Thursday, February 07, 2019

Backend Updates Complete

Well this was a rigorous month for Elthos. The short and sweet update (and probably boring albeit accurate) is that most of my time since last post was spent working on cleaning up data on the back end of the Mythos Machine. It wasn't what you'd call fun, but it was satisfying in the end. Here's the raw details.

Feb 3, 2019

World Page Look & Feel
Update to the Worlds page configuration. It now allows you to go directly to the Things Management page from the Worlds Page by hovering the button Go To and clicking World Things. Earlier you had to go to the Administration Console first, which made it feel a bit confusing. Now it is more clear that Things are under Worlds.

In addition I cleaned up the way that the Expand boxes look, how they work, and their position on the page to make them less prone to triggering the Question mark hover. Additional work on coloring now separates the sections a little more clearly. In addition the Images dialog box was centered horizontally and vertically with a better coverage of its space in the div.

While seemingly minor improvements, each of these small things adds up to a better user experience overall. As we move forward I will continue to make such improvements as may seem necessary and useful.

Jan 29, 2019

World Stores Management
Earlier versions did not allow the user to delete or modify the name of the General Store, or the Body Things store. However, now they can be modified or deleted, however both of them are nevertheless required and will be recreated if they are not found in any given world. The reason for this is because in some cases two of either or both of these Stores could potentially exist (if the user inadvertently creates a duplicate) and the former method did not allow the user to clean up this kind of mistake. So now, the user can manage these stores more explicitly.

And now, thank goodness, I can get back to what I started to work on a few weeks ago ... the creation of my first Publishable World - 'The Way of All Flesh' - Space Opera of truly cosmic proportions. That said, I'm putting that on hold for a little bit while I work on creating a few smaller and more compact Worlds for the Worlds Marketplace. That's also going well. So things are happening ... even if you can't see them! Ha!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Mythos Machine - Site Update

Bug Fix - Deleting Things Issue

In the Mythos Machine "Things" are World building objects, such as weapons, armor, races, classes, cultures, etc.

There was an issue with the Things Deletion System where references to deleted Things remained with the Character, and when Armors, Equipment and Weapons were deleted Characters could still have them. While this was non-disruptive to the application in the sense that it didn't cause any errors, it did leave orphaned items where they didn't belong, and this had an effect on the quality of the underlying data, and also may have produced a few, albeit rare, cases of unexpected results for the Gamemasters. Now, once a Thing is deleted it is completely removed from the World in every aspect. Both the code and the data have been cleansed of orphans and where necessary missing data was replaced.

At this point the Mythos Machine will alter the Characters that have associations either by deleting them , or by assigning a new value from the World, such as when a Class or Race is deleted. In this case the first Thing in the list will be selected as a replacement. For example, if you have a Monk Class, and three Characters in your World are Monks, when you delete the Monk Class, the three Characters will be assigned to Thief instead.

A further step will be to provide the GM a list of those things that will be changed when the deletion is completed, in case they are not entirely aware of everything that might change. In addition, when something like the Race, or Class are changed, instead of selecting the first Thing in the list as a substitute, the GM will be given an option to change them to a specified Class. This piece will take some effort to construct, but it's not something that should take very long. A week of concerted effort will do the trick.

However, I am eager to get back to building the first Published World, and so I'm going to hustle that forward first. Priorities, priorities. The reason for this is that right now we don't have any Purchasable Worlds in the Marketplace for Free Marketplace GM's to try out. We need those. Obviously. So my goal now is to get content out there that people can check out. Then I will circle back around and continue the polishing effort.

Ok, that's the report for today.  Meanwhile, have a listen to Tenkar's RPG Breakfast Club Podcast (ep 1) (note, Privacy Badger and similar blockers can inhibit you from seeing this embed to the podcast. If so, please take a hop over to the website here: Anchor FM RPG Breakfast Club Podcast...

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Mythos Machine - Skills Organization Revision Planning

Currently working on simplification of the Skills System. Right now, due to the evolution of how I created the system, and then programmed it, there are three methods for organizing Skills: Generic, Skill-Class, and Skill-Book-Class. These three were created to solve different problems. The Generic is the simplest to maintain as a list on a piece of paper. The Skill-Class is the easiest to understand. The Skill-Book-Class is the easiest to understand in context to the Mystic Powers system which also uses Books. In the end there can be only one, because having three systems is too complicated and opens the door to people mixing the systems and getting confused.

Here's how the current three methods work (expert from the Mythos Machine World Weaver's Strategy Guide):

Generic Skill Building
You create your skills assigning them a status of Primary, Elective, Combined or Prohibited for each of the four Cardinal Classes, Thief, Fighter, Spell Chanter and Cleric. This way, when Characters go to select their Skills the system looks to see what Class the Character is, and then displays the skills that fit their Class. So for example if you had a Character who is a Multi-Class like Fighter-Thief, then the system would show the Character Primary and Elective Skills for all Skills that are designated as belonging to Fighters and Thieves, and not show Skills designated as belonging to Magic Users and Clerics. This Generic Skill Building Method takes a bit more time and more thought but it also means that when you create new classes you don't have to assign specific Skills to it. In that sense it's more generic and easier.

Class Specific Skill Building
Conversely, you may find it easier to Assign each Skill to specific Classes. You can do this when you create the Skills or you can do it afterwards. Or you can do it when you create a New Class. To do so you go to the Edit Skill screen and click the "Show Additional Item Options" button, and you will see a check list that you can select from. You can either go to Edit Skills and decide which Classes each Skill belongs to, or you can do it the other way and go to Edit Classes and choose which Skills each Class has associated to it. If you want to use this method, then when you create new Skills assign them all Elective for every Class.

Skill Book Building
Lastly, you may find it easier to Assign Skills to specific Skill Books, and then associate each Book to the Classes you want. Again, if you want to use this method, then when you create new Skills assign them all Elective for every Class.

I think the clearest method for the Mythos Machine is probably going to be the Skills-Class method.  You create a skill and then you assign it as Primary to specific Classes. Everyone else can learn it as Elective. In this system there won't be any way to prohibit skills from being learned by characters who might choose to learn it as an Elective Skill but that is an acceptable price to pay if the result is a simplification of the system overall. So I think that is the direction I will go with it. Of course I will ruminate over it and try this and try that before deciding, but I think Skill-Class will turn out to be the best option.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Elthos RPG Welcomes the New Year

Well, everything has gone as I expected it would, albeit somewhat slower than anticipated.  24 years to produce my first RPG software service isn't too bad... if you look at it from a certain point of view.

The Mythos Machine and the Elthos RPG Core Rules have been released to the world! Well, that was a bit of a long haul, but I'm happy with the work, so I don't mind. I'm using it now to create my first Packaged World for the World's Marketplace. It's fantastic to be able to use the application for what I intended from the beginning. And it works very nicely at that.

 Of course now that I'm actually using it in 'Reality' I'm finding some issues that one would have thought ought to have been glaring all along, but as I explained to Beta Tester #1, until now I've only had an eye on working out the primary functionality for the Mythos Machine. So some of those issues that might seem obvious to others were, at the time Beta Tester #1 complained about them, mere side-trips from my point of view. At least until the core engine was completed and actually running. Now, finally, I can look at the issues related to the UI that have been secondary on my list for so long. And these issues, compared with building the core engine, are turning out to be relatively trivial fixes. I can knock them off quickly enough. Even the most complicated one having to do with simplifying the Skills system really shouldn't take more than a week or two.  Maybe faster if I can get dedicated time to work on it.

And so it begins. I am starting off with a Science Fiction world named "The Way of All Flesh". I want to demonstrate (for myself as well as others) how the system can be used for any genre, and I've been itching to do a Science Fiction world for some time. I had this one in mind in late 1978, actually. Or at least the essential thread of the story dates back that far.  Yup. But I digress.

Later, once I have this one finished, and have posted a few more of various genres in the Marketplace, I will begin to solicit other RPG authors in earnest.  My goal will be to find a handful of actually good RPG authors and create as high quality worlds as we can.  When there are sufficient numbers of such worlds, I believe the GMs will come, and the Mythos Machine will become a useful addition to the tool set of Gamemasters.

Until then, I'm happily using it for my own games. And I just have to say, I'm really impressed. The Mythos Machine does for me exactly what I hoped it would. It makes my life as GM easier, faster and more elegant.  It's a pretty great thing.

I hope other GMs will find it equally enjoyable as time goes on.  But polishing and simplifying and smoothing the way and building fabulous worlds will all come first before that can happen.  So back to chipping away here.

Well, that's all for the moment. Cheers, and Happy New Years one and all!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Elthos RPG - The World's Ultimate Fantasy Heart-Breaker

Someone on G+ recently mentioned that they encountered Elthos a while back and thought it is "the world's ultimate Fantasy Heart-breaker".  While not entirely surprising, given the very long haul this project has taken, I nevertheless find it amusing.  I have to wonder if it's true.  After all... it could be.  Perhaps I can take pride in that somehow?  After all, being the "ultimate" anything is distinctive.  Hmmm...

As to whether or not it happens to be true... How would I know? I'm just the poor shlub who's been tinkering away this for the past 40 years.  And I'm pretty sure I will continue to tool away at it, quite happily, for the next 40 years.  More if I can manage it. Elthos is my art form, and as such, it's something I work on because I enjoy it.

As you may know, the Mythos Machine is a major piece of the Elthos Project.  Aside from the simple enjoyment I get from tinkering with the code, I tool away at it because I would like to fulfill my vision ... The main driver in this regard is my own sense of satisfaction in knowing I thought up something that seemed useful for the world of RPGs, and then went ahead and persevered with it until I achieved it. I'm a pretty stubborn person, and this kind of project seems suitable for my temperament. I started the project in 1978 with the creation of my homebrew Elthos RPG Rules, and in 1994 I conceived of a computer application to help me crunch the numbers for game prep and so taught myself databasing and programming.  Between then and now I've been chipping away at this concept in my off hours as my Once and Great Hobby Project.

By 2000 I had a Visual Basic 6 application that does a LOT of very cool stuff related to world building and character management.  I mean a LOT of wonderful features are packed into that program.  Even more than the Mythos Machine web application does, actually. For example, it has a map painter utility that integrates the combat rules so you can run the entire game pushing characters around on the map and combating them, taking into account weapons and armors, magic, movement, terrain, and every rule I use to run my games. It's pretty damn slick, if I do say so myself.  But as it was a Microsoft VB6 project, it has fundamental flaws and I was concerned about being able to support it if I sent it out into the wild.  So I decided to shelve it, and work on a web application instead, largely because it would have a much easier support model.  It also gave me a chance to start over from scratch with the code base.  That's the Mythos Machine.  I began that in 2006.  Now, 12 years later, I think it's ready for public consumption. It doesn't handle everything the VB application does, but handles most of it.  I will add the other pieces as time, resources and interest dictate.

I should admit that my expectation is not to sweep the RPG market and become rich on the back of Elthos RPG, though. To think that is even possible would be blatantly absurd, of course.  Even if it were hugely, enormously, outrageously successful, we're really talking about a tiny niche hobby, out of which I am trying to provide something of interest to an even tinier subset of GMs who happen to want to create their own Worlds (and would like comprehensive computer support with building and running their game Worlds, but that's a different kettle of fish, in relation to Elthos RPG, which I'm talking about in terms of it's success as a stand alone RPG).  Planning on becoming rich on that prospect would be akin to depending on winning lotto as a career plan. And if that were my goal, then yeah, I'd say I'd be likely to end up in Fantasy Heart-Breaker territory.  But that's not my expectation, so on that level I don't think this outcome is likely. Financial success would be nice, but is hardly necessary. That said, of course I would like people to take a look at what I've created because I honestly think it's worthwhile. But for my own sanity, I don't want to depend on that result, either.  I want to enjoy it for what it is, and leave the rest to fate, or destiny, or luck, or the Tao, or The Gods, or whatever.
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

But as far as money is concerned, I derived my entire programming career from this project, having taught myself programming so in order to work on it starting in 1994. I make a very decent living as a programmer/analyst, so I have to include that in my calculations as to how much money Elthos made for me.  Fact is, if it weren't for Elthos, I wouldn't ever have become a programmer ... this plus the fact that I've had a fabulous time Gamemastering Elthos and tinkering away at the Mythos Machine over the years... even without it being successful in the market, I think  I'm already way ahead. And I never borrowed money for the project so I don't owe anyone anything. It is very cheap to run, and I can keep it online at very little cost.  So, I'm not in a rush to make money on this thing.  I just want it to be done with as much excellence as I can put into it.

As I look at it, I've managed to successfully create something pretty awesome while avoiding all of the usual tricks, traps & "Imperial Entanglements" associated with Capitalist System.  Because of that I completely own Elthos. and so I am at perfect liberty to do with it whatever I want. And it does a great job for me. I use it to run my own games, and my friends have had a myriad hours of fun romping around Elthos killing monsters, taking their stuff, and saving (er, sometimes destroying) the world.  And that makes me happy, too.

What would be especially cool, though, is to find in the end that I added something to the world of RPGs that was not just some transient wisp of an idea, but something that really helps lift the hobby, overall, and in the long run. I think Mythos Machine as an innovative piece of RPG software has a shot at that. But that is not my goal for the projec,t either.  It would be a lovely if all goes well, but it's not the reason I work on it, either.  Again, I'd be crazy to assume that my work will be influential in the world of RPGs as there's waaaaaay too many brilliant people contributing far more popular ideas to the hobby than I am.  But still, I don't know too many who have stuck to creating RPG game prep software for their systems quite as doggedly as I have... so there's a chance that 'ere the end Elthos and the Mythos Machine will prove of some value to Gamemasters creating their own Worlds.  In this I do stand some chance of winding up in the Fantasy Heart-Breaker zone, but again, I'm not convinced of that either.  After all, even if no one uses it... I use it.  And to very good effect for my games.  So at the very least, I constructed a software system that helps me run my games.  I think that's pretty kickass, so I don't think I will wind up heartbroken if people don't wind up finding out about it.  Maybe that will turn out to be a cool thing in its own right... the only person in the world who uses a specific software application to run his world?  I don't know ... somehow I see kudos there.

But yeah, of course I hope Gamemasters will look into Elthos and find out how it and the Mythos Machine may be useful to them. And yes, I hope people support it so that I can keep improving it. Why not?

But, what I'm actually shooting for is something just as ridiculously improbable as financial success... probably more so...  I want to help encourage and foster human creativity.  I feel like we are living in a time where creativity and imagination are under direct assault by The Powers That Be.  Free thought is at a low ebb and there's way too many people who are all too willing to give up their own ideas and creative powers to those who claim to be the true arbiters of creative value.  I want to resist that because I think it's rubbish, and the Elthos Project is my way of doing that for myself, and a tool I want to offer others to help them do the same.  The Elthos Mission is all about exercising your own imagination. I know, I know ... you can stop laughing now.  I admit, it is an uphill battle.  But fortunately, the RPG community is bursting at the seams with people who already have the spark of creativity.  I just want to fan the flames and help inspire more of it.  Lots more.

Back when I started the project, I wanted to see if I could find a way to use computers to bring people together, rather than drive them apart and isolate them. I think I came up with this idea after seeing a film called Future Shock in the late 70's. I watched the movie and said to myself, "OMG, screw that. We can definitely do better".  In fact, the Elthos Project is kind of a big jab in the eye of the direction the Big Technologists have taken things over the past 50 years. Frankly, I want the world to go the other direction, and I want to try my best to inspire people to embrace their imaginations, and create fantastic, amazing, powerful, and wondrous Worlds of their own because I believe that it is the power of human creativity and imagination that will allow us to escape the Techno-Prison being rapidly constructed all around us. If I can help to inspire people to think for themselves and use their own minds and hearts and creativity then I will consider the Elthos Project a true success, even if it does nothing for my own personal fortunes. And we won't know if I managed to achieve that for a long time to come, actually. I do suspect I've had some modest success already with this, but I will have to leave that to future historians of RPGs to ultimately decide.  If' I'm lucky, my timing is good, and I can bring enough excellence to my work, then I hope to help people see the value of their own ideas... if I can do that I will have achieved my true objective.

Of course, in the end, since I owe no one anything, and have no need for Elthos to be successful, and have enjoyed the hell out of the thing for 40 years now, I'd have to say, it seems to me to be about as far away from a Fantasy Heart-Breaker as it could possibly be.  And even if I don't achieve my self appointed Prime Directive, at least I will have tried my absolute best.  And that's ok with me.  I feel proud of the fact that I worked towards a goal that I feel is worthy of my time and effort.  Whether or not people acknowledge that or find it useful... I can't control that.  So I leave it to destiny to work out.

So while some people may be thinking that Elthos is the ultimate Fantasy Heart-breaker, my opinion is that it is unlikely, and that the jury is still out on this anyway.  As far as I'm concerned it hasn't been anything other than a wonderful and wondrous hobby project for me all these years, and that I don't feel heart-broken about it. Nor do I think I am likely to, regardless of how things pan out in terms of its marketability the years to come.  It's been a great project, and I am having a tremendous amount of fun with it.  I expect to continue to do so ad infinitum.

Anyway, I just wanted to explain my viewpoint on that because someone recently mentioned that they had that idea that Elthos is "the world's ultimate Fantasy Heart-Breaker".  I found it amusing... but also I want to mention it was a bit confounding. Just the label itself seems intended to be discouraging.  I don't know who came up with that phrase or why, but what's wrong with people trying to put their projects out there in the public domain?  So what if they are not financially successful?  As long as they don't have freaky expectations of getting rich off of RPGs they should be safe from the dread doom of Fantasy Heart-Break.  I feel like I want to reject that label.  I don't like it.  I strikes me as a bit of a cruel thing to say about anyone's project, whether it is successful or not.

But who knows... it may turn out to be true in the end. Maybe I'm just fooling myself, and the work I'm putting into this project will be ignored by the community, it will have no success in the market, and I will eventually find myself heartbroken because of that.  Still though, I won't know that for a good long time, I suppose by then there's a good chance I'll be senile enough to really be enjoying myself in the World of Elthos!  Haha.  And in the meantime, I'm having fun and expect to continue doing so for a good long time.

I do hope you will take the time to look at Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine. and decide for yourself if it is worthwhile, and potentially useful to you.  Enjoy.  :)


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Elthos RPG News - Grand Launch Dec 21

Elthos RPG News

I have finally, after quite a long time of jostling many things into place (in particular the Mythos Machine) gone ahead and requested my two introductory Elthos RPG Rules Books to be published on DriveThruRPG... Chris Tang has kindly gotten back to me and said they look good to go. The release date is scheduled for Dec 21st 2018, just in time for Christmas.

The two books are: The Elthos RPG Core Rules Book, 80 pages, and the Elthos RPG Essential Rules Book, 44 pages. The book prices are $16 and $12 respectively, with a 25% introductory discount, so $12 and $8 respectively. The money will go towards the continued development of the Elthos Project, and in particular for enhancements to the Mythos Machine.

You may read more about the books here:

The Elthos RPG Rules are designed to help Gamemasters to build their own Worlds in any way they wish. They provide an RPG rules framework for you to work within in order to help keep things in your World consistent. At the same time, the rules avoid putting constraints on your creative freedom. The framework helps by providing a solid yet simple mechanical structure, but what you build is totally up to you. It presents examples to get you started, and then lets you get on with the creative work, unimpeded by a pre-established setting or story line. If you’re an imaginative person who enjoys creating your own RPG Worlds, Elthos was built for you.

I'm going to be doing final testing of all Mythos Machine systems in preparation for the Grand Launch. Wish me luck! And please thank my kind hearted Beta Testers as well. They've been doing a great job helping me to test and improve things all along the way. So here's a shout out to all the Beta Testers ... Thank you!!

And now back to testing, tweaking and polishing!

Monday, November 26, 2018

How I Build My Campaign Storylines

On Reddit someone asked "What is your way to make an interesting storyline for a campaign?"

Here was my reply with the hopes that it may help other GMs who are new to the hobby and looking for answers to this question as well...

I read a lot of Science Fiction, and Fantasy, but mostly old world stuff that my friends may not have read... I glean ideas from those sources, and play mix-n-match with background concepts a lot. What if Mars had an underground ocean which the Martians had retreated to long ago when their atmosphere got blown away in a huge war? I will often start with a premise like that. I then sketch a map and some basic blocks of important information. The two main societies located are North and West. One is warlike the other are mental giants, but few in numbers, who survive because the ocean is difficult to cross (no idea why yet), and the Mentats are very smart about defending their land. I then sketch out main characters. The Warriors are ruled by Throknar, a grizzled veteran with a taste for brutality. The Mentats are ruled by a Quorum of 9 who all excel in wisdom and the arts. Among the Quorum are 3 Shining Stars, named Eloaim, Sarasaz, and Ninya. I will sketch their personalities, and then assign them stats based on their classes. I also give them each a Motivation. Throknar hates Eloaim because she refused his hand in marriage, and so he wants to destroy the West and capture her for his wife. Eloaim is motivated by the wish to re-establish life on the surface of Mars, and as a scientists is working towards that end. Sarasaz is a wise ruler intent on protecting the West, and seeking new ways to cultivate food. Ninya is an artist who loves the sublime, and is well loved by the people. His goal is to foster kindness in the world, and put an end to warfare. Once I have this, and a rough map of the terrain, I will work on some additional details by answering questions about the environment. Underground ocean is teaming with sea monsters. There are several underground tunnel and cavern systems that lead between the North and the West but these are often occupied by tribes of wild Martians, and a collection of all sorts of monsters. Ok, at that point, I select monsters for the caverns. Lastly I want to include sources of riches ... on Mars there are certain stones which are rare and serve as a kind of currency. They are energy stones, named Alamir, and come in a number of colors, from red, to blue. They have different levels of power based on the color, and can hold potent energies which can be used for psychic powers. I place some of these at a few places on the map, and at that point I'm ready to start playing. After that I wing things according to what the PCs do, and glean ideas along the way based on their actions, comments, and from any other source I can get my hands on. And that's how I do it, more or less. I hope this helps.  Best wishes.