The Elthos Project is more than just the Elthos RPG. It's even more than the Mythos Machine. It is a philosophy of Role Playing Games that looks to the future and sees a whole wide world of creative people expressing themselves in myriads of adventure games and in numerous formats with lots of possible play objectives and style preferences. It embraces this wide and diverse range of objectives, all centered on the idea that people are at their best when they feel free to be creative.
The Elthos Project began with the creation of the Elthos RPG rules system in 1978. You can read about the History of Elthos, but for this overview I will give the short story. Elthos RPG began as a system that I designed to resolve a number of issues I had with the original RPG system from TSR. Namely I wanted a system that would be modular and mathematically coherent, and allow me to create long term persistent Worlds in any Genre I could imagine. After creating the first version of Elthos RPG, and playing it happily for about 16 years, I began work (1994) on an ambitious idea called The Gamemaster's Toolbox, which is a VB application that fully supports the Elthos RPG Rules as a Game Prep utility. Once that was completed in 2006 I immediately began work on a web based version of the application called The Mythos Machine, and in the process vastly simplified the original Elthos rules, creating the "One Die System" in order to streamline and distill all charts and calculations down to a system I call the "Tiny Math Implementation". Hence, the Elthos Rules as you find them today are a distillation of the original more complex Elthos Prime rules system, and are aligned to work hand in glove with the Mythos Machine.
Read more about the Elthos RPG Rules Books...
There is also the Elthos RPG Tactical Board Game which is focused entirely on the Tactical Rules and lets you create your own tactical game boards by plugging in terrain pieces where you want. There is both a analog and digital prototype version (on Roll20) of this game system. It works great for combat scenarios for large and small scale forces and is a lot of fun for those who enjoy tactical combat!
This concept is rather far flung, mysterious, and mystical in nature, and therefore fraught with all kinds of improbabilities, but I'll toss it out there just as well. When I was a young Gamemaster I tried to create symbolic underpinnings for my Campaigns. Something like what I felt Tolkien had done, or the ancient Greeks, or the Sumerians. Their stories were infused with symbolism that "made sense" and carried over from story to story. They had in their minds, somehow, a framework of symbols that allowed them to interconnect ideas in ways that both mystified and exited me tremendously. I wanted to be able to do that. But, unfortunately, I had no such framework, and couldn't quite understand theirs. I tried. But my symbols kept getting lost in the shuffle. So to remedy this I decided to come up with a symbolic framework of my own for my world of Elthos. That took seven years of research to complete. I decided to bring this from concept to reality and hired Jason Moser to do the artwork for the deck, and gave him artistic freedom while I simply gave him the elements that needed to be on each card. The result is the Elthos Tarot Deck. I'd like to write a book on the topic, and explain how the system works and how Gamemasters might be able to use it to run games that have an underlying meaning.
In 2006 I was curious about how to improve my Gamemastering through the introduction of Literary elements into my game. I had been doing that for some time, being an avid reader of classical and medieval literature, but I wanted to discuss this concept with others, and brainstorm on techniques to bring about better stories. To this end I founded the Literary Role Playing Game Society here in New York. We had a lot of people involved and bi-weekly meetings, took tremendous notes, created a wonderful set of databases, and compiled a lot of useful information... out on Yahoo Groups. *sigh*. Yahoo for some reason decided that it was a good idea to ruin their interfaces and destroy themselves, and it left our groups records in a state of chaos when they did that. Oh well. I have local copies here, so I will put that back together in a new format at some point. But we moved off of Yahoo Groups and migrated over to Google+, where we have a reasonably lively existence. The Google+ community is also a bit flawed in that it's not really designed for the compiling of information, but instead is more oriented towards stream of consciousness conversations. I use that group to post an ongoing stream of images, and comments, and blog links, that may inspire Gamemasters with ideas for their Worlds. It's completely RPG System neutral, and it serves its purpose well enough. But still, I want to augment this community with better tools. We'll be working toward that goal as the Elthos Project moves forward.
Academic Gaming is another branch of the Elthos Project, though this one has a completely different orientation than the others. This idea is that Universities can use a variant of the Mythos Machine to create simulated Worlds in which to run a variety of long term sociological experiments, and garner data that may help academics understand aspects of their subjects more effectively. The idea here is that different departments would set up experimental worlds for different purposes. For example, the Sociologists might want to compare how two groups of primitive societies might interact under different conditions. Or Political Theorists might want to run simulations of the interactions between different forms of Governments, say Monarchy vs. Democracy. And so on. I think there is a great deal of potential there, and so I also want to pursue this as well, if possible. I've been kicking around this idea in the background for some time. I really think it has potential. I'll be writing more about this in the coming months and years.
The Mythos Machine is a wonder of 21st century technology that fuses your web browser with the Elthos RPG. It is a Game Prep Web Application that helps Gamemasters create and maintain their own unique and well structured Worlds. It smoothly and efficiently does all of the number crunching for you, and provides a centralized online location to store your World’s Characters, Places, Adventures, and History. It has a variety of amazingly handy auto-generation features, and provides convenient World Print features. It also allows your Players to generate and maintain their Characters online. It's an amazing utility, and one well worth trying out. You can give it a go for Free by creating an account on our Open Beta Site, or just leap right in by creating an account on our Live Mythos Machine Site. Give it a whirl! You'll be glad you did!
Read more about the Mythos Machine...
The next Big Thing was the founding of the Professional Gamemaster Society in 2014. That's also garnered some lively participation among interested Gamemasters, and the group has over 200 members at this point. The idea stemmed from my earlier experiences back in 1996 when I did Professional Gamemastering for our local Community Center in Chappaqua, NY. It was a blast, and the 36 kids I had at those games had a great time. No complaints, though the money was... not that great, to be honest. But still, it was a foray into a concept that has hung with me all these years. Musicians, artists, poets, and writers, film makers, actors, and pretty much every creative art has people who earn a living from their craft. This allows them to really focus on their skills and hone their craft to it's finest possible state. I have always felt that Gamemasters are also artists, and should be able to do the same. The only difference is that Gamemastering is a combination of a number of crafts that sling together to form something really fun - a game that generates stories. It incorporates improvisational theater, writing, art, and depending on the Gamemaster, history, science, sociology, and whatever other disciplines the GM might want to bring to bear in order to create their Worlds. It's amazing. And it takes a lot of work. A LOT. So, the idea that Gamemasters might be able to go Professional and by doing so be able to devote themselves to the craft is something that occurred to me, and when I asked other Gamemasters on Google+ about their thoughts on it, I got amazingly enthusiastic support for the idea. And so the Professional Gamemaster Society Community was born. It's a work in progress, but we are making progress and some of our members are already making this work for them.
This is a game where the players create a Shared World playing as the Gods themselves. Play the Five Ages of Creation: The Primordial Age where the terrains are created, the Dawn Age where the Races and Cultures come into being and the Seeds of Destiny are planted, the Heroic Age where the regular Campaign is played in the Shared World and the Seeds of Destiny Quests are completed, the Twilight Age of final negotiations between the Gods, and finally The End of Ages (aka The God War) wherein the ultimate battle Gods is waged for Ultimate Supremacy!
Read more about the Meta Game...
Improvisational Game Theater is another aspect of the Elthos Project that is related to both the Literary Role Playing Game Society and the Professional Gamemaster Society. This concept got kicked off in a blog post of mine back in 2006. I wanted to discuss the idea of having a Professional quality improvisational theater group actually run a game live on stage for an audience. Years later we can see on twitch and youtube a number of efforts starting to percolate up in that direction. Those efforts look pretty cool. I've seen some that I really enjoy. But still, to date, no one has put together exactly what I have in mind, and so it's still on my list of Elthos Project initiatives. I'm going to be working towards that goal as the project moves forward. I really look forward to that.
Another branch of the Elthos Project Tree is to work through the Professional Gamemaster Society towards the more futuristic goal of having Live Virtual Reality Gamemastering. That would be a tall order as it will require specialized software to be created for this purpose, but the two pieces that are most important already exist. There is the amazing CGI capabilities that are presently available for visualizing Worlds. If we can fuse that with a modified and enhanced version of the Mythos Machine to allow Gamemasters to create Histories, Campaigns, Main Characters and so on, and then Gamemaster them live for large player audiences, then we have something very interesting. I see The Void as a hint of where I believe things will be heading. I definitely want to work on developing this concept as well. I think this is, ultimately, where the future or RPGs is heading. I'd love to be instrumental and helping to bring this concept to fruition.
|Ready for this, Player One?||
Ok, I know what you're thinking. That sounds like a lot for one guy to work on! Yup Yup! It is a lot, and I have stacked up a huge number of very ambitious ideas that I'd love to get out to you folks.
Nothing truly beautiful and useful comes about by rushing to get things done fast, rather than well. So, please be patient while the Elthos Project unfolds. I may be a slow poke, but I do good creative work, and after decades of chipping away at this I can say that the end results are shaping up into a fantastic and comprehensive system. I'm really trying to build something for the long run, and that requires incredible focus, determination, and effort. Quality, not speed, has been my orientation, and I feel it is the best route to achieving the success I envision.
I have been, and will continue to be working on all of the Elthos Project steadily and consistently as time goes by. My determination is born of my love of the hobby. But even so, for one person, there is a lot to do. So, the fact is, to get all of this done in one lifetime I will definitely need people's help. I simply can't do it alone. And therefore I'm asking for people who think this looks interesting to pitch in, one way or another. So if you are one of those interested people who thinks this looks like a worthwhile project and wants to pitch in some helpful support, then you can hop on over to the Shop on DTRPG and buy the Rules Books, or some cool and snazzy Elthos Swag, like a tee-shirt, or artwork, or whatever it is I've got up there at the time. Or, if you don't see anything you want to buy, then you might like to make a Contribution. That would be cool, too. Or if you can't swing that, it's ok. How about joining the project as a Beta Tester and send some feedback? Tell me what you think of it, and how it can be improved. That would be extremely cool, too! You can send your feedback directly from the Mythos Machine, or you can email me at Mark@Elthos.com. I'm here. I'm all ears.
Anyway, thank you for taking a look at the Elthos Project. I'm really curious to hear what you think of it!
Long Live Elthos!
If you think this all sounds interesting and worthwhile, why not ...