Friday, September 18, 2015

Elthos World Weaving - The Slow Build

One of the things that I really love about Gamemastering is the exploration process of my World. I started out with a story concept that serves as the general Back Story for the Campaign. This larger scale Back Story Campaign is what you might call the Meta Campaign in so far as I may have any number of Campaigns within it, and all of them are in some way offshoots or tied in with the Meta Campaign.

The characteristics of the Meta Campaign are philosophical in nature. It answers questions such as "What is the nature of reality?", "Who are the Elkron (Deities of my World of Elthos), and what is their purpose?", "What is the foundation of Kingship (or why do the Elkron establish Kingdoms)?", "What are the alliances of the Elkron, and why did they align in this way rather than any other way?", "Why do the Elkron behave the way they do?", "Who are the primary villains of the World, and why?"

These are some of the questions that form the basis for the Meta Campaign, and from these I can formulate any number of (sub) Campaigns which may touch on specific aspects within any one or more of those questions. For example, "Why do the Elkron demand Quests?" can be explored in a Campaign about The Hallows of King Oswald. In it, every seventh year he must prove his virtue and Right To Sovereignty by obtaining, or re-acquiring one of the 13 Hallows (Scepter, Crown, Sword, Shield, etc). Through this ordeal he proves that he is an unblemished Guardian of the Flock (the common people are sheep in the analogy), still able to protect them from the ravages of the Wolves (evils of various supernatural kinds (such as famine, plague, infertility, etc), more often than not visited on the Kingdom by one of the opposing Elkron, or their minions).

Within each Campaign I may have any number of Adventures identified. Each Adventure essentially comprises a chapter or scene or particular challenge within the story. They may include things like "The Theft of the King's Shield", "The Heroes are Summoned", "The King Embarks to the West", "The Dragon's Lair", "Battle of the Shield", "The Journey Home". Each of these might play out as one or more game sessions. Some of them may last months or years, depending on what the Players decide to do, and / or how lucky / effective they are.

The result of this process is what I like to call The Slow Build. The concept underlying the adventures are symbolic and meaningful in relation to the Meta Campaign, and as such they may be reflected through the story very slowly over time, clue by clue. They may answer questions such as "What does the King's Shield represent?", "Why does the King hold Hallows Quests every seven years?", "Who is Sovereignty and what is Oswald's relationship to her?" and so on. The Slow Build, as an approach, means that the adventures may well be all about killing things and taking their stuff, but in addition to that it unveils mysteries about the nature of the World of Elthos itself. In fact, the focus on the Kill-Monsters-Take-Stuff aspect alone would deprive the Player Characters of some of the deeper insights embedded in the World's allegorical underpinnings. And these expressions are reflections, as elusive and ethereal as they may be, of our own world's less known mystical undercurrents, and so it might also desprive the Players of some interesting insights as to our own world's history in the realm of idea.

For instance, one might ask very similar questions regarding King Arthur's Quest for the Holy Grail. What did the Grail represent? Why did the Quest result in the disintegration of Arthur's Kingdom? Or was it rather a sign that the Kingdom had already failed because of the spiritual imperfections of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?

By structuring my World's Campaigns within the Context of the Meta Campaign it allows me to build out the story, and it's allegorical reflections, in a slow, methodical, and some might say mystical fashion. I rather enjoy it, really. And I think my players do, too. And in the process I feel we all learn something that might never otherwise have come to light. Slow Build. Good stuff. :)

Also, as an aside to this post, I'd like to mention that I am currently holding an Open Beta Test of the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine, for free, and that you are invited to participate in exchange for any feedback you care to give. I'm looking for as much feedback as possible in order, of course, to improve and finalize the products. Please feel free to register an account for yourself on and explore the Rules and Web Application, both of which are available through the site. Don't forget to provide feedback! Thanks! :)

Also, here is a Review of Elthos by Mark Knights in case you want to find out more about the project and what I'm up to with it. Thanks again to Mark Knights for this sterling and awesome review!!

No comments: