Monday, January 20, 2020

Some Thoughts on the Importance of Creativity

“Creativity; the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”

On the Benefits of Creativity

Many people don’t believe they are creative, but my own view is that everyone has creativity baked into their genes as human beings. But many people, especially in times of stress and uncertainty, turn off their creativity and shut down. My feeling is that this is a critical mistake people make with themselves, and in fact they should do the opposite. Exercising your creativity is enormously beneficial in many ways. People don’t often consider that creativity has a wide array of benefits. The health benefits include: Mood Elevation, Alleviates Anxiety, Boosts Brian Function, Prevents Disease, and Increases Immune Health. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320947.php#1)

Additional benefits of creativity include, instilling a sense of personal freedom, self-awareness and expression, faith and confidence in our instincts, stress relief, and problem solving. Creativity also enhances our ability to communicate and our sociability. There are so many benefits to Creativity, it’s difficult to understand why some people refuse to allow themselves that pleasure.

What causes people to decide they are not creative?

This is something that has always puzzled me. Creativity seems like a very natural thing. You see kids exercising a great deal of creativity in the games they play, and how they think. Whether they are playing games with toys, or drawing, or just running around hiding behind furniture, there’s a lot going on in their little brains. A lot of imagination. Here comes the dragon! I’ve just crash landed my spaceship on a desert world! The Orcs have just come around the bend! It’s all imagination, and it’s great stuff. They are having fun in their minds.

But somewhere along the line, some people decide that they aren’t creative, and they stop creating things in their minds. No more dragons. No more space ships. No more Orcs. And by the time you ask them, “So, do you do art?” the stock answer is, “Oh no way. I can’t do art.”

But really, what happened to them? I will tell you. They lost confidence in themselves. In their own creative imagination. Somewhere along the line, perhaps someone said, “Oh that drawing is awful”, and crushed by the criticism, they stopped trying to create. “Oh I can’t do art”. They’ve turned off their creative engine. It’s not a good thing.

What dampens creativity?

The modern world is full of stress. We are all in a rush. We are constantly trying to get everything done within ever tighter time slots. The technologies that promised us liberation, instead produced prying eyes, time consuming flaws, and all kinds of expectations from others that we can do miracles. But the fact is, we’re still just ordinary human beings. This situation creates stress. And stress makes people feel rushed, and to some degree incapable. And this feeling tires people out and makes them feel uninspired. Consequently, creativity takes a hit.

How does my Elthos RPG Play into the Creativity Equation?

I created Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine to help people explore their own creative minds. In my opinion, World Building is one of the most creative activities you can do. Depending on how deep you want to go with it, World Building can incorporate a wide array of knowledge disciplines, such as history, biology, sociology, archeology, physics, game theory, and many more. And Role Playing Games generally present a wonderful social activity that brings friends together to create and play Characters in imaginary Worlds that the GMs create. I want to help people find their creative spark, and grow that flame within. That’s my ultimate goal for the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine.  I feel that to the degree it can help people to find inspiration to create, it has achieved its primary objective.  I want to help bring people together in creative spaces and enjoy each other's fantastic imaginations.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Thoughts on Play By Post

I have a few friends who have chatted on occasion about their Play by Post experiences.  I haven't tried it myself, but I've always been curious about it. My friend Tom, who runs a Play By Post site named Outpost 42 News. and who asked me to express some of my thoughts on the topic, informs me that there are usually 10 to 15 people in a given Play By Post group, who will write a story in small segments called "posts" by email, message board, or whatever other medium is convenient for them. There is usually a host to guide things and settle disputes should they arise, and a few groups even integrate dice or other randomizers into their proceedings. Such games can be any genre.  Space Opera to Neolithic Dinosaur hunting, anything goes.  As it happens, Star Trek is apparently quite popular, probably because of the natural ship/crew link and its episodic nature.

Play By Post originated during the 1980s and early 90s on early bulletin board systems, and early internet services like AOL, Prodigy and Compserve, if anyone remembers those. You might be interested to know that my Elthos RPG predates those by roughly a decade.  Naturally, as one might expect, many of the Play By Post crowd cut their teeth on the early RPGs.  And I should probably mention that in those days most RPGs were not D&D, but homebrews of an enormous variety.  At least where I lived in NY.  Every Gamemaster in my town came up with their own rules and their own worlds. Of course D&D, or earlier games that it was fashioned upon, were the basis for these systems. Some of those early rules systems were really very innovative, by the way, but never seen again outside of their original game-setting.  Too bad.  At any rate, many of the original Play By Post gamers were early RPG Gamemasters and players, and so it's fair to consider this branch of the hobby as simply another stream by which role playing games have manifested in the world.  Other Play By Posters came from fan fiction circles, and still others picked up on it as their first RPG experience, got hooked, and kept going with it.  Why? Because it's fun, that's why.  So I'm told.  I expect to find out for myself at some point, but haven't had the chance (or time) to look into it too far.

The community of Play By Posters is by now quite diverse and has grown into a significant hobby.  There are news and information outlets, Awards systems, and even regular annual events where everyone comes together online.  It's a unique culture with a specific etiquette on how to recruit new players, use other people's characters, and interact with people from other games. Perhaps most interesting is that they now have a satire news blog that parodies some of the bigger groups and players.  That would be Outpost 42 News.  My friend Tom is hoping this post might inspire people to check out his site, so here's the link again:  https://Outpost42News.com.  This is a no holds barred effort, so be prepared for Onion level satire.  They published their first article on April Fools Day 2018.  Definitely check it out if you happen to be a fan of Play By Post, or if you want to learn more about the community.

I have in fact skimmed their articles, and as Tom expected, I really didn't get a single joke, though, since I am really not familiar with their community.  But even so, I did find it entertaining, and it did make me think about Play By Post from an Elthos perspective.

As you know, I created a web application called The Mythos Machine.  It occurs to me that it might be quite suitable for Play By Post scenarios, as the system allows Gamemasters to create their own Worlds online, and then invite their friends to Roll Characters, and maintain them, in the Mythos Machine.  It uses the Elthos RPG rules as a base, and does all the number crunching, and lets the GM focus on the creative aspects of the game.  I can easily imagine people using it to run Play By Post games.  And honestly, I'd be pretty stoked if they did!

So if you are interested in Play By Post, then check out Tom's site, and if you're already a Play By Poster and would like comprehensive online support for your World Building and Character management, then do check out the Mythos Machine as well!

Thanks for all the good times, folks!  Game on!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Bruno of Elthos

I got a Wacom CTL-470 Tablet.  It's an older, simpler model... an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

So, you can guess what comes next ... I shall of course be posting some of my better sketches here.  Just some fun things to pass the time, and I do want to learn how to draw a little better so I can update my Elthos Core Rules Book with some nicer looking art.   So here we go.

The latest greatest ...  introducing Bruno of Elthos.


Of course, you want to exercise your own creativity.  That's perfectly natural.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, most people say to themselves "oh, I can't do art", and "I'm not the creative type." along with a great deal of other nonsense.

Why not take up a creative hobby for yourself?  May I recommend https://elthos.com as an excellent place to start?  Go ahead.  Make both of our days.  :) 

Create your own World.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Elthos RPG - Progress Report 2019

As you may know, I've been working on Elthos RPG since 1978 when I created the original Elthos RPG Rules.  I have been GMing my homebrew system ever since, and after 40+ years am tickled pink that so many players have enjoyed the crazy Worlds I've come up with, and the many outrageous adventures I've visited upon them, and continue to do so.  I've been so lucky to have met and played with such a large number of super creative and fun people all these years.  Thanks all of you!

Recently I have been keeping myself busy working on my distilled version of the original Elthos RPG rules (known as the "One Die System") and the Mythos Machine, which is the web application I created to support the Elthos Rules with World Building and Character Management features.  This web application is open to the public and can be found at https://MythosMachine.Elthos.com

Things have gone well, albeit somewhat slowly as I have pretty much built the entire thing by myself, and had to teach myself all of the necessary skills involved, with a great deal of help along the way from my many friends and mentors.  Thanks to all of you, past, present and future! 

Mostly, I have considered Elthos a hobby project, though I of course always had some notion of turning it into a viable business at some point. So to this end I created a Worlds Marketplace Platform in the Mythos Machine by which Gamemasters can create their own Worlds, put a price on them, and sell them through the Mythos Machine to other GMs on the system. It's a neat idea, I think, and everyone who I've explained it to has agreed. It's a neat idea. Now how to get it out to the public?  That's the rub.

And so, in an effort to learn how to spread the word I've been teaching myself the various technologies that I would want to use in order to help get the word out. Recently I've been playing around with Audacity and Anchor.FM to get a handle on how to make Podcasts. And of course teaching myself how to use Art-Software such as Paint.net and now, after quite a bit of hemming and hawing, GIMP. I just bought a Wacom Bamboo Art Tablet (CTL-470), which is why I installed and started working with GIMP (as it is the only free Art Software I could find that can take advantage of the all-important Pressure Sensitivity features of the Art Tablet). Clearly, it's going to take a bit of time for me to get used to the art tablet as it takes over the functions of a normal Mouse and I hear that this is something that takes some getting used to. Ok, no problem. I look forward to it. I really want to use the Art Tablet to create higher quality artwork for my Mythos Machine Worlds, so I think it will be worth it. I also have spent time working on video editing using LightWorks and feel that I've pretty much gotten at least the basic ideas down and think that it wouldn't be too difficult to learn the more advanced features going forward. I've created a number of basic Elthos Tutorial Videos as part of my effort to learn about video editing. All in all, I feel like I have effectively learned the basics on a wide array of technologies necessary to get the word out regarding the wonders of the Elthos Project.  I feel I've learned a ton, and created lovely things, and it's all been super fun stuff which I very much enjoy. And naturally, I make use of the Mythos Machine for my own games, and if nothing else, it's amazing for that and makes me really happy, too.

So everything has been coming together well. The Mythos machine is working very nicely to help me generate and maintain my Worlds and play them with my friends. The Elthos RPG is just the right combination of lightweight and traditional rules so that my games are easy for me to Gamemaster, and enjoyable for my players. We hardly ever get bogged down by the rules, and my players have no problem updating their characters online via the Mythos Machine, and printing them out for the games. It's all been working like a charm.

As a side note, I think my Coffee Cup Sketches series has really helped me to improve my artistic skills and I think I can (hopefully) add some new art to my Elthos Rules books in 2020. And while my recent spree of podcasts are no great shakes, to be honest, they do serve the purpose of cluing me in as to how that all gets done and I think I can produce much higher quality podcasts once I get myself organized a bit better.  I'm taking a breather on that while I figure out where I want to go with it.  The cool thing is now at least I know how to do it! Like most things, it's easy once you know what to do.

So that's a lot of stuff to have worked on this year, and I'm really pleased with everything, and very grateful to my friends for putting up with my plodding style of development; it's been a slow process, I know.  Sorry about that!  I'm a slow poke.  I know.

All of which said, I feel like the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine is finally ready for public consumption. It is reasonably bug free and I've added dozens of wonderful time saving features for GMs and Players. The Worlds Markeplace is up and running and can take money and send out revenue to the GMs whose Worlds are put up there for sale. 

For me, the Elthos Project is a gigantic work of art, incorporating all kinds of diverse talents: writing, programming, art, game design... it all comes into play. It's been an amazing project, now in it's 4th decade. Looking back, I'm kind of amazed at how far it's come. And finally I feel it is ready to enter its next phase of development.

And so, next year my goal is find a few good people in the RPG community who see the potential of the Elthos Project and would like to get actively involved. I've done an enormous amount of work as a lone developer, and just about as much as anyone could reasonably expect from one person. But one person can really do only so much. I need help to bring it to the public, and to make it thrive as it should. This is going to require a team of enthusiastic participants who see how much potential Elthos has, and feel as I do that the project is something wonderful that RPGers should get a chance to hear about. I will be looking for people to help build out the Elthos Project and promote it. I need some programming talent to bring an even higher level of UX / UI to the Mythos Machine, and I also need a Marketing Guru-Champion to help introduce the project to the RPG Community. So stay tuned on that, as I am able to offer the right people excellent rewards for their help. But first, laying the groundwork. And that's what I'm doing now. So far so good.  Here's to the next steps. Cheers!  Oh and if you are, or know someone, who might be interested and able to help with programming or marketing ... please let me know.  The main site is here: https://Elthos.com

And Thank You again to everyone who has offered their generous support and encouragement over the years. You're all wonderful and tremendously appreciated! Thanks again and Great Gaming to you all!

Monday, December 02, 2019

WoAF - No Spoilers - How About The Elthos Project Instead

Ah, so I was thinking about how to present the story of my players as they adventure through my brand new "The Way of All Flesh World". However, as I was about to launch into one of a number of possible ways to present the material to the public, I realized... woah - wait. If I tell the story that my Players experience during our Play Test, I'm going to inadvertently create Spoilers for future GMs and their Players who might want to purchase and download the game through the Mythos Machine, or even via the PDF that I plan to put up on DriveThruRPG (though, honestly, if you have a choice, get the one through the Mythos Machine - it's computer interactivity will make you very happy).

So... in this case, I've come to the conclusion that I really shouldn't publish the story as we play it out. Yes, I know on my blog I have some absolutely spectacular write-ups of previous games in the Elthos World, such as the Hagglesmith Adventures, the Insect Wars, the Yellow Clay Village Adventures, and the Harrows of Whitewode.

Elthos RPG Play Test Stories (2009 - 2013)

BUT, none of those were ever intended to be packed up in the Mythos Machine and sold as Worlds. The Way of All Flesh, however, is. So I don't want to spoil things for the future GMs and their Players who may want to enjoy it's many twists and turns unencumbered by spoilers. So, I will not be publishing our Play Test as such.

Instead, I plan to ramble on about The Elthos Project in general, and other related topics over the next few months. I also plan to expand my set of Podcasts, and incrementally try to improve my Podcasting style. Right now, they are really quite rough. I'm working on the format, the musical backdrop, my tone, and other aspects as I evolve a Podcast Show which I hope people will enjoy. Once I work out the kinks, of course. So right now, they are merely experimental forays into the domain I want to learn about, rather than polished shows. So keep that in mind please. At any rate, here's my latest ramble about the Elthos Project.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Way of All Flesh - Episode 1


Our first game playing The Way of All Flesh, my first Cosmic Sci-Fi / Space Opera, was played last Friday night. This is my quickie recap of the events of the game, recorded to reflect the style of the World. It is 2035, planet Earth, after the Ultra-War... Federation Command Special Force is eagerly awaiting its new recruits at Kitt Peak Observatory and Federation Command Space Center ...



Episode Recap Outline

The Coffee Shop
- Enter Linda
-- The Polka Dot Dress
- The Meeting of the Federation Command, Special Forces Recruits
-- Pita
-- Bruin Hilda IV
-- Jacob
-- Lexi the Android
--- "How do you best serve mankind?"
The Lightning Storm
- To the Transit Station
The Civilian Jump-Jet Flight to Station One West
- The Rabbit in the Thorns
The Military Jump-Jet Flight to Kitt Peak Observatory
- Lt. Roger Brisbane Introduction by Speaker-Phone
-- The Three Missions Choice:
--- Operation Black Wind
--- Operation Silver Eye
--- Operation Iron Sand
-- The Mission Debate - Silver Eye wins
-- Yellow Emergency Location Beacon Alert
--- The Rescue
---- Incoming! The Bore Beetles Swarm
---- The Outlaw Ambush
----- Pepper Grenade
---- Jump-Jet Escape
Arrival at Kitt Peak
- Meeting on the Tarmac: Lt Brisbane
-- Linda is Brisbane's daughter, home from Shopping Spree
- The Medical Exam
-- The Optometrist
--- "Your Eye Will Emit The Light."
--- "The eye is the gateway."
-- The Induction Hall
--- The Ceremony
---- The Federation Command Special Forces Oath
-- The Mission Choice: Operation Silver Eye Selected
--- Moon Mission to the Aristarchus Crater
---- 24 Hour Lead time
----- Linda Says Fair Well

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thoughts on The Way of All Flesh Campaign

A slight change of style, with one frill, wherein I talk about my upcoming Campaign World "The Way of All Flesh". I ruminate about the larger background, zoom into some details, and leave gobstopping tons out. Kind of a teaser for the campaign world. I thought I'd experiment a bit with the style. It's not great, but again, it's heading in the general direction I want to go. So there you have it.