Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April RPG Carnival - The GM's Binder

This month's RPG Carnival is being kindly hosted at 'Of Dice and Dragons'. The Topic is one that is near and dear to my heart, as I've been at this GM Binder thing for quite some time now.

It all started back in 1978 when I decided on first contact with D&D that I wanted to be a Gamesmaster. It was all uphill and downhill and over the hill and underhill from there. I started out with a (Gygaxian-Retro-Clone) rules system called Elthos. My original binders were a combination of spiral bound notebooks for my Thought-Weaving of the Elthos World. I had my rules printed out via Word Perfect in plastic sleeves and bound in a hard cover three ring loose-leaf binder. My GM Boards looked like this:
It featured my one main chart which is called The General Resolution Matrix, and is based on 2d10 (1-100), and compares Difficulty Level vs Skill Level to give a number which must be rolled above for success (rolling high in Elthos is good, rolling low is bad).  It was made on black foam board and bound with black electrical tape, and held to the table with two strips of tape on the wings.  It served as my GM Screen behind which I would roll the dice and mummer.  In those days it was my fashion to hide the dice rolls, and rules for that matter, from the Players. 

The binders that I had were decorated lightly with fantasy images, and a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon:

I had a great time with my GM screen, binder and World Weaver books for many years.

Then, in 1994 I decided to program my system into the computer. Do this end I taught myself programming after work, and database design, and then got a job as a programmer to hone my skill. Over the years I came up with a Visual Basic Application that runs the Elthos game. It was an enormous effort and turned out to be extraordinary in its richness and thoroughness of design. It handles everything from character rolling, to items creation and management, equipment, armor, does all calculations, has a mapping utility that takes terrain and movement into account, runs combat, and provides the GM with a myriad of helpful tools. And so the VB Application, called 'The Elthos RPG Gamesmaster's Toolbox', was very useful to me for about six years, and I really have to say, it was a blast to build and use it. I'm the only person on God's Green Earth who has one, too. So that's kinda cool. That's because I never released it to the public. Waaaaay to difficult for me to support that application. Waaaaay to buggy to let into the wilds. I figured I would spend the rest of my life on tech support.

Elthos Prime VB Application Screen Shots

Instead, in 2006 I decided to start over again from scratch with a simpler to support Web based model, and vastly streamlined and simplified my original rules. This became the Web Application known as the Elthos 'One Die System' (it's a mini-system based on my original rules). It's perfect for running fast light-weight and mechanically clean games. I've been play testing it extensively since 2009. It's been lovely. I converted my application logic from the Gamesmaster's Toolbox to the new Web Application. Still working on the complete migration, and am going to tackle the Mapping Utility next. In the meantime it does most of what the VB Application did, but with the One Die System rules, instead of the Original Rules. I'm planning to expand that to a multi-die system sometime in the not too distant future as well. At the moment it is in closed beta. I plan to bring it into Open Beta very soon, at which point I will begin letting other Gamesmasters and Players tinker around with it. It provides complete freedom to create your own world, and is divided into two basic sections; The GM Toolbox which does number crunching, and the World Weaver Studio which provides a coherent structure in which to build your own world, campaigns and adventures, and record what your Player Characters do in them. Combined it's a comprehensive GMing utility that uses the Elthos ODS. I'm quite pleased with it thus far. It's very nice and has already produced some really fabulous games which can be read verbatim (actual play) here: Elthos ODS Example Games.

So in summation, my new Gamesmaster Board is the Elthos "Imagination Machine", which can be found here: Elthos Imagination Machine. It's great. I love it. Very happy. Gamesmastering is awesome. :)

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