Elthos itself. In fact, the focus on the Kill-Monsters-Take-Stuff aspect alone would deprive the Player Characters of some of the deeper insights embedded in the World's allegorical underpinnings. And these expressions are reflections, as elusive and ethereal as they may be, of our own world's less known mystical undercurrents, and so it might also desprive the Players of some interesting insights as to our own world's history in the realm of idea.

For instance, one might ask very similar questions regarding King Arthur's Quest for the Holy Grail. What did the Grail represent? Why did the Quest result in the disintegration of Arthur's Kingdom? Or was it rather a sign that the Kingdom had already failed because of the spiritual imperfections of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?

By structuring my World's Campaigns within the Context of the Meta Campaign it allows me to build out the story, and it's allegorical reflections, in a slow, methodical, and some might say mystical fashion. I rather enjoy it, really. And I think my players do, too. And in the process I feel we all learn something that might never otherwise have come to light. Slow Build. Good stuff. :)

Also, as an aside to this post, I'd like to mention that I am currently holding an Open Beta Test of the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine, for free, and that you are invited to participate in exchange for any feedback you care to give. I'm looking for as much feedback as possible in order, of course, to improve and finalize the products. Please feel free to register an account for yourself on and explore the Rules and Web Application, both of which are available through the site. Don't forget to provide feedback! Thanks! :)

Also, here is a Review of Elthos by Mark Knights in case you want to find out more about the project and what I'm up to with it. Thanks again to Mark Knights for this sterling and awesome review!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

1st Review of Elthos RPG & Mythos Machine!

News Flash - Just in!  The very first official independent review of Elthos RPG Mythos Machine  ... Wow!  I am Bloooowwwwwnnnn Awaaay!  WOW!!  This is really an awesome Review!

But first ... Please meet Mark Knights, one of the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine Open Beta Testers sent along by way of Rachel Ventura (Thank you Rachel!!). He's an awesome guy! 

After poking around at the thing during the Open Beta, Mark kindly decided to write up a review of the Elthos RPG & Mythos Machine. I could not possibly be more delighted. So after a few weeks of patient waiting while he continued his exploration of Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine (as well as many other things besides, not the least of which setting up his own Gaming Shop business named "Games On Board"), I am now happy to present his review to you via a link to his blog article...Please take a few minutes to link over and read this amazing Review!

I can't possibly thank Mark enough for this fabulous and incredibly positive review, and for the fact that he took the time to take a comprehensive look at the Elthos RPG Core Rules and give the Mythos Machine a thorough test drive. His observations about how they are designed to be a fully integrated system are spot on, and I feel he really grasps the big picture view of what makes Elthos RPG & Mythos Machine truly compelling. Many tens of thousands of Thanks to Mark Knights for this wonderful review!

Also, I would like to point you in the direction of Mark's "Games On Board" intel, so you can catch up on what he's working on, and offer your support as well.  Mark is an awesome guy, and I hope he has the most excellent of successes living the dream and running a business which will bring joyous gaming adventures and untold fun to the lucky folks in his neighborhood.   Thanks Mark!  And best wishes on your projects!