Friday, August 31, 2018

Improvisational Game Theater - Thoughts

I originally wrote about Improvisational Game Theater on my blog in 2006. I subsequently wrote a number of posts, either as comments or supplemental explanations of why I think IGT is likely to become "a thing" in relation to Professional Gamemastering.

There have been a lot of GMs that have come to the Professional Gamemaster Society wanting to make a living doing Pro-GMing.  Their idea, as has been mine, is that it would be absolutely fantastic if we could turn our favorite hobby into a career somehow.  Like artists and musicians, and other performing artists, we'd like to do what we love for a living.

Now a number of people have pointed out that the economics of Professional Gamemastering do not seem to work all that well, especially at the small scale of local tabletop RPG games with a handful of people, and it's hampered a lot of potential Pro-GMs because we don't see a road from here ($) to there ($$$).  For most, not only is it hard to imagine how to make any money at all Gamemastering, but the the notion of making substantial money seems a pipe dream and beyond the realm of possibility.

I do not think so.

Again, and for the umpteenth time, the answer is in Professionally run Improvisational Game Theater.  In 2006 I sketched out a modality by which I would do it for my own world of Elthos.  Since then, I've not had the ability to sling it together because I have other work under the umbrella of the Elthos Project to tend to first.  And of course, it goes without saying, again, as usual, I am the worlds greatest slow poke, so please don't rush me.  Nothing good comes from rushing.  Of course, in the meantime, there have been a number of enterprising people who have raced ahead of me and produced variations on the IGT concept, and some quite successfully.  Critical Roll comes to mind as an excellent example.  Kudos and congratulations to all of those fine people!  They're doing a great job, and I'm thoroughly impressed, even while being jealous and annoyed that I'm such a super-slow-poke at all of this. But I digress.

At any rate, I want to talk about this again because I read a post by RPGPundit who is railing in his own way against one aspect of Improvisational Game Theater. His gripe is that what people are watching it for is entertainment, like watching a Soap Opera, or Serial TV Show, or something like that, and is largely divorced from the actual game of D&D. A large percent of the people who are watching IGT on twitch are not watching it because they play RPGs, or even intend do to so... they are watching it because they are interested in the Characters being played and their stories. And yes, very much like like people who watch Soap Operas.  And it annoys him.  Ok, my guess is that he's annoyed for certain reasons, though he doesn't quite elaborate on what those reason are exactly, and I'm not going to speculate about that. And this post is not a rebuttal to his point.  I agree with him completely.  I simply don't share in his angst about it.

The reason why is because, as I've made the case to the Professional Gamemaster Society before, this kind of viewership is exactly what is required for Professional Gamemasters to make real money Gamemastering.

No, it is not the same thing exactly as standard table top role playing.  I know, it isn't.  And the reason why is because with a generalized audience which includes a large number of non-role payers, the story and character development that would go on in a good IGT game is what that audience would be most interested in.  Random Character deaths would, in all likelihood, irk them, especially if the randomness was too extreme, and/or their favorite Characters get killed by a random (read stupid) die roll.  Nor would they be likely to be very into the rules, or watching the usual D&Dish rules banter, or much of the OCC activity that usually attends most tabletop role playing game sessions.  What they would be looking for, instead, is a compelling story where the results of the actions of the characters is both interesting and meaningful within the context of the World being played.

Improvisational Game Theater, in my opinion, will evolve into one of the major forms of entertainment of the 21st century.  It's taking time getting there, and even the best of the current efforts have self-limiting flaws in their implementations, but as everyone can see... progress in the direction of successful IGT is being made.

Personally, as soon as my other project work is complete, I hope to join these efforts with my own attempts at this thing.  I believe that those who can really pull this off will be at the center of the entertainment world in due time.  And really, I think it is just a matter of time.  People are already doing some great things.  And audiences are already being primed for this through the activities of shows like Critical Role.  Everything is slowly moving in the direction of a fusion of entertainment and gaming.  And no matter how much RPGPundit gripes that it's not real D&D ... it will nevertheless become an enormously rich, diverse and fabulous form of entertainment, and sustain many awesome career arcs for Professional GMs of the future.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Elthos RPG - Dry Patch Update

Ok it's been a while since I posted here so I want to just put a quick note up to let folks following me here know that yup, yup I'm still working on Elthos and making progress (albeit back to museum speed since I got my new job).  I haven't been posting much about progress because I'm on a dry patch in terms of "oh that's interesting" stuff to say on it.  I've been busy for days updating the Core Rules Book to make it finally ... er ... well Final. 

The good thing is that I hadn't looked at it for six months and so I got a chance to read it fresh.  Up until now I've been snow blind on it and every time I read it I was like "Ok I can't read this sentence any more times... sheesh" and so I wound up skimming it and never really got a solid edit in from the "Well how does this actually read" point of view.

Now that I'm reading it fresh, I must say... wow.  It was pretty sucky!  haha!  But yeah, there's a few crucial spots where after a series of edits I had trimmed things down to the point where it was like ok I accidentally took out the key information that you'd have wanted in that spot.  Man!  So yeah, now I'm working on it and fixing it so that it's lucid enough to use as a rules book.  My overriding objective before was to Keep It As Short As Possible.  I figured a simple rules system should prove its simplicity by being as short as possible.  Which is probably true.  But ... when I started the Elthos RPG "One Die System" in 2007 it probably was among the lighter weight rules systems... but by now, nope it's not anymore.  Other people have come out with even more light weight systems.  On the other hand my goal with it was not to create "A light weight RPG" but rather to distill the former Elthos Prime System (from 1978) down to it's absolutely simplest form without losing the core mechanics.   So it's medium weight.  And no, I didn't need to make the rules book As Short As Possible.

That said, I'm still keeping it the same page count.  I'm just revising text so that the necessary information is there, and it reads nicely, and is even a little bit entertaining and hopefully useful in terms of advice on how to run the thing.

Anyway, working on it, but there's nothing much to show yet.  I'll of course let people know when the rules are actually Finito!

Thanks, and Game On! 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Meta Game - Round 2

This is something I am creating. I call it the Meta Game. It's goal is to create a shared world for GMs where the backstory is created by a handful of people who play The Gods, and create the World. It starts with the Primordial Age in which the Gods create the Terrains (we are in Round 2 of the Primordial Age now). Then goes on to the Dawn Age where they create Races, Cultures, Dynasties and Seeds of Destiny which are Quests upon which the Elkron (Gods) wager for Kismet (the energy they use to create the World). After the Elkron have used up as much Kismet as they are willing to, the Age of Heroes is played by dropping the Meta Game and each GM goes into their own region of the World to play it as a regular Campaign with other players... the goals of which are to complete the Seeds of Destiny Quests so whichever Elkron created them can gain back a large amount of Kismet, and therefore have a chance of winning the End of Ages ... which is The God War.

Rules will be forthcoming.

Here's some images of the Map as it stands thus far:

The completed Map

Primordial Age - Round 2

Stay Tuned.

#Elthos #MythosMachine #WorldBuilding #Gamemastering #Cartography

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Elthos Meta Game - Proto-Test

A quick report on my most recent (and current) game experiment ...

We played the first Elthos Meta-Game last night. It's a competitive/collaborative World Building game in which GMs play the Gods. It's intended to be a wrapper game around a regular RPG via which the God's actions create the world's terrain, races, cultures and dynasties... forming the back story of the regular campaign.

Here's the starting board, and then the board after the first round of the Primordial Age.

It was totally fun. :)

Elthos Meta Game - Map Images

Below are a few detail shots of the Meta-Game Map thus far. The hexes are 100 miles across, so those mountains are actually mountain ranges. The Celestial Island is about 3600 miles in diameter. The hexes shown are those that our Elkron-Players have already used Kismet to create terrain on. So far so good!

On to the images...

Elthos Meta Game - Map of the Celestial Island

This grid map shows the locations of the 12 Planetary Elkron Thrones.

So far so good.  I'm very pleased with the way things are going.  I have written up 11 pages of rules for the Meta Game (aka God Game), and am working on refining them.  In addition I have a couple of spreadsheets that help do the Kismet Point number crunching for the game. 

If all goes well I will package this up and send it along to the community.

As always, don't be surprised if it takes me a while.  You know what an incredible slow poke I am!  haha.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ignite Your Imagination

Elthos RPG Mythos Machine helps you create your own RPG Worlds, doing the number crunching so you can focus on the creative aspects of the game.

To try out the Ongoing Open-Beta please check out the Dev-Beta Mythos Machine.  It's free!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Some Thoughts On Player Mapping in RPGs

Some thoughts and observations related to this post by James Raggi, in which he poses the question, "It's not common to make the players make their own map anymore?"

Many points were brought up in the comments. I will tackle a few in this post.

Player Mapping, undoubtedly, was born out of the original D&D modality which was a miniatures game that focused on combat counters being moved around on a table, with ranges carefully measured, and was highly technical. So for that crowd mapping the dungeon as they went made sense. It fit perfectly well with their previous modality of technical combat, accuracy and careful consideration. However, at the same time Arneson was creating a different sort of game, and one that was focused on story rather than tactics. So there was a divergence right at the beginning. Gygax was focused on the Wargamming aspect, and Arneson was focused on the story aspect. Thus, at the down of the hobby there was a schism that has lead eventually to this spot. Some people do not like the tactical game, but love the story game... and vice versa. So for tactical players and GMs mapping makes sense, and is part of the fun of the thing. But for story gamers, not so much.

Philipp Neitzel comments, "If a player says they Take notes of which way they are going or they map the Environment, i usually believe them. If it becomes important we can always roll for it."

I like the idea that for the less-tactical games when they say "We map", you take their word for it, and roll to see if the map was accurate enough at key junctures. If they fail the roll then they head the wrong way, and as you're describing it they will begin to figure out that something is wrong. "Where's the stairs up to Level 392??" "Well, you're not sure. What you see ahead is a T split corridor going left and right. What do you do?" "Damn, we must have screwed the map up!?"

Of course that only works for tabletop games and would not at all work on a VTT.

Also, it illustrates why the players might want to take mapping into their own hands anyway. I'd rather map myself, and not leave our escape route to a die roll, personally. I think I trust my mapping skills more than I trust the dice to stay on my side. So while it might be waaaaay easier to tell the GM "Yeah, we map as we go"... I don't think I'd take that option.

All in all, for myself, I notice I have two desires that are in competition when it comes to the question of player mapping. And their juxtaposition suggests quite a bit about the dynamics of the question, imo. On the one hand, as a player, I prefer not to map. For one thing it's tedious. For another, it's error prone, and the results of poorly drawn maps, depending on the world, can be, at times, a serious problem. That said, most of the time, it hasn't been, and errors on maps in terms of lengths of corridors and sizes of rooms have not played a significant role in mishaps. So the question of how important it is for player maps to be accurate comes up, and in my experience it's not important at all. In fact, I think we could probably get a way with very rough maps and still have the information we need to enter the dungeon, and find our way out again.  For example, this player sketch map would probably suffice for it's purpose in the game, if that purpose can be defined as "keeping track of the layout of the dungeon so we can get in and out without getting lost".

On the other hand, if the purpose is "to govern the rules of tactical combat" in addition to the above, then the sketch map may or may not suffice.  For example, corridor lengths and the placement of open doorways may play a significant role in the outcome of a technically detailed combat encounter.  In that case a sketch map may not quite do.  And if the GM has a more detailed map, and the player's sketch map is flawed, that could make the difference between life and death of characters in some cases. 

In the end the answer is ... It Depends.   What kind of game are you playing?  Is it a story game where technical combat is breezed over because no one is very much into wargamming in the group, and such combats are seen as tedious and time-wasting?  Then, voila... player maps have no particular purpose.  But if you're playing the wargame style of RPG, then they very well may... but even then, perhaps not.  Again, it depends on the level of detail the GM is enforcing at the table.

In the end, and as always, with a game that has so many variations and levels of potential detail, it's really kind of ridiculous to try to assert that one way or the other is "best".  And as usual, and always... what is "best" is what you enjoy.