Monday, August 21, 2006


This is my Elthos RPG Blog wherein I expect to discuss the trials and tribulations of a indi RPG designer. It's very exciting designing your own Role Playing Game and getting it launched into the public domain (somehow!). So far it's been quite the learning experience and so I thought I'd start, you know, like blogging about it. So far I've learned a few important lessons:1. There are two schools of thought in the Indi RPG world. One has it that you spend a lot of time playing everyone else's RPG systems and then mixing and matching into your own so that you come up with a Best of Breed system. Two, (mine) that you focus on your own system and polish, polish, polish and specifically avoid others so as to NOT inadvertently acquire ideas from others in the field. Kind of a fair play sort of approach. You know, like NOT stealing other people's ideas? But that's just dumb. EVERYONE and their BROTHER steals ideas, and my Elthos RPG is actually a derivative work from the original D&D rules, though pretty significantly altered - it is STILL a derivative work, or at least one could argue that, and make a good case for it. In fact, every game is in some sense a derivative work. Every book, and movie, and craft is a derivative work to some degree. Ok so mine is too. I get it. Not so hard. But I also tried to keep mine as original as possible, and to that end I specifically avoided other systems. But that's just DUMB! I found that out recently. Woopsie. 2. Creating a RPG and marketing it and selling it and doing all the legal foot pounding is a LOT of work. Yay. It's fun work! I'm tired, but a Good tired. Um. Well what is Elthos? Elthos is my Role Playing Game System and World. It features character generation, skills, alignment, magic and clericy, levels, combat, movement, monsters and races, and comes with its own Universe. :)The World: Downtown Main Street of the Elthos Universe is the Celestial Island. Once upon a time long ago the All-Creator (who shall remain nameless) created the Celestial Island as a physical manifestation of His All-Amazing Philosophy of Alignments. It features a variety of Civilizations, creatures, and Deities who are called The Elkron. The Celestial Island is an infinite place, and a world of worlds. It is has doorways that lead to other worlds and is the home of an infinite number of realms within its own world. It is a trans-dimensional tesseract-like region within the Realm of Idea. Is it Lawful or Chaotic, Good or Evil? It is all of them. Elthos brooks no bias in this regard. While some regions are humorous delightful fairylands, others are darker than the abyss beneath the Mountains of Madness. It all depends on where you go. The Rules: Elthos Rules come in two distinct flavors; Simple and Complex. The simple rules are called the Elthos ODS ("One Die System"). The ODS Rules are a distillation of the larger more complex rules, called Elthos Prime. The ODS rules use, as the name denotes, 1 six-sided die to run the entire game. Impossible you say? Hah! Not so! But of course you can read the rules for yourself and decide if the system works. I think it does, and so do my players, so far. The few of them. Well, the one. My nephew. But HE thinks they work! And that's what counts. Oh, did I mention I just created the ODS rules a few months ago? I have tried to get a group together to test them, but that group just could not get it together though we tried. It just go too complicated. Duh. Whatever. Just another trial in a long series of tribulations for the old RPG Designer. Anyway, I've been playing Elthos for a very good long time (the Elthos Prime System) and I can say emphatically that I like the ODS rules a LOT. They really work nicely. The Elthos Prime Rules I began working on in 1978. I read the first three books of D&D v1 and they said, "Go and create your own rules... advance, advance, advance..." and so I did. That's what you were supposed to do in those days. Well, that's what I did. I made a couple of key design decisions right away. The first was to SIMPLIFY the rules! I didn't want all those charts. I wanted just a few charts. For some bizarre reason I thought like a programmer way back then. I modularized the concepts and came up with one amazingly simple chart to handle all conflicts which I adoringly called The General Resolution Matrix (GeRM). Yay. It works for me, buddy. I've been using it for countless games and it delivers. I of course also added a bunch of other stuff, such as an alignment system that's mathematically oriented, and stuff along those lines, along with a pretty good combat movement system based loosely on concepts derived from Hex games like Blitzkrieg. Anyway, the Elthos Prime system is both simple and sophisticated at the same time. In 1996 I convinced my buddies Dave and Evan to consider working together on game development stuff. We formed a loosely organized non-binding non-obligatory non-financially-linked mutual admiration and collaboration society called The New York Group (real original, huh?). Evan went on to become pretty famous in the game industry and formed his own company and made some really really Great Games (like the card game "Blue and Gray"). David stayed in his cave and worked on his super vast information processing system which would eventually one day encompass all knowledge, including games. I threw myself ceaselessly at my own game Elthos. So in 1996 I began to program Elthos in QBasic. I quickly realized that QBasic was nice, but not nearly robust enough for what I wanted. I advanced to Visual Basic. And there I stayed working on the Elthos system with some design consultation and advice along the way from David and Evan. David helped me considerably with computer programming knowledge, and even deigned to take a brief and distinctly limited look at my code, offering a "formalized" example of how I should proceed. I was quite grateful for that, but in the end had to abandon our working arrangement in 2000. It was kind of killing me. He smokes a lot and it was making me really ill. He was also kind of driving me a little crazy because he's kind of a control freak. And I was kind of driving him crazy because I hate, HATE being controlled. So that was that, more or less, though now he still is trying to pull the old team together. I'm not so sure I want to return to the good old days. He promises things will be different this time. Hmmmm... well, maybe, but I'm not sure it's worth taking the risk. I mean we have a friendship intact, but another round like last time and it could drive us to beat each other over the heads with soft cushions and other lint-weight objects. Not so good. Maybe I'll pass. Anyway, after 11 years I finished the Elthos Prime Alpha 1 Prototype. Its a fully functional Death Star. Well, not exactly. But it is a fully functional prototype of the Elthos Prime System running in Visual Basic. And I have to admit, it is pretty sweet. Ok... that's enough for the first post. More next time. :)

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