Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Evolution of My GMing Style

What does it matter what a dice roll comes up showing? As the DM, I'm the only one that knows how much to add to the roll. Or what it is I'm rolling for at all. If I think I really crappy roll is about to royally screw over my players or ruin the story for everyone, I just make something up. As the DM, that's my job.

Richard Stephens

Richard Stephens - I think you kind of hit on the crux of the issue in my mind.  When we first started GMing back in 1978 that is exactly what our point of view was in my town.  All of us GMs had the same attitude about it, and we all pretty much played it the same way.   Later on things evolved.  But in the beginning, I didn't even tell my players what their stats were or even what the exact rules of my homebrew rpg were.   The reason for that was because we GMs collectively decided that it was better for the players not to know the mechanical details, as that information tended to draw them out of their characters and into a game-oriented frame of mind, but we believed that the purpose of the thing was to get immersed in someone else's world.  The mechanics could only inhibit that immersion.  So we had our reasons, and I won't say they were bad reasons.  It was our style in that era, and we played it for all it was worth.

But things changed.  Later, in the late 80's and 90's I decided that the players were at a tactical disadvantage by not knowing the tactical rules.  I began using battle maps to show them where their characters were and told them their movement allocation.  We played that style for about 5 years, and then I made another evolutionary shift.  I decided to give the Players their characters stats, and explained the rules to them.  This was so that they could make more intelligent decisions regarding their character's tactical maneuvers.  While this definitely made them more efficient and effective as players, and their Characters had a much better chance of survival in terms of the calculated odds, it did in fact manage to detract from the immersion.

When I noticed this effect I decided the immersion aspect is important enough to focus on.  So I deliberately established a Descriptive Narration style where I would go very light on stats information in-game, and describe things according to what the Characters know from their own senses.  Gone were the "You did 5 points of damage to the kobold" and in came "The wretch with the glassy eyes cries out, a hellish gash spurting blood on his right arm".

During these different phases of my GM style I held different philosophies about how to use the dice.  At first they were there for me to use as a guide.  I didn't cheat my players though.  I played according to my homebrew rules, and I distinctly played according to the dice.  And PCs died.  Quite a lot, actually.

Then in the next phase with the tactical combat, I let the Players roll their own attacks, and that was done above board, but I rolled for the NPCs and that was behind the screen.  I didn't cheat the players, though.  I simply kept the dice behind the screen because that was my habit from the prior era, and I felt that it kept the suspense high.

Now, in the current era, I am rolling everything above board, and I let the players know the stats of the monsters.  They help me adjudicate the action and make sure that the rules make sense and are working. Of course, this era has been a big play test of my revised mini-system, and that's why I made that particular change.  But over time I found that I rather liked the effect.   So long as I keep the players immersed in my world via Narrative Descriptions I don't think they mind having the immersion interrupted by tactical combat.  We just go in, and go out of the immersion on the basis of the kind of scene that is unfolding.  It feels quite natural at this point.

So yeah, I definitely hear ya.  I just think there are other modalities and ways of doing things that are just as valid, and just as fun.

Original Post on Google+ with discussion

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cosmological Map In T-Shirt Formation

Is it April 23? I guess it is, but from the temperature in my apartment you would never know it. It's frikkin freezing.

Anyway that aside, I have been toiling away here on another small leg of the project (mostly because I'm so chilled I can't really work on anything that requires deep thinking or analytic computations) ...

Yup... you guessed it.

The Elthos T-Shirt Store!

Now suppose you are curious what your Zodiac Sign relates to in terms of Tarot Cards ... well, until now, that's actually been something of a difficult question to answer. But for Elthos, after many years of plodding along and thinking about it, drawing correspondences and thinking about it some more, and then doing more research and ... ok, you get the idea... finally there is a Correspondence between the two.

Why was this so hard, you ask? Because (and yes, I'm so glad you asked!) it's not as straight forward a question as it might seem.

For example, you'd think that because there is a Traditional Tarot card for the Sun, and the Moon, and all the 12 Zodiac Signs, that there's be a nice and neat correspondence between Tarot Cards and Planets and Zodiac Signs... right? Well, not so fast, there padre. It ain't quite that simple. Let's take a quick look.

Lets do the obvious ones:
MOON --- Moon
SUN --- Sun

Right. Those are the only two really really obvious ones. Now lets do the ones that are kind of clear, if you think about it a bit.

VIRGO --- High Priestess
JUPITER --- Emperor
LIBRA --- Justice
LEO --- Strength
SCORPIO --- Death
GEMINI --- Lovers

Ok after that it starts getting a little dodgy. Ok, quick quiz for you. Which of these remaining cards go with which Zodiac Signs and Planets?

Magician ...?
Empress ...?
Hierophant ...?
Chariot ...?
Hermit ...?
Fortune ...?
Hanged Man ...?
Temperance ...?
Devil ...?
Tower ...?
Star ...?
Judgment ...?
World ...?

Not as easy as you thought, eh?

For those of you keeping count, you might notice that the number of Planets and Zodiac Signs may not match the number of Tarot Cards. Lets count.

Tarot Cards in the Major Arcana - 22. That was easy.

Zodiac Signs - 12. That was easy.

Planets - 5 or 7 or 9 depending on your cultural references. Lets look at Planets for a moment. At this point things get pretty confusing. If you hunt around for any kind of official Table of Correspondences for Planets, Zodiac Signs and Tarot Cards you're going to notice pretty quickly that there is no consensus on the subject. This is because the number of planets doesn't quite match the Tarot Cards, unless you decide to go with 10 planets. In which case yup, then they match. But still... what planets go with what cards? There's some agreement on some of the slightly more intuitive ones...

MERCURY --- Magician
VENUS --- Empress
PLUTO --- Hanged Man
CAPRICORN --- Devil
MARS --- Tower
SATURN --- Judgment

Beyond that, it's pretty much been a guessing game, and there's not even firm agreement on all of the ones I just listed. In some cases, the game wasn't even quite fair... for example one I found from the middle ages that only used 5 planets and so had Venus and Saturn used twice, among other incongruities.

At any rate, for the Elthos RPG I needed (or wanted, rather) to have a clear and concise system that I could use as the basis for a rational Alignment System, something I'd been working on since the 1970's. In the end, after much hemming and hawing and hobbnobbing and reading and pulling of hairs and so forth, I settled on this configuration:

MERCURY --- Magician
VENUS --- Empress
TAURUS --- Hierophant
AQUARIUS --- Chariot
NEPTUNE --- Hermit
ARIES --- Fortune
PLUTO --- Hanged Man
CANCER --- Temperance
CAPRICORN --- Devil
MARS --- Tower
URANUS --- Star
SATURN --- Judgment
SAGITTARIUS --- World
EARTH --- Unicorn *
ELKOR --- Dragon *

You'll notice that there are 12 Planets. That's because I added the Earth (which most astrologers never counted as a planet, but of course it very much IS a planet), and I also added Elkor, otherwise known as Planet X, the World of the Elkron. This gave me 12, which I needed. Why? Because I wanted 12 Planets to go neatly with 12 Constellations of the Zodiac, of course.

But wait! There's only 22 Tarot Cards in the Major Arcana, and there's no way that 22 Major Arcana are going to match with 12 Zodiac Signs and 12 Planets. So if my premise was I wanted one Planet per Zodiac Sign (and of course, who wouldn't?), then I would have to have 24 Celestials (what I refer to as the collective body of Zodiac Signs and Planets). After all most Zodiac Signs have a corresponding Planet... but not all of them... which is why the whole thing has been a mess for centuries.

Ok, so how to solve? Naturally, in my infinite wisdom as Gamemaster of Elthos, I took the only logical expedient. I created two new Tarot Cards The Dragon and the Unicorn.

And NOW I have 12 Planets that correspond with the 12 Constellations, and all of those corresponding with one, and only one Tarot Card.

And to make things even spiffier, I embodied the entire system on a Tarot Deck created for me by Jason Moser... and put it all on T-Shirts.

Please don't ask why they are on T-Shirts. The answer is just too painfully obvious.

So here you are... enjoy!

PISCES --- Fool
MERCURY --- Magician
VIRGO --- High Priestess
VENUS --- Empress
JUPITER --- Emperor
TAURUS --- Hierophant
GEMINI --- Lovers
AQUARIUS --- Chariot
LIBRA --- Justice
NEPTUNE --- Hermit
ARIES --- Fortune
LEO --- Strength
PLUTO --- Hanged Man
SCORPIO --- Death
CANCER --- Temperance
CAPRICORN --- Devil
MARS --- Tower
URANUS --- Star
MOON --- Moon
SUN --- Sun
SATURN --- Judgment
SAGITTARIUS --- World
EARTH --- Unicorn *
ELKOR --- Dragon *

The Elthos RPG T-Shirt Store!

:) 
























Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Mini-System RPGs

I'm going to cobble this together as a Blog Post for the record because I think it's an interesting point regarding Mini-Systems.   Originally this was intended to be a response to a blog post, but Google+ posted it as a new thread to my public stream.  Mmm... okay.   So here's the google+ post for reference:

 
The responses were interesting.  I want to encapsulate and paraphrase the main points here.
 
Naturally, it is an each to his own hobby.  
 
That said, what I like about my Elthos RPG Mini-System is speed of play.  
 
Bannister commented that he doesn't like Low Stats Systems ... "I can't fathom a character in a distilled system that can match anything except generic Hero Archetypes...  most players don't like to use it for character creation. too bland."
 
As far as it limiting players ability to define their characters, we've found to opposite to be true here.  My players enjoy the flexibility of loosely defined non-critical attributes, and role play their characters based on their personality and goals, rather than attributes and class.  The speed of play aspect is of such a benefit that I feel that the advantages far out-weight the disadvantages.  But again, each to his own.  I would say this is not the game for those who are very focused on technical rules of the game, but rather for those who enjoy a certain amount of gamism, but also, and possibly a little bit more, enjoy the story aspect.  The system leaves a lot to the creativity of the players by keeping the rules flexible and simple.  When questions arise, the GM adjudicates.  That's the nature of it, and it works well for my group.  Nothing at all against your group or your style of play, of course.  It's all good, as long as people are having fun.
 
Nuff said.  Just wanted to record this for future reference, least it get lost in the Great Google+ Miasma, since I think its' an interesting point.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Professional GameMaster Society - Progress

Professional GameMaster Society
Wanting to focus on achievable goals, our fledgling Professional GameMaster Society agreed that we should concentrate as a first order of business on the plucking the low lying fruit.  That has been to create a package of materials for Pro-GMs to use in the pursuit of one of our easiest to generate business models, which we're calling "The Glorified Game-Sitting Service"

In this model the GM sets up shop with a local Community Center, Library, School, or group of parent's to host a game for young people, probably between the ages of 11 and 14.  The fee structure is based, loosely, on a sliding scale depending on the number of participants, with the minimum being 4 (salt to taste) and the maximum being 12 (ditto).  The pay ranges from $12 / hour / Player for 4 to $8 / hour / Player for 12.  Of course the more Players the more money, even with the sliding scale.

For the Package I created a set of documents that can be used by the Society Members by downloading them and replacing the <Item> bracketed items in the document with whatever is appropriate.  For example "Welcome to the <Name> Game Club" where name might get replaced with "Elthos".   The documents include:

  1. A Cover Letter intended as an introduction to the Community Center Administrators, or Library Staff, or whomever would be appropriate, and simply introduces the concept and asks if there is interest.
  2. A Proposal Letter which goes into some more detail and provides additional information, and works towards setting up a program.
  3. A Game Club Rules document for the Parents which explains the basics that they need to know about the Club, and provides additional information about pricing, location, and the benefits of the Club for their kids.
  4. A Pricing Calculator Spreadsheet for GMs to use to work out how much they wish to charge.

All of the documents have the Professional GameMaster Society Logo, and include a link to our Website, as well as a link to our individual Google+ Professional Gamemaster Society Profiles.

At this point the documents are pretty much completed, but I'm waiting to hear from our members on any suggestions they may have for changes before finalizing them.  Other than that I may add a poster or two as examples for help with marketing the local games, possibly.  Overall, I'm quite pleased with the results.  I see this service as particularly useful for High School and College age students who wish to earn extra money GameMastering for young people.  While I don't expect this to become a means by which anyone reasonably expect to get rich, it can serve as a nice way to make supplemental income.

That said, the Society has come up with a number of wonderful brainstorming proposals on a variety of methods for achieving our longer term goals (which do include getting rich GameMastering) that I've also documented in our Google Share Folder.  That as well has been coming along nicely and we have some very interesting ideas on the table.  Some members are prototyping various concepts at this point.  I'm pleased to see it.

This has been a very thought provoking and interesting experiment thus far, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads in the future.   My next step will be to pick out, with the Society's help and advice, our most promising model and see what I can do with it, while encouraging our other members to do likewise.  Hopefully, if all goes well, we will have further progress and something of interest to the wider community of GameMasters to report.

If you happen to be interested you may request to join the Professional GameMaster Society via the Google+ site.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Elthos RPG Rules Book - WIP

The Elthos Core Rules Book is coming along nicely, and is in final edit.  I'm working on it with InDesign and I thought I'd post a few images of what it looks like so far... Here we go...






I wonder what people think of the look in terms of the style?  Any recommendations for it?  Thanks!

VBWyrde on Patreon

I recently heard about Patreon and decided that I should give it a try. I'm working full time on Elthos RPG, and while I'm not exactly bereft of funds at this point, I realize that I do need to refill the coifers so that I don't go broke in the process of development. I'm asking that anyone who is interested in seeing the Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine (Elthos RPG's comprehensive supporting Web Application), come to life and provide useful services to GMs, please visit my Patreon page and Patronize the effort.

VBWyrde on Patreon

For those of you who do not know what I'm working on - my Patreon page sums it all up rather nicely so I will quote myself here:
I'm working on advancing the 21st century art form known as Role Playing Games.. I will be producing materials including a web application called The Mythos Machine that helps Gamesmasters to create and run their own Worlds, as well as publishing Campaigns of my own design, artwork, Game-Stories in prose form, the Elthos Tarot Deck, and whatever else I think up to support this amazing endeavor using the Elthos RPG as the foundation of my work. Elthos RPG is a light-weight system geared towards story-oriented play, but with a strong (though optional) tactical element. It's a great system, and features an amazing web application to support GMs who use the Elthos RPG.
The Elthos RPG Rules book is in final edit stages now, and is coming along wonderfully.  The Game Test Stories are completed but I would like to polish them up a bit and put them in a nicely formatted series of PDFs. The Mythos Machine almost complete and is is soon to enter its Open Beta Phase, hopefully by the beginning of June.  Current testing suggests that it is 98% finished. We will be looking for a select handful of Open Beta Testers at that time, so please stay tuned to my blog if you are interested (or better yet, shoot me a message so I can put you on the list).  More on the Open Beta later.

Please help to support my efforts to bring Elthos and the Mythos Machine to life!


Thank you!

Edit:  Ok I got some really great feedback on this idea and my Patreon page from David Schirduan, and it seems that I'm kind of in an odd spot with Patreon.  David gave me some really insightful observations and thoughts about it.  In the end I conclude that it is unlikely that I can make Patreon work for me the way I need it to.  Which is fine.  It's better to try stuff and see what happens then to not try and never know.  :)

At any rate, as we were talking I realized that I can post some screenshots of the Rules Book while it is still a Work In Progress.  Here's how it is looking at this point:





 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Elthos Yellow Clay Story Map

Instead of simple maps that show what is in a given area, I like to superimpose over that the actual story as it's being played, with past, present and (possible) futures also represented. These story maps act as a memory device for me as the GamesMaster, and also provide the Players with an interesting representation of the game, and helps to keep the story in their memories. Those things that appear to them to be ambiguous and mysterious are just as well. I don't explain them. I simply keep them in mind while we are playing. If one of the 'possible futures' does transpire they can see it afterwards on the Story Map as a form of foreshadowing. And that works great.

These are wonderful little devices if you happen to have the time, artistic bent, and creative imagination for it. I love them. And over the years I've accumulated a neat stack of Story Maps that never fail to entertain me again long after the campaign has completed.

Edit: Venger Satanis (google+) mentioned this post and Story Map on his blog here. Cool. :)