Monday, January 27, 2020

How I Deal With Alignment in Elthos

Alignment has always been a problematic feature in D&D, I think. The rules were kind of vague on the topic, but they alluded to what the purpose was.

The way it seems to me it was supposed to work is to allow PCs to "Align" with NPC groups, such as vampires, or ogres, or goblins based on a common "Alignment", which you could tell by speaking the same "Alignment Language". That way, when you first encountered a new monster and you didn't know what Alignment it was, you could test it out that way, and find out. If you were the same Alignment you'd get an Ally. However, if you were opposite Alignments then FIGHTFIGHTFIGHT. So there was some risk involved. Once you had gone through the monsters in the list (which could conceivably take a long time, actually), then you'd already know the monsters alignments, and the check would not be necessary (or risky). My reading of the OD&D rules gave me the distinct impression that this is what Alignment was originally for. There were only three. Law, Chaos and Neutral.

Because this was the original intent, but GMs and players took the thing in a different direction, it got muddied. GMs starting insisting that Players could only play according to a specific alignment if they were Alignment focused by race or class... For example, the most common, was Paladins. If you didn't kowtow to Lawful Good then BOOM - you'd lose your powers. Which actually does make some sense, at least to me, from a world building perspective. But it made for a rough game where players felt constrained. And complained. It was too restrictive, and depending on the GM, too inflexible.

For my Elthos game, I decided to use Alignment as a concept a little differently. I track everyone's alignment according to their deeds and motives. It's a numeric score, and captures the Law-Chaos, Good-Evil value, which because of how I do it, changes over the course of the game. So Lawful Good would be (10, 10). Chaotic Good would be (-10,10). And so on. If you do Lawful Good deeds a lot, your Alignment could climb to (20,20), let's say... and at some point the Gods start noticing you as a Paragon. But if you do a lot of petty stuff, or kicking the poor to the curb, or ripping off your party, or lying, then your Alignment might change over time and ... the Gods notice that too.

And so on.

It's a fun system. Keeps the players with an interest in achieving a certain Alignment on track, and for the others, they usually wind up neutral overall. Most people are, frankly.

Over time I created a pretty sophisticated system around this concept.  It's in fact a little too much so to explain in a short post.  I intend to write up how my system works, and provide some charts to support it at some point.  And in the meantime, it actually is already fully programmed into the Mythos Machine.  So when you add Experience Gains, you can also account for Alignment.  It's pretty handy, I tell ya.

So go check out the Mythos Machine.  You'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Some Thoughts on the Importance of Creativity

“Creativity; the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”

On the Benefits of Creativity

Many people don’t believe they are creative, but my own view is that everyone has creativity baked into their genes as human beings. But many people, especially in times of stress and uncertainty, turn off their creativity and shut down. My feeling is that this is a critical mistake people make with themselves, and in fact they should do the opposite. Exercising your creativity is enormously beneficial in many ways. People don’t often consider that creativity has a wide array of benefits. The health benefits include: Mood Elevation, Alleviates Anxiety, Boosts Brian Function, Prevents Disease, and Increases Immune Health. (

Additional benefits of creativity include, instilling a sense of personal freedom, self-awareness and expression, faith and confidence in our instincts, stress relief, and problem solving. Creativity also enhances our ability to communicate and our sociability. There are so many benefits to Creativity, it’s difficult to understand why some people refuse to allow themselves that pleasure.

What causes people to decide they are not creative?

This is something that has always puzzled me. Creativity seems like a very natural thing. You see kids exercising a great deal of creativity in the games they play, and how they think. Whether they are playing games with toys, or drawing, or just running around hiding behind furniture, there’s a lot going on in their little brains. A lot of imagination. Here comes the dragon! I’ve just crash landed my spaceship on a desert world! The Orcs have just come around the bend! It’s all imagination, and it’s great stuff. They are having fun in their minds.

But somewhere along the line, some people decide that they aren’t creative, and they stop creating things in their minds. No more dragons. No more space ships. No more Orcs. And by the time you ask them, “So, do you do art?” the stock answer is, “Oh no way. I can’t do art.”

But really, what happened to them? I will tell you. They lost confidence in themselves. In their own creative imagination. Somewhere along the line, perhaps someone said, “Oh that drawing is awful”, and crushed by the criticism, they stopped trying to create. “Oh I can’t do art”. They’ve turned off their creative engine. It’s not a good thing.

What dampens creativity?

The modern world is full of stress. We are all in a rush. We are constantly trying to get everything done within ever tighter time slots. The technologies that promised us liberation, instead produced prying eyes, time consuming flaws, and all kinds of expectations from others that we can do miracles. But the fact is, we’re still just ordinary human beings. This situation creates stress. And stress makes people feel rushed, and to some degree incapable. And this feeling tires people out and makes them feel uninspired. Consequently, creativity takes a hit.

How does my Elthos RPG Play into the Creativity Equation?

I created Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine to help people explore their own creative minds. In my opinion, World Building is one of the most creative activities you can do. Depending on how deep you want to go with it, World Building can incorporate a wide array of knowledge disciplines, such as history, biology, sociology, archeology, physics, game theory, and many more. And Role Playing Games generally present a wonderful social activity that brings friends together to create and play Characters in imaginary Worlds that the GMs create. I want to help people find their creative spark, and grow that flame within. That’s my ultimate goal for the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine.  I feel that to the degree it can help people to find inspiration to create, it has achieved its primary objective.  I want to help bring people together in creative spaces and enjoy each other's fantastic imaginations.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Thoughts on Play By Post

I have a few friends who have chatted on occasion about their Play by Post experiences.  I haven't tried it myself, but I've always been curious about it. My friend Tom, who runs a Play By Post site named Outpost 42 News. and who asked me to express some of my thoughts on the topic, informs me that there are usually 10 to 15 people in a given Play By Post group, who will write a story in small segments called "posts" by email, message board, or whatever other medium is convenient for them. There is usually a host to guide things and settle disputes should they arise, and a few groups even integrate dice or other randomizers into their proceedings. Such games can be any genre.  Space Opera to Neolithic Dinosaur hunting, anything goes.  As it happens, Star Trek is apparently quite popular, probably because of the natural ship/crew link and its episodic nature.

Play By Post originated during the 1980s and early 90s on early bulletin board systems, and early internet services like AOL, Prodigy and Compserve, if anyone remembers those. You might be interested to know that my Elthos RPG predates those by roughly a decade.  Naturally, as one might expect, many of the Play By Post crowd cut their teeth on the early RPGs.  And I should probably mention that in those days most RPGs were not D&D, but homebrews of an enormous variety.  At least where I lived in NY.  Every Gamemaster in my town came up with their own rules and their own worlds. Of course D&D, or earlier games that it was fashioned upon, were the basis for these systems. Some of those early rules systems were really very innovative, by the way, but never seen again outside of their original game-setting.  Too bad.  At any rate, many of the original Play By Post gamers were early RPG Gamemasters and players, and so it's fair to consider this branch of the hobby as simply another stream by which role playing games have manifested in the world.  Other Play By Posters came from fan fiction circles, and still others picked up on it as their first RPG experience, got hooked, and kept going with it.  Why? Because it's fun, that's why.  So I'm told.  I expect to find out for myself at some point, but haven't had the chance (or time) to look into it too far.

The community of Play By Posters is by now quite diverse and has grown into a significant hobby.  There are news and information outlets, Awards systems, and even regular annual events where everyone comes together online.  It's a unique culture with a specific etiquette on how to recruit new players, use other people's characters, and interact with people from other games. Perhaps most interesting is that they now have a satire news blog that parodies some of the bigger groups and players.  That would be Outpost 42 News.  My friend Tom is hoping this post might inspire people to check out his site, so here's the link again:  This is a no holds barred effort, so be prepared for Onion level satire.  They published their first article on April Fools Day 2018.  Definitely check it out if you happen to be a fan of Play By Post, or if you want to learn more about the community.

I have in fact skimmed their articles, and as Tom expected, I really didn't get a single joke, though, since I am really not familiar with their community.  But even so, I did find it entertaining, and it did make me think about Play By Post from an Elthos perspective.

As you know, I created a web application called The Mythos Machine.  It occurs to me that it might be quite suitable for Play By Post scenarios, as the system allows Gamemasters to create their own Worlds online, and then invite their friends to Roll Characters, and maintain them, in the Mythos Machine.  It uses the Elthos RPG rules as a base, and does all the number crunching, and lets the GM focus on the creative aspects of the game.  I can easily imagine people using it to run Play By Post games.  And honestly, I'd be pretty stoked if they did!

So if you are interested in Play By Post, then check out Tom's site, and if you're already a Play By Poster and would like comprehensive online support for your World Building and Character management, then do check out the Mythos Machine as well!

Thanks for all the good times, folks!  Game on!