Monday, October 16, 2017

Elthos Patreon - Asking for Advice

Hi Hi... I have my Patreon pretty much set up ... but I'm worried about my Rewards. The problem I think I have is that I'm offering things that will consume my time in a way that if I get success with the Patreon I'll wind up buried with Patreon related rewards rather than working on the core project. I'm wondering if anyone else has faced this issue, and how you work it out? I could offer other things besides time intensive things, but I'm not sure what would work best.

The challenge for me is that I'm a startup with very limited resources, so I have to economize as much as possible while I bootstrap my operation. So one thing that doesn't cost money to give is time... but of course, time is our most precious commodity, especially if you're an inventor / innovator / entrepreneur who is struggling to launch an actual business, but needs help along the way to get everything up and off the ground. It's not easy, especially if you're doing so on a shoe string budge in order to avoid "Imperial entanglements" (Venture Capital). So Patreon seems like a wonderful possibility. But I realize I have to be able to offer something that my patrons feel is worthwhile, and I suspect that "working on the project of my dreams - the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine Web Application" might or might not suffice on it's own. So of course I'm on the hunt for ways to offer things to my patrons that are worthwhile. But not things that would inhibit progress on the main project by eating time each week. And the more successful the Patreon, of course, the more time would get eaten. So it's a tough call. But I do have stuff... I do artwork (which takes time, but I do it on off moments when I'm in between tasks), and I have quite a bit of written material in story form that are actual play stories from my game ... written up in prose without OCC comments quite faithfully to the adventure as it happened. I think it's a fascinating view of an Elthos game, and quite funny in places (I'm blessed with funny players). I have some things like readings of Lord Dunsany which I've made a couple of and they came out reasonably nice. In other words, when I'm not programming (which most of the time) then I'm free to do some creative work like that. So... given all this... any suggestions on how to structure my patreon in terms of rewards would be great. I think I'm just having a mental block on this. The answer is probably obvious. Anyway, if you have any thoughts, please let me know. Thanks!

Anyway, if you have time and care to offer any thoughts please visit my patreon page at Elthos Patreon. So, if anyone is willing to take a look and offer any advice on it, I'd really appreciate it! Thanks!!


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Future of Story Telling (FoST) Expedition Report

The Future of Story Telling (FoST) is a fascinating experience held on Staten Island in NY (Oct 6 - 8).  As a Gamemaster who is looking to the future of the hobby in relation to Professional Gamemastering I was curious to see what new developments are in the works for VR and AR, and see if anyone at all is considering tools for Gamemasters.  I also wanted to meet people and plant some seeds for future reference there. Unfortunately, I only had one day that I could attend and that was Friday Oct. 6.  So my intrepid and lovely Adventure-Associate, Ling, and I hoofed it over yonder Verrezano Bridge ($17 toll, omg!), and within 2 hours we were at the event, starting at 11am.  We stayed until they closed at 6pm and we certainly had only sampled about 1/3 of what was there to see.

Object Normal
David Lobser
https://www.objectnormal.com/

The Birds!  Ok this was totally 100% fun.  It was certainly and by far the most creative use of VR I saw there, and the most entertaining.  The actresses were absolutely adorable, and Ling and I now have our 'secret' bird calls which we will use periodically going forward as secret passwords.  Hehe.  Anyway, it was a lovely time, and I totally recommend this one, but sign up early!  It gets booked fast, and we were very lucky to squeeze in at the end of the festival day when we replaced a couple of no-shows.  Lucky!



TwoBit Circus
http://twobitcircus.com/

A game where one person gets inside the VR and plays the Monster trying to protect his treasure from the thieving adventurers (the other three players).  I didn't get inside the Monster (my girlfriend did, though), but I'm told it was fun ... you reach out and grab the little thieves with your giant claws and give them a squeeze before they can get your gold back to their ships.

Quantum Interface
http://quantuminterface.com/

Innovation in Headgear design.  The idea was to find a solution to the vertigo experienced by many VR users.  It worked nicely, and I got the hang of it immediately, though my girlfriend who isn't a computer gamer by any stretch of the imagination, and with little experience, was able to get the idea after a few tries.  I'd say it's pretty intuitive once you get the idea, but the initial WTF may be steep for some.

Mech Bird
http://mechbird.fr/
Tatiana Vileca do Santos

This was a very artsy installation in the VR Realm.  At the point where I pressed the button and flipped the room so I was on the ceiling I "got" the Vertigo Effect.  Woah.  Now I know what they mean. It can be really disorienting. I tried it several times and each time the visual effect was so strong I almost fell over.  The Vertigo nausia lasted for another 20 minutes after I left it.  That said, the scene was interesting and very Salvatore Dali-esque.



Apora Gen
http://Aporagen.com
Roman Miletitch

This one is probably the most interesting from the Professional GM Society point of view.  He had an installation where you draw a scene on paper with colored pens and each color represents a type of terrain.  Blue is water, Green is forest, Red is lava, and yellow is a barrier of some kind.  When you draw it on the map an overhead scanner reads the map and automatically adds the terrain in the VR World where people in headsets can interact with it immediately.  So for GMs who want the freedom to create their own Worlds on the fly and have players in an Interactive VR / AR environment, there may well be something to this.  I spoke with Roman and pitched him my idea for GM tools and he was interested.  I will follow up with him soon.

8i
https://8i.com/
Layne Button

This one was a short show with a surrealistic touch to it.  Spaceship was involved.  You stand on a platform in a VR helmet and watch a vista of desert with some musicians and a tornado / storm heading straight for you and ... it was weird and interesting.  It's a mixed reality combination where the platform rumbles, and you feel like you're moving a bit.  The audio was great, and the visuals spectacular. But my girlfriend's video got stuck about 80% of the way through, no one knew, and she didn't figure it out until after ... she thought that was part of the show.   So like for many of these installation, I should mention, there were glitches along the way.  Most of them felt like DYI projects at a Maker Fair, with the exception of a few that were done by large companies like Microsoft.

Starship Commander
Sophie Write
http://human-interact.com/

This was a fun game using AI with voice and VR Helmet directional controls.  You can talk with your AI co-pilot, as questions, and go on the mission.  You fight space gooks, and destroy a battle station.  It was fun, but ... of course ... the AI was not that great, and the co-pilot didn't really understand what I was asking and so after a while I gave up on that part and just ran the mission.  You use your VR helmet to look at enemies and the ship automatically shoots down whatever you can keep your target cross-hairs on for long enough.  Fun stuff, but not really quite there yet.  Proto-type level.

Mashup Machine
http://mashupmachine.io/
Ben Cole

This one was also another potential GM-Tool candidate, though it would need some substantial resources to bring it to bear on our line of thinking.  What it does currently is allow the user to dynamically create virtual scenes like a game, via interaction with the Mashup Machine's AI interface.  It prompts and guides you based on some questions both you and the AI ask one another, and the result is a series of video game scenes.  The AI gets smarter as more people add their thoughts and concepts to the scene creation tool. This concept could be very helpful for GMs who are in the business of dynamic story generation.  Very!  But it has a ways to go from here to there, and no budget to take it in our direction as of now.  Still though - very worthwhile to keep an eye on this one, and ping them on GM Tools development news.

Hololens Exhibit / Show
https://www.deeptale.com/
Tero Pankalainen

For this one you wear hololens headset and watch 3D movie that takes place around you.  It looks very vivid and is AR, not VR, so you can still see everything else around you as well.  But the superimposition of items and characters looks very clear and distinct, and I'd even say "solid".  The story was a bit silly, but the graphics demonstrate the potential.  I could see this being used for AR style games where GMs build maps and players interact with them around the living room table, just like a miniatures map but with obviously far more potential and flexibility.  This could be something to poke at further in the future, Pro-GMs.

Feel the Night - Exhibit in VR
https://JauntVR.com
About JauntVR

The Microsoft Booth was demonstrating a couple of VR systems.  The headset was very smooth feeling, and light weight.  The sensory aspect was also smooth and I didn't get the Vertigo feeling from other installations, but that may be because the action in this one was slow.  But still I got the feeling that the motion in the VR was calibrated to go smoothly so you wouldn't likely get a sudden movement that disorients you.  Hard to explain.  Anyway, the show was interesting in a very basic simply dumb down almost nothing to do sort of way.  Or I should say rather that the artwork of the scene was pretty, though there wasn't much to interact with.  You play a giant who takes light poles from a local town in the desert and lift them up to the air and let go.  They then explode into streaks of starlight, or something.  "Returning the lights to the stars", the assistant of the booth explained, awkwardly.

MindShow
https://mindshow.com/

We stumbled across MindShow, which allows you to jump inside any of a number of VR Characters inside a scene and control them.  The controls are really intuitive and easy to pick up, though a bit klunky to actually use.  Not terrible, but the interface could be a little bit easier to handle.  Even so, the concept, if not the implementation, is certainly compelling from the Pro-GMs point of view as this shows how it would be possible to jump inside of NPCs and play them.  All that would be needed is a live GM'd virtual world to do so in.

Here's the resulting video - I'm the cat.



We also roamed around the the Tent City, which had another 30 or 40 demos, most of which were booked solid for the weekend already.  I would imagine that since we showed up on a Friday we were among the lucky ones who had a relatively light crowd and so we could actually get into a lot of demos without too much waiting.  Even so we couldn't get into the more popular ones, such as Tree, wherein you go inside a VR character of a Seed in the forest and grow yourself to become the tallest tree around.  I would have liked to try that one as it came with "Smell-a-Vision" as well (a girl with a spritzer sprays you with odors of the forest while you play.

We pass through the "VR for Good" tent which has demonstrations of various VR / AR applications used for social justice type purposes, mostly regarding holocaust survivors of various ethnicities around the world, deforestation, and the like.  Not sure how necessary VR is for those messages, but the demos were nevertheless compelling and do tug on the heart-strings.

The food court was good, but don't wait to hurl yourself into the crowd there at noon to 1:30.  If you show up at 2, like we did, you will find slim, but tasty pickings.

The campus / park on which the event takes place is the Snug Botanical Gardens, a place worth seeing on it's own anyway for the beautiful architecture and lovely gardens.











In Conclusion

From my point of view as the representative of the Professional Gamemaster Society, this was very interesting, though I have to admit, I didn't feel like I'm seeing much movement in our direction at all. In fact, overall, I have to say that most of the efforts still feel like Works-In-Progress more than finished products, and the concepts are fascinating, but I didn't see a single one that would be useful for us GMs out of the box.  Of course that said, I do think I planted some seeds of thought, got some really wide eyed looks, and heard a lot of this comment, "Wow, you're ideas are about two levels above where we're at at this point, but we'd love to participate in something like that when we get further along."  So there was interest, but no one has even imagined the potential for live GM'd virtual Worlds out there.

Which is why, once again, I recommend interested people get going with the tweeting, posting, commenting, recommending and insisting on such tools.  Because as it happens, if we don't pester these guys about this idea, they will follow the usual train - which is to create Static-Story VR / AR games that have absolutely zero to do with Live-GM'd Virtual Worlds and pretty much leave our vision out in the cold.  Why?  Simply because they never thought of the idea, and therefore have no plans to build anything along these lines at all.  So if you want to see the kinds of tools that help you with GMing in VR / AR environments starting to pop up in our future, it seems we collectively need to start putting the word out - "We need these kinds of tools, please, and pronto!"  The future is in our direction, in theory, but only if we successfully push for it.  Otherwise we'll all just be playing VR versions of DOOM for the next 100 years.  And that would be a crying shame, imo.

The FoST is a really fascinating view into the future of VR / AR.  Let's make sure that we are just as much a part of that future as everyone else! Tweeeeeeeet!  Tweeeeeeeet!


Thursday, September 28, 2017

There Be Dragons

In response to someone's recent query "What level is ok to throw a dragon at the party?", I have this reply ...

I don't throw stuff at my party, typically. I create a world in which exist many creatures who settle themselves into certain locations and do their thing. I then let the party roam around as they will exploring and adventuring. If they are careful they watch and plan, and peer around corners, listen at doors, ask the locals for information, and try not to walk into a dragon's lair... unless they are prepared for it. So I have a few dragons here and there. So far they've not directly confronted any of them. They could ... but they don't because ... well ...Dragon! That's how I do it. What I don't do is try to manage what level encounter is appropriate for the party as that is just 1) waaay too much work for me, and 2) puts all the burden on me for any TPKs if things go south ("You threw a F*cking DRAGON at us!") ... etc. Nope. Not for me. I have a world. It lives and breaths and in between games I roll to see what the major NPCs and Monsters are doing, based on what their motives, knowledge and resources are. And then when it comes time for the game I let the party play smart or stupid as they wish, and if they encounter the Dragon - cool. If they avoid the Dragon - cool. But throwing stuff at the party and trying to mange what level encounter is "safe enough but not too safe" just never worked for me. I prefer to have a world, and let them live or die in it by their own decisions, not mine. I consider myself referee rather than story-director.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Animal Monks Of Whitewode

There are a few Characters that didn't find their way into the Whitewode Campaign proper, but have been lurkers in the dark corners of things, and actors behind the scenes of the main Campaign.  I think I'll just post a few of them here... Don't tell my players. ;)


*SPOILER ALERT*
If you're one of my players who doesn't like to "cheat" by seeing things your character didn't encounter (Chris), then avert your eyes now... 

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Ok now here we go. As some of you who have been following my game story for some time may already know, I have animals in Elthos whose Royal families can transform into humanoid form, which is kind of the lingua franca of all (or most) animal forms in the Elthos Universe. This started out years ago with the Insect Lords way back when. First my players encountered the Aphid Men.  Then the Ant Men. Then the Locust Men.  Then there was the Insect War.  All quite fun.

Well, after all this time my players have finally encountered the cavern in which dwell the Mammal Lords.  Many of the The Royal Lines of the Mammals are supreme martial artists (from whom humans learned various Martial Arts Styles), and when they want to, they can take on Human form. In this form they can interact in the language of the humans, to some degree, some better some worse, and some don't bother at all (like the Cat Men, who just couldn't be bothered to learn the human tongue, of course).  Following are some sketches of a few of the Animal Monks from the area in and below and around Whitewode, and the caverns and lands round about.  There are plenty more, but these are the one's I've sketched most recently.

Iron Bear Monk in Repose


Black Jackal Monk Preparing to enter the Bow Stance


Iron Bear Monk with Staff

Rhino Monk Preparing Crushing Fist

Well that's them, thar. Pretty fun. Anthropomorphic Super-Monks. :)

By the way, we are at the tail end of the Free Open Beta. If you want to try out the Mythos Machine now would be the right time to do it. Get a free account, and start playing around with it. If you have any questions or comments please let me know! You can contact me through the Elthos.com website or email me at
ElthosRPG @ Elthos.com.

Also, I think I should mention that I am hoping to be able to continue working on the Mythos Machine going forward. However, my resources for that are running thin. So if you want to help please hop on over to Elthos, click on the Shop in the Menu and buy some Swag! We have cool T-Shirts and stuff. Or you can buy a the Elthos RPG Core Rules Book, or even just make a direct Contribution. You can also join my Patreon here: VBWyrde on Patreon!  And as always, thank you so much for your help, feedback and support everyone!  It's been great!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Proto-Worlds Are Coming

Well, it's been a long few weeks of stress.  My sister and nephew are living just outside of Houston.  Need I say more?  Oh, and my dad and step-mother are living in Boca Raton, FL.  So ... there you have it.  Bit of a nervous wreck here.

But nevertheless, the work goes on.  I am a World Weaver, and my love of this is strong.  :)

So lately I'm working on Proto-Worlds for the Mythos Machine.  It's coming along well. Right now I'm revamping the Fantasy World with a better set of characters and adventures.  It's fun.  Making progress.  Here are some character and place sketches related to Griswold ...

The Lovely Marya

Evil Minion

Arch Villain

Arch Villain's Castle on Iron Mountain

The Sullen Stooge

Master Feng Liu - World Traveler

Secret Fortress (don't tell)

Secret Map (shhhhhh!)
So things are coming along.  Mythos Machine has picked up a bunch of new Beta Testers lately, and that's been great, and they're providing incredibly helpful feedback.  So things are improving rapidly.

The latest improvements are:

New Bulk Edit Screens for Weapons, Armors, Races and Classes.  I will be adding more as requests come in, but those are the most important ones, and they're up and running nicely.

Bug Fixes - found a few nasty critters lurking in the shadows. Squashed.

Fantasy Proto-World - coming along nicely.

Cosmic Horror Proto-World - also coming along nicely with the help of Yicheng Liu who came up with the idea and agreed to put the first brush to it.  I'm really impressed with what he's done, and collaborating with him on getting things tooled right so it can serve as another Proto-World for new GMs.

Modern Proto-World - That one is coming along ok, I think, but I'm not 100% sure. The author is working on it, but I think he wants to get more done before sharing it.  He's been a fabulous Beta Tester and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he's come up with.

Western Proto-World - this one only needs a little bit more fine tuning, and is probably the most complete one of the lot at this point.  Fun stuff.

Anyway, so that's progress for you.  Super busy.

If you want to participate in the Free Open Beta, now's your chance.  It won't last much longer.  I'm looking for feedback, things to improve and polish with the site.  Get your licks in and help shape the RPG Software Tools of tomorrow, today.

Go to https://Elthos.com and create a Mythos Machine account for yourself.

Build your own World.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Alex Pe on Creating One Shots

As those of you following my posts have probably figured out by now - I tend to run long term Campaigns. One year would be a super short Campaign for me. Whitewode, for example, started 2.75 years ago. Still going strong, though we're nearing the climax.

But lately I've been thinking about trying my hand at One Shots online. And it occurred to me that I'm in need of advice on the topic. So who did I turn to? The grand master of the One Shot, Alex Pe, of course. And this is what he said:

"Have a good core idea and theme. Don't overprepare. Start at the end, then do the beginning. Everything in between is not that important."

He also sent along this video on how to create One Shots:



Thanks Alex!

Ref: Original Thread on FB (you might need to join the One Shot Group to read the OP).

Thursday, August 24, 2017

On Elthos Elkron Alignment Correspondences

Just a something I felt like talking about on a lark, with my camera settings on "Weird Color" for the fun of it. The discussion has to do with how I use my Elkron Alignment Correspondence system and how it works basically. Impromptu, and a bit scattered, perhaps, but nevertheless does have the basic idea layed out. I hope it will suffice to give people an idea of one of the background concepts behind the Elthos Project, and what the potential value of the Elthos Tarot Deck might be.



And now for Part 2, wherein I answer my friend Chris' questions from the first video...