Elthos RPG FAQ

0. Are you working on Mythos Machine?

You can find out any time exactly what Mythos Machine updates I've been working on by looking at the Mythos Machine Update Log. If you don't see a recent update, you may assume that I've left this world.

1. What is Elthos RPG?

Elthos RPG is a light-medium weight traditional RPG that has been distilled down into a concise little mini-system for ease of play. Its focus is on providing Gamesmasters with the freedom to exercise their own creativity, and as such its overall mission is to help you create your own Worlds. Therefore the Core Rules provides only the mechanics of the system, with a small set of example items and Characters for you to use as a basis for creating your own stuff. If you're a creative type who wants to enjoy the wonders of Mythopoeia, then Elthos is built for you.

2. Why was Elthos RPG created?

When my hometown friend Eric introduced me to D&D in 1978, he told me that the GMs in our town were “Anti-Gygaxians” and anyone who wanted to GM in our little Society of GMs had to create their own rules system. He expressed this as something of a Rite of Passage. The reasons for this were two fold.

a) Rules Lawyers had already started cropping up, and having your own rules that were not necessarily known by the players mitigated the baleful anti-immersion effect of around-the-table rules arguments.

b) The Gygaxian Rules in original D&D had what we considered to be flaws that required a certain amount of fixing up.

For these reasons I created Elthos RPG in 1978.

3. What were the primary Design Goals for Elthos RPG?

1) What rules system will make my life as GM simple and easy?

... my thinking being, if my life as GM is easier rather than harder then everyone will enjoy the game more, including me.

2) How do I create a system that is flexible enough to handle ANYTHING my stupid brain wants to throw at it?

Those two goals were at the core of my design philosophy in 1978. Everything else can be thought of as a means to those two ends.

Maybe, if I want to stretch it, a 3rd goal was

3) How do I make these rules "make sense" to me as a kind of simulation of what I think is going on in the world around me?

... in that sense I think my game rules are a philosophic statement about my view of physics (combat tactics, etc) and metaphysics (the Universe, etc).

Well, that's enough for one game, isn't it? So there you have it.

4. What flaws with OD&D did Elthos RPG fix?

The first problem was the TSR Business Model, which we calculated would result in a proliferation of new rules books, which meant that there was a good chance our World’s histories would have to change when the older mechanics became obsolete. We didn’t want to have to change our Worlds every time a new rules book came out. Having our own rules meant there was no risk of that happening.

The second problem was that the mechanics were not designed with mathematical balance, and they felt rather lopsided to me. For example, the Experience Chart numbers advanced in erratic sequences. I wanted to have a cleaner, easier to memorize system.

Lastly, it seemed that for every new thing that might need to be added to my World, the Gygaxian method revolved around creating a new chart or table. That may have made sense from their business perspective of wanting to sell more, bigger rules books, however, it made zero sense from my perspective as a GM who wanted to run a long term Campaign. I wanted a system that would handle everything I could imagine for my World, without having to add new charts for every individual thing. To this end I created a small set of charts for Character Creation, and one General Resolution Matrix for all conflict resolution and skills checks. Everything in Elthos RPG gets resolved using one chart. Much easier for me. 30+ years later, I still think so.

5. Is the Elthos RPG a full blooded RPG System, or a Mini-System?

The Short Answer: The Elthos RPG in its current form is a Mini-System. It uses the most distilled version of a traditional RPG I could devise, and features 3 Requisites, and uses tiny-numbers math throughout the rules system by default.

The Longer Answer: Elthos RPG went through two major iterations. The first was a full blooded RPG System with 10 Requisites and a 4d6 Character Generation System with Life Points, Mana Points, Fatigue Points and Grace Points. The General Resolution Matrix was a percentile dice system. I programmed an earlier version of the Mythos Machine that uses the original Elthos Prime system which I began programming in 1994, was completed in 2000, and I tinkered with until 2006. As this software was programmed in Visual Basic 6, I never felt comfortable releasing it to the public (remember DLL Hell?), so it is sitting on a shelf in my computer gathering dust until I go back and start pulling out some of its more advanced features and adding them to the Mythos Machine. 

Then, in 2006 I decided it would be a neat thing for the Literary Role Playing Game Society to have a mini-system to experiment with. So I took the Elthos Prime system and distilled it down to its smallest, leanest components without removing any of the core mechanics. Thus, the Elthos RPG was distilled into what I call the “One Die System”. I decided that this would make an ideal foundation for a new computer application as it is far simpler system. I also decided this time that programming it in ASP.Net as a browser based web application would make it far easier for me to maintain and distribute. Thus Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine was born together and designed to support one another as cooperative projects. And so, yes, the Elthos RPG is a mini-system by default. That said, the Mythos Machine does allow you to configure your Worlds for other dice systems as well. More on that in a bit.

6. What is the Mythos Machine?

The Mythos Machine is a web application that supports the Elthos RPG Rules. It is divided into two separate but equally useful sections. The World Weaver’s Studio that helps you to create a World, with a hierarchical tree of Places, and create Campaigns with multiple Adventures associated to those Places. The other section of the Mythos Machine is the GamesMaster’s Toolbox, which handles Character Generation, Character Group Management, Adventure Events and Experience Gains Record Keeping.

I wanted to create a computer application that would make my life easier as a GM by crunching the numbers and keep track of my record keeping. Up to that point I had my World written up in spiral bound notebooks. These became increasingly difficult to search, and I wanted something to help me keep track of the World and Character history that would allow me to run a long term campaign without losing track of stuff. I also wanted to have a system that would do all the Character generation number crunching for me, as well as calculate combat statistics. The Mythos Machine is my latest version of this software. It is an online web application that does all of that. Very convenient.

7. Do you have to use both the World Weaver’s Studio and the GamesMaster’s Toolbox?

No. You can use one or the other independently, though they are well integrated and allow you to use them in conjunction with each other.

8. What are the best features of the Mythos Machine?

I think the two most compelling features are the Print World Report which lets you print out your World’s Campaigns and Adventures, with maps and Character Stats included, and its Auto-Gen System for creating NPC groups on the fly. I can build out my World’s Campaigns over weeks or months, and then print everything out into a nice concise package I can use during the game. If I run into a situation where the Players head off in an unexpected direction, I can also automagically create NPC / Monster groups with all of their equipment and stats calculated in a matter of seconds. There are a lot of features in the Mythos Machine, but those two are probably the most useful.

A third runner up, I have to say, is the World Things Trading Post, which gives Gamesmasters the ability to share their creations with one another. If Gamesmasters make their stuff Public (things you create are private by default), then other Gamesmasters can take a look. If you like what you see you can import it into your own World to be used or modified as you see fit. I think going forward this will become one of the most popular features in the system.

9. What kinds of Worlds can I create with the Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine?

Any kind you can imagine. The system is genre neutral and you can create all of the items, weapons, armors, equipment, classes, and races you might need to run any kind of World.

10. Does the Mythos Machine allow you to use other RPG Systems such as Pathfinder, D&D, and Call of Cthulhu?

No, not really. The Mythos Machine is designed for use with the Elthos RPG.

However, that said, you could create Worlds that are not directly connected to the mathematical underpinnings of the GamesMaster’s Toolbox and use those Worlds with any other System you want. You could also, potentially, use the GamesMaster’s Toolbox to create proto-Characters for use with other systems, since the Elthos RPG uses a minimalist subset of Requisites, and tiny numbers math to generate Characters, and so these could be reasonably easily expanded upward to fill out most other RPG System Character requirements. However, I have no desire to do so myself, and thus have not tried it. I’ll be curious to hear if others ever do so, and if so, how it goes. But the short answer is basically still, No. Not designed for other systems, really.

11. Why isn’t the Mythos Machine designed for use with other RPG Systems?

The idea is to have a simplified yet traditional based RPG rules system that allows for fast play in its simplest configuration, and also offers comprehensive computer support to GM's in terms of Game Preparation. The purpose is to provide the GM with tools that make Gamesmastering more efficient, so the use of a single, medium/light weight RPG rules system as the basis for the Web Application is a more practical solution than trying to provide support for the dozen or so other major systems, all of which are quite different from one another.

The other advantage to the use of the Elthos RPG rules is that it allows GM's to consistently share their World-Things, Characters and Places with other GMs on the system, and allows Characters to be easily transported between Worlds in the Mythos Machine.

In addition, there are all kinds of potential legal pitfalls surrounding the use of other RPG Systems that I wanted to avoid; Companies have a habit of changing their Legal/Licensing Agreements over time. I didn’t want to jeopardize the Mythos Machine by tying them to those systems because I have heard of cases where licenses were granted to third party companies only to later be revoked by the owners of those systems.  Putting the Mythos Machine into the risk zone associated with depending on other Rules Systems could impact users of the system.

Elthos RPG is useful for creating unique original Worlds and Gamemastering them. Since I already have such a system I had no actual need to use other systems for the Mythos Machine. It is a useful software utility that helps with creating and Gamesmastering unique Worlds of any kind.  I chose to avoid the risk, and stick with my own system.

12. Will you charge for the use of the Mythos Machine?

I hope to charge a low monthly subscription fee, yes. However, I’m also exploring other options as well, which include a one-time fee for a life-time membership, a freemium model for basic use, the possibility of Ad Revenue, and/or a Contributions based system. Ideally, if everyone contributed voluntarily enough so that I could fund further development that way, I would stick with a Contributions based model.  We'll see how it goes.  So far, frankly, it looks like the subscription model is the only one that has a reasonable chance of success, so that is the current modality.  If things change I will go with the flow and modify the model accordingly.

At this time there are four Subscription Tiers for the Mythos Machine:
  • Player - Free to use to create Characters in GM's Worlds.
  • Marketplace GM - No Subscription Fee, and the GM has access to the Worlds Marketplace where they can purchase Worlds for Sale by Premium GMs on the system.
  • Basic GM - low monthly or yearly Subscription Fee, and allows GMs to create their own World and / or purchase Worlds in the Worlds Marketplace.
  • Premium GM - higher monthly or yearly Subscription Fee, and allows GMs to create any number of Worlds, or purchase Worlds from the Marketplace, create Shared Worlds, and / or create Packaged Worlds for Sale in the World's Marketplace at a price they set (Elthos will get a small commission on those sales).

13. What happens to my World if Elthos goes out of business and goes offline?

You can download all of the stuff you create in the Mythos Machine into local files and continue to use the Elthos RPG rules indefinitely. If the Mythos Machine becomes unavailable for some dreadful reason at some point you will not be able to use it to create new stuff for your World in the Web Application. You could, however, simply add things to your downloaded excel files. It would not be quite as convenient, of course, but you would not lose any of your creative work.

14. Do I need an Internet Connection to use the Mythos Machine?

Yes you do. It is a browser based application so all you need is a modern web browser to use it. But it does not have an offline capability at the moment. That can be built in going forward if people express a need for it.

15. Can I configure my World in the Mythos Machine to use alternate dice systems?

Yes. You can choose a variety of configuration options for your World in the Mythos Machine. In particular you can use a 1d6 to 4d6 General Resolution Matrix, as well as a 1d6 to 4d6 Character Requisite Generation System. There are also options for modifying the speed of advancement for the Characters, changing the names of the Requisites, changing the method your players may use to generate their Characters (random rolling, roll and allocate, or allocate only), and so on. There’s quite a few options for configuration there – but do be careful. Re-configuring your World can potentially make it unbalanced, so you want to be sure to read and understand the configuration options before experimenting.

16. Is there an Elthos World?

Yes. There is an Elthos World that I’ve been running since 1978, and it has a lot of history. However, the point of the Elthos RPG and Mythos Machine are to help GMs create their own Worlds, so I am not currently placing Elthos the World front and center in any sense. It is simply one of the many Worlds that may exist within the Mythos Machine, and the Rules System is named after it. If you want to read some of the prose stories that I wrote based on verbatim transcriptions from our actual games you can read them here: Example Game Stories … these are intended to serve as examples of what can be done with the Elthos RPG.

17. Do you offer Gamesmastering tips on the use of the Elthos RPG?

There are a lot of books out there now on How to Gamesmaster, and many of them cover the same ground from different angles and points of view. The Elthos RPG Core Rules offers some minimalistic Gamesmaster advice, and mostly in relation to the use of the One Die System in regards to the Tiny-Numbers-Math being used. That said, if there is a desire for me to do so in the future I can certainly provide more in the way of tips and advice for Gamesmasters using the Elthos RPG.

18. Do you offer any kind of Elthos Setting information in the Mythos Machine or Elthos RPG Core Rules?

In the Elthos RPG Core Rules, no, not at all. But in the Mythos Machine, a little bit, and what I am revealing is kind of tucked away in the background. It can also be safely ignored as it has no impact on the actual mechanics of play. However, that said, I have an Alignment System that is based on the idea that there is a Deity (aka Elkron) for each Alignment, who represents that Alignment's furtherest logical extension in sentient form. So there are Elkron of Good, Evil, Law and Chaos. The Elkron exist in the Mythos Machine as actual Characters with Stats (and all that implies). The Elkron are, one might say, the embodiment of the principals of the metaphysical realm. Again, I am downplaying their use in the system, and are simply available for those who might like to make use of the concept. I use them in my own World of Elthos.

The Elkron tie into the Elthos Cosmology, and I have had in mind for some time to make this metaphysical underpinning the one common thread between all the Worlds in the System. I am certainly going to publish more about how the Elkron work with the Alignment system in the future, but for now, I'm focusing on the core mechanics of the Elthos Rules, and the technical aspects of the Mythos Machine. You can expect to hear more about the Elkron as soon as I have time to get to it. And at any rate, the Elkron are an aspect of Elthos that Gamesmasters can use or ignore as they see fit, but they represent the only Setting information I've provided in the Elthos RPG Mythos Machine.

19. Is the Mythos Machine a completed product ready for use by everyone at this time (April 2019)?

Yes. The Mythos Machine is currently in Live Production mode on the main website.  There is also an ongoing and perpetual Open Beta version of the site, which is the exact same application with the same features as the live site.  The Open Beta site is for people who want to try out the system before they commit to it, and for my Beta Testers to try out new features, and for me to tinker on while fixing any bugs that may from time to time surface.

The Live Site:  https://MythosMachine.Elthos.com
The Beta Site:  https://Test.MM.Elthos.com

I am ALWAYS looking for feedback on the system order to enhance and improve the system.

The fact is, I will never consider the Mythos Machine to be “complete”. It is an evolutionary concept that will evolve over time as new technologies become available. I think I will always be tinkering with it to improve it in different ways until … oh, whenever, and hopefully a good long time!

So when people ask me "When will Elthos be finished?" I like to answer them this way... "Nevaaaaarrrrr!" :)