Monday, February 26, 2018

Elthos RPG - Griswaldia Campaign - Game #1

The Recap:

Three members of the Miller clan, Shnoggle Miller, JB Miller, and Emitt Snow (a cousin of Shnoogle and JB), live by the sea at the old Mill House. Their lives are usually dull, and composed mostly of hard work, chores and helping the old man with the Mill. He's a decent and kindly old man, treats everyone fairly, and has been a good man and hard worker all his life. His name is Joseph Miller. His wife, Sara, is a sweet little old biddy who has many hearth-skills and enjoys a good game of rummy.

On this particular fine summer's day it happened to be the Princess Gwen's 18th birthday. Everyone in the surrounding countryside, a mountainous alpine land called Griswaldia, was excited for the festivities, feasting and contests.

But Millers are all home doing their chores. They chaffed at their work and hoped something, anything, of interest might happen.  The horns of the knights of the King blared in the distance.  Well, that did it.  Asking for leave of their kindly father, they went to take a look.

JB, our young and heroic enchantress, leaped high into the sky with her flying magic to see what the commotion was about while Emitt and Shnoggle grabbed their weapons and armor as quickly as they could and charged up the path to the gate of the Mill House to see what they could make of it.

Off in the woods above the mill house there was a commotion. And what do you think JB saw, but a giant surly Satyr with three horns and sharp black fingernails come barreling down the mountain road, dodging over rocks and boulders as it went.  He was carrying a girl in his gigantic left hand and she was screaming her little heart out, crying for help.

In moments the Satyr was within sight of the Mill House, and the young men made a valiant effort to slay the beast before it could get any further. Being young adventurers without any experience they charged forward and Emitt, courageously meeting the monster head on with his sword, and attempting to put himself between the monster and his cousin Shnoogle, was instantly dashed against a tree by the beast and nearly slain in a single blow!  The lad was, after all, really but a boy facing off against a 20 foot tall giant!

JB had flown away to see if she could get help from the King's Knights, but when this happened she abandoned her goal and swooped down to her cousin and with her mystic power, healed him, thus saving his young life. Meanwhile, Shnoggle launched volley after volley of arrows, all to no avail as every shot was an unlucky miss. At least he was not slain as the monster charged by him with a ill aimed swipe that Shnoggle just managed to dodge!

The giant carried the helpless girl around the side of the Mill House and down to the pier on the sea, where the Millers spied a small boat with a black sail, blue trim, and little flashes of bright brass all around the deck. A handsome boat it was, and on it there was a small cabin at the center.

JB got it in her head that the monster might not be a villain after all. Perhaps, she thought, he was carrying the girl away from the villains, and was himself a good creature. Regrettably all of her efforts to find out if this were true or not were met by the snarling roars of the beast. No, he really was not a good creature after all.

At the boat, there was a little man in a blue shirt with a black cape. A stout little fellow only three feet tall. He had a burly look with a big bulbous nose and wide rugged cheeks, and at his side was a small war axe of cunning design. The little man, we can call him a dwarf, you know, called for the beast to quickly come and bring him the girl.  This the beast did, despite Shnoogle's arrows whizzing past, and into a cabin she was shoved. The poor thing had fallen unconscious by then, having been so badly jostled in the running battle. Snoggle continued to attack the monster, but to no avail as JB flew around trying her best to question the abductors. She clung to her belief that they were good people until the very end, because, as she said, she's a good person who believes the best about people.

In the Mill House, meanwhile, Emitt had broken into Sara Miller's locked cabinet and taken a jar of magical healing ointment. He promised to repay her when he could, though of course she didn't hear him make that promise. Yet, perhaps the promise was enough, as the healing ointment did wonders for his wound. Feeling almost entirely restored he dashed out to help his kin rescue the girl. As fast as his feet could carry him around the Mill House he dashed.

While Emitt was doing this, Shnoggle heroically threw his useless bow down and lept onto the boat with his sword drawn. He tried to subdue the beastly little man, but as it happened the fellow was far stronger than he looked, and the two got locked into a standing wrestling match on the deck. JB, from above, deciding she couldn't get into the cabin to rescue the girl without breaking her flying spell, chose to fling darts at the little man instead. This was a wonderful choice and with two flicks of her wrist the darts plunged into their target and the dwarf squealed as he fell over the side into the sea. Once this happened Shnoggle grabbed a pole from the deck and began pushing at the struggling dwarf with it to prevent him from gaining a hold on the boat. This in turn lead to a debate as to what to do between JB and Shnoggle, and as often is the case with siblings, the debate turned into a quarrel.  And at this moment Emitt made it to the shore and with a leap landed on the deck.

"Korogus! Korogus! Help me!", he yelled, and the monster, who had seemingly lost all interest in battle after handing over the girl (and had instead been pilfering chickens from the hen house), turned, snarled and ran to aid his master. But it was too late. The magical boat had caught a wind in her sails, and began to sail out to sea. The three kinfolk, somewhat frightened by the prospect of being carried off by the magical boat to who knows where, tried hacking at the ropes and sail and deck with their swords, but it was useless. The boat was far too magical to be damaged by such weapons.

JB, realizing there was nothing else to do, landed on the deck and took out a book of lore from her satchel. She began to flick through the pages hoping to find knowledge of enchanted boats.

The little dwarf was absolutely furious beyond belief, stamping his feet and cursing up a storm, as the magical little boat caught the wind and began to sail away all on it's own. The sales trimmed themselves when need be, and the till turned it's own way by itself. Even if they tried, they could not change the course the boat had taken.

The dwarf stood on the shore in an absolute fury with the giant standing next to him eyeing the chicken coop hopefully. A string of such dreadful curses bellowed from the dwarf's mouth I couldn't possibly repeat them.

As the little black and blue boat whisked out to sea on the great gust of wind that had risen up so suddenly, the girl emerged from the cabin with a startled and fearful expression.

"Who are you!?" she asked tearfully. The young adventurers told her all that had happened and she thanked them heartily and explained that she was the King's daughter, Princess Gwen, and that they would surely be richly rewarded for rescuing her... if they could ever find a way to return home again.

"Where ever are we going?" fell from her lips hopelessly, as the shore receded ever further into the distance.


  • All Characters started at 1st Level.
  • Flying spell costs 3 Mystic Points to cast. Healing costs 1 Mystic Point. JB only has 5 MP to use at 1st level.
  • Flying spell stops when the caster lands. One can not cast spells while flying, but can cast miracles (such as healing).
  • Shnoggle shot his bow 4 times and missed every time. He had a 33% chance to hit the monster, but ... luck was not with him.
  • Emitt learned the hard way that death can come swiftly at 1st Level, so it behooves one to be careful. Yet, as always, having a healer nearby has it's benefits!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How GMs Can Handle Player Revolt Situations

In response to this post by Kyrinn S Eis+ I offered some thoughts on how I recommend handling Re-Do's in Tabletop RPGs... This can come up when a player, or players, feel disatisfied with the results of a campaign, or some specific event within a campaign... one that threatens to derail the game and cause a player-revolt... Here's what I wrote:

Situations like this are tricky. It depends a lot on variables that would be hard to measure from a distance. For example, the mood of the other players about the incident, the "fairness" of the ruling to begin with (was this actually a GM mistake, or a player mistake?), and whether or not another means of redress could be derived by looking at the situation with more scrutiny.

As a general rule of thumb my view is that the GM is the Referee, and so the GM rulings should stand, just like in a soccer match when the Referee makes a call. So usually I refrain from bending over backwards to appease players - unless a ruling by the GM was actually a technical mistake (ie - miscalculated the odds). However, the only way to make that work is to establish the GM = Referee modality at the start, and not waver (just like Referees won't waver on their rulings ... if they do it corrupts the system and then after a while nothing will work right). The GM needs to assume the mantle of Referee and act like one throughout the campaign. This cuts down considerably on Player disputes.

Anyway, that's my two cents, though not knowing much about the campaign I can't offer any specific suggestions. I think you are already down the Repair-Road, so that too is always an option, but tricky as well. As a fall back position, my rule of thumb is - make repairs as small as possible whenever possible. Do the absolute minimum necessary to repair a bad ruling. Hopefully only one thing needs to be changed.

In the case of a total re-write, however, which is a worst case scenario... then I go all the way and fold in some sort of Time Reversal ... which is the hardest thing to do convincingly, but nevertheless still possible. I then go for broke and all that happened in the intervening non-existent future is either totally annihilated from reality, or lingers on in one PC's dream as a "what if"...

Of course, I don't know if any of this fits your situation. But them's my thinkings for what they're worth.

What do you think?  How do you handle Player Revolts in your game?

Friday, February 09, 2018

Happy Birthday Elthos

Elthos RPG
Mythos Machine 


Hello Elthos World Weavers!

We Are Live!

Happy Birthday Elthos RPG

Most of you don't know, but Elthos RPG was actually created Feb 6th 1978, which was my 15th birthday. And that's the day I began working on the Elthos RPG Rules System and World.  Well, Elthos just turned 40 years old! To celebrate the occasion our Live Version of the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine was Launched Feb 6, 2018.  So this officially concludes our Free Open Beta.  And so, after 24 years of hobby-tinkering starting with my original Elthos Gamemaster's Toolbox Windows application in Visual Basic, and then ASP.Net development, the Phase I operation is finally complete.  Wow!!  I'm a super slow-poke!  Don't rush me!  And now, on to Phase II.  :)

Thank you to everyone who participated, and provided feedback!  Your efforts helped to make Elthos a more complete and polished service for whomever in the RPG Community will enjoy it in the years ahead. Especially me! I'm very grateful!

The Benefits Of The Elthos RPG Mythos Machine

The Mythos Machine helps GMs to create and maintain their own Worlds by providing a consistent structure in which to build them online where they can be accessible anywhere through a modern web browser.  I'd like to bullet list some of the primary benefits...
  • Enhancing your ability to Create your own RPG Worlds that are ready to play using the Elthos RPG 
  • Create your own Races, Classes, Weapons, Armors, etc with World-Specific Rules for each of them.
  • Players can Generate their Characters in your World, Online, for Free.
  • Search your Worlds easily by keywords for Things you want to work on
  • Auto-Generate NPC Groups of fully equipped Characters in seconds.
  • Share Worlds with Co-GMs under the Mutual Collaboration Society Rules which is a Share and Share-Alike system that allows for participants to create derivative works freely with no strings attached.
  • Package your Worlds for Sale in the Worlds Marketplace
  • Free up your Precious Time by letting the Mythos Machine do the Number Crunching, so you can focus on the Creative Aspects of GMing.
And of course, more benefits will be coming online as we move forward with Phase II. I will be outlining our plans for future development in the next News Letter.  For now, let's review where we are.

What's New In Production Version of The Mythos Machine

First, we will be going live with the Subscription System, which will allow you to sign on as
  • Player (Free)
    • Players can log into the Mythos Machine, find their Gamemaster, and create & maintain their Characters in their Worlds via their Web Browsers. For free. Sweeeeet. 
  • Basic GM 
    • Personal World 
      • You can create one Personal World without limitations for your own use as GM.
    • Purchased Worlds
      • You can purchase as many Worlds that are created by your fellow Premium GMs to use privately for your own personal games. 
    • Player Character Generation
      • Your Players can log onto the Mythos Machine for free to Generate and Maintain their Characters in your World(s) via their web browsers.
  • Premium GM
    • Multiple Worlds
      • Premium GMs can create as many Personal Worlds as they wish, as well as purchase Worlds from the Worlds Marketplace.
    • Shared Worlds
      • Premium GMs can send out Invitations to other Premium GMs to share places in their Worlds, making them Shared Worlds which they can build cooperatively together.  Co-GMs will own their own places and be able to create places below them, including Campaigns and Adventures... but the whole group of GMs will utilize the same Things, such as weapons, armors, classes, and races, etc.  It's a way to allow GMs to collaborate on World building directly through the Mythos Machine.
    • Packaged Worlds for Publication (make $$ creating your own Worlds)
      • Premium GMs can create Packaged Worlds for sale to other GMs on the Mythos Machine at a price they set, and Elthos will get a small commission (12%).  The GM Authors will set up a Stripe Account in which will identify their banking information so that when your Worlds get sold, Stripe will automatically update your bank account with the money.  No waiting.  For this service the GM Authors will pay the stripe fee (2.9% + $0.30 per sale).  So, for example, if you sell a World for $6.00, you will make 80% of that, or $4.81 per sale. You may note that the higher your price the higher percent of the total you will wind up with.  The minimum price for Worlds on the Marketplace will be $3.00 to cover transaction costs as well as prevent the PWYW standard race to the bottom that seems to be occurring around that system everwhere else.  I don't want our authors to get trapped in that downward spiral, so hence, the minimum price. 
At this juncture I have rolled out all of the features to our Production site.  We will be in Stabilization Mode for about two weeks before turning on the payment system while I check everything and make sure everything is working correctly after the migration.  Given all of the benefits and features listed above, I'd like to ask you a question, which you can answer by replying to this email.

What do you think the right price for each Tier should be?

The Ongoing Beta on the Test System

While the Official Free Open Beta has now concluded, you may still log into the test system and try new features out as I produce them.  Just go to and create a free Beta Test account.  It is the test system so it will not take any actual Credit Card information.  You can use the Stripe Test Credit Card to upgrade to Basic or Premium GM.  That number is 4242 4242 4242 4242 and you can use any valid mm/yy after the current date, and any 3 digits for the CVC security number.  Easy peasy.  Of course, I will be looking forward to your feedback as new features get rolled through the Test system.  Thanks in advance!

Interview on Comically Gaming

I got interviewed by the good crew at Comically Gaming and they just put out their video interview.  I'm going to link to the spot where the interview begins, but please do check out the whole show.  The guys are fun and interesting!

Interview with Comically Gaming! (46:12)

Mythos Machine GM Tip:  Printing Your World 

And now for a quick tip on how to use the Mythos Machine's "Print World" feature.  Once you've created your World, and you've populated it with as many Places, Campaigns and Adventures you want, you can use the Print World feature to get a concise printout of your World, and include or exclude many of the elements you'd like to have in your Print.


After a few moments of compiling and numbers crunching and stuff, you get a nice concise printout of whatever you've selected for your print.  This way, you can create your World with as many Places, Campaigns and Adventures as you want, and only Print exactly what you need for the specific game your running at that time.  This really helps in keeping the World easy to manage for game play.


Lastly, and as always, thank you all very much for your thoughts, recommendations, and support.  Please keep using the Feedback button in the Mythos Machine, or email me anytime.  And, of course, if you have friends who you think would find the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine useful for their gaming, please do share our link with them:

Great gaming to you all!

Mark Abrams of Elthos
Elthos RPG
Mythos Machine

Sunday, February 04, 2018

My Take On Great RPG Design

I respectfully disagree with the concept of game design that says "the world has to be created so that it's fun for the players". Nope. Don't agree. I know that sounds totally counter intuitive. However, the best world's I've ever played in were not designed with that in mind at all. They were designed from the point of view of the NPCs who existed in the world before the PCs ever showed up. They created the civilization, the cities and towns, the dungeons, the culture, the artifacts, the tricks and traps, and everything else for their own pleasure, and for their own purposes. When the PCs showed up we were challenged by the world in ways that would be antithetical to the game design being proposed, and it would have been a lot less fun for us. The world was a deadly place, and we often got slaughtered. But in most cases it was due to bad luck, which we accept because it's a game of dice and bad luck happens, or bad decisions, which we accept because we all make bad decisions sometimes. In either case, the victories we had were earned, and they were usually the result of good decisions and/or good luck. We enjoyed the world immensely. And no, it was not in the least bit designed for our pleasure. It was definitely out to kill us (euphemistically speaking). In other words, the world's logic was based on the goals, desires and resources of the NPCs who created the conditions. If traps were deadly, it's because the NPCs who created them were not stupid. The traps were intended to be deadly to keep people like us out. But we were resourceful, persistent, and determined. As anguish-inducing as our defeats may have been, our victories were glorious. And that's what made it a great world, and the GM, David Kahn (RIP) such a great GM.

My own World  works on this principal as well.  Sometimes my players are miffed by the fact that their missions are not as successful as they had wanted.  But in most cases the reason for it is that they made poor choices, or had bad luck, and usually both.  In other cases they work through the challenges and achieve their desired victory.  But one thing I've noticed, the players who don't give up and say "that's not fair" are the ones who actually enjoy the game most.