Elthos RPG FAQ

1. What is Elthos RPG?

Elthos RPG is a light-medium weight traditional RPG that has been distilled down into a concise little mini-system for ease of play. It's focus is on providing Gamesmasters with the freedom to exercise their own creativity, and as such it's overall mission is to help you create your own Worlds. Therefore the Core Rules provides only the mechanics of the system, with a small set of example items and Characters for you to use as a basis for creating your own stuff. If you're a creative type who wants to enjoy the wonders of Mythopoeia, then Elthos is built for you.

2. Why was Elthos RPG created?

When my hometown friend Eric introduced me to D&D in 1978, he told me that the GMs in our town were “Anti-Gygaxians” and anyone who wanted to GM in our little Society of GMs had to create their own rules system. He expressed this as something of a Rite of Passage. The reasons for this were two fold.

a) Rules Lawyers had already started cropping up, and having your own rules that were not necessarily known by the players mitigated the baleful anti-immersion effect of around-the-table rules arguments.

b) The Gygaxian Rules in original D&D had what we considered to be flaws that required a certain amount of fixing up.

For these reasons I created Elthos RPG in 1978.

3. What flaws with OD&D did Elthos RPG fix?

The first problem was the TSR Business Model, which we calculated would result in a proliferation of new rules books, which meant that there was a good chance our World’s histories would have to change when the older mechanics became obsolete. We didn’t want to have to change our Worlds every time a new rules book came out. Having our own rules meant there was no risk of that happening.

The second problem was that the mechanics were not designed with mathematical balance, and they felt rather lopsided to me. For example, the Experience Chart numbers advanced in erratic sequences. I wanted to have a cleaner, easier to memorize system.

Lastly, it seemed that for every new thing that might need to be added to my World, the Gygaxian method revolved around creating a new chart or table. That may have made sense from their business perspective of wanting to sell more, bigger rules books, however, it made zero sense from my perspective as a GM who wanted to run a long term Campaign. I wanted a system that would handle everything I could imagine for my World, without having to add new charts for every individual thing. To this end I created a small set of charts for Character Creation, and one General Resolution Matrix for all conflict resolution and skills checks. Everything in Elthos RPG gets resolved using one chart. Much easier for me. 30+ years later, I still think so.

4. Is the Elthos RPG a full blooded RPG System, or a Mini-System?

The Short Answer: The Elthos RPG in its current form is a Mini-System. It uses the most distilled version of a traditional RPG I could devise, and features 3 Requisites, and uses tiny-numbers math throughout the rules system by default.

The Longer Answer: Elthos RPG went through two major iterations. The first was a full blooded RPG System with 10 Requisites and a 4d6 Character Generation System with Life Points, Mana Points, Fatigue Points and Grace Points. The General Resolution Matrix was a percentile dice system. I programmed an earlier version of the Mythos Machine that uses the original Elthos Prime system which I began programming in 1994, was completed in 2000, and I tinkered with until 2006. As this software was programmed in Visual Basic 6, I never felt comfortable releasing it to the public (remember DLL Hell?), so it is sitting on a shelf in my computer gathering dust until I go back and start pulling out some of its more advanced features and adding them to the Mythos Machine. 

Then, in 2006 I decided it would be a neat thing for the Literary Role Playing Game Society to have a mini-system to experiment with. So I took the Elthos Prime system and distilled it down to it’s smallest, leanest components without removing any of the core mechanics. Thus, the Elthos RPG was distilled into what I call the “One Die System”. I decided that this would make an ideal foundation for a new computer application as it is far simpler system. I also decided this time that programming it in ASP.Net as a browser based web application would make it far easier for me to maintain and distribute. Thus Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine was born together and designed to support one another as cooperative projects. And so, yes, the Elthos RPG is a mini-system by default. That said, the Mythos Machine does allow you to configure your Worlds for other dice systems as well. More on that in a bit.

5. What is the Mythos Machine?

The Mythos Machine is a web application that supports the Elthos RPG Rules. It is divided into two separate but equally useful sections. The World Weaver’s Studio that helps you to create a World, with a hierarchical tree of Places, and create Campaigns with multiple Adventures associated to those Places. The other section of the Mythos Machine is the GamesMaster’s Toolbox, which handles Character Generation, Character Group Management, Adventure Events and Experience Gains Record Keeping.

I wanted to create a computer application that would make my life easier as a GM by crunching the numbers and keep track of my record keeping. Up to that point I had my World written up in spiral bound notebooks. These became increasingly difficult to search, and I wanted something to help me keep track of the World and Character history that would allow me to run a long term campaign without losing track of stuff. I also wanted to have a system that would do all the Character generation number crunching for me, as well as calculate combat statistics. The Mythos Machine is my latest version of this software. It is an online web application that does all of that. Very convenient.

6. Do you have to use both the World Weaver’s Studio and the GamesMaster’s Toolbox?

No. You can use one or the other independently, though they are well integrated and allow you to use them in conjunction with each other.

7. What are the best features of the Mythos Machine?

I think the two most compelling features are the Print World Report which lets you print out your World’s Campaigns and Adventures, with maps and Character Stats included, and it’s Auto-Gen System for creating NPC groups on the fly. I can build out my World’s Campaigns over weeks or months, and then print everything out into a nice concise package I can use during the game. If I run into a situation where the Players head off in an unexpected direction, I can also automagically create NPC / Monster groups with all of their equipment and stats calculated in a matter of seconds. There are a lot of features in the Mythos Machine, but those two are probably the most useful.

A third runner up, I have to say, is the World Things Trading Post, which gives Gamesmasters the ability to share their creations with one another. If Gamesmasters make their stuff Public (things you create are private by default), then other Gamesmasters can take a look. If you like what you see you can import it into your own World to be used or modified as you see fit. I think going forward this will become one of the most popular features in the system.

8. What kinds of Worlds can I create with the Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine?

Any kind you can imagine. The system is genre neutral and you can create all of the items, weapons, armors, equipment, classes, and races you might need to run any kind of World.

9. Does the Mythos Machine allow you to use other RPG Systems such as Pathfinder, D&D, and Call of Cthulhu?

No, not really. The Mythos Machine is designed for use with the Elthos RPG.

However, that said, you could create Worlds that are not directly connected to the mathematical underpinnings of the GamesMaster’s Toolbox and use those Worlds with any other System you want. You could also, potentially, use the GamesMaster’s Toolbox to create proto-Characters for use with other systems, since the Elthos RPG uses a minimalist subset of Requisites, and tiny numbers math to generate Characters, and so these could be reasonably easily expanded upward to fill out most other RPG System Character requirements. However, I have no desire to do so myself, and thus have not tried it. I’ll be curious to hear if others ever do so, and if so, how it goes. But the short answer is basically still, No. Not designed for other systems, really.

10. Why isn’t the Mythos Machine designed for use with other RPG Systems?

The idea is to have a simplified yet traditional based RPG rules system that allows for fast play in it's simplest configuration, and also offers comprehensive computer support to GM's in terms of Game Preparation. The purpose is to provide the GM with tools that make Gamesmastering more efficient, so the use of a single, medium/light weight RPG rules system as the basis for the Web Application is a more practical solution than trying to provide support for the dozen or so other major systems, all of which are quite different from one another. The other advantage to the use of the Elthos RPG rules is that it allows GM's to consistantly share their World-Things, Characters and Places with other GMs on the system.

In addition, there are all kinds of potential legal pitfalls surrounding the use of other RPG Systems; ones that have a habit of changing their legal/licensing status over time. I didn’t want to tie my Mythos Machine to those systems because we’ve seen a number of examples where licenses were granted to third party companies to use certain RPG systems, and then later revoked by the owners of those systems. I didn’t want to put the Mythos Machine into the risk zone associated with depending on other Rules Systems. And besides, Elthos RPG is perfectly fine for the job, and so I had no need to link to other systems to get out of the Mythos Machine what I intended: a useful bit of software to help with Gamesmastering unique Worlds of any kind.

11. Will you charge for the use of the Mythos Machine?

At some point I hope to charge a low monthly subscription fee, yes. However, I’m also exploring other options as well, which include a one-time fee for a life-time membership, a freemium model for basic use, the possibility of Ad Revenue, and/or a Contributions based system. Ideally, if everyone contributed voluntarily enough so that I could fund further development that way, I would stick with a Contributions based model.  We'll see how it goes.

12. What happens to my World if Elthos goes out of business and goes offline?

You can download all of the stuff you create in the Mythos Machine into local files and continue to use the Elthos RPG rules indefinitely. If the Mythos Machine becomes unavailable for some dreadful reason at some point you will not be able to use it to create new stuff for your World in the Web Application. You could, however, simply add things to your downloaded excel files. It would not be quite as convenient, of course, but you would not lose any of your creative work.

13. Do I need an Internet Connection to use the Mythos Machine?

Yes you do. It is a browser based application so all you need is a modern web browser to use it. But it does not have an offline capability at the moment. That can be built in going forward if people express a need for it.

14. Can I configure my World in the Mythos Machine to use alternate dice systems?

Yes. You can choose a whole variety of configuration options for your World in the Mythos Machine. In particular you can use a 1d6 to 4d6 General Resolution Matrix, as well as a 1d6 to 4d6 Character Requisite Generation System. There are also options for modifying the speed of advancement for the Characters, changing the names of the Requisites, changing the method your players may use to generate their Characters (random rolling, roll and allocate, or allocate only), and so on. There’s quite a few options for configuration there – but do be careful. Reconfiguring your World can potentially make it unbalanced, so you want to be sure to read and understand the configuration options before experimenting.

15. Is there an Elthos World?

Yes. There is an Elthos World that I’ve been running for 30+ years, and it has a lot of history. However, the point of the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine are to help GMs create their own Worlds, so I am not currently placing Elthos the World front and center in any sense. It is simply one of the many Worlds that may exist within the Mythos Machine, and the Rules System is named after it. If you want to read some of the prose stories that I wrote based on verbatim transcriptions from our actual games you can read them here: Example Game Stories … these are intended to serve as examples of what can be done with the Elthos RPG.

16. Do you offer Gamesmastering tips on the use of the Elthos RPG?

There are a lot of books out there now on How to Gamesmaster, and many of them cover the same ground from different angles and points of view. The Elthos RPG Core Rules offers some minimalistic Gamesmaster advice, and mostly in relation to the use of the One Die System in regards to the Tiny-Numbers-Math being used. That said, if there is a desire for me to do so in the future I can certainly provide more in the way of tips and advice for Gamesmasters using the Elthos RPG.

17. Do you offer any kind of Elthos Setting information in the Mythos Machine or Elthos RPG Core Rules?

In the Elthos RPG Core Rules, no, not at all. But in the Mythos Machine, a little bit, and what I am revealing is kind of tucked away in the background. It can also be safely ignored as it has no impact on the actual mechanics of play. However, that said, I have an Alignment System that is based on the idea that there is a Deity (aka Elkron) for each Alignment, who represents that Alignment's furtherest logical extension in sentient form. So there are Elkron of Good, Evil, Law and Chaos. The Elkron exist in the system but not as actual Characters with Stats (and all that implies). They are, one might say, the embodiment of the principals of the metaphysical realm. Again, I am downplaying their use in the system, and are simply available for those who might like to make use of the concept. I do in the World of Elthos. The Elkron tie into the Elthos Cosmology, and I have in mind to make this metaphysical underpinning the one common thread between all the Worlds in the System. I am certainly going to publish more about how the Elkron work with the Alignment system in the future, but for now, I'm focusing on the core mechanics of the Elthos Rules, and the technical aspects of the Mythos Machine. You can expect to hear more about the Elkron as soon as I have time to get to it. And at any rate, it will always remain as something that can be 'switched off' for Gamesmasters who are not interested in this aspect of the system.

18. Is the Mythos Machine a completed product ready for use by everyone at this time (July 2015)?

Yes and No. The Mythos Machine is currently in Open Beta mode, and I am looking for feedback on the system as it is in order to make final changes and updates to the system. On the other hand I've been using it for my own game, and a couple of my friends are using it for theirs, and it's been working nicely for us, overall. There are some bugs, of course, which I'm ironing out, and there are probably some features which may need to be clarified for ease-of-use, and other features that may be desirable to add before I consider it “ready for prime time”.

There is also the fact that I will probably never consider the Mythos Machine to be “complete”. It is an evolutionary concept that will evolve over time as new technologies become available. I think I will always be tinkering with it to improve it in different ways until … oh, whenever, and hopefully a good long time.

So when people ask me "When will Elthos be finished?" I like to answer them this way... "Nevaaaaarrrrr!" :)
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