Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Spider Attack

Once upon a time in Elthos there was a primitive savage hero who crawled down into the dark places of the earth and fought with the monsters of the deep. He was named Orkule by his people, but the Elkron named him Gorundor for his fierce wrath.

Friday, September 25, 2009

GMing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I've been Playing and GMing since 1978 so I've seen my fair share of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Gamesmastering. It's interesting to see how games go down, and its very instructive to consider what works and what doesn't work with this complicated craft. I think I'll take a few moments to outline a few of my thoughts on the topic, just for the heck of it.

The Good
The Good GMs that I've played with have a number of things going for them:

- Fascinating Worlds
- Command of their Rules
- Fast Math Skills
- Natural Improvisational Acting Ability
- Passion for the Game
- Zest for Adventure (in and out of the game)
- Some inkling of what players mean by "Hero"
- A sense of Story
- The ability to Play Wicked on behalf of Evil NPCs
- At least a basic understanding of Combat Tactics
- Graciousness when confronting disagreement
- Sturdiness when confronting disagreeableness
- Descriptive Narration Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Tons of Imagination

That's a lot. And all of them help to make for the Good GM.

The Bad

- Poor on all of the above
- Boring
- Unfriendly

The Ugly

- Egotistical Behavior
- Excessive Competition with the Players (I Win! You Lose! Ha ha! mentality)
- Dumb, Silly, or Disgusting Back Stories
- Excessive Fawning over Players (neediness)
- Vindictiveness
- Oh hell, all the human foibles, actually

I've pretty much seen it all. Now when GMs are Good, RPGing can be one of the most engrossing and awesome entertainment experiences in the world. You can completely lose yourself in a Great World. I've done that. Conversely, mediocre and Bad GMs can drain the life right out of you and make you want to fall asleep for a thousand years. And well, the Ugly? We don't even want to go there.

So my advice to GMs is study those points under the Good section above, memorize them, and try your best to work on getting good at those skills. There's a lot of room out there for Excellence in Gamesmastering, and only one person can turn you into one of the Good GMs. You.

That said, I don't think you could easily come up with a definitive answer to the question of what makes a Good GM under all circumstances, actually. Not one that everyone would agree on, anyway. This is because for the story aspect of the game at least it seems very much to depend much on what the group is in the mood for. Some groups want comedy. Some want horror. Some want random adventure and some want epic story. So to some degree "Good" GMing depends on the subjective preferences of the Players and what they are looking for from a game at any particular time. And players preferences are also subject to change depending on their moods. So a Good GM also has to have enough horse sense to look at the group of Players at hand and determine what they're in the mood for, and then play to that. Or, conversely, draw them into the genre s/he's the mood for and carry that forward into the game. I've seen both done well.

Ok, so all that in mind - Play On!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Elthos RPG Design Goals

Whenever you work on any project that is going to take a long time to complete, you have the risk of diffusion, where your interests and energies tend to draw you away from your goal toward other things. It is perhaps passing strange that in all the years that I've worked on Elthos, my attention has never wandered far, and I've maintained a relatively constant focus on the project. Some people would say, and perhaps rightly, that it is a bit weird. But then again, I don't look at Elthos as something To-Be-Finished, but rather as something that is, and will always be, in a state of continuous evolution.

I started Elthos RPG back in 1978 shortly after I was introduced to the original Dungeons & Dragons RPG. At the time I had no plans to publish it as it was simply one among many homebrews that were spawned in the early days of RPGs. It may come as a bit of surprise to those who never read the first three D&D booklets but Gary Gygax and David Arneson encouraged us to take his original rules and spawn our own individual systems from them. And so that's what many of us did. It's been a delightful hobby all these years, and I never seem to tire of it.

As for my own homebrew, I wanted it to meet certain design goals. Principally I wanted a system that would be easy to run. The original D&D was pretty easy to run, but it was still, even then, just a little too complex for my tastes. There were simply too many divergent charts, and rules. I wanted my RPG to have a single centralized mechanic for conflict and skills resolution, and as few charts as possible. Really, I wanted to focus on the story aspect of the game, more than the gamist aspect. To that end I came up with the idea of a General Resolution Matrix which pits Skill Level vs. Difficulty Level and comes up with a chance of success. Roll higher, and the character succeeds. A very simple system. I'm gratified to see that many systems since then have also decided this is a good way to handle conflict and skills resolution as it gives me a little vindication every time I see it. As there was not much to perfect with this idea, it has remained the central mechanic of Elthos RPG for 30 years. I did, however, did come up with several versions. One uses a 100 sided die for the resolution, then I had ones for three six sided dice, and now, I've boiled it down to one six sided die for the "One Die System", which is currently my new favorite.

I wanted to limit the tendency of ever expanding charts, and so I deliberately created core charts that would suffice for as much as possible, and so I tried my best to make those core charts as generic as possible so that I would not have to expand the number of them too much. In the past thirty years I've come to about 10 charts total. That's quite enough for me.

The third thing I wanted was for the system to be reasonably easy to run, with math that would not require too much brain power, since I wanted to reserve as much of that as possible for my favorite part of the game - the creation and running of my World, Elthos. To this end I've tried to make the Elthos charts as simple and clear as I can, mathematically, so that they are easy to remember, and take very little effort to expand with new items. The numbers in my world, now, have become very small. 6 is a big number in Elthos. 12 is almost unheard of. I like it that way. It makes the math easy.

These design goals culminated into the Elthos RPG, of which there are two versions; Elthos Prime which is the original larger system, and the Elthos "One Die System" (ODS), which is much condensed, though they both have the same general mechanics which are based loosely on the original D&D. Thus Elthos uses a Life Points system, with Skills and Classes, Experience Points and Levels. In that sense, it's not very original. However, it does resolve what I considered to be imbalances with the original D&D, and so as far as I'm concerned, it's a nice little system, which I am my players have been happy with for a long time.

In 1994 I decided to program my system, since it already had a modular and relatively simple resolution mechanism and a few simple charts. I conjectured that since it was far less complex than many of the other RPG systems that came out by then it should not be so hard to program. Problem: I didn't know anything about programming. Ancillary Problem: because I had no knowledge of programming, I had no way of estimating how long it would take to develop the system, and so as a result I vastly underestimated. That's ok. I've really enjoyed the process, and in the meantime made a career for myself as a programmer / analyst. The symbiosis has been helpful on both sides of the equation.

To help me in the process, and with some help from my dear friend David, I taught myself programming, and then got a job as a programmer. I learned database design, project management, and the skill of programming. And so it took me 12 years to finish the Elthos Prime Gamesmaster's Toolbox, which was based on my original 1978 rules. Then, in 2006, I decided to start over with a new web based application that would be much simpler to build, and much easier, therefore, to maintain.

And so, the the Elthos "One Die System" was born out of my interactions with The Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester. We were meet at a local pub and discuss the topic of "How to make better, higher, more literary quality RPG Worlds". It's an interesting group with an interesting topic. I decided it would be helpful to be able to use a very tight mini-system so we could experiment with ideas at the table, with just one six sided die, and very few, easily memorized, charts. And so this is how the Elthos ODS was born.

The Elthos ODS Web Application took three years, and is quite close to being finished (I honestly believe that, but have to laugh because I know just how wrong I can be about such things). It's design goals are fairly straight forward: provide Gamesmastering services such as character generation, print outs, and help to manage and maintain the back story and history of the world and it's campaigns. I'm using it now in play testing mode. The play tests are also going over the rules and how well they work, to make sure that they're simple, yet effective. Overall, it goes well. Albeit, veeeerrrryyyyy slowly. As always.

And no, I don't expect to actually ever Finish. It is a work in progress, and if I have anything to say about it, it always will be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The BugBears of Elthos

I was looking to spice up one of my campaign settings called Lentilsville. It's an extension of the Hamfest Campaign. I'm starting to fill in some of the Under-Story (my term for the part of the story that isn't history (what I call Back-Story), but current events), and I was thinking about BugBears. You know the old D&D kind. OD&D describes them as "great hairy goblin-giants". But I was thinking about them in terms of the Bug aspect and decided to run with that. What resulted are the Elthosian BugBears.

Now before I describe any, I should mention that the way I intend to introduce these critters to player characters is tentatively. They'll see signs of them for some time before they ever see one. These are very sneaky monsters that are a fusion of bears and bugs. A polymorphic nightmare that deserves a slow build up, and then a shocking mystery to surround them. It should be noted that after the initial contact the surprise factor will immediately diminish so it's important that the first encounter get all the creepy skin-crawling attention it deserves. And now without further ado... I introduce...

The BugBears of Elthos.


In brief the BugBears were created by a malevalent Elkron (deities of Elthos), Gorund, the Elkron of War. When the World was young, Gorund spawned the greater army in a vast underground complex of caverns, in each of which are sleeping in deep hibernation (for thousands of years) The BugBears. Gorund created the BugBears to use as armies in the End of Ages War of the Elkron, the victor of which rules over the next Celestial Cycle. There are several complexes around the world, each one an terrible army unto itself, and the entirety of which is a cohesive whole under the command of whomever shall be wicked enough to wear the Crown of the BugBears during the End of Ages War. A few BugBears will be awake at a time to guard the corridors that lead into the main cavern where the great army lies in it's hundreds of thousands of cocoons, slung to cavern ceilings by the silken threads of millions of poisonous spiders, and the dark magic of the Elkron of War. Whomever wears the Crown of the BugBears can control any BugBears that are awake, see through their eyes, and turns into a BugBear of any kind at night.

The Crown of the BugBears is an iron crown with five bloody thorns, and is hidden in a secret tomb of traps in an ancient Dolmen on a rocky hill deep within a the primordial forest in the forgotten lands, which is sacred to, and protected by a race of cruel and cunning forest savages who worship the BugBears, the Chiefain of which is a Shaman-Warlord called The Blood-Thirster.

The Chieftain can be easily recognized as the one savage who wears the nightmarish featherish Head-Dress and shimmering Cloak of the BugBear Tribe, which gives him the power to speak BugBear (and know it's terrible bidding), as well as give him the power to spit poison, fly, and have increadible strength in battle. The Tribe of the BugBears have strange rituals, evil human sacrifices, and black magic. They are very secretive, xenophobic, and sneaking, preferring to attack with poison darts while hidden in the trees. If they capture captives they will be sacrificed to the BugBear King in lue of the children of the Chiefs of the Tribe who are normally given once per year when there are no captives.

The BugBears

All BugBears can attack as their insect part would suggest, or as bears. When attacking as bears they use two big claws, a rending bite, devastating pounding with their paws, or a crushing bear hug.

BumbleBeeBears – Clumsy flyers and oafishly adorable these strange creatures create their own honey by gathering honey from the huge flowers of giant Rhododendron trees which causes narcolepsy, and can induce comas in human races. Because all BugBear types like honey, especially BumbleBeeBear Honey (it helps them to hibernate for long stretches of time), none of the other BugBear types will attack BumbleBeeBears. BumbleBeeBears also have a deadly sting, but can only use it once and then they die. They are also enormously strong for their size.

MosquitoBears – Flying bears with two foot long proboscis, mosquito eyes and wings. The MosquitoBear’s buzzing wings in combination with a strange red and green pulsing glow in it’s eyes, inducing a hypnotic effect that allows them to control the minds of it's victims, or can induce paralysis or narcolepsy allowing the MosquitoBear to consume the victim’s blood while their victimes are incapacitated. If the MosquitoBear comes upon sleeping victims the buzzing of the wings induces deeper sleep. Depending on their health, in some cases the victim may survive the blood drain, however in such cases there is a 10% chance that they may contract a communicable disease which turns the victims into Were-bears (new moon), or a 40% chance that the disease causes blindness, horror, and if untended an eventual lingering death.

BombadierBeetleBears – Covered with an enormous orange striped black shell, long sensitive antenna, and eye stalks, the BombadierBeetleBear is slow moving, but very difficult to hit with normal weapons. When disturbed, the BombadierBeetleBear ejects acidic chemical ‘bombs’ in a rapid burst of pulses from special glands in its abdomen. The ejection is accompanied with a loud popping sound. The damage caused can be fatal to attacking creatures and causes painful toxic boils on humanoid skin.

PrayingMantisBears – The PrayingMantisBear is a deadly threat. These are ambush predators, using a hypnotic (crypsis) camouflage ability, waiting for prey to stray too near, and then lashing out at remarkable speed with powerful claws. Some may pursue their prey rather quickly. Victims are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs, and then devoured, usually head first. The articulation of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement, allowing for a great range of vision (their compound eyes have a large binocular field of vision) without having to move the remainder of the body. As their hunting relies heavily on vision, they are primarily daytime hunters, but some will fly and hunt by moonlight. PrayingMantisBears also have the ability to heal themselves of mystical and physical wounds, and heal their allies.

WaspBears – Relatively small, fast flying WaspBears have a nasty, toxic sting that causes toxic shock, paralysis and death. They tend to be solitary hunters, or hunt in small groups of three or four. They can sting up to four times, and then must return to their hive to recuperate.

ButterflyBears – Beautiful flying ButterflyBears have huge gorgeous wings, and feed on the pollen of giant flowers. They start life, however, as CaterpillarBears, which can move rapidly over all terrains and can be deadly, feeding on everything in their path, and stripping entire regions bare of all vegetation. At maturity they then wrap themselves in chrysalis in a cave and spend a decade or so in cocoon state before emerging as ButterflyBears. BugBears by Gorund, and for which he can find little actual use. The ButterflyBear was an unexpected outcome of the creation of the BugBears by Gorund, and for which he can find little actual use. It may be that some other Elkron might have found a use for them, but only time would tell.

MothBears – The strange creatures use Camouflage to conceal themselves on the dies of hills, or giant trees, are attracted to fire or bright light sources, and hunt for large game, often smothering their victims under a thick cloud of dust which can throw off from the bottoms of their wings. The dust causes choking and then paralysis. The MothBear will then nibble away at its victim, sucking out it’s internal organs with a proboscis tube.

Centibears – Fast moving over all terrains, these creatures are ferocious hunters, with a hundred legs, and poisonous bite. They tend to be relentless, and have no fear of death. They have a set of chitin plates along the spine, and can curl themselves into an armored ball and roll downhill.

ScorpionBears – Slow moving but heavily armored with two massive claws and a giant poisonous scorpion stinger.

TrapDoorSpiderBears – These are truly terrifying looking combinations of Trap-Door Spider and Bear, hiding under a natural looking covering, from which they can suddenly spring forward, grab their prey, and lurch back into their hiding place (usually a cave).

TarantulaBears – Monstrous sized black bears with tarantula legs, eyes and poisonous fangs. They are night hunters, move silently, and can spring upon prey suddenly, most often from shadows, or dropping from above.

BlackWidowBear – Relative small black bears with black widow spider legs, eyes, and deadly poisonous fangs. They spin webs in which they catch passing pray. Once captured the BlackWidowBear will come down into the web and bite its trapped pray, poisoning them with a toxin that dissolves their internal organs, allowing the SpiderBear to suck the carcass dry over several days.

PortiaSpiderBear – A type of Jumping Spider the PortiaSpiderBear can leap far distances. It is a clever hunter, able to ambush, trap in webs, stalk or lure their pray. They are able to discern the defensive capabilities of their prey with unusual accuracy and are fast learners. They may try several types of attacks. Against clearly superior foes, however, they will attempt to evade and escape. The most common lure that they use is to dangle treasure, or throw a voice that sounds like a wounded creature of the type of the prey into the trap area, causing the prey to enter and then be ambushed.

BlackCarpenterAntBears – The heavily armored black bears have black ant antenna, mandibles, legs and eyes, and are endowed with colossal strength. They are builders who create complex colonies that are heavily booby-trapped. They work and hunt in unison and obey a single Queen. They will capture any useful prey and enslave them, or bring them back to the colony as food.

RedFireAntBears – The heavily armored red haired bears have ant antenna, mandibles, legs and eyes, and are endowed with enormous strength. They are slightly smaller and have less strength than the BlackAntBears, but they make up for it in two ways. One they are far fiercer, and two they are able to ignite fires when three or more lock together and vibrate their mandibles. They also have an acid sting that can burn through flesh and bone, and dissolve iron and steel. They are builders who create complex colonies that are heavily, and cleverly booby-trapped. They work and hunt in unison and obey a single Queen. They will capture any useful prey and enslave them, or bring them back to the colony as food.

I'm planning to play these monsters in my Lentilsville Campaign. I don't expect anyone to find their way into the Hive Caverns necessarily, and if they do, I haven't much hope for them if they do not turn around and run away as stealthfully as they can. However, as a background item, and the few chance encounters that might occur in the area as the creatures hunt the primordial forest for big game, crocodiles, and the occasional hapless human, I think these are wonderfully frightful monsters. Perfect for scaring the children into keeping away from the primeval forests surrounding the lonesome pioneer village of Lentilsville on cold winter nights when the fires are running low and the wind can be heard howling over the snow shrouded hills in the moonlight.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Hybrid Computer-RPG

Once upon a time, way back in 2000, Ryan Dancey of the Wizards of the Coast conducted a very extensive market study of D&D players. Among other things he wrote:
"I believe that in the fairly near future 'paper' RPGs will hybridize with computer assistance - not becoming 'computer RPGs' as that term is commonly understood, but not being games played simply with paper anymore either. Consider this a 'forward looking' terminology."

By the time Ryan wrote this in 2000, I had been designing and programming my own Hybrid-Computer RPG system for 6 years. It has actually taken me this long to get this far. Please believe me when I tell you that I am more shocked than you by how long this has taken. But I had first to learn how to program, then to massage myself into a form that could be programmed, then program it, test it, iron and polish it, and gosh that took me all the way until 2006. Zounds. And then, because there were still bugs, and I had a nifty "quick" idea on creating a mini-system for the LRPGSW and starting with that as a Web Application, I jumped onto that in early 2006 and am now very close to releasing that into the wild.

But that's not quite the topic for today, just a bit of context and history. I'd like instead to talk just a bit about why I believe in the Hybrid Computer RPG (HCRPG).

One thing that I think most people at a causal glance would agree is that the rules for most RPGs are pretty complicated. Not all, but most. Compared with earlier games such as board games, card games, chess and checkers, and the like, RPGs represent a quantum leap in terms of how many rules there can be. Tons. And the Gamesmaster not only has to remember those rules, but he or she must also handle a whole variety of other tasks, such as game-math, non-player character tactics and activities, and also remember the story from who knows who long ago. It's not an easy thing to be a good Gamesmaster, let alone a Great one.

Gamesmaster responsibilities can be categorized into two basic parts:

1. World Weaving - all of the activities around the conceptualization of settings. This includes creating political social and religious histories, characters, places, campaigns and adventures. This is a skill that requires a creative mind with knowledge of history, sociology, theology, political theory, various sciences and anthropology. It also requires good narrative skills, either verbal or written. And perhaps some map making skills, and technical knowledge of weapons, armors and certain kinds of equipment. A fertile imagination is a must.

2. Adjudicating - all of the activities around running a game with the players. This includes the ability to remember the rules (and not confuse them with however many systems the GM has already learned), which is overall related to memory. This also includes the skills of math, improvisational character acting and descriptive narration, diplomacy (with the Players who may not agree with every call the GM makes), and again, a fertile imagination.

I've noticed as GM that a good portion of my time in the game is taken up by number crunching and rules management (looking up rules, or fiddling about with rules, massaging rules, arguing rules, and getting a bit angsty about rules). I'd say at least half the time. At least. And when one has a half dozen friends over who are waiting with baited breath for every answer to the question "Well, what happened?!" the GM definitely has his or her hands full. Sometimes, the Gamesmaster even has to run roughshod over the rules. It happens. It's a tough job. A very rewarding one when done well, but a tough job no matter how you slice it. No one said Gamesmastering would be easy.

And so what do I as Gamesmaster want from my computer? Why I want it to do the dirty work. The foot pounding. The garbage collecting. The scrubbing and remembering and most of all, the number crunching. I want it to quickly and efficiently tell me what I don't know off the top of my head about the world, it's history, the current status of the characters, and generally speaking act like my faithful butler, bringing me information about former campaigns at the touch of a button, making sure that I don't forget that +2 bonus on the sword that Rantheon found in the fourth chamber of the Wizard King's dungeon, and being an overall GM's Assistant while I both engage in World Weaving and when I'm in the heat of Adjudication during the game play itself. I want it to help me Gamesamster.

That said, do I want it to also take over the creative function of my World Weaving? No. I sure don't. But, do I want it to help me by keeping track in an orderly way what I've World Woven? Um, why Yes, I do. Do I want it to tell me how my NPC's are going to act? Nope. But do I want it to tell me when my NPCs are about to die? Oh yeah. I sure do. I want it to do all the calculations in the game because it's faster and more accurate than I am. And I want it to show me all the stuff I have stashed away about my world that over the years I just may have forgotten. Ya know? All that. That's what I want from Mr. Computer.

By 1994 it was becoming apparent that no one was working toward the goal of creating the software that would help me to Gamesmaster my world. There were computer games, and Computer RPGs, and soon to be MMORPGs, but there wasn't much talk about Hybrid-Computer RPGs. It took until Ryan Dancey wrote about it for anyone to even mention it. But that's what I wanted. And so I taught myself programming, database modeling, and all that would be needed, and then set about converting my Elthos RPG rules system into a HCRPG system. And I do believe that this is something Gamesmasters need. A computer program that helps us run our games, and gives us the freedom to create and run our own Worlds. Is that so much to ask for from the computer? I don't think so.

But there's been stabs in the direction of the HCRPG. Fantasy Grounds is a latest incarnation that I know of, but it ran off in a direction that I felt wasn't quite where I wanted to go with mine. Then there was E-Tools, but they vanished into the ether again. And there's a myriad of little bits and parts of tools, such as character generators and excel helper sheets, and PDF Character calculators... but all that stuff does not really form into one coherent system that helps me End-to-End as a coherent system. And that's what I want. And so, I'm still plodding along with my project. And as it happens, I'm actually almost finished with the Web Application that handles the light-weight "One Die System" rules. It will be out soon. I'm hoping in November I'll be able to open it up for Beta Testing. And then you'll see why I am a believer in the Hybrid-Computer RPG. Fo shizzle.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sandbox vs. Railroading

One thing that most RPGers agree on is that Railroading is bad. Railroading is when the Gamesmaster has a pre-concieved notion of where the story of the game is *supposed* to go, and he railroads the Players into having their Characters go along for the ride. To do this he causes certain options which in the real world might be possible, to become impossible to the Player Characters, usually for a thinly disguised reason.

"Our Characters walk out of town and into the mountains to the West." say the hapless Players.

"Not so", says the Railroading GM. "The mountains are ... mmm ... blocked by a huge rushing river on the edge of town!", says the GM as he is furiously thinking, "damnit, they have to find the McMuffin before they go anywhere because otherwise the Princess will not be saved, and that's totally bad-story - I ... Must ... Stop ... Them ..."

And so it goes on. The Railroading makes the Players feel like they have no choices, and it ruins the fun for them. Afterall, they think their Characters should be able to do whatever comes to mind, and go where and do whatever their Characters want.

This however can lead to some pretty crappy stories in the end. Instead of finding the McMuffin (heh) they go to the great rushing river outside of town and then wander around until they find a goblin and then jump it, kill it, and takes it's stuff (a copper coin). The Gamesmaster, being miffed that his story has devolved from a Save-The-Princess tale to a Kill-The-Monster-Take-His-Stuff story. It's still a story. But it's a pretty crappy one, so far as stories go. If we wrote the story out ... it would be pretty dull. "And then, in the forth year of the King of Blahmoor, the Great and Mighty Adventurer's wandered aimlessly through the dungeon killing orcs and taking their stuff. Meanwhile the beautifull Princess Gwendolyn was left to die in the dark cold cave of the Ogre that kidnapped her two adventures ago that they forgot about when they saw an orc and then chased it to a dungeon and then went wandering around in there collecting trophies and ..."

So Railroading became the natural inclination of GMs who wanted something more from the story. They create a big world filled with amazing story material, and it's only fair, they think, that those stories get played out. Despite the Players.

Now the problem is that Players don't like being Railroaded (who does?), and so the solution that has been proposed is called Sandbox play, and it's highly prefered.

Sandbox is where the Players are given free reign to wander around the World at liberty. They can explore and discover whatever they want, and the Gamesmaster acts as unbiased observer and game Referee. And all is well with the World because the Players get to run around and kill things and take their stuff. Only the Gamesmaster finds this perturbing if he actually wants good stories to come out of his or her World.

The question is, how do you get the best of both? What techniques can be used to allow the Players freedom in your Worlds, and yet still wind up with stories that amount to something more than what the average dungeon crawl produces?

There are ways. But what are they? How do you handle it, oh Gamesmasters?

(Cross-Posted from the LRPGSW Yahoo Group)

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Plot Thickens

Things are well here in Elthosia. I've taken off the week to work on bug-squashing the ODS Web Application. It's a tough slog. I find things wrong that I had *absolutely no clue* were wrong. And then squash them. So it's a slog, but not one without rewards. Nothing beats a good bug-stomp on your week off. Well, ok. I admit, there's tons of things in life that beat that. But what if you had nothing else to do? Eh... I think I'm not doing my case any favors with this line, am I?

Anyway, it goes well. I am down to the last dregs of bugs on the Big Bad Bugs To Kill list. Which means I only have the secret hidden covert and malignant ones to dig up and crush (mercilessly).

The actual good news is that I'm actually now getting to the point where I can (safely) build Worlds, Characters, Places, Campaigns, Adventures and populate treasure troves and all that neat stuff in the application itself. That means that I'm now rapidly approaching the point where I can start creating actual stories in the Elthos System. And so the next hard part is soon to begin. How to convert the myriads of story ideas in my head into lovely, well organized, game materials using the Elthos ODS Web App? Ahhh... I look forward to that. I really do.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I was describing to a friend the other day what the Elthos RPG is about and why I created it. Her response was really interesting. After I had said that it was a rules-light system designed for easy play and freedom to create your own worlds, she said that her it's the sort of thing her mom would be excited about. Apparently her mom is an artist type who finds the concept of RPGing really interesting, and likes to play, but is just not that into the game mechanics aspect (at all). Too much math. Too hard to remember. Too much work. But she likes the collaborative story making aspect. Gee... maybe there is a market for rules light games among ... Moms? Hey ya never know.