Thursday, August 31, 2006

Elthos History: Reducing Complexity

One of the original thoughts I had about D&D v1.0 (the original three volumes by Gygax and Arneson) was that it was too complicated. Haha. That's funny because soon after they came out with (from my point of view) the Insanely Complicated D&D v2.0. Oh LORD, I thought. That's the opposite direction from where I went with the game. I wanted simplicity and I wanted it in spades. I wanted to have a game system that did not require me to buy new books to keep up with. I wanted a system that provided me with a story telling framework without killing me in the process with the Death of a Thousand Charts. And I did not want to be constrained in the game with a rules system that required me to either A) memorize volume 39 subsection 398.B-3.2 in order to figure out what the chance to hit was, or B) make me look it up, which was far worse. No, no - not where I wanted to go. So very early on in 1978 I was inventing my own system that took all that I considered Great about D&D and threw the rest AWAY. Bye.

What I wound up with was a modular system that let me run the game in its entirety using one General Resolution Matrix. From my Gamesmaster's point of view this was ideal. My Players also liked the fact that the game was fast and smooth and easily understandible at the rules level. There were about 10 or so charts related to character creation (Requisite Bonus Chart, Skills List Chart, etc) but those only needed to be looked at once in a blue moon. Fine. All was well in the land of Elthos.

On the other hand I added a few things. One was that I made new requisites. Mine are:

Strength - Damage Point Bonus
Constitution - Life Points Bonus
Endurance - Fatigue Point Bonus (New)

Intelligence - Mana Point Bonus
Wisdom - Grace Point Bonus

Dexterity - Attack Level Bonus
Agility - Armor Class Bonus (New)

Appearance - Sex Appeal Bonus (New)
Voice - Invocation Bonus (New)
Charisma - Leadership Bonus

Well these Requisites made sense to me, and they in combination handled all of the attributes I found important in the game, though, to be honest, I have rarely ever used the Appearance requisite except on two occasions where Knights were seeking their True Loves (and WHY is that SO uncommon, I ask you!? Harumph!). That said, the other Requisites have been useful. The Voice requisite was a little confusing at first, but helps with magic and clericy and is used as a bonus for spells and invocations, and is required to be higher than average for all magic and clerical classes. The system was a little complicated with the additions, but I liked them and so they stuck. My players seemed to like them too for the most part as it added to the overall definition of the character and that was a good thing generally. Players like to create their characters I've found, so long as it isn't TOO complicated and doesn't take TOO long.

I has worked out a few additional things such as an Alignment System which over the years I tooled around with until I got it into a workable state. A few other special items in the engine of the game but nothing too complicated. Overall it worked well as a Story Telling Framework and I've played a LOT of Elthos stories with it over the years. It has been fun.

Then in 1996 I started programming my rules into a computerized system for myself as a Gamesmaster's Toolbox. It's called, unambiguously enough, The Elthos Gamesmasters Toolbox. I spent quite a few years working on it and its now, only now, nearly finished. Ok, well it's nice. It handles everything in the game that I need as a Gamesmaster, including combat, magic, movement, etc. It has monsters and races and powers and spells and clerical invocations and gods and the whole nine worlds. Great. I like it.

While I was doing this the world continued to spin, but I took little notice and less care. Then came the flood of RPGs. The FLOOD of RPGs. Ok, that's fine. I didn't publish mine. I worked on it and fine tuned it. I refused to look at other games least I wind up stealing ideas from others. Fine. Or not so fine. But whatever. That was my approach. Now it's pretty much finished, but needs some optimizing in the code and some minor finishes. Superior.

The only problem is, and I *knew* this would happen: What do I do with it now?!

In the meantime I condensed my Elthos Prime System (the one that is computerized) into a very small subset of the essential rules of Elthos. This system I call the Elthos "One Die System". It's the tightest little RPG system I've ever seen. Hah. I laugh because I've seen so miserably few. But still, it uses only one six sided die to run the entire system, so I seriously doubt it can get smaller and still have die rolling as an essential element of the game. So maybe it's a little claim to fame. The purpose of the ODS is to make the Elthos RPG as simple to run as possible as a non-computerized picnic table game. It has one central chart, a few ancillary charts for character building, two blank maps (hex and grid) and movement rules, and some advice about how to run the system and Gamesmaster with it. As mentioned I created the Elthos ODS for the Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester so we could play unobtrusively in the Cobblstone Pub when we meet to try out ideas. We never did use it because we usually got way to involved with the escoteira of World Weaving discussions, all of which were fabulous and instructive. And so the ODS exists, but I'm again at the point where I must decide: What will I do with it?

LOL. I'm not into competing for King of the Hill with my games. I don't care to promote my game as the "Best Thing Evar!!". It's a system. Some people will like it, some people will hate it. Some people may even absolutely adore it. I know I do. :)

Anyway, just some chatter about my game and its history for those who may someday wonder where the Elthos ODS came from. It was me. Sorry. :P

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